What Matters Most (Venom #10)
By: Betsy Granger
Date: 1st Oct 2021
****Surprising My Parents****
“Betsy! James! What a pleasant surprise!” Joel Granger leaps to his feet, his face lighting up with joy as the aforementioned pair step through the front door. Joel bounds to his daughter and scoops her up in a bear hug, planting a big kiss on her forehead.
“Hey, Papa!” Betsy says, a giggle escaping her throat as she hugs her father tightly. After a few moments, the two finally part and the men shake hands.
“James, always a pleasure to see you,” Joel says, patting James on the shoulder.
“Likewise, sir. Sorry to drop in on you unexpectedly like this, I guess our Bets had an urge for a family dinner.” James says, giving Bets a playful swat on her behind.
“Don’t be silly, you’re family! The door is always open here; you should realize that by now.” Joel says with, his voice gently reproachful.
“Forgive me, sir,” James says with a chuckle. His arm lands over Betsy’s shoulders as her arms circled his torso. “She doesn’t bring me around nearly enough to let the feeling set in.”
“A bad habit we’ll have to work together to break her off of, no doubt,” Joel replies, his eyes sparkling playfully down on his scowling daughter. “I guess that’s what happens when one is busy in… How many feds is it now, Bets? Five? Six?”
“It’s only four.” She replies with a pout. “Have you been watching?”
“Did you actually just ask me that silliest of questions?” Joel replies, pinching Betsy’s cheek. “I see you’ve got that blonde girl with the big… personality in Fight this week.”
“Sahara… Yeah, she’s a piece of work. And the next to check off my list of popular figures to topple.” Betsy says with a competitive smirk.
“I love you it when you get like that. It’s fucking sexy.” James says, squeezing Betsy a little tighter.
“I suppose that depends on the audience” Joel replies sternly, snapping James out of his moment of lust.
The People’s G.O.A.T. grins sheepishly, and an awkward silence follows. Betsy struggles to find something to say, but she’s saved a moment later as her mother bursts through the door, smiling brightly. Elena Granger, upon seeing her daughter and James, rushes forward and throws an arm around Betsy and James, scooping them both in for a hug.
“I THOUGHT I heard the two of you arrive in that contraption of yours!” Elena says happily to her daughter, releasing both as she backs away to take them both in. “To what do we owe the pleasure of this surprise visit?”
“Honestly, Ma… I was just feeling the need for home. A lot of stuff has had me thinking about what’s important recently and it occurs to me that I don’t come here nearly enough to visit.” Betsy says, her guilt creeping into her voice.
Elena smiles warmly at her daughter and leans in to kiss her cheek and brush a lock of hair away from her eyes. “Well, you’re here now, and James, it’s always nice to see you, young man.”
“And the same to you, El,” James says, leaning in to place a polite peck on her cheek.
A slight flush spread across Elena’s cheeks, causing Joel to roll his eyes playfully towards Betsy. She giggles, catching her mother’s attention who then turns a stern face to Joel. “You listen here, mister; I let you have the naked calendar girls in your tool shed. You let me have this.”
Betsy and James exchange a bemused glance as Joel approaches his wife and wraps his arms around her. “As if those girls ever had anything on you.”
Elena purrs, eliciting a smile from her husband; a moment later, they were kissing, earning them a loud gag from Betsy. “Maybe we could save all this for later, eh?”
They part lips and turn to their daughter, both of them grinning shamelessly. Despite her natural disgust of having to witness the act, it made her heart happy to see her parents rekindling what she thought was long lost between them.
“Did I arrive in time to skip therapy bills? Thank god for small favors.” Everyone turns their attention to the door as Betsy’s older sister Adelaide breezes in.
“What is going on tonight?” Joel says, scooping up the sun-kissed beauty happily. “Both my girls, surprising us on the same night? How did I get so lucky?”
“I didn’t expect to find you here!” Addy says to Betsy as the sisters embrace tightly. “I was feeling some time on the old homestead, so I decided to come to visit for a few days.”
“How funny, I was just telling them something similar,” Betsy says thoughtfully, watching as Elena and Adelaide embrace tentatively.
“Well, you both picked the best night to come on home for dinner- it’s fried chicken and waffles night,” Elena says, turning back towards the kitchen where she’d been preparing the said meal.
“Oh my gawd, Mom, yaaaassssss.” Addy squeals, bounding into the kitchen after Elena to help her with dinner.
“Huh, it’s almost like this night was… immaculately… planned,” Betsy says, her voice trailing off as a sudden heavy feeling fell over her. Instinctively, her eyes sweep towards the window and beyond to where Excellence stood parked outside.
A light was blinking indicating an incoming transmission.
****Words With the Impossible One****
“Did you miss me, kids? Were you able to trudge through a painstakingly long week without the antics of your favorite Impossible Traveler? Never fear, it was only a favor our esteemed bookers decided to give the rest of the roster.
A chance to breath before the next wave of the New Status Quo takeover of Fight! NYC began.
Break time is over.”
Betsy Granger grins out at the camera.
“I guess they felt Kasey, Shawn, and I needed to recharge our batteries after making an effective example of the Prestons and whichever Montuori it was that I faced. Joe? Paul? Peter, or maybe it was Mary. Look, it didn’t matter because it didn’t change the results.
New Status Quo reigns supreme.
And after that showing Dickie put up against Toddy (unfortunate though it was), there can be no question that we are the ones who rule the roost. The epitome of teamwork and the unquestioned crème de le crème of Fight! NYC.”
Betsy pats the Islands Championship Belt draped over her shoulder.
“Any team, any time, any place; New Status Quo is ready twenty-four-seven to answer the challenge to those who would step up.
While we wait for another merry trio to collect themselves enough, the champs have been separated into singles matches that… Look, I don’t know if management has a sense of humor or a vendetta, but Brother Mine and I find ourselves tangling with two halves of a newly formed couple… And man, could they be anymore Florida Man and Backseat Barbie?
Seriously, they remind me of all the couples I saw on Live PD that haunted Pasco County, Florida. Sahara gives off biker rat vibes all day long and Ricky is the sucker who desperately needs his Green Card. It’s a match made in hell and one that is going to be an inevitable public disaster. They’re one episode away from being prime Jerry Springer material; the big question is, will the baby be Ricky’s or Dane Preston’s? Huh, I guess that’s more of a Maury Povich thing…
I’ll have the popcorn ready either way.
I know Shawn would love an opportunity to give Ricky a taste of his own medicine; he doesn’t take threats against his girls very well. Yeah, that includes me just as much as Kasey, but you picked the wrong one between the two of us. Do you have any idea what merciless hell you’ve unleashed upon yourself? Seriously, both of you should count your lucky stars that I’M the one tangling with Sahara this week instead of Brother Mine. I have no personal vendetta against the girl, but if Shawn asks me to take her head off on his behalf…
Well, let it be known that I won’t hesitate for a second to do so.”
Green eyes cast a hard glint as Betsy’s smile fades.
“I know I’ve got my hands full with you, Crimson Queef… Queen, sorry, Queen. Another self-avowed title of privilege and dictation in a feeble attempt to create the narrative. Honestly, the self-entitled Princess-Queen-Goddess gimmick is getting as dated as it is mundane. Queens of Wrestling have become a dime a dozen; take it from the one and only Impossible Traveler. I’ve been watching you long enough Sahara; I know who you are and I’ve seen how you like to operate. You’re as much a Queen as I am a Saint; if anything, you could call yourself the Crimson Cretin, since that’s the persona you like to present. You’re like a brain-eating parasite, slithering your way into the heads of your opponents and driving them half-mad.
I’m afraid you’ll find that tactic a touch more difficult with me.
I was asked recently ‘Miss Granger, what are the most important things in your life?’ and it got me thinking hard about what means the most to me. So, I took a step back, and I started to take a good, long look at what I had, what I have, and what I’ve yet to achieve.
And it made me realize how much I’ve been taking for granted recently. I’ve got the love of a great man that has become one of the most notable romances in professional wrestling. I’ve got the support of the most unlikely of allies, none of which I would trade for the world. I’ve got a handful of titles, past and present, to show for my short time in the industry, which is nothing to sneeze at. And I’ve got dozens of federations vying to get my name on the dotted lines of one of their contracts.
And still, I want more.”
Getting to her feet, Betsy begins to pace. The camera pans out a bit, revealing her inside the entertainment room of her home. Her dog is spread out lazily across the rug, his brown eyes following her around the room.
“There comes a time when one must decide what’s most important to them and I suppose my time has finally arrived. After looking back on my life, and the last year of it, it’s never been clearer to me what the most important aspect of my world is.
Vin Diesel doesn’t have shit on Legacy OR New Status Quo when it comes to bonds. Make no mistake about it:
Once you’re a member of my squad, you’re as good as blood to me.
And when you’re blood, it means I’m willing to bend over backward to see you reach the same levels I do. Any accomplishments I achieve is in the name of the family; whatever heights I reach, they climb them with me. Never to be felt like the odd man out, we built this house from within and the foundation won’t be, CAN’T be crumbled.
It’s going to take more than pitiful little ragtag groups like FYA and the Cure to shatter the superiority of the New Status Quo.
Do you know what it means to be linked to someone that profoundly, Sahara? Have you ever felt so connected to someone that you would burn an entire world to the ground to give them everything they wanted? I’m not here to judge your character or presume I know you beyond a surface level; but with that said, it’s all I’ve got and you don’t come up looking too awesome in that regard.
You’ve had unstable partnerships at best and even this hot, new fling of yours is a recipe for disaster. You keep spouting off about this FYA like it means jack fuck all at this point. With New Status Quo walking the streets, nobody else matters. Save your breath girlfriend, everyone stopped paying attention to that long before my fine ass crossed the threshold.”
Her lip quirks a bit as she peers at the camera again.
“I’ve seen how you’ve taken pride in being the most basic of bitches like it takes any effort to act like a thot. Any attractive blonde can shake her ass and command the attention of a crowd, but my favorite part in your dramedy is the part where you backtrack and cry that you’re a REAL wrestler. A true athlete, a fighter worth her salt on the mean streets as well as between the ropes.
I’m not one to downplay my opponents, I know when I’ve got a challenge ahead of myself. I’ve watched you before now and you’re good. The raw talent is there, but you still lack the discipline it takes to be something great. For all your bluster and beauty, there’s a tremor in your confidence that betrays you when the pressure is on. It must be difficult knowing you’re barely keeping your head above water.
It’s going to feel so much worse when I come through and cut your legs off at the knees. But, I suppose it wouldn’t be the first time you’ve looked up at your betters from that view.
Everything around here that you thought was yours to grab is now woefully out of reach, and you, Sahara, forever destined to reside in the shadow I cast across this land.”
Betsy holds her arms out dramatically as she smirks.
“Honestly, giving you more than a few minutes of my time is at the bottom of my list of things I’d rather be doing right now. But since we’re all about prioritizing things lately, I guess I can make quick work by starting at the bottom of the list and working my way back to the top. And… Well, I guess I am technically contractually obligated to spare you a few words.
Try to keep up, Trash Barbie.
A quick study tells me that you’re Chicago made, isn’t that just dandy? Not only am I coming in to theoretically come in and piss all over your yard, but I also get to do so on your home turf. Have you ever sat in a silent arena after another crushing loss by the Cubs? The Bears? How long has it been since the Bulls have seen a championship final? When will the Blackhawks ever see another Stanley Cup? When is the next time the White Sox will have a season like the one they’re currently living out?
A fluke year followed by decades of disappointment; how does it feel knowing you’ll be the next to add to that great Chicago history?
Much like you, there’s much about the history of your beloved city to cringe over. But none of us came here today for a history lesson, they all wanted to hear the ways I’m going to humiliate you in your city.
I’ll give you the credit you deserve for being scrappy, but you’re so close to finding out why I’m one of the hottest commodities in professional wrestling. When you taste the pain of my Tuez Les Etoiles, I want you to take in the deafening silence from the people of your city as you desperately tap out to stop the agony.
And as tears stream down your face, the whimpers still escaping from your throat, I want you to look around at the blank, disappointed faces. Those people, YOUR people, staring on in shame as one of their own has her ass handed to her by one of the undeniable best.”
Betsy lets her arms drop as she tips her head skyward, the smirk etched to her face now.
“If you thought New Status Quo was just a passing fancy, you’re in for a rude awakening. We may have started as the outsiders, but this is our pad now and we intend to treat it accordingly.
Nothing lasts forever? We’re only just beginning to plant our roots around this place, toots, and you get to be the first to taste that new flavor. You may as well get used to seeing our faces wherever you turn because we are what the people demand.
And if the people, like my dear Brother Mine, demand that I take the head of the queen, who am I to deny them?
It’ll be a pleasure to watch your Burger King crown soak Crimson as the Queen is slayed upon her throne.”
In her usual fashion, Betsy smirks and shoves her hand into the camera, allowing it to fade to black.
****A Dangerous Conversation****
“I thought you’d never answer.” The cool, modulated tone of the Admiral purred through the hologram before Betsy’s narrowed eyes.
“You’re lucky to be getting the time of day, Admiral. What do you want?” She replies rudely, unable to hide her disdain.
“What I always want, my dear Lady Granger. To remind you of my faithful devotion to you and my suit for your hand. Though I must admit,” he says, his cool tone growing harder. “I grow weary of your constant rejection. You seem to doubt my word when I say I will eventually take what I am due by force, if necessary.” Though the hologram was faded and grey, Betsy could feel the heat of his glowing red eyes. “I’d rather it not get to those extremes, my love. Why do you continue to deny me my desires?”
“Because I loathe you to the very core of my being.” Betsy hisses, unaware that James was now watching quietly from the doorway after following her out. “Because you’ve resorted to manipulating my mind and using my friends as pawns to trap me. Not to mention, my heart belongs to James and that will never change, no matter what cheap tricks you attempt.” Betsy laughs scornfully as the Admiral’s face grows icier with every word. “You may be the emperor’s favorite little pet project, but that doesn’t give you the power to bully your way into whatever the fuck you want. The Khan’s may have birthed me, but I’m declaring to you, here and now, and to whoever else necessary, that my true and only parents are the Grangers.”
The Admiral’s face is downright terrifying, but Betsy is determined not to back down. His voice is like a glacier, each word stabbing at her. “Is this an attempt to get out of the contract that binds us, Lady Granger?”
“It’s not an attempt, it’s a full-on declaration of intent. Per the laws of the Empire that you wear that uniform to uphold, declaring the Grangers as my one and true family dissolves the kindship I hold with the Khans. Which, therefore-”
“Dissolves any bonds made by them, for them, or anyone on their behalf.” the Admiral snarls in a rare display of anger. “Very clever, Betsy dear, but do you think such a trifle will stop me in my attempt to obtain you?”
“Why the hell are you so determined for this marriage, Admiral?” Betsy hisses right back. “A soulless piece of shit like you doesn’t have the capacity to love, so what’s your true endgame with me?”
“You don’t know… How can you still not know?” he muses wondrously, the rage in his face softening to curiosity. “You have no idea how valuable, how precious you are to me. The power you contain inside of you, the things we could accomplish together if you’d allow me to teach you to harness it properly. You and your sister…”
“Adelaide? She doesn’t have powers, you weirdo.” Betsy stammers, unnerved by the gaze he was giving her now.
“Not her, the girl who runs with the full moon on your home planet Earth. The blue-haired girl with the dark powers… The one you recently shared with who you recently shared the Soul Bond with.” He laughs into her dumbfounded face. “Oh Betsy, if only you would yield to me willingly. There’s so much I could teach you about yourself.”
Lycana… He meant Lycana. Fear grips her as she remembers something Ahsoka Tano had told her and the sapphire vixen recently. The moment they’d shook on their alliance, it had sent a ripple out through the universe, marking the combination of their other-worldly abilities. Ahsoka had warned them that Thrawn would want to find a way to use that power for himself. Glaring down at the hologram, she points an accusatory finger towards him.
“You don’t want me for me… You want to exploit powers beyond your own to use in the name of your Emperor.” Fear gives way to anger as her arm drops and balls her hands into fists. “Mark this well, Admiral: I, nor Lycana, will ever submit to you or your will. You’ll never have the power we possess, nor will you ever possess us in body or spirit. And,” Betsy says, leaning in even closer to the hologram. “I swear on my life, even if it kills me in the attempt, I will find a way to stop you and make you watch as I destroy everything you built on the backs of Republic Slaves. And then, once your pride can’t take the shame and humiliation a moment longer, I’ll lock you away in the deepest, darkest pit this universe has to offer. And I’ll leave you there to rot, with only the final sounds of your disgrace to keep you company.”
“I’m giving you one last chance to reconsider this course of action, Betsy Granger,” Thrawn replies in a dangerously soft voice. “If you decline my invitation of marriage once more, negotiations will be closed permanently. Then I can’t promise what becomes of the Khans… The Grangers… Your beloved James Raven… And the rest of those miscreants you call friends.”
“With respect, Admiral; take your negotiations and shove them up your ass,” James says suddenly from over her shoulder.
Betsy lets out a surprised yelp and jumps about a mile in the air as Admiral Thrawn glares hatefully up at Raven’s handsome face. “You’ve made a grave mistake, Granger.” And with that, the hologram vanishes.
Betsy falls heavily into James’ arms, tears streaming down her face. “I don’t know what’s going to happen from here. I’m sorry in advanced if I just got us both killed and Earth destroyed with us.”
James wraps an arm securely around her waist, using his free hand to brush the tears from her cheeks. “We’ll figure it out, Bets; that blue bastard won’t get very far with the friends we’ve got. Until then, El sent me out here to let you know it’s chow time.”
The couple exchanges a kiss before heading back inside the house, hand in hand. Though she’s still troubled for what the future may hold, the comfort of her family home ebbs away some of the distress. As they entered the dining room, Betsy looked around at the people around her. Even though there were more who could have been here, she knew that she would gladly lay down her life for anyone in this room. As the delicious aroma of her mother’s secret recipe fried chicken hits her nostrils, Betsy allows a smile to spread across her face.
For now, nothing else mattered more than this moment.