SMARTER THAN THAT
Bolts and boots.
Because a man’s got a code, right?
That’s what Nova told Hayes back in August, though the young challenger for PRIME’s greatest prize wasn’t quite to that level. While Nova laces up his boots, Hayes stands in the locker room in his usual; khaki slacks and a black button-down dress shirt, sleeves rolled up.
Another subscriber to “Bolts and Boots?” The Tower of Babel. Lacing up a pair of his wrestling shoes in preparation for the Five Star Title match later in the evening.
You’d normally expect Hayes to be bouncing off the walls in a moment like this, but no. He sits on a bench, fingers laced together, head bowed, and legs bouncing incessantly. The Risen Star and the ReVival’s Diamond allow the young ball of nerves to do so.
But Hayes hasn’t quite caught on.
Hayes Hanlon: Jesus, will one of you say something?
A snort from Brandon Youngblood. A plume of smoke from Nova’s beard.
Hayes Hanlon: (frustrated and shoving himself to his feet) I can’t sit in this, man. You’re about to fight over whether or not you’re headed back to wrestling school!
Despite the outstretched arm aimed at the Starchild, Nova offers no response. Instead, Hayes turns that arm toward the Tower.
Hayes Hanlon: And you’re about to take a shot at your fourth Five Star Title!
Youngblood offers just as much.
Hayes Hanlon: And it’s that easy for you guys, huh? On the biggest stage in wrestling? After ten years?
Brandon Youngblood: Hayes…after all this time…you still haven’t learned. Your match is tomorrow.
Youngblood stands, all 270 pounds of him, and shifts toward the Universal Challenger.
Brandon Youngblood: Tonight’s our night.
Hayes freezes a moment, caught in the hard stare of the ReVival’s First Diamond.
Eventually, he relents with a nod.
Hayes Hanlon: Sorry…I just…it’s a lot, y’know?
Brandon Youngblood: Oh, we know. You have no idea just how…
Nova: (interrupting) You’re not thinking about Cancer’s offer, are you?
The burst from the Risen Star catches Youngblood and Hanlon slightly off-guard. Hayes looks between both veterans half a dozen times before finding the words to respond.
Hayes Hanlon: Wait…what? No! Seriously?
Nova, in a rare moment, is deathly serious, drawing from his cigarette and standing from his bench. Hayes resets his posture and composure.
Nova: (walking forward) Seriously. Really seriously.
BY steps back. Hayes looks around the locker room, rattled.
Hayes Hanlon: Yeah, man! You don’t really think…
Nova: I’m not sure…you tell me, Hayes…
Hayes Hanlon: (backing up) Nova…seriously…I wouldn’t…
Nova: Because I told myself that, once. Back in ‘06. When I won the Universal Title. When I told the world “Fuck You.” That was a mistake, Hayes. Are you gonna make the same mistake?
And at that comment, the Event Horizon stiffens up, shoulders back, chest out, with a hard glare to match the Starchild’s. The Tower of Babel watches Hanlon closely, arms folding across his chest.
Time to draw your line, kid.
Hayes Hanlon: No. I won’t. I learned from yours a long time ago.
And that line almost sets Nova off course. Even Youngblood in the background fights back the “oh, shit” face. Regardless, Nova takes a rip from his cigarette, eyes matching Hanlon’s browns, before his stare transforms into a genuinely humored grin.
Nova: (slapping Hayes on the shoulder) Ah, I’m just fucking with ya. Sorry, bro.
Starchild turns his head over-shoulder toward Brandon with a wink, who pinches back a laugh behind his goatee.
Nova: We both know you’re smarter than that!
With one more clap of the shoulder, Nova’s crow’s feet form around his eyes. Hayes, quite uncomfortably, smiles back. Nova then takes a quick look at his wrist, where a watch clearly doesn’t exist, before clapping his hands together.
Nova: Show time.
The Risen Star turns and exits the dressing room, leaving Hayes in a dumbstruck stance. Youngblood, still hiding a laugh behind a closed fist held to his lips, eventually takes a couple steps over to Hammerin’ Hanlon.
Brandon Youngblood: If I were you?
BY wraps a hand around the back of Hayes’ neck, leaning in close.
Brandon Youngblood: …I’d damn well go and prove it.
With another clap from a big hand, Brandon turns away, exiting the locker room in kind and leaving Home Run Hayes on his own.
After a quiet moment or two, the Event Horizon slaps his hands together, and slides off stage-left.