WE DON’T GET TO BE HEROES
For ten months King Blueberry walked these halls feeling like an outsider. This company was never his home. There were those few months so many years ago spent alongside the Troy Douglases and the Tyler Nelsons, but the less said about that run the better. He was the transfer student, the new kid who didn’t fit in with any of the popular kids, and it would only be a matter of time before he washed out. A bucket of tomatoes and a catapult: that was his legacy.
In contrast, there was the carnival of nightmares that made up Sin City Championship Wrestling, the place where he plied his craft and made his living for three long, torturous years. There was no limit to the violence that roster would inflict on each other, no switch to turn off the suffering. Every week was a challenge, a dare to take it to the next level. He made friends there. He fell in love. He watched in horror as those careers ended, as those relationships were broken. It’s a minor miracle that he never became desensitized to what was happening around him, but the environment bred a cruel familiarity.
Today, the air of the MGM Grand feels different. Today, at long last, this company feels like home.
The ghost of Sin City wanders these halls, baptizing the uninitiated in blood and chocolate.
“I’m not kidding, man. Just what he fuck is happening around here?!”
It’s been mere minutes since Paxton Ray’s assault on PRIME took place. Mark, a backstage assistant working his first real job out of college, is on his way to the Sunrise Hospital, joining a list of PRIME luminaries to make that trek since the end of summer.
One of those men strides alongside the Co-Head of Security, Wade Elliott. King Blueberry – Jared Sykes – had his turn in the ambulance two weeks ago after suffering a particularly devious attack at the hands of the newly-returned Love Convoy, the evidence of which still lingers on his mask. There is no amount of bleach that will remove the stain of chocolate from the white of his mask, a fact he is now acutely aware of. Nor is there anything that will remove the other stain it left him with; the one that eyes can’t see.
King Blueberry: When does this shit stop, Wade? Huh? When the fuck does it stop? Oh, maybe I should be grateful, you know? Because people actually decided to show up and help out tonight. At least nobody’s wasting their energy guarding a fucking belt, as if we’re not in a building with vaults, or like we couldn’t just buy another one. But hey, no one’s done any war crimes yet, so I guess we’re making some fucking progress.
The ‘Bama Bruiser, fresh off his own encounter with Paxton Ray, is less than enthralled with the rant barreling into his ear, and instead continues his long strides forward down the hall, teeth grit behind his grayed beard.
King Blueberry: Hey, you know what? Maybe we can convert Melvin’s old office. Maybe we can install an ‘iron chair’ or a ‘judas cradle’ and just save ourselves the time and trouble of having to do this shit in the ring. “Oh look, it’s torture time. Let’s all go to Melvin’s!” Jesus Christ. How much longer until we get to start our own deadpool? This is Vegas, right? Somebody’s gotta be out there making odds on which member of the roster is the next one to get an all-expenses-paid trip to Sunrise. Who you got, Wade? C’mon. What name you put your money on?
Wade Elliott: IT’S ‘BOUT T’BE YERS IF Y’DON’T SHUT YER GOD-DAMN TRAP!!
The Bad Dog breathes hard through his nostrils, doing his best to settle himself after the outburst.
Wade Elliott: God-damnit…sorry, I’m tryin’ hard t’keep an even keel. Been a tall order ’round here lately…
King Blueberry: Goddamn right it is. And it shouldn’t be, should it? Do you know why it’s this company where I finally put my name on the line to try and help out a friend? Do you know why it’s PRIME and why it was never going to be Sin City? Because I bought into the hype. After a decade I finally came around. I thought that this was the city on the hill, where people might beat each other up – because that’s the business – but at least the inmates weren’t running the goddamn asylum. And now… Now I’m a goddamn liar.
The admission, one that’s more personal than he’d let on, seems to have taken some of the venom out of his voice.
King Blueberry: So what’s the fix? What the fuck do we do now?
The Blue Collar Brawler takes a heavy breath into his chest, pinching his keen blue eyes shut for a second and facing this particular half of the PRIME Tag Team Champions.
Wade Elliott: Sykes, I don’t know what t’hell you remember ‘bout PRIME back in the day, but it’s the same shit, different decade. The stream of assholes was flowin’ real heavy all them years, my own damn self included. Just like it is now.
Wade takes another breath, looking away and shaking his head.
Wade Elliott: There ain’t no fix. It’s the world we chose t’live in and I’m too god-damn old to deal with anymore’n I have to. YER job is t’keep showin’ up in the ring an’ do what ya do.
One last breath through his nose, before clapping a heavy hand on KB’s shoulder.
Wade Elliott: An’ ya gotta trust me t’do mine.
With that, the Bad Dog continues on his journey, leaving Sykes with his thoughts. And perhaps in an odd twist of fate, shoulders his way past the oncoming frame of Hayes Hanlon, who gives Elliott the berth he requires. Hayes walks toward Blueberry, but looks back at Wade lumbering off, before jerking a thumb in Elliott’s direction.
Hayes Hanlon: Is he out of bourbon or something?
The berry offers a weak shrug.
King Blueberry: I hope not. Probably needs a few after the shit he just had to listen to. The last month can fuck off. Just fuck right off.
He presses the palms of his hands into his eyes, trying to block out the faint scent of chocolate that still lingers in his mask.
King Blueberry: This the sort of shit you expected when you signed on? Because lemme tell you, it’s not supposed to be this way.
The Event Horizon, clad in his usual black dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, offers a quizzical eyebrow.
Hayes Hanlon: …really?
If the expression on his face is any indication, this is not the reaction that the Blueberry expected.
King Blueberry: Y-yes?
Hayes Hanlon: Dude, you know I’ve watched every ReVolution ever aired at least three times, right? That’s kinda my whole thing…
King Blueberry: Yeah, no, I get that.
Hayes Hanlon: The not for nothin’, but…this is EXACTLY what I expected.
King Blueberry: Okay, so forgive my ignorance then, because I was never a “here” guy. But the place I came from, this shit was commonplace. I had one friend have their career taken away by a lunatic whose favorite thing to do was smash people with light tubes. Same guy almost ended Coral Avalon’s career, too. If that wasn’t enough, I could tell you about the time a friend of mine had a paper with the phrase “Office Slut” written on it stapled to her chest because she didn’t want to see me get hit with any more chairs. That’s not even the worst that she suffered…
He draws in an uneven staccato breath, trying to force aside the memories of what happened with the rusted nail.
King Blueberry: So maybe I’m the idiot. Maybe I’m the dumbass for thinking that shouldn’t be the norm. But, shit, at least…
“At least no one was ever tortured,” is what he was about to say, until those memories come rushing back as well. It’s not a coincidence the left half of his torso is covered in ink.
King Blueberry: Fine. The business sucks. Doesn’t mean it has to.
The young Hanlon nods, crossing his arms at the chest and leaning against the hallway wall.
Hayes Hanlon: Yeah…but it’s still pretty awesome. Right?
King Blueberry: I mean… it has its moments.
Hayes Hanlon: Don’t get me wrong. Shit like what happened with Rhine is…bad. And wrong. And the worst kind of awful.
Home Run Hayes takes a second, and oddly enough, starts unbuttoning his black dress shirt.
Hayes Hanlon: But without guys like Paxton Ray…
He pulls his shirt open, revealing a black t-shirt underneath. A t-shirt from ReVival 16’s main event. Not the one he wore to the ring, but the one traded from Sykes in the middle of the ring.
The one reading “Fighting for Jonathan”.
Hayes Hanlon: …we don’t get to be the good guys.
It takes a moment before the Blueberry responds. Many times over he opens his mouth to speak, but then seems to think better of it. When the words finally come, they are as true an indicator of the man beneath the mask as any.
King Blueberry: I never wanted to be a good guy, Hayes. I never wanted to do this at all. All of this? It was someone else’s dream.
He clears his throat.
King Blueberry: But we lost him when he was young. We were just kids. So I picked it up. Got it across the finish line, I guess. If I’m anything it’s because I know what he would do, you know?
The first hints of a smile creep onto Jared’s face. It’s faint, barely noticeable, but it is there.
King Blueberry: I think he would’ve liked you.
The dark mustache on Hanlon’s face lifts in a genuine and appreciative smile before he buttons up his shirt, deciding to leave Jared’s last comment alone, and instead shift the subject.
Hayes Hanlon: I was pretty bummed to see our match get screwed over by JC and Vickie and Tristan-Crispin-Clifton-whateverthehell his name is, but…we put on a helluva show…right?
King Blueberry: Definitely gave ‘em their money’s worth, I think.
Hayes Hanlon: Good, because my chest is still a freakin’ MESS. I’m not gonna take that beating every show for nothing.
A short, bordering awkward, but agreeable silence. Hayes offers one more grin and a pat to the arm of Jared Sykes.
Hayes Hanlon: Give em’ hell out there, and gimme a holler when you wanna let the Love Convoy know what’s up. I’ve got skin in that game now, and a powerbomb Sid would be proud of.
The Event Horizon moves along down the hall, leaving Sykes to himself. Jared glances down the hallway, where his partner stands waiting with one belt in each hand. The expression on her face is one of obvious displeasure, like a woman stuck in the rain waiting for the dog to finish its business. The last shades of joy fade from his face once again, and a curse is muttered under his breath as he makes his way down the corridor.