“Excuse me. Excuse me.”
Nate Colton was running late.
“EXCUSE–sorry, excuse me…”
He HATED being late.
Yet here he was, weaving through the foot traffic in Las Vegas. Gym bag in one hand, phone in the other. He was supposed to be at the gym three minutes ago; no doubt his partner had already started lifting weights and Nate’s own idea would have to wait for another day.
Of course, he wouldn’t be having this problem if not for interruptions from his siblings and cousin.
@NCColton: how was everyone’s weekend
@BTColton: real good, me and Denny won our tune-up against the Mime Syndicate down in Franklin
@DJColton: Flynn Cup is ours this summer
@BTColton: hell yeah
Nate had made the mistake of getting involved with the family group chat that morning. Blake had set it up a few years ago, with only the siblings and their cousin Dennis as members. It was a great place to share stories, make plans, and complain about their parents.
@BWColton: College prep, exercise. I start training soon, too.
@NCColton: nice, make sure to focus on your classes when school starts, though
@JVColton: broke up w jon
And drop the occasional bombshell.
Nate skidded to a halt as he typed out his response. He felt conflicted; on the one hand, he didn’t like anyone dating his sister, and the person in question being Jonathan Rhine added several layers of complications. However, he’d come around on the man after the Fighting For Nora fundraiser–no matter how bad things had gotten, Rhine had been nothing less than a gentleman toward Jennifer.
Still, you know what they say about old habits.
@NCColton: anything I need to beat the shit out of him for?
He sent the message and regretted it immediately. Not because of the likely responses, but because he knew he was being the Older Brother again.
@JVColton: jfc no
we just want different things
@BTColton: keep telling you bro, “overprotective” is a bad look
@JVColton: besides if he needed a beating id do it my damn self
@NCColton: good point
Nate chuckled as he started walking again. He was already running late; no sense in making things worse. He and Filmix had very important work to do today.
@JVColton: its fine tho
he wants something serious and i just wanna have fun
@BTColton: does this mean he’s back on the market now? ask him if he’s into dudes at all
Coach Hark was giving them another “free period;” their workouts, while still intense, had been a little less overwhelming now that they’d proven themselves in the ring. They were allowed to work on whatever they chose that morning, as long as it improved their chances of success.
Did Nate’s idea qualify? Well…that was hard to say.
@NCColton: I assume by “have fun” you mean “go to Six Flags”
Nate tried to sling his bag over his shoulder and open the door to the gym, all while typing out another reply. That required one hand too many, so he put his phone away. Moments later, his thigh was assaulted by notifications. That’ll be Ben, he thought, but kept his focus on the task at hand.
Upon entry, he almost ran toward the training area, hoping to catch Filmix before the Wrestling Junkie got too wrapped up in something else. He spotted Filmix just exiting the locker room, and relaxed enough to check his phone again. Naturally, this was a mistake.
@JVColton: lol you dork
@BTColton: OH MY GOD
@BWColton: Now you’ve done it, Nate.
@BTColton: YOUR SISTER LIKES TO HAVE SEX GET OVER IT
@NCColton: can you not?
“You’re late,” Nathan said. Colton wasn’t sure if it was an observation or an accusation.
“Sorry,” he answered. “Got caught up dealing with my lunatic siblings. At least I’m already in workout clothes; I can just jump right in.”
@DJColton: your own fault, you put a quarter in him
@BTColton: AND SHE SHOULD LIKE IT, SEX RULES
@JVColton: yeah it does
@DJColton: I’m a fan
@NCColton: I hate you all
“Ah,” Filmix commented, “I don’t know what that’s like to be honest. I don’t really have a family at all.”
“Wow. I couldn’t even imagine.”
They walked and talked as the pairing headed to their usual weight machines. “I’ll have to cut out early this morning,” Nate admitted, drawing a quick glare from his partner. “That Beauregard guy asked if I could do a photo shoot for some ads to put up around the Grand. Got time for a few sets, and maybe some prep for our next match.”
“Who do we have this week?” Nathan asked.
Seeing he was already on his phone, all Colton had to do was flash his partner his screen.
@BTColton: YOU KNOW WHO ELSE LIKES TO HAVE SEX
“God dammit,” he muttered, and tried to switch screens before his brother said anything else…to no avail.
@BTColton: if dad hadn’t gotten snipped there’d be like five more of us
@NCColton: stop it
@BWColton: My room is next to theirs. Can confirm.
@NCColton: next time I’m home it’s noogies for all of you
Eventually, he brought up the PRIME website, and summoned the biography page for their opponents this week.
“Winds of Change? Never heard of them,” Filmix remarked as he set the weight on his machine.
Nate was about to do the same but stopped, unable to believe what he just heard. “They…were in Survivor with us. Lasted longer than we did, in fact.”
“Oh. Good thing we’re not in Survivor anymore.”
Nate and Nathan began their regimented and coordinated exercises. “Just a light one today. We’ve got stuff to talk about, and I’m sure Coach will put us through our paces this afternoon.”
“Understood.” Filmix was disappointed, but did not argue. “What else do you know about our opponents?”
“They’re tough to read,” Nate said. “Both second-generation wrestlers.”
“…Yes, and no. My dad knows about Joey Malone and Daniel Phillips; they probably crossed paths a couple of times. But wrestling’s full of wrestlers’ kids who never make it big, for whatever reason. Most of ‘em don’t have the passion their dads did, and are just trying to get by on the name. I don’t think these guys are like that, but–”
Nathan stopped his workout promptly. He helped himself to Nate’s phone and looked something up.
“Uhhh, excuse me?” Colton muttered as he watched his partner.
“Winds of Change. Joe Fontaine and Sid Phillips,” Filmix stated.
Colton stared at his partner in disbelief. Umm…yeah, duh, that’s them.
“Maybe I need to get checked for a concussion,” Nathan tried to find an answer, “I haven’t had a good scouting report on them at all.”
Colton, more concerned with his handsy partner, made sure to take his phone back as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
“Oh whoops, yeah sorry, you can have that back. Weird. Survivor is just a blur to me,” Filmix said.
Colton went through his phone just to make sure Filmix didn’t mess anything up, or make rogue contributions to his social media accounts. The last thing he needed was a repeat of the “show hog” incident.
@BTColton: what I’m saying is people–even your female relatives–should be allowed to fuck if they want, and everyone else can mind their own
@JVColton: and the only person Benny should fuck is himself
I need to put this thing on silent for a while, Nate thought after typing his response. Already been too much of a distraction today…for both of us.
@BTColton: *mad face*
good one tho
“I understand,” Nate said, still side-eying his partner a little. “That was crazy, and it felt like everyone else was better suited for that goofball stuff than us. Losing definitely sucked, but we made it pretty damn far while doing things that weren’t in our wheelhouse. Then, the next show…”
A grin slowly spread across Filmix’s face. “The eGG Bandits and Saturday Night Specials saw what we’re about.”
“Damn right they did. While they were training to push boulders and eat gross stuff, we were training for THAT. Because we knew it was going to come back to the ring eventually.”
“And the ring is where we live.”
“Our house, bro.” Nate relaxed a bit as they fist bumped, and then got back to lifting. Filmix had been a bit erratic a moment ago, but seemed to be fine now. “Those guys are all vets, and we still took care of business. Winds of Change have the pedigree–they were trained by Coral Avalon, and that guy’s the real deal–but they don’t have the skills like we do.”
Nathan was still grinning, but his upper lip curled into a snarl. “Which means we’ll tear them apart.”
“That’s the plan; now we just have to execute. I’ll stop by the PRIME library later, see what we can find on them. Right now, I want to talk about something else,” Colton said.
“Like?” Nathan inquired.
“Entrance themes. You don’t even have one, dude. Walking out to silence WON’T intimidate our opponents, no matter who they are.”
The thought had to permeate around Nathan’s thick skull. For some reason, his brain wasn’t working that day. “My skills are intimidating enough.”
“I know, but the music is…it’s like a psychological edge. You can get in the opponent’s head before you even get in the ring.” They finished their sets simultaneously, and began wiping down their respective machines. “I guarantee that the moment Brandon Youngblood’s music hits, his opponent gets a chill down their spine. Hell, I know when I hear Cancer Jiles’ theme, I want to throw up, and I’ve never even met him.”
“Hmm.” Filmix tried again to wrap his head around the concept, but he couldn’t quite get it. “So, just walking to the ring while music is playing gives you an edge?”
“I mean, it can’t just be anything,” Colton replied. “It needs to start strong, so that everyone knows what it is before you walk through the curtain…and it should be something that you vibe with. Like, if it fires you up, the crowd can feel that, and they’ll get fired up too.”
“I don’t need music for that,” Filmix told his partner as they went to their next station, “and I don’t care what the crowd thinks.”
“You can use that, too,” Nate said. “I’ve known a bunch of guys who don’t play to the crowd; they use their themes to center themselves. By focusing on that, they block out all the other distractions. Whatever you need it to be, man.”
“That makes a little more sense,” Filmix admitted. There seemed to be more and more distractions lately. “How did you choose your song?”
“Mine?” Colton asked, as his workout slowed to a halt. He released the handles and thought for a while. “Well…it starts off with the Eagles. That’s Dad’s favorite band, and no one else is close. He used one of their songs his whole career. And pretty much everything about me is a tribute to him–my music, my gear, even how I finish matches. The others are the same. He’s a big influence on the way we present ourselves…but we each put our own spin on it. Same band, different song. Same patterns, different colors. Same family…different people.”
Filmix nodded. In his limited experience with the Coltons, he had seen as much.
“And I think that’s what the song I use says about me,” Nate continued. “I’m proud of my father, but I’m also my own man. I’m a part of my dad’s legacy, and I want to take it to new heights. I want to do things he couldn’t, things he never dreamed of…I want to take his name, and make it our name. And then I want to write that name all over the world, in letters as big as the sky.”
Colton started to stare off, as if he could actually see the future he described. After a moment, though, he returned to reality.
“I ain’t there yet, of course,” he said with a smile. “But like the song says…I’m tryin’.”
Nathan Filmix watched his partner with a curious eye. The murky picture had become slightly clearer. “I believe you, but I still don’t understand. Walking to the ring with some dumb song won’t make me a better wrestler.”
“Neither will dressing as a pirate,” Nate replied, “but one of Dad’s friends turned his career around by doing exactly that. Wrestling’s weird, dude. It doesn’t have to make sense, as long as it works.”
“Long story. The thing is, there’s so much about wrestling that doesn’t happen in the gym, or between the ropes. That stuff–your entrance, your promos, your gear, all of it–it’s all about telling the whole world who you are, as loud as you can.”
“If you say so,” Nathan said. “How do I find the right song?” He had other questions, but he didn’t say them out loud.
“Gotta look for it,” Colton answered, and brought out his phone again. “Let me send you something real quick.” Filmix left his machine and went to his gym bag, bringing out his own device. He clicked on the link that Nate Colton had sent him.
“A friend helped me set that up,” Nate said. “It’s a playlist of a bunch of different music. If you like something, click the little plus sign. If you don’t, click the minus. You’ll get more of what you like, less of what you don’t. Works on…algorithms, probably.”
“Yeah, the more you use it, I think the closer you’ll get. I can–” Nate cut off as soon as he saw the time. “Shit. I gotta run. Real sorry, man.”
“What about training?”
“I’ll be back in the afternoon, so Coach can still work us to death,” Colton said.
“I suppose I can do cardio instead,” Filmix replied with an air of frustration. “What about the song? You won’t be able to help?”
“Wish I could, but…well, this has to be your choice. Could be anyone–Run the Jewels, Doja Cat, Bob Dylan…hell, Solid Gold Rock ‘N Roll’s new release has some bangers. Anyone you want.”
Filmix nodded and pressed ‘play,’ while Colton went to the locker room to change.
“Make sure to sync up with the gym speakers,” he called out before going into the locker room. “Gives you a better idea of what it’ll feel like in the arena.”
Filmix nodded, and with a bit of trial and error, connected his device. Soon, the gym was filled with “Do I Wanna Know?” by the Arctic Monkeys. He stepped onto a treadmill and started running, and tried to focus on the song–he really did–but felt nothing. As he hit the ‘minus’ button, the unspoken questions he felt earlier started to rise again. He glanced at the locker room, making sure that his partner was actually gone, before he felt comfortable asking aloud.
“How do I tell people who I am?”
There was another question on his mind which he still wasn’t ready to ask, even in an empty room.
How do I know?
He dismissed a few other songs just as quickly. Neither Bob Marley nor Fun. appealed to him; the Mozart symphony was interesting but didn’t seem to be right for wrestling. The next song came up, starting with a beat and bass, then bringing in some southern rock-inspired guitar. It was, of course, entirely foreign to Filmix, but recognizable to the rest of the world as the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit, “Fortunate Son.”
It was definitely recognizable to Nate Colton, who came barreling out of the locker room a moment later, wearing only a pair of blue boxer briefs and one sock.
“EXCEPT THEM!” he screamed, running at full speed toward Filmix. Nathan stared in utter confusion as Colton bore down on him, stopping just in time to avoid knocking Filmix off the treadmill. He jammed his finger onto the other man’s phone three or four times before he finally found the ‘skip’ button.
Filmix kept running and stared straight ahead while Colton caught his breath. When he had calmed down, he looked sheepishly at his partner. “That was…weird, wasn’t it.”
“Little bit,” Filmix said.
“I’ll explain. Just…” Colton looked down and blushed. “Just…let me put on some shorts first.”
Colton slunk back to the locker room, allowing Filmix to return to the task at hand. A few minutes later, Nate Colton returned; a little more calm, a lot more clothed.
“Sorry about that. That band is…well, it’s a whole thing with us. We don’t fuck with Creedence.”
“They’re bad luck.” Colton put up his hands defensively. “I know, it’s weird and it’s probably not true. But it seems like whenever we hear one of their songs, something happens…and it’s never good.”
“Dad’s got it the worst–he won’t even talk about it. But we’ve all had something–the coach played them on the bus for my first wrestling meet in middle school, and I lost all my matches. Benny and Denny got pulled over with weed in the car, right in the middle of one of their songs. Jenny got in a fistfight at a party, Blake had a date go really bad–whenever the shit hits the fan for us, it feels like they’re the soundtrack.”
“All of you? That’s crazy.”
“Crazy but true. Here, I’ll show you,” Nate answered, and typed something into his phone. It dinged four times in as many seconds, at which point he showed the screen to Filmix.
@NCColton: Filmix wants to know if he should use CCR for his theme
@JVColton: FUCK THAT
@BWColton: ABSOLUTELY NOT
“I know, weird as hell,” Nate said with a shrug. “I don’t expect you to understand, just…trust me. If you really want, you can pick them…but you’ll have to wait about five minutes before I join you.”
“This is all a lot more complicated than I ever thought,” Filmix said, still thoroughly confused and mildly concerned about what had just happened.
“Yep. It’s like Denny always says. ‘The human mind is some serious bullshit.’” Colton took a deep breath. “All right, I really need to shower and head out. You OK on your own?”
“Of course,” Filmix responded. But the part he kept to himself was, I always seem to be.
“Great. I’ll catch you later, bro.” Nate jogged back to the locker room, engrossing himself in the business that seemed to take up more and more of his time. About ten minutes later he came back out, tossing a wave to Filmix before leaving him alone in the facility.
Alone with his thoughts.
Once again, with only music that he didn’t understand to distract him, two questions filled his mind.
One that he was willing to say out loud. One that he wasn’t.