From an outsider’s perspective the building looks like an old fashioned, three story mansion. Red brick laced with white trim windows, led by a pebble stone pathway, in-between a white picket fence and open front yard, tucked away in the upper mountains. Darin Zion walks up the hill as he slowly passes through the front yard. A quiet, secure and peaceful surrounding, within an already slumbering town, Darin is sure to remain respectful and quiet. He checks the address in his pocket before scanning the front of the mansion and finds the numbers located at the side of the front door. He squints, ensuring the numbers match before cautiously stepping over some freshly planted daisies. He arrives at the porch, softly walking up the steps and placing himself in front of the large oak door entrance. The HOW/PRIME talent takes another look at the hand written address. The numbers are exactly the same as the ones beside the door and yet, he’s unsure. Darin takes a third glance, as if willing these numbers to suddenly change. They don’t.
He knocks. Twice. Waits.
Darin’s mind wanders. He can’t help but wonder if he’s doing the right thing. There’s a part of him that hasn’t realized how uncomfortable he is and how, deep down, he was hoping for an excuse to leave. Perhaps that’s why he triple checked the address because after 2Become1 were voted off Survivor and lost to the Egg Bandits, the LOVE CONVOY was disbanded. Darin Zion was on his own again. Losing match after match. In HOW. In PRIME. A few weeks ago he was seriously contemplating stepping away from wrestling altogether until Vickie showed up with a plea and a promise. To reunite. To fix their journey and not just the Hall’s, either. It was also a commitment to Zion. DZ, gone as the joke, the punching bag of wrestling. Gone as the man who was unsuccessful when it came to championship competition. Vickie would have her moment, with her ALP, on the biggest stage possible. And Darin Zion… oh he’d have his, too.
In all honesty, it sounded like nothing more than a dream. Great in spirit, good for the movies.
…Not based in reality.
His hands are now fists, his teeth clench together. Knowing this ending won’t be possible, he decides he’s going to walk away.
Until the door quickly swings open. A woman in off-blue pants and a white top stands there.
“Hello, my name is Debbie and you are… Darin?” She greets while also asking for confirmation.
“Uh, yeah,” he replies, realizing there’s no turning back. “That’s me.”
Debbie takes a step away from the entrance and allows him the space to walk inside. DZ scans the lobby, a long and winding staircase leads to the second level but it’s restricted by glass and a padlocked door.
“Dr. Pitts has been expecting you,” she adds as Zion nods, unsure of what’s to come. However, he feels more at ease. Seeing the inside atrium, taking in its quiet environment, he figures perhaps he is making the right decision.
“Sorry I’m late,” he responds, trying to keep his guard up. “I had a hard time finding this place.”
The woman agrees with this statement as she pulls a cord out from her belt buckle, revealing a set of keys attached to it. “We get that a lot,” she says with a pause. “Follow me.”
Debbie unlocks the glass door as Darin follows her up the winding staircase. Picture frames of abstract art follow them but with every flight taken, the atmosphere begins to change. Soon Darin realizes the quaint décor is merely a costume for chaos.
As they arrive at the top of the stairs, the woman unlocks another door and they enter a wide hallway. By now, there are screams and shouts coming in every direction while the odd individual dressed in the same attire as Debbie passes by before vanishing into one of the residential units.
Darin’s head is on a swivel, he tries to make sense of his surroundings. Soon, however, he is greeted by another man standing in front of him. The man is tall, bald and wears a full blue scrub suit.
“Darin?” He asks. “I’m Dr. Pitts. He’s just over here.”
Zion nods and follows the doctor down the hallway. More screams, more shouts. As they pass by room after room, there’s a small window at the top of each entrance. Darin tries his best to peep inside each one but in order to keep pace with the doctor he isn’t able to see much. Through one doorway he thinks he sees a man being held down by three others while a fourth man readies a needle for injection. In another room he believes he sees someone bouncing around in a straightjacket, slamming into the walls, blood spilling from his forehead.
Finally, they arrive at the end of the hallway and in front of room 221.
“He’s inside,” Dr. Pitts explains as he unlocks the door and they enter. The room is basically empty. Plain white paint covering all four corners and a bed in the middle.
“Ummm, where is he?” Darin asks but as he slowly turns around, he sees him. Crouched into a corner of the room, straightjacket on, rocking back and forth.
“Jesus…” Darin mumbles to himself as he begins to understand the severity of the situation. This is no longer just about redemption inside of a wrestling ring. This is about the sanity of a man, the well-being of someone he knows.
Darin tentatively approaches. But as he walks forward, he realizes nothing is going to change. The person who resides here doesn’t “see” him. The inmate merely rocks back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
Zion kneels down and looks into his friend’s stale blue eyes. They’re open… wide open. Too open. It’s as if his eyes are going to fall from his skull.
“My understanding is his wife…” the doctor’s voice trails as he tries to remember her name. “Vickie. That’s right. She said it was too stressful for her to visit but that you’re his best friend and you may be able to help.”
The inmate continues to rock in the corner. Each movement is perfectly rhythmic. Darin isn’t sure if the guy has even blinked once.
“What makes you, -or her,- think I of all people can help him?” Zion wonders, realizing at times he can barely help himself. “We had a hard go, Jonathan-Christopher and I. He was really worked up about a lot of things. He puts so much pressure on himself and it all comes crashing down if it doesn’t work. I don’t know how to help, doc.”
Zion kneels down, staring into the inmate’s eyes. He can feel his friend’s pain.
“Well for starters,” the doctor begins. “I was hoping you’d be able to help decipher some of Jonathan-Christopher’s mumblings…”
Dr. Pitts pauses to add, “we haven’t been able to make sense of them.”
Zion puts a hand to his chin. “Was he talking about belly buttons? See, there was this large, fat man who traumatized his wife and-”
The doctor shakes his head. “Nothing about a belly button.”
Zion’s mind continues to scurry through other potential life-altering events.
“Right. Then it was likely comments regarding a disgruntled Canadian? The Almasy Tournament, correct? See, when Jonathan-Christopher first started in PRIME he was paired up against Brandon Y-”
Zion stops as he looks up.
“I’m sorry, neither of those things he’s spoken on,” Dr. Pitts states, opening up a folder tabbed ‘JCH’.
“No Darin,” Dr. Pitts adds. “Mr. Hall continues to only mumble about one thing in particular.”
And all Jonathan-Christopher can do is rock to and fro, eyes fixated on a nothingness in front of him.
“Something about ‘chocolate syrup’…”
— — — — —
STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
A true love story
An honest friendship
We never forget, Jared. And we never forgive, either. And we never forget, Jared.
— — — — —
Ritz-Carlton New York – Central Park
New York City, NY
December 10, 2022
Bright and early. A step before the crack of dawn was the most romantic time in the world to the Hall’s. While many people would say watching the sunset is ideal, they commit to a Get Up and Go attitude, which happens to be the moment they arise from a peaceful slumber. This was already two hours ago.
“Do you have everything, honey?” She asks him, as Jonathan-Christopher scans over the belongings.
Blow-up hot tub, check.
Car horn, check.
Pack of rusty nails, check.
“I have everything, baby,” he replies although the expression on her face suggests she’d like him to look for a second time. Obviously, the Vow of Virtue catches on quickly.
“We only have one more shot,” Pretty in Pink reminds as she searches through her own belongings, which is a small hot pink purse filled with makeup.
“I know, my love,” he replies. He knows what he’s been through, what they have. He knows of the hard losses and how it’s derailed their journey each time. He also knows they’ve gone to a VERY extreme extent. They’ve shown a new side of them, a desperate, spiteful, vengeful side. Their attacks were cold and calculating. They wrangled King Blueberry and Reina Raspberry into submission. In fact, they’d like to take credit for Reina using her full name now and soon, perhaps, KBB would do the same. Hello, Jared.
To see the King of Popsicles distance themselves from a humbling defeat on the biggest stage possible would be paramount.
It would not only cement the Hallmark Journey, it would define the current World Tag Team Champion’s demise.
There’s something to celebrate. The rise of true love, the fall of a worthless empire.
“Everything is here, babe,” Jonathan-Christopher pipes up with confidence. “Triple and even quadruple checked.”
“Great, baby,” her reply, however, is rather robotic. It gives the Forever Man a sense of anxiety as he walks over to her and reaches out for her hand.
She pulls it away. He sulks forward.
“I need you to stay focused, Jonathan-Christopher,” she replies sternly. “You tried for my hand when I helped intervene against Justine last week. Until Lindsay Troy lifts her ruling against us, we need to learn how to be separated, too.”
It’s too much for Jonathan-Christopher, this he knows. He feels his body tremble. He needs her. He needs her right now. They are allowed to be together at this very moment, so why can’t he hold her hand? Currently there is no narcissistic boss telling them to maintain one-hundred feet between them.
Anger and resentment courses through Jonathan-Christopher.
…until The Real Queen reaches out for his hand.
“Honey,” she leans forward, straight into his face, as if trying to break his gaze. “You were rocking back and forth again.”
He tilts his head. He blinks. He feels his emotions beginning to regulate. He sees her. He sees all of her.
And he notices his hand is held.
He is calm, cool, collected.
“Sorry about that, baby,” Jonathan-Christopher tries to make a lighthearted crack at his previous disposition. “Brief flashback but now that I have your hand…”
He places his free hand overtop of hers. He rubs it and takes a calming breath in.
“I have packed everything. The signs, the car horn, a bed of rusty nails.”
A sadistic smile crosses Vickie’s face. Not to be outdone, Jonathan-Christopher can’t help but crack the right corner of his mouth, too, although he’s trying much harder to hold his mischief inwards.
“I want those nails driven into Jared’s back,” she exclaims. “Spinebuster. Suplex. Powerslam. I don’t care what you need to do, my love. King Blueberry ruined our journey, he poured chocolate syrup all over me so we will repay him by ending his career!!”
“Nails in the back,” Jonathan-Christopher says as he checks this off in his mind. “Got it. Your wish is my command.”
“Every single one of those rusty nails,” the Woman of Wonder giggles. “We take his championships, his pride and his physical health and throw it out the fucking window.”
Jonathan-Christopher grasps his woman’s palm for all its worth.
“I want him walking out of this contest with a tetanus shot being the last of his worries.”
The Timid Tiger is timid no more. He runs through the last two months in his head… how positive it’s made him feel. How connected he’s felt inside the wrestling ring. It’s a new role for Jonathan-Christopher, being the aggressor. And he’s realized this is the attitude he’s needed all along.
Pussyfoot around the squared circle and you get stepped on. Alpha-male-drive the narrative, out for vengeance and blood and you are the stepper.
“I love you so much, baby,” Jonathan-Christopher pronounces.
They overcame worthless blubbering sloth Bobby Dean. While Brandon Youngblood and Nate Colton were another story, they’ve chalked this up to narcissistic personality abuse from the PRIME lEaDeR, who is clearly jealous of the Hall’s connection.
“And I love you, baby,” she responds.
The two embrace. He holds her close. And while they look into each other’s eyes…
Jonathan-Christopher can’t help but see the bed of rusty nails. He’s briefly taken to the time where the narrative wasn’t in his control and he suffered failure after failure.
He rocks, albeit slightly. Back and forth, back and forth.
Back and forth.
— — — — —
New York City, NY
December 10, 2022
Bright and early isn’t exactly Darin Zion’s thing. Already well into the afternoon, he sits on a park bench, leaning forward. Hands on his knees, he takes a long drag from the dart in his mouth before flicking it off to the side.
“I can’t fucking believe the audacity of this prick,” he fumes, running an unsteady hand over his face. “Where the hell does he get off thinking he’d be able to handle two matches in two nights?”
Tristan-Crispin Gladhappy sits beside Zion and holds space for the moniker of REAL LOVE to vent his frustrations away.
“This is disrespecting me and Jonathan-Christopher.”
But is it, though? Last week Zion poured his heart out, revealing the truth everyone else knows yet something he wasn’t able to come to terms with until recently.
He simply hasn’t been good. The losses pile up. Double duty at a pay-per-view might have more to do with Darin Zion and less to do with the Hall’s than he’d initially like to believe. Regardless of the circumstances, KBB agreeing to two matches in two nights signals the belief winning both is achievable.
It shouldn’t be.
Not after everything Darin and his best friend have put King Blueberry through.
Maybe DZ should’ve focused on Justine more. The Hall’s had targeted the King but Reina was there for the taking as well. Perhaps Zion should’ve made her life a living hell. A relentless steering wheel attack or rusty nail to her head could have made her run away. Or die. Yeah.
“I’m sick of being the laughing stock, okay?” Zion articulates. “When you see Zion’s name as your opponent, people take cheap shots at me and think they can push me around.”
Depression sinks in.
“And with Lindsay Troy restricting what we can do, fuck her. She’s no angel, I’ve seen it first hand. She’s always hated me. She’s a bully… exactly what Vickie says she is.”
Tristan-Crispin frowns as he reaches out and pats Zion on the shoulder. Darin continues as if he doesn’t realize.
“Colossus means nothing to King Blueberry because if it did, he would only be focused on one match…”
While this could be a benefit for the Hall’s and Darin Zion, previous failures have taught REAL LOVE to look at it differently.
“If we don’t win at Colossus, I’m walking out. I’m fucking done.”
“And what if you win?” Finally, TCG wonders openly. “Have you actually considered the alternative?”
Zion hasn’t. Up until this point, everything has gone rather well since the 2Become1 return. But with Lindsay Troy throwing roadblocks in front of him and King Blueberry’s further distractions, it feels like this will be the same old story.
“If we win…” he slowly buys into what TC’s saying. “It will change everything.”
Zion’s thoughts are interrupted as his phone buzzes from his pocket. He takes it out and sees a text message from Vickie.
“She’s coming; they’re on their way,” REAL LOVE remarks as Tristan-Crispin gives himself a nuzzle in excitement. “We have six more days to prepare.”
Tension mounts inside the Chicago native. The pressure rises. He’s taken back to the reasons as to why he said yes… why he reunited everyone. Why he drove to Jonathan-Christopher’s Louisiana estate and begged him to return and why he visited the Forever Man in a mental health institution.
For a moment like this. One opportunity to ignore his failures and rewrite history. The chance to call himself champion.
The Hallmark’s attacks on the King of Popsicles were ruthless. There’s no doubt about it. They were messages. HARD, LEGIT messages.
Times have changed. A message to the locker room that Jonathan-Christopher, his Amazing Life Partner Vickie, their best friend Darin and family member Tristan-Crispin controlled the story now.
All that’s left is the final nail in the coffin.
And if Darin Zion has his way that final nail would be a rusty one.
REAL LOVE places the cell phone in his pocket. He relaxes on the park bench beside TCG, who’s still working through his own nuzzle hug, readying himself for the excitement of the Hall’s as they continue to map out their tag team strategy.
Everything is on the line in Madison Square Garden.
— — — — —
darin i saw ur match darin-
plz answertr me darin-
been messaging u 4 weeks darin-
he needs ur help-
hes sick darin hes sick-
darin u need my help 2 ok-
and i need ur help-
we all need each others help OK???-
darin u there?-
-Vickie seriously sorry but fuck off
darin there u r-
darin no need 2 talk like that i no ur angry-
-Angry doesn’t begin to describe it
-I lost to fucking David Fox okay!?
-David Fucking Fox
-Darin Zion lost again
u actually never lost w/ us darin-
u were always the one picking up the pins-
u pinned randal swartz in our match-
u pinned others 2 i just cant member right now-
u didnt even get pinned against egg bandits, jonathan-christopher did-
-I’m done with wrestling.
no plz reconsider-
jonathan-christopher is not well-
-Yeah you said.
no hes in rehab zion-
yeah homewood health couple hours drive up north from u-
can u visit him hes not well-
i cant go were on a break-
-You’re not seeing each other?
no 2 much 4 me 2 handle-
no1 else knows OK?-
i couldnt deal with it anymore he was too clingy-
like it was too much-
ke[pt struggling w our losses-
i wanted a winner he was losing-
i am not OK-
u r not OK-
he is not OK-
we can all make it OK tho-
if you get him back i have a plan zoin-
I promise u can have ur moment-
king blueberry and reina raspberty-
they started thissss-
u always wanted 2 b champion zoin-
we can all make it happennnnn-
ur his best friend-
-I barely know the guy!
-We’ve only known each other for a few months
-You two confronted ME in catering remember?
ur his best friend darin-
he likes you-
i like you-
we had something-
bring him back to me-
bring him back to us-
i will lite a fire under jonathan-christopher-
like we still love each other its just been hard u know?-
beak doesnt mean were done zion-
i just cant go visit there but u can-
blueberry poured FUCKING CHCO SYRUP ALL OVER ME-
FUCKING RUINED ME-
CANT GET AWAY W THAT-
-Yeah okay fine give me the address.
-I’ll see what I can do.
OMG GREAT THNX U ZION I FUCKING LUV U-
im already working on plans to take popsicles downnnnn-
they will fucking PAY for everything theyve done to usssss-
they fucking started all of thius!-
-Just give me the address, Vic.
-No promises but I’ll go there and see what I can do.
i will map quest it 2 u-
ill make this worth ur while-