When Stars Align…

...and alliances solidify

 

I.
April 6, 2019
Guard and Grace Steakhouse
Denver, Colorado

“I signed with High Octane Wrestling today.”

Lindsay Troy is just about to put a piece of medium rare steak into her mouth when Dan Ryan, oh so casually, slips this little piece of news into their conversation. The in-laws are in Denver for promotional appearances ahead of CWF’s pay-per-view event the following Tuesday. As is customary for the two of them, a local steak joint is the backdrop for the evening.

“Hm.” Steak in her mouth now, chewed thoughtfully. Or, the Queen is stalling for time.

Ryan didn’t wait. “A few people have been putting a bug in my ear about it for a little while. Then I got an official invite, so there you go.”

“A few people? Or just one?”

The elephant in the room.

We know where this is going. Dan Ryan shrugs.

“A few, but yes, the one you’re referring to was one of them.”

Lindsay shakes her head and chuckles, knowingly. Of course. Of course Eric Dane would’ve poked him about joining the fray, because as it had been when they three were last together, when one goes the other is sure to follow.

“Well, just make sure you stay out of my way when you two start running together.”

Dan Ryan is in the middle of cutting his steak for another bite, and without even looking up…..

“Why not run with us?”

Lindsay just stares, pondering her brother-in-law’s laudable yet sometimes infuriating ability to forgive and forget old offenses at the drop of a dime. This one, though, is impressive, even for him. Her eyes narrow, studying his face, and waiting for him to look up and notice the look of “what the fuck?” on hers.

Dan already knows it’s there, and doesn’t look up as he takes his bite.

“Absolutely not.”

Nope, he’s still not looking up.

“What’s the big deal?” he asks. “It’s not like he did something unforgivable, like break your husband’s leg or something.”

TOO. SOON.

“No,” Troy hisses, gripping her utensils in a death-clutch, her voice dropping to a dangerously low octave, “that guy only worked with Eric Dane to screw me out of the FIST of DEFIANCE, while Eric reneged on my renegotiated contract, threw me out of the company, and then slandered my name with lies on TV after the fact. Why would I ever hate the man for that?”

Dan looks up now, no dummy, recognizing that he’s walked up to the line and taken all but perhaps one little pinky toe over it.

Let’s pull this back a bit.

“I think we’ve all done things we regret in the name of being the best. Some of us have done things we don’t regret. But let’s not make lists. What’s the worst that could happen? He has no power over you in HOW. Why not discuss it? I mentioned you to him. He didn’t hate the idea. Why keep a grudge if you don’t have to?”

Yep, laudable… and infuriating.

A huff from his sister-in-law. “Did it ever occur to you that he didn’t hate the idea because he’d rather me not break him in two? I have enough rage in my heart for Eric to start a car.”

Ryan smiles just a tad.

“Yes, in fact. It occurred to me pretty much immediately.”

Nothing from Lindsay. Dan deadpans.

“I can hold him for you and let you kick him in the face if you want. He’s not nearly as strong as I am.”

The tiniest of smirks from the Queen of the Ring. The Ego Buster knows how to make her crack.

“No, it’s almost not fair, the man’s almost up for his retirement benefits.”

Ryan stays stoic, continuing on with this very serious topic.

“Just think, we can both say we knew Eric Dane back in the good old days, back when his Urologist thought it was still safe for him to wear white in public.”

And, with that, a full-blown laugh.

“You ass,” Lindsay snorts. “Alright. Let’s say I throw in with you two. He needs to get square with me. And if this shit ever goes sideways, you’re the common denominator between us. Hope I don’t have to see the past repeat itself.”

Ryan shrugs.

“Like I said, what’s the worst that could happen?” Ryan takes a bite and nods. “Good steak.”

 

II.
June 11, 2019
Cafe du Monde
New Orleans, Louisiana

Another day, another city on the road. And it just so happened that this time, Lindsay Troy has found herself in the hometown of The Only Star.

Normally, working for two companies wouldn’t take its toll on her, but Lindsay Troy no longer has the freedom she once did a decade-plus ago. Married now, with two teenagers, and being a mentor to the industry’s best and brightest via her training centers means her schedule is booked and busy all the time. It’s a small miracle that HOW is working a reduced schedule, and with their shows relocating from Chicago to Tampa, a couple of days at her home base every week to recharge is exactly what she needs to keep her sanity.

Today, though, she sits at Cafe du Monde, already bustling with tourists at eight AM. A cafe au lait produces steam amidst the Tuesday morning heat and humidity, and she waits for New Orleans’s Nefarious One to grace her with his presence.

He doesn’t keep her waiting long.

“It’s been a long time since we rocked-and-rolled, Ms. Troy.” The Only Star is dressed quite a bit more casually than she’s used to seeing him. A black v-neck over silver slacks is today’s wardrobe, capped off with shoes and sunglasses that are almost embarrassingly expensive, but casual nonetheless. “Wouldn’t you say?”

Presumptuously, Eric Dane takes a seat across from the Queen of the Ring.

“Eric. Yes, I would.”

She brings her hands from her lap and produces a second cafe au lait. She slides it across to him. “Peace offering.”

“To be fair…” It lingers in the air for a split second as Eric takes back half of the excruciatingly hot and bitter drink like a shot of whiskey. “I wasn’t sure if you’d answer the phone, let alone agree to a face to face. Color me impressed.”

“Well, one of my kids did ask me who ‘X emoji X emoji SHITHEAD X emoji X emoji’ was on my caller ID. Figured I should pick up after that. And, maybe, change your name back.”

Dane smirks. Typical Troy, always with a lightning-fast jab.

“Fair enough,” he acquits. “I do appreciate it, much the same as I appreciate your coming out to the ring with us a couple of weeks ago.”

“Couldn’t pass up the opportunity to banter a bit with Richie Rich, now could I?” Lindsay takes a sip of her coffee and smiles. “Look, Eric, on the real here. We’ve butted heads a ton. A. Fucking. Ton. Shit went down in DEFIANCE that I didn’t like and I could’ve fought after the fact with lawyers and money and I didn’t. Week One of HOW you came out the gate and it was the Same Ol’ Eric Dane as it always has been. Runnin’ your mouth and runnin’ me into the ground. But Dan pitched this idea and said you were on board with it and…I’m intrigued. Not only because it’s Dan, and he’s family, but because you seem to want to do it. So spill. Because I’m on the team if there is a team, and you know what you’re gonna get with me.”

Again, The Only Star seems genuinely fascinated. It’s been a long while since he’d dealt with anyone who would meet him face to face and trade with him verbally with the kind of panache that Lindsay Troy exudes. A light brown eyebrow curls up in anticipation.

“Brass tacks.” He nods. “I like it.”

After throwing back the rest of the offered cafe au lait, he continues.

“In my life, my career even, very little of this has ever been personal. I’ve been to the top more times than anybody wants to hear me crow about, and I’ve been to rock bottom more times than that. I’ve stood in the background and I’ve played the field against itself for so long that real actual human relationships became just one more thing that was ground into nonexistence by the never-ending hurricane of chaos that had become my entire existence.”

Lindsay cocks an eyebrow.

“So…?”

“So I feel like you need to know, it was never personal. I know it doesn’t excuse anything, but I still wanted to say that to you in person. And that I’m sorry for putting your family at each other’s throats the way I did….” The End Boss trails off.

“As for HOW,” he picks back up a moment later. “You and Dan like to joke about how old I am, but I’m not stupid. I may be in the best shape of my life, and I may still be smarter than every last one of those yo-yos in the locker room, but I’m also smart enough to know that I ain’t as quick as I once was and one of these days that shit’s gonna catch up with me…”

Again he lets it linger for a moment. The Queen is the picture of patience.

“But I’m not done yet.”

Eric tenses ever so slightly.

“High Octane is the one mountain left unclimbed.” He sits back, allowing a waitress to bring him another coffee.

“I was going to make a joke about Dan and I visiting you in a nursing home but after all of that…”

Now it’s time for Troy to trail off. She’s not one to let her emotions get the better of her often, especially in public. Right now, it’s hard for her to keep them in check, but she manages.

“Thank you for saying that, about what everything did to my family. And for apologizing. That was not something I ever expected to hear from you.”

“I’m not the same motherfucker I was back then.” Eric laughs, hoping to lighten the mood. “I’m an entirely different type of motherfucker if you wanna get right down to it. I meditate now, it’s a thing, don’t be weird about it.”

The Queen of the Ring holds up her hands in a “no qualms here” gesture.

“Thing about climbing mountains, though,” she says, “it’s not smart to scale them by yourself.”

The Only Star nods his head in agreement. “Especially when there’s an entire roster full of guys standing at the top tossing boulders down my way, waiting and hoping to be the one to knock my ass right down into oblivion where I’m sure they all think I belong.”

He sips at his newly refilled drink, absently wishing for a shot of whiskey to add to it.

“I can’t do it alone, Lindz. I asked Dan for help because out of everyone, Dan Ryan has never lied to me or turned his back on me. He’s taken care of me financially when I worked for him, he ran my company for me while I was off being a dipshit doing Utah stuff; hell, you were there, you know. I trust him, and he trusts you-”

“And I don’t trust you.”

Dane doesn’t miss a beat.

“And you shouldn’t,” he adds. “And I’m not asking you to.”

“Then what are you asking me to do, Eric? Because the way I see it, we’ve got a tag match against two dipshits who actually do trust each other, and if this ‘Best Alliance’ is gonna be an ‘Alliance’ then I can’t be worrying about whether the knife from you is gonna hit me in the back or the front. Really, the knife shouldn’t be coming at all.”

It was a well-made point.

“You want everything on the table?”

“I gotta tag your hand on Friday, so yeah I do.”

“Lee Best ain’t like me, he doesn’t like to get his hands actually dirty,” Eric starts. “But he’s been playing with the same toys for fifteen years now and he’s ready to turn the fuckin’ heat up. That’s where I come in. That’s where you and Dan come in. We’re not the same ol’-same-ol’ tired bullshit that’s been parading around here as top tier talent for-fucking-ever.”

That classic Troy smirk. “So we’re the new shinies?”

“To a certain extent. Does that matter?”

“Not really.” Now a shrug from Her Highness accompanies that smirk. “Like I said, I’m not here to wave a banner and make friends. Just want to run my mouth, crack some jaws and snap some legs. Seems to be what I’m good at.”

“Good. I’ll wave the flag, kiss the babies, sign the checks, what-the-fuck-ever. I signed to HOW for three things, Lindz: WarGames. The World Title. And the scalps of a couple’a dipshits who’ve had it coming for over a decade now.” He sneers, the thought of some of those people making the bile rise in his throat. “So if you’re with me, and we have an understanding, I just need one more thing out of you.”

“I’m not kissing the ring if that’s what you’re going to ask me.”

Eric scoffs. “Ha. I don’t wear any jewelry around here, Lindz, not yet anyhow..”

“Then what?”

“When things get sideways, and I promise you things are gonna get sideways, you don’t have to do anything you don’t wanna do, but don’t try to stop me when I do the things that I’m absolutely one-hundred fuckin’ percent going to do.”

Lindsay takes a moment to consider this then lifts her coffee mug in a toast. “Then let us go forth and conquer.”

 

III.
“So let me get this straight.”

It’s pretty safe to say that Lindsay Troy is annoyed.

Miffed.

Irked even.

Dealing with morons will do that to a girl.

“Two fools walk into a very spoopy graveyard, play at utter clownery like they’re the gravediggers in a high school production of Hamlet, then follow it up with some Monty Python Knights of the Round Table bullshit.”

She shakes her head.

“I guess all that was missing was a big song and dance number.”

The stupidity, really, is astounding.

“Am I to stand here and believe that you two, the oversized Fraggle and his Doozer sidekick, care more about WarGames, which you are not even a part of, than you do about this tag match against Eric Dane and myself?”

Pause. Blinks.

“Really?”

Apparently so.

“Tell me, children, how do you plan on pleading this foolhardy case of yours if you can’t even make it out of Tampa on Friday with the capacity to beg God and His Son to be in the room where it happens? Because rest assured, there’s no way I’m letting this slight go unpunished. Eric either. He’s got way more of a personal history with you two jokers than I do because let’s face it: we have zero history at all. That’s probably why the best you could come up with is a weak-sauced ‘Fahk U El Tee’ from the disembodied voice of your cardboard friend out of everything you could have said about me but were too chickenshit to.”

Oh, there was that Lindsay Troy shows up late “barb.” But a Queen is never late. She always arrives exactly when she intends to.

Yes, two can play at these narrative asides, Doozer.

“It’s too bad, really.” A sigh of disappointment from the Queen. “For a little bit there I found Jiles amusing. All the both of you seem to care about, though, is something that’s weeks away. Or trying to hang with Eric in the shit-talk game, which Doozer failed miserably at. If you schmucks can’t even muster up the machismo to measure dicks properly with Dane, you’re gonna be in for a rude fucking awakening when you get in the ring and try any of that stupid shit on me within actual face-kicking distance. ‘Cuz I don’t play your playground, jungle gym games.”

“Your time might’ve been better served digging your own graves rather than digging up relics from the eGG bANDITS’s past.”

A simpering smile.

“But there’ll be plenty of time for that, soon enough.”

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