These Games We Play
A Suite at The Trop
Before the influx of fans arrive at Tropicana Field for both the Rays and the Marlins game and High Octane Wrestling’s War Games pay-per-view, the sub-faction of the Best Alliance known professionally as the Inner Circle gaze out onto the field and at the War Games cages that loom overhead.
Neither Lindsay Troy’s nor Dan Ryan’s families are at the stadium yet. They’re still at the shared Troy-Rayne compound, and they won’t arrive until closer to the start of the 6:00 first-pitch. This suite for the dual event is reserved for their use when they arrive, but until the rest of the Best Alliance arrives at the field for a final team strategy session and for their individual warm-ups to take place, both the Ego Buster and the Queen of the Ring are taking this opportunity to use this space for their own preparations and discussions.
The in-laws have been through a lot, both as a team and as individuals, over the course of their fifteen-plus years of friendship, including a time in DEFIANCE when Dan almost broke Lindsay’s neck, and did break Tyler Rayne’s leg. She responded by shredding every ligament in his knee and breaking his kneecap; an injury so gruesome that Dan found himself on the shelf for nearly a year. How they were able to move past this dark moment in their history, and find renewed strength in their kinship, was through a monumental effort by Alaina and each of their children to bring them back together.
It’s true that they are stronger than ever before, and they will have to be tonight to get through this match; not only for themselves but for Eric and MJ and Jack.
There are no guarantees that any member of the Best Alliance will walk out of War Games under their own power, nevermind as winners of the match; if the eMpire has anything to say about it, they’d prefer any one of them to leave the Trop on a stretcher. When you’re in the fight of your life, you find a way to survive by any means necessary, and that’s what the Inner Circle’s planning on doing.
They have to.
Their kids will be watching.
Back to the matter at hand: family strategery. Dan sits in one of the plush seats high above and dead-center to home plate, waiting for his sister-in-law to join him, already in his warm-up attire: breakaway pants, loose-fitting tee, trainers. After a moment or two Lindsay appears, plopping down in the row across from him. She’s also dressed in warm-up attire: a tank and yoga pants and her hair is, very uncharacteristically, in a braid.
Lindsay Troy never braids her hair.
Her smirk and her curls are two of her signatures; nobody has hair quite like her. This departure from her normal, loose-locked look is a surprise. She looks over at Dan, who looks jarred.
“Let me guess — the curls were getting unruly with all of this humidity?”
“I should own stock in the Living Proof line by now but, no,” she says, and runs a hand over the taut pull of the hairstyle. “I’m not taking any chances with having my hair get caught in barbed wire or whateverthefuck someone wants to try in there. You know how dicey things can get.”
“First of all…” Ryan points in her direction. “I have no idea what Living Proof is — the reference is lost on me, but it sounds like some sort of female cosmetics thing, so I’ll defer to your wisdom on that point. However…” His finger raises from a general point to one toward her chosen hairstyle. “That braid better be kept together with something stronger than bobby pins — yeah I know bobby pins, I have a daughter — because they’ll just rip that braid out and swing you around by it.”
Troy scowls; the man has heard of hairspray, right?
Ryan isn’t done though.
“If you really cared about the team,” he shrugs, “you’d just shave it all off.”
“I’ll go bald when you do,” she retorts, and smiles. “Glad you like it, though.”
“Too bad.” Ryan leans back slightly. “I had a great idea just now that involved you stopping during your entrance, holding up a photo of Scott Stevens and saying ‘FIGHT THE REAL ENEMY.’ But fine.”
At that, the Queen bursts out laughing.
“Just call me Sinead O’Rebellion,” she manages to spurt out, finally, in between giggles.
“Oh well,” he says, defeated. “Opportunity missed.”
There’s silence between them for a time. Members of the Rays staff move around the field below them.
“Remember the last time you and I were involved in a War Games?” Lindsay finally asks.
Ryan deadpans, “I’ve been told that doesn’t matter.”
Troy doesn’t take the bait, though. “Be serious.”
“Yes.” Ryan nods. “As a matter of fact, I do.”
“I had a hope I could get out of the business without having to do another one of these,” she says. “Or another WARCHAMBER. Or another Roulette. Or another Dual Halo. Or any one of a handful of other gimmicked cage matches that ends with it blowing up on one of us. Or concludes in a full-scale arena riot. Or finishes with one of our…or rather, my….limbs snapped in half on the wall of it.”
“To be honest?” Ryan leans forward now, meaning every last bit of this. “I fucking love it.” Something flashes in his eyes. “I thought I was ready to move on, but I can’t fucking wait until tonight. I can’t wait. Shit. This might as well be Christmas.”
“Sure,” she admits. “The violence, the pageantry; I get it.”
“No.” Ryan closes his eyes briefly and shakes his head. “Not….the violence, the pageantry. I’m talking about the fact that this…” He emphatically points in a downward motion. “…is who we are. There’s a lot of bullshit in this business, we both know that. It can sap your strength really quickly. But this is who we are. You and me? This is who we are and what we do. We walk into the ring and we dominate. We don’t wait for permission and we don’t screw around.” Dan goes from serious to mock serious. “SIMBA…..REMEMBER….WHO YOU ARE. I need you to be the Queen of the fucking Ring.”
Lindsay Troy nods, her eyes flashing with agreement.
“Goddammit, you’re right. Nothing fires me up like a good Disney reference.”
Her eyes hold, then raise and catch Ryan’s glance momentarily. “Was that original Mufasa or the new live action Mufasa?”
Ryan leans in again. “Original.”
Troy’s eyes close. “YES.”
Her eyes open.
He waves toward the open expanse of Tropicana Field.
“Everything the light touches….”
She cuts him off. The record would scratch if there was one. “OK, that’s enough of that.”
Ryan shrugs. “Fine. I made my point.”
She smiled, nodding. “Yes. Yes you did.”
“So how about…” he replied, “we walk into that cage tonight and finish this job. Let’s show them that when it comes to the biggest stages in wrestling, when it comes to the main event, when it comes to WAR GAMES….. when it comes to LINDSAY FUCKING TROY!!”
Troy’s eyes narrow. “Yes?”
“Nothing compares 2 U.”
Backstage: Women’s Locker Room
It’s eerily quiet in the space that’s serving as the women’s locker room.
MJ is off at the trainer’s room, getting some last-minute workout reps in before the show officially kicks off. Lindsay plans on doing the same, but there’s something she needs to do first in order for her mind to be totally clear going into the fray.
She takes her tablet out of her gear bag, flips open the case, turns it on, and opens up the mail app. Using the included keyboard attachment, she starts typing a brief missive. Her face remains passive, set to the task, not wanting to betray the emotions swirling in her stomach while her fingers dance over the keys.
It’s not long before the effort’s complete, the tablet locked and returned to its place in her bag. The Queen stands, rolls her neck, and remains in place with her eyes closed. After a moment, she takes her leave.
To: Cecilia, Ami, Kaz
Subject: The Games We Play
I know I talked to each of you already about tonight, and as much as there’s no telling what all will happen once the main event starts and I’m in that cage, I want you to know that Dan and I and Eric and MJ and Jack are as prepared as we can be for whatever happens. Even though Jack is the most unpredictable of anyone in there.
This isn’t going to be for the faint of heart. I know you know that. I know you’ve heard the stories and seen tape of what Dan and I have been through in a War Games environment, and some of the things we’ve done to others in any kind of match or cage. I can’t promise it won’t come down to any of those things again. But I need you three to be strong for each other when you’re watching tonight, because the five of us are going to be doing the same for one another while we’re competing. That’s what being a team is about. That’s what being an Alliance is about.
Most of all, know that I love you. And I’ll see you on the other side of the curtain.