Even if Eli Dresden was sore as Hell, she had to admit that she was having a good evening.
Being in some level of pain was a part of the blond’s daily existence, and it had been since she was a child. While she had been lucky to avoid permanent injury, the simple fact remained that there was only one way to build and maintain muscle; by ripping it to shreds and forcing it to regrow stronger than before. And since she’d decided to throw a week’s worth of prep time right out the window in the name of securing a place in the God of HOW’s good–okay, fine, half-decent graces, to say that she was keeping her entire body to the grindstone was a massive understatement. From about an hour before sunrise to damn near sunset, Eli’s days had been filled to the brim with every last little thing she could in the name of getting herself ring ready… everything but one thing, the thing she had set ahead of herself as the reward for sticking to her grueling schedule.
A night of rest.
The massive windows of City Works were open to Market Square in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, letting in the pleasantly cool nighttime air. It’s not too crowded on a Wednesday night, meaning that Eli scored a nicely-padded booth with a good view without too much fuss. With a plate of pulled pork tacos and a massive stein of some fancy-ass beer from… somewhere, the aches and pains were a distant memory for the moment. Yeah, this was shaping up to b the perfect evening indeed–
“Remind me why you agreed to this again?” Or, at least, it would’ve been the perfect evening to relax if it wasn’t for her brother having a stick up his ass. Though knowing Elijah Dresden, well… he probably had an entire forest shoved up there. The blond sighed as she rolled her eyes at her older brother, knowing full well that she wouldn’t be able to settle back into the calm before the storm until he got it out of his system.
Well, let’s get this bullshit over with.
“Cuz it’s too good of an opportunity to pass up.” There was no attempt to curb the ‘well, duh’ tone in her voice, a swig of beer taken before she wolfed down what remained of one of her tacos without a second thought.
Elijah shook his head, disapproval writ large upon his face–though whether it was born of her lacking table manners or her flippant response was impossible to tell. It was probably a mix of the two. “Eliza–”
“Don’t call me that.” Cutting him off with an annoyed scowl of her own, Eliza’s eyes narrowing into a glare as she plucked a fry off her brother’s plate with an ease born of practice, the bratty little sister that never quite went away surfacing in the face of his nonsense. “You’re not either one of our parents and you can’t fuckin’ ground me.”
“You’re lucky I can’t,” came the reply, the more sensible of the Dresden siblings frowning as he tilted his head down to look over the tops of his glasses. “Out of all the dumb things you’ve gotten into, this is the first time I’d actually go through with locking you in your room.”
Eliza waves her free hand dismissively in the air. “Eh, it’s not that big of a deal–”
“The owner lost both his eyes!”
Eliza shrugged. “Lee kinda’ deserved it–”
“And his son literally killed a man with a rusty metal spike!”
“IV stand,” Eliza corrected.
“Whatever the Hell it was, it still killed Max Kael!” Elijah slammed his fist on the table in front of him, the loud noise causing the pleasant buzz of conversation around them to skip noticeably. To his credit, he weathered the attention being centered upon him without batting an eyelash before the evening settled back into its rhythm.
“And how is any of that different from the possibility of me landin’ on my neck like that broad in that one Final Destination movie, exactly?”
“Gravity’s just as much of a heartless bastard as any of the men I’ll be facin’ in HOW, same as death.” Eliza’s eyes narrowed into a glare. “Same as fear.”
An uncomfortable silence reigned between them for a moment, one that almost reached the point of becoming stifling as infamous Dresden stubbornness collided between two of the most bull-headed people on the face of the planet. Ultimately, though, it was Eliza that sighed and acquiesced.
“Look, I know you’re just being your usual overprotective self, Elijah. I get it. But what would you rather–me goin’ balls to the wall and meeting a gruesome end, or shut myself away and meet that end anyway?” A swallow of beer and Eliza’s meeting her brother’s gaze, a rare seriousness revealing itself. “Death’s gonna take me whenever it Goddamn well pleases. Just look at what happened to Isai–”
Elijah’s hand raised to cut his sister off mid-word, sparing them both from what she was about to say next. For a moment, the silence that reigned between them was a whole new kind of tense… before it was his turn to give in, shoulders slumping.
“Alright, alright… I get your point.” Shaking his head, Elijah managed enough of a smile to let Eliza know that she had won where it counted. He grabbed his beer by the curve where the shoulder became the neck, raising it in a toast. “Just–make the risk worth it, okay?”
“Pfff, as if I could do anything else.” Eli’s bottle raised to clink against his own, and with that small sound came the return of the peace she sought… at least, for the moment.
You ever try to punch above your level and wonder just what the fuck you just got yourself into when your fist connects?
Hah, me neither.
It takes a certain kinda audacity to make it here in HOW, don’t it? An unwillingness to lay low, to do things the way you’re supposed to–a deep-rooted desire to go against the grain and make the world your bitch no matter what it expects of you. Shit, if I did what was expected of me? I’d be some guy’s trophy wife with a white picket fence and two-point-five crotch goblins. You know the kind, right? The ones that know they’re to be seen and not heard unless they’re deliverin’ a small, select group of lines that suit the man in charge of’em. The bleached-blond, spray-tan orange, glazed-over expression lost souls that seem like they came right outta Stepford whose souls died a long, long time ago. I always wanna give’em a mercy GDI, either knock enough sense into their numbed little minds that they wake up and rejoin the livin’ world or send’em off into the kinda haze that there’s no self-awareness tied to so at least they’re not sufferin’ anymore.
Sound familiar yet, Jace?
Now don’t worry your pretty little head there, bucko. I’m not sayin’ that spendin’ most of her time with you has slain Madison’s will to live. Nah, she’s more resilient than that. I get the feelin’ we’re cut from the same beautiful, bisexual, zero fucks given cloth. It’s a shame I’m not gettin’ to just focus on her interesting presence. Note to self: Eli, get her number–no, Goddamn it. Get your head outta your pussy. Now’s not the time for horniness!
Anyway, Jace, sweetie, darlin’–what’s it say about you that I was so quick to forget you in favor of your manager? How sad is it that, while I wouldn’t mind smearin’ myself like baby oil all over your abs, that’s about where my interest in you as a person and as a wrestler ends? I know, I know–I can hear the impotent mansplaining already about how you’re a multiple-time HOW World Champion, how you’re sooo much more experienced and important than the vast majority of the people you come across, how everyone’s gonna Bend The Knee. And if this was 2015, then maybe–maybe–I’d be impressed a little. But you need to face reality here, sweetpea. It’d be one thing if you were bringin’ up your past accomplishments while laying claim to new ones, keeping the whole mythos we’re supposed to be buyin’ into going.
But you’re not.
Shit, what have you done that’s worth a damn beyond meh showings and the occasional win that has no real impact on HOW as a whole? Not a fucking thing, but yet here you are, struttin’ around like you’re still at the height of your career when those days are long gone. But yet there you are, wavin’ that past around like people care about it. You’re probably one of those guys that sends dick pics to random women on Tinder–or maybe you’re a Grindr kind of guy? Whatever app you use to inflict yourself upon the dating scene, I bet I know why you can’t get past first base with whoever you try to hook up with. Five bucks says your breath smells like mothballs because you spend the vast majority of the time deep-throating accomplishments that haven’t meant shit in five years, if not longer.
Do you even have a gag reflex left at this point, bro?
Somethin’ to ask Lee about later, assumin’ I care enough to remember.
Anyway, in case you haven’t figured it out yet… you’re the Stepford wife, Jace.
From the too-perfect manscaping and spray tan to the constant drawing of the attention to the looks to the same lines used over and over again. And the fact that your soul is dying inch by inch as you realize that what used to carry you to the top of the mountain can barely even get you halfway up the side of it anymore? That’s the most obvious part of it all. See, it doesn’t matter how many times you try to make yourself out to be the future of HOW–anyone and everyone with a working brain cell in their head knows that you’re its past, a relic just like so many of the people you’ve thumbed your nose at. Ain’t it a pity for the rest of the world that you’re not self-aware enough to notice that? Personally, I’m not fussed because you’ll be left with no choice but to realize it soon enough
And at my hands, no less.
Y’see, Jace, even though this is my first match in HOW? You’re already in my shadow, and that knowledge has got to just drive you right up the nearest fucking wall. It must suck, knowing that I made more of an impact than you have since you returned simply by signing the dotted line of my contract. I’ve made bigger headlines than you just by agreeing to step in and take Lindsay Troy’s place. Hell, do you even rate anything more than a byline near the bottom of a dirt sheet article anymore after turning in so many mediocre performances?
And here’s where you throw a tantrum over how you’ve accomplished more than I have in HOW and how I’m not giving you enough respect.
Oh cry me a river, puddin’ pop.
But okay, fine. Let’s humor you for a moment, give you a chance to keep your tears and snot bubbles from wrecking your fake tan. Do I have the accomplishments to brag about that you do? Nope. Do I have your experience? Sure don’t. Am I as big and strong as you are? Hah, not even in my wildest dreams. But here’s the important question: do I need any of that to beat your ass from ringpost to ringpost before spiking your head off the mat before pinning you for that all-important three count?
Not in the fucking slightest.
For all that I’ve shat all over your flaws, there’s one simple truth that I’m not gonna ignore–even if you’re not who you used to be, you’re still one Hell of an opportunity for me to make a memorable first impression. And if you think for one single, solitary second that I’m not more than capable of marchin’ my hot little ass down that ramp in front of my hometown to capitalize on it, then you’re even dumber than you sound… and trust me, that’s one Hell of an accomplishment. While I don’t have the experience you do with wrestling, what I have in spades is a proven history of performing well under pressure–and wouldn’t you know it? All those comments that I’m sure will be made by you, by Benny, and by anyone else who won’t take me seriously until it’s too late applies more pressure. And spoiler alert, sugartits…
Actually, wait a second.
I’ve got an idea!
I know I’m breaking some rules here, but what good are rules if they’re not broken?
Flip forward a couple pages in your script there, Jace–ah, there it is!
At the bottom of that page, there? That’s the end of our match.
Go ahead and read it.
What do you mean you’re too chickenshit to? Fine, give it here. I’ll read it to you, okay?
And as the bell rang to signal the end of the match, Eli Dresden’s hand was raised high as Jace Parker Davidson laid in a heap upon the canvas.
See? Even the script you can’t let go of spells your failure at my hands… and we can’t go questioning that, now can we? So go on and play your part, Jace, since you’re incapable of doing anything else.
Do exactly what Daddy Eli tells you to do like the good little bitch you are.