Days after War Games Concluded
David found himself lying on the floor of a semi-clean but worn-down carpet in the corner of a terminal in London, specifically Gatwick airport. With nothing except his arm under the crook of his neck and propping his head up, sleep hit him harder than ever. He stifled a yawn as it hit his lips and tried to stretch, his eyes adjusting after catching a few hours of sleep. As he did, though, he found something pressing against his back.
He looked over his shoulder and found a man wearing a baseball cap, sleeveless shirt, and basketball shorts laid out next to him.
“What the fuck?!” David yelled out unexpectedly as he sat up, looking at the man as he slowly opened his eyes and ran his hand through his goatee.
“‘rong? Aye, trying to catch a bit of sleep. ‘ya wake me up, bloody hell,” the middle-aged man groaned as he turned away from David.
“What’s wrong? You’re just over here taking a nap next to me.”
The man gave him an awkward look. “Whatever, Holiday Inn boy.”
David shook his head as he pulled himself up using a nearby chair and glared down at the man who seemingly fell back asleep, a beer can nestled against his chest, one made of mountains and shockingly blue.
“Fucking hell,” David groaned as he turned back and saw a gate agent standing twenty feet away. David rolled his shoulders as he grabbed his duffel bag and walked over to him.
At the sight of him, the gate agent wanted nothing more than to be as far away from David and tapped on his computer a few times before trying to escape David. But, unfortunately for him, the good spirits hadn’t blessed him on this day.
“Fucker, get over here. Where the hell do you think you’re going?”
The gate agent, a young man no older than twenty-five, looked over at David as if he wanted to piss himself.
“How can I help you, sir?” He managed to stammer out, sweat dripping down his face.
“Yeah, you can get me home. But, canceling my flight and telling me you’ve rebooked me for three days later? Not right, man. I need to get home and back to my daughter.”
The gate agent nervously nodded his head. “Sure, sure. Where were you coming from?” he inquired while clicking on a few screens on his computer, refusing to make eye contact with David.
David looked down.
David sighed at the hell he’d been through.
Clay, Clay, Clay.
War Games, that shit was brutal, right?
Yeah, yeah, it was massively brutal. I’m still feeling the after-effects of it all. It’s incredible how my flight over, I got nothing but luxury after luxury. On the way back, though, I was left to fend for myself on some of the most bootleg airlines I’ve ever heard of. Fuck, it was hell.
I guess right off the bat, congrats on winning the HOTv Championship. Besting Stronk is one hell of a thing to do. Not entirely sure how a beta like you managed to take down an alpha like Stronk, but you did it, so hats off to you, I guess.
I wonder, Clay, if you would’ve preferred winning the match itself instead of walking away with the belt you have. I guess, in some ways, you now have two straps. Look at you, amassing a collection over there. Won those tag titles because Jeffrey James Roberts looked at his shadow and got scared. Grabbed the HOTv Championship because Stronk fought through hell and then some. I guess it’s not about the journey but the result for you, right?
I’ve had quite a bit of time to think back to War Games, and I can tell you that none of that was how I saw it going down. Far from it in all reality. You know that, though, don’t you? I wanted my hands on Conor, your buddy, and it seemed like at every turn, he eluded me until I found myself getting knocked the fuck out, and before I knew it, I was eliminated from the match.
It’s been a shit month for me, Clay. Shit year, probably if I looked into it.
As someone an expert in just having shit pour down upon you, care to share any advice with me?
June 22, 2022
David rolled over, home in his bed, and looked at the cell phone as it danced on his nightstand. Grabbing it, he saw he had a text message from Lorelai.
“I can hear you in there, just so you know,” her voice then exploded through his door. He pulled himself up in his bed and glared at the door.
“I can feel you glaring at the door, trying to make it explode, just so you know.”
“Come in,” his gravelly voice managed to force out. The door opened a moment later and in walked his daughter, wearing a pair of jeans that came out of the eighties matched with a red sleeveless top and her hair tied into a ponytail. She smiled at him before taking the chair next to the bed and crossing her legs.
“Morning,” her voice was far too chipper for any hour of the day. “Want me to grab you some coffee? Because you’re looking ‘hella rough this morning.”
He rolled his eyes. “You’re something; you know that?”
“That is beyond accurate. I am something. Thank you for noticing. I’m a woman, a human being, and your daughter. That’s three things right there.”
“I’m not sure who gave you your outstanding wit—“ he began before she quickly cut him off.
“You did, for the record. That would be you.”
David’s hands wrapped around his face, and he groaned once again. “Please, someone remove me from the hell I’ve found myself in.”
“Would if I could, but I like having you around. You’re useful to pay for things like a roof over my head, food in my belly, and the clothes on my back.”
He peeked through his fingers at her, hoping he knew a spell in the back of his mind to return him to sleep and her out of his room. But, sadly, he did not.
“Yeah, talking about your clothes, what the hell are you wearing? Are you going to an eighties party or something?”
She looked down at her clothes. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“You look like you’re trying to dress like a mom from the eighties. I don’t remember it being Halloween.”
She shook her head. “It’s the style. I know you like wearing the same pair of shorts or jeans daily with a black or white fitted shirt, but some of us care about what we look like. It’s called fashion.”
“Save me the soapbox speech, Lor. Head is fucking pounding.”
She nodded her head. “Yeah, I figured from the six empty beer bottles on the kitchen counter. Are you okay? Want to talk about it?”
He shook his head.
“Good, I thought you would want to talk about it. Because I have noticed an uptick in the drinking over these past few weeks since you got home from Ukraine. And you know, if you’re drinking, maybe you need a drinking part—“
“Absolutely not,” he interjected. “Don’t worry about me.”
“Because there are so many other people worrying about you?”
“It’s the way I like it.”
“Seriously though, War Games.”
David groaned. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You haven’t wanted to talk about it since you got home. You know, ignoring the fact that you sold your soul to the devil for a shot at Conor Fuse—“
“Only for you to not even get your hands on Conor Fuse—“
“I’m serious, don’t.”
“To get pinned, though I guess your team did win, so that’s a bonus.”
“I’m just saying, Dad, I think you’ve got some shit you need to work out.”
“Alright, go. Let me get a shower in. I’m not doing this with you.”
Lorelai sighed. “Fine, have it your way.”
“That’s usually the way I like it.”
She then walked out of the room, leaving David to himself as he laid back in the bed and closed his eyes, determined to get the bad memories out.
Alright, Clay, I think I’ve given you enough time. What’s your advice? Because man, I’m deep in this shit, and I know no one better in getting them in and out of shitty situations than you.
Fine then, don’t share.
My daughter thinks I’ve gone ‘round the bend, so to say. Look, I wouldn’t say I like to talk about my feelings, especially about War Games. I painted my entire time in HOW on the wall, and it’s been full of moments that just aren’t… great.
In the back of my mind, Clay, I have to wonder… how many more title shots am I going to get around here? First, I got a shot at the title we’ll be battling over from the jump. Then in recent weeks, I’ve had a shot at the Tag Team Titles, the World Championship, a chance at the LSD Title, and finally in War Games, where just about every title was available for me to grab.
And yet… I sit here before you… empty.
In a lot of ways, that’s the way that I’ve been feeling for a few weeks now. Shit, I don’t even want to show up on the USS Octane for this match, Clay. Because with the way my luck has been going as of late, you’re going to win. You probably already know that, don’t you? I mean, the writing is on the wall. I’m unsure what I did to earn this title shot except for being alive and breathing.
Because we all know, Clay, you’re going over at the end of the day, and I’ll add another tally in my ‘L’ column.
David walked down the stairs after taking a piping hot shower and felt fresher than he had in quite some time. As his feet landed on the plush carpet installed while he was sacrificing his body at War Games, he noticed Lorelai in the kitchen brewing a pot of coffee.
“Morning,” David offered. She looked over at him.
“Oh, now we are talking?”
He walked into the kitchen, groused her hair, and kissed her forehead. David then grabbed a mug and filled it to the brim with coffee.
“Look, I just am not into talking about my feelings. Is there anything wrong with that?”
“Other than the fact that it is the twenty-first century? Time to evolve, Dad. Not everything can be ‘Grrr. Grrr. Fight me. Boom. Boom. Boom.’ Sometimes it is okay to have emotions and follow through on them.”
He took a gentle sip of his coffee. “Okay, I don’t go ‘Boom. Boom. Boom.’ And I get it; men today are more in touch with their… feelings. That wasn’t how I was raised. Not sure if you noticed, I tend to do my talking with my fists.”
“Not at War Games,” she muttered under her breath.
“What was that?”
He shook his head before taking a seat at the kitchen bar.
“Look, I figured I would talk to you about something after all.”
Her eyes perked up as she looked at her father.
“I was thinking of going on a…” his voice trailed off.
“A safari? An adventure? Spit it out, Dad; the suspense is killing me.”
“Date,” he muttered through gritted teeth.
Lorelai’s jaw dropped at the word, and she then walked over, placing the back of her hand against his head.
“You don’t seem to have a fever.”
“Born and bred.”
“Anyways,” David interjected in their witty banter. “Would you have a problem with me going on a date?”
She looked at him for a few moments. “I’m waiting for the cameras to pop up and tell me I got ‘got.’”
He sighed. “I’m being serious.”
“Well, what’s her name?”
He scoffed. “What does that matter?”
“You want my opinion on your dating, but you don’t think I should know her name? I’m not sure how you got to that logic, but it’s an interesting path you must’ve taken.”
“There’s not a name. I was just thinking about it.”
“I think there’s a name, but you’re not ready to admit that you might like someone. This is perfectly okay because your heart has been locked down for quite some time.”
He gave her a sideways glance. “What are you talking about?”
“You know, Mary-L—“
He held his hands up. “Alright, enough, enough.”
“Anyway, Dad, I think it’s a great idea. You need to get out there and converse with people and make a connection. Because the hermit thing you’ve been doing isn’t meshing.”
“Hermit thing? I hang out with you all the time.”
“Yeah, that’s kind of sad.”
He glared at her for not the first time today and not the last time. “Fine. What about you? Anybody got your interest?”
She laughed. “Yeah, okay.”
“Guess you don’t fall too far from the ol’ tree now, do you?”
At those words, her head cocked to the side. “Oh, no. I’m becoming you. I’ve got to change that immediately.” She then put her hands into her pocket. “Know any good drug dealers around here?”
“What?! I thought you would know since these were your old stomping grounds.”
“Go call your friends or something.”
She smiled before walking around the counter and kissing him on the cheek. “Love you, Dad. I’ll call you later.”
He nodded as she skipped backward out of the room and left him in silence.
Clay, do you know what would help right now? Knocking that stupid fucking hat off your head.
I care if I win or lose, but since I know how all of this is going to go down, I’ll settle for just knocking you the fuck out. You’ve got a tall order in front of you. You have to defend that belt every single week. That’s not a dream of mine. That’s a lot of pressure.
You, though, I know how you handle pressure. You fold.
You might keep a hold of your title for Chaos 001, but doing it again for Chaos 002 and 003? That’s going to be a treat. Because each week, we’re going to see big ol’ rugged cowboy, Clay Byrd, wear down before our very eyes.
That in and of itself will be sweeter than you could imagine.
And I get to be the first one to make you bleed.