This is it, the absolute FINAL chapter. It's been a crazy, funny, sometimes agonizing four years, but it's finally complete. Thanks to everybody who staunchly stuck it out. Here's to you guys.

On another note - I wrote this almost a month previously, that's why Chris Benoit is featured in it. And unlike WWE I'm not pulling his name or apologizing for it.

Date Uploaded: 30 June 2007

Chapter 19: Destination, Phoenix

Getting a ride as a lone hitchhiker was bad enough. Suffice to say that eight on the side of the road didn't have the greatest odds on their side, especially since they were standing in the pouring rain with a blessedly doused out but still smoking crash behind them. But with a little luck and that almost extinct quality of the believing in the kindness of strangers, they were fortunate enough to have a large truck draw up to a stop beside them.

An aging truck driver with a balding plate and grease stains on his plaid shirt leaned out the window. He looked rough around the edges but had a kind enough face. "Man, what the fuck happened to you guys?"

"It's a long story," Mick said. "We're trying to get to Phoenix┘ er, all of us, that is. Mind if we hitch a ride as far as where you're going?"

"Well I'm headed there myself," the truck driver said, scratching his head as he looked at all of them. "I suppose I could bring you guys along, but only one of you can stay up here, so I hope the rest of you don't mind riding in the back of the truck."

"Buddy, you can strap me to the roof for all I care, I'll take the ride any which way you can fit me," Cena said.

"All right," he said. "Head back and I'll open it up for you."

It was decided that Mick would ride up front, mainly because Mick had pulled open the door and was swinging himself in the front passenger seat before anybody could protest. So the other seven trooped back with the truck driver, content with the notion of a ride out of the rain for the moment.

That was, of course, until the truck driver opened the back and they came face to face with a massive cooler stocked with fish. The cold and the smell overwhelmed them the moment the doors opened and they all leaned backwards in unison. "I got some rugs in that box," the driver said, pointing to a carton in the corner. "But there isn▓t much I can do about the smell, sorry."

They looked at each other, and then finally Matt said, "No sense being picky. We can live with it for a few hours," and he climbed into the back.

Helms, Rob, Spanky, Cena and with much hesitation Rene followed, but Chris opened his mouth and would no doubt have said something about not sticking his rear in that reeking fish bucket when Cena simply grabbed him by the collar and he and Rob heaved him in. "Thanks, man," Rob said.

"Don't mention it," the truck driver said, closing the door after them.

Back up front Mick was making himself comfortable when the driver returned to his seat and started the engine back up. "So the guys will be safe back there, right?"

"Safer than out on the road in front of that wreck," the driver said, grinning. "Although they may end up smelling like a bunch of fresh trout for the next few weeks."

Mick laughed. "Hey, we really appreciate this, by the way."

⌠Been a hitchhiker myself, so I understand your predicament,■ the driver said. ⌠The name▓s Earl, by the way.■

⌠Mick,■ Mick said, shaking his hand.

⌠So, how did you guys end up like you did? Looking at you and that totaled wreck back there I▓m kind of curious,■ Earl inquired as he pulled back onto the freeway.

⌠Like I said, Earl, it▓s a long story,■ Mick said with a sigh.

Earl gestured to the expanse of road. ⌠We have time. Humor this old man.■

And so Mick began to talk.

╩╩╩

Meanwhile their cargo were far from comfortable. To combat the cold of the freezer Helms had suggested that they pull on the rugs and huddle together in a circle. ⌠And anybody thinking of cracking another gay joke is going to spend the rest of the ride with a trout head in his mouth,■ he threatened.

⌠Sheesh, fine, chill, would you?■ Cena grumbled, unintentionally making a bad pun. ⌠Man, I kinda liked the old, dumpy Gregory, you know? I think hangin▓ around Chris all night last night rubbed off on him.■ He stopped as he caught the error of his words, courtesy of a murderous glare from Helms. ⌠Hey, that was totally not deliberate, all right? So you can stop lookin▓ at me like I trampled all over your fedora or somethin▓.■

By and by, though, all realized the benefit of huddling up so they did curl up in a circle towards the middle of the containment, as far away from the crates stacked with fish that lined the sides. The only light came from a heavy duty flashlight that Rene had scrounged up in the box with the rugs.

⌠For fuck▓s sake, we lost all our shit,■ Jericho grumbled, shoving Spanky a little bit so he could edge closer into the circle. ⌠Papers, passports, in your case, Dupree, your protein shakes and girly mags┘■

⌠Haha,■ Rene said dryly. ⌠I wouldn▓t talk if I were you, Mr Herbal Essences shampoo."

⌠You have to admit, this all puts things into perspective, though,■ Helms suddenly mused out loud. ⌠I mean, despite everything, we▓ve all taken something out of this experience.■

⌠Is that so?■ Matt said. ⌠And what▓s yours, pray tell?■

⌠Not really at liberty to pronounce it, Matt Hardy, but let▓s just say that Gregory Helms is going to concentrate on just Gregory Helms from now on,■ Helms said.

⌠Why, are you giving up the Hurri≈mmph!■ Spanky was cut off when Rene clapped a hand over his mouth to shut his question up.

⌠Well I▓ve learned that I▓ll be setting my own alarm clock in the future and not to rely on pinheads who can▓t tell their heads from their asses,■ Matt grumbled. ⌠And also that I will never spend a night at some creepy roadside motel ever again.■

⌠And I▓ll know that if I ever win big at the casinos, there is no way I am calling any of you clods over just so you can siphon all my winnings out of me,■ Rene said sorely.

Cea snickered. ⌠I▓m with Helms on this one; I learned a lot on this trip, like maps don▓t help any and that none of us should ever have free reign over an open bar. But I guess the golden rule of this entire trip is that whatever can get fucked up will get fucked up.■

⌠How poetic,■ Jericho said sarcastically. ⌠You▓re a regular Shakespeare, junior.■

⌠Yeah? Well what did you get out of this, Mr Helms, aside from the obvious?■ Cena said cuttingly.

⌠I learned that if I had the option to impale myself on a golf club over taking another road trip with you guys I would choose the club!■ Jericho retorted loudly.

Spanky grinned widely. ⌠Well I think that this entire experience has made us form tighter bonds and lifelong friendships.■

They all glared at him, something they had seemed to be doing a lot in the past few hours. Spanky lost his grin. ⌠What, too early to make corny jokes?■

The truck then gave a bit of a jolt, causing them to bang into each other like bowling pins, much to their displeasure. The flashlight fell and rolled over to Rob, who picked up and settled it firmly back in place. ⌠Hey Rob,■ Matt suddenly called, ⌠how about you? Care to share like the rest of us?■

Rob gave an easy grin. ⌠You really wanna know what I think? I think sobriety▓s overrated. I▓m giving it up the moment we get outta this truck.■

⌠You▓re been clean and sober for five hours, ass clown,■ an exasperated Jericho said to him.

⌠Yeah, and within those five hours we crashed, watched the SUV blow up, and now we▓re stuck in the back of a godawful-smelling fish truck practically sharing our feelings,■ Rob pointed out. ⌠I really need a drink.■

There was a bit of a silence as the others contemplated that. And then one by one they started to move out of the circle and adopted staring into space indifferently. And thus the ride passed with a sort of uncomfortable calm.

╩╩╩

When the fish delivery truck arrived at the Scottsdale Stadium, Mick opened the door of the passenger seat and hopped out, turning back to grin at Earl. ⌠And so that brings us to now,■ he said, coming to the end of his story. ⌠Hey, thanks a lot for going out of your way and dropping us off here.■

Earl laughed. ⌠After hearing all the crazy shit you guys have been through, I figured it was the least I could do. We better get your friends out of the back and let them get some air.■

The banging had started already when the two of them moved to unlatch the back. When the compartment was opened Matt and Rene immediately jumped out, followed by Helms and Spanky, Cena, Jericho and then a coolly smiling Rob. They muttered their thanks and then dashed into the arena to make the show, with only RVD stopping to shake Earl▓s hand. All of them reeked of fish.

⌠Sorry about that; usually they▓re a much more pleasant bunch,■ Mick said with a certain amount of irony.

Earl waved it off. ⌠I understand. Go on, and good luck with the show.■

⌠Thanks again,■ Mick said, shaking his hand as well before following RVD into the arena.

Inside the guys ran into Chris Benoit, who had come from the locker rooms. He stopped and made a face as he caught a whiff of the stench coming from them. ⌠Hey... what the hell is that smell? Have you guys been wallowing in fish guts or something?■

⌠Close enough,■ Matt said as they prepared to brush past him on their way to the showers.

⌠Did you guys just get in?■ Benoit inquired.

⌠Yeah; we missed the plane at Seattle and pretty much had to drive down,■ Spanky said hurriedly.

⌠Why didn▓t you just take the next flight out?■ Benoit asked, puzzled.

That made all of them stop and turn around to look at him. ⌠What next flight?■ Jericho asked darkly.

⌠I missed that first flight too because I had to meet a relative,■ Benoit said. ⌠The next flight that left two hours after that one went straight to Phoenix and got me here within hours.■

⌠We were told that there weren▓t any straight flights to Phoenix,■ Rene growled.

⌠That▓s funny,■ Benoit mused. ⌠I spoke to a really helpful woman named Sonia. She gave me the tickets no problem. Come to think of it, she said that I was lucky because she might have given that seat to someone else and his friends, if he wasn▓t being such a carping bitch.■

Seven pairs of angry eyes swiveled on Chris Jericho. He gave a defensive stare back. ⌠What??■

Just then a booker ran by yelling, ⌠Show▓s starting in ten minutes! Somebody cue the damn pyro!■

⌠And that would be the cue for you guys to hit the showers,■ Benoit said. ⌠I▓ll see you out there,■ and he went on his way.

There was a moment among the hustle and bustle backstage that the eight tired, worn, foul-smelling, possibly psychologically scarred erstwhile road-trippers stared at each other, dumbfounded or infuriated to the point of speechlessness. And then Matt cleared his throat. ⌠I think we should go back to our first pick and keep blaming Jericho for all the shit we went through.■

Immediately a cacophony of insults and dissuasions burst from the group, with Jericho▓s voice rising over the rest, screeching, ⌠All of you are a bunch of troglodytes who were the ones who trussed me up and threw me in the back of that fucking SUV in the first place!!■

And that was how the eight of them entered the locker room to suit up, even as at the ring the pyrotechnics started and the show began and this story, blessedly, ends.

╩╩╩

Epilogue

Explaining to a bewildered manager how one of their rental SUVs happened to come to its end by exploding into flames by the side of a freeway was an experience Mick Foley never figured he would have to go through. Although while all the hardcore legend had to do was pull the most apologetic face he could muster, Rene was once again stuck with the bill. And calculating all the expenditures of the road trip, it left him with a measly forty dollars, which RVD happily lifted off him to buy a case of beer to celebrate his almost half a day of being clean and sober.

A few items were salvaged from the crash. These were, surprisingly enough, the following: a slightly singed Hurricane outfit, the goddamn Japanese side of the map, a seemingly invincible packet of beef jerky giving a suspicious nuclear glow, Mick▓s daughter▓s mix tape, a bottle of Chris▓ precious Herbal Essences shampoo, ironically a portable fire extinguisher, and Mr Socko.

The hitchhiker from chapter six awoke on the side of the road with a stuffed head, a wad of cash, a saucy note and thus the sinking feeling that he had done something the previous night that he would live to regret. Of course he stumbled into the McKinney Motel and was pleasantly surprised to receive caring hospitality from motel keepers Tiffany and Laura. On his way to his booked room he grabbed an unlabeled tape that he hoped contained porn. Later that night witnesses said he was spotted screaming and running off into the distance, leaving nothing but a vacuum cleaner and a wad of cash. Thus was born the urban legend of a crazed, screaming hitchhiker running up and down a highway yelling something about dope, tapes and seven guys who owed him a new vacuum cleaner.

Soon after the guys made bail at Beatty, the cops picked up two teenaged boys stupidly smoking marijuana on the steps in front of the local library. When asked where they got it, they claimed that it had ▒fallen from heaven▓. They were held until their angry parents came to collect them.

Matt berated his supposedly loyal MFer Shannon Moore upon his arrival at Phoenix, and as punishment for leaving him behind back in Washington Shannon was forced to write down ▒I will never neglect my Sensei of Mattitude ever again▓ a thousand times on a chalkboard. Teachers at a local public school were not amused to find him carrying out his orders prior to biology class.

As was his habit, Edge had given ▒Megan▓ from Vegas a phone number that wasn▓t his. It happened to be Matt▓s number, and that would have posed problems for the Innovator of Mattitude had Edge not done the same thing five times previously. He decided to do the gentlemanly thing and gave Megan the right number. Edge may have had a brace around his neck then, but when his wife found out he ended up in a full body cast and sleeping on the living room couch.

Mick accidentally let slip to a few crewmembers about ▒The Pink Flamingo▓, but managed to cover up before he could tell about the raid at the club being the reason they ended up in jail at Beatty. Unsurprisingly enough, Pat Patterson seemed to be the only one really interested.

To those wondering, ▒The Pink Flamingo▓ is still in business. To those who weren▓t wondering, sorry for the mental image.

Spanky returned to Circus Circus and was invited by the young trapeze artist to try his hand flying through the air up on the bars and ropes instead of his more familiar turf of turnbuckles and ladders. He did, and predictably missed on his first try and plunged for the net. He bounced once, twice, and then toppled onto the ground four feet down, knocking himself out and reducing the poor trapeze artist to tears once again. She now visits him every spring on her days off.

After confirming that Las Vegas was not one of the states that sanctioned same-sex unions and learning of their minister▓s not-so-reliable background, Gregory Helms and Chris Jericho both heaved sighs of relief. They made a solemn vow to never speak of the incident to anyone, or to even drink with each other anymore. Of course it was rather futile as two hours earlier Matt and John Cena had circulated copies of the marriage certificate to everyone in the locker room. This led them to be the butt of jokes for a considerably long time, more so as Cena has still faithfully kept the original locked away to pull out at the most awkward times. So far Gregory and Jericho haven▓t been able to get their hands on it.

Gregory Helms donned the Hurricane suit one last time for old time▓s sake, and went out to see what wrongs he could right. He managed to stop a small shop from burning to the ground, but a less than grateful shopkeeper cursed the Hurricane as she had set up the fire in order to collect the insurance. Thoroughly disgruntled, Helms hung up his costume for good┘ except for Halloween or the odd drunken weekend.

Rene Dupree took to using Douglas Simpson as a pseudonym. Exactly why he needed one he really couldn▓t begin to explain. Incidentally, he has never been able to duplicate his first success at the casinos, and not for want of trying.

A little under a week later Matt, Spanky, Cena, Helms, Rene, Jericho and Rob met up before midnight, convinced that there was strength in numbers. Hence if some creepy little girl appeared to try and kill them for watching that stupid tape they would be able to kick her back from the well she had been thrown into in the first place. A nearby HDTV flicked on and the video of a girl rising from a well showed, before slowly making her way on her hands and knees towards the screen. Before Rene could ultimately faint from terror, though, the 'girl' pulled her hair apart to reveal a grinning Mick Foley, laughing at them from the TV screen. Needless to say, none of them thought it was very funny, and have thus far refrained from watching any more American remakes of Japanese horror films.

Spanky developed the film in his camera and the one in Mick▓s as per the latter▓s request. The pictures that came out as a result of the entire trip quickly found themselves on the Internet and will no doubt be passed on for generations to come, making seven out of eight regret the day they ever missed that flight to Phoenix from the Seattle airport and ended up in an impromptu road trip.

Mick Foley penned an account of the entire trip that would ultimately hit the bestseller list. He called it ▒Eating Asphalt▓, subtitled ▒And Other Things to Avoid Doing on the Road▓. Inside was the inscription, ▒A journey of a thousand miles begins with a missed flight. This is dedicated to seven people. They know who they are.▓

END

╩╩╩

And for old time's sake, here's a tiny little segment that serves as my traditional 'Author's Notes', something I usually stuck at the end of stories and haven't done in some time. It would probably make little sense to anybody unfamiliar to my earlier stuff, though.

Author▓s Notes

⌠Four years, Agatha,■ Chris Jericho snarled, glaring at the authoress through Dolce and Gabanna sunglasses. ⌠Four years of hell, all for a goddamn fanfic that takes place over the course of three days and two nights.■

⌠Hey, it wasn▓t exactly a walk in the park for me either,■ Azrael countered, sitting back in her chair with an apathetic look. ⌠My writing style completely changed and I got hit with writer▓s block for months at a time. Also, I discovered that I▓m marginally unfunnier than I was when I first started writing this story.■

⌠You were never funny, Alice.■

⌠You only say that because you were the butt of most if not all my jokes. Speaking of which, are you thinking of coming back to WWE anytime soon? Because I▓ve found that it▓s a hell of a lot easier to write you when I actually see you making a jackass of yourself on TV every week.■

⌠Fuck you, you infernal bitch.■

⌠Back at you, you self-centered asshole.■