A/N: Part two was a long time coming and bent my brain when it did. Thanks a lot Desmond! You'd need to read chapter one to 'really get' this chapter so a refresher or a read over would be advisable.
Desmond looked at himself in the mirror, smoothing his jeans down and then pulling his jacket into place. The ripped neck black t-shirt underneath it complimented his shape and the suit jacket gave it just that dressy English edge that he was looking for. He'd chosen the outfit carefully and thought he'd done quite a good job. It ensured that all attention was drawn to one part of his anatomy, the part he wanted a particular pair of eyes to be focused on.
His shades sat in their familiar place just below the bridge of his nose and he looked over them and into the full length mirror of his dressing room. Smiling wickedly to himself he knew he looked good, in fact really good. For once he felt that he was wearing his clothes rather than the other way round. For all his puff-chested bravado inside he was still that same awkward kid that picked the bits off his clothes whether they were there or not and pulled his jacket collars up close around his neck, anything not to get noticed, not to be truly seen.
"Desmond...Des...come on you lazy little bastard. Its time you got out of that bed of yours and did something. Its two o clock in the bloody afternoon!"
Pulling the pillow over his head Desmond did not want to register the shrill cries of the specimen that claimed to be his mother. The best he could acknowledge was that, much like a dog licence, she'd got the right paperwork to prove that he'd been borne of her questionable loins and there wasn't a fat lot he could do about it.
A couple of months had passed after he'd crashed and burned in his attempts to join the army and he knew that it was time to make the change. He'd got the passion, or at least he thought he had until laying in his bed, his corner of paradise in the squalid tower block they existed in, had taken him over. The warm feeling of nothing was far too inviting. All he did was piss, eat and sign on. His days existed of channel changing, boiling a kettle when he could be bothered and idly flicking through the well thumbed wrestling magazines that much of his government handouts went on.
He turned over and farted for the second time since he'd surfaced from his thick veil of sleep. Desmond cursed himself for consuming the cheap microwave meal that his mother had passed through the reluctantly opened door at around 9pm last night. The crusting remnants of it languished on a tray on the floor, half of it congealed on the black plastic carton and the inedible garlic bread sat at the side of it looking more than a little sorry for itself. He'd never expected her to be Raymond Blanc but even he conceded that the ability to burn meals entirely sealed in plastic had to take some degree of bizarre, if undesirable, skill.
It had only been a couple of weeks since his 18th birthday and as far as he was concerned it was another wasted year gone by. The handful of grotesque greeting cards still sat on the dusty window sill, depictions of golf clubs and old fashioned sports cars decorated them gaudily. He saw them as images that had approximately fuck all relevance to his age, his life, his upbringing or the future as he imagined it would pan out.
The only reason he'd found himself concerned with most of them at all was the fact that they'd contained a reasonable amount of money. The one from his Grandma, all 87 long and hard fought years of her, was the only card he cared about. His bastard of a Granddad, who'd beaten her since the day they'd married, had finally had the decency to up and die the year before which left her alone but happy. On the days when he had to go and sign on for his dole money that's where he'd go and sit for a couple of hours, glad of the peace and quiet and glad that she didn't spend every day talking to four walls. She was always pleased to see him, making pot after pot of tea and serving him slabs of heavenly home made cake that could've choked Elvis.
He was always grateful for her time, her company and her encouragement. She was the only one he ever felt he could open up to, the only one who listened when he told her his dreams; first the army and then the pro-wrestling business. She'd often slip him the odd fiver or tenner from her pension money when she had it spare to go towards his fund for gear and training. His savings seemed to be coming along okay and he knew from the magazines how much was needed and he was almost there. Another month or so and his passport could be sent for, the flight could be booked and maybe his life proper could begin.
"Desmond, I'm not wasting my fucking breath shouting you again. You either come down for this dinner or I'm giving it to the fucking dog. Get. Out. Of. Bed."
With one eye barely open and the other closing again already he flipped himself over, belly down on the bobbled sheets. With a sigh he broke wind again, closed both eyes and had a curious vision of his mother wearing the cheap rug that sat in the middle of the lounge floor over her back as she knelt with her face in a tepid bowl of stew.
Such an indignity still seemed too good for her.
What a fucking joke.
Moving out into the corridor he was ushered along by one of the production assistants. She was one of the younger ones and they chatted away about her latest conquest. Desmond had never been one for gossip but he knew that there was merit in keeping himself popular with everyone other than the guys he threw around the ring. His modest rider was always adhered to; the bottles of water always icy cold and the fruit of the highest quality. Every now and again he'd take the production kids out for dinner or treat them to a round of drinks, sign their memorabilia for them to stick on eBay and make a few extra dollars for themselves. Their earnest looks and actions reminded him of himself when he was younger, desperate to get along, to do well and knowing that half the time it was the money that had held him back. Now he had a better life he tried to repay back the little people, the cogs of the business that had given him the opportunity to be someone, to make something of his otherwise piss poor life.
They got towards the ramp just as she'd finished telling him about what a rat bastard the latest notch had turned out to be and how she'd told him not to waste his time calling again. He patted her on the back and reassured her that she'd find 'the one' one day, although probably not in the parking lot of the nearest Walmart. She shot him a bright smile and gestured for him to go up to the curtain, his latest promo was about to begin.
His music started and after a short walk to the ring he took the mic in his hand and let the magic start. Insults and general abuse of the nation that he'd come to begrudgingly call his second home spilled freely from his sneering lips. At one point he was sure that nobody in the entire Impact Zone could hear a word of it as the boos drowned out every last syllable. Inside his adrenaline levels rocketed. All those miserable afternoons sat indoors while his mates went to the pub or to the football were made worth it by the rush he felt stood in that ring as part of the reason people paid for tickets to come and see their show.
The final part of his tirade covered the reasons he felt that he should be first in line for a shot at the title. He knew full well that any moment AJ would come strutting to the ring accompanied by his elderly mentor and that he would struggle to keep a lid on everything he wanted to say to them. He'd hardly slept that night, his mind full of things he should've said, things he should and shouldn't have done during and after the approach from Ric. No matter what he tried though his mind keep presenting him with the image of a panting and confused AJ. It was something he'd seen when he'd closed his eyes to go to sleep, when he poured his cereal that morning and even as he swaggered arrogantly around the ring. A shiver ran down his spine as he heard the familiar music start and the two figures appear at the top of the ramp.
"Just who do you think you're talking about? I'm the champ. I'm the champ, the phenomenal AJ Styles. This is my ring, my company and you have no right to come out here, running your mouth about how you should be wearing my gold. Wolfe, you're a nothing and a nobody so why don't you shut your mouth and get out of the ring before I get in there and shut it for you."
AJ's words rang out loud and clear and echoed back from the distant corners of the Zone. Desmond eyed them both walking down the ramp and watched as the crowd started to go crazy, the "AJ sucks!" chants getting louder the closer he got. He forced his mind back to the script he'd spent the morning struggling to learn and thankfully was able to force his mouth open to speak, unsure if the words were the right ones but knowing that the general gist would be the same.
"Now you listen here Styles. You and Grandpa here don't scare me. I've eaten wankers like you for breakfast and gone back for more at dinnertime. That gold is going to be mine at Hard Justice so you and your geriatric valet should start getting used to that fact now. In fact, why don't you come in here and we'll talk about this like real men. Face to face."
Desmond could feel the thump of his heart speeding up and the thin coating of sweat forming on the palms of his hands; hands that less than a day earlier had been somewhere else rather than gripping a microphone or gliding millimetres past AJ's face in the upcoming barrage of feinted punches. Normally nervous was a word that didn't exist in his in-ring vocabulary but tonight was different. Tonight mattered more, tonight was the only time for years he'd felt more than carefully manufactured confidence in every aspect of his skillset. AJ had taken off his suit jacket and tie and was just entering the ring. Taking a step back Desmond felt the chill of something hard and cold against his exposed skin of his chest and then out of nowhere the world seemed to slow to a stop. Everything froze.
"Nice work kid, we just don't have an opening for you at this time. Try us again in January."
"You've got to be kidding me. I know who you are and what you are. We don't have your type here son, I suggest you go looking elsewhere y'hear?"
"We're sorry Des, its gonna have to be done. We're letting you go at the end of the week. You've got two weeks money due. That's something to get you by huh?"
It wasn't that his training hadn't been successful or that some of the better indies hadn't offered him spots which he'd gladly taken. It was his refusal to job to the old, fat, useless guys that was the problem. He had no problem losing but he'd got too much respect for the craft he'd developed during his training to be able to lay down to some 40 year old part-timer with a beer gut.
Over the months it seemed that it was only ever a matter of time served rather than genuine ability that would get him to the top and that wasn't going to happen fast enough for obvious reasons. The impetuous nature of his approach to getting on wasn't tempered by age or experience, both of which he had little compared to those who had either grown up around a ring or in it. Often he felt like a latecomer or a gatecrasher to someone else's party. Try as he did to control it his hunger to win and be the best was doing him more harm than good.
Eventually he'd pissed everyone in the low levels off and didn't have the backing, connections or the friends to grease his path even into something as poorly paid as PWG. There were also some problems with his lifestyle. The older guys didn't seem to give a shit who he was taking home to his rented room but the younger ones took issue with it as did one or two of the promoters when they found brawls happening in the makeshift locker spaces at halls and bar backrooms. Desmond wasn't stupid. He never tried it on with anyone at work, despite the fact that he often found a hand lingering on him too long in the ring, never sure if it was to wind him up or soften him up.
Slowly the money ran out, as did the bookings. His passport was stuffed with just enough cash to fly him home and he'd promised himself that if things ever got so bad that's what he'd do.
That day came all too soon. He'd been given fair warning to be out of his room by the end of the week or get a visit from someone who'd be offering him physical assistance in vacating the property. He hadn't eaten properly in two or three days other than a couple of tins of watery soup that he'd found lurking at the back of his cupboard in the kitchen. Tired, disappointed and weary he'd made the phone call from the pay phone in the hall and booked the cheapest flight home he could. As soon as he put the receiver down he punched the wall and cried hot tears, the first he'd shed in the longest time. All the days of saving, scrimping, starving and working for fuck all had come to nothing other than a grand disappointment. Maybe it was a disappointment he could've avoided if he'd just done what all his other friends did and got a job working for the council or mending cars for a living. Maybe aiming high had been the error and he'd only ever been destined to achieve low.
The warmed up meal on the plane should've helped Desmond to reconstitute, take the hunger from his belly and warm him through. Instead every mouthful stuck in his gullet, tasted bitter and filled him with nothing other than regret. The thought of turning the key in that all too familiar front door filled him with dread despite still being a good 8 hours flying time from home. Swilling the last of the meal down with the artificial tasting fruit juice he made himself a promise that he'd put this right. It wasn't going to end like that. Not for him.
He'd been back in the country almost two months when the phone call came. He'd answered the phone and the words being uttered in a slow and metered tone at the other end of it almost made his heart stop. They didn't register at first and he called his mother to the phone, passing it to her and going to sit on in his usual armchair, staring straight out the large window and into the grey and cloudless sky. It wasn't the best day to die but at least it was over.
On his arrival back home he'd discovered that his Grandma had fallen ill. She'd refused to let anyone tell him while he was away but he was furious that his mother hadn't thought to defy her. She'd known how close they were and the mere thought of him not being around when the only person he could say he truly loved needed him most made all his own dreams and aspirations pale into nothing. Since he'd been back every day had been spent whiling away the visiting hours talking to her and trying his best to make her smile. The cancer had spread massively and she'd been made well aware she was on borrowed time.
The day before she'd given him an envelope from her handbag and told him not to open it until she'd gone. He'd made her that promise but suspected that it wasn't going to be one he'd have to keep for very long. Before he'd left she'd held his hand and told him just how proud of him she was, how he should never stop trying, never be satisfied with what life gave him if it wasn't everything he wanted. She told him that he was her favourite grandson and that even long after she was gone she'd always been around. He'd smiled, leant over the bed, kissed her forehead and reassured her that she was going to be around for a while longer, that God wasn't ready for that much havoc in heaven just yet. After a shared smile and some laughter she closed her eyes and yawned, Desmond pulling the covers up around her before leaving, swallowing his fear and sadness that he was on the verge of losing someone so precious and important.
When his mother came off the phone she confirmed what he'd heard. His Grandma had passed away in the night and that she had to go down to the hospital and deal with the paperwork. He watched as she gathered her belongings and left, cursing about the fact that it was raining and that she was due to have her hair done that afternoon. Even in the cold light of day of her own mother's death it appeared she still only had the humility of an SS officer.
After the door closed behind her Desmond headed to his room to get the envelope and open it. He expected nothing more than some of the photos and treasured scraps of paper from his Grandma's purse, things he would've cherished by very nature of the fact that they were precious to her. Instead he found an official looking envelope along with a handful of £10 notes and some change which he imagined had been the contents of her purse when she'd been admitted.
Carefully he opened the starched linen paper envelope and pulled out the documents inside. There was a scribbled handwritten note and a folded bundle of papers. As he read through the note he started to shake. It was a letter from her in the scrawl he'd seen on the bottom of so many cards over the years. A short note saying that she loved him, wanted him to make something of himself and that he needed to go and see her solicitor with the papers she'd enclosed. At the bottom she signed it Grandma Jane and left two scrawly kisses underneath. He traced his fingers across the signature reverently, smiling at the way he could hear her voice in every word of the letter.
Unfolding the other papers he found a copy of her will, some bank statements and insurance documents. He was touched that she trusted him to sort her affairs out and he silently promised her that she'd have a the best send off he could arrange for her. Unable to cope with reading through them properly, the finality of seeing them all too much for him, he shoved them back inside the envelope and curled into a ball on his bed. There were no tears. He wasn't sad to see her suffering end and knew that it would be in the comfortless months ahead that he would feel her loss the most. It was in that same moment that he swore that no matter what it took he would make her proud of him, make everything right again.
Seconds that seemed like an eternity later he heard his name being called. It sounded like a distant whispered echo, the noise in the Zone flooding his ears. He pulled his shades off his face and stared into the blue eyes coming towards him, his chest heaving hard and every tendon tense to breaking point. A forehead was then pressed against his own and as scripted he threw the microphone aside. Their staredown was due to turn into an inaudible mock war of words before the first punch was thrown and Desmond intended to take it as an opportunity to get a few things off his chest.
"Still horny Styles?"
"Fuck you Des. What was...."
"Fuck me? Told you, not yet mate. Not while you're still riding Ric."
"I'm not rid-"
"Don't fucking lie to me. Don't you fucking dare."
"Des, I'm not – I don't do th-"
"Just everything else besides eh? Saving your cherry are you?"
Their words were turning into snarls, the cameras loving it although thankfully they couldn't get a clear enough shot of their faces as they were pressed so closely together. Both brows were furrowed and eyes narrowed, the neat aggression palpable. Backstage there was much grinning and pleasure at the way the crowd was reacting to these two stars doing nothing more than staring each other down. If only they knew.
"It's not like that!"
"Yeah, whatever. Pull the other one AJ."
"Des, this isn't the place...or the time so knock it off...."
"You started this, you. Not me."
"And I'll finish it too. For God's sake, Des, just leave it be."
"Yeah, about your God AJ, you might wanna look down."
Desmond stopped the battle in its incendiary tracks with that single comment. The script fell by the wayside as AJ took a step back away from him to see what he meant. Eyes scanned Desmond's feet first, a look of total confusion spreading across the face they graced. He watched as AJ tilted his head up slightly to carry on searching for whatever he'd been told to look for. He smirked as the eyes lingered a second than would be considered necessary or polite at the level of his groin and then carried on upwards.
The gaping jaw was enough to indicate that he had seen what Desmond had been referring to. The glint of the gold was a stark contrast to the flesh that appeared above the slashed neck of his t-shirt. There, at the end of a replaced chain, hung the stolen crucifix which rested flush against skin reddened from the anger their confrontational words had caused. Desmond lifted his arm and rubbed at his neck appearing as if in concentration before attacking AJ. He folded his shades shut before hanging them on the neck of his t-shirt which exposed more of his chest and framed the pendant. He smiled widely as the production team gathered at the side of the ramp, unsure whether to intervene, cut the cameras and go to an ad break or even to get someone else to run in and start the beatdown.
There was no time for any of that as AJ climbed back out of the ring, grabbed his jacket from Ric and walked back up the ramp. The loud and almost universal chorus of boos and jeers confirmed AJ's status as a coward. Any of the outcomes of the promo seemed to be appealing for Desmond. He was scripted to walk out of the ring and leave AJ sprawled there with Ric rushing to his side but this was even better. The champ had backed down, bottled it and walked away with not so much as a finger laid on either one of them. Ric followed closely behind, his calls to AJ appearing to fall on deaf ears.
Once the two of them had disappeared backstage Desmond slid his shades back on and offered his trademark salute to the crowd which earned him some expected insults and booing but in truth he didn't care. What he'd set out to achieve had been done. He was still holding the upper hand and in fact, felt as if that hand was twisting one of AJ's right up his yellow striped back. After completing his stroll back up the ramp he turned to stare at the crowd and offer them his rude farewell once more for the benefit of the cameras. Listening to the reaction, knowing that he had finally made it, that his reputation and skill had earned him the hatred made his heart swell with a twisted pride. The only problem was that something prickled away at the back of his mind.
Having unintentionally spent part of the last half hour thinking about his aims, his dreams and how he'd achieved them, something about what he'd done didn't feel quite right. He wondered just for a second what his Grandma would make of what he was doing and who he'd become, knowing that his attitude wasn't entirely just a character that he picked up and dropped whenever it was called upon. Desmond closed his eyes behind the blackness of the lenses and for a moment just thought about it all. Would it make her more proud if he tried to save AJ from what he had become? Or, as he had chosen to do so far, would she care if he just left AJ in the state Desmond imagined him to be in – adrift, alone and ashamed.
A/N: So this wasn't the second chapter I had planned for this but its the way it came out. I hope it makes sense, hope it doesn't disappoint after the comings and goings of the first ch. Anyway, DW has pwned me once more. Surprise! All reads and reviews appreciated as ever!