When trouble thinks it's found us, The world falls down around us
I promise baby you won't ever, You won't ever feel a thing
It had gone on too long. Everyone knew that and eventually all things must come to an end, be they good, bad or otherwise. Creative had run out of steam, the constraints of the rating making it too hard to keep up the rep of the gang of men they'd allowed to run roughshod over everyone and everything in their path. What they failed to realise is that, as green as they were, the men were getting used to being in the spotlight every week and when that natural end was nearing the bad guys were refusing to hand back their badges and weapons.
The first sign of their impending peasant's revolt was the amount of times they ran in and broke matches up. From the Intercontinental title shots to being Buried Alive there was no stopping them. The announce team had no option but to go with it, no explanations offered to the audience as they truly didn't know the reasons behind it. The group got fined, threatened with suspensions but the peak in the ratings that their actions brought seemed to buy them both interim goodwill and good grace with the powers that be. Vince was trying to convince creative to give them strong story lines as they moved back into the realm of singles competition as a pay-off but it didn't work out. Their fates seemed so pre-determined, the proposed return to FCW for two of them the most galling part of it all.
Over the weeks their meetings became like secret society gatherings, nobody but the Nexus members allowed to be in earshot of what they had to say. Tarver had panned out to be the weakest of all the links in the chain, giving away what little information they held as leverage in return for a promise of a push once the group had been disbanded. The rest of the members remained loyal to their own mutually beneficial cause but soon became disenchanted with Tarver's ethics. Soon he was sidelined in the same way Skip had been. One 'accidental' break and they no longer had to carry him through matches and promos like a baby being carried by it's mother. It was for the best according to Wade and by that point not one of them saw fit to disagree with him.
The build to TLC had been somewhat lacklustre for the Nexus, only the hastily shoved together tag team having a match booked. Wade was given his ultimatum a few weeks before just as they'd been instructed, his dilemma set to leave him with a match against Cena at the pay per view. That wasn't what he wanted though. He believed Cena and even Hunter were probably good guys behind the scenes. Maybe they were self interested but he was too. Even though the benefit of the group seemed like the best way to sell all the things that he wanted to do, in the end they would benefit him most of all if the gamble paid off. He'd quickly come to realise that he would indeed have to be prepared to punt his own grandmother if doing so would get him what and where he wanted.
The go-home Raw show was meant to set up the Cena match. Wade would agree to Cena getting his job back if he beat him at TLC. The stip was a chairs match, the least exciting or dynamic of those possible. Wade had asked for a TLC but Edge had already claimed it so chairs it was. During the final segment of Raw he was to call Cena out from his hiding place in the arena, this time it was noted as being the Nexus locker room where the bodies of the remaining members would be strewn across the floor seemingly unconscious. As Wade would refuse to just give John his job back they would slowly come to life and threaten to kick him out of the group just as before. The action would move into the ring and go off air with the match made and a stare out taking place. The unholy union of Nexus' most famous ex-member leading astray the men that had a few months earlier beaten him to a pulp would be a lasting image, of that Wade was sure. However he had no intentions of being made to look so weak.
Instead, he set his sights higher than John. Only by taking out Orton would he be able to ascend to his true and proper position in the main event. That title and the trappings of winning it would be his no matter what it took, of that he was sure. Vince had confidence in him; he'd heard that from the horse's mouth as well as from that of Johnny Ace and the Brawler. If he was going to get dragged down by the need to bring the others up, well, he wasn't prepared to be played like that. Living across the world from his family and friends had been tough and although he didn't want to go back that, to being a nobody in his small Lancashire home town, he didn't want all the hard work he'd done to go to waste either.
His plan came to him when he watched back some old video footage. Unlike a lot of the other FCW guys he still enjoyed watching wrestling and tried to emulate the men that had once made his chosen business great. His promo skills were honed watching Shawn and Stone Cold, his ring work a mish mash of all manner of styles with elements stolen from all the main event's bigger men. There was definitely a way to make cause a legit injury that would be enough to put Randy out for a couple of weeks and if he had his way then he wouldn't be the one carrying out the task. The lack of brains inside the head of Husky had been a key point in Wade's petitioning for him to join the Nexus. That swiftly delivered kick had done Orton's knee in a few weeks prior but hadn't been enough. This time, there would be no lack of certainty about Orton being sidelined.
Outside our double glazing, I know a war is raging
I promise baby you won't ever, You won't ever feel a thing
Flights, phones and hotels. That was the way John and Randy lived and had lived for almost as long as they could remember. All the travel was a given part of the job which they'd long since stopped whining about. As long as they both wanted to continue in the business it was a necessity and thankfully neither of them was prone to bewailing the difficulties it brought them as both friends and lovers. For years everyone backstage and, considering their in-ring antics, everyone at home had had a fair idea that they were a couple. Nobody ever felt the need to ask and they didn't go out of their way to tell; that was the way the wrestling industry liked it.
The months since the formation of the Nexus had been tough on them both, the story lines they'd had to carry demanding that they were on TV and on house shows every week, no time for days off or relaxation. The most sleep John got was on planes or in the back of chauffeur driven cars on the way to meet-and-greets, his time in bed with Randy was mainly used for making up on lost time. Now that it was all winding down and a few familiar faces were getting ready to make their big returns time seemed to be on their side. Once Christmas was over they'd be cut some slack for the first time in 18 months and neither of them could wait.
John's main concern was the couple of bumps that Randy had picked up in recent weeks. He knew some of the kids were stiff workers, be that through nerves or inexperience he could've forgiven it. He didn't believe that was the case with the Nexus though. Fair enough, Vince's coma was fake and Steamboat was just unlucky but the sprains and bruises they'd left him with were as real as real got. Ironically the entire group walked around with not a scratch on them which in itself was a testament to how carefully the fully fledged pro's were handling them. It was a shame that they had chosen not to return those many and various favours.
A strained neck, twisted knee and some internal bruising around the ribs had all limited what Randy could do and he was starting to get tired of carrying guys that couldn't throw a real punch, let alone duck or sell a feinted one. After his experience with Kofi the year before he was tired of babysitting and despite being written into a feud with Miz he didn't mind that too much. They often trained together and practised for hours in the ring so he knew that the skills were there and neither of them was going to get hurt. There were one or two major spots planned for their match and he'd needed to make sure that they'd got each other's back. Satisfied that they had, and that his injuries could withstand the punishment, he was happy to consent to the match and it was booked to go ahead.
One final creative meeting of the week had seen them all come together for the first time in weeks. John and Randy sat at one end of the table, the suits from the company at the opposite one. Nexus lined one side and along the other sat the production team and writers. It was Friday night and there was a show to go and do, the problem being that due to travel and other commitments it was their last chance for a full read through before the Monday show. It all appeared to be going well, the promos sounded great to the execs but to Randy especially they sounded a little bit too good. The words, from Barrett most of all, sounded full of intent and were delivered with a lot of enthusiasm. He brushed his concerns aside with the notion that they were as young and hungry as he had once been and were just doing their best to impress.
After the end of the show that night it was meant to be the usual finish; Barrett, Sheamus and Orton would be doing the crowd pleaser and John would, for a change, be backstage getting showered and packing his stuff ready to leave when Randy was done. Barrett had been eliminated first from the match happening out in the middle of the arena and the rest of it was going to plan but behind the curtain it was a different story. John had been sitting quietly in a corner of the locker room reading through their travel schedule for the coming weeks when he'd been paid a visit.
As a sweaty Barrett and the more groomed Slater approached him he'd smiled and said "Hi.", thinking nothing of them being in there as the small arena didn't cater for multiple dressing rooms as was customary for the bigger stars. His concerns had started to grow when they didn't respond and kept coming towards him. Acting out of instinct he stood and planted his feet, trying to look casual but all the time being aware of his heckles getting up.
"Can I help you guys?"
"Help, Cena? Yeah. That might be the word. See, we've got a little problem. After TLC the plan is to send most of us back from whence we came. Now I suspect that's got a little bit to do with you but a lot more to do with your boyfriend. We can all admit that he doesn't like us but particularly doesn't like me. I don't know what I'm meant to have done but he's clearly fed up of me being around."
John shrugged his shoulders, bemused by the answer to his question and wondering just what an appropriate reply would be. The tension of the situation needed to be diffused and he wasn't sure that he was going to be able to do it.
"Wade, we have no pull backstage, I keep telling everyone that. You got a problem, take it to Vince. Me and Randy, we do as we're told, that's why we're still here after all this time. My advice to you is see someone who makes the decisions, not the ones that follow them, okay?"
Noting the quick sideways glance from Wade to Slater John could hardly be surprised when he found himself pinned against the wall, two different hands balled into his t-shirt. Trying to keep calm he knew they wouldn't be able to hold him there long, the match outside would be close to it's finish and pretty soon they'd have company from two guys he knew had his back.
"You're not listening to me Cena. Make this happen or I'll make something else happen."
"Like what? You step a damn foot out of line and you'll get fired, is that what you want?"
"But John, that's where you're wrong. Where's Taker? He went down that hole and isn't coming back. Tarver. Sheffield. Both felled in their prime and where are we? Still here. Don't think we don't have our ways and means, we know exactly what we're worth, we just need a few words in the right ears to make sure that everyone else does."
Wade's low tone was meant to be driving fear into the man he had restrained before him. He'd assessed that the easiest way to get to Vince was through his golden boy, a guy that had always been civil to him if a little cool. He knew Cena believed in paying dues and for young guys to cut their teeth and that he hadn't been to keen on the fast track to fame that the group had received. That said, he was also fairly sure it wasn't Cena who was spreading the word about the returns to FCW and drops down the card. He remained convinced it was Orton but taking him down psychologically seemed too difficult, hence the work on John.
"You wouldn't do a damn thing. It's not worth it."
"And you're not listening to me Cena. We can and we will, just you see. Start making things happen for us or risk the consequences. It's that simple."
Barrett untangled his hand out of the fabric and knocked Slater's hand, instructing him to do the same. He backed off with the wide, sly smirk spread wide across his face. The two left the locker room just as Sheamus and Randy came back, nothing being exchanged but glares.
"John, you alright there fella? You're looking on the shaky side. Did ya see McMahon naked again or somethin'?"
The words didn't really register with John other than for him to respond with a nod. He was still hearing the Englishman's words before and they set an alarm off in his mind. The last time he'd been threatened in such a way he'd had his pec ripped and Randy nearly got back body dropped straight into another journey the emergency room. If he or they were serious then maybe there was more to it than he first thought.
Cause I will take it on the chin, for you, So lay your cuts and bruises over my skin
I promise you won't feel a thing
Cause everything the world could throw, I'll stand in front. I'll take the blow for you.
Monday night had come around all too soon and Teddy had been sent to find Randy to let him know that he needed to go to the locker room as soon as possible. They ran all the way there and Randy barged through the door, slamming it back against the wall and signalling for Teddy to stay outside. The noise of the plaster cracking and falling to the floor was however drowned out by the loud bangs coming from the other side of the room. Manoeuvring around the dividing wall Randy saw what all the fuss was about.
John was pounding his fists and feet repeatedly into one of the lockers which was by now buckled totally, certainly much the worse for wear. Randy moved slowly towards him, trying to decide when would be the best time to announce himself. He'd only ever seen John like this once before which was when Ken Kennedy had botched his move on Randy and nearly put him back out of action. It was no secret that Kennedy didn't approve of gay relationships and certainly didn't like the guys on the roster getting together. He'd already hurt John in the past and everyone thought it was deliberate. Then when he went for Randy it confirmed the suspicions of everyone, including Vince.
Nothing, not a flicker of recognition.
Randy could almost taste the rage in the air that was propelling his lover to continue smashing at the damaged metal. Smears of red now streaked the door and small droplets began to fall onto the white tiled floor. Deciding he couldn't wait for the mist to clear or risk John doing himself any further injury he crept around behind John and placed a well timed kick to the back of his lover's leg, sending him crashing down into a heap on the floor.
Immediately John was on the offensive, swinging his fists before he'd even had a chance to see who or what had taken him down. The sting in his calf muscles just served to make him even angrier. As he flailed his arms trying to make contact with something, anything, he head a noise somewhere in the distance. Finally connecting with one of his punches he heard the sound again. It felt like he was trying to punch quicksand, his arms feeling sluggish and heavy, the noise now more familiar and close by. Tears pricked his eyes as the fight drained out of him, his arms now unable to move.
"John, it's me. It's ok, I'm here"
The soothing sensation of that stubble like hair against his jawline just made the tears pour more freely from John's eyes. Feeling the warmth of his lover close made him curl up into the foetal position around the source of the heat, dragging his arms from above his head where he realised Randy had pinned them and draped them around his lover's legs, clinging on for all he was worth. The sobs came hard and fast rendering him almost unable to breathe.
Randy stroked soothingly at the neck of the broken man curled around him, leaning down to plant a gentle kiss on John's temple. He looked over at the locker and found himself feeling grateful that it was just an inanimate object that had taken the brunt of the violence. His own jaw felt a little sore from the shot that John had landed on him but it was worth it to bring the disturbing sight to an end.
He didn't need to ask what was wrong. Several million people had seen what was wrong unfurling before their eyes. Wade Barrett was what was wrong.
Evan's in-ring return had been a few weeks off, in fact he wasn't due to come back until the Rumble but his comeback was being touted considering how over he was with the crowd. He'd come out on commentary during the first match of the night, a tag match with Slater and Gabriel in it and was doing his best to trash talk them as it went on. Everything went to plan, it was afterwards that things had gotten out of hand.
Barrett had appeared from the side of the Tron, having known full well he'd never be allowed out through the gorilla. He'd walked down the ramp and grabbed a mic, ordering the victorious Slater and Gabriel to bring Evan into the ring.
Looking across at Cole, who could do nothing other than nod as the production team were going with it until such time as they could draft an anonymous GM message to end the fiasco, Evan assumed there had been a creative change. He did his best to look disgruntled about being manhandled into the ring. However, once he'd gotten there, his reasons to be disgruntled were more than justified.
First they'd felled him to the ground and landed half a dozen legitimate kicks to his ribs. Some more punching and pushing around followed which to the crowd looked innocuous but to producers who could see the close ups on camera, certainly didn't. It wasn't until Barrett put Evan in the abdominal stretch that the real problem started. Evan was flexible and the stretch itself didn't hurt. It was the pressure being put on his newly repaired shoulder. The burn in his muscles didn't take long to start and got progressively worse as more pressure was applied. It wasn't long before his arm was bent at an unnatural angle and every breath alternated the sensation in it between searing pain and a worrying numbness that was spreading down his arm.
Eventually the message came from the GM for them to stop but even though they did it was already too late. Evan lay on his side in the ring, clutching his arm and stifling the cries of pain that he was desperate to let out. In one last act of defiance he found himself being lifted onto Barrett's shoulders and slammed to the ground, taking the full impact on his shoulder which he was sure was back to being wrecked. They stood over him laughing like a set of hyenas before jumping out of the ring and leaving him there to sell. And sell he did because every single second of the pain was real.
I've been laughed at, burnt, beat and butt of the joke
I've been lit up in flames, I have gone down in smoke
Vince was livid backstage, storming around with Creative chasing him like a litter of newborn puppies. Randy hadn't been watching the monitors, having gone to catering to catch up with his Dad who had come down for the event but Teddy had filled him in on what had happened. John had been physically restrained from getting down the ramp and removed to the locker room to calm down until Barrett and Slater were locked in the production truck with an incendiary Vince and Evan safely with the medics. Immediately he blamed himself for what had happened and after the first punch hit the cold steel they hadn't stopped, not until Randy had appeared.
Eventually John's tears died down but his vice like grip around his lover did not. Randy made all manner of reassuring noises about how John couldn't have done anything about it and that it wasn't his fault. He still had no idea of what had happened a few nights before when the threat had been made, John was all too keen to protect him which was endearing if sometimes ill advised. He slowly coaxed John into a sitting position on the floor, taking note of the bloody mess that passed for knuckles that rested in his lover's lap.
"I heard. Evan's with the doc now. This John, this isn't the way to make things right."
"You think I don't know that? What else could I do? They wouldn't let me out there Randy, I wanted to stop it but they wouldn't.. let..."
John's damaged hands were soon cradling his aching head, Randy's hand rested on the back of the thick neck offering nothing more than the limited warmth and quiet comfort John needed when he was like that. He didn't need to lecture him right now and Randy found himself more concerned about Evan's well being. He questioned Barrett's motives but when he thought back briefly to the beating they'd given John on a number of occasions he couldn't see a difference in what they'd done to Evan. He didn't like the guys, didn't trust them and wanted them gone until they learned manners, respect and how to keep everyone safe.
Although neither of them would admit it their biggest concern was the promo at the end of the show when Nexus were meant to turn their back on Barrett, threaten to kick him out and set up the match with John. Their impromptu beat down of Evan could be used as part of it but the state of John was going to be hard to explain. Randy needed to find a producer and a medic pretty damn quick. Planting a kiss on the top of John's head, where smears of blood from the battered hands were already beginning to dry, Randy got up and left the room, promising he would be back soon.
Yeah everything the world could throw
I'll take the sticks, I'll take the stones for you
By the time the end of the show came the scene had been set for the disbanding to be set up. Evan was already at the local hospital getting checked out and waiting for the news as to what damage had really been done. John had been patched up, made up and told to keep his hands off screen as much as possible. He looked like hell on earth, ached head to toe and wanted to do nothing more than collapse into a hot bath and wonder why the hell he hadn't gone into the police force like his brothers. Randy had been beside him every second, watching over him like a guard dog with a bark that was fit to kill, never mind it's bite.
His walk down to the ring was slower than usual. There was no salute and John didn't jump into the ring, choosing to walk up the steps in a deliberate fashion. Once inside, the talking began. Barrett was his usual obnoxious self, his eyes glistening with a look of victory that turned John's stomach.
First the rest of the Nexus were up on the big screen, asking Wade if he was going to re-hire Cena. More talk, more back and forth antics. John was using his low 'I mean business' voice as he truly did. If one of them tried anything he was ready to go, ready to throw punches that would draw blood. He could take more of a beating than Evan ever could and he would gladly have put himself in the younger man's place earlier on had he been given the chance.
The decision was made. Wade decided not to re-hire John in keeping with the script they'd read through. Otunga informed him that he was no longer a member of the Nexus and then the screen went black. Seconds later Otunga was leading the charge of bodies down the ramp and just as they had rehearsed neither John or Wade left the ring.
The yellow and black shirted bodies surrounded Wade and asked for his t-shirt back. Reluctantly he agreed, pulling it off over his head and handing it to Otunga who tossed it to the ground. Slater then held out his hand for the armband. That seemed to be a bigger ask than before and Wade took his time to think about it. During all this John rested back against a turnbuckle and watched it going on, knowing that his moment was yet to come. The circle of bodies closed in around Wade the longer he took to make his decision and Gabriel jumped out of the ring and went to grab a chair to add to their method of persuasion.
Ten seconds that felt like ten hours passed after he'd slid back into the ring and brandished the chair as a threat. The entire arena was alive with cheers, boos, screams and swearing; most older fans wanting Wade to beat the hell out of Gabriel, everyone else wanting Wade to get his comeuppance. Slowly the armband was inched down to his wrist where he allowed it to dangle for a moment. In a split second he was staring past Husky and straight into John's eyes, the band being pulled back up followed by the entire group turning as a whole to face the him in the corner.
John had sensed there may be a swerve. He'd not politicked backstage to get their jobs preserved, hadn't made protestations and pleas for them to be kept around. Particularly after what they'd done to Evan he wanted them gone more than ever. The cameras closed in on them, capturing the smug expressions on the faces of the Nexus and the calm resignation on John's. With a quick look side to side they launched forward and the battle began in earnest.
Outnumbered meant nothing to John. He grew up battling four other brothers off him so his fighting style meant he threw as many punches as his arms would let him and hope they landed. He learned never to kick as that would only result in him getting dumped on his ass and making his sibling assailant's job even easier. As Wade piled into him there were one or two blows to his gut that made it hard to stay standing. The bigger man had a hight advantage and his background in boxing, although not bare knuckle as he was often billed, stood him in good stead. John doubled at the middle but shoved his body back in the hope of sitting on the ropes. A knee to his chin saw the end of his primary defences, the haze that clouded his mind created by the pain and the shock. He carried on flailing his arms as fast as he could, the power in them fading. That was when he saw the one thing he'd never been more pleased and terrified to see.
Randy was heading down one of the sets of arena stairs, pushing aside anyone who tried to high five or grab him. His speed was unbelievable, taking as many steps at a time as he safely could as fast as his adrenaline driven legs would let him. Security were being organised backstage, most of them having been in catering when the attack started, still bitching about having to remove the two guys from the crowd earlier on.
He jumped the barrier and headed over to the announce table, grabbing another one of the chairs that sat nearby, folding it and then diving into the ring. He took a couple of hard stomps on the way in but nothing he couldn't handle, fresh from not having had a match that night. Eventually on his feet he swung the chair as hard as limited space would allow, hitting anyone and anywhere he could. He saw John in the opposite corner of the ring, just about able to curl himself up into a ball, his back facing the outside of the ring. He was protecting himself as much as the energy-sapping vicious beating would let him but unless Randy did something or the security got there soon then he had no idea how it was all going to end.
The brawling bodies carried on, Randy managing to put Gabriel out cold with a punch to the face. His hand hurt like hell but he carried on, eventually being overpowered by the choke hold that Slater secured around his throat. After falling to the mat he was dragged up till he was sitting back on his knees, one member of the Nexus holding him under each arm and Wade before him with the chair in his hand. The sickening, twisted grin on Wade's face made the perfect accompaniment to the glazed look of hate in his eyes. Randy knew that he was in serious trouble, turning his head to look for the security who were still nowhere to be seen. He tried to call to the arena staff but they wouldn't respond even if they could hear his voice over the crowd noise. He'd lost sight of John too and panic began to rattle him, wondering where John was and if he was okay.
Wade lifted the chair high above his head and Randy could only hope that his intention was to bring it down on his back rather than directly on his head. The sheer size of the man before him coupled with the strength in the large arms was destined to make either unpleasant and dangerous. He struggled to get his arms loose but he was too weak and his arms restrained too tightly. Having never been a religious man he didn't want to pray so settled for closing his eyes and hoping for nothing more than broken bones or a long lay off. The swoosh of the metal through the air came and was followed by nothing other than the feeling of something very heavy dropping on his back.
It took moments before the stunned silence of the crowd penetrated the racing thoughts in Randy's brain. He realised he was still conscious and couldn't feel any new areas of pain. He rolled and pushed until he was free of whatever was holding him down and then turned on his side to face it, Wade's knee pads in his eye line to the right. He was confused, disorientated and, not that he'd ever admit it openly, scared. Rolling over and away to sit on his ass he looked at the scene before him.
Wade had dropped to his knees, the chair gripped in one of his hands and resting at an angle down onto the mat. Slater and Husky sat back against the ropes at either side of the ring and the other members were gathered at ringside, resting their palms on the ring apron, eyes and mouths wide open.
The last thing he saw was John. He was laid still and motionless in the centre of the ring, looking as if he'd simply fallen asleep there. His face was peaceful, his eyes closed. It wasn't until Randy looked more closely that he saw the steady trickle of blood running out of John's ear and down onto the mat where it was forming a pool. Quickly he threw up the X sign twice and started shouting at the announce team that John was down, hurt and in bad way.
The presence of Wade and his cronies faded to nothing in the back of his mind. He wanted to beat Wade to a pulp but John needed him more. Everything felt like it was happening in stop motion and he scrambled over, bending just like before to tell John it was alright, he was there with him. He hoped to get tagged in the jaw, grasped so he could barely breathe but nothing, not as much as a twitch. As the arena watched he bent to kiss John on the forehead, not caring who saw and reassuring himself and John that everything would be fine. He didn't believe a word of it but he knew that all he had left to save them was science and faith.
And if I fall here
At least you know my dear that I would die for you
Promise you won't ever feel a thing.
A/N: Evil plot bunny is evil. I know I didn't really want to write this as I wrote it so quickly but it just wouldn't leave me alone! *sigh* So, all reads and reviews appreciated as always! Song words from The Script - You Won't Ever Feel A Thing. Great song. good album!