This is a fun cracky pairing story already posted over on my LJ. It's in two parts but I'm uploading them both together as two chapters here. Don't forget to read part 2 next as you won't get an alert for it as it's already uploaded!
Another long night of hugging sick kids and hearing heartbreaking stories from their parents was thankfully over. John didn't begrudge doing it but it would take someone with a heart of cold stone not to feel for the families and, despite popular opinion, he was only human. The ride back to the hotel had seen him dozing off and the thought of a comfortable bed and feather pillow seemed like his true idea of paradise.
His rest day had hardly been that. A training session followed by an unexpected trip to the trainer had eaten up most of it. One rep too many had seen him tweak his neck for the second time that week and resulted in the kid-hugging he did later feeling more like he was adjusting the attitude of the bigger guys he'd faced. Nevertheless he'd finally made it back to the hotel only to find that the guys had already hit the town for the night. He was half gutted and half grateful as no matter how much he didn't want to be on his own he didn't feel like drinking shot after shot of some neon concoction either.
The hotel bar wasn't quite his style and he couldn't help but be conscious of how out of place he looked. Reproductions of some of the world's most expensive artworks hung on the walls and marble pillars added to the effect of the Regency inspired décor. There in the middle of it sat John in his jean shorts, sneakers and, for once, a black Under Armour t-shirt that he'd changed into after giving his purple one away at the meet 'n' greet. It caught him a few strange and unpleasant looks from some of the other patrons but he paid them no mind, safe in the knowledge that his last car auction purchase cost more than those folks would make in their lifetime.
The stool at the bar wasn't quite built for his proportions and he struggled to get comfortable on it. After much shuffling he ordered a beer and whilst he expected to get a glass instead of a bottle he hadn't banked on the only draught beer being one that came in a short stemmed glass. He raised his eyebrow at it as it was presented to him on a fancy leather mat but didn't think twice about raising the glass to his lips and drinking deeply from it. The cool fizz as it passed over the back of his tongue felt like the first blast of the shower he'd take in a morning; refreshing and renewing all at the same time.
Soon enough he was ordering beer number three and starting to relax a little. He'd had his eye on some of the room service food since they'd arrived late the night before and was already figuring out his order when a the sound of someone clearing their throat beside him broke the gluttonous daydream he'd drifted into.
"Excuse me, John?"
Looking to the wrong side first John quickly turned his head until he found a slightly pink faced Josh stood beside him.
"Hey Josh! How can I help you, man?"
"I was just wondering... if you, y'know, might..."
For all Josh's increased screen time and ever growing confidence he still found speaking to some of the main-event guys difficult. He liked to take a back seat and just let them be, knowing they had hassle enough to deal with without someone else bothering them needlessly. He had never had a cross word with John and found him the easiest to talk to. That didn't mean that it didn't still get him flustered but he blamed his mother's love of good manners and social graces for that.
"I never knew you cared Josh, I'd love to go on a date with you."
John's serious tone and straight face was enough to make Josh's heart stop momentarily. It wasn't that he minded the idea of going on a date with John but that hadn't been his question and he had no idea of he was being ribbed or if that really was what his stammered statement had somehow implied. The look of fear that had plastered itself onto his face appeared to have made his intentions clear to John before his mouth had the chance.
"Take it easy kid, I'm just crankin' your handle!"
The burst of laughter that followed was by far the loudest thing that had been heard in the bar since John had gotten there and, he guessed, in the last ten years. Once he finished shaking his head he caught sight of Josh's face again and felt a little bad for what he'd done. It was a mild joke by his standards but he hadn't wanted to make anyone feel bad. Uncurling his fingers from around the base of his beer glass he gave Josh a soft play punch in the arm and smiled his most dazzling smile at him.
"Hey man, I was only foolin' around, what you need?"
Realising that John didn't think he was getting hit on was a relief to Josh. It wasn't like he was ever going to find it in himself to ask John out when he was too shy to hit on Ryder who was basically the conveniently discreet slut of the roster.
"I was just wondering if you knew where everyone had gone out to tonight. I got back late from the voiceover stuff and they were heading out then. I can't seem to get an answer from any of them and I thought you might have plans to meet up somewhere later on."
Watching as John shook his head Josh couldn't help but let his shoulders drop a little in disappointment. They only had a few proper rest days where everyone could get together and the following day's supershow had given them that chance. He'd been looking forward to doing some catching up with people he'd not seen for a while and maybe finding someone to keep him company when the night was over. To say that his latest lack of bed partners was a dry spell was an understatement. A brief fling with Wade Barrett back in the days of NXT had been the last relationship he'd been involved. Once the Nexus thing started he was long forgotten as Wade set his eyes on a bigger prize.
Since then there had been one random fan while they were on tour in France who he'd chanced upon after a show one night. The stranger was hot and it had been fun but one nighters weren't really his style. Once back in the US he went back to waiting for Mr Right, only with the hope that it would be someone on the road with them so it didn't make doing his job even harder than it already was.
"Can't help you there Josh. I dropped outta the party loop a little while back. I'm gettin' old."
"John, aren't you like, 33? I bet Hunter is still down there getting wasted like he did when I first started here. You're never too old."
Josh fired his own grin back this time, his was a warm one that lit his face up. It was easy to pay John a compliment but he wasn't necessarily trying to reassure him so much as point out the obvious. In an industry where Ric Flair still didn't go to bed lonely every night and could drink any man under the table Josh was pretty sure that John still had it in him to go out and have a good time.
"You're way too kind and I really am past my peak as a party guy. But I've gotta ask. That night Hunter first got you wasted too. How many hickies d'you wake up with?"
For a moment the stunned silence made it seem as if they were both frozen in time. John's eyes were holding still and steady as they stayed connected with Josh's. He knew only too well what the reason was for plying the rookies with drink. Hunter took his pick first, just like the dominant lion or, latterly, an ageing vulture trying to make sure that he could still stake his claim to the first meal from a kill. John had been fortunate enough to miss being the target of such attentions because Randy was more Hunter's type. With the ghost of a wry smile on his face John couldn't help but thank his lucky stars on that one.
The longer the question went unanswered the more it didn't need to be answered at all. Josh had gone a fuchsia pink colour and his chest seemed to be rising and falling at a rate much faster than before. He opened his mouth to speak but no words came out, not knowing if it was worth the lie if the whole roster knew the truth.
"Hey, can I get two more beers over here?"
Without looking away or asking Josh if he even wanted a drink John placed the order but never looked away, not even for a split second. The game of chicken intrigued him and he wondered why Josh would be so bothered about who knew. Truth was the everyone at a certain level knew because Hunter told them. He was the biggest braggart John had ever had the displeasure to meet when it came to affairs behind bedroom doors. He listened to the wild stories of all night sessions and passionate clinches in airplane bathrooms and took them with a pinch of salt. One, because he didn't care and two, because it only made him think even less of Hunter rather than the young guys coerced into joining in.
Eventually the answer came and Josh looked at the ground, wishing that it would open and swallow him up. At the time it had seemed like just a bit of fun but it panned out to be the equivalent of joining a secret society that nobody wanted any part of. When he missed the future endeavoured list time after time it was only ever attributed to that one night stand. When he made it to commentary from the interview segments that promotion was tarred with the same brush. He preferred to think that his talent was proving itself but he didn't dare to ask and just took the breaks as they came. One decision in his youth had made some people judge him for the balance of his career so far and that was one thing that bothered him still.
"Wow. You got off lightly. Ortz looked like he caught a disease. More bitemarks than Big Show's lunchpack."
With that comment John extended his leg and pushed the bar stool next to his at an angle away from the bar so Josh would be able to sit on it. He hoped Josh would take him up on his silent invitation and that it might even come across as a peace offering. It wasn't his intention to have such sport at anyone's cost, it just so happened that his usual gentle needling had turned out that way.
Much to his relief Josh hopped up on the stool and nodded his thanks for the beer that was pushed towards him. Over half of it disappeared in the first drink he took and that in itself made John raise his eyebrow again. Whether it was nerves or thirst he couldn't help but find it surprising that little Josh Mathews could chug beer like he that. He found himself fascinated by the casual and carefree way Josh carried himself in such smart surroundings. If pushed he would however admit that the smaller hand attached to a body dressed in a dress shirt and tank top seemed to suit the fancy glass much more than his did.
"I never really understood how things worked back then John. I was still a kid. In some people's eyes I still am. Besides, I got a job out of it. And his quads held up better back then. I bet he makes Sheamus do all the work."
The snort that came down John's nose was accompanied by a spluttering of the last of his mouthful of beer. To hear a statement like that from Josh was quite a surprise. John didn't have him pegged as someone that sharp and astute. It was starting to look like he didn't know half as much about Josh as he thought he did.
"You're pretty funny for someone that has to work with Cole every night, you know that?"
The nod was followed by Josh sinking the rest of his beer and signalling to the bar man for two more. He ignored the shaking of John's head and confirmed he wanted two more.
"C'mon John, one more with me and then I'll let you be. I suppose an early night won't do me any harm either."
The tinge of sadness in Josh's voice didn't go unnoticed and John hadn't the heart to turn down the drink. Beer number five was more than enough for him if he was planning on eating and turning in at a reasonable hour. If he made it to six or seven drinks the chances were he'd be tempted to find out where the rest of the guys were and turn it into twelve or thirteen. That would mean that his early morning car ride to the radio station he was appearing at would be an uncomfortable one in many ways.
"One more and then I'm done. I gotta eat and sleep, seems I don't get much of a chance to do either these days."
Lifting the glass he mouthed 'Cheers' and then sipped half of the head off the fresh drink before carefully placing it back on the bar. It became clear that they were both last out of the blocks with nothing to do and nowhere to go. The upside to their situation was that John was realising that, apart from when he was being teased, Josh had the bright yet gentle appeal of Evan without the energy levels of a puppy full of Red Bull. John was enjoying the company and it was better than sitting alone and risking another alcohol induced melancholy mood.
Slowly they eased their way into a proper conversation, the small talk turning to what their days had entailed. Josh recounted the story of how his original voiceovers got corrupted, John of how he'd been asked the same question at least 11 times in the same day. What neither man knew was that the other was thinking an identical thought. Both of them were realising what a difference it made to sit down at the end of a day and talk about something and nothing. It was the kind of domesticity that not even the couples on the road got, the same couples that were out partying rather than taking time to relax together. It was all too easy in the wrestling business to forget how to stop living fast and start to get bored by simple pleasures like time and space.
Swirling the dregs of the beer around the fancy glass John tipped it up and swallowed the last of it down, stifling an ungentlemanly belch that was near inevitable considering how gassy the drinks had been. He swung his legs around and slid off his stool, stretching and rolling his neck out before clapping a hand on Josh's back.
"Thanks for the drink man, much appreciated. Good talk. You have a great night."
"You too John. See you tomorrow."
The polite words were said with little conviction but Josh's intentions had already shifted into one more beer followed by that early night. He had no idea how far away the rest of the guys were or how long he'd spent chatting to John at the bar. Looking down at the smart grey cashmere tank top he decided his new outfit would have to save for another night. He watched as John turned around and wandered away, sad that he was back on his own but glad that at least someone could acknowledge and see past the things he'd done in his more naïve days.
Instead of a beer he decided his last drink would be a good quality bourbon on the rocks. He rolled the burnt caramel coloured liquid around the glass, savouring the smell and wondering if anyone else would believe that he had a fine taste that went beyond the mojitos and tequila slammers he'd have been plied with on their gang night out. Taking a mouthful of the liquor he felt the warmth of it right through his middle and saw quite easily how people got addicted to it.
Josh waved the barman over and got out his wallet, pulling a couple of twenties from it while he waited. The phone had rung and he noticed the snooty way in which the barman answered it and took the call, hanging up the receiver at the end as if it was infected with a communicable disease. When he proffered the money it was snatched from his hand as if the barman's life depended on it and he found himself almost glad to be heading to bed.
Once off the stool he pushed both of those that had been occupied back into the meticulously straight line that the rest of them were in. That somehow won him a few brownie points from the miserable character behind the bar which were transmitted by way of a curt 'Thanks." Josh nodded awkwardly and went to leave but heard a hissing noise which soon got his attention. It was the barman, leaning over the lip of the counter and waving him back in a snippy manner.
"You're Josh, right?"
With some hesitation Josh shrugged and responded. "Yeah. Why?"
"The telephone call was a message for a Josh that matches your description," The barman spoke with a hushed tone and a slightly suggestive look on his face. "A Mr Seener says that he has a lunchpack he's having trouble with. He's in room 445 if you're available for a light supper. Might I however remind you to keep these things discreet. We don't normally tolerate people like you plying your trade in our fine hotel."
Unable to hide the grin on his face Josh found his mood lightened by the sheer indiscretion and stupidity that was a more recognisable trait of John's personality than early nights and understanding. He wanted to be shocked that the barman thought he was a male hooker but the idea of it alone was so ludicrous it was funny.
Weaving his way past the tables that were mainly occupied by wealthy looking couples he couldn't really believe that he'd been invited or that he was going to be somewhere between brave and crazy enough to go to John's suite. The one thing he could be certain of was that he'd been short of a good meal lately and if there was the chance of something hot and filling he'd be mad to not have a taste.
A/N: Completely cracky madness I know but I'm so short on inspiration at the moment that I had no choice but to write something fun. If anyone has seen my ability to write then I'd be grateful if they'd send it back thisaway as I miss it muchly!
All reads and reviews appreciated as always! Don't forget part 2 is up as chapter 2 already!