Stuck

No one wanted to be there; work there; live there. It was never their choice. But everyone ended up there, running away from something. They were offered protection. Safety. But it only lasted for as long as they did.

This was a dangerous business, after all.

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3. Seth

Smack.

Many things were supposed to happen in my match. I was meant to get a shot at the Supreme Championship, because Connor had made it happen. I was meant to be up against the weakest champion in ages so it would be an easy win, because Connor wanted me to be the champion. I wasn’t meant to, however, get smacked in the face by a camera. Connor, judging by the frenzied ranting in my ear, did not want this to happen at all. I guessed that at least ten people had been fired already, including the camera man, who was stumbling backwards with a guilty look on his face, with a hint of realisation - no one could mess up Connor’s favourite’s match without being fired on the spot.

Connor’s voice was replaced by a fuzzy version of Sylv’s, who told me to finish up the match and win as soon as possible. That, I could do, even while the world was spinning and blood was dripping down my face. I was going to look like I’d been in a fight with Harley before long. Regaining my balance, I reached out to the ring and attempted to pull myself up onto the side. It took effort, but, eventually, I rolled into the middle of the ring and stood, aided by Sylv and Connor’s voices, and the cheering of the crowd. It was always good when the crowd liked you - it made you want to win just a bit more, y’know?

The other guy, I think his name was Blaze or something stupid like that, was slumped in the corner of the ring, eyes flickering but never staying open. Of course: I had hit him with one of my best kicks, which I had yet to name. The one which barely anyone got up from. No wonder - it was a kick to the head, and, although some guys got repercussions for attacks to the head (They could cause concussions, which were dangerous and could kill people, which was inconvenient to explain to the police, even though Management was mostly above the law), I seemed to be the exception at the moment. Daryl, a previous champion, had also been allowed to quietly ignore this rule… but he didn’t turn out so well. Maybe I was better off steering clear of Daryl’s path.

Just from looking at Blaze, I could tell that he wasn’t going to be getting up anytime soon, so I was safe to do a little showboating to the crowd. They were the ones who paid my wages, after all. Wiping the blood out of my eyes and ignoring the sharp, constant pain in my head, I climbed up the turnbuckle in the corner of the ring and stood tall, grinning and flexing. They loved it, as per usual. The funny thing about our audience was that, no matter how many times they heard someone say ‘I will be the champion’ or ‘I will defeat so-and-so’ or ‘I’m the best ever and everyone else stinks’, they fell for it every time. Well… except maybe for the Renegades. There was nothing that anyone could do to make the crowd like the Renegades. Once upon a time, they had been bothered about it, but now they had just lapsed into a bored acceptance of what they were: losers. Unlike me.

Jumping down from the turnbuckle, I turned and walked over to Blaze, who had started to look less like a zombie and more like an opponent near defeat. Grabbing him by his hair, I dragged him into the middle of the ring and let him fall to the floor, before going for a choke hold to end the match. That was all I had to do, after all: maintain a hold for ten seconds. Matches should have been really short, but everyone was either rubbish at holds or really good at getting out of them. Blaze wasn’t going anywhere.

“And that’s ten! Seth is our new Supreme Champion!” One of the commentators yelled, jumping up out of his chair. “We have a new champion!”

“We have a new champion almost every week, Ethan.” The commentator sitting next to him rolled her eyes, tossing her head to move her fringe out of her eyes. She could have been a Renegade, I realised idly, as I was presented with the title by an Official. “Title changes are nothing new.”

“Mayhem has crowned a new Supreme Champion!” Ignoring her, Ethan continued with his exuberant jumping up and down and cheering with the crowd. “Dana, this changes everything!”

“This changes literally nothing.” Bored, Dana turned to the camera and began talking about the next event, Madness.

In the ring, I clutched the title to my chest and dropped to my knees, a smile engraved onto my face. Finally: it was mine. The gold, and not just any gold, but the gold, belonged to one of the S Trio, and it was me. I’d done it.

No.

No, I hadn’t done it.

Connor had done it.

The smile fell from my face for a moment, before I remembered where I was and started to celebrate, leaving the ring and high-fiving the crowd, going over to hug Ethan, kissing the title, walking backwards up the ramp and holding it high in the air. Maybe I hadn’t done it, but they didn’t need to know that. No one needed to know, except me and Connor. It was between us, and it would stay that way.

“Babe!” Connor appeared, pulling his headset off his head and pulling me into a bone-crushing hug, and whispering in my ear: “You did it. You’re champion. This is gonna be a whole new level of your career, I promise.”

“Yeah. I… yeah.” Pulling back, I took the title down from where it had been resting on my shoulder. “Do you keep this? Just because, to be honest, our room isn’t the safest place in the world.”

“It’s true! Someone stole my hair gel once.” Sylv appeared from behind Connor, eyes immediately drawn to the gold. “Can I… can I touch it?”

“Why don’t you go and chase some title for yourself?” I suggested, as Seb appeared, not looking so happy for me as Sylv. “Hey, why the long face? The S Trio has gold!”

“It’s a shame you didn’t earn it.” His words cut into me like knives. It was only because they were true, I knew, but it still hurt. “Then, maybe you could be proud of it.”

“Seth did earn the Supreme Championship.” Connor said firmly, turning to face Seb. Neither of them had ever seen eye to eye, but after all the stuff I had gone through with Connor to try and get this opportunity, Seb pretty much hated him. “He has been winning spectacularly recently, and this last match was no different. Blaze was not a good enough champion, obviously, so now Seth is, and will be for some time, I predict.”

“No.” Seb smiled grimly. “Blaze wasn’t a good enough face for your company. Seth is. Blaze couldn’t make the crowd cheer like Seth can. They didn’t become as invested in his performances as they do with Seth’s. But Blaze could fight just as well as Seth. They were evenly matched.” He frowned, as if a sudden thought had cut across his mind. “They were evenly matched. You did something.”

“Are you saying I couldn’t take Blaze?” I spat, furious. “You’re saying he’s better than me? I didn’t need help to kick that shit’s ass. He wasn’t good enough to be champion!”

“Sebastian, I would recommend that you watch your tongue. Careless words could mean you end up out on the streets. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?”

Seb left without a word. I deflated, unsure of what had just happened. Sure, Connor was the only reason why I got the chance to win, but he didn’t make me win. I could have screwed up, and that would be my championship shot down the drain. But no one beat up Blaze for me. No one held my hand through the match. I didn’t even use weapons, like Harley did. I used my own feet and my own fists. No one else won that championship for me.

Sylv gave his excuses, running off after Seb. Connor assured me it meant nothing. Seb was just jealous, he claimed, and I was too tired to object. The adrenaline had left me, and pain was beginning to set in. Connor took me to Dr. Smith, then to his room. There wasn’t even a discussion about it. The night became a blur, of fitful sleeping and pain, pills then numbness, then waking up to more pain. It was still dark when I decided to give up on sleep, and just lie beside Connor, listening to his steady breathing and staring up at the ceiling.

Did I just lose one of my best friends? Did he lose me? Did anyone interfere in my match, maybe when I wasn’t looking? When I rolled out of the ring to breathe for a moment and… got hit by the camera. Something about that didn’t sit quite right in my mind, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Giving up, I closed my eyes and waited for morning.

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