The Hand That Tugs the Heartstrings
World Heavyweight Champion Jory Daley cringed when the ice was pressed to his forehead. As he hissed in pain, he was met with: "Stop moving or it'll only hurt more."
Jory adjusted himself in the passenger's seat, keeping the ice firmly planted on the swelling bruise. "Aw, God, when I signed up for this life I didn't think I'd get tapped for real," he joked with a light southern drawl. Fellow champ Jayna Lynch settled back in the driver's seat of her car with her back against the door to face her best friend.
"Sweet, we wear spandex for a living. What'd you expect?" Lowering her legs under the dashboard she finished: "And by the way, you weren't punched. You fell down the steps to the locker room and hit your head.”
Jory groaned as he let his head fall back against the seat's head rest.
"Does Lex know?" he asked half conscious.
"Hmph, don't think so," Jayna answered honestly. Did Lex know anything about his baby brother these days? The older man hadn’t been very responsive in the past few months. Didn't return calls, didn't talk much in general. He just stayed away from people. Always with an intimidating look on his face that made him seem like an unapproachable, ill-tempered animal when he was forced to stand amongst the masses. "I think he just got here," she told Jory vaguely.
"Probably cutting his promo by now," Jory assumed.
"What's the time?" he asked.
Jayna fished her phone from the purse sitting between the two seats. "Eight thirty four," she read. "Yeah, he's going out soon," Jory assumed.
"You gonna welcome him back?"
Jory stared at the stone wall of the arena parking garage through the windshield. "I don't know," Jory admitted. "I mean, I want to. He's the closest ally I have besides you. But, man, my head is friggin' killing me," he trailed off. Jayna was nearly positive now that Jory had a concussion and shouldn't be getting in the ring tonight. But it was not like something as minor as a concussion had ever stopped Jory before.
"We haven't been having the best of luck, have we?" Jory joked, moving the ice across the expanse of skin. No, luck certainly was not on the side of Jory OR Jayna these days. Just a few weeks ago the ropes of the ring had given out while Jory was jumping off of them. And not long after that, Jayna had her own tumble down a staircase in a Tennessee hotel. If they had any luck left, it was luck that neither of them had been badly hurt yet.
"You probably should go, though," Jayna concluded. "Mr. Goebel wants you and Lex to start that storyline, you know."
"Oh, what? The storyline where we hate each others guts? Yeah, not thrilled," Jory stated.
"Just, please don't wrestle tonight, Jor," Jayna pleaded. "Go out and talk if you need to, but, just, try to have some inhibitions when you-"
Jory cut her off with a fit of laughter. If there was a perfect word to describe Jory Daley, his wrestling style, and his life in general, it would be inhibition-less. "Woo! You're funny!" Jory cried. Jayna stifled a giggle in response.
"Does seem kinda unbelievable," Jayna agreed, referring to the new angle Mr. Ron Goebel, chairman and head of Ultimate Championship Wrestling, had set up for the two brothers/long-time partners. Goebel was certain this feud would shoot the three-man intergender dream team of Jory, Lex, and Jayna from their spots at the top right into the stratosphere. This time not as one team, but as three singles competitors who only had to look out for themselves and could only rely on themselves.
"I mean, the Daley Brothers, nine-time World and UCW Tag Team Champions, hating each other after a life of partnership?" Jayna continued to speculate.
"Well, if it weren't for you turning us into the Lynch Mob we wouldn't have had 5 of those reigns. Probably wouldn't still be headlining. You know how much Goebel loves Lex," Jory said sarcastically. Their boss liked the team and was quite fond of how well Jory and Jayna got over with the crowd, but he'd never been as keen on Lex.
"Breaking up the Lynch Mob now kind of sounds like getting divorced when you’re eighty," Jory mentioned.
Jayna giggled. "You and your pimp gonna break up?" she joked, nudging at Jory. "Yo, back up." He nudged back, lightly hitting her chest.
Jayna doubled over in her seat, clutching her breast with one hand and the steering wheel with the other. Apparently the hit wasn't light enough. "Woah, Jayne!" Jory shot up, but was instantly brought back down by the pain in his own head. He placed a hand on her shoulder, helping her back into sitting position.
"I, I'm all right," she told him, still scrunching up her face from the sudden strike.
"I'm sorry. I totally forgot about your chest problem. Did you ever get a doctor to look at that?" Jory asked.
Jayna's body crumpled against the seat, curling into fetal position. Jory could swear he heard a sniffle before she answered: "Yeah, yeah I did."
"Well?" He hunted for a better answer. "Are you okay?"
She raised her head, eyes stretched to try and look out of the windshield. Tears streamed down her paling face like deep rivers, her eyes red and straining. "Jor, I, um." She stopped to sniff and wipe her nose. He remained silent, prepared for whatever was coming. "... It's a tumor." But nothing could've prepared him for that.
Her best friend went numb, wide-eyed and limp with his head trying to rest on his hand despite the ice pack in the way. "Did they catch it in time?" he whispered. His grandfather, a man he considered his 3rd parent, had died of cancer not long ago. And now it was taking one of his best friends? No, his Pop-Pop had been old. It was his time. But Jayna? She just became UCW Worldwide Champion. Years of dedication, pain, and fighting to cross the gender barrier to become the first female world champ, and this is how she was repaid? It wasn't fair. Nothing about this was fair.
Jayna viciously rubbed the backs of her hands against her cheeks, scrubbing the natural salt water away. "Not sure," she answered honestly. "It could go either way. But... I may not have much time left."
They both stewed in the atmosphere, unable to speak. "Look, don't let it get you down," Jayna said, squeezing Jory's hand as he squeezed back. "Go out, talk to Lex, and don’t do anything stupid. I'll be backstage when you guys are done. Oh, and, please don’t mention this to him. I wanna be the one to tell him."
Jory shook his head, lowering the pack of ice to see that it was stained with a familiar, violent scarlet. He let go of the Worldwide Champion, the dying champion, and turned to step out of the car into the emptiness of the underground lot in Buffalo, NY, with his own title in hand.
"What?" Jayna asked as he sat there with one leg already out. He turned back to look at her.
"Don't do anything stupid, ‘Wild Child’," he said, calling her by her nickname.
Slinging the coveted World Heavyweight title over his shoulder and slamming the door behind him, Jory started for the center of the arena where his brother would be in the ring. He made sure to never look back at the silver Corvette behind him.
Alexander and Jordan Daley were brothers, two years apart in age. The only children of an aging couple from a small Virginia town. Bound together for all eternity with blood and by love. Both with one uncommon goal.
Ever since they could move with fluidity the Daley brothers shared a dream. To become world champions. Not for fame, not for money, not for women. But because as children they had fallen in love. Of all things, with the sport of wrestling. The weird little Daley kids, no bigger than average and plenty odd to other children for only reasons children could give, wanted to be champs for Ultimate Championship Wrestling. One of the most successful American wrestling promotions to ever be broadcast on national television. Their grandfather had introduced them to the sport, even buying his only grandchildren a trampoline so they could have their own matches.
For years they faced nothing but rejection. Driving miles, "wasting time", and appearing insane for pushing themselves through matches only the insane would agree to, only to come crawling back with chronic pain and a couple of bucks. Occasionally they won, even winning minor championships for some tiny, unknown promotions for short periods of time. But even when their parents weren't behind them, Pop-Pop always was, refereeing their scrimmages, sending them money when it was low, taking them in when they hit rock bottom. And as Pop-Pop had told them: with wreck comes reward. In this case, reward came in the form of four year contracts with UCW. Neither had even bothered reading them, too interested in finding the dotted lines beneath the small print. Within the next six months, they'd won their first tag team gold with the company. The first person to congratulate them was none other than their Pop-Pop, William Daley, who cheered the loudest from the front row and hugged his boys the hardest despite his waning health. Just a few weeks later, he was gone.
Enter Cameron St. John, a tiny Italian girl from Rhode Island who introduced herself as “the Wild Child”, Jayna Lynch. The first time the Daleys saw her, she was scaling a cage wall to jump on and take down her promotion's then lightweight champion, though compared to her, he didn't seem very lightweight. To some surprise, she actually won. The three of them clicked instantly, Jayna a little stunned to be meeting the Daley Brothers and the brothers a little stunned to be meeting a sweet woman who preferred fighting men, and was actually good at it. Within a few weeks of watching her, Lex conspired to get her a contract. Jayna was a beautiful and incredibly talented girl who shared his passions and goals just as obsessively as he did. He wouldn't let her get away.
And thankfully, Ron Goebel wouldn't either. In 2001, Jayna Lynch debuted as the newest member of the Daley Bros. team, turning them into a show stopping, notorious 3-man team known simply as the Lynch Mob. In the years following they won both of UCW's tag team belts a combined five times. But Jayna's proudest win and Lex's finest moment had certainly been the one they never thought she'd actually reach.
Lex Daley remembered Jayna's UCW Worldwide Championship title win at Mischief Night ‘09 so well he could play it like a movie in his head. And after weeks of hype, the match was twenty minutes of adrenaline and Match-of-the-Year Award material. As hard as she tried, Jayna couldn't stop sobbing and mouthing the words "oh my god" as the referee handed her the belt. The pay-per-view’s theme, "You Always Believed" by In This Moment, blasted over the arena speakers, unable to drown out the ecstatic crowd and Jayna’s uncontrollable cheers that kept the spectators going. This was Jayna’s dream, her impossible dream to be a world champion, and it was finally coming true.
Lex and Jory were the first of many to run out from backstage, hugging her with all their might despite any pain she may have felt from the match. While the rest of the roster rushed the ring, the Lynch Mob stood huddled in the center with Jayna clutching the UCW Championship belt.
"I love you guys so much," she choked through joyful tears. The brothers laughed and returned her gratitude. "You guys are gonna make great singles champions," Jayna said, knowing this may be the last time they'd be in the ring as a team. "I know it."
"And you're gonna be the best UCW Champ in history," Lex told her sincerely. Jayna grinned at him, and he felt the same warmth within his soul that he'd felt when they first met. It was as if he'd won the championship himself vicariously through this future hall of famer.
At that short moment in time that felt like an eternity, Lex knew Jayna was "the one". But now that she was the first female UCW Champion, how would he tell her? He wouldn't, he figured. He'd keep it to himself as long as he had to, though it became increasingly hard as he saw his younger brother grow closer to Jayna. Jory and Jayna were like a power couple that never actually dated. They won tag matches with ease, pulled off great segments and promos that could be hilarious or frightening. They were the best of friends. And Lex could never be completely calm knowing that. He loved Jory dearly, and he'd be there for his baby bro no matter what. Take the championship? Fine. But take Jayna, and there would be consequences. Consequences that Lex was dying to make Jory suffer after last month at Clash of the Titans.
Earlier that night, “the Machine”, Lex Daley walked into an arena for the first time in three months without a limp. He had busted his left knee when botching a simple move while going for the World Heavyweight Championship. He'd been so incredibly close to the one thing he wanted since childhood. And it escaped through his fingers for the third time this year just because he couldn't land a freaking leg drop. Lex had pushed injuries aside in his past, but this time his knee was seriously damaged. He'd torn a nice piece of cartilage, and surgery was unavoidable. But what scared Lex wasn't the arthroscopy he'd have to sit through. It was knowing that an eight week absence from wrestling to recover and gain back strength was plenty of time for someone else to take his rightful place as champion. And as expected, someone did. His own damn brother.
Jory had stepped up in place of Lex, saying it was to avenge his brother's injurer (then-WHC Logan "Storm" Page), but Lex knew Jory was just as desperate to win, if not maybe more so than Lex. And he did. While Lex lay on the couch in his Manassas Park home with a bum knee, Jory overcame an icon to become the most powerful man in The UCW. And although Lex was glad to see his brother just make it out alive, a feeling like anger kept scraping at the pit of his stomach. A feeling that he should be the one holding the big gold belt above his head, standing on a ring post in front of a screaming Staples Center crowd... with Jayna coming out to hold up his arm in victory.
The instant Jayna ran out, hurdling the ropes to pounce-hug Jory, Lex's heart rolled out of his chest, off the couch, and shattered on the floor. The UCW and World Heavyweight Champs, his brother and the love of his life, were standing in the center of the ring, looking happier than they'd ever been with Lex. And here was Lex, broken, failed, and not even able to walk straight let alone hold a championship. And above all things, he was overcome with an unnerving envy, envy towards Jory for the belt he knew he deserved, envy towards Jory for the woman he had the privilege of calling his "best friend". Dammit, Jory didn't understand. He didn't understand anything, the good-for-nothing backstabber!
The night of his comeback, Lex wanted nothing more than to enter the ring and shock everyone, because when he came back he knew Mr. Goebel wanted him to take a heel turn, make a complete 180 turn from the Lynch Mob and turn his character into a total, evil bastard. And even if it required feuding with Jayna, which it probably would, Lex knew exactly who he'd take out first. The sweet and innocent baby brother that had taken everything from him.
Jory walked hurriedly through the unwelcoming halls of the HSBC Arena, hoping that he wasn't too late to politely interrupt his older brother's returning monologue. As he bypassed backstage employees with the title as big as his head slung over his shoulder, his head still pounding from the inside, he heard the unmistakable voice of Lex coming through the monitors and speakers backstage. And... booing? Why would the audience be booing Lex? He literally just came back after leaving as one of the most fan friendly guys on the roster. What the hell had Jory missed?
As the Heavyweight Champ approached a monitor depicting his big brother in the middle of the ring, still in street clothes with a brace on his knee, Jory noticed one of the producers nearby. "The hell is going on?" he asked the man. The employee looked up, rolling his eyes and raising eyebrows as if he wished Jory hadn't asked. "I'm sorry, man. Watch your back." Was all the producer said before walking toward the backstage sound booth with clipboard in hand.
Jory's brow knitted, now extremely concerned, and he turned to get a close up on Lex with a look of great distaste on his face. When the boos and hisses died down, Lex raised the microphone back to his mouth to continue.
"You can say whatever you want. I take full responsibility for my actions, and I don't regret any of them." He paused to let the audience give their unchanging opinion, as he was supposed to. "And whether it's at Retribution, or in the Faceoff ring-- Jory is going straight to where I just came from. The hospital!" More screaming ensued around him. "For once in my life and my career, I know what I'm doing, and where I'm going." Though he said it, he definitely didn't sound certain. “I’ve sacrificed everything, given everything I can offer to all of you. And now it’s time to get what belongs to me!” Another pause to give the audience of children and mouth-breathers time to understand. “I deserve this. I have earned all of this! And I’m telling you honestly, from the bottom of the broken piece of glass in my chest that once was a heart, the Lex Daley of the past is gone. The only person I care about now is me!
"Jory, I hope you’re watching, because now that you've taken everything I ever loved away from me..." He choked out the next part, putting a special emphasis on “best friend”: "I don't consider you a partner, a friend, or my brother! You and your best friend, Jayna Lynch, are nothing more than a couple of losers who got lucky!"
Jory didn't hear the last part because after the word "brother", he was grabbing a mike and racing out through the curtain. His entrance theme came on a bit late as staff rushed to keep the scene going, but at this rate nothing was going as planned. Literally anything could happen.
At first Jory did nothing as he stood there, waiting for the words to form in his head, belt on shoulder and gaping wound on his forehead. Some folks in the crowd cheered to see their hero, the UCW World Heavyweight Champion, while others simply gawked at the bruise he'd acquired. Jory soon felt the nagging hunch that he had missed something, something Lex had said that may be important to know right about now.
"You proud of yourself?" Jory finally asked when his entrance music and the crowd died down. Lex looked down at his brother from the ring, trying not to smirk upon seeing his handiwork. He knew that shove down the stairs would hurt Jory, but never did he think the cement would leave such a beautiful mark. The purple and blue mixed with old brown and fresh red. It may even scar, reminding them both of Lex's dominance over Jory as long as they lived. Of all of his accomplishments in UCW, in Lex's mind, this was certainly the finest. As Lex admired the mark he had left on his baby brother's pale, pristine face, Jory very rudely interrupted.
"I asked you a question, Lex! Are you proud of yourself?!" he yelled, scratching his throat in the process.
Lex clenched his jaw before replying with: "You have to ask?"
Despite being surrounded by noise, a heavy silence fell between the two Daleys. Years of partnership, all those times one of them fell only to have the other one pick him up and force him to keep going, the love they shared as brothers, as a family. With simple words Lex was washing it all down the drain. And Jory could do nothing but fuel the fire that Lex had become.
Resisting the urges both to cry and to beat his big brother, Jory wiped his face, cringing when his fingers hit the bruise, and woefully continued as he approached the ring where Lex stood above him. "You know what, Lex? You're right," he paused to let the drama sink into the ears of the onlookers. "I'm not your brother. We aren't a family. Not here in this battle. Not in this life. Not anymore," he trailed off, grabbing the bottom rope.
Jory swung himself up, stepping through the ropes as he did routinely, and dropped the title behind him, knowing an official would put it somewhere safe for him. Their eyes didn’t meet until Jory, with his head hung low enough to let his long hair mask his face, stood a mere few feet away from Lex. As Jory swung his head back up and replaced the microphone in front of his face, Lex could see now the shine in Jory’s eyes. Not their usual twinkle, but a build up of tears. Lex bit his lip, anxiously awaiting Jory’s next words and trying not to celebrate his success too soon.
"I should've realized when the EMTs carried you out that night,” Jory said, bringing up Lex’s accident. “You didn't go to hospital because of your damn knee- you went because you're sick!"
"You're no better!” Lex interrupted.
“Oh yeah?” Jory responded, beginning to wonder if his own flesh and blood was behind the stair incident. “I admit I’ve done a lot of awful things in the past. But you,” Jory chuckled in a sarcastic tone. “You are making me pale in comparison.”
Meanwhile, backstage, Mr. Goebel stared intently at the sixteen monitors focused on different sections of the arena and ready to catch anything that could be used when the show was broadcast for television. He stood tall behind the producers and production managers, arms crossed over a large frame that remained strong and intimidating despite the spell of old age. Keeping his focus tight on a straight shot of his two employees in the ring, Goebel asked to anyone willing to answer: "is any of this scripted?"
The producer who had been talking to Jory earlier turned his chair to look up at the most powerful millionaire in sports entertainment. Despite working for Goebel for years, the producer could still be shaken by his boss' cold demeanour.
"I believe Lex's speech was, but, uh, Jory kind of just ran out."
"So they're improving all of this?" Goebel asked,
"Looks like it, sir."
The producer turned around in silence when Goebel asked no further questions. But not long after turning, he heard Goebel's distinct chuckle of satisfaction.
"Perfect," Goebel decided. "I knew these boys would pull through for me."
In the arena, the crowd was a mixture of murmurs and questions. Jory could hear them ask each other if this was scripted, while others sat silently as they watched their favorite tag team, the brothers they idolized, verbally rip each other apart. This was the quietest crowd the Daleys ever witnessed, as fans and employees. “Jory, for everything you've done, I see you as nothing less than a sick, twisted, and disturbed freak!" he said, resisting making his language a little more colorful. After all, calling his brother a son of a bitch would be kind of ridiculous.
“I’m the freak?” Jory asked sarcastically. “I may be ‘the Freak of Nature’ but at least I’m not a psychopath!” To this, the audience celebrated. It was their job, after all. Cheer for the good guy, boo for the bad guy. Simple enough, right? But it became quickly irritating, especially to Lex, who wanted nothing more than to end the conversation and knock little Jory senseless.
“You’ve had a damn good life so far, Lex” Jory said, getting in Lex’s face. “And I hope the scar on your knee serves as a good reminder of what we were and what we never will be again!”
Lex took a deep breath as Jory backed up. “Actually,” he started, “I’ll think of something a little different. See, my scar symbolizes when I had everything, and got everything taken! This,” he started, patting his knee where the surgery scar lay. “This is a symbol of injustice, dishonesty, and punishment to the deserving. While the one you’re getting,” he taunted as he grabbed Jory’s head and pressed his thumb down the length of Jory’s bruise. Jory cringed, smacking his older brother’s arm away to cradle his own head in pain. “Is forever gonna be a reminder of my superiority over you. I’ll be champ. You’ll just be the little bitch who thought he could.”
Jory raised his head and smiled. "... I learned from the best. " And before Lex could think of a comeback, Jory had thrown the mike out of the ring and pummelled Lex to the canvas. After letting him throw a couple of fake punches to excite the crowd, Lex threw his significantly smaller brother off of him, making sure the toss was hard enough to make Jory stay down, and returned to his feet. Microphone in hand, Lex stood over him and began stating the reason for why he’d come back to UCW in the first place.
“I’m not fighting you here, Jordan. Not for no reason,” Lex stated, using Jory’s real name. “I’m challenging you for my World Heavyweight Championship, this Sunday, at Retribution,” Lex offered, making sure to promote the event the way his boss would’ve liked. “Appropriate, right?” Lex asked the crowd, referring to the pay-per-view’s name, to which the crowd began chanting “YOU SUCK”, a favorite chant of most wrestling audiences.
Lex got down on one knee to hover over his brother. "And it’s not just any match. It’ll be an “I Quit” match!” Lex revealed.
To win an “I Quit” match, a competitor would have to get his opponent to be the first to say the words “I quit”. And to do that, the two fighters could unleash any and all forms of hell they pleased. Lex had thought long and hard about what the Daley v. Daley match for Retribution would be. It couldn’t be more perfect.
“At Retribution,” Lex continued, “I will get what I justly deserve. And you’ll be justly punished.” He looked up at the crowd, who by now had stopped chanting. “And these people,” he started before looking back down at Jory. “These people won’t know you as a world champion. You'll forever be known, as the brother who quit when it mattered the most!"
Lex dropped the mike and rose to his feet. Just as he was preparing to climb through the ropes and leave, he began to hear the familiar first notes of Jet Black Stare’s “Ready to Roll”, Jayna’s entrance theme. Shit, exactly what he didn’t want. He’d prepared something for Jayna just in case she showed up, but he was really hoping he wouldn’t have to get her involved. Oh well, too late now.
Lex watched as Jayna Lynch placed her fists on her hips, standing poised at the top of the ramp. “5, 4, 3, 2,” Lex counted in his head as the pyrotechnics that specifically accompanied Jayna’s entrance began going off. Suddenly, the rain of sparks around her began spraying in all different directions. Jayna, taken off guard, reacted by covering her face with her arms. But once she realized what was going on she made a mad dash down the ramp, falling and beginning to roll away from the demented firework show going off behind her. Upon reaching the ramp’s end, the spark throwers exploded with loud bangs before going black.
But it was fake. Lex had rearranged the pyro in her entrance before the show to appear like it was an accidental malfunction. It wouldn’t actually hurt her; he made sure of it. Jory was the only one Lex was interested in hurting. Jayna didn’t realize that she needed to stay far away, or else Lex would do something he’d regret more than scarring his own brother.
Jayna rose to sit, staring with wide, shocked eyes at the stage as she began hurriedly using her hands to get further away. Her head snapped to face Lex and she said, though it looked like she only mouthed the words to Lex, “Did you do this?!”
Lex only looked down at her. But once she turned and grabbed her upper arm to cover a reddening burn that only the sparks could’ve caused, his expression immediately became one of resentment. He’d hurt her? No, that wasn’t what this was about. She wasn't supposed to be a part of this. This changed everything.
When Lex looked back up, Jayna was in front of him and being held back by Jory who Jayna had helped back to his feet. “I was coming out here to stop you two but it looks like that’s not the problem,” she spat. “What kind of older brother are you?”
Lex only shook his head, dropping it as he clenched his eyes shut, now he being the teary-eyed one. Oh how this woman did not realize that not only did she turn the tables, but she literally broke them in half (no wrestling pun intended). Lex smirked and shook his head, then grumbled loud enough for the mike to pick it up. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Jayna and Jory exchanged a shocked glance, they being two of the many who recognized the quote and couldn’t believe what they were hearing. Jayna had always referred to wrestling feuds between brothers as “Cain and Abel feuds,” but this was taking it a little too far.
“I really wanted nothing to do with this,” Jayna told him. “This is between you and your brother. I have my own problems to worry about,” she said, referring to her responsibilities as UCW Champion. “But if you’re after the both of us, then I have no choice,” she said. “This match of yours just became a triple threat!”
Lex’s head snapped up. “Oh yeah, I went there!” Jayna said, making the crowd go wild since she said her “catchphrase”.
No, absolutely not. He refused to fight Jayna at this stage in the game. But when Jayna wanted in on a match, there was no talking her out of it. He would simply have to let Jory take care of her, and once he got rid of her, Lex could have Jory all to himself. Maybe this could still work out.
Jory stared at her, mouth agape. Lex wondered, what did he care if Jayna was in the match? Well, obviously he cared about something to react like that. Was there something about Jayna that Lex didn’t know? Something Jory should’ve told him? It was just like the little bitch to do something like that. He wanted her all to himself, and Princess Jory was getting his way. Again. Lex clenched his fists, grinding his teeth together to keep from saying anything.
“You told me you loved me,” Jayna told Lex to his face, closing in on him. Where the hell did this come from? Yeah, Lex had told Jayna he loved her but always in a friendly way, never how he really felt. Had Jory told her? Had that bastard brother, no, not brother, simply a bastard, given away his dark secrets? “Well if you really love me,” Jayna continued, “you would never hit me.” She paused. “But if you are gonna hit me," she forced out, "you better make it damn good. Because when I get back up… I’ll kill you,” she said, smiling.
Lex wrapped his hand around the microphone where Jayna’s cold fingers lay. Swallowing hard, he whispered: “I’m sorry.” And as lightly as he could, he threw his hands to her chest and pushed her into Jory's arms.
As he ran from the ring and the arena altogether, he could hear Jayna screaming in pain. He hadn’t hit her that hard, had he? But Lex didn’t realize that he put all of the weight of his arm through his hand and onto Jayna’s left breast. Exactly where Jory had tapped her earlier.
Jory held Jayna in the ring as she breathed slowly, calming herself and relieving the all-too-real pain. Once he saw Lex leave through the throngs of upset fans, Jory wrapped his arms tighter around her and put his head on her shoulder.
"I-- I need to repent,” Jory said just loud enough for Jayna to hear. “For everything... All the sin I've committed. Everything against Lex. Against you-"
"Jory,” Jayna stopped him slightly annoyed, “no one has sinned against anyone. This is just a storyline; none of it's real." At least, it’s supposed to be just a story.
Wiping the last of the tears from his eyes, Alexander Daley, former older brother of Jory Daley and former partner of Jayna Lynch, walked at a fast pace through the arena underground and into the cold loneliness of the back parking lot to get to his car. He didn’t care to hear how perfect the promo was or how awful it was. None of their opinions mattered. All that mattered was getting the hell out of this place and away from everything that was causing him to act this way. Everything was spinning out of control; everything was so overwhelming that he just wanted to leave. Waste away on the hotel bed the same way he had wasted carelessly on the couch at home the past months. Just get away. However, that was easier said than done.
As Lex approached his car he noticed former World Heavyweight Champion, the man Jory beat last month, Logan Page sitting on the roof of his car. As Lex got closer, the man whom the fans knew as Storm chuckled and began clapping.
“What’d you want, Logan?” Lex growled at him. Logan continued his one-man standing ovation as he got off of the car and walked up to meet Lex.
"I asked what the hell you want, Page," Lex repeated. Logan came to an abrupt stop in front of him, raising his hands and bowing to be at eye level with Lex. Lex didn't have to look up at most people, but Logan was NOT most people.
"Relax, Lex," he said softly, "I come in peace.” The ridiculously tall blonde man rose back to stand straight. "I just wanted to congratulate you in person," Logan complimented. But even though it was a compliment, something about it just felt slimy. Fans knew Logan was a shifty character who almost always had some shady plan up his sleeve, but Lex was certain in the years that he'd known Logan, both as Storm and as Logan Page, the shiftiness of his character had become who he was as a person. And a part of Lex was frightened of it.
Lex sighed and uttered the word "unnecessary" as he pulled away from Logan to put his bag in the trunk. "Oh, I beg to differ," Logan argued following him. "You know, I was the one who sent John--"
"Her name is Jayna," Lex corrected angrily. There was nothing he hated more than when people called Jayna "John". Her name was St. John for a reason. Because she deserved to be placed high above the rest. Yes, she dressed and acted a little masculine, but many of the guys could also be a little feminine. Hypocrites. All of them, hypocrites.
"Whatever," Logan brushed off. "Anyway, you know I sent... Jayna, on her little trip down the staircase, but I wasn't sure who took my idea. Imagine my surprise when I discover that the loving and protective big brother, Lex Daley, was behind the ropes breaking, the 2nd stair incident, and the pyrotechnics!"
Lex slammed the trunk door, trying to catch Logan's conveniently placed fingers in the process. He narrowly missed. Lex's eyes snapped to stare into the eyes of the devil himself, coming to lose a staring contest he had no intention of winning. "You don't know anything." Was all Lex could come back with before escaping to the driver's side of the car.
"Oh, come on, now, Alex!" Logan cried out. Lex turned to have Logan leaning down right next to his ear. "I know what you did, Cain," Logan whispered with a breath that could chill a snake's blood.
Lex shook off a shiver and backed away from the uncomfortable closeness. "Cain? What... What the hell are you talking about?" He knew exactly what Logan was talking about. How the hell did this sly and seductive douche bag manage to wrap his head around Lex's intricate planning and perfect execution? How’d he figure out it had been Lex? God, why the hell even ask? Logan always managed to weasel his way into places he didn’t belong.
As he reached for the car door handle, Logan firmly planted himself against the car, covering Lex's only form of escape. "Like hell you don't know!" Logan scolded. "First you try to kill your brother and then you ask if you're his keeper?" He paused, placing his hands on his hips and through his smirking lips concluded: "I think you've finally come over to the dark side."
"I haven't come over to anywhere, Logan," Lex articulated. "I'm just having a bad week."
"Oh ho, is that what this is?" Logan teased. "Then I'd like to know what a shit-tastic week is in your book!"
"You know this is none of your business," Lex cut him off. He was tiring of Logan's mind games quickly and really wanted to lose the viper in a man's body before he said something Logan could sink his fangs into. Logan began closing in on Lex again, using Lex's discomfort as just another mechanism in his game.
"Your princess of a brother took my title," Logan growled. "And now you're trying to get your hands on it. I still have a rematch clause, you know. But it looks like, thanks to you, I won't be using it anytime soon. Nothing is rightfully yours, Lexi. Nothing in this company, this business, nothing in life." He paused, backing away to lounge on the car's side. "That is, with the exception of your will."
Lex's eyes made contact with Logan, now interested in where he was going. And although he didn't want Logan to know of his interest, the smirk on Logan's face just about gave away that he knew Lex’s real feelings. Looking into Logan’s eyes, Lex felt as though he was actually becoming cold-blooded, just like the snake beside him.
"For years, you've been putting yourself as second to Jory. Always letting him get the shots and be the star. Always doing his bidding. And now you’re jealous because you wasted yourself and all of your potential on that selfish son of a-"
"Don't talk about him like that!" Lex said, pounding his fist into the car roof and burying his forehead next to it.
"See! There's still a part of you kowtowing to him!" Logan paused, letting his words sink deep. "If you just let the envy take complete control, you'll stop running to his little bitch ass side, and you'll be the superior Daley... You obviously have it in you. After all, you almost killed your brother! A couple times."
Lex sighed heavily. "I don't want to kill anyone," he spilled out. "All's I... I just want... I... damn."
"Come with me." Logan ordered.
"No," was Lex's immediate response.
"Just a little ride?"
"Lex, as two people trying to take down Jory Daley, I think it would be smart of you to associate with me now. Besides,” he said, running an index finger down the side of Lex’s face, “I like naughty, dominant Lexi more than overprotective, big brother Lex."
"I don't trust you."
"What's going on?" came a distinct feminine voice from a few feet away. Lex looked up to see Jayna walking towards them with her white coat pulled tight, like the angel who saved him just in time from selling his soul.
"None of your business, Johnny," Logan shot back with his neck twisted nearly all the way around to face her.
"My name is Cameron St. John, you ignorant ass. And unless you want to wind up under this car," she said nodding towards Lex's Corvette, "I suggest you make your way out of here." Before he could answer, Jayna put up a finger, cutting him off. "Alone," she added, pointing in the opposite direction.
Logan scoffed. Picking himself off the car, he walked briskly past Jayna, close enough so she could hear him mumble "good lu-uck" in a menacing sing-song way before he was gone.
Jayna watched the viper slither away before turning to Lex. "What was that about?" she asked.
Lex chuckled cruelly. Inside his brain was reeling. "Shouldn't I be asking you that? What was that scream you unleashed on the unsuspecting millions in the ring? You made it sound like I stabbed you. And why’d you ask if I love you? What was that about?!"
Jayna turned her head. Lex didn't know that that one little shove in the wrong place felt like he had sunken a blade through her breast. She ran her tongue over her teeth. "Asking if you loved me was just to get the crowd riled up. You don't understand--"
"No, apparently I don't!" Lex shot back. "But Jory seemed to understand! How come he knows so much about you and here I am standing in the dark?!"
"Lex, you haven't been here! I haven't gotten the chance--"
"Well, I'm here right now! I've been right beside you all a--"
"I HAVE CANCER!"
The shriek echoed in the upstate New York night. This angel in white... cancer? Lex's hands rose to his head, trying to keep all of the brain matter intact. Was what he was hearing, really true? "You hit the tumor. It hurts like a son of bitch," she sobbed. Lex closed his eyes before dropping his hands and raising his head to face her. If she was in that much pain then there was one question he had to ask.
"Then why'd you put yourself in the ‘I Quit’ match?" he struggled to say through a dry throat.
She paused. "This... This is a really, really hard time for me. I don't know what I'm doing with my career, I don't know where my future's going. Or if I even have a future at this point--"
"Don't say that," Lex grumbled.
Jayna inhaled and exhaled deeply, feeling the lump in her chest rise with it. "I just don't want my two best friends to be at each other’s throats right now," she admitted. "And, um, Jory wanted me to tell you. After Retribution, if he loses the title, he wants to take a break. Says you need your time on your own. And, personally, I think Jory has his own life to sort out."
Lex sniffled, unable to comprehend what he was hearing. He was one of her best friends? Well, it sounded plausible, but it was a spot he had to share with his bitch brother. And Jory wanted to leave UCW? Was he really that stupid? What would he do without wrestling? Where would he go? Why did Lex even give a damn?
When he didn't say anything, Jayna continued. "Just, let me have one good match at Retribution. Cause I'm honestly not sure how many I'll have later."
Lex rubbed his eyes, glancing from Jayna's infected breast to her dying eyes. Swallowing, he said honestly: "I promise.”
"Mr. Goebel, please, if you really want this to go well, you'll take Jayna out of this match!"
It was Sunday, the night of UCW's Retribution. The night Lex would take his top spot in UCW. The night Jory would have revenge against his evil brother. The night that may be Jayna's last pay-per-view with the company. And after witnessing Jayna practice before, there was no way he wanted her in a match as vicious as the one Lex had been planning.
Jayna had a match with Logan “Storm” Page two days before the even. It was obvious the bastard was aiming for her chest, sinking to the lowest of lows just to win. Right before pinning him, Jayna executed her signature drop kick, a kick with enough force to knock down a standing line of soldiers. It looked good until she landed. On her chest. Hard. She swore it didn’t hurt as much as before, but after a match like that, there was no way she was in good enough condition to be in the match as vicious as the one Lex and Jory would be putting on.
Ron Goebel, the businessman Lex had respected and feared since childhood, stopped in his journey to his office to face his main eventer. "Lex, this is the main event. We're talking a possible unifying of the UCW Worldwide Championship and World Heavyweight Championship if Jayna wins. Now," he chuckled, "as you were saying, I don't expect her to, but the fans are so behind her that the critics think I may have the gall to actually combine the titles." He laughed in a superior manner that he had perfected over many years of domination.
Lex faced the ground, kicking at the cement of the Madison Square Garden floor. "Lex, you and I both know her condition," Mr. Goebel stated. "I am so lucky to have such dedicated people working for me, and so proud to call this my company. And if these are her wishes, I'd like her to have a good match before possibly releasing her. Now, I know, I know, this messes with your plans. But she and I would really appreciate it and I have faith you won’t let either of us down. Now, as for you and your brother--"
"What about me and him?" Lex asked, getting used to not referring to Jory as his brother.
Mr. Goebel regained his train of thought and said: "I want a good match. But I want a good, clean match. I've been working in this business for a very long time, Alex, you know that. And I can tell when two people are acting or really at odds with one another. And you and Jory are far past the stage of being at odds with one another to the point where I fear you’ll rip the man’s throat out!"
Lex groaned, supposing he could only tell the truth to his boss. "I just... I just want to be as successful as Jory. I mean, I've worked just as hard as he has. I've put in my work. I've paid my dues! I... I want to be recognized, too."
"Lex, if you make good, won't you be successful?" Mr. Goebel asked hypothetically. "If you don't put this jealousy behind you two," he began to explain, "It's gonna nag at you for years to come, until eventually it has taken control and destroyed you."
Considering his words, Lex nodded in response. In a way, Goebel seemed like the anti-Logan. Both of them made sense in their own ways. "DON'T let me see that happen." Mr. Goebel finished, leaving Lex alone in the hall. Never in his life did Lex feel more confused, and more alone.
This was it. The moment. A match that could determine a million and one things.
Lex stood in the ring, his entrance song, "Stitches," blaring over the booing crowd as Lex was curled in a corner of the ring. While most in the audience would figure he was just concentrating on the match, taking everything around him into consideration like the tables around the ring, the ladder in the center. But in reality, he was praying. Praying for his and Jayna's safety, praying that his plans against Jory would pull through. Maybe even praying that he and Jory could put all of this behind them now.
But not at this rate. Jory was just as angry at Lex now. And as his former baby brother, the "princess" he'd worked so hard for, entered to screeching guitars, Lex knew full well that Jory would be pulling out all of the stops. Lex and Jory both had hell to pay. Both had sins against one another to repent for. And Jayna would be stuck in the middle, going just as strong as the boys like always.
Lex stood, coming face to face with Jory in the center of the ring, locked in a stare down to end all stare downs. There was no stopping what was to come.
The UCW fans knew now, knew all of the horrid things that Lex had done and knew that Jayna had cancer. There was no getting around the big fat elephants in the room. At this point, it didn't even matter how well the three of them did. Either way this would be a match to remember.
Jory turned so both Daleys faced the ramp as Jayna began making her entrance. Immediately fans got to their feet. Most of them holding signs like, "We love you, Wild Child", "Wherever you go Jayna, I hope there's TLC" (referring not just to “tender loving care” but also tables, ladders, and chairs, a favorite match-type of Jayna's), and the three wrestlers' favorite: "Jesus can't handle a one-woman army".
Jayna strolled down the ramp, taking in the sight of all of the people who loved her and the people she loved in return. She smiled and laughed before raising her arms in a shrug and mouthing the words "what the fuck, guys?” Silly girl, always humble and stunned by how much people really genuinely loved her. Even as she did her little routine and entered the ring, she couldn't believe the support.
The three former friends met in the ring as Jayna's music faded and exchanged looks with one another. However the match went, this had to end. Then the bell rang. And faster than Lex knew it, he had been flattened out by two punches from two people to the chest.
The match must've gone on near twenty minutes, the brothers exchanging harsh blows with one another and Jayna sticking mostly to Jory's side, more careful than she usually was in the ring, until Jory had thrown himself onto Lex in a suicide dive that could've taken out a man twice Lex's size. Before he knew it, Lex was being dragged back into the ring and put on a table Jayna had put next to the ladder earlier in the match in an attempt to put Jory through it. Obviously, that hadn't worked out.
Once Jory had firmly attached Lex to the table, Lex noticed Jayna getting up off the ring apron out of the side of his eye. Faster than he could process it, Jayna took Jory down with her violent, signature drop kick. "NO!" Lex cried, but it was too late. Jayna had landed again.
But... there was no scream. No audible sound at all. "Oh, dear God," Lex thought, "please don't tell me she's unconscious."
And as if the angels began singing, the crowd began a cheer of utter glee. Next to Lex's head, Jayna's hand fell hard on the table, pulling herself back up. Her other hand lay over her chest, trying to put the pain behind her. But in her one moment of glory, Jory took the advantage given and pushed Jayna on the table with Lex. She lay there nearly motionless, facing down but eyes still open and breathing. Lex looked from her to the ceiling of Madison Square Garden, beginning to struggle against the restraints Jory had put around him and the table as Jory slowly made his way up the ladder playing to the crowd all the way.
As Jory climbed, Lex beckoned the referee over. The ref's job in the match was to carry a microphone and ask the wrestlers if they wanted to quit at any time in the match. But Lex didn't intend to quit. He intended to save himself. Save Jayna. And get back the brother he once knew and loved.
"Jory!" Lex cried into the mike up to Jory, who was nearly at the top of the 12 footer by now. "Jory, please! Don't do this!" The crowd booed. From eleven years of experience, Lex knew now there was one thing a wrestling audience always wanted. Action. And what could be better than jumping off a twelve foot ladder through a table onto your brother and best friend? The audience refused to not let this happen. But if Lex wanted to keep his career and any chances of winning, he'd have to make this stop.
"I'm sorry, Jory! I'm sorry, about everything! Jory! I love you!" The crowd didn't stop. "Jory, listen to me! I. Love. You. Jory, we're brothers! We're brothers-- we're supposed to stay together!"
Jory threw his arms out and screamed at the crowd, receiving cheers back to encourage him. He'd reached the top of the ladder and was now sitting at the top. It still dug into Lex, that jealousy of the baby of the family. But... the love he had always had for his brother felt like it was coming back. Stronger now than ever before.
"Jory, listen to me! Lex loves you," he said, beginning to sound like a broken record. "We can still BE the Daley brothers! We can be the Lynch Mob all over again!" he offered.
Jory still didn't answer as he got to his feet, balancing at the very top of the ladder like he'd practiced for years before. "Jory--" Lex started, now getting desperate that Jory may actually hurt him and Jayna. "What would Pop-Pop say about this?! He's watching from heaven right now-- what would he think? Is this what he would want?!"
He could see Jory's fists clench. To open up this old, scarred wound now may have looked good for Lex's evil persona, but it was only fuelling Jory's need to get revenge against his big brother for the hell he'd been put through.
Lex turned his head to face Jayna. She still lay face down on the table, the weak left half of her body partially covering his. Lex shivered, swearing he could feel the cancerous tumour through the skin and fat of her breast.
"And Jayna," Lex started. "Jayna, I'm sorry for everything I put you through. You were never, never suppose to be a part of this." He felt tears coming, knowing now wasn't the best time to spill his heart and guts on the ring canvas, but he was finally realizing that now he may get no other time. "I didn't know you were sick," Lex sobbed into the microphone. "I don't want to lose you, Jayna. I can't..."
He caught his breath, crying his eyes out like a little bitch in front of the millions of fans he'd built a reputation with for years. "I'm so sorry... JAYNA, I LOVE YOU-!"
Jayna's head snapped up and she screamed: "Go to hell, Daley! I QUIT!"
And just like that, she'd rolled off the table, throwing the match away. Lex and Jory watched from separate positions as Jayna rolled to the other side of the ring away from the action, the ref helping her. And while the ref was turned away, Jory yelled “I am NOT my brother’s keeper!” And jumped.
The leg drop, the same one that had broken Lex's knee, sent both Daleys straight through the saw wood onto the canvas, which was now covered in sawdust and woodchips. Both brothers lay there, Lex now free of his restraints and Jory clutching his leg. No, he hadn't. There was no way Jory made the same mistake Lex did.
After moaning in pain, Jory turned to his brother across from him and as if he read Lex's mind, he told him: "I learned from the best."
The ref turned and got down on the brothers' level. Before he could ask the fatal question, Jory groaned out: "I quit! I quit."
That was it, Lex thought. He won. He was the new World Heavyweight Champion! Then why wasn't he happy? He quickly learned why as he watched the ringside EMTs carry out his broken little brother, the former Champion, on a stretcher, making sure to handle his leg as gently as possible.
Ignoring the pain, Lex crawled over slowly to Jayna, who sat hunched over with her legs splayed in front of her on the opposite side of the ring. Once he'd reached her, Jayna said to him quietly enough so the mikes under the ring didn't catch it: "He faked it."
"Wh- what?" Lex asked, turning his head to Jory's broken form being carried out. As fans patted Jory from the stands and congratulated him on a fight well fought, Jory smiled and raised his hand in a wave. And in the smallest gesture, he winked, mouthing the words "I'll be back soon." His leg wasn't broken. No bones shattered or muscle torn. Just a broken heart that needed to forgive and be forgiven. Same as Lex.
Lex, on his knees, looked down at the tired little girl in front of him and finally did what he'd wanted to do for years. He wrapped his arms protectively around her and leaned over to kiss her scalp. He felt her strong arms wrap around his waist and her head drop against his naked torso.
And while they sat there, the fans began cheering. Mixed chants of “Lynch” and “Daley” rang throughout the arena as they felt the lights beginning to die. But Lex heard none of it. Only the soft breathing and rhythmic, sped-up beating of Jayna's heart.
"Nobody's gonna break you down," Jayna uttered to him in a child's voice. "I'll hold you up," she promised through tears.
"And I'll always be here," Lex promised. "Right beside you."