Ezra's training in KADA's Knoxville facility begins with some familiar faces showing up! He bonds with Sean, hosts a get-together with the other recruits and gets a sudden call.
Monday, April 15th
"Get lost and good luck, baby boy," Beau pointed past Ezra's nose at the building next to them. "Go and wrestle and for fuck's sake, don't hurt yourself. Remember if you get paralysed, you won't be able to run away from me when I snatch you bald for being careless. I love you."
"Okay! When you pick me up, I'll tell you all about it!" Ezra promised, and he opened up the car door and picked up his little backpack. "I'm gonna be super ultra mega awesome! And Beaubear... I love you too."
Beau had quite a resting bitchface, so it warmed the Polish-American's heart when he smiled so big. It was good to know that even though they argued a lot and struggled to communicate sometimes, Beau was just as crazy about his boyfriend as Ezra was.
After he entered the reception and the bell jingled above the door, Ezra took everything in. The anxiety was there in his belly, but the excitement was stronger than the fear. The building smelled more like a hospital than a training centre. Sterile. Disinfectant. Maybe a bit of pine! That was good. There wasn't anything more offputting than an unhygienic place to work out!
"Oh!!" Ezra briefly lost control of his body and it wiggled and bounced on the spot. "Hello! Hi!!"
"Hello!" Gloria Droese was the person who came to find him. "Ezra Luczynski, I'll be damned! You've come a long way from waiting tables at the Litchfield diner, haven't you?"
Ezra bit his fingers in an attempt to regain his inhibitions and darted over towards her. A while ago, Gloria was visiting her sister in law in Litchfield, a lovely woman called Kelsy who knew Ezra was an aspiring wrestler. She gave him an opportunity to impress her by sending a video of his talents in the ring and on the microphone, and she sent it to KADA's administrative team. She was the reason he even got on the map in the first place! Now he was meeting her again! This amazing wrestler, internationally acclaimed as one of the best role models in entertainment! She was looking great, too! She'd cut off a lot of her long hair, now sporting a bob cut without the blue streaks, but she was still fierce! She wore workout clothes, just like him.
"Yes! Thank you! Thank you! Why are you here? Don't you live in New York?" Ezra fired a barrage of comments at her, but she didn't seem the least bit surprised.
"My long vacation has been over for a little while," she explained, extending her arm and giving his hand a very firm shake. "Now I'm back in the business lending my experience to our new recruits! So I'm here to kick your ass for the next few weeks. You better be ready!"
"I've always dreamed of you kicking my ass!!" Ezra replied awkwardly, and she grinned and let him go. "Thank you again! And again!"
"If there's something I love, it's enthusiasm," Gloria beckoned to him with her fingers and used a keycard to open up the door to the rest of the training centre. This is it! O! M! G! Ahh! "Chill out in the tea room and introduce yourself to the girls. There'll be four of you when our last fellow arrives, and I'll give you all the tour. Welcome to the first day of your new career, honey!"
Ezra was shaking with nerves and joy when he stepped into the tea room. It was a glorified kitchen, he thought. A fridge, a sink, several tables and chairs, and a few couches with a big screen television hung on to the wall. Replays from last Friday's KADA show were running - Ezra recognised it immediately. Pearl laying waste to one of the new girls. It wasn't a great showing, but it was wrestling!! White tiles lined the floor near the kitchen area, but the dining area was all black carpet, and two women in their late twenties sat together on one of the couches. Ezra's mouth dropped.
"Wait, I know you!!" Ezra pointed before they could even greet him with a hello. "You're the Sinister Sisters! From Hawaii!!"
"That's us," Ava replied, a short but very athletic Polynesian woman from Hawaii. She had curly black hair and a lopsided grin. "Nice to be recognised! I'm Ava, and this is Lou."
"Hello," Louise, although bigger and broader than her friend, seemed to be shy. Ezra jumped on the spot and nearly threw himself onto the couch next to Ava. "Are you a rookie as well?"
"Hi! Yes! I am! I'm Ezra," he covered his mouth with his hands. "I've been watching you guys online for years! You're awesoooome!!"
Ava and Louise looked at each other and chuckled.
"Thank you! We've been at this for a long time, so being here today to start training for KADA Wrestling... it's a dream come true," Ava gushed, every bit as thrilled to be here as Ezra was. "Where do you come from, Ezra? You look awfully young."
"I'm eighteen! And ten months!" Ezra nodded his head eagerly. "I'm from Litchfield, Minnesota."
"Nineteen years old?" Louise's green eyes bulged in their sockets. "You're a spring chicken, then. You must be impressive to get a contract so quickly!"
"Yeah, right?" Ava exclaimed, playing with her ponytail. "We've been wrestling for nearly thirteen years. You can't have more than a few years experience yourself! Are you a high-flying prodigy? Is that why the Blooms couldn't wait to sink their teeth in?"
"Are you making fun of my height?" Ezra scowled at her, and Ava looked surprised that he had taken offence. "I'm kidding! I dunno! I thought I was a decent all-rounder, but KADA is only interested in me if I'm lucha style, I guess. Which I'm okay with!! If KADA wanted me to wrestle in a tutu, I would!!"
"I would love to see that," Ava covered her mouth as she giggled. She seemed friendly enough!
For the next five minutes, Ezra got to know the Sinister Sisters, finding out their show name was perhaps a little ironic because they were both delightful people. They popped up for big shows every now and then, and they'd won numerous accolades and championship as they bounced between promotions and travelled the world. They were a very long-running tag team, and Ezra learned that the two of them grew up in the same town in Hawaii together! They went to school in the same grade, they fell in love with wrestling and they both began training at sixteen! Best friends since kindergarten and twenty-five years later they were still attached at the hip! Gloria soon returned with the fourth member of their little group - and what a familiar face he was.
"Jack!!" Ezra didn't give him a chance to introduce himself, and he bounded over to greet his gigantic friend with a fist bump.
"Haha! Hello Ezra!" Jack's cheerful voice, pretty face and easy smile made him very likeable. Although he didn't speak solid English yet, he was sociable, polite and funny. "Ava and Louise, hello!"
"Oh, no way! Jack!" Louise stood up to greet him as well, as did Ava.
"I'll be damned. Recruited in the same class!" Ava was the first to hug him. "What a small world! It's been a while!"
"Well, lucky me!" Gloria was tying her shortened hair back into a ponytail as she observed her recruits easily making friends. "It's not every month I get a bunch of rookies who already know each other. This'll make everything that much smoother! Looks like 'Chelle's on the ball when it comes to guys. That woman is like Mozart with her organisational skills."
Just like that, any doubts and fears that remained in Ezra's heart were quashed. The girls were personable, and Jack was Jack. On top of that, Gloria, while she didn't seem to have a first or second gear, was sweet and supportive. It wasn't a surprise she and Michelle Peterson were so close. They were alike in many ways. Their chemistry was primarily the reason they were awarded both feud of the year and match of the year nearly a decade ago. Not for the first time, Ezra could scarcely believe the company he was in! Professional wrestlers - the top tier! And he was here! As one of them! Just as Sean Fox, Oliver Vickery, Diego Silva and dozens of megastars had at some point! In this very building!! If only Jakub could see him now! If only Glennys could be proud of him instead of believing he betrayed her.
The tour of the performance centre was... humbling, to say the least! The gym was five and a half thousand square feet, and it was easily the most advanced fitness facility Ezra had ever seen. There were nearly a dozen men and women working out in there as Gloria showed them around, and most of them greeted the rookies or waved hello during their workouts. Two of the wrestlers in the room were sometimes on the Monday show! Ezra was in awe. Weights of all shapes and sizes, bench machines, treadmills... he was going to have a lot of fun in here! His body was a resilient little thing, and he just loved pushing it to its limits and seeing what it could do! Then there was the medical wing, where wrestlers would see specialised doctors, and the green room where wrestlers practised and recorded promos! They caught two wrestlers talking a lot of smack with each other while a trainer provided feedback and advice, moulding them into the charismatic titans on the big screens. Ezra got so caught up in watching them that he had to be dragged away.
The prize feature, though, was the setup of six wrestling rings in the giant hall down the back! And there were more wrestlers in there, doing drills, training with each other and even rehearsing matches! Gloria explained the setup - the front three rings were beginner, intermediate and expert level ring training. As rookies, no matter how experienced, they would be expected to train in the beginner ring until the administration decided to move them up - or in some cases, down - to another level. Ezra was more than okay with that, though the other three didn't seem to enjoy being called beginners. The other three rings were for practising and putting on matches! One of them even had its own entrance ramp, lighting and curtain! It was insane! It was all insane!!
Gloria then explained the rules of the contract - every wrestler was expected to spend a minimum of twenty-five hours per week training in the performance centre, or be docked pay - unless an exception was made. Working out, practising promos, in-ring instruction! They were paid a pretty penny for those hours! Ezra couldn't believe how much money he would be making per week! Per hour!! A little under forty dollars an hour to learn how to wrestle! To work for his dream! KADA needed its future stars to be able to focus entirely on preparing for the big leagues, so it was very willing to provide financial security for rookies while they mastered the craft. And as if that wasn't incentive enough, Gloria revealed that any extra hours put in would be rewarded with half pay, but stressed that it would be unwise for the recruits to push their bodies too far. Ezra was used to working up to eleven hours a day at the diner, up to six days a week, and then paying out of pocket to learn how to wrestle in Minneapolis, and having very little time for anything else after he went to bed or money for much more than fuel! Twenty-five hours a week would be easy!!
Today was mostly an induction, it seemed. Ezra was a little keen to get started right away, but under the salary he was earning as part of his developmental contract, he wasn't about to argue. He met many people! Personal trainers, in-ring technicians, former wrestlers who were now working behind the scenes... he would never remember their names! But they were all there to assist him! He would not be paying his weight in gold for their expertise! They were there for him! To get him in the best shape of his life, to teach him how to wrestle safely and effectively, and of course, how to cut promos and engage with the fans and the crowds!! Jack struggled to keep up, he noticed. The language barrier was still too great, but Gloria was aware of this and introduced him to a specialist teacher that worked in the building to help international recruits master the English language. It was overwhelming in the end. KADA was... perfect! This was a company that valued its employees, that was for sure! Gus fired Ezra from his minimum wage position for refusing to train his replacement at the diner without compensation - after Ezra had already given notice. KADA was paying him a decent wage to learn. To challenge himself. To do what he always wanted and to do it safely and professionally. This was definitely the best day of his life!!
Thursday, April 18th
"Hey, so are you sure you're okay with this tonight?" Ezra asked for the seventeenth time in the past two days.
"This is the last time I'm gonna tell you that you're welcome to bring friends home from the performance centre," Sean glowered at him, running out of patience. He was attempting to read a book, cuddled up with the enormous Great Dane - the aptly named Jabba the Mutt. "Next time you bring it up, I'm gonna change my mind just so you can't ask me again. You're keeping the house in great shape, you're taking great care of the animals, yes you can watch KADA on the television, no I'm not sick of you and Beau yet and you can, I repeat, you can have guests. Go and bug Oliver next time."
"Aww. I'm sorry," Ezra bit his lip and scratched his arm with his hand.
Sean's expression relaxed, and he slipped a bookmark between the pages and sat up. While Sean did indeed repeatedly reassure Ezra that he was happy to have him around, it was hard not to feel like he was intruding. Like he was a burden and a pain. Sean clearly enjoyed a secluded private life - evidenced by his home being a hidden paradise, his past being a total mystery and his preference for dodging the paparazzi and interviews. Being here was complicating things - Ezra was sure of it.
"How's your body doing? You're looking a bit wobbly on your feet," Sean changed the subject and smiled, rubbing the gigantic puppy's ears as it snoozed on his lap.
"I'm not nearly as fit as I thought I was!" Ezra sat down on the couch near him and grimaced at the ache in his legs and arms. "I'm used to training for one match every week or two! Gloria's making sure I can do four or five matches in as many days! It's a big change!"
"Yeah," Sean mumbled, his left eye twitching as wheels spun in his head. "You certainly lucked out getting here so quickly when you were only working one match a week in... Litchfield, right?"
"I got lucky," Ezra shrugged, the lie tasting bad in his mouth. "I'd go to Minneapolis sometimes! The lady was there to scout Jack, and he's such an amazing worker that she gave me a tryout as well."
That was the story he and Beau settled on. Beau didn't understand why other wrestlers might be jealous or resentful of his boyfriend's lucky break, but he nonetheless kept it to himself. It wasn't a ridiculous lie, though. That was what made it convincing. It was Jack's tryout match, and Ezra did occasionally swing by MCW to perform with their roster.
"Yes, you were fortunate, but you don't give yourself enough credit!" Sean reassured him, taking off his blocky glasses to clean the lenses on the hem of his blue t-shirt. "I saw that match on Youtube, and I've seen you training for myself when Ollie and I go by the performance centre for a workout. You'll be ready for the main roster in no time!"
"I'm gonna kick Lansilva's asses!" Ezra declared, knowing it would get a grin out of Sean. It did. He hated them for some reason.
"How are you doing, Ezra?" Sean asked, putting his glasses back on and shifting so that their bodies were pointing towards each other. "Being away from home?"
"It sucks," Ezra sighed, looking down at Jabba's giant head and leaning forward to stroke him along the nose. "I miss my friends, my brother and my sister so much! I don't even think it's real when I wake up here. I still want to swing by and pick Eamonn up and take him to wrestling school. I love it here, golly I do, but I left so much behind."
"I do understand that," Sean gave a look of sympathy and understanding. "Everyone I knew was in Oklahoma before I finally got the call to come to Knoxville. Then I made friends, got the call-up to the main roster and Oliver dropped me on my ass. It'll work itself out, Ezra. It just needs some time."
Yeah, time, Ezra thought sullenly. I don't know if I have time. I don't know when the cancer will return again, but it will. It always does. And what happens this time? Eamonn's run out of spare kidneys. If I get taken out of action to battle cancer again, I might not make it back. I might not make it at all. Time is... not something I can put my faith in.
"And you brought Beau with you, too!" Sean added, trying to cheer him up. "He adores you."
"Yeah, he's kind of special, hey?" Ezra couldn't be miserable thinking about that cutie-pie over there in the kitchen, his back to them and his cute bum on display. "He's gonna start studying soon. I can't take him with me everywhere. Which is a shame!"
"Has he applied for college?" Sean asked quietly, and Ezra mentally cursed himself.
Beau had applied for colleges indeed, all of them in Minneapolis. He'd been accepted, too. Ezra found those papers after he'd won a tryout match in Boise. Beau pretended that they ever got back to him, but Ezra knew the truth. The other boy was putting his future on hold to support Ezra's, but Ezra couldn't expect that to happen indefinitely.
"Hey, Beau!" Ezra shouted out, hoping to get the heat off his near-confession. "You're gay."
"Am I? Fuck. I hope nobody tells my boyfriend," Beau replied with a smirk over his shoulder, being a terrific tenant and washing up the dishes so Sean didn't have to.
"I've only had a long-term relationship with another wrestler since KADA picked me up," Sean either got the hint or Ezra succeeded in making him forget. "I won't pretend I understand what it's like to think about leaving Beau for most of the week when you do get that call."
"Did you have any boyfriends before KADA?" Ezra took that segue as an opportunity to scan for information about Sean's past.
"I've had a few. None of them had much longevity, but it wasn't all their fault. I was a bit wild back then!"
Ezra laughed out loud, then he asked a question. "So, is homosexuality okay in Cherokee culture?"
Sean shrugged and gave a vague answer, as he always did. "Attitudes vary from person to person, of course. My friends and family were all very accepting."
He noticed it again. Sean spoke of his family and friends in the past tense. Whenever he mentioned his tribe, he spoke of them as though he were no longer a part of them, but that couldn't be true. While Ezra wasn't very educated on Cherokee traditions and beliefs, what he observed of Sean in the short time they'd been living together convinced him that he was keeping that part of himself very much alive. Every day he was at the house, the young man would walk through the woods down the back of the property to the river. There were knives, beads, carvings, feathers and other trinkets on shelves and tables around the house, and paintings and photographs decorated the big room too. In fact, it looked a lot more Sean's house than Oliver's. The cheerful black man seemed to take a very submissive role in their relationship. He didn't have the same love for the horde of animals that lived with them, and nearly all of his treasured belongings were in the bedroom.
"Also, I didn't know Fox wasn't your real last name!" Ezra blurted out, and Sean raised an eyebrow. "The mail! When I brought in your mail, I saw."
"It is now," Sean replied softly, his eyes looking towards the shelf with framed photos perched on it. "For all but bills and taxes. Feel free to leave those for the snails!"
He gave a half-smile and reached for his book again. If he wanted to explain why, he would have, Ezra told himself. He liked Sean! But he was a bit... prickly to be around sometimes. He was super vigilant about everything being clean and Ezra wondered if he had OCD, the way he was vacuuming and wiping things down multiple times a day. He was always barefoot inside and out, even when it was cold, and he seemed to have a million pairs of the same denim shorts. When it was Ezra's turn to do the laundry he was so surprised to see nearly half the load was just shorts! Aware that Sean was discreetly telling Ezra the conversation was over, he went and bugged Beau instead.
"Beaubear, when Jack's here, please be nice to him," he begged once again, and Beau's frustrated sucking of his teeth answered for him. "He's really cool! And he paid for Eamonn to wrestle! Please?"
"I'm not gonna be a dickhead to your second boyfriend," Beau replied testily, a little jealous by how close Ezra and Jack had become so quickly.
"He's not my second boyfriend! He's my friend!" Ezra reminded him. "We'd never work, anyway. He's a straight guy and he's married, and I like you too much to even think about doing that to you."
"Careful. His wife's such a fucking mole that she's probably gonna turn him gay," Beau sneered, and the two of them started laughing together. That seemed to clear the tension. "Don't worry, okay? It's her I have a problem with. Luckily I won't be tempted tonight to shove her own wig down her throat."
When the sun began to set and cast beautiful long shadows along the pretty green yard, Oliver finally got home. He liked to spend a lot of time with his family when he had the chance. His mother treated him like he was six and even brought him breakfast in bed, Sean said, but Ezra thought that was so cute, and he wondered what it would be like to be so close with his mother. He'd always wanted Glennys to treat him like she genuinely cared about him, but most of the favours she did for him were just laying down groundwork so she could use them to guilt him into repaying her tenfold. Sean ordered four big pizzas - a Hawaiian, a vegetarian, a Meatlovers and a Margarita. Everyone in the wrestling business worked so hard. They killed themselves in the gym and followed a strict diet, so when Ezra suggested that they all take the same cheat meal together, nobody was upset about it. Not the recruits and not even Oliver, who sent back coffees if they had full-cream milk in them. Pizza and some alcoholic beverages were in order - although Ezra and Beau were too young to legally drink. Beau intended to break that rule, but Ezra was happy enough with juice and maybe half a glass of beer, respecting the kidney his brother gave him.
To Ezra's joy, people began arriving before the pizza did, at seven thirty as promised! Ava and Louise, always together, were the first to come! Naturally, they'd already crossed paths with Oliver during their incredibly long international career in the independent promotions. They weren't nearly as starstruck as Ezra had been, and not for the first time, he wondered why that was. Why they seemed to be totally at ease with everyone, and Ezra struggled. Gloria was next, and when she cut loose, she didn't mess around with it! She scooped up Sean in her arms, kissed him on both cheeks and crushed him with her hug! Jack, though, arrived alone! Without Sarah!
"Jack!" Ezra bolted out the front door to meet him when the car pulled up, and the tall Canadian man always greeted him with enthusiasm.
"Salut, mon ami!" Jack gave him the friendly fist bump on his way out, dressed in a trendy leather jacket and jeans with a dozen tears in them. He always said that on greeting. It meant hello my friend! A few thousand more words of French and Ezra would be able to talk to Jack the way he wished he could.
"How is Sarah?" Ezra asked, doing his best to sound like he cared.
He did his best to see the good in people, even if they were deeply flawed. Sarah was someone he struggled to appreciate. She was malicious and rude. He did pity her though - KADA offered Jack a contract, but not Sarah. With the language classes offered at the performance centre, Jack was being paid to learn English under his contract. No longer would he need her to translate, and apparently she made such a poor impression with Michelle Peterson in Boise that they passed her over and signed her husband instead. She must have been devastated because she went so far out of her way to discredit Ezra as a potential KADA employee only to have karma bite her back.
Jack responded with a knowing grin and a nod as Ezra welcomed him inside.
The eight of them all got along so well! It was the easiest-going group of people Ezra had ever been a part of. Even at school, his friends were busy picking on each other for sport. His cousins and other extended family disliked him on principle because Glennys went out of her way to cut everybody off. The Litchfield wrestling crew were close-knit and respectful, but they were hardly all friends. These guys and girls though were all so supportive of each other. Even Beau. When Beau came to realise that Jack wasn't participating in the conversation because he wasn't comfortable speaking broken English, he took it upon himself to spark up a conversation in French instead. Beau's French was a different dialect and it wasn't exactly fluent, but being included seemed to mean the world to Jack, and the two chatted and laughed together for much of the evening in their shared language. I guess Jack won him over, Ezra thought happily.
Gloria had a lot of stories to tell! About the old days of KADA, mostly. Sean and Oliver had already heard them all, no doubt, but Ezra hung on to her every word. To hear first-hand about backstage politics, practical jokes and all the people he grew up watching on television. When she and Michelle were getting too big for their boots during their main event feud, some of the other girls taught them a lesson by stealing all their clothes from the locker room and made them walk naked through the backstage area - hilarious until they collided with some journalists!! Oliver told a story about how they cut Lance Lovecraft's clothes up to teach him a lesson - but Gloria didn't seem impressed about that. Ezra wasn't sure where the line was between good-natured jokes and bullying, but he was sure he would keep his head down and stay out of those politics.
"You're better off staying out of it all," Gloria warned him privately when she helped him uncork a particularly stubborn bottle of Chardonnay. "Be humble, be respectful, but don't take any of their shit."
"I didn't know it was so cliquey," Ezra lamented, a little let down by the locker room discussion as he poured a quarter glass of the bubbly stuff. "How am I supposed to stay out of it when Sean's letting me stay with him?"
"You can be Sean's friend without picking sides," she advised him, filling her own glass almost up to the brim. "I think the whole thing is getting ridiculous, between you and me. Wrestling without solidarity makes everything harder than it needs to be. It's all just a big spat between KADA's two queens."
"Queens? Like, Sean and Lance?" Ezra smirked, and she nodded, keeping an eye on the other people in the room.
"It's a load of bull," she snorted, taking a big swig from her drink. "There are two sides to the story, of course. Sean, I love him to death, but he has trouble seeing past his own nose. He's not a malicious person. He just... he went through hell to get to KADA, you know? He lost so much. Being both a small-statured guy and a person of colour didn't help. But bless his heart, he's the hardest working guy I know. The problem is that he thinks everyone should have to suffer and work as hard as he did. Lance is a terrific guy and a very hard worker, but he didn't exactly pay his dues, and that's why the two of them are so angry at each other. As I understand it, half the locker room backs Sean's idea of what it means to be a wrestler, and the other half stands with Lance. So honey, fast-tracking you to the performance centre was my pleasure, but it's best you keep that to yourself, okay? Especially if you're staying here for now."
"After his tirades about Lance Lovecraft, I thought the same thing!!" Ezra whispered, almost afraid of that truth getting out. She gave a half-nod and playfully scratched him around his ear. Ezra took a sip of the bubbly, and he coughed and spluttered, screwing up his face while Gloria laughed at him. "That is vile!! How do you drink that??"
"Like a woman!" She chugged the rest of her glass in an effort to unsettle him and wiped her mouth when she finished.
"I hope you're not too drunk to come into work tomorrow!!" He chastised her, and the two of them started laughing together.
"That's rich," Gloria, the trainer and the professional, wiggled her eyebrows as she rejoined the others.
"Ez! Ezzyyy!" Beau, definitely drunk off his face, beckoned him over. "Ezra. Get your fine ass over here."
"Aren't you a peach when you're full up on beer?" Ezra teased him and smooched him on the cheek. "What's up, buttercup?"
"You like that geeky superhero stuff, don't you?" Beau slurred, holding Jack's phone while the Canadian looked a little overwhelmed. "Look! Jack cosplays!"
"Ooh! Do you mind if I have a look?" Ezra asked him, and Jack nodded and gave a wave of complicity. "Oh my gosh!!"
He wasn't quite ready for the photos on Jack's cosplay Instagram! Dozens and dozens! The detail was insane with some of his outfits! The Flash! Spiderman! Ryu, Ken and Zangief from Street Fighter! He even wore an incredibly slutty genderswapped Catwoman costume! The things you find out about a guy, Ezra thought, unable to look away. I am following the heck out of this Insta!! How much time did he spend on each costume? Ezra paused when he saw a particularly gorgeous photo. Jack was dressed up as Ash Ketchum from the Pokemon anime series, and in his arms, cuddled up to his shoulder, was a young girl in a Pikachu onesie! She looked to be no more than one year old!
"Who is that?" Ezra asked, pointing the phone at his friend.
"Ooh. Amélie. My daughter," he explained, and Ezra's eyes bulged.
"Your daughter? You have a daughter??" He spluttered, and Beau seemed just as surprised. "You?"
"Yes," Jack smiled warmly, taking his phone back off the youngster. "My Amélie."
"You never told me!" Ezra wasn't offended exactly, as Jack was a man of few words, but he couldn't believe he never knew! "How old is she? Can I meet her??"
Jack replied in his native language, and Beau so sweetly translated for him. Gosh, it was amazing how quickly they hit it off after things ended so sourly last time, and Ezra was proud of his man for not holding a grudge. Maybe KADA could even hire Beau short-term to liaise between Jack and management!
"He might bring her by the performance centre one day, but Sarah's not taking the rejection well, so you should probably not see each other." Beau capped it off with a satisfied, bitchy little smirk that Jack didn't see. Heh.
When midnight loomed, everyone decided they should leave. After all, it wasn't a weekend! Nearly everyone had stuff to do tomorrow! Gloria and the four recruits would be busting their bums in the performance centre and Oliver would be flying out to Oregon with Sean for four days. Beau would have a lot of hard work recovering from his hangover. Ezra could predict it now. The lad never knew when to stop with the alcohol.
"Thanks so much for having us over!" Ava, a little tipsy on the bubbly she favoured, swung her arms around Ezra's neck and kissed him on the cheek. "Next time, you're all going to come and play at our place!"
"Thank Sean and Oliver!" Ezra told her, so happy he was making friends and meeting the people who inspired him to wrestle in the first place.
"Aye, come over any time," Oliver was having a blast. He was a total extrovert. "Especially if you're gonna bring some booze!"
Jack was the first to drive off. He didn't drink alcohol, it seemed. Ezra was glad someone else didn't need to get drunk or smoke green to have a good time. His opinion of his new friend had changed slightly now that he knew Jack had a family with Sarah. The Canadian seemed to be content wrestling in the independent circuit, working on his cosplay hobby and speaking only French, but the birth of Amélie forced him to exceed his comfort zone and provide for her as much as he could. It made sense now - why Sarah was so intent on pushing him to KADA's doorstep and why he was only now learning English.
Ava and Louise were the next to leave, Louise being the mostly sober designated driver, and Gloria went the same way she arrived - in a cab, knowing she would be drinking a lot. She was almost forty, and she still lived like a teenager! I suppose this is what maturity is, Ezra thought as she stumbled into the cab's back seat. Not giving up the loose and fun-loving parts of yourself, but knowing when it's appropriate to do so, and making allowances. When he looked at Beau, who was starting to go pale and green and wobbly, he wondered if his boyfriend would ever grow up.
"Thank you so much for letting me do this!" Ezra beamed to Oliver as the two of them collected empty and half-empty bottles and slipped them into the recycle bin.
"Thank me nothin'. I had a great time!" Oliver grinned at him. "It's been a while since we had so many people over, or hung out with a group. It's a great bunch of rookies Gloria's got. Sounds like they're what you needed to get over the leaving home blues."
"Yes!!" Ezra's body shook on the spot. "I love all of them! They're so good to me! Nobody makes fun of me for being little or... a bit weird. I love the performance centre! And I love the wrestlers! And I love you!!"
"Haha! I love you too, little buddy!" Oliver yawned, covering his mouth with his hand as he put all the remaining pizza slices in one box and slipped it into the fridge. Beau could have those tomorrow to help his incoming hangover. "Really, man. We've been so flat out for the last few months that we don't really socialise, and I've been getting a bit worn down. Having you and Beau here is a good thing, man. So thanks for having this get together when we were home. It's great to cut loose!"
"How do you handle being away from everything so much?" The younger boy asked, thinking back to his family. "Does it get easier?"
"You miss a lot," Oliver admittedly, resting a hand on his shoulder and steering him towards the bedrooms. "Travelling and performing and training in one long cycle... it gets easier, man, but it never gets easy, you know? My niece is gonna be born during our South American tour. I don't always get to do Christmases and birthdays and graduations. It's rough but you gotta be prepared for that. Sure you get better at dealing with it, but I won't tell you it's an easy life. It's the most rewarding experience of your life, but it fucking sucks at the same time."
"My dad always said that nothing in life worth having comes easy," Ezra mumbled, his face falling. Whenever Ezra wanted to give up with the aggressive chemotherapy and operations, Jakub would tell him that. Don't give up. Never give up.
"Pretty wise words!" Oliver smiled as he reached his bedroom door and went inside. "He must've been a great guy, because he did a great job with you, little buddy. Goodnight, fam. Make sure Beau keeps the noise down, aye?"
Dad did do a great job, Ezra thought numbly. He did the best he could. He sold his house and spent most of his inheritance on me to keep me going. Is it any wonder he got depressed and drank his problems away? I don't blame him. I never have and I never could. I just miss him. He'd be so proud of me. He'd be so proud of Eamonn for making me shoot for the stars. He'd make sure Celeste was the happiest little girl in the world. Blast it all. But the Lord knows what he's doing. I'm sure of it.
"Oh, Beau," Ezra sighed when he saw his boyfriend still chugging down a bottle of beer and looking awfully unwell on their bed. "Give it a rest, hey? You'll make yourself sick. It's not like you'll never drink a beer again."
"No. I'm having fun," Beau slurred defiantly, and Ezra rolled his eyes.
"Then you can have fun by yourself. I need to sleep," Ezra wearily declared, picking up a pillow and turning away.
"What's your problem?" Beau snapped at him, apparently hurt by his boyfriend's rejection of him.
"You're not a nice person when you've drunk this much," Ezra muttered, grabbing his pyjamas from the closet. "And I have to work tomorrow."
"So a fuck's out of the question?" Beau didn't even look up at him this time. The question was rhetorical - Ezra didn't like to get intimate when his boyfriend was intoxicated.
"Drink water, okay? I'll bring you some tea in the morning," Ezra told him, ignoring the unsolicited attitude he was getting.
Beau turned on his side away from Ezra, who shrugged and closed the door behind him. He couldn't help but smirk. The belligerent Belgian would make these sulky demands now and totally forget about them by morning. He'd be miserable if Ezra didn't bring him a hot drink! Well, serves him right!
"Oh, blast it!!" Ezra cursed to himself and hung his head when he saw the guest in the spare bed. "Don't you have anywhere else to be??"
Kevin Bacon didn't reply. He lazily opened up one eye and grunted, then went back to his snooze. Ezra laughed at the situation. The pig was lying diagonally across the double bed and managed to take up all the space there! Ezra was small, but he wasn't going to fit in the corner!
"Can you move just a bit?" Ezra pleaded as though the pig understood - or cared! "Please?"
He didn't mind sleeping with the animals. The cats liked to sneak in if the boys left the bedroom door open and snooze on the bed with their guests. Having never had a pet before, Ezra rather liked it! He'd even sleep with Kevin if he had to! But not like this! He tried to shove Kevin to a vertical position, but he didn't budge. He only whined. Blast it! Devil pig. Giving up, Ezra couldn't help put pet Kevin along the snout. Douchebag or not, he was a sweet-natured thing, and Ezra had quickly grown very fond of him - even if Beau never did. The couch it is! Ezra took the pillow with him and snatched one of the rugs off the back of the couch cushions, then he snuggled up in the corner and shut his eyes. He was just drifting off when a big paw stood right on his bladder, causing a grunt of shock from him, and J.K. Growling the Dalmation rested her head on his belly. He giggled and lazily scratched her ears as he went to sleep.
In the morning, Ezra discovered a new video uploaded to Sean's Instagram! The Cherokee boy was giggling quietly and uncontrollably as he tried to narrate the scene in front of his camera. The blond boy was gently snoring on the couch with J.K. Growling on his legs, Vera Fang the Labrador snuggled up next to him and both Cindy Clawford and Puma Thurman on his chest.
Tuesday, April 23rd
"Da da, da da, DA DA, da da! DAAA DAA DA DA! Dada da da da! DA DA--"
"I think we can do without the tone-deaf humming, Ezra," Louise shouted over him, and he immediately stopped, covering his mouth with his hand.
Ezra had been so caught up in his run on the treadmill to the beats Eamonn sent him that he totally forgot over a dozen people shared the workout room with him. Most of them were looking at him in bewilderment! Ahhck! Dang it. It's not my fault Eamonn's too good at what he does!! He slowed down to a brisk walk, sweat trickling from his forehead and armpits, the tank top damp all over. Jack was a more weights based athlete, able to deadlift five hundred pounds! And it showed! He had some of the most delightfully pronounced muscles Ezra had ever seen! Those abs could dice vegetables, and those biceps were too big for Ezra to fit even both hands around! And he was still so young! He might only ever get bigger! Look out Big Bad Jimmy, because Jack Lièvremont is coming for your pelt!!
Ezra liked to do some weights too. He could lift more than most people his size and build, he didn't doubt that, but next to the other three he felt... puny! Ava and Louise had a set of muscles on them as well and Gloria? Well, she was the poster child for powerful physiques. They could all lift and carry other people with little effort, but it wasn't so easy for Ezra. He would love to pick up another man and hold them high above his head like the bigger guys did, but the Lord didn't bless him with those talents. Michelle and Gloria were right - he was a high flyer, as much as he'd prefer to use power in his wrestling. It wasn't so bad! He could do things other people couldn't! Jack would never be able to reliably stick springboards off the ropes! He was fit enough, but he did not train in agility! A diverse roster is a healthy roster, after all! Gloria said that a lot. That everyone brings something different to the table and that's what makes the sport so intense! Michelle liked that Ezra was so small. It gave him a small niche entirely his own, especially since Sean had transitioned from a high-flying fan favourite into a top tier technician.
"Ezra," one of the administration girls came to collect him while he was busy thinking his private thoughts. "Phone call for you."
"Oh!!" He squeaked excitedly and hopped off the treadmill a sweaty mess, leaving his towel on the arm so others would know it was still in use. Whether or not he used it again wasn't relevant - but letting someone use a sweat-covered machine was just gross.
"Hallow!! This is Ezra!" He panted into the phone in the other room, wiping his face and hair with the hem of his shirt.
"Ezra Luczynski? Is this a bad time?" A woman with a sickly sweet voice and a heavy southern accent replied to him.
"Nope! Now is good! Just hard at work!" He answered with pride. Nobody put in a hundred million billion per cent like he did!
"Well, I am so terrifically pleased to hear that, Mr Luczynski! It seems Ms Peterson struck oil when she signed you so quickly. Anyway, my name is Margaret Bloom."
"Oh!!" Margaret Bloom?? Like, Jerry Bloom and Margaret Bloom?? The co-owner of the whole company?? Ahhh!!! "Hello! Hi! Sorry! M-m-my pleasure Mrs Bloom! How can I help?"
"You don't need to be nervous, darlin', I don't bite!" Margaret tittered, and Ezra felt more at ease. "I don't want to interrupt, so I'll be brief. I need you to come to this Friday's show in Seattle. Can you do this for me, Mr Luczynski?"
"Oh! What? Me? What!! Uhh! Ahh-- yes! Yes I can! Why?" Ezra began to panic, slicking back his wet hair with his hand.
"It sounds like you need to take a breath," she commented coolly, and Ezra mentally slapped himself. Beau needed to be around whenever Ezra talked business because he got too excited and lost control of himself. Beau kept him grounded. "We'll discuss it more before Friday's show, but I have an offer for some rookie wrestlers, and you're my first choice."
"Ohhhhhh my gosh!!" Ezra's body danced on the spot. "Yes! I'll be there! But... um... well..." He groaned when reality kicked him in the teeth.
"Is there a problem?" She asked him, and he sighed.
"I'm broke right now. Until I get paid, I can't afford the trip."
"We cover basic travel expenses, Mr Luczynski. I suggest you read your contract," she sounded so condescending then, and Ezra's blood ran cold. He felt like he did nothing but make a fool of himself to the big boss! ARGH. "I hope very much to see you. This offer does have an expiration date. Thank you very much for your compliance, Mr Luczynski. I'm sure we'll work very well together. Now, I would speak to Mr Lièvremont, if you would be kind enough to fetch him."
"Oh! Oh! Okay! Ahh... goodbye! And thank you!"
Ezra carefully put the phone down on the table and sprinted off down the hallway.
"Watch it! Slow down!" One of the other wrestlers scolded him as he nearly collided with her.
"Jack Jack! Phone! It's Margaret Bloom!" Ezra babbled when he found the Canadian working on the bench press, his arms bulging and Gloria spotting for him.
"Margaret Bloom?" Gloria frowned and helped Jack put the tremendous weights safely back on the rack.
"Okay," the big man smiled and sauntered to the administration area, his towel around his mighty shoulders.
"This really isn't my business, so you're more than welcome not to tell me, but what did she want with you?" Gloria asked him, pointing at the bench press and indicating that it was his turn for some punishment.
"I have to go to Seattle on Friday because she wants to talk to me about something," Ezra scratched his head, and Gloria eyed him off long enough for him to get nervous. "I'm telling the truth!"
"No, I believe you!" She frowned. "It's unusual, that's all. Marg personally inviting you to a show. She hasn't been involved much since last year."
"Do you have any advice?" Ezra asked her, snatching some wet wipes from the dispenser on the wall and taking the conversation over to the treadmill he left behind. "Like, is she scarier than Michelle?"
"Off the record, you should do whatever she wants," Gloria advised him, her hair tied into a short ponytail behind her head and her brown skin glowing with perspiration. "She'll always pretend to give you a choice, but she doesn't handle getting told no well. She loves getting her way. Michelle loves it when people speak their mind to her. She doesn't bullshit. With Margaret fucking Bloom, you never know."
"Okay," Ezra nodded, scrubbing the treadmill clean. That wasn't exactly what he was hoping to hear! "Thanks."
"Now, honey, you need to do some strength training! Come on."
Gloria nodded with her head to the bench, and Ezra gulped. She was brutal! But she was good! She knew what everybody's limits were and respected them. She pushed as hard as she needed to and no more, always congratulating her recruits for their efforts and never comparing them to each other. He was going to miss her when his probationary period was over and she moved on to other newbies. Right before he was about to begin on a lighter weight than Jack, the young juggernaut returned, and Gloria shifted her focus. Phew! That gave Ezra a couple more seconds to steel himself!
"I go to Seattle Friday," Jack explained to Gloria, whose eyes widened. "Sorry."
"Oh, don't apologise! It's the business!" Gloria slapped him on the shoulder with a knowing smile. "Plans change all the time, so get used to it, boys. You tell those slackers in Seattle that Mama bird's new flock is going to steal their jobs before long!"
Ezra laughed before Gloria forced his muscles to cry.
We're gonna take Jimmy and Kodeine and Diego Silva out!! Bring it on, Seattle!!
Big thanks to anyone who is reading this ❤️ you're a star.