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PROMO: Family Reunion

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(I'd have waited for Sarah's approval on the use of Sean, but the Lockdown card means I want to get this out of the way asap)






The sun is going down over the Egyptian desert and the temperature is dropping from blistering to merely warm. Soon the SWF superstars are going to need to travel back to their hotels for the night before they head off on the road (or the plane) again, but for now there's time for two of them to watch the sunset. One is tall, bulky and dark-skinned; a monolith in ebony and chocolate. The other is shorter, although not far short of six foot, and at 21 appears to have managed a seamless transition from puppy-fat to burgeoning beer-gut.


"You ever been to Africa before?" Sean Davis asks.


"Nah man," Amy Stephens responds, "first time I left the country was when I came to the US last year innit?"


"You serious?" Davis asks, looking down at his friend in surprise.


"Yeah, til Mike started rakin' it in it weren't like we had much cash, ya get me?" Amy replies, "best I could hope for was a day-trip to Skeggy to see the sea. What 'bout you?"


"No," Sean replies, shaking his head, "wanted to, though. Further south though, down on the West coast. Maybe when I'm not wrestling, and I don't have a broken ankle, I'll go check it out. Where my family comes from way back, y'know."


"Huh," Amy snorts, "my family jus' comes from Nottingham, innit. Bet it's gonna be pretty fuckin' boring if I go back there now I've been all these other places." She takes a last look at the rapidly-dipping desert sun and turns to head back; Sean hesitates a second, then follows her.


"You reckon that's why Toxx disappeared?" Davis asks as they tramp over some low dunes, "he just got bored?"


"You knew 'im for months, right?" Amy asks, "did you ever, ever know Mike to be satisfied with anyfing? I betcha that even when he was World Champion there were still things he wanted to improve on, right?" She looks over her shoulder at Davis. "I'm right, innit?"


"Yeah," Davis agrees, remembering several incidents of Toxxic bawling at him and/or Spike Jenkins in the dressing room after a loss that he felt Revolution Zero should not have suffered, "kind of a perfectionist."


"Exactly," Amy says, "I bet he weren't satisfied with Nottingham anymore an' just took off. Maybe he weren't satisfied with his fuckin' family either," she adds bitterly, struggling to keep her feet as the sand shifts beneath her, then angrily shaking Sean's hand off when he reaches out to steady her.


"Hey, he might still show up," Davis says, but Amy just snorts. "Sean mate, he ain't watchin' no more, ya get me? If he was watchin' he'd be back by now and sortin' out Landon, innit?" She kicks an innocent little drift of sand in a sudden fit of temper. "He'd probably do it jus' to prove he's better'n me, know what I mean? Cos it ain't like I've had much success..."


"Come on now," Sean says encouragingly, "Landon's the World Champion, and that means he ain't no pushover! You gave him a damn good fight, better than half the roster could've done! Hey, I've lost to Landon before now, there ain't no shame in it! Goddamn annoying," the Perfect Storm admits, "but that ain't the point. The point is-"


"Nah man, the point is I lost!" Amy snaps, rounding on him, "I couldn't do what Mike did, an' I'm always playin' catch-up, right? So now Landon thinks that he can talk shit about me, and get that twat Myers to come out dressed as me bruvver so's he can beat him up and pretend he's some fuckin' hard-nut, ya get me? Peters might not even give me another match with him-"


"Whoah, hold up," Sean says, raising his hands, "you want another match with him? Girl, he's got your damn blood on the World Title, he gave you a concussion, and you're wanting to go back for more?"


"Too fuckin' right!" Amy flares, "what d'ya want me to do, let him take the piss outta me until he gets tired of it!? Nah man, I want another piece of him!"


“C’mon, what’ll happen next time?” Sean demands angrily, “Landon’s… petty. If you go after him again he’ll probably figure ‘what the hell’ and try and do something serious… not that what he did wasn’t serious,” the Perfect Storm hastily covers, “but like, try and seriously injure you or something!” Seeing that Amy still isn’t coming around to his way of thinking and has her jaw set in a recognisably determined manner Sean casts around for something to change the subject to… and finds it cresting a dune in front of him, over Amy’s shoulder. “Hey, who’s that…?” he asks, wondering if it’s a member of the SWF crew sent to find them.


Amy looks around irritably until her eyes focus on the man now descending towards them. The setting sun is in his eyes and despite his shades the newcomer appears to be having trouble seeing; he casts around for a few seconds, then notices Amy and Sean and seems to orientate on them. It takes a couple of seconds for Amy to recognise him. Granted, she’s never known him with black curtains of hair reaching down to his chin. The last time she saw him his hair had regrown to more or less its usual length after he came home with it all shaved off, and with the sunglasses his face is less recognisable.


That being said, there’s only one person she knows who’d be wearing an England away shirt in the middle of the Egyptian desert on the same day as the SWF is in town.


He almost skis the last few feet down the dune, keeping his balance with deft, minimal adjustments to his posture and use his arms as counterbalances, and comes to a halt in front of her. One hand reaches up and removes the shades, and Amy finds herself staring into the same steel-grey eyes that have been regarding her in mixtures of amusement, concern, annoyance and frustration for all her life.


“Hiya sis,” Michael Stephens says, “how’s it going?”



* * *



"What the fuck d'ya mean, you ain't gonna fight him!?" Amy bursts out in disbelief. Her, Sean and Michael are all sitting in the twin hotel room that Amy and Sean are sharing - twin, not double. Sean and Amy aren't at the level in the SWF where management pays for accommodation so they save money where they can, but even though they're sharing they still have a bed each. What Mike thinks of the whole arrangement isn't clear; he did no more than cock an eyebrow when he saw the room.


"Exactly what I said," he responds with perhaps a touch more irritation in his tone than the question truly warranted. After all, Michael Stephens has been asked this question several times already today... but not by the person most involved. "I take it neither of you were watching the show then?"


"No," Sean rumbles, "we weren't booked and I wasn't interested in seeing Landon run his mouth again."


"Basically, I didn't come back here to start trouble," Mike tells them, "I came back to check on you, Amy. I'm not interested in restarting an issue that ended over a year ago; if Landon wants to, that's his hard luck. To be honest sis," he continues, "I love you, but I've had too many bruises when we were younger from pitching into fights that you started. I'm not getting into the ring on your behalf with a guy who already wants to break my neck. Sorry." He pauses, then grimaces. "And what in the bloody hell made you decide to shack up with Landon?"


"He was cute," Amy sulks.


"He's pathetic!" Mike answers.


"He was funny!"


"He's gormless!"


"He's fantastic in bed!"


"He... say what now?" Mike cuts himself off, then waves his hands desperately as Amy opens her mouth again, "don't elaborate, DON'T ELABORATE!"


"Amen," Davis mutters, roling his eyes.


"Lissen, right," Amy snaps at her brother, "I don't see what fuckin' business it is of yours who I slept with, 'specially since you ain't gonna do nothin' about him now, ya get me? Where the fuck did you get to anyway? How come you just buggered off and din't tell no-one?"


"I... went travelling," Mike says, waving a hand vaguely. "Asia, Indonesia, down to Australia, that sort of thing."


"Yeah, but why?"


Several seconds pass before Michael Stephens answers. He knows why, of course, but it's going to take him a few seconds to put it into words.


"I suppose you could say I had a bit of a breakdown," he says eventually. "It's like... have you been back to Nottingham since you started this?"


"Stopped there one night with the Old Shits on the way over to Germany, innit," Amy says. Mike nods.


"But not during the day, right?" Amy shakes her head, and he continues, "it'll be bizarre, I bet you. See, after Ground Zero last year I came back to Nottingham and tried to live there, and started looking around for a house, all that sort of thing, but... everyone knew me. Everyone. Even if they never watched wrestling, they all knew 'that Stephens kid' had been some big star in the States. You must have seen what the neighbours were like," he says to Amy, "all the kids thought I was some sort of bloody superhero, and the parents either wouldn't speak to me or the ones with kids our age were all telling me how much their children had liked me when we were younger, even though I knew they'd hated my guts.


"And that ain't all. I could walk across the city centre and everyone from the teenage goths on the steps of Council House to the guys selling the Big Issue on Lister Gate knew my name... or a name, anyway," the man formerly known as Toxxic grimaces. "I couldn't go in Virgin or HMV without people pointing at me and whispering; the bar staff in any pub knew me; the bouncers at Rock City knew me; fifteen, sixteen year-olds were going out to Rock City specifically wearing Toxxic T-shirts because they knew I'd be there and then showing them off to me like I was supposed to be fucking impressed! They'd tell me how they were straight-edge too, and most of them weren't even old enough to buy bloody cigarettes, let alone drink!" The former World Champion sighs and takes a pull from the can of Coke in his hand.


"I couldn't hack it. Weird. I went out under the lights for a year, more than a year, with however-many-thousand people howling for my blood and faced down mat technician after high-flyer after musclebound monster, and more often than not I came out on top. I had..." he searches for words for a moment, "separation. No matter what happened, no matter what I did or what happened to me, it was Toxxic out there, not me. It was all a performance, on some level or another. But put me in a city of 300,000 people where a third of them seemed to know who I was - bloody local paper didn't help - and I couldn't handle it. I wasn't Toxxic anymore, I wasn't some pantomime villain everyone could boo and scream at and none of it would touch me. I was just Michael Stephens, trying to come back to the life I had before and finding it had disappeared.


"So I left. I packed my bag, I booked some plane tickets, I wrote the Old Shits a note to tell them that I was going away and leaving a couple of numbers of where I was planning to stay, and I blew town. I didn't want anyone to know beforehand because then everyone would know. Went to Asia, avoided Japan because Jesus Christ, it'd just have been worse there, and just travelled. A few people recognised me," he admits, "but not many. After a while my hair got so long no-one did anymore, not unless they were a rabid fan. And I was able to live as me again."


"Hang on a minute," Amy interrupts, "you said you left mum an' dad a note? They never said anyfing about a bloody note to me, they said they din't know nothin'!"


"Yeah, well," Mike says, grimacing again, "I wrote the note... but I found it at the bottom of my bag two weeks ago. I guess I forgot to put it through the letterbox. Don't worry, I phoned them as soon as I found it. I'd wondered why they hadn't got in touch."


At this point, Sean Davis has the probably-once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing Amy Stephens apparently speechless. The Punk-Rock Princess just gapes at her brother, eyes wide... but then they narrow, and Sean braces himself for the explosion.


It never comes.


"Bloody hell Mike, I knew you were absent-minded," Amy says in a tone of long-suffering despair, "but that takes the fuckin' biscuit! You mean t'say that the Shits were worryin' an' I went to America jus' cos you forgot to put a bloody note through their letterbox? Well, I'm suing you for all me travel expenses, for starters!"


"Oh yeah?" Mike responds, raising an eyebrow, "well if you hadn't started wrestling you'd still be beachball-shaped - at least you've got that figure you always wanted. Well, half of it," he adds, then corrects himself, "no actually more like half again..."


"Fuck you, poof boy," Amy responds in the tone of one who has had so many slanging matches with her brother that nothing can really bother her anymore, "I need a beer. Who's comin' to the bar?"


"As long as you don't start any fights," Mike mutters, getting to his feet, "Sean?"


"Hell, someone needs to keep you two in line," the Perfect Storm rumbles, "I can't wait to see what it's going to be like having to babysit both of your asses..."

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