Sniping unlucky bastards on Halo 3 normally made AJ feel better when he was feeling low. It was the feeling of triumph, like winning a match but in miniature. It was about being better than somebody else. But today, it just wasn't cutting it. He was feeling too crap and it was driving him crazy. But hey, at least nobody knew except Tomko, right? Yeah, he'd been sending Christian a ton of messages, but it wasn't obvious, right?
Well anyway, he still felt like he was going out of his mind. He hadn't been sleeping right, hadn't been eating right, not since Genesis. He'd been lying awake until the small hours of the night worrying about what Christian would say. He'd been so sure Christian would like the idea for the Coalition to join the Alliance – so sure – but Tomko had been so certain that Christian would be pissed that AJ hadn't been able to quit worrying about it.
So that had been Genesis. And then there'd been iMPACT!. And he'd worn one of Tomko's shirts, which was bad. Not because Tomko's shirt wasn't cool or anything – it was – but because all his other shirts had gone missing, and that was worrying because all his shirts had been mixed up with Christian's last time they did laundry and if Tomko's "Christian will be pissed" theory was right, it would be unlikely that they'd ever come back again.
But hey, at least hanging around with Kurt wasn't much different from hanging around with Christian. Except that Christian had better hair. Much better hair.
He ducked his character down behind a convenient chest-high wall and checked his cell phone for the billionth time that evening. He'd texted Christian maybe... God, he'd lost count of how many times he'd texted Christian and left messages on his voicemail and still he'd had nothing back. No texts, no missed calls, nothing.
And he'd seen Christian that night. He and Tomko had been chilling out in the back with a couple of beers and a bowl of peanuts, watching the progress of the "Team 3D versus the X Division" angle with a mixture of amusement and horror – the X Division was AJ's old stomping ground, after all – when it switched over to Christian. Very Not Happy Christian with a band-aid above his eye that was all their fault. Ooh shit.
And he'd knelt down in front of the TV like a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons, just staring, almost helpless. He'd felt... awful. Not like himself at all. Normally he had so much energy, like a puppy on crack, but it was like seeing Christian hurt when it was his fault just made all that energy pour out of him. And he'd hated it. He still did.
Tomko had just thrown a peanut at the back of his head.
"Down in front."
AJ'd just scowled at him. God Tomko could be a dick.
Christian had started yelling by then.
"Look at my face!"
AJ had done one more. He'd reached out and touched the screen, the band-aid on Christian's face. For a second, he'd imagined that he would actually touch fabric and the warm skin beneath, but of course, he didn't. Just plastic and static. But he'd left his hand there, touching the picture of Christian's face and just letting the angry words wash over him.
"You cost me the chance to become the Number One Contender! And God help you both when you have to stand face to face and look the Champ right in the eyes and explain yourselves. You know what? That chance may come sooner than you both may think. It may just come tonight."
The picture had changed. AJ's hand had dropped away.
"We're screwed, aren't we?"
And Tomko had just nodded.
And so of course AJ'd gone to find Christian, but Christian had vanished into thin air and he couldn't find him anywhere. And yeah, an open apology was kinda pathetic, but it was the only thing he'd had. And JB had been there. And he and JB were bros, right? It was all good.
AJ put his cell phone back on the table and picked up the controller again, smiling a little. He'd poured his heart and soul into that apology, he really had.
"I love you, man. I love you."
He'd meant every word.
But his smile faded again, for two reasons. The most pressing of which was Tomko shooting his character in the back of the head, even though they were on the same damn team. AJ growled in the back of his throat. He wasn't concentrating on the game, but that was no reason to shoot him.
"Watch it, Tomko, that was me," he grumbled into the headset.
He didn't sound sorry. Not in the damn slightest. God Tomko could be a dick.
And the other reason was that contract signing that Christian had gate-crashed. It wasn't like him. It had no style, no class, no dignity. Christian played dirty and Christian played the numbers game, but he was cold and he was calculating and he always had a plan.
Except that he hadn't then. AJ could tell. And it had been his fault. And Christian should have come after him and beaten him up, not Booker T, because getting hurt was better than seeing Christian embarrass himself like that when it was all AJ's fault. It made him feel almost sick with guilt. Nauseous.
Getting beaten up by Kevin Nash and Samoa Joe had just been the icing on the cake of the most shit evening he'd had in months.
And Tomko had just shot his character. Again. He was starting to wish they were playing co-op in the same room rather than Tomko piggy-backing somebody else's system in their room, just so he could smack the bastard.
"Dammit, Tomko! Watch what you're doing!" he snapped. Then felt guilty for snapping. But he just felt like crap. Mentally and physically. His sleeping was screwed up and his appetite was all screwed up – hell, Kurt had thrown a Thanksgiving party just that evening and he'd still hardly eaten a thing. And he loved Thanksgiving.
Well. Usually. Today's Thanksgiving celebrations hadn't been so fun.
Christian almost hadn't turned up for the Triple Threat Match. Christian had turned up for the match. AJ had run away. AJ had come back. AJ had won like a freaking idiot. Yeah, smooth move, that was really going to help the situation.
And then the crowning glory of fail and humiliation: getting beaten up in a turkey suit.
Getting beaten up sucks. Getting beaten up while wearing a turkey suit is about a thousand times worse. AJ shuddered at the memory as Tomko shot him a-goddam-gain. People were gonna be chanting "Gobble, gobble" at him for months now. Months.
Worst. Day. Ever.
He didn't feel much like gaming any more. Shooting people and blowing things up had lost its appeal.
"Hey Tomko, I'm signing off. Learn who's on your damn team before playing next time."
He was being sarcastic. AJ could tell. God Tomko could be a dick.
AJ sighed and switched off the console, setting down the controller on the table next to his cell and glanced around the room. Somewhere, in this hotel, in some other room, on some other floor – or maybe even on the same floor – was Christian. And he didn't know where. And even if he did, Christian probably hated him and would slam the door in his face as soon as look at him. And today just sucked.