It wasn’t as if he had never dealt with something like this before.
Leakee bent down to tie his sneaker and when he straightened back up, he realized he was being watched. Blue eyes were focused on him, a pink tongue darting out to absently lick at already-chapped lips.
Leakee expected the other man to look away once he was caught staring, but on the contrary. He seemed to observe even more brazenly now that he knew Leakee was on to him. The dark-haired young man finally huffed in annoyed confusion and put in his earbuds, doing his best to dismiss the creeping sensation of being watched.
He was used to it to an extent, of course. He hadn’t gotten to his impressive size without drawing some attention (mostly from cousins who outdid him by a good hundred pounds or so). It just always made him feel off-balance, like he was a zoo attraction. Less than human, but smarter than a few of the other animals behind bars.
Leakee could still feel those eyes on him as he went through his warm-ups. “Can I help you, man?” He asked abruptly, more than irritated at this point.
He didn’t expect to be met with a shit-eating grin. “Depends. Is there a cell phone number attached to the rest of you?”
Leakee almost snorted with laughter, barely reining it in. “Definitely not.”
“Can’t blame a guy for tryin’, right? The name’s Moxley. Jon Moxley.” Jon didn’t extend a hand or anything like that, obviously not one for regular pleasantries.
“All one word. Le-ah-kee.” Leakee corrected. “You don’t need to know my last name.”
Jon’s eyebrows shot up. “Why?” He asked curiously.
“Mostly because I said so.” Leakee grunted. “But also because it’s not important.”
“Huh. Okay then. Lee-ah…Leakee. Shit, the little hitch is what gets me. I’ll figure it out.” Jon promised, curling his lip with a determined look.
There apparently was never a man more eager to get his ass kicked than Jon Moxley. Leakee understood to a degree, but Moxley’s penchant for showing up to promo attempts with his mouth busted was a thing of odd regularity. It added a touch of sincerity, Leakee thought privately. Jon could easily come off as simply abrasive or cocky without his lip a little split, his face a little bruised.
It was hard to watch sometimes, when his scabs would inevitably crack during his ranting and blood trickled to blot into his stubble (Leakee never could manage to look away, though).
Jonathan Moxley was, frankly, a mess, raised wrong, trained too hard and put away wet. The light-haired man made no bones about his life and career before this endeavor. Not that it would have mattered, a quick Google search outed him easily.
Leakee knew he should ignore him. Tolerate him at best. Definitely shouldn’t hand him a paper towel for his mouth after his promo was done. Shouldn’t smile at the way Jon still was trying to say his name right, the thinner man finally resorting to tacking the hitch in wherever he pleased or calling Leakee ‘Leeloo’.
Leakee wasn’t here to make friends. Leakee was here to make professional business acquaintances that would help him achieve his goals in the long run. As long as none of his ‘classmates’ dug too deeply into his background or tried to get too chummy, he would be fine.
Jon wasn’t even really friendly to him, that was the thing. No more than he was to anyone else. But he didn’t visibly dislike Leakee, at least not as much as he disliked Seth. Jon would snap his teeth at Rollins constantly if the two of them were in the same room. Whether it was an attempt to get into his head or into his pants was a line of reasoning Leakee didn’t devote much thought to.
Moxley would tap fists with Leakee whenever they had a training session together, and Leakee noticed with confusion that Jon only extended him that courtesy. Everyone else got a noncommittal grunt or blank stare, the line between character and reality thinner than most. Jon cultivated an image of haphazard disregard, always in motion, putting in a hundred and ten percent whether he was running heel or face moves.
“Get up!” He would yell regardless of his role, “C’mon, fight me! Is that all you’ve got? Fight me!”
Rollins had lost his temper and belted him hard in the mouth during one such session, storming off furiously when he was told to hit the showers. Jon sat in the middle of the ring, holding his jaw gingerly.
Leakee wiped his feet and climbed between the ropes, his heart in his throat as he stretched out a hand to the other man. “You okay?” He asked brusquely.
Moxley watched him with narrowed eyes, like he was expecting something. Leakee didn’t miss the way Mox’s free hand jerked up slightly when he stepped closer. “M’ fine.” Moxley replied sullenly after a minute, waving off Leakee’s help as he stood.
“Why do you do that, man?” Leakee couldn’t help asking.
“I need it.” Was Jon’s short, unsatisfying answer. The light-haired man squared his shoulders and brought his fists up. “C’mon, your turn. I’m good to go.”
“Yeah?” Leakee moved like he was about to lunge forward and Jon retreated so quickly he fell onto his back, obviously startled. His hands came up even higher, shielding his face from blows that weren’t coming. “Good to go, huh?” Leakee couldn’t resist needling, grabbing one of Mox’s hands and prying it away from his face so he could pull him back to his feet. “Take five, get your head straight.”
“Fuck you Leakee, you don’t-” Jon began angrily, flinching again when Leakee draped an arm around his shoulders. “What the hell are you doin’?”
“You’re gonna’ come with me, we’re gonna’ take a seat on the bench.” Leakee said calmly, “free up the ring.”
“Like hell we are, get--let me go!” Jon snapped, shoving at Leakee’s side as the larger man essentially strong-armed him over to sit down on one of the benches. “What the fuck is your problem, Lea, fuck’s sake, I got work to do-”
“Don’t we all, man. Settle down.” Leakee grunted. “I need you to explain this shit to me.” Moxley froze and Leakee pressed his advantage, “You and this whole…goading thing. What’s up with it?”
“Look, I can’t really--you wouldn’t get it.” Jon muttered sullenly. “It’s hard to feel real when you’re like me, when you’re running through fakey moves. It’s harder to do your best if you’re so used to...man, Leeloo, what does it fuckin’ matter?” He asked abruptly, his fingers in Leakee’s hair.
Leakee knew Mox was just trying to distract him, to deflect him like he’d probably done a thousand times before. Didn’t stop the shudder from tripping down his spine because people did not touch his hair. “It matters because it’s disruptive, Moxley.” Leakee did his best to sound stern. “You’re more focused on getting a reaction out of guys like Seth instead of focusing on your footwork or chops. Y’know, the reason you’re practicing in the first place?”
“Leakee, have you ever been in a real fight?” Moxley’s fingers stilled in his hair. “I mean a real, ‘you-or-the-other-guy’ style fight.”
“No.” Leakee responded curtly.
“Well I have, motherfucker.” Jon removed his hand, a quick, violent jerk that made the larger man start. “Time and again. This fake shit is easier on my body, yeah, but it doesn’t exactly instill a sense of urgency, y’ feel me?”
“That’s irrelevant.” Leakee grumbled. “Figure out another method of getting your work done, Mox. Nobody is gonna’ hire you to work in their promotion if you’re a belligerent, antagonistic fuckwad.”
“Harsh, Leelee.” Moxley chuckled. “You sayin’ my charming personality outside the ring doesn’t make up for that?”
“Fuck no.” Leakee found himself cracking a grin without meaning to, and he knocked his forehead into Jon’s. “Think on it. I know change doesn’t happen overnight.”
Mox refused to meet his eyes, pulling away after a second or two. “Yeah.”
Moxley showed up the next day with a black eye. He looked worse than usual and Leakee made sure to mention it, getting nothing but an irritated grunt in reply. That was the most he, hell, everyone got out of Jon all day. Noises, a head nod. Thumbs-up or down.
Leakee caught up with him after the day’s classes, the slender man propped up against the building and enjoying his solitary cigarette. “Mox?” Leakee addressed him cautiously. Jon exhaled heavily and rolled his head to look at Leakee. His eye looked terrible, still swollen half-shut. “What happened?”
Mox cleared his throat, taking another drag off his cigarette. He paused, then offered the cigarette to Leakee, who declined as always. “I asked for it.” Moxley rasped. His voice normally walked the line between ‘almost okay’ and ‘beginning stages of laryngitis’, but today it ventured into ‘therapeutic screaming session’ levels of gritty.
Leakee winced. “You want a cough drop or something?”
“Ha ha, fuck you.” Jon replied half-heartedly, crushing his cigarette beneath his boot. “I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure, uce? The mouth is one thing, but you’ve never come in with a busted-up eye before.” Maybe this was tipping his hand a little too much. It’s not as if Jon needed to know that Leakee paid attention to his mouth on the regular.
“What, you worried Leeloo?” Moxley teased with a gravelly little chuckle. “Don’t be. I ain’t goin’ to that guy anymore. Too handsy. You wouldn’t believe the amount of guys that wanna’ feel you up after they’ve kicked your ass.” He said as he shrugged, like he was talking about something totally normal.
Leakee abruptly realized breathing was difficult.
“Like, I figured I’d finally gotten the perfect gig. Guy was clean, he’d even wear gloves while he busted my mouth open. Great guy. Last night he just…he went a little further than I expected.” Jon was staring at his boots, scuffing the ground over and over. “I normally don’t lose my cool.”
“Calm down, he didn’t get my pants off if that’s what you’re gonna’ ask.” Moxley scoffed. “Not for lack of tryin’, but he shoulda’ checked his knots before he decided on that shitty course of action.”
“I wasn’t going to ask that.” He had absolutely been about to ask that. “I was going to ask if you killed the guy.” Leakee swallowed hard when Mox gave a ragged bark of laughter.
“You’d believe me if I said I did! That’s why I like you, Lake.” Jon grinned. “No bullshit.”
“I wish you’d stop turning my name into a crime scene.” Leakee commented dryly. “I’m Lake now?”
“I dunno’, how do you feel about being called Juh-awn-uh?” Leakee mocked, receiving a set of knuckles grazing the side of his head in response. “Could call you Mucks if you’d prefer.”
“I take back every nice thing I’ve ever said about you, Leeloo.”
“Yeah, reclaim those four to six words.”
Despite his proclamation that he would be alright, Jon only seemed to get worse as his face healed. He would scratch at his neck and bite his lower lip until it was bruised from the pressure. He picked at shaving nicks until they bled and Leakee knew he wasn’t imagining the relief in Mox’s eyes when Seth swung at him again. Without provocation this time, but Rollins had never been that even-tempered.
Mox didn’t fight back and that just seemed to piss Seth off even more. Leakee felt guilty for allowing him to get a few extra shots in before dragging him off of Jon and sending him packing.
I need this.
Jon seemed almost giddy, running his fingers over the torn skin of his bottom lip and grinning so hard he ended up pulling the split even wider. He rolled to his feet and all but threw himself at Rose (or Kruger or whatever he was calling himself now), laughing hysterically.
Adam floundered under the assault, his hands flailing wildly as Mox caught him in a tight headlock and then began cranking his head to the side. The whole time Jon was laughing that crazed laugh, the noise screeching across Leakee’s senses. Something was wrong, something was very wrong.
Leakee shouted Bo’s name and then gestured at Adam, the younger man nodding in understanding after a second or two. Leakee got back into the ring and worked on prying Jon’s arm off of Rose’s neck. “Moxley.” He grunted, trying his best to keep his voice calm. “You need to let Adam go.”
Jon’s raw laughter petered out into snickering, tears starting to make their way down his face. “O-Okay.” He hiccupped, his grip sluggishly loosening. “Okay.”
“That’s it, nice and easy.” Leakee murmured, easing Rose out from beneath Jon’s arm. Dallas hauled Rose to his feet and scooted him back out of the ring, out of harm’s way.
Jon was sniffling at this point, struggling with Leakee when the dark-haired man held him tightly. “Lea-”
“Quiet.” Leakee said sternly, and he felt Jon go limp in his arms. Then a little gentler, “Quiet. I’m sure Dream is gonna’ want to talk to you. Pull yourself together, Jon.”
Moxley’s fingers dug into his back hard, the light-haired man clinging to him. “Fuck, Leakee, no. I was s’posed t’ be okay.” He blubbered, burying his face in Leakee’s shirt. “I was s’posed t’ be okay…”
Jon emerged from the meeting with Dream subdued, a neon yellow Band-Aid slapped on his chin. Leakee had faith that Dusty, Regal or a combination of the two had managed to talk some sense into his thick skull, so he didn’t bother trying to find Mox before he left.
But Moxley didn’t show up the next day. Or the day after that.
Concern hounded Leakee until he sought out Dusty, doing his best to be respectful while he essentially demanded to know what The Dream had said to the other man. “That’s between me and him, Baby Reigns.” Dusty answered calmly over a mountain of paperwork and barbecue sauce-stained napkins. “I told Gingersnap to work on himself, and not to come back until he could promise me no more slip-ups.”
Leakee's fists clenched at his sides. “Mr. Rhodes, what if he doesn’t come back?”
“Then I guess this wasn’t the field for him.” Dusty shrugged. “Hard work and discipline. It’ll be a shame if he doesn’t come back, I know I’ll be disappointed. He’s fun to watch, great on the mic. But he can’t stick around if he’s gonna’ fly off the handle.” Dream waved a hand dismissively. “Plus he’s got a real penchant for gettin’ punched in the mouth.”
“He said…” Leakee hesitated, unsure if this was crossing a confidentiality line. “He said he needed it, because of the other stuff he’s done.”
“’Needed it’, huh?” Dusty leaned back in his seat and fixed Leakee with a Look over his glasses. “What kind of man needs to get punched?”
“He basically said it motivated him, because when…when he got busted open, it was real.” Leakee watched Dusty rub at his scarred forehead and wondered privately whether The Dream had said anything else to Moxley.
Dusty sighed heavily after a minute. “You know where he lives, sweet Baby Reigns?”
Dusty appeared surprised. “Well, seein’ as you’re the first person to inquire after him, I figured you two were close.”
“Not close enough to know his address, Mr. Rhodes.”
“Alright, gimme’ a minute.” The old desktop computer wheezed to life, Dream hen-pecking at the keys until he located the information he sought. Leakee just stood awkwardly in the doorway, listening to Dream mutter under his breath. Then, “Ah, bingo. You got a phone on you, Baby Reigns?”
Leakee ground his teeth at being called Baby Reigns, nodding curtly and taking down the address Dusty read off to him.
“I’ll cover for you today, understand?” Dream said abruptly. “You go get Moxie. Phone call isn’t personal enough.”
“Moxley.” Leakee corrected out of habit.
“He’s got Moxie, Baby Reigns. Don’t sass your elders.” The Dream scolded, pulling his glasses up so they rested on top of his head. “Look.” He continued after a moment. “I ain’t always been the sweet old grandpa figure, Baby Reigns. If I’d known the info you just shared with me, I probably would have said a few things different to that boy.”
“I told him he needed to figure something else out.”
“Well well, locker room leader.” Dream leaned back in his chair, giving Leakee an appraising look. “Jon told me he started the fight with Rollins.”
“The most recent time? No, Tyler--Seth was just having a bad day and slugged him in the teeth. Mox didn’t even fight back.” Leakee remembered Jon’s wild-eyed expression vividly, his unhinged laughter as he wrapped his arm around Rose’s neck like a python. “After Seth hit him it was like a switch flipped, like the dam broke.”
“He was trying to deal with it himself.” Dusty realized. “He’s been so damn twitchy, I saw him picking at his face.”
“He needed it.” Leakee’s heart sank. “It had been a week. Longer than that.”
“Go get him.” The Dream’s tone brooked no argument, not that Leakee would have argued. He was already halfway out the door.
Jon wasn’t home, but his roommate sure as hell was. Leakee could see why they had taken up together, he snapped and growled like a wild animal. “The hell are you? The fuck do you want?” The young man asked through the gap in the door, baring his teeth.
“Leakee.” He paused, searching for the right words. “I’m looking for Jonathan Moxley.”
The guy’s face softened the barest bit. “Who sent you?”
“The American goddamn Dream.” Leakee answered wryly. “Is he here or not?”
“Mox didn’t come in last night.” The guy confessed. The door closed briefly, then reopened without the chain on. “He ain’t gone to class?”
“Would I be here if he was at FCW?”
“Alright listen cockmunch, don’t get rude with me.” The guy bristled. “Name’s Callihan. You an’ Mox buddies or somethin’?”
“Class. Mates.” Leakee snarled, inches from grabbing Callihan around the neck and shaking Jon’s location out of him. “Do you know where he is or not?”
“I may.” Callihan leaned casually against the doorjamb.
“Well?!” Leakee asked impatiently. “Where?”
Callihan raised a finger to point over Leakee’s shoulder right as someone’s hand came down on it like a sack of bricks. Leakee whirled around, his fist already cocked back. “Wait! Wait, Jesus fuckin’ Christ Leakee, don’t kick my ass.” Jon pleaded, flinching away. His knuckles were bloodied and his face looked like he’d taken a good old-fashioned pummeling.
“Jon.” Leakee had never been simultaneously relieved and horrified in his life. “What the hell happened?”
“I see you’ve met Sami.” Mox said instead of answering the question, slipping past the two men to get into his apartment.
Leakee stormed after him, daring Callihan with his eyes to try and do something about it. “Jon, what the fuck?”
“Dream told me if I couldn’t keep it together I couldn’t come back. Well obviously I can’t keep it together.” Mox licked his bleeding knuckles, only harassing the broken skin further. “I could have really hurt Rose, man.”
“Oo.” Callihan breathed from the doorway, snickering, “You’re in trouble now, man.”
Leakee shot him another look and Sami quickly shut his mouth. “Mox, Dream wants you to come back. He didn’t know, okay? Why did you lie to him about who started the fight?”
“Why the hell would I tell him it was Rollins?” Jon asked, grimacing in pain as he put a bag of frozen french fries against his swollen cheek. “Seth’s the future, man. I’m not anything special like him. I’m not gonna’ get him in trouble.”
“Dream wants you to come back.” Leakee repeated.
“Rollins didn’t make me try to pop Rose’s head off.” Jon said sullenly. “That was all me, man.”
“Dream says you’re great on the mic.”
That got Mox’s attention, the eye that wasn’t swollen shut widening in disbelief. “He…really?”
“He said you were fun to watch.”
“Oh damn.” Moxley sat down in a kitchen chair that looked like it was held together with duct tape, putting his head into his hands. “Dream, fuck.”
“Jon, if you come talk with him-”
“I want to. Lea, this is all I ever wanted to do with my life.” Jon interrupted him despondently. “I just…he told me to get lost until I could figure myself out.”
“I think he might have said something different if he knew it wasn’t your fault.” Leakee cautiously moved forward, placing a hand on Jon’s shoulder. “Come back with me, uce.”
“This is so fuckin’ touching I think I might puke.” Callihan huffed, making a retching noise. “Dammit Mox, just go.”
Moxley dug around in his pocket and fished out a crumpled mess of dollar bills. “I want food. You want food? Order somethin’.” He said, shoving the wad into Sami’s grasp. “There’s at least four hundred bucks. Takeout and rent.”
“Four--Christ, Mox.” Callihan sounded almost distraught. Almost.
“Hey, my face didn’t get this pretty from losing, man.” Jon grunted, chuckling when Callihan flicked the side of his head. “What do you want, Lea? I know a place that makes fuckin’ great egg rolls.”
Dream actually asked Leakee to be present during he and Moxley's meeting, something that Leakee really could have done without. Jon was reduced to a stammering, shaky mess under the penetrating gaze of Dusty, his hands twisting nervously in his lap. It was almost painful to watch him essentially cower in the chair in front of Dream’s desk.
Plus, Leakee really wasn’t a locker room leader. He sure as hell didn’t want to be, at any rate. He had to keep reminding himself that this had nothing to do with him.
“Leakee told me you weren’t at fault for the fight. Why didn’t you say anything, Jon?”
Moxley covered his battered face, mumbling through his fingers, “I been in the business a while, Mr. Rhodes. I know when someone’s being groomed, y’know?” He sighed. “I didn’t wanna’ ruin his chances. Seth’s a great athlete.”
“That doesn’t mean anything if he’s going to lash out at folks because he’s had a bad day.” Dusty said pointedly. “I want to help you though, Gingersnap. What can we do to help you?”
“I’ll be okay. I…I don’t…” Mox paused. “I-I guess what it comes down to is I was so used to everythin’ bein’ for real that…that I really didn’t know how to do shit any other way. S’why I’m so mouthy. Piss a guy off, he loses his cool and gets less methodical, makes mistakes, you live longer. There’s no application for it in this, but it’s a habit.”
“This is good information to have, Snap.” Dream wrote something down on the notepad by his elbow. “I want you all to be the best you can be, do the best you can do, understand?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Dusty sir.” Jon bit his lip.
“Leakee, big guy, do me a favor will you?” Dream asked him, making Leakee straighten up from his spot next to the door.
“What do you need?”
“Keep an eye out.” Was all Dusty said in reply, giving the young man a wink that was so obvious it made Mox snort.
An eye out for what? Leakee wondered later on while he sparred with Husky. Or Bray, or whatever he had decided his name was this week. I’m not a locker room leader, Jesus Christ Rhodes.
Bo whooped and hollered excitedly from the practice ring across the way, having finally mastered a top rope move…more or less. Bray took a second to chuckle at his brother’s enthusiasm. “You ever seen a happier boy, Reigns?” Bray asked conversationally.
“It’s Leakee.” He looked around, hoping that no one else had heard Bray say that. Bray and Bo, being third generation, occasionally took liberties that made Leakee grind his teeth in annoyance.
Husky just laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll get used to the family name someday, Lea.”
“I shouldn’t have to.” Leakee retorted, his mood thoroughly soured. “Look at the opportunities you and Bo have, making your own characters as you go. Some of us aren’t so fortunate.” He tensed his arm on reflex, drawing attention to his tattooed shoulder.
“True enough, as always.” Husky’s eyes narrowed, and he gestured behind Leakee. “That boy, that Moxley fella’. What’s he up to?”
Leakee looked where Bray was pointing, noting with confusion that Jon was just standing in the middle of a practice ring, Rollins across from him with his hands on his hips. Leakee couldn’t hear what was being said, but Seth didn’t look too pissed off about it. He shrugged, turning back to Bray. “Maybe they’re figuring it out.”
“An’ maybe I’ll be World Heavyweight Champion someday.” Bray snickered.
“Look Son of Schyster, anything is possible in this business.”
“Rollins ain’t so bad.” Jon said grudgingly as he savored his cigarette.
Leakee glanced up at him from his spot slouched on the ground. “Yeah? What changed your mind? Because before all you seemed to want was for him to bone you or punch your teeth down your throat.”
“Lea’k, I’m shocked at your vulgarities.”
Leakee grinned. “The hell you are, Mox.”
“Alright, maybe not shocked but…I mean hell, Lea, I can be wrong sometimes. First time I met Rollins I used the phone number line on him and he flipped.” Jon sniffled carefully, probably trying to keep his bruised nose in one piece. “I was just tryin’ to be funny. Break the ice. I ain’t good with people.”
“He thought you were serious?”
“Yeah.” Jon mumbled. “Like, he thought I was outing him in front of everyone.”
Leakee grunted, stretching his legs and getting to his feet. “Guess that’ll do it.”
“I explained it better today, I think. I hope. He showed me a picture of his dog, so I’m pretty sure we’re square. Also apologized to Rose.” Mox seesawed his hand. “We’ll see.” He gave Leakee a curious look. “Hey, why’d you come to get me?”
“Orders from The Dream aren’t exactly something you can ignore easily.” Leakee noticed with confusion that Mox looked a little crestfallen. It’s true though, Dream told me to grab him, he reasoned with himself. Moxley had clearly been expecting a different answer. “I…I asked what he’d said to you and that got his whole process rolling.”
“You asked about me?” Ah, that was apparently what Jon was looking for, the light-haired man perking up slightly. “Were you…like, worried about me? Kinda’?”
“You gave everyone a pretty good scare the other day.” Leakee hedged, for some reason unwilling to outright answer Jon’s question.
“Scared the shit out of me, too.” Mox admitted. “I thought I was doin’ okay. Not great or nothin’, but I didn’t expect any miracles. Then he popped me in the mouth and my brain just...turned off.”
“It was the stimulus you’d been waiting for.”
“Sounds better when you say it.” Mox shrugged. “When I try to explain it I sound like a fuckin’ lunatic.” He stretched his arms over his head, yawning widely. “I’d say this has been more than enough excitement for one day. I’ll see you around, Lea.”
Leakee's walk home seemed shorter than usual, his mind in a thousand different places. He ended up leaning on the sun-bleached railing of his apartment’s tiny deck, staring aimlessly at the traffic on the street below. His stomach rumbled in the background, reminding him that he had just been through yet another grueling day of training and that he should probably eat something, seeing as how he hadn’t had anything since the impromptu brunch of egg rolls (though Jon hadn’t been fibbing, they were great).
His apartment felt too quiet. Leakee tried his damnedest to ignore the sensation, putting in his earbuds to fill the silence. He needed to get to the laundromat at some point urgently, needed to vacuum. With a heavy sigh, he resigned himself to taking a half-day tomorrow. He doubted his father would be thrilled with the notion of his son showing up to practice wearing the same stained tank top three days in a row.
“You’re representing the whole family, Lea, I expect professionalism.”
Maybe he should wear his sports jacket. That was clean, he wasn’t sure if he’d even taken the tags off of it. He had a dress shirt and a severely-ironed pair of khaki pants as well, not exactly ring attire but for promos…
It just might work. Buy him some time on the laundry level, seeing as he was essentially out of clean clothes as of this morning. A pair of too-small boxer briefs was the sole resident of his underwear drawer at this point. Since Leakee wasn’t sticking around for the physical training, that would probably be fine.
The outfit wouldn’t work in terms of his main character, per se, but Dream and Bloom were all about experimentation, dimensions. Regal was less onboard with that aspect, but then again he had the benefit of an accent that wasn’t a drawl. Leakee still wasn’t sure what his character even was. He had some heavy-handed tribal influences but Dusty encouraged him to expand, to broaden his repertoire.
“You don’t need to be Wild Samoan three point oh, y’know.” The older man had said pointedly. “You can be whoever you want, Baby Reigns.”
Still going to be Baby Reigns though, Leakee thought with an irritated snort. You can dress me up but you can’t take me out. He got up from the table, raking a hand through his hair and heading for his closet. Might as well make sure that everything was pressed if he was going to dress up.
Leakee wouldn't lie and say that he was comfortable. But he did at least feel like he was giving off a different vibe, so that was pretty interesting. Sasha shot him a quick “looking good, Lea!” in the hallway, which made him grin to himself and straighten his lapels. He had opted to go sans tie, keep it casual. He still buttoned his sleeves before heading into the classroom, which took him a good five minutes because of how tiny the buttons were.
When he opened the door though, his heart sank. Because a very familiar figure was chatting with Dusty, the two men turning at the sound of the door opening. Dream gave a wolf whistle, beckoning Leakee over. “Look at you in these duds, hot shot!” He said appreciatively, “Talk about branchin’ out, eh Big Reigns?”
Sika nodded, giving his son their customary handshake. “What’s the occasion, Leakee?” He asked curiously.
“Laundry day.” Leakee could feel the entire class staring at him as his father laughed. They were probably all wondering why Sika knew his name.
Dusty chuckled and patted Leakee’s shoulder, gesturing to his empty seat. “Go on and sit down, we were just about to get started.”
The door banged open loudly behind Leakee and he heard a breathless “shit”.
“Snap, on time today! Great stuff.” Dusty praised. Leakee closed his eyes, wishing the ground would swallow him whole. If Jon so much as tried to make an off-color comment or tease him, his father would absolutely murder-
A hand grabbed his arm and tugged him to turn slightly. “Leakee, whoa! You’re always a pro but you mighta’ outdone yourself today.” Moxley said, his eyes wide in what Leakee could swear was genuine wonder. “A new character idea?”
“I think the whole roster needs more laundry days, wow.”
Leakee narrowed his eyes suspiciously. Mox was being strange, which didn’t bode well for anyone. He was staring and his hand hadn’t left Leakee’s arm. Teeth worried the pink skin of his busted lip and was it always this hot in here…?
“Alright, let’s kick off. Settle into your seats. Mox, you’re up. I know your face is a little tender, so when you need a break…” Dusty trailed off when Jon shook his head quickly, stepping back from Leakee.
“It helps.” Mox admitted, giving Dusty and Sika an embarrassed shrug. “S’ an honor, Mr. Reigns.” Leakee felt a little queasy at the shyness in Mox’s voice.
“Just pretend I’m not here, alright son?” Sika urged, and Leakee saw that almost-imperceptible shift in Jon’s posture.
Jon always paced as he spoke, but today he was practically stalking back and forth between Dream's desk and the door. “I know that I shouldn’t be worried about anyone who thinks they’re better than me.” Jon slammed his hands down on Charlotte’s desk as he started, making her squeak out an amused giggle. Not much could unsettle Flair. “Ain’t no one better than me, that’s a fact. Failure is a temporary condition for Jonathan Moxley.” He snarled, looking over Charlotte's head to stare down the rest of the class.
Leakee saw Mojo shift nervously in his seat out of the corner of his eye. Mox seemed to hone in on the motion, sliding off Charlotte’s desk to saunter down the rows.
“Nobody will outdo me.” Jon whipped around to face Leakee, a fist landing on his table. “Nobody, understand?” Blue eyes snapping even in the fluorescent lighting of the room, that nervous lick of the lips so close to his face and…
And Leakee wasn’t one to back down from a challenge. “Respect is earned.” He retorted, getting up from his seat and arrogantly straightening out his jacket. Jon took a step back, a cocky smile dimpling his cheeks. “Discipline and dedication, not empty posturing.” This was a far cry from his usual attempts, where Leakee would ramble about honor and fill in his silence with grand gestures. Now he smirked, brimming with an oddly heady confidence from his formal clothes, his demeanor utterly foreign.
“Ain’t no man alive that I respect.” Mox spat, and Leakee believed every word. “Ain’t no man alive that can humble me, ain’t no man alive that can break me.” His smile was mirthless.
“No one’s ever earned your respect, sure, but I bet you’ve never earned the respect of anyone else either.” Leakee shot back with dizzying speed. “Mox’s loyalty can’t be bought or sold, we get it.” Moxley was momentarily speechless and Leakee worried he had gone too far, the other man full-on glaring at him. “You’re all talk and teeth, Moxley, always have been!” Leakee continued, trying to jar a response out of him so Dusty didn’t notice him falter.
“I’ll show you teeth, big man.” Moxley snapped his jaw shut hard enough to clack his teeth together audibly. Leakee fought back a flush. “You ever had your face broken?”
“If you managed to lay a hand on me in the ring, I’d be downright impressed.” Leakee sneered with a vitriol that was entirely unfamiliar. Moxley was regarding him warily, and well he should be. This was something new, something Leakee was trying on in (admittedly) the most ham-fisted way. He had never devoted much thought to a character like this, someone who ‘knew’ they were better due to their pedigree. Regal meets Hunter Hearst, condescending, sarcastic. Leakee advanced on Mox, forcing him to yield a step. “My bloodline speaks for me, not that it needs to. But it certainly saves time when it comes to weeding out people like you.” Leakee flicked his wrist and re-buttoned his sleeve carefully. “You’re not worth my time or my respect.”
Mox loudly exhaled a breath through his teeth. “I know.” He said finally. Before Leakee could reply, Moxley held up his fists. “That’s why I’m gonna’ beat it out of you!” He continued eagerly, his eyes lit up with what Leakee could only assume was excitement. “I'll take your respect from your cold, dead hands, and I'm gonna' love every second of it!”
He was taken aback at the glee in Mox's tone, almost missing his cue for the usual ending statement. “By all means,” Leakee inclined his head haughtily. “You’re more than welcome to try.”
The silence in the room was deafening. Moxley was still staring at him with that excited expression, as though he was seeing Leakee for the first time. Dusty finally whistled long and low. “Holy shit.”
“What?” Leakee asked hurriedly, already worried that he might have upset his father. Sika looked thoughtful.
“If I’d known you could fire back like that I’d have paired you up with Gingersnap sooner!” The Dream was obviously thrilled. “That was fun, wasn’t it? Damn, the tension was thick enough to cut with a knife! Scrappy underdog and purebred fighter, crowds eat up that dynamic somethin' fierce. I’d swear you boys practiced beforehand, I ain't never seen you that quick Leakee!”
“It helps that Lea earned my respect ages ago.” Moxley replied easily. Leakee knew that gaping at Jon was not a productive thing to do, but he couldn't exactly stop it. “Definitely hang onto this character, man. The well-bred thing was working like a charm, I almost-”
“Thoroughbred.” Leakee interrupted, flushing a little.
“I like it!” Dusty announced. “What do you think, Big Reigns?”
Sika's smile was small but still genuine. “We'll have to see where it goes. I thought it was...interesting to watch.” He allowed.
Leakee exhaled a breath he didn't remember holding.
“You and me, we gotta' talk.” Jon grunted, grabbing Leakee's arm and dragging him off to the side of the hallway so everyone else could get around them. “What the hell was that?” The light-haired man asked when the area was finally deserted. “Shit Lea, you trying to kill me?”
Leakee floundered to answer, not really sure what he was being asked. “I don't...understand.”
“You, Jesus Christ. You've been practicing, you memorize some notes or somethin'? Also yeah, why didn't you ever tell me that your dad is Sika?” Moxley was pacing again. “You ain't never rattled off anythin' like that before, you showin' off for your pops?”
“No, I improvised. I felt like you were issuing a challenge.”
“I was, but damn. A warning before you start getting high and mighty on me would be cool, you're gonna' give me a heart attack. You look the part, and back there you sounded the part. I...” Mox swallowed hard, as though he was debating something. “Got me a little interested, I ain't gonna' lie.”
“Interested?” Leakee's voice cracked, making Jon grin. “What, because I'm a Reigns? Because I'm Sika's kid?” Leakee continued bitterly, hating himself for the way Mox's smile faded. This was why he went by his first name, because people always treated him differently when they knew who his family was. He began unbuttoning his sleeves and rolling them up, irritated that he was letting something like this have an effect on him yet again.
Jon's hand covered his own on his arm. “Lea, I ain't that kinda' person.” He said quietly. “It's a surprise more than anything, y'know? And I'm not gonna' blab about it, or make it weird or whatever. Dunno' if anyone else put it together.”
“We look incredibly similar.” Leakee said dully. “We also share a lot of mannerisms. If no one else realized that I'm his son, I'm a little concerned.” Mox cupped his face, startling him as he tilted Leakee's chin up.
“Look Leeloo, the fact remains that you shredded my existence earlier. I don't give a shit who you're the son of, you feel me?” Moxley knocked his forehead into Leakee's. “I wasn't lyin'. I've respected you for a while. You never seemed to care about me bein' a little...uh. Wired wrong. Take it from me, your family doesn't define you, alright?”
Leakee closed his eyes. “I wish it was that simple.”
“You can still own who you are, without it bein' the only thing you are, y'know?” Moxley's fingers were in his hair again. “I own my shit upbringing, my fighting. Everythin' that shaped me into what I am today. But I ain't gonna' slide back into bad habits. Feels like every day I'm breakin' another nasty behavior pattern, and I'm gonna' keep at it until there's none left.” He said determinedly, smiling. “I'm better than the folks that made me that way.”
Leakee dropped his forehead to rest on Jon's chest, feeling exhausted all of a sudden. Mox hummed in confusion. “It's a lot for me to handle, sometimes.” Leakee murmured.
The simple response stuck in his brain long after Leakee had departed the center. He scoffed to himself as he watched one of his loads of laundry swirl back and forth, the smooth motions soothing as always. He tended to hover by his washer and dryer when he did laundry so that nobody would take it upon themselves to touch his clothes; typical laundromat etiquette that he had perfected over the years.
Lugging everything home was always sweaty work, but that was the price he paid for his independence. As Leakee trudged up the stairs he decided he was taking a hot shower, putting on a clean pair of boxers that fit and tucking in early. This day had been more than enough, thank you very much. His stomach rumbled and he sighed. Dinner too, I guess.
His phone rang while he was in the shower but Leakee paid it no mind, running over the events of the day. At least Dusty had been impressed with he and Jon, that's what was important.
He had done his laundry, he vacuumed the other night, responsible adult Leakee Reigns. Leakee groaned, leaning against the wall and just letting the hot water work the tension out of his shoulders. The way Mox had looked at him when they were going back and forth abruptly returned to the forefront of his mind and Leakee groaned again, stretching languidly under the spray.
Moxley had seemed awed, thrilled. Like he believed what Leakee was saying. Like he was about to get on his knees for him.
Leakee stopped dead, the heat rising in his face. What?! But now that the image was there, it wouldn't quit. Jon unzipping his pants, lip busted, those eyes looking up at him-
Leakee hurriedly turned off the shower and stepped out, the comparatively cold air making him hiss in discomfort. Jesus Christ, I'm hooked, he realized, running a hand through his soaking wet hair. But that's not all I want. What the hell have I gotten myself into? Leakee wanted to be the one Jon could go to when he needed something, wanted to be the one to make things better for him. What the fuck, all because of how he looked at me? Really? He chided himself, roughly toweling off before he checked his phone.
An unfamiliar number had called and left no message. Leakee's eyes narrowed, his finger hovering over the call button for a good minute before he finally pressed it. The line rang once and then there was a loud click! as someone picked up. “Hey, is this Leeloo? Dream said this was your number but he mighta' been wrong.”
Leakee barely resisted the urge to slap himself on the forehead. “Sorry, I was in the shower. I just got in from the laundromat.”
“So uh, Dream might have also given me your address. Can I...can I talk to you? In person?”
Leakee hated everything, but he especially hated one American Dream right now. “Sure. Absolutely.” The knock on his apartment door startled him more than he wanted to admit and Jon chuckled nervously. “How long have you been out there?!” Leakee sputtered.
“Like ten minutes?”
“Well you're staying there for another five, I'm still nude.”
Leakee hung up the phone, crumpled his towel into a ball and bit down on it instead of screaming in frustration. Did everything have to be so damn difficult? Of course once he did throw on some clothes and open his apartment door, he was stunned momentarily. Jon was wearing a button up shirt. A legitimate button up shirt, tucked into his usual ragged jeans. “Who are you and what the hell have you done with Jon Moxley?” Leakee asked, making Mox snicker.
“Weird, right?” Jon sauntered past him into his apartment. “Hey I figured if it worked for you, I could give it a shot.” He smoothed his hands down the front of his shirt self-consciously. “Whatcha' think?”
“Well, the pants throw it off a little.” Leakee teased, circling around the other man to get the full view. “This shirt is too big on you. You look like a kid wearing their dad's clothes. Next size down, maybe.” He mused thoughtfully, tugging at the fabric on Jon's shoulder and watching the way the cuff fell. “It's big on your wrists too, so you should be okay.”
“Shucks, and here I was hopin' I'd come over and impress you with my innate fashion sense.” Mox sighed, making Leakee laugh.
“No impressing required, man. Now, what did you want to talk to me about?” Leakee asked curiously.
Moxley shoved his hands into his pockets, digging the toe of his boot against the worn rug. “Leeloo, today kinda'...it got me thinkin'.” He began, seeming almost sheepish. “I...I was wondering if...I mean I can't really re-use my line since Dream gave me your number and all. Kinda' fucked myself on that one. I was just wondering if you'd ever...I-I mean, if you'd thought about...” Moxley covered his face, obviously embarrassed. Leakee felt like he couldn't breathe. “If you'd ever thought about kickin' my ass for fun.” The light-haired man blurted out between his fingers.
Leakee swallowed hard, relatively certain from Jon's hesitance that he wasn't joking. “Like whoever you went to before? The guy who wore gloves?” He asked finally.
“Uh, kinda'? Look, I...I know it's weird. M' sorry. I don't exactly want you to kick my ass. Not like how everyone else has.” Moxley inhaled deeply. “Different way.”
“What makes you believe I can do something like that?”
“I respect you for a reason, Lea.” Mox grunted. “I know if you ain't right for it, if you don’t think you can do it, you'll tell me.”
“Jon, I don’t have a mean bone in my body, how the hell could you even-” Leakee protested but Jon was already shaking his head.
“This ain’t about bein’ mean, Leakee. It’s about me trustin’ you. I know you ain’t mean. But you showed earlier that you could rip a guy to pieces without touchin’ him. Sometimes that’s what I need.” Moxley flushed. “Sometimes I need to be taken apart.”
“In what way?” Leakee didn’t mean for it to come out so sharp, briefly confused by the way Mox shivered when he spoke. “Oh. Oh.”
“I don’t like to beg.” Moxley said bluntly. “I’m awful proud for a guy that’s got nothin’. But sometimes to get my insides to shut the fuck up, I gotta’ give someone else the wheel.” He straightened up. “The last guy didn’t respect my boundaries. I know that you would, because you don’t push me to begin with.”
“Is…” Leakee forced himself to focus, to ignore the images his brain was excitedly whipping up for him. “Is this a sexual thing? I know sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.”
“I ain’t never had it be before, but I mean…” Moxley paused, rubbing the back of his neck and refusing to make eye contact. “You’re different, man. I wouldn’t exactly be complainin’ if it was, y’know?”
“What if something goes wrong?”
Jon froze at that and Leakee’s heart sank. “You think I’ve had great luck so far, Lea? C’mon.” The light-haired man scoffed finally. “I’ve been way worse off than this. I ain’t compromisin’ my safety ever again when it comes to these situations.”
Leakee’s mouth was dry as a bone, his thoughts spastically bolting from being flattered to the terror that he would inevitably screw something up royally. “Jon, I would never hurt you intentionally.” Mox met his eyes at that. “I don’t know if I could do…what you’re asking. I’ve never had anyone approach me for this.” Okay, that was a bit of a fib, but Jon didn’t need to know about past requests. Leakee was a larger, occasionally outright imposing individual. He understood how he looked and what it would make people think. “I’m not sure that I could give you what you need, man.” He finished simply.
Jon’s eyes half-lidded. “Okay.” He replied, his voice uncharacteristically soft. “That’s fair, Lea.”
“I could try, though.” Leakee offered after a moment of heavy silence. “For you.”
“R-Really?” Those blue eyes looked suspiciously damp when Mox glanced up at Leake again. “You’d do that for me?”
“Yeah.” Leakee shrugged, gesturing around his kitchen. “You want something to eat?” He didn't wait for an answer, instead rummaging through his fridge in search of something edible while Jon just stood in the doorway, the thinner man seeming a little lost. “Sit down uce, I promise the chair won’t bite.”
“Oh! Oh, yeah.” Mox floundered, rushing to sit at the kitchen table. “Sorry, I figured this wouldn’t go so well. Now I don’t really know what to do.”
“How about you relax, for starters?” Leakee teased, getting a weak grin in reply. “You're safe here, right?”
“Yeah, I...guess I am, ain't I?”