"Yo, JJ, you coming?" Gable shouted over the parking lot.
"I would, but I gotta carry all your shit too!" Jason shouted back.
"Can't hear you over how sick we were back there!“
Chad had been overeager to leave the arena and get back to their hotel room. While he had been running around trying to get everything done as fast as possible, Jason had packed up what the other man forgot - which was to say everything save their title belts.
Right. The title belts. Their title belts, because they were the champions now. Deep down, Jason would have loved to run around and scream happily too, but someone had to be the responsible one. It sure as hell wasn't Gable, who had been sliding across the tiles in the lockers on his knees while enthusiastically air-guitaring just ten minutes ago.
Jason shook his head and smiled. While he had been reminiscing, Gable had broken out into a happy victory dance. He was just so full of life, Jason admired him for that.
Suddenly he turned to look back at Jason. When he caught the overly fond smile on his face - Jason hadn't been able to hide it fast enough, dammit - he broke out into a bright grin that washed away any stoicism in Jason. Maybe things had really changed.
After years of carefully guarding his thoughts, never openly speaking his mind and excessive training to impress the WWE brass, he had finally succeeded. Only because some little dude had come and swept him up in a flood of excitement and horrible puns. Weird. He shook his head again like a wet dog, tried to rid himself of all these far too introspective thoughts. He would think about all that another time. Or never. Always better not to doubt yourself.
Gable made his way over to him and grabbed one of the duffel bags Jason was holding. Chad brushed their hands together; it only lasted for a moment.
"Here let me help you... champ." Chad said and winked cheekily.
Yes he was, he truly was the champ now. Jason couldn't have been happier. It was still hard to believe.
He had been close to tears right after they'd won their match against the Revival, but now, for the first time in years, he felt content. Especially in the last few months, he had always been anxious, deep down.
They were walking towards the car side by side and with every step, Jason lost some of the tension that had taken a hold of his body due to all the stress and constant worrying about his job. Instead, he was overwhelmed by gratitude? Pride? Hope? Relief? It was still hard to believe.
Doubt overcame him. He had picked up some things during his many years in WWE developmental.
Nothing lasted. People got called up, people got fired, people got hurt. He had been the last tag team champion of FCW with CJ Parker. Now FCW didn't exist anymore and CJ had left the company. Only he had stayed.
You could do nothing if you didn't know someone who could generate some serious tailwind for you. He didn't have a CM Punk, William Regal or Rick Flair in his corner. Rollins and Ambrose had been in FCW with him and they had been on the main roster for what was it? Four years now? In high profile matches, winning multiple championships. Charlotte was Diva's champion right now. He also was neither a former mediocre football player nor an indy darling from Japan or something.
Every time things had started to look up for him, they had just as easily stopped. Things seemed to get better for him and Gable but they neither won the Dusty Rhodes Classic nor were they even eligible for best tag team of the year of the NXT year-end awards. He knew it meant little in the long haul, but it stung.
And lastly, you could trust no one. It was everyone for themselves and real friends were rare. Sooner or later they all turned on each other. It made for great television, Jason had to admit that, but at what cost?
One day, Gable would realize Jason wasn't the guy he should have had to convince to tag with him.
No. This wasn't fair. To either of them. Chad was a great, an awesome friend, who always tried to cheer him up and shared a similar background to him. No, he and Gable weren't him and Tye. They were different. They worked together so well and honestly, they were so unbelievably close Chad would never do that to him...right? They managed to beat the Revival and become champions together, that had to count for something, dammit!
Gable shifted the duffel to his other shoulder, cradled the belts to his chest with his right arm and took Jason's hand. It startled Jason for a moment, but when Chad just linked their fingers, it all felt – almost natural. His hands were warm and a little sweaty, his grip firm but gentle. Jason admitted he liked it.
"You okay there, buddy?", Chad asked quietly.
"I am now."
He would have scoffed and brushed it off, but Chad was too clever for the tough guy act to work. In truth, he was dangerously close to tears again and they both knew it.
Gable stopped, apparently he had made his mind up about something (about what, Jason could only guess, this was weird, Chad normally wasn't so silent), set down the bag and laid the title belts carefully on top of it and turned towards him.
The dimming light of the sunset painted his expression in overly dramatic shadows. The wind was picking up and not only swept Chad's hair to the side, but also began rustling the leaves of the nearby trees. There were no other sounds. Not even the birds dared to sing.
Jason took the time to really look at Chad. He had shifted, so now Jason could see his eyes in the light. They had slight creases on the edges from laughing so much and his best guess was that they were greyish - maybe. Right now, they were locked onto his and seemed to convey encouragement, calm and gentleness. It made Jason feel weirdly heartachey for a moment.
He looked down, uncomfortable with the prolonged silence between them, but hesitant to break it. His eyes caught onto their hands, still linked together and still feeling so, so good. The touch steadied him. It always did, Chad had figured that one out quickly. It helped him concentrate and kept him on the moment. Like earlier, during their post-match interview when his voice had nearly cracked. Chad was a good friend - it's what made him a good partner... for their tag team. Yes, Gable was definitely a very nice tag team partner...
With or without himself, he thought with a tinge of sadness, Gable would make it big in the business. He had obvious talent in the ring and on the mic, just what all the execs and important decision makers were always looking for. He was charming and strong and although he was short he was rather attractive, so... oh.
Jason would have scolded himself for thinking about work, again, during their moment, but his whole focus laid on that last part. His brain was like a stuck record.
Rather attractive... attractive... he was attractive...
He was attracted to Chad...
His dumbfoundedness must have shown quite nicely on his face, because Chad was raising one quizzical eyebrow at him, so as not to disrupt the quiet.
God, he could be so admirably considerate...
Jason huffed out a laugh. He looked up at Chad and bit his lip. Now was not the time to share this incredible epiphany with him. Not to think of the possibly drastic consequences for their friendship (or his job, part of him supplied helpfully).
"Oh nothing. Just... all of this", he said and gestured to the titles, back to the arena and between him and Chad, "it means so much. Thank you for doing this with me."
Sometime in between, Chad had started rubbing his thumb over his hand in soothing circles. Jason squeezed his hand. Chad squeezed back.
"Anything for you JJ."
They smiled at each other.
The wind had lessened but there was still a stray strand of hair across Chad's forehead. Jason dropped the duffel he was still holding and slowly lifted his hand to brush the hair away (while fighting hard to suppress the part of himself chanting for him to stop stop stop stop stop and think about his career); it was such an intimate gesture, but how could he not, it felt right.
Chad had followed his hand with his eyes, obviously amused. He looked back at Jason with something akin to - adoration? in his expression. Oh god, Jason was screwed.
Chad hesitated and licked his lips. Jason's eyes flickered down to them - oh no - and felt anticipation course through him hot and cold at the same time. Chad took a deep breath.
"I have no idea how to sugarcoat it, but we work in a notoriously homophobic industry. Sure, there's Darren Young, but he's on the main roster and were just two rookies in developmental, but I kinda really like you, but I don't want you to get punished for my mistakes, really, when they just started pushing us and it wouldn't be fair to you, you were here for so long and deserve so much and I admire you for that, I guess; being friends with you is one of the best things in my life, but sometimes I wonder, and sorry if I was reading into it, but we have such good chemistry and maybe you like me back and maybe it's the endorphins but I feel like I can't not say it right now, but I wanted to ask you, maybe...", it broke out of Chad like a waterfall, like the words had been there below the surface, behind a dam and were just breaking free and he couldn't stop them and wait, oh god, did this mean what Jason thought it meant?
"To put it bluntly: can I kiss you?"
You really shouldn't, part of him said smugly. He's right, you know, this could destroy everything you've worked for. He has it easy, he's been here for little over two years and everyone already loves him. If everything goes to shit, he's not the one picking up the pieces and you know it. So really, what are you waiting for? Turn him down, tell him-
"Yes", Jason breathed.
No. No no no no.
The sun painted the evening sky in broad strokes of orange, red and purple and some street lamps had come to life to illuminate the parking lot with their flickering light, but honestly, Chad's smile put them all to shame. He jumped and circled his legs around Jason's waist like he'd done countless times before in celebration after a match, snaked the hand that wasn't still holding Jason's behind his neck and surged forward to kiss him.
No no nononononono NO!
Jason met him halfway.
Euphoria, pure euphoria.
A million of sensations hit him.
Chad's hair between his fingers, still slightly damp from the shower and smelling aggressively berry from a kids' shampoo he'd desperately wanted to try out.
A little lower the hot skin of Chad's neck, a few drops of cold water here and there.
Then, under an American Alpha t-shirt, his muscled back and further down his strong legs that still gripped him tightly.
His lips that were so soft against his own.
The light stubble that scratched against his skin.
This was what he wanted. Yes, he wanted this with his whole being.
No objection came.
Jason let out a happy sigh and Chad took the opportunity to lick into his mouth. Jason was delighted, it was hard to believe what was happening.
They only stopped when they became dizzy and needed fresh air. They separated themselves but only stayed an inch apart, their foreheads against each other. They loudly panted into the space between them and began grinning at each other.
Feeling courageous, Jason stole another quick peck from Chad and swiftly set him down.
Chad rubbed his neck shyly and chuckled.
"So... you wanna do that again sometime?"
"Yeah. Play your cards right and it will be sooner rather than later", Jason said. There was a slight blush on his cheeks, he could feel it.
"Oooooh so that's how it is?", Chad teased and waggled his eyebrows up and down.
"Damn right that's how it is."
With that, he swooped up the duffel and snatched away both of the belts.
"Mine!", he yelled cheerfully while he was running towards the car. That was childish, he knew that, but that was probably Chad rubbing off on him. Also, they were alone in the parking lot and nobody but Chad would ever know. Also also, he was one of the Champions now and he could do whatever he wanted.
Behind him, Chad tried to hide his smile.
"Yours", he agreed.