From far away, the noise of the Brooklyn crowd rose and fell, but Tommaso Ciampa couldn’t have given less of a damn about them anymore. They’d lost. The Revival had beaten them. But more importantly--
“Damn it!” Johnny Gargano slammed his fist against the wall, his face twisted with pain. “We were so close, we were so close.” He took a step forward without thinking, but his bandaged leg gave out. Tommaso jumped forward without thinking and got an arm around him, holding him up. “I’m sorry,” Johnny said, turning his face away from Tommaso as if he were ashamed. “I cost us the match.”
“Shut up,” Tommaso said, helping him limp over to a chair. “Just...shut up.”
Johnny sank down onto the chair with a sigh and closed his eyes. “I thought…” he started, then broke off. He cleared his throat. “I thought for a second there you were just going to leave me in the ring. Maybe I would have deserved it.”
“Jesus, man, you’re my partner. I’m not ditching you.” Tommaso sat down on the floor next to the chair and held an ice pack to Johnny’s knee.
Johnny shook his head, his eyes still closed. “I guess I just can’t get used to that,” he said ruefully. “All these years without a tag team partner--I still can’t quite bring myself to lean on you so much.”
Tommaso shook his head, smiling slightly. He wasn’t sure why Johnny kept saying he’d never tagged before--after all, he’d had at least one great partner before Tommaso--but it was sweet of him to say. “You can always lean on me,” he said. “I’d do anything for you, Johnny.”
Johnny opened his eyes and looked down at him, frowning. “Anything?”
“Sure,” said Tommaso, trying to keep his voice light.
“Move in with me,” Johnny said abruptly.
“We’re going to be in NXT full time soon, right? I know you still don’t have a place to stay, and I move into my new place next month. Why not share it with me?”
“You’re...serious,” Tommaso said incredulously.
Johnny laughed. “I’m dead serious. Why should we have two places? We spend most of our free time together anyway.”
Tommaso grimaced. “Man, I dunno. You know we’ll catch all sorts of shit about it from Chuck Taylor. Dude is convinced we should be making out or something.”
Johnny laughed again. “Chuck’s a wrestling genius, but I don’t think he’s an expert on my love life. So what do you say?” He beamed down at Tommaso, his dark brown eyes full of amused affection, and Tommaso swallowed hard.
“I guess I could stay with you now and then.”
“Not stay with me,” Johnny said, mock-severe. “You make it sound like you’re just passing through my life. No, man, live with me.”
“I…” A lot of different emotions ran through Tommaso; he carefully put aside most of them. “I guess it’s worth a try.”
Johnny dusted off his hands, beaming down at the Ikea bed they’d just finished putting together with a lot of elbow grease and quite a few curses. “There. Now we just need to get a sign--” Johnny made an arc in the air with his hands, “--’Home of the future NXT tag team champs,’ and we’re in business.”
Tommaso looked down at the bed. This was really happening. He and Johnny really had a home together, and he was going to spend his first night here. It seemed like a dream. “I still can’t believe it,” he muttered.
“Me neither.” Johnny sat down on the bed. “We made it, buddy. We kicked in the door and now the big leagues lie ahead of us. We’re gonna win that Dusty Rhodes tournament, we’re going to be NXT champs, and after that…” He grinned and grabbed Tommaso’s hand, pulling him down to sit next to him. “Main roster, man. The future’s wide open.” He raised their hands in the air together.
“It’s so weird to have a home base,” Tommaso said. “To not be on the road all the time.” Johnny had dropped their hands back down, but hadn’t let go of Tommaso’s yet. Tommaso hoped he wouldn’t notice. “You gonna miss that life?”
“A little,” Johnny said thoughtfully. “I’ll be honest, the hardest part was saying goodbye to EVOLVE.”
“Well, sure,” said Tommaso. “I mean, it’s where some of the best wrestlers in the world are right now.”
“I’d have to say even the main roster of the WWE can’t compare to some of them,” Johnny said. “It hurts to leave such a great promotion behind. But we have to make sacrifices to make it to the top.”
“None of EVOLVE’s wrestlers compare to you, Johnny,” Tommaso said, and was shocked at how fervent his voice sounded. But it was true, he realized. No one was as good as Johnny, no one in the world. He was so fucking lucky to have a chance to team with him, to live with him, to… to sit on a bed holding hands with him--
“Uh,” said Tommaso, suddenly feeling weird and awkward. But then he looked at Johnny’s face, and Johnny’s beautiful brown eyes were wide and full of wonder.
“Tommaso,” Johnny breathed, and at the sound of Johnny saying his name like that, it was as if an invisible hand grenade went off between them, shredding their hearts with invisible shrapnel. And it was the most natural thing in the world to lean forward and kiss Johnny right there.
Johnny tasted of hickory smoke and fine bourbon and something uniquely him, and he threw his arms around Tommaso and kissed him back, and it was everything Tommaso had never let himself believe would happen. “Johnny,” he whispered against his partner’s lips, and Johnny shivered beneath his touch like a fine thoroughbred as they surrendered at last to their passion.
Later, as they cuddled on the Ikea bed that was apparently going to be theirs and not just Tommaso’s, Johnny started to laugh quietly under his breath.
“What is it, love?” whispered Tommaso tenderly.
“I was just thinking,” Johnny murmured. “As it turns out, apparently Chuck Taylor was right. We just needed to admit our feelings after all.”
Tommaso chuckled and held his partner close. “I guess we should have expected it,” he said. “After all, he is the best wrestler in the world.”
“And in way better shape than Seth Rollins,” Johnny sighed admiringly.