Tommaso waited in the little lounge area just past the showers for over an hour past last pinfall before realizing maybe he should go see what was taking Johnny so long. The show was long over and most of the guys had already showered and left or were loitering around waiting for rides, trying to stretch this moment of being in the WWE as long as they could just in case it was all they got. Tommaso had been right in that place before and stewing in the middle of all that anxious energy was giving him hives. He felt a little bad being relieved at the excuse to get away but not anywhere near so bad he invited anyone along.
Besides, if Johnny was off crying in a corner somewhere he’d be pretty pissed off about Tommaso bringing an audience.
Then Tommaso really felt bad for joking that way even in his own head when he finally did find Johnny sitting alone on the floor in an empty hallway, still in his ring gear. He wasn’t actually crying but he had a pretty good thousand yard stare going and didn’t look over when Tommaso sat down beside him. Tommaso wasn’t used to being on this side of things; normally Johnny bounced back pretty quick from losses, even bad ones. He was good at refocusing, something Tommaso usually needed a few nights worth of pacing hotel room floors to manage. “Y’know, I’m supposed to be the broody pain in the ass in the team. Quit ripping me off.”
Johnny didn’t answer. Tommaso fought the urge to fill the silence and just sat there, glaring once at a maintenance guy who showed up to mop around them.
Finally Johnny remembered how speech worked. “I don’t think I’ve ever tapped out twice in a row.”
“You went into the match with a bad knee and Perkins knew it. Everyone knew it. Sometimes that’s how the timing lines up.”
Another few minutes of heavy silence. “I wish you had won.”
Tommaso laughed at that ridiculous statement. “No you don’t. You’re the most competitive pain in the ass I’ve ever met, you don’t like it when we watch Jeopardy and I answer a question first.”
“I don’t know if---“ Johnny sighed, rubbing his hands over his face. “I keep thinking about Brooklyn. Over and over I go back to right before I tapped out because I can’t figure out why I did that.”
“I’m gonna make a wild guess and say it was because someone was trying to tear your leg off.”
Johnny shook his head. “You don’t tap out in tag matches, everyone knows that. I mean really, who does that? Nine times out of ten you know your partner’s going to get there, you just have to hold out for it. I didn’t do that.”
“You couldn’t see me, you had no idea if I was going to be able to make the save.”
“I didn’t give you a chance, I was in that hold for two seconds before I tapped.” It was longer than that but Tommaso didn’t argue the point. If Johnny was this determined to flog himself tonight, better to let him get it out of his system before it became a habit. “I keep wondering if I had tonight in the back of my mind, y’know? I told everyone I wasn’t distracted but how could I not have been, right?”
Great. This again. “How many times are you going to apologize to me for Brooklyn?”
“So you don’t want the I’m Sorry sweater I’m knitting?”
Tommaso hoped that was a good sign. “You have a bad eye for color.” That was almost a chuckle out of Johnny, Tommaso just wasn’t sure if he was starting to shake it off or if he was that level of tired and punch drunk. “You lost a match. It sucks but it happens. We’ve both lost plenty of matches before.”
“Not matches like these past two.”
Tommaso had to concede Johnny that point. Johnny hid it better – or at least he usually did – but Tommaso knew Johnny felt that glass ceiling right above their head just the same as he did. It was hard to push back the paranoia that it was all going to unravel again, that Brooklyn had been the moment and it was never going to come back. Nights like Brooklyn were rare, even guys who managed to stick it out in the business for twenty years had only a handful of nights like that and here was Johnny staring at the ghosts of two of them. Maybe he wasn’t taking this so badly after all. “How long are you going to sit there?”
“I like it down here.”
“You can’t get up, can you.”
“Not even a little bit. This is my home. I live here now.”
Tommaso heaved himself up and grabbed Johnny’s arm. “C’mon. Come on, get up. They’re going to lock up in here pretty soon.” Johnny winced as he let Tommaso half-pull him to his feet, needing to put his free hand against the wall for extra support. “You even let the trainers look at you yet?”
Johnny nodded. “It’s fine. I mean, not fine, it’s worse but not really bad, they think.”
Good. Tommaso wouldn’t have wanted to risk really hurting him right now; when he saw Johnny more or less catch his balance Tommaso pushed him against the wall, his forearm against Johnny’s chest to help hold him up. Johnny didn’t tense up, didn’t even flinch. Tommaso got the feeling he’d been waiting the whole time for Tommaso to throw an elbow. He wondered if Johnny would even defend himself if he did. He let Johnny stew in the anticipation for a few seconds, Johnny refusing to look at him, then he leaned in. “I could have won that first CWC match,” he said into Johnny’s ear. “We both know that. But I couldn’t have won it without putting you on a stretcher. It was either the match or the team and you know which one I chose, so trust me that if I really believed you were thinking about the match coming up with Perkins when we were in the ring against Revival you would have been down a head coming out of Brooklyn.” Johnny shivered once, telling Tommaso he still had that doubt but that was okay, they’d work on it. “From how I see it, you let the Revival shred your knee knowing tonight was coming up. That’s how you should see it, too. The only thing you should think about from now on is fixing your knee so when we make them give us a rematch we rewrite that ending.”
“I like when you get all tough guy on me.”
Tommaso shook his head and kissed Johnny on the temple. “Why do I put up with you?”
When Tommaso tried to step back Johnny pulled him into a real kiss, almost falling over on his bad leg and dragging Tommaso down with him. Tommaso caught himself and pressed Johnny back against the wall, letting Johnny hold onto him. Even when he let Tommaso come up for air he didn’t let him pull away, staying forehead to forehead. “I really am sorry about Brooklyn.”
“Last time you say that. Okay?” Johnny nodded, looking Tommaso in the eye for the first time since Tommaso found him brooding in the hallway. “Good,” Tommaso said, looping Johnny’s arm around his shoulders to keep him standing. “Let’s get you dressed, get some ice on that knee, then get out of here.
“Last time this happens, too,” Johnny said, making a frustrated gesture at Tommaso helping him limp away.
“Tell you what, when we get back to the hotel I’ll threaten you some more if it’ll cheer you up. That seemed to work for you.”
The way Johnny smiled made Tommaso think seriously about skipping those first two steps and going right to the car. “That sounds like a plan. I like that plan.”
There was probably ice at the hotel. Johnny could make do with what he’d packed. “Then let’s get the hell out of here.”