Taking matters into my own hands
[Time. What is it, really? Is it fluid like a river, easily adjusted and adaptable? Is it fragile like glass, easily manipulated and shaped into what we want it to be? Is it rigid like a ruler, linear and unchanging? Or is it ethereal like a dream, leaving fragments and snippets for us to interpret the best we can? People argue about time like it's just some meaningless physical object they can alter and abuse for their own amusement. If you want my opinion... It's everything. Time is fluid, fragile, rigid, ethereal...

And inexorable.

It can't be paused like a song or a movie, and it can't be stopped like a car or a train. It can't be wound up like a yo-yo and it can't be turned back like the hands on a watch. There's a phrase to describe time and it's very fitting.

“Time marches on”.

Nobody escapes the touch of time. It's also quite unpredictable. It can pass in the blink of an eye or it can stretch out into an eternity. And in certain situations it can reveal hidden truths. Someone found that out for themselves very recently... His name is Chance Owens and we're about to see what he discovered. We go now to Denver, Colorado.]

It's a surprisingly sunny day in Denver. The sun is shining and people are in light jackets despite the snow on the ground. That's the thing about Denver, though. Being so high above sea level means the temperatures are felt differently. People enjoy the sunshine because they know it can be fleeting. Some of them are even whistling or singing! In a small townhouse in a residential area, watching people walking by and enjoying the day, someone isn't even smiling. No, they're downright moody right now. Resting his head on the window by his front door is an unusually silent Chance Owens. He finally snorts and turns away to walk into the living room and carefully settle himself on the brand new couch that got delivered a few days ago. On the coffee table is his tablet and a remote control for the new TV across the room on the opposite wall. His brother Leo is lying down after coming back from the hospital where his doctor ran tests on his previously broken leg. The pain in Leo's leg is getting worse and worse. “This is turning out to be one fucked up day.”

A sound in his kitchen has him shaking his head even as someone comes out to stand near the new overstuffed chairs Chance and Leo found. “Is Leo okay?”

Chance sighs and waves for his guest to sit down. “His doctor was pissed I took him to Columbus with me.” He rubs his eyes with the fingers of his right hand. “Leo got mad at him and said 'I wouldn't BE in this mess if you'd given me a walking cast like I asked you to!' The orthopedic surgeon heard that and went off on his doctor. We won't get the results for another two weeks.”

“It sounds like I may need to ask Michael for a favor.”

Chance turns his head to look at his guest. “I don't know, Adam... He doesn't even know we exist. Why would he help us?”

Adam Brock smiles and leans forward from his spot in one of the chairs. “He doesn't like people suffering needlessly.”

They're talking about Jericho DeLioncourt's brother Michael who's a medical genius and healthcare pioneer. Chance fiddles with the remote before putting it back on the coffee table. “I'm sure Michael's a good person, but what if he can't help Leo?” He swallows a little. “What if he makes it worse?”

Adam can see the worry in Chance's eyes. “He helped me and I was basically a dead man walking.”

Chance recalls what Adam told him about living in Little Rock after leaving Philadelphia and how Michael saved him from a lifetime of physical agony. He's had a couple of months to digest the information. His eyes close of their own volition and he sees a replay of Michael helping Adam. Words fall from his lips with him realizing it. “Only those who truly seek to end suffering offer to help total strangers...”

Adam nods even though he knows Chance can't see it. “That's Michael. But I won't ask him to help Leo without Leo's permission.”

“I appreciate that.”

“Is Leo in a boot brace or is he SOL like he was with the cast?”

“The orthopedic surgeon put him in a cushioned boot brace with crutches and prescribed the strongest non-narcotic painkiller he could think of.” Chance sighs softly. “Leo took one after he got home and he's kinda sleeping it off.”

“Sounds like he got Voltaren.”

Chance thinks for a moment, then nods. “He did. The pharmacy didn't even ask why the prescribing doctor was different.”

“They're actually not allowed.”

“Really!? Something's messed up at my pharmacy, then!”

Adam scowls. “How often do they ask you shit like that?”

“Every time I get a prescription filled.”

“Where do you get your prescriptions filled and why doesn't Leo get his filled there?”

Chance's sigh is an explosive one. “Mine get filled at the CVS up the road and they don't take Leo's health insurance.”

“But they take yours...”

“Because seventy five percent of their customers have the same kind of insurance I do.” Chance grimaces at the irony of their conversation. The company he works for sells house insurance.

“What's your company's specialty, kid?”

“House insurance.”

“I see.”

“I'm aware of the irony, you know.”


Chance goes to say something when he hears a muffled expletive from upstairs. Right away he knows what that means. “Dammit, Leo fell out of bed again!” He bolts off the couch and runs up to Leo's room with Adam right behind him.

Leo looks up when the bedroom light is turned on before sighing and putting his head on the carpeted floor. “I miscalculated when I turned over.” His bad leg is laying flush against the ground. The boot brace is propped up against his bedside table and the crutches are leaning against the window.

Chance shakes his head and holds out his hand. “Grab on.”

Leo reaches up to take Chance's hand and isn't really surprised when Adam reaches out to help them both. “Thanks.” He puts his weight on his good leg and carefully moves back until he's sitting on his bed.

Adam steps into the room and picks up the boot brace to look it over. “It looks sturdy enough.” He turns to Leo. “Want me to help you with it?”

Leo grimaces at the spasm that chases its way down his leg. “Would you, please? Chance has been in a bad mood since we got back from Ohio.”

Adam preps the brace for Leo and crouches near the proper leg. “I would be too if that had been me.” He shakes his head even as he carefully adjusts the brace. “I'm actually surprised he didn't trash the hotel room you two were in.”

Chance shakes his head and sighs. “I wanted to but it wasn't worth the effort.” Something chases its way across his eyes. “Hotel rooms can't fight back.”

Adam looks over and sees something in the way Chance is standing. “Is there anyone who can come by to look after Leo?”

Leo knows why Adam's asking. “I asked Mom to come by around six today. Dad drove us around today.”

Adam turns back to finish adjusting the brace. “Go ahead and give that a weight check.” He stands up so Leo has room.

Leo carefully stands up and immediately notices the difference between how the nurse at the hospital fastened it and how Adam fastened it. “This is much more comfortable. What'd you do differently?”

“I fastened the ankle buckle first.”

“Thank you so much.” Leo grabs his crutches and leads the way back down to the living room. The desk for Chance's new computer makes an elegant room divider but something's missing.

Adam sees it right away. “Where's the computer?”

Chance scowls after he parks Leo on the couch. “I haven't had time to go buy one yet.” There's a thin layer of dust on the desk as a result.

“I know where you can get one today if you're willing to trust me.”

Chance turns to look at Adam. “You know I trust you, Adam... You and Liam are the only ones I trust like that besides Leo and our parents.”

“I'm glad to hear that.” He means that.

Chance nods with a faint smile before going over to the desk and wiping off the dust. “Any suggestions on what kind I should get?”

“You mean like gaming, programming or graphics design?”

“Yeah. You know more about computers than I do.”

“Well it really all depends what you're going to use it for. You don't want a gaming computer if you're going to be using it for editing music videos.”

Chance thinks about that with one hand tucked under his chin. He finally shakes his head with a soft sigh. “I can't think of anything specific I'd be using it for. I'm so busy at the insurance company I just want to relax when I get home.”

Adam just smiles. “Ever thought about gaming? It's a hell of a stress reliever.”

“I have been wondering about it... But until recently I never had the money to do anything about it.”

“Trust me, kid, I know what that's like.”

Chance knows all about Adam's first few months as a wrestler. “I'll keep my eyes open for anything I might like.”

“That's the spirit.” Adam exhales and addresses the elephant in the room. “How goes the studying for your license?”

Chance turns to face the far wall in the dining room before he answers. “I failed the test.” His body is wracked by a huge shuddering sigh. “They want the testing fee up front before they'll even let me study for it again.”

“Did you want me to talk to them?”

Chance shakes his head. “Mr. Gleason said he'd handle it.” His voice is quieter, but Adam can still hear him. “I'm seriously tempted to give my two weeks' notice.”

Adam's voice is just as quiet. “What brought that on? Is it the licensing aspect?”

“Partly that... And partly me not being able to fully focus on my matches in SCW.” Chance's shoulders tense. “That's part of the reason I lost last week.”

Adam snorts quietly. “That's an excuse, Chance... You lost because Polly took advantage of you being distracted.”

“She also had a handful of tights, which you saw.”

“So why are you blaming that on the insurance company?”

Chance sighs again and his shoulders slump. “Some of the agents are picking at me for being a wrestler. I told Mr. Gleason and he said he'd take care of it.”

Adam puts a gentle hand on Chance's shoulder. “It definitely sounds like the insurance company is becoming a toxic environment for you.”

Chance looks at the ceiling for a long time. “It was fine until Charles Brentworth started picking on me.”

“How long was he harassing you before he got fired?”

Chance looks down at his feet. “Four months.”

“How did it start?”

“He had building maintenance use a window cling with my name on it instead of the standard lettering on the door to my first office.”

“How long have you been working there?”

“Three years... Us phone jockeys didn't get our own offices until about a year ago.”

Adam can't help a grin. “Do the other CSRs know you call yourself and them phone jockeys?”

Chance finds himself laughing a little. “They do. They actually like it.”

“That's good.”

“Bianca told Dale what I called us and he laughed.”

Adam smiles. “It's really quite appropriate because technically that's what you are.”

“Yup.” Chance exhales a few times before lifting his head and looking at Adam.

There's something in Chance's eyes that makes Adam inhale sharply. “Hold that in until your mother gets here.”

“I'll try but I can't make any guarantees.” Chance's left hand closes into a loose fist and opens again.

Adam checks his phone to see what time it is and finds a text from Liam at the same time. 'Have him let it out before you take him to the nearest Simalcron store.' He taps Reply without a sound. 'I plan on it. We're just waiting for his mother so she can look after Leo.' He taps Send and puts his phone in his pocket. They don't have long to wait; it's about four thirty. “As long as you try.”

“I know.” Chance balls his hand into a tight fist and holds it that way as long as he can before opening it and exhaling softly. “That'll have to do.” He goes back into the living room and catches the remote Leo tosses at him.

Leo grins. “Nice catch! You know how to work that thing better than I do... Can you find something for us to watch?”

“Of course!” Chance turns on the TV and waits patiently for it to power up. Once he can see the default screen, he presses the menu button on the remote. They got the basic cable package with the sports bundle added on. “Hey, you wanna watch the Avalanche-Ducks game?”

“Any other games on tap?”

“Let me see.” Chance navigates to the NHL category and studies the game schedule. “Bruins and Blues... Penguins and Sabres... Flyers and Leafs.”

“Which one is today?”

Adam points it out with an amused look on his face. “Today is the Bruins and the Sabres. Those are tomorrow's games.”

Chance shakes his head. “Thanks, Adam. What'll it be, little brother?”

Leo doesn't have to think about it. “Bruins and Sabres.”

“You got it.” Chance selects “Boston Bruins at Buffalo Sabres” and the TV switches to the proper channel. “Still no luck on your glasses, Adam?”

Adam laughs. “I've been wearing them all along, Chance.” The frames are very subtle so it looks like he isn't wearing them.

Chance turns to look at Adam in confusion. “You have?”

“I have.” He takes them off so Chance can see the frames that almost match his skin tone.

“Was it your idea to go almost-skin?”

Adam puts his glasses back on with a shake of his head. “No. The frames I chose matched my temper.”

“So what happened?”

“They switched my frames with these ones and are refusing to correct their error. I told them this morning that if they didn't fix their mistake they'd be dealing with Liam. They have yet to respond.”

Leo snorts as he gets more comfortable on the couch. “They must think you're just talking to be heard, Adam.”

“That's what I'm thinking.”

Chance sits in one of the chairs and leans back with a soft sigh. “Let's put that off to the side and enjoy the game.”

“Sounds good to me.” And Adam sits in the other chair so he can be comfy.

- - -

Adam's the only one who hears Amanda Owens knock on the door shortly after six, so he gets up to let her in. “Evening, Mrs. Owens.”

Amanda smiles as she steps inside. “Good evening, Adam... Where are the boys?”

“They're watching the Bruins-Sabres game.” Adam closes the door behind her.

Amanda takes off her boots and goes into the living room. The TV on the wall makes her chuckle as she sits beside Leo on the couch. “What's the score?”

Leo answers with a huge smile on his face. “4-2 Sabres.”

Chance smiles as he stands up and gives Amanda the remote. “It was either this or the Avalanche-Ducks game and Leo chose this one.”

Amanda chuckles again. “The Ducks are embarrassing themselves this season.” Then she looks at Chance and sees what's lurking behind his eyes. “Don't go overboard.”

“I won't.” He covers Leo with the blanket he gave him for Christmas and smiles when Leo snuggles under it a little. “We'll be back when I'm done with what I need to do.” He goes to the closet and takes out his new jacket. Leo's jackets are adorned with an L on the inside labels. “I'll lock up after us... I may get a better cell phone while we're out.”

“Make sure you eat enough... I'll be taking you boys grocery shopping next week.”

“Thanks, Mom... Back in a while.” Chance puts his feet into his boots and opens the door. He waits for Adam to step out first before closing the door behind him and turning to lock it. His wallet is in the inside pocket and he puts his keys in the same pocket.

Adam claps Chance on the shoulder. “Let's get going... You have a lot to do today.”

Chance exhales loudly as he turns toward the sidewalk. “Yeah I do.” He rubs his face with both hands. “What's first?”

“How much control do you have right now?”

“Honestly? Watching the game really helped.” The hand he holds up is steady. “I'm good to handle my errands before I need to vent.”

Adam studies Chance's hand with a critical eye, then he nods. “Good. First stop is the nearest Simalcron store so you can get a computer.”


Adam grins. “That's what Jericho named his company.”

“Then lead on!” Chance has a disposable mask tucked into the inside pocket of his jacket in a plastic bag to protect it from damage and contamination.

“Follow me, kid.” Adam starts walking and hears Chance right behind him. “You have a mask for when we're in the stores, right?”

“I do. Do you?”


“Okay, good. Leo couldn't get vaccinated until just after Christmas. His insurance decided to jerk him around until his employer stepped in.”

Adam scowls as they walk down the street. “Damn anti-vaccination idiots...”

“Yeah, pretty much. Mr. Gleason insisted on everyone at the insurance company being vaccinated as quickly as possible and he fired anyone who refused.”

“Leo's age may also have been a factor.”

Chance shakes his head. “He's twenty two. He was cleared back in 2021 for vaccinations.”

“What is it with people being stupid about something that can save lives?”

“They think it's infringing on their freedoms... Their stupidity is infringing on everyone else's rights and freedoms, like the right to live a healthy, happy life.”

Adam snorts as they walk. “They sure are infringing on our rights and freedoms! But let's talk about something less aggravating. I want you calm for running errands.”

“You won't hear me arguing.” Chance puts his hands in his jacket pockets because a wind has kicked up.

Adam unerringly leads him to the nearest Simalcron store and kicks the snow off his boots before he goes inside. He can hear Chance do the same thing behind him. “Welcome to what Jericho has built.”

Chance looks around in wordless awe. There are computers and accessories all throughout the store. “This place is fantastic!”

“Yup. Come on, kid. The desktop computers are this way.”

Chance follows Adam with a bemused look on his face. “Are all the stores laid out the same way?”

“They are. Jericho insisted because he didn't want the people who come here to get lost.”

“He probably made his bookkeepers happy because one layout meant they could minimize costs without having to sacrifice quality.”

“So you were paying attention in business class.”

“That stuff is fascinating. But my destiny is in a wrestling ring.” He exhales softly as he follows Adam. “I've been thinking ever since I mentioned it to you back at the house...” His next exhale is shaky. “After the Pay Per View on February 6th, I'm giving Mr. Gleason my two weeks' notice. I can't keep this up any more.”

Adam pauses near a display showing a curved flat-screen monitor and turns to look at the younger man behind him. “Talk to me, Chance...”

“There's this private club I go to when I'm feeling particularly stressed...” Chance looks at the counter the monitor is sitting on but he doesn't really see it. “The last time I tried to go there, I got pushed out by some of the other patrons.” The look he gives Adam is a total contrast to the one he had at the townhouse. “I tried calling ahead to see if I could find another way in and the employee I was talking to hung up on me.”

Adam sucks in his breath at the tears in Chance's eyes. Then he takes out his phone and unlocks the screen before opening the memo pad app. “Name and address of the club. Phone number too if you remember it.”

Chance takes Adam's phone and carefully inputs the requested information. “I thought I was welcome there.” He gives it back after he's done.

Adam saves it under the name 'Chance's haven'. “I'll see what I can learn after we're done here. Did anyone say why you weren't allowed there any more?”

Chance's sigh is shaky at best. “One of them said something about double-dipping careers.”

“So at least one of them knows you have jobs in two separate fields.”

“It wouldn't be that hard to make the connection... But-” Chance trails off because it still bothers him.

Adam puts his hand on Chance's shoulder and squeezes gently in a gesture of comfort. “We'll get to the bottom of this. I promise.”

Chance's smile is watery and doesn't last long. “Thanks, Adam...”

“That's what friends are for.” Adam gently directs Chance to where the desktop computers are so the younger man can distract himself for a little while.

- - -

Adam helps Chance get everything out of the taxi in front of the townhouse after paying the driver. Night has long since fallen. One of the things he convinced Chance to buy was a video camera with a tripod and a remote. “That was...” And he ends the sentence with a short whistle.

Chance grunts as he takes off the mask. “Yeah that sounds about right.” He goes up to the door and unlocks it so they can put everything inside.

Adam shoulders the box with Chance's computer tower with one hand and grabs the monitor box with the other. “You can handle the rest, right?”

Chance laughs and picks up the bags. “Showoff.” He's kidding, of course. He unhooks Adam's mask as he passes by and puts the bags in by the kitchen.

Amanda smiles from the couch where she and Leo have been watching movies since the hockey game ended. “Did you get everything done?”

Adam kicks the snow off his boots like Chance did before taking the boxes with Chance's new computer through the living room to put them near the desk. “We did.”

“That's fantastic! I'll sanitize those boxes so he can open them after they're at room temperature.” She knows electronics should be at room temperature before being used.

Chance closes the door and puts the box with his new video camera and the tripod down by the desk. “You'd think it was a final closing sale at every store we went to tonight.”

Adam moves the bags to sit on the bottom step leading upstairs. “Even the Simalcron store we went to was packed.”

“Thankfully they didn't bother us.”

Leo pipes up from his spot on the couch. “They knew better than that!”

Adam laughs as he goes back to stand near the doorway. “That they did, Leo, that they did.” He takes off his boots and goes upstairs to make a phone call.

“Where's he going?”

Chance knows. “He has a phone call to make.” He moves back to stand near the door so his boots don't ruin the carpet. Adam's expression when he comes back down tells him everything he needs to know. “Dammit. We have to go out again, don't we?”

Adam's face is grim. “We do.”

Amanda isn't fazed in the least. “I'll be here when you get back.”

Chance sighs. “Thanks, Mom.”

Adam puts his boots back on with a grunt. “We'll try to make it fast, Mrs. Owens, Chance has to work tomorrow.”

Amanda knows Mr. Gleason changed Chance's work schedule to give him Thursday and Friday off every week. “As long as he's home before midnight he should be fine.”

Chance smiles. “Thanks, Mom. At least Leo's employer is like Mr. Gleason and gave him PTO until the test results come back in two weeks.”

“That's wonderful news!”

“Yup. You ready, Adam?”

Adam runs a hand through his hair with a soft sigh. “Yeah.”

“I'll lock the door behind us.” Chance opens the door to let Adam out first, then he closes and locks it after he steps out. “I'm not looking forward to this.”

Adam waits for Chance to put his keys in his pocket. “I'm not either. But the sooner we get this taken care of the better.”

Chance sighs explosively before he starts walking. “I've taken this route so many times I could walk it in my sleep.” He rubs the top of his head. “I've never been this upset before, though.” His hand comes down and he puts up the hood on his jacket. “This one is much warmer than my old one.”

“Living in Philly I can agree with you that warm jackets are a must in the winter.” Adam pulls out a toque and puts it on because his jacket doesn't have a hood. “It's about this cold in Arkansas too, come to think of it.”

“I can believe it.” Chance puts his hands in his pockets again and falls into a brooding silence as they walk. It only takes him a few minutes to lead Adam to Shannon's.

“This is a nice looking place.”

“Up until recently there hasn't been any trouble here.” Chance hesitates near the door for a long time before he finally puts one hand on it.

The panel in the door slides open. “Who goes there on this blustery night?”

Chance can't muster up the fancy words this time. “It's Chance. I brought backup.”

Barry opens the door right away. “Thank Christ you came back! It's really getting out of hand!”

Chance gives Adam a startled look before he goes inside. He knows Adam is right behind him. “What's it escalated to?”

A loud crash comes up from downstairs. “Physical altercations!”

“Stay up here, Barry. Come on, Adam!” And Chance charges down the stairs to see who's acting up.

Adam flies past him to grab someone before they can throw anything else. “Now that is ENOUGH!” He propels them back across the room before he turns to look around. “Who started it and why?”

Chance watches everyone point to the person Adam's holding. “Consensus has the one you pulled away as the culprit.” He looks around and sees no small share of hostile gazes pointed in his direction. “What's your problem with me, anyway?”

One of the people glaring at Chance pushes forward to stand less than two feet away. It's a burly white man with brown hair in a buzzcut and brown eyes, dressed in a clean t-shirt and sweatpants. He lifts one muscled arm and almost touches Chance's nose with his pointing finger. “We don't much like people who double dip in two different professions.”

Chance ignores the hand perilously close to his face. “Well, aren't you the pot calling the kettle black?” He puts his hands on his hips and his eyes fill with something indescribable. “I know for a fucking fact that you're doing it yourself, Roscoe!” And he knocks Roscoe's hand away from his face. “Carpentry and cards, isn't it?”

Barry comes downstairs in time to hear Chance's question. “It is, Chance.”

“Thanks, Barry. Who's my backup holding over there?”

“That's Billy Coltrane. He used to deliver our alcohol until he got laid off before Christmas.”

Billy exhales and holds up both hands. “I'm sorry for throwing things. Roscoe just got me so upset I couldn't see straight.” He looks over at Chance. “He was insulting you and badmouthing your brother.”

Chance glares at Roscoe. “My brother is off limits, you asshole!”

Roscoe shoots Billy a hard look before turning back to Chance. “What are you gonna do about it, you phone-answering soap-dropping pansy?”

Chance's left hand shoots out and grabs Roscoe's shirt. “There's nothing wrong with answering the phones at an insurance company... But I take great offense to being called a soap-dropping pansy!” He pulls Roscoe in a little before shoving him backwards. “My other profession isn't being a porn star, you idiot...” He unzips his jacket and hangs it off the back of a nearby chair. “It's being a WRESTLER!”

Roscoe sneers. “Yeah, right... I bet you and that so-called brother of yours have your own special kind of 'wrestling'.”

Adam can't help himself. “That's disgusting!”

Billy chimes in. “Of course you'd think that way, Roscoe... Your wife accused you of doing that to your son!”

Roscoe turns to spit at Billy. “You're the one who's getting a divorce, you drunken sot!” He turns back to throw another insult at Chance and sees one fist less than an inch from his nose.

Chance almost growls. “My friend said that was enough. One more insult about me, my brother or anyone else in here and I'll forget I'm a gentleman and kick your ass from here to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Do you understand me?”

Roscoe makes like he's going to back down and punches Chance in the stomach. “You're not gonna do anything about it!”

The blow takes Chance by surprise and he stumbles back a bit. He quickly regains his footing and leads with his fist. “I hate people like you looking down on me!” He makes solid contact with Roscoe's ribcage.

Barry knows by the tone of Chance's voice that Roscoe's pushed him too far. “Don't get involved, folks. This is Chance's fight.”

Adam lets Billy go and accompanies him to where the others are standing. “If any of you still have a problem with Chance's jobs, you can tell me.” His gentle tone soothes their jangled nerves. “My name is Adam.”

Roscoe recovers from the blow and aims for Chance's groin so he can get the upper hand. “It's just you and me now, sissy boy!”

Chance grabs Roscoe's fist with one hand and shoves as hard as he can. “I warned you about insulting me again!”

Adam makes a gesture with one hand and gets everyone to turn so they don't see Chance and Roscoe. “I'm here to listen and help find a solution.” He suppresses the urge to wince when one of them screams.

Chance finally wipes his face with the handkerchief he put in his jacket pocket before leaving the house the second time. “He won't be causing any more problems... You can turn around now.”

Billy gulps loudly. “You didn't kill him, did you!?”

“No. I just broke a few ribs and one of his forearms. That was why he screamed.”

Barry shakes his head and escorts Roscoe upstairs to wait for an ambulance. “This is why you listen when people tell you something, Roscoe!”

Chance grabs the chair his jacket is hanging from and sits on it. “I hate people like him.”

Adam walks over and puts his hand on Chance's shoulder before speaking quietly. “Do you feel any better?”

Chance matches Adam's voice level. “I feel fine now.”

“Good.” Adam looks over at the other people. “Are any of them employees?”

Chance turns his head to look over at the obviously frightened group of people. “No. They're all patrons of this fine establishment, though I daresay some of are going to be reconsidering their patronage after this.” He turns back so he's looking at his hands. “I shouldn't have gone that far.”

“He threw the first punch and he didn't listen when you told him to stop insulting people.”

Barry comes back downstairs with some of Shannon's companions behind him. “We apologize for what just happened... Roscoe is no longer welcome here.”

Someone at the back shouts a question. “What about Chance?”

“What about Chance? You all saw Roscoe throw the first punch. As far as we here at Shannon's are concerned, Chance was defending himself and his brother.”

Adam lifts his glasses with his fingers and rubs his eyes. “Some of them are still hesitant to be around Chance.”

Barry turns to Adam, sees the part of the tattoo that isn't hidden by his jacket and recognizes him. “Did any of them say why, Adam?”

Adam's grin chases away any lingering uncertainty about his presence. “Seems they wanna respect his right to privacy... And the one who asked about Chance was worried he'd be punished for Roscoe's stupidity.”

Barry heaves a sigh of relief. “Chance is always welcome here, as are the rest of you. Now why don't you folks talk to our companions here about what you're looking for?” He leaves the crowd and comes over to Chance. “We know who hung up on you when you called that day.”

Chance looks up at Barry with a curious expression. “Who was it?”

Barry looks away as he exhales and looks back to meet Chance's gaze. “It was Carmine. She thought you were calling to book Tracy.” His voice gets quiet. “Shannon fired her on the spot.”

“That wasn't her first infraction, was it.”

“No it wasn't.” Barry looks at Adam. “We have a three strike rule here. If you screw up three times, you're fired.”

Adam nods slightly. “Good policy. What were her other two screwups?”

“She stole the money out of someone's wallet while they were washing up and she tried to lock Tracy in the freezer.”

“Something's wrong with her. Seriously.”

“I agree completely.” Barry looks at Chance again. “Morgan wanted me to say thank you for helping her mother and sister.”

Chance tilts his head. “Her mother and sister?”

“You know her sister quite well, Chance... She and her mother live with your parents.”

Chance's eyes widen almost comically. “Morgan's sister is Tiffany!?”

“Yes. Her mother was but a teenager when Morgan was born.”

“I'm glad I could help them... Tiffany has friends at school.”

“I'll make sure to tell Morgan.”

“Thank you.” Chance gives an exhausted exhalation. “I'd better get home... I have work in the morning.”

“Make sure he gets home safely, Adam.”

Adam smiles and touches two fingers to his forehead. “You bet I will.”

“How's Leo doing, Chance?”

Chance pushes himself to his feet with a weary sound. “PTO until the orthopedic surgeon finds out what's wrong with his leg and he has a boot brace and crutches to get around. It's gonna give him cabin fever, I know it.” Then he grins the best he can. “Or not... We finally got a TV with an affordable cable package.”

“Did you see the Bruins-Sabres game earlier?”

“I didn't see the last little bit... It was 4-2 Sabres when Adam and I left the house.”

“The final score was Bruins 4, Sabres 6. That third period was wild!”

“Leo's happy... He likes the Sabres.”

Barry chuckles. “And you don't, I take it?”

“Avalanche all the way, baby!”

Adam grins. “Penguins, Flyers and Devils here.”

Barry laughs a little. “It doesn't surprise me what with you living in Philadelphia and all.” Then he looks around. “My son is a huge fan of yours and it'd make him very happy if he could get your autograph.”

“I'd be happy to.” Adam takes a small notepad from the back pocket of his jeans and brings a pen out of his inside jacket pocket. “What's his name?”

“Ryan. He's fourteen.”

“Thanks.” Adam writes quickly and carefully. 'Hey Ryan, The sky's the limit when you believe in yourself! Don't let anyone get you down! “Wolfsbane” Adam Brock'. He carefully detaches the page he wrote on and folds it before holding it out. “There you go... One autograph for your son.”

Barry takes it and tucks it into his pocket. “Thank you so much. This will mean the world to him.”

“Any time.”

Billy suddenly steps forward. “Before you go, Chance, I have a question.”

Chance turns to look at Billy. “What's your question?”

“What's the name of the wrestling promotion you work for?”

Chance grins. “Supreme Championship Wrestling. It's based in Toronto.”

The person who asked about Chance speaks up again. “Didn't you work for Supreme Championship Wrestling at one point, Adam?”

No help for it... Adam's been caught out. “I did, actually. Back in 2014.” He grins and formally introduces himself. “The name's Brock... “Wolfsbane” Adam Brock, to be specific.”

“I thought I recognized you!”

Chance laughs. “Barry did too.” He can feel the weariness creeping into his bones. “I'm going home now... It's been a busy day and I have to work tomorrow.”

“Sleep well, Chance... And good luck in SCW!”

“Well, thank you very much!” He puts his jacket back on and lifts his hand in the peace sign. “Be well, folks.” He turns toward the stairs and slowly climbs them.

Adam is right behind him just in case. “Be good to each other, okay?” The chorus of “We will!” makes him smile as he follows his friend and protege out into the cold Denver night. “I don't think you'll have a problem here at Shannon's any more.”

“I know I won't... But if anyone else decides to come at me, they're going to have a really bad day.”

“I believe it! Come on, let's get you home so you can get some sleep. You burned away all the food you ate.”

“Not all of it... Just enough to make me not feel like I'm going to throw up.”

“Good.” Adam throws his arm around Chance's neck and takes the younger man home. Chance hadn't been lying when he'd said it had been a busy day. Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.
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