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"If you can't tell the difference from your dreams and waking mind, what are the odds on deciphering your ass from a hole in the ground?"

Lindsay Troy

Title: Where the Road Ends (Singles Match vs. Tyler Rayne, Colossus VIII)
Featuring: Wade Elliott
Date: Fall, 2012
Location: From Chicago to Cambridge

The rain crashed down from a black, angry sky into the tree tops, pouring and rolling off branches and leaves, drowning the dirt floor. His heavy frame stood strong within the woods, the details of his face hidden in the dark.

Lightning struck like a supernova, illuminating the area clearly for that split second and revealing the situation.

Wade's thunderous blue eyes hammered through the rain, eyebrows furled with roiling fury, lips curled behind that heavy brown goatee, hair clinging to his forehead. A soaked, plain gray t-shirt clung to his rugged body, the soles of those old steel-toed boots sunk into the mud.

Alice, his silver .357 magnum revolver, sat in the tight grip of his right hand.

His storm-cloud stare landed some thirty feet ahead, on the tattered, confederate-clad shape of his mirror image. The doppelganger shook with rage, baring a rotten set of teeth behind a ragged beard.

"Ya gonna try'n put a bullet through a fuckin' ghost?" spat the Confederate, raising its voice above the heavy rainfall.

Wade did not respond.

"YA CAN'T!" it roared. "YA CAN'T KILL ME! YA CAN'T KILL US!""

The Bad Dog would not waiver, his deadly glare holding tight to the enraged demon. However, Wade did cock back the hammer of his revolver...

...and lifted it to his own temple.

"Sure I can..."



* * * * * * *


Cambridge, Massachusetts
Days before ReVolution: The Last Stand


"...an' I stayed with her in that cabin, fer all those years. Then I left, an' came lookin' fer you."

Wade and Lindsay leaned against the hood of his beat up Chevy. She folded her arms across her chest, nodding as The Bad Dog finished telling his tale of the past three years since the night he crashed his truck. She paused for a few moments, absorbing the information, while Wade kept his hands in his jean pockets, giving her all the time she needed. She stared at the ground and watched a line of ants march across the pavement and into a small anthill built off the edge of the driveway. She knew she was stalling, and she knew Wade knew she was stalling, but she also didn't want all her questions that needed answers to come out in a rush.

"I guess I always knew one day you'd just go off the grid and stay there," she muttered, finally. "But I don't get why you had the need, after three years, to try and fix things between us. What changed?"

The Drifter released a heavy sigh, those blue eyes turning toward his boots. The simple question could have lead to a pretty complicated response, but it only took him one word, like it was completely obvious, to answer it.

"Kate," he said.

"Did you tell her why you needed to leave? Or did you just go with no explanation?"

"Hell, ya might say it was her idea," he replied with a small hint of a laugh. "She don't know the details, an' she don't wanna know. Kate's a smart girl, she knew I had a few loose strings, an' she let me leave to go an' tie em' up."

"She's going to want to know sooner or later, Wade. Nobody stays with a person for a long time without getting curious about their secrets."

"An' I'll tell her. I ain't got nothin' to hide anymore, an' she's a tough one. She can handle the gory details. Some've em' might take a lil' time, but hell, there's more'n a few that even you don't know about."

"Mm." Lindsay chewed on her bottom lip, and pulled a chapped piece of skin away with her teeth. "And I don't want to know, because I'm not sure you really deserve to tell me."

She turned to face him, arms still crossed in a closed, defensive stance.

"I'm having a hard time standing here and believing that you developed a conscience and learned about remorse from living in the woods for three years with a hill woman. Not for anything, Wade, but as much as I thought I knew you, and I probably know you better than anyone, the fact that you never let anyone get too close doesn't bode well. I'm glad you're alive, but there's little trust here anymore."

"I know," he muttered to himself. lifting his gaze from his feet. "I know that, Lindsay. I don't deserve any've this, an' ya don't need to trust me. There's a truck-load of things I wish I'd done different. A lot've things said an' unsaid, a lot've things done and undone..."

He paused a beat, turning those blue eyes to The Queen.

"...but truth is, I finally did let someone git close..."

Wade breathed in, and looked hard into Lindsay's brown orbs.

"...I just wish I'd done it a long time ago."

"Part of me wishes you did too," Lindsay admitted. "Not for any reason other than it would have made your life a lot easier instead of holding people at a distance and always looking over your shoulder."

The Bad Dog nodded, turning away and tilting his head toward the gray sky, taking another harsh breath in through his nose, stabilizing a flood of emotion. It took him a few minutes. The right words come very, very difficult for a man like Wade Elliott, but sometimes words aren't the only option. He dug into his pocket, retrieving a wallet-sized photo. It was wrinkled and worn, but the picture was clear. A moment in time backstage of a past ReVolution, Wade and Lindsay arm in arm, Troy's eyes closed and mouth wide with laughter, and the Drifter surrendering a small smile.

He looked at it for a moment, and handed it to her.

"Had that in my rear-view fer a lot of years. Even in those months I was rampagin' 'round like an asshole 'fore I crashed."

"I remember this," she said. For the first time that afternoon, a smile crept across her face. "Caesar took it, right after making a crack about Cantrell." She ran her fingers over the age-worn picture, then gave it back to Wade. "Seems like a lifetime ago."

He smiled back, gently retrieving the photo, looking back to it fondly.

"I cain't even count how many chances ya gave me, Lindsay. When I came back after I disappeared that first time, an' ya understood. The night've Dam's party..."

He stopped there, shaking his head slightly. He recovered, lifting his head once more.

"But what kills me is what I said to ya that night backstage when ya were lookin' fer Rayne. When I said I wished that ya hadn't missed that flight."

His body tensed, and his eyes started to glisten.

"I hope ya know I didn't mean a word've it," he finally continued. "You missin' that plane was the best thing that ever happened t'me."

"Well, I guess someone had to try and keep you out of trouble. Didn't always do the best job of it."

Lindsay relaxed her stance and placed her own hands into the pockets of her jeans.

"I didn't ever really think you meant it, but you were angry and hurt and y'know...we all say things we regret. Said plenty of things to you that were wrong, but I've got a temper too."

She paused.

"We wouldn't have worked, you know."

"Prob'bly not..." he replied, resting back onto the hood of the truck. He smiled a touch, and turned his head to to her over his shoulder.

"...but I woulda liked t'find out."


* * * * * * *


The old Chevy Stepside clambered its way down a stretch of asphalt road, showing off a few new dents and scrapes thanks to its involvement at ReVolution 250. Not even Wade's truck was safe in the Last Man Standing match against Hessian.

At least the engine still turned.

The Bad Dog cracked his jaw, one of many lasting effects from that match made in hell, and winced at the harsh snapping sound, reaching up to massage the hinge of his jaw. He stifled a yawn, balling a fist and holding it against his mouth, trying not to let it crack again.

The 'Bama Bruiser was very, very tired.

The trees lining the road and flooding the hills in the distance presented the beginning of fall, though the reds, yellows and oranges of leaves blurred together in Wade's drowsy blue eyes. He took his hands from the wheel a moment, rubbing the bottoms of his palms into his eye sockets to rub away the exhaustion.

He shouldn't have.

The road was no longer empty. Removing his hands from his eyes revealed a man standing maybe one hundred feet in front of his truck. His heart leaped through his throat, in pure Wade Elliott fashion.

"AW, SHIT!"

The size fourteen work boots laced tight to his feet hammered the clutch and brake of the truck respectively, locking the tires and squealing the rubber against the pavement with a high-pitched scream from hell. The muscles in his arms flexed tight, the knuckles of his fingers turning white as they gripped the steering wheel, pinning himself back into the seat, teeth grit together and eyes wide. The truck struggled to slow down, shuddering to the left and right until it finally came to a stop...

...with a familiar face staring at Wade through the windshield.

The Southern Sparkplug's expression didn't take long to shift from extremely frightened to very, very angry.

"Sonnuva bitch..." he growled.

The furious face staring at him through the cracked windshield was his very own, the confederate doppelganger that had arrived as of late, with a ragged beard, rotten teeth, tattered gray confederate uniform and an open wound in the side of his neck. Wade slammed the truck in neutral and flung the door open, storming out onto the pavement and hammering the door shut.

"What the FUCK do you want!?" The Bad Dog barked.

"Ya don't fuckin' get it, do ya?" spat the copy, blood spraying onto the ground. "Ya don't fuckin' get it an' ya dont' fuckin' listen!"

"An' that ain't 'bout t'change! An' you'd be real fuckin' smart t'go on an' disappear just like the other three!"

"Or WHAT!!?" the copy bellowed. "Gonna put me down? 'Cause it won't FUCKIN' work! They couldn't do it when we took this country, couldn't do it when the North tried shovin' their god-damned noses in our god-damned business, couldn't put us down in the first big war OR at Normandy! The hell makes ya think this'll be any diff'rent!??"

"'Cause I ain't you!" barked The Bad Dog. "I'm ME! I'm Wade FUCKIN' Elliott! Nobody tells me what I need an' what I don't! NOBODY! 'Specially not some fuckin' GHOST!"

The Doppelganger backhanded the 'Bama Bruiser swiftly, sending him reeling. Wade grit his teeth with tight fists, head whipping back to the imposter.

"LISTEN!!" it roared. "LISTEN T'ME AN' T'WHAT YER SAYIN'! If ya don't need nobody, then ya don't need her! YA DON'T NEED THAT CUNT!!!"

"GO FUCK YERSELF!!!!"

Wade tore Alice from the back of his belt, cocking back the hammer and squeezing off a few rounds, but his target had vanished, leaving on the echo of the loud, hell-spawned .357 magnum revolver. The sky had grown dark and ominous in quick, eerie fashion. The boom of thunder rang deafening in the sky. Elliott's eyes darted a couple hundred yards ahead, where the darkened frame of his mirror-image stood at the head of a dirt road.

"If yer gonna choose bein' a gutless cunt over the ice cold killin' machine that ya are..."

Wade lowered his revolver, squinting through the dark as the copy's voice hit his ears with an awkward amount of noise.

...then let's see how that works out fer ya..."

The ghost drifted, almost hovered up the dirt road and disappeared behind the trees. Rain began to fall steadily, pinging off the hood of the truck. Elliott stood there, the rain beginning to soak his gray t-shirt.

To chase, or wait.

Chase.

He stuffed Alice behind his belt, stepped into the '76 Chevy Stepside and slammed the door shut. He brought the classic truck back to life and hit the gas, roaring off into the rain and thunder.


* * * * * * *


Cambridge, Massachusetts

"What were you thinking, indulging Tyler and taking on Von Kelsig?"

The very reference to Wade's torturous match against The Murder Show caused him to roll his still-aching shoulder, feeling the bone and ligaments grind against each other awkwardly. He did a good job of hiding a pained grimace behind a fresh mug of coffee.

"Hell if I know," he said, setting his cup of joe down on the counter top of The Queen's kitchen and leaning against it, crossing his arms over his barrel-chest. "Ain't like I really thought it'd git ya to talk t'me. Maybe I thought I was overdue fer a good ass-kickin', like I owed it to a few folks, 'specially you..."

Lindsay's incredulous raising of an eye-brow and cocked-head derailed him completely.

"...weren't my brightest idea."

"Oh, because you've had so many of those..."

"Poster-boy fer learnin' the hard way, I 'magine."

"Sounds about right."

She took a sip from her own mug and swiped some stray crumbs from the top of the counter into the sink. "Not staying at MedStar to get patched up also wasn't a bright idea."

"Yeah, well, you know me."

He groaned a touch, reaching back for his coffee. His eyes wandered through the entrance of her kitchen and toward the living room, surveying the Troy homestead for a minute.

"So what's yer next step?" he asked after a sip. "Git hitched? Have a kid?"

Troy's hand jerked to a stop in mid-air, feeling her arm tense up. She pursed her lips together and, after a moment, placed her hand on the edge of the sink, fingers gripping the marble edge.

"You really have been away from the world," she murmured.

The Drifter's head tilted slightly, recognizing the pain in her expression. He ever-so-gently set his mug back to the counter, taking his time to read her.

"...what happened, Lindsay?" he asked in a low, quiet tone.

"I-"

She took a breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth.

"I was pregnant, actually. Found out I was three months along in September of '09. It wasn't planned, obviously, and I wasn't sure how Tyler was going to take it. Turns out, he was thrilled."

Another breath.

"We'd talked about getting married, before that happened, but after I told Tyler about the pregnancy he didn't want to get engaged and have it look like he was asking just because he 'knocked me up.' His words." She smiled, just a little, at the recollection. "I laughed at him when he said it. I told him 'I don't need a ring to know what we have.' I've said it to him on more than one occasion. I've already been married once, and I'd be alright with never being married again, y'know? If we've got a good thing, and we know we've got a good thing, why change it?"

She tilted her head to look at Wade, and the smile disappeared. "My family, on my mom's side, has a history of difficulty conceiving and with pregnancies themselves. My aunt couldn't have kids. My mom died giving birth to Alaina, and when Alaina was in labor with Cecelia her blood pressure spiked so high they thought she'd either throw a clot or have a brain anyeurism like our mom. So you see...this pregnancy was going to be high-risk. And it was."

Lindsay paused, looked down at the sink, and tried to stop the tears again. For the second time that afternoon, she wasn't successful.

"Alaina visited here that December, right before Christmas, and I'd been having back pains something awful. I reached for a bottle of wine, because she'd had a day of awful meetings, and the pain was so bad I thought someone put a bullet through me. But it wasn't that; it wasn't that at all," she sobbed. "There was wine all over the floor, and blood all over me. Six months in, I was so close to the end, and I miscarried."

She grabbed a napkin and held it against her eyes.

Wade could only watch the tear-filled Queen, and said nothing.

Not that he didn't want to, but on what possible level could he understand? He couldn't, and had no haggard, southern, gravely words of comfort to offer.

But again, words aren't the only option.

So Wade stood off the counter and took slow, easy steps with those heavy boots across the kitchen floor. He leaned back against the counter next to The Queen, and wrapped one of those big arms around her. She lowered the napkin from her eyes, rested her head against his shoulder, and he held on tight.


* * * * * * *


The old Chevy bounced and bucked its way along the dirt road, if you could call it that. The rain kept falling harder and harder, turning the dirt to mud. Wade stared hard through the rain, buckets of water cascading down the cracked windshield, the headlights providing very little help to cut through the storm and darkness.

"God-damnit," he growled to himself, trying his hardest to tame the Chevy as it barreled through the mud.

Eventually he would lose the battle, the truck dipping low, the soupy mess of a road reaching the chrome bumper and slamming it to a halt, nearly causing him to bounce his forehead off the steering wheel. He hit the gas again, but the Chevy would not budge.

"Shit," he hissed, throwing the door open and stepping outside into the rain. He left the vehicle on, wiping back already soaked hair, peering through the heavy rain.

Lightning cracked loudly and brightly, exposing the direction of the road. He curled his lips and furled his brow, retrieving Alice from his belt and spinning the chamber to inspect, noting the four remaining bullets.

Wade snapped the chamber back with the flick of his wrist, and stomped his way forward through the mud.


* * * * * * *


Cambridge, Massachusetts

"So, you an' Rayne gon' try again?"

The Bad Dog rested his elbows on his knees, staring toward the horizon from the steps of the Troy household. The sun was on its way out, and provided a fantastic colorful display through the cloud cover.

Lindsay stretched her legs out and leaned back. Her hands gripped the edge of the wooden porch. "We may, at some point, but I won't be the one to carry the baby. And we've got enough things going on right now, so the timing isn't the best."

He nodded. The subjects of children and miscarriages were foreign to the Southern Sparkplug. He reached for fresh cup of coffee brewed before they shifted to the steps, taking a long sip from the mug.

"Ya happy with him?" he asked flatly, keeping his steely gaze toward the pinks and oranges of the sky.

"You sure you can handle my answer to that?"

"Nope, but I wanna know anyway."

"Look at you, wanting to talk about feelings," she laughed for a moment, then turned serious again.

"Y'know, I spent a good amount of time downplaying how I felt about Tyler, for a few reasons. Didn't want to hurt your feelings, didn't want to make a big deal of it because of my divorce, didn't need people trying to analyze it or tear it down. And there just came a day when I asked myself what I was doing and who was I doing it for?"

She looked over at him staring off into the distance. "That was the day that I finally allowed myself to be happy, to let him make me happy. I don't know what I was thinking before, because I can't imagine a day without him now. I didn't think I'd ever have what I have with him."

Wade nodded again, taking his time with the weight of her response. He kept staring at that sky while she looked at him patiently.

"Good," he finally said. Wade shifted his body to turn toward the Queen, placing one booted foot one step higher. "I'm glad."

"I hope you mean it and aren't just saying it to try and help fix what you and I broke." She smiled. "I know you're not that guy who talks about how he feels, but I saw the same thing in your eyes when you talked about Kate."

"Maybe," he replied with a light chuckle. "An' I don't 'xpect I'll be admittin' t'all that right away."

They shared a short laugh, Wade's stoic demeanor all but vanishing.

"But I do mean it," he continued. "What I can admit is that Rayne's a helluva lot more've a man than I ever gave 'im credit for. An' if he's taken care've ya, and made ya happy all these years I've been gone, then I'd be a real sonnuva bitch t'keep carryin' on like I was 'fore I left. It's just..."

He stumbled for a beat, curling his lips in a bit.

"...it was just hard fer me back then."

"I know it was."

She scooted closer to him, reached out her hand, and placed it on his forearm.

"Listen, Wade...in the spirit of honesty, I'm going to admit to something that I never thought I would. But there was a part of me all those years ago that thought maybe there could've been a you and me. And it may have been all the alcohol that night, and I know I drank a whole lot of it, but after Dam's party in Indy I had half a mind to act on it, or I hoped that maybe you would've acted on it so I wouldn't have to. But nothing happened. And when I woke up the next morning after nothing happened I was relieved, because I think I knew, really knew, that it would've been a mistake. You were never going to be happy living in a big city, and I was never going to be happy living in the middle of nowhere. I barely even got you to wear a button-up shirt that night. But I really believe that all the things that happened between us, and all the things that never did, needed to take place exactly this way, because I think we both needed to do some growing up."

The Bad Dog looked down to her hand on his forearm with a smile, and placed a big paw on her wrist. Again taking a moment to absorb her weighty admission, reflecting on opportunities missed and what could have been. However, the Blue Collar Brawler could only go so deep.

"Ya know..." he started before looking up to Lindsay's eyes, his small smile growing to a full-on grin. "...I hated that damn button-up shirt."

"And you wore it for about as long as you could've standed before you were right back wearing the dirt and the dust from the road. So what's that tell you?"

"That yer prob'bly right, like usual."

"It's a rare thing for me to be wrong, you know." She cleared her throat. "I know you haven't said it, but I'm sure you're wondering about Angus."

Wade went quiet, and looked toward his feet a moment before looking back to her with a nod.

"How is he?"

"I could tell you. Or I could show you."

He tensed, his eyes went wide, obviously nervous. The last time he had seen his beloved blue-tick hound companion was more than three years ago, the very night Wade and Troy's friendship had burned to the ground, where Angus left The Drifter's side and chose the heel of The Queen.

He gave her two quick nods.

"Alright. Wait here."

She stood up, brushed herself off, and walked back in the house. Wade sat there in silence; he looked at his hands, then looked back at the house. The front door was partially shut, but not closed all the way to prevent him from hearing the barks of multiple dogs somewhere inside. He heard Lindsay call for Angus and then instruct the others to stay in the kitchen. After a few minutes, she poked her head around the door and gave him a reassuring nod.

"You ready?"

"As best I can be," he replied quietly, standing off the stairs and facing the doorway.

Lindsay opened the heavy door and a salt and pepper face appeared before the screen, cautious eyes peering out to the porch.

"Look who's here, Angus," she said to the pup, opening the screen door with a slow creak.

Wade stood still, semi-frozen, blue eyes wide. He slowly knelt down on the porch, staring at his old canine companion.

Angus stepped out onto the porch with gentle steps, head low. The Bad Dog knelt patiently, giving the blue-tick his time.

"Hey pup," greeted Wade with quiet, raspy words.

Angus paused, inspecting his old master. Lindsay leaned in the doorway, waiting silently.

Finally, the blue-tick hound took a few more calculated steps forward, passing the long snout and flopping ears of his head over Wade's shoulder and sat upright. The Drifter locked-up for a moment, then softly wrapped his arms around the pup, softly scratching one of his ears.

There was very little effort to prevent his eyes from watering.

"Hey," Troy said softly. "You okay?"

"Yeah, just..." he started, pausing to close his eyes and hold off the tears.

"...just gimme a minute."


* * * * * * *


"Think 'bout what yer doin', Wade..."

The voice of Wade's dead and rotting counterpart hit him in the ears as The Bad Dog wrenched boot after boot from the mud and placed it forward. He dragged his forearm across his eyes to clear the water from the heavy rain, gray shirt and jeans soaked completely through.

"What're ya lookin' t'do? Find me an' kill me? Ain't smart..."

The sharp crack of lighting exposed more of the road, giving the 'Bama Bruiser just enough direction to continue on, teeth barred, eyes burning.

"Killin' me is just as good as killin' yerself, an' what for?"

Another foot forward.

"Pride?"

Another.

"Love?"

Another.

"Atonement?"

And another.

"We know that's all a load've horseshit..."

Eventually, Wade had to stop, his heavy boots sinking. He breathed heavily, big chest heaving through his drenched shirt.

Lighting struck once more...

...and revealed the imposter some thirty feet ahead.

"...an' tryin' t'kill me, t'kill us, is just as useless as tryin' to patch things up with her."

The ragged imposter spat into the mud, his shredded Confederate uniform soaking red on the collar as the rain spread his festering neck wound. It barred its yellowed teeth, eyes to match Wade's roiling with hate.

The Bad Dog slowed his breathing, bared his own set of fangs, and gripped his revolver tight.


* * * * * * *


Somewhere in Massachusetts
Days Before Colossus VIII


"Thanks fer meetin' me out here."

"Yeah, well, good job keeping it discrete," came a sarcastic voice that could only belong to The Golden Boy, Tyler Rayne, slamming the door to a non-descript black SUV while commenting on the dim, abandoned parking area.

"More my style," replied Wade, seated on the tailgate of his Chevy Stepside. "I'm sure ya understand."

"Well enough," replied Rayne walking toward the The Bad Dog. "You’re not playin’ banjo, so that takes out the worst of my guesses as to this secret shindig. Do tell, though, what’s got ya calling me out here tonight, Country?"

Wade laughed a little, dipping his head.

"Don't ya worry, Rayne. Plenty've time fer us to whip each other's asses come Colossus. Just wanna talk a minute."

The Hero of the Day smirked, and hopped up next to the 'Bama Bruiser on that open tailgate.

"Well," said Rayne. "Go on and talk my ear off."

Elliott chuckled again, elbows resting on his thighs.

"Rayne," said Wade, turning his head toward his long time rival. "Mostly, I just wanted t'say thanks."

Tyler laughed a small, incredulous laugh at The Drifter.

"'Thanks,' huh?" said Rayne. "Now that isn't your style."

"Changes an' all that," replied The Bad Dog. He paused a moment, reaching up to rub his thick goatee.

"Lissin', Rayne," he continued. "What's done is done an' what's said is said, but here's the truth've it; I'm sayin' thanks, for steppin' up an' bein' the man that Lindsay's been needin' fer a long, long time."

The Golden Boy squinted at the sentiment, hunching over a touch, resting his own elbows on his thighs.

"You're...welcome?" is all he could reply with.

"Look," continued Wade. "Fer a long while I thought I wanted t'be that man, thought I could be, but I was too chicken-shit t'do anythin' about it. Then you two started carryin' on, and I turned into some kind've cunt, an' lookin' back on it, it's showin' me that it weren't ever gonna be me t'begin with."

Again, a bit of silence from The Hero of the Day.

"Ya know, Country, all this serious talk makes it real hard to crack wise with the quips."

"Ya make her happy, Rayne," Wade continued. "You should hear how she talks 'bout ya. All I ever did was give 'er hell, so what else do I gotta say about it?"

The Rayne Man turned his palms up and shrugged his shoulders, shaking his head slightly.

"I'll always care 'bout the girl," said Wade. "I think ya know that. But if ya know anythin' 'bout me, it's that I ain't gonna be stickin' 'round, an' I'm glad, I'm god damn relieved, that she's got a man've yer caliber to take care've her. I know that's more'n I ever gave ya credit for, but I mean every word've it."

"That's..." Rayne paused, sitting a little more upright and exhaling a breath. "Well, that's a lot more sentiment out of your rural -ass mouth than I ever would have put money on. And I would have put a lot of money on it."

The Bad Dog huffed a chuckle, turning his head toward one of the dim, flickering lamps in the parking area, contrasting hard against the night sky.

"Here," he said. "I want ya t'have somethin'."

Rayne furled his brow, curious and confused, as Wade reached his big arm behind to his lower back. He retrieved a revolver, a big .357 magnum with a sleek black handle attached to a flawless, shining silver chamber and barrel. Wade stared at it for a moment, then flipped it around, holding it by the barrel and handing it toward Tyler.

"Go on," said Wade after a quiet moment. "Take it."

Rayne tilted his head at the weapon, inspecting it in The Drifter's big paw, before gripping the handle and slowly bringing it before him, studying the exquisite piece of craftsmanship.

"She's one've two," Wade remarked. "You can take a wild guess as t'who has the other one."

Rayne said nothing, turning the weapon over in his hands until he noted the small black inscription along the barrel.

"'I come from a place whither I desire to return,'" Tyler read aloud. "That sounds familiar."

"It's Dante," was Wade's answer. "A line from Dante's Inferno."

"You can read?" scoffed Rayne. "Honestly, Country, never pegged you as much of a literature fan."

"I ain't," he replied, amused. "Just a line or two."

Another pause. Tyler lifted the big revolver into firing position, squinting an eye to peer through the sights.

"That revolver right there is the sister to another, the one I got tucked away in my truck right now. I call 'er 'Alice.' This one ain't got a name just yet, 'least not that I know of. What I do know, is that when they're apart, there ain't no better weapon a man would want at his side when the situation gits troublesome. But when they're together..."

The Bad Dog cleared his throat, shifting his body on his tailgate seat.

...their only aim is t'raise Hell on Earth."

"Hell of a piece," said Rayne. He lifted his head toward the Southern Sparkplug. "Why me?"

"Maybe I'm wrong," replied Wade with a small grin. "But somethin' tells me that you know just as well as I do that there's a little more goin' on in this world than most can understand. That gun'll take good care of ya through the shit've it."

The Golden Boy said nothing at the comment, he only smiled at the silver magnum, then to Wade.

"This is, uh, quite the gesture. Not real sure what to say."

"All ya gotta say is that you'll take damn good care've Lindsay, an' that you and me will raise our own brand've hell in that ring at Colossus."

"Taking care of Uni goes without saying," he said, once again sitting more upright. "But as far as Colossus..."

Rayne reached over and gave The Bad Dog two big pats on his shoulder.

"...you can bet your farm on that one."


* * * * * * *


"...sure I can."

Wade's Confederate-copy growled, squinting hard at The Bad Dog as he held Alice to his own skull. It tilted its head awkwardly before hacking up a glob of blood, sending it to the muddy, rain soaked dirt.

"That ain't too fuckin' smart," hissed the doppelganger.

"Oh, I don't know," said Wade. "This might be one've my brighter ideas."

"Just gonna go belly up? That it? Wave the colors've a coward and put it all to an end? Lissin' here, Wade..."

"Naw, you listen you fuckin' cunt," barked The Bad Dog, interrupting his mirror-image. He cocked the hammer back, re-adjusting the .357 magnum against his head. "Here's how I see it. Yer sayin' that Wade Elliott ain't ever died. Can't be killed. That as long as this country was gettin' built, I've been there. We've been there, an' that I've been raisin' hell the whole damn time, been the same hard-ass, the same driftin' outlaw, the same cold-blooded bastard sonnuva bitch fer allllll those years. Well, if that's all true, it don't sound like I've done a whole lot've good the past couple-hundred years..."

The Drifter started forward, slowly placing one big boot in front of the other toward the demon.

"...might be a good time t'put it to an end."

"Ha!" gawked the copy, chuckling through its broken, yellowed teeth. "Put it to an' end? Like blowin' yer god-damn head off is gonna change anything? Yer a fuckin' fool."

"Maybe," replied Wade, within fifteen feet of his counterpart. "Might not change a damn thing, then again it might change everythin', put a couple hundred years've a rotten past in the dirt. Hell..."

Wade stopped his march, feet planting shoulder-width apart, finger on the trigger with Alice's silver barrel still pressed against his temple.

"...maybe I just won't have to deal with fuckin' ghosts anymore."

"AH HAHA!" bellowed the imposter. "That it? Just lookin' t'git ghosts an' spectres out've yer head? Maybe that's YER fault! Maybe it's yer own fucked up brain t'blame! But it doesn't fuckin' MATTER!!! Ya really think it's that god-damn easy? That a bullet can put an end to Wade God-damn Elliott? A bullet from some pistol!?"

"Yer right," said The 'Bama Bruiser. "It prob'bly ain't that easy..."

Then, in a swift moment, Wade locked his arm forward, pointed Alice at the doppelganger's heart...

"...but this ain't 'some pistol'".

...and pulled the trigger.

The copy lurched as bloody thunder exploded from the business-end of Wade's revolver. The confederate version of the Southern Sparkplug stood frozen with confusion spread across its haggard face. Wade stared it down, lips curled and eyebrows furled, arm taught and extended as steam rose from Alice's barrel.

The copy slowly turned its eyes downward toward its chest, blood seeping from his heart and bleeding into its tattered gray uniform.

"Heh..." the doppelganger said, looking back to the thunderous eyes of The Drifter. Among the hard-hitting rain, the copy's body started to disintegrate. Small, dust sized pieces flowing off its shoulders and disappearing into the storm.

"...no shit."

It rolled its eyes into the back of its head, and soon crumbled away completely.

And Wade stood alone.

The rain continued to pelt through the trees and into the mud as Wade lowered his gun-arm. He relaxed his body, exhaling deeply through his nose.

He looked up to the sky, closing his keen blue eyes, and let the rain fall to his tired face.


* * * * * * *


Outside Chicago
Days After Colossus VIII


Wade stared down at the hundreds of speeding cars on a highway below him. A chill in the air bit at his skin in the late evening, leaning against the battered green Chevy among the last hour or so of daylight, parked off a quiet road above the highway. The completion of PRIME's lifetime at Colossus VIII tumbled fresh in his mind, those final moments backstage, the last time he'd hear his theme song, the incredible match against Tyler Rayne. He stood there with a comfortable sense of contentment, one side of his goatee turned up from a grin.

A pair of headlights reflecting off the mirror of his truck and the crunching of tires over gravel jarred his focus, looking over his shoulder to spy a rental car parking behind him.

The car idled for a time, with no movement coming from inside the vehicle. Wade turned his body to face the car, and the passenger door finally swung open. A pair of black boots hit the gravel and out of the rented Mustang stepped Lindsay Troy. She wrapped a black leather jacket tight to her body as she walked over to Wade.

"Couldn't have picked a place indoors?"

"You've all people know that ain't my style."

He smiled, hands in the pockets of his jeans as he took a couple steps forward to meet her.

"Thanks fer comin'."

"Sure, but Chicago's got plenty of diners and dives. We didn't have to drive out of the city proper to have another face to face."

The Bad Dog gave The Queen an unsatisfied tilt of the head with a smile.

"It beats a highway overpass is all I'm saying."

"That may be, but I'm okay with meetin' out here all the same."

The Queen rolled her eyes, and Wade gave her another grin.

"Helluva match ya put on back there," he said. "Can't think've a better way t'put PRIME t'bed."

"It was something, wasn't it?" Lindsay looked out over the metal and mesh barrier to the speeding cars underneath. "I'm glad it was with Matt, despite what he and I've been through."

"I get ya there, wouldn't seem right fer me to get in that ring one more time with anyone other'n Rayne. Hope we put on the show I'm thinkin' we did."

"You did, definitely. I'll be honest - as much as I'm going to miss this, I'm looking forward to not nursing any more battle scars. Tyler's and mine."

"Yup, I can tell ya it was an alright change've pace those years I was in the cabin."

"Is that where you're headed back to now?"

"When that Mustang behind ya rolls away, Pennsylvania's where I'm headin'."

"Mm," was her reply, looking back at Wade. "You gonna invite me out there? I need to vet this girl, make sure she's up to snuff."

"I'll git in touch, gonna take some time 'fore I'm ready t'handle you and Kate in the same room. Still got the directions I gave ya?"

"I do. The Garmin will get me there whenever you're ready. I know you're still rebelling against modern technology and everything."

"Old habits die hard."

The 'Bama Bruiser took a moment, kicking his heel forward through some light gravel.

"Take good care've the pup," he said, restarting the dialogue. "I know the twins've grown on 'im, an' I know he can hold 'is own with Ciro an' Isis. Jus' make sure ya bring 'im along if ya come an' visit."

Lindsay smiled. "If anyone can win Isis over, they won't have anything to worry about." She placed a hand on Wade's arm. "You need to take care of yourself. Alright?"

Wade breathed a chuckle through his nose.

"Takin' care've myself is all I've been doin' these years. Time I started takin' care've someone else."

He reached his arms forward and pulled her in close, hugging The Queen tight as the cars flashed by.

"I'll always try'n be there for ya, Lindsay," he said. "I hope ya know that."

She nodded and said nothing for a minute. Her arms wrapped themselves around his neck and held him as tight as he held her. "If you need anything, any help, anything at all, you need to call me. And don't be stubborn about it either."

"I'll try," he said quietly.

Wade eventually released her from his embrace, holding her shoulders and smiling into her face for a moment as the sun continued to drop lower in the sky.

"If Tyler was standing here instead of being the chauffer, he'd say 'Do or do not, there is no try.' like the nerd he is." She smiled. "Speaking of, I've got something in the car for you."

She walked back to the Mustang and motioned for the window to be rolled down, and once it was she motioned for something to be handed to her from the backseat.

"What is it?" Wade called.

"Close your eyes," Lindsay replied. When Wade's brow furrowed, she said, "Just trust me."

Wade complied, and Troy took his old, dusty drifter's hat from Tyler's hand and hid it behind her back. She walked back over and stood in front of him, made sure his eyes were still closed, then moved the hat to her front at chest level.

"Alright. You can open them now."

He opened his eyes, and immediately gave up a candid grin. He looked down at the old wide-brimmed drifter's hat fondly, having worn it for many, many years on the road, eventually leaving it at the feet of The Queen the night Angus took her side. He reached forward and gently took it from her hands, holding the leather hat lightly in his paws. He looked up from it, looking past Lindsay toward the Mustang for a moment, knowing Rayne was likely watching, before turning his steel-blue eyes back again.

"Damn near forgot about this thing," he said, turning it over in his hands.

"It's been boxed up in the garage, so it's probably a bit dirtier than you remember. I meant to give it to you when you came to the house but I figured bringing it to the last dance seemed a little more fitting."

"A helluva gesture..." he remarked, flipping the hat back over.

Then he handed it back to her.

"...but you'd better keep it."

The Queen absently took the hat back in her hands, looking at Wade with a tiny bit of confusion. He smiled at her one last time, a fondness wrinkled in his eyes.

"I ain't driftin' anymore."


* * * * * * *


The drive from Chicago had been a long one, but Wade kept the Chevy Stepside rolling down the road steadily. The finish of PRIME at Colossus VIII and his goodbye to Lindsay Troy afterward was fresh in his mind, though he drove with a quiet, content demeanor. He had driven through most of the night, and now greeted the sun as it rose above the treeline.

He found himself on a familiar dirt road, winding his way through the lefts and rights.

Though a particular left turn made him tense.

A long, shallow left turn from his first trip down this road, though he didn't remember it clearly. A turn that brought Wade's old black Chevy Silverado's days on the road to an end. He slowly rolled the '76 Chevy Stepside through, recalling the small bits and pieces of that night that remained in his memory.

Then, inexplicably, the truck slowed down.

Wade scanned his blue eyes over the old gauges, pumping the gas and break, turning the wheel lightly, but none to any effect. The truck just slowed under its own control, though he soon understood he was in no danger. He allowed the old truck to come to a stop in the middle of that dirt road, and he stepped out.

He walked forward from his truck, maybe ten steps, and parked himself on the dirt. Soon, three shapes began to materialize around him, and The Bad Dog surrendered a small smile.

To his left, an old, dead confederate soldier, not like the mirror-image of himself he had recently battled. This specter was all but a skeleton, with sunken eye-sockets and a heavy gray beard, clad in a gray confederate uniform.

Behind him, a tan-furred coyote possessing the voice of a man, sitting back on its rear legs.

And to his right, the western law man Wild Bill Hikock, with long gray mustache and wide-brimmed hat.

Though familiar, something was different about these three ghosts. They were smiling, even the dead confederate soldier. Wade turned to address them all before exhaling through his goatee.

"Was wonderin' when y'all would show up," said Wade.

"Well, so were we," was Bill's deep, throaty reply.

"So, what this time?" asked The Bad Dog, holding his palms up. "What lesson're y'all gonna try to teach my thick skull this time?"

"No more lessons, Wade," said the coyote. "No more tests."

"We just wanted t'give credit where credit's due," added the confederate, his voice hollow and ragged.

"Ya've done well, Wade," said Bill.

The 'Bama Bruiser nodded, but soon shook his head.

"I still don't understand," he admitted.

"There was nothin' t'understand, Wade," explained Bill candidly.

"Nothing we could have said to make it clear," said the coyote.

"Ya could only figure it out fer yerself," the confederate continued.

"Figure what out?" asked Wade. "All those years I thought y'all were tryin' t'git me to see somethin', t'understand somethin'. Who I was, what I could do..."

"It was all so much more simple than that, Wade," mentioned the coyote.

"Ya always knew who ya were, Wade," was Bill's elaboration. "But ya could never really understand who ya could be, what kinda man you were capable of bein', until ya let someone in."

Wade took a moment.

"Kate?"

"No," said the coyote.

Wade closed his eyes, lowering his head a touch, a moment of realization spread across his face.

"Lindsay," he breathed, the answer obvious.

"All ya had t'do was embrace those feelings, an' be man enough to admit 'em, instead've leavin' 'em in the dust," continued the law man. "Lots've men are good at runnin' away. It takes a real man t' face em' head on. An' ya finally did."

"Took ya long enough," laughed the confederate.

Wade nodded, absorbing the simplicity of it all, how easy the answers really were. He laughed quietly to himself.

"That's all, huh?"

"That's all," smiled Bill.

"So what now?"

"Now," said the coyote. "Now you carry on a greater man than you ever were."

"A man unafraid," said the dead soldier.

"And, y'all still gonna pop in from time t' time?"

"No Wade," explained Bill. "Ya don't need us anymore."

"You never really did," added the coyote.

"Yer more'n man enough to take care've you an' yours on yer own now," the dead confederate continued.

Wade breathed in deep through his nose, filling his lungs, before exhaling heavily.

"I'll try."

"So long, Wade," said Wild Bill, tipping his hat.

Dust sprinkled off the shoulders of the three specters. Wade looked to each three as they began to disintegrate. The dead confederate soldier inhaled eerily, tilting its head back and dissipating in the air. The coyote stood to its paws, turning and trotting away, leaving a trail of dust until there was nothing left. Finally, Wade turned to Wild Bill, who smiled at The Drifter through his heavy mustache.

"See ya someday."

The form of the western law man vanished nearly as quickly as he had arrived, the dust left behind floating to the tree tops. Wade's head dropped as Bill faded away, those steely blue eyes closed tightly.

And then, he was alone.

But not abandoned.


* * * * * * *


The old, green Chevy idled in that dirt road. Wade sat still in the front seat, frozen, his head turned over his right shoulder.

Through the passenger's window was a long driveway leading to a small cabin surrounded by field and forest.

Through the windshield, the dirt road.

His hands gripped the steering wheel at ten and two, staring down that small cabin, the cabin he shared with Kate for nearly three years prior, while the headlights stared down the road.

His boot rested lightly on the gas pedal.

Where does the road end?

Mournfully, Wade Allen Elliott, The Bad Dog, pressed the sole of his steel-toed boot to the gas pedal, and the tires turned against the dirt, leaving that long driveway in the rear view mirror.

It doesn't.
View Wade Elliott's Biography

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Roleplays

Where's the fun in easy?
By: Katt Wylde
Location: Tokyo
Date: Post-Collossus - Many Months Later
The Deal with the Deadline
By: Hessian
Location: @ Colossus vs. ???
Date: Colossus
Crisis on Alternate Earths
By: Tyler Rayne
Location: There and Here
Date: Colossus
Where the Road Ends (Singles Match vs. Tyler Rayne, Colossus VIII)
By: Wade Elliott
Location: From Chicago to Cambridge
Date: Fall, 2012
The Re-Build (Tag Team Match with Chandler Tsonda vs. Tyler Nelson & Devin Shakur, ReVolution: The Last Stand)
By: Wade Elliott
Location: Phoenix, DC, Massachusetts, and all places in-between
Date: From 248 to The Last Stand
PRIME: Seven years of excellence! Live on HBO!