Chris Daniels froze outside his dressing room, his hand on the doorknob. The moan from within his room was just quiet enough to make him doubt his own hearing, but then it was repeated more forcefully. Eyes wide, Chris jerked his hand back from the door.
"What on Earth...?" He had left AJ Styles alone in there while he wrestled, after an impassioned plea from the smaller man. "Tomko won't stop grabbing my butt," AJ had whined to him earlier, "and Christian thinks it's funny, and I told him to stop, but he's real big and I just need someplace to hang out and get dressed and be alone." But he certainly wasn't alone now, judging by the giggling drifting through the doorway. Chris frowned, standing awkwardly as his sense of delicacy fought with his indignant desire to reclaim his room.
"Stop it, Scotty!" AJ complained, still giggling. Another loud moan provoked another laugh. "I mean it, you butthole. You're gonna break something!"
Concern overrode his warring emotions, and Chris pushed open the door without even bothering to knock. He was greeted by two surprised faces looking up at him from the floor, surrounded by plastic wreckage and strangely contorted action figures.
"Shoot," AJ muttered to himself, turning to look at Raven. "You're in so much trouble."
Raven ignored him, disentangling two of the figures and setting them down deliberately before standing up. "Hey, Daniels. Nice match."
"I...what were you just..." Chris struggled to control his rising anger long enough to complete a question. "Are those my collectible--"
"I think you should probably talk to AJ about that," Raven informed him, shrugging casually. "See you around, man." He breezed out the door before Chris could think to stop him.
AJ scowled at the door as it slammed shut. "That butthole. This was totally his idea."
Chris dropped to his knees, gently scooping up the Batman figurine closest to his foot. "This was the limited edition Kenner Series One. I just bought this."
AJ scooted closer. "I like his mask. Raven was making him do bad stuff with Superman, stuff he totally wouldn't do." AJ met Chris' gaze, raising his eyebrows earnestly. "It was bad."
"I'm sure it was," Chris agreed tonelessly. "AJ, you know I collect these, right? And how I have to keep them in the packages so they stay in mint condition? And how--"
"And how as soon as you got a chance, you were going to have these shipped to your home so you could stack them up on a shelf with all the other boxes of toys that you ain't never played with," AJ interrupted with a sigh.
"They're not toys, they're collectible- -"
"Chris," AJ soothed, taking the Batman figure from his hands and holding it up. "They're just toys. You know. Fun."
"I have fun with them," Chris insisted. "This was the missing piece in my Super Powers Collection series. I would've had the whole set!"
AJ stared at him. "And then what? You would've dusted them or something?" Chris glared at him, but AJ kept going, "Chris, I'll buy you another Batman toy, OK? One just like this. In a big box and everything. But you gotta do something for me first."
"You gotta play with this one a little bit."
Chris stared at the figure. "Play what?"
"Anything," AJ assured him, pressing the toy back into Chris' hand. "Do anything you want with it."
"I'm not 8 years old," Chris argued. "I don't play with toys."
"It's not a toy, it's a collectible, " AJ deadpanned, bursting into laughter at Chris' snort. "C'mon, Chris. Play for ten minutes with me and I'll buy you a new one, since this'll be contaminated with fun germs and stuff."
AJ stared up at him in wonder. "Chris, you do the best Lex Luthor ever." Chris gestured impatiently towards AJ's hand, and he brandished the Superman figure menacingly. "That's where you're wrong, Citizen Luthor," he intoned, his voice deepening. "The forces of justice never work alone."
Daniels raised his eyebrows, but quickly nodded as AJ used his free hand to snatch up Batman. "You be him," AJ insisted, handing Chris the figure. "I gotta do Wonder Woman in a second."
"Welcome, Batman," Chris intoned. "And what brings Gotham's Dark Knight to our fair Metropolis?"
"We're doing it," AJ blurted, maneuvering his Superman figure between Luthor and Batman. Chris arched an eyebrow, and AJ shrugged. "That was Raven's idea."
"I...see. Well, you're just in time to watch the destruction of your alien boyfriend, Mr. Wayne, so if you would kindly step aside..." Chris looked up to see AJ beaming at him. "What?"
AJ's ducked his head, still smiling. "I thought they were boyfriends, too. Raven says they were probably just overcome by the testosterone and spandex, and that Superman's outfit was too fruity anyway."
"Raven wears a skirt," Chris pointed out.
AJ nodded, staring down at the toys. "I know. I like our version better." He moved his figure back a few inches until it was standing beside Batman.
Chris took a breath to slip into his Lex Luthor voice, but something in AJ's sudden concentration made him to decide to pursue the conversation further. "Well, it makes sense. I mean, they're partner's in the Justice League, right, so there's a lot of trust there."
"Yeah," AJ glanced up at him, then dropped his eyes again. "And they don't really have to worry about hurting each other, and they might be really different, but they're always on the same side."
"And they save each other," Chris suggested. "They're there for each other when it counts."
AJ smiled up at him. "Like tag partners." Chris went silent, but AJ continued. "Y'ever miss that? Being partners and all? We were pretty good."
Chris shrugged. "You're pretty good with Tomko now. You've got the belts."
AJ sighed, dropping the Superman figure on the floor as he rolled onto his back. "You and I were better."
"Mmm," Chris answered noncommittally. "It was fun."
"It was awesome," AJ countered, suddenly sitting upright. "You were so cool. You were always coming up with cool stuff we could--"
"You and Tomko--"
"Screw Tyson Tomko!" AJ snapped, immediately looking contrite. "I don't mean to cuss, but Tomko's always tryin' to get into my pants. You were there 'cause you wanted to make sure I didn't get hurt."
Chris swallowed hard. "That's part of being a partner, AJ. Besides, you're the future of TNA. I didn't want to see you get hurt."
"I know that," AJ said, leaning forward and wrapping his arms around Chris' neck. "And I appreciate that." He held on for a moment longer before muttering, "But Jesus Jones, Chris, sometimes I wish you were just tryin' to get into my pants."
Chris hesitated a moment, then tried gently pushing AJ away. AJ held on more firmly until Chris grabbed his arms and pulled them down, away from his neck. "AJ, listen. You're really adorable and all, but..." He trailed off as AJ started scowling.
"But what?" AJ demanded, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "You don't like me like that?"
"Of course I like you like...of course I like you," Chris insisted. "I just don't think it's a great idea to let this go any farther. I mean, we're coworkers here, and if we had to wrestle each other or something... "
"So how come we never did anything when we were partners? We couldn't have wrestled each other then."
Chris sighed. "I don't know, AJ. It's just not the sort of thing tag partners do."
AJ uncrossed his arms, slamming both palms onto the floor. "What the heck are you talking about?! You're so freakin' uptight about this! I mean, heaven forbid partners have an actual relationship outside of wrestling, just because they want to. And God save us all if somebody buys a freakin' toy to play with, just because they want to."
"That's totally unfair, AJ. That's a completely different situation."
"You're not a toy, that's how!"
"You're darn right I'm not a toy," AJ agreed. "And I'm not gonna break if we have a little fun, Chris. I don't hafta stay in the box, you know." He raised his eyebrows waiting for an answer, but they quickly drew together when Chris burst into laughter. "What's so funny?"
"Picturing how much plastic it would take to hold a life-sized AJ Styles action figure."
AJ grinned. "Yeah, and you'd have to cut holes in it so I could breathe and stuff. Probably better if you just kept me out."
"Probably." Chris looked down at the toy he had dropped, now laying peacefully next to AJ's Superman figure. "Maybe we should give them some privacy."
"Maybe they should give us some," AJ countered, pulling Chris' head down to kiss him firmly. "And maybe you should do that Lex Luthor voice again, because that was really freaking cool."
Chris looked up from his book as AJ stood in front of him, hands behind his back. "You bought me something?"
"I said I would," AJ informed him with mock self-righteousness, as he pulled a boxed Batman figure from behind his back.
Chris laughed, grabbing the box. "That's tremendous. Do you have a knife or something to get it out?"
"You can't open it!" AJ laughed. "Then it won't be in mint condition! And what would we do with two open Batman figures anyway?"
Chris smirked, raising one eyebrow. "Make Superman one incredibly lucky superhero?"