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Phase 3 - Kate
PG-13 - non-explicit m/m slash,language
Characters: Chris Daniels, Chris Harris, James Storm/AJ Styles
Summary: Daniels is angry, Styles is bored, Storm is drunk, and Harris is desperate. Unexpected alliances are formed, and sillyness ensues.
Disclaimer: We own neither the characters nor the individuals who portray them. Written solely for our own entertainment.

" action more easily justified than its alternatives," Chris Daniels pulled in a deep breath as he concluded, "because sins of commission are always treated with more leniency than sins of omission."

An expectant silence followed, and AJ Styles looked up hopefully, wondering if it was now an appropriate time to suggest a few rounds of video games. Last time he offered, Chris had tried to throw the console out the window, but that was just because he knew that AJ was much better at it than he was. Only remedy for that is practice, AJ decided cheerfully. He opened his mouth to point this out to Chris, then shut it again as he saw his partner's eyes flicker to the PlayStation in the corner of the dressing room and narrow suspiciously. "Oh," AJ offered lamely, trying to cover for the fact that he had missed Chris' latest half-hour diatribe. "And why's that?" Nice save, he told himself.

Chris' suspicion lifted only slightly. "Because, as I explained before, God can forgive a misused life faster than a wasted one. Morality is meaningless without first determining intentionality. Boredom and stagnation are the ultimate cause of every sin since the Fall of Man." He paused and looked at AJ, who gave his most ambiguous expression, somewhere between quizzical and vaguely hungry. "Why would Eve have taken the fruit, had she not been bored and ready for a change?"

"Um…maybe she was hungry?" AJ guessed.

"She was in the Garden of Eden," Chris pointed out. "She had other food available."

"Maybe not," AJ insisted stubbornly. "Maybe they were all out of season."

A stupefied silence. "What?"

AJ wiggled deeper into the couch, warming to the subject. "Maybe it was winter and there wasn't any other food. I mean, back home the only things we could really grow in the winter were carrots and onions and stuff. But none of that's on trees."

"You have an astounding knowledge of horticulture, but—" Chris interrupted.

"Thanks. And maybe Eve didn't know if it was there or not, because all that stuff's underground. And you can't really go randomly digging holes in God's garden, can you? I used to have a dog," AJ continued hurriedly to cut off Chris' response, "who'd dig holes in our garden all the time. I guess he was trying to bury stuff. My dad would go out there and cuss a blue streak at her. I betcha if you made God mad enough to cuss like that, you'd be in pretty big trouble."

"I…" Chris blinked and tried again. "I don't think God would swear, even if you dug up his garden…" He broke off as AJ lifted his eyebrows and opened his mouth for a response. "Damn it, AJ!" Chris exploded. "You've ruined my train of thought."

"Sorry." AJ's grin was decidedly more relieved than apologetic.

"I'm taking a walk," Chris snapped, stalking to the locker room door.

"Suit yourself." AJ tried not to outwardly gloat as he reached for one of the PlayStation controllers.

Ten minutes later, Chris Daniels was in a much calmer frame of mind.

Part of this change, of course, was his acceptance of the fact that AJ was a good partner and a good person, despite not being Chris' first pick for the debate team. Part of it, he was willing to admit, was the inherent satisfaction of striding around angrily with a robe that dramatically flared in his wake. But most of it, he was sure, was the hilarity of watching Chris Harris work at a table next to the backstage buffet.

What he was working on, exactly, was hard to determine. It seemed to involve paper plates rolled into vaguely conical shapes, huge snarls of masking tape, and apprehensive glances thrown over both of the Wildcat's shoulders at regular intervals.

Daniels cleared his throat, allowing himself an amused grin as Harris whipped around to face him, stepping in front of the table to shield his project. "Oh…h-hi," stuttered Harris, resting one hand on his hip and completely failing to look casual.

"I wasn't aware TNA sponsored arts and crafts," Daniels smirked, moving closer to try to see over Chris Harris' shoulder. "I left my glue-sticks in the car."

"Really?" Harris asked hopefully.


"Oh." Downcast, he turned back to the table. "They might've helped."

"What is it?" Daniels finally asked, after several moments of contemplating the object on the table.

Harris sighed. "I was trying to make a funnel. You don't happen to have a funnel, do you? Didn't think so." He ran a hand through his hair as he frowned at his makeshift tool.

"I'm sure I will regret asking, but I doubt I can live with myself if I don't." Chris Daniels mentally braced himself for the answer. "Why do you need a funnel?"

"It's James." Harris dropped wearily into a chair. "I like him and all, but he's just so drunk all the time. I can't hold a coherent conversation with him anymore."

"I know what you mean," Daniels said, scowling at his mental image of AJ, PlayStation controller in hand. "People who don't pay attention are very annoying."

"Right!" Harris seemed surprised at the validation, but pushed on anyway. "I tried to take his beer away yesterday and he headbutted a lamp. So I thought maybe if I didn't take the beer, just replaced it with something…" He gestured to the six bottles of Budweiser and the equal number of O'Douls' Non-Alcoholic Beer at the far side of the table, then bit his lip and looked up at Daniels hopefully. "You think he'll notice?"

After a few moments of deliberation, Daniels grabbed a plastic cup from the catering table and sat down. "Look, if we can punch a little hole in the bottom of this, we won't need your little funnel thing."

Harris' eyes lit up. "Chris, that's a great idea!"

"And after we finish this, we can decide what to do about AJ and his stupid video games."

AJ looked up from the screen in annoyance as his locker room door flew open. "What?"

"Is Chris in here?" James Storm demanded belligerently.

"No, he just left." AJ frowned as James cursed. "Why do you want to talk to Chris?"

"None of your damn business, boy." James swayed dangerously before righting himself. "And I don't want to talk to him. I want to punch him in the face."

AJ considered defending his partner, but he was pretty sure James would pass out halfway through a fight, so why bother? "Well, he should be back soon," AJ offered. "You can wait for him if you want."

"Good." Shutting the door behind him, James folded his arms across his chest and began waiting. He tried rocking up onto his toes to demonstrate his impatience but nearly fell over, so he settled for talking. "I'm going to punch him in right in the face!" he repeated.

"How come?" Not really caring to hear the answer, AJ resumed his game.

"That asshole stole my beer! Again!"

"The beer in your hand?"

James looked surprised to discover the half-empty bottle in his hand. "No, my other beer," he said, taking a long swallow and grinning wildly. "I've got beer all over the place; he can't find all of it! Oh, Chris thinks he's so smart with all his—"

"He ain't that smart," AJ said flatly.

"Right!" Nodding vehemently, James crossed the room and collapsed on the couch next to AJ. "What are you watching? Hey, it's a catfight. Yeah. That's hot."

AJ ignored him and hit his next combo move.

"Whoa! What was that? Is that even legal?"

"It's Mortal Kombat, James. Everything's legal."

"Oh..." James drawled out, looking at the controller as comprehension slowly dawned. "So you're one of the girls?"

"I'm playing Kira. The one on the left."

"Huh. Can you make her take off her shirt?"

AJ shot James a dirty look as his player decapitated her opponent.

"Ew." James' eyes were locked on the screen as the next battle started. "That was really gross." He paused, then took another drink and continues. "Why are you a girl anyway? That's pretty gay."

"The girls have less body mass," AJ informed him. "They're harder to hit, and they're quicker."

"Why don't you just aim for the boobs? Can't really miss 'em." AJ didn't bother responding, but James laughed quite enough for both of them. "I still think it's pretty gay."

AJ shrugged and concentrated on the fight. At least James was easier to ignore than Daniels.

"That's OK," James continued matter-of-factly. "I'm pretty gay, too." He raised his beer to eye level, frowning critically at it, then shrugged and drained the bottle, tossing it negligently to the floor.

AJ considered ignoring that admission as well, but gave into his curiosity. "In what way?"

"I like screwin' guys."

AJ nodded thoughtfully. "Yep. That's pretty gay."

Thanks to James' alcohol-slowed reflexes, AJ had plenty of time to pause his game as the larger man wrapped an arm around his waist, pulling him closer. "I thought you were looking for Daniels," he stated wryly, fighting back a giggle as James' fingers hit a ticklish spot on his ribs.

"Daniels who?"

"Chris Daniels, you are the smartest man on the planet."

"I know," Daniels agreed absently, leaning back in his chair as he surveyed their finished product. Not bad, he decided. The table was a wreck, but somebody else could deal with that later. He couldn't be expected to do everything around here.

"Time for Phase 2," he announced, slapping the table decisively and rising to his feet. He frowned momentarily at his palm, wet with spilled beer from the table.

"What's Phase 2?" Harris asked, shoving his chair backwards as he stood, grabbing the substituted six-pack.

"AJ Styles." Daniels threw an arm over the taller man's shoulders, steering him towards the locker room. The position was slightly uncomfortable, but it allowed Daniels to surreptitiously wipe his wet hand on Harris' cotton t-shirt. "That imbecilic game of his is destroying what's left of his mind."

"So what's the plan?" Harris asked a few minutes later as they stopped outside AJ and Daniels' room.

"I'm going to lure AJ out of there, and then distract him with some excellent improvisation. Meanwhile, you can sneak in the room, steal his PlayStation, and escape. We can reconnoiter in your room in five minutes and decide what to do from there." Without waiting for Harris' agreement, Daniels gestured for him to hide around a nearby corner. Clearing his throat quietly, Daniels called to the door in his most wheedling voice. "AJ? AJ, come here a minute. I need you."

The door remained closed. Daniels raised his voice.

"AJ, it's Chris. Your partner. Come out here, please."

Still nothing. Time to put those acting skills to work.

"AJ! I..ow! AJ, I hurt my leg! I need your help; get out here." Daniels collapsed against a hallway way for good measure, but the resulting thump was disappointingly soft. He kicked the wall to get a better sound effect. "Ow!" He hadn't even needed to act for that one.

Daniels' brow furrowed as the door failed to fly open. Harris' sympathetic shrug from his crouched position by the corner only made the situation worse.

"Damn it, AJ Styles!" Daniels howled, attacking the door with both fists. "You get out here right now, you selfish prick! I am your partner and--"

"Maybe he's not in there," Harris suggested, pushing Daniels gently away from the door. Daniels huffed disbelievingly and stepped back, giving Harris enough room to carefully crack the door open.

Daniels glared at the back of Harris' head as he peered in, but quickly shifted to surprise when Harris yelped, "James?" and pulled the door open wider.

"What on earth is Storm doing in there?" Daniels demanded, trying unsuccessfully to see around Chris Harris' bulk.

" whatcha up to?" Harris stammered. Daniels could hear the tone but not the words of Storm's half-growled response. "Yeah, I can see that." Clearly uncomfortable, Harris looked down at his hands and discovered the substituted beer he was still carrying. "Want a drink?" he offered cheerfully, holding out the six-pack.

Harris managed to close the door just before a gym bag (looking suspiciously like Daniels') came crashing into it.

"What was that about?"

"Man," Chris Harris shook his head. "I think we might need another phase."