Torment of Tantalus
Chapter 9

When Chris and Stephanie finally reached the arena, she immediately left him with a simple, quiet thank-you for the ride there. It left a curious feeling of emptiness in Chris's stomach, but he focused his mind elsewhere, determined not to let his personal life interfere with work despite knowing how fruitless it would prove to be. Stephanie, for her part, pretended obliviousness, turning away from him before seeing the odd look on his face. She had things to do tonight, things that required a clear mind.

Lately, she'd been off her game. Stephanie prided herself on having focus in her life, knowing what she wanted to do at any given moment. Ever since she'd told Chris about her renewed relationship with Hunter, she hadn't contained that focus, that drive, within her. And as of now, she wanted it back. No more doubting herself and no more questioning her own actions after tonight. Tonight, she would regain that feeling of self-righteousness.

The bare facts felt like sandpaper rubbing on open wounds. She and Hunter had their relationship – twice – and it hadn't turned out. Each time Chris had been there for her to support her. Something had happened, though, after the second time. The line between friends and something more had begun to seem so distant, so unfamiliar, that Stephanie wasn't sure what he was to her. They had kissed, and not some simple peck on the cheek, days before she left for that weekend. She hadn't expected to fall for Hunter again on that weekend.

Again, she had become convinced that Hunter loved her and she loved them. Was she just falling into routine? Everything felt safe in his arms, structured. It was what her Daddy had always wanted; what she always wanted. The little Princess growing up, meeting a nice, rich, ambitious and business-orientated gentleman and marrying him. Wasn't that how it was supposed to be?

But then there was Chris. Her best friend, Chris. The Chris with the mischievous sparkle always shining in his eye, the thrill seeker, the risk taker and the joker. When they were together, parts of her personality that she never knew existed came out. Like the other night, dismembering Hunter's car. She would never have done that without Chris there. But it had been fun. And when they kissed, it was exciting. With Hunter, it was pleasure, comfort, but it was something else with Chris. She couldn't explain it. Hunter was safe, standard, routine and Chris was everything but those things.

Stephanie loved both of them. That wasn't the question. The question was: who did she belong with? And who was telling the truth? Chris hated Hunter, and she wanted to know why. They'd never gotten along, but there was something new between them now. She'd felt the hatred of Hunter nearly radiating off of Chris earlier today. Did he know something she didn't know about her fiancé? Hunter proclaimed that Chris was friends with her because he wanted to get to the top. He was convinced that Chris brought out the worst in her, that he and Stephanie didn't match as friends, let alone anything more. Stephanie McMahon was taking charge of her life again. And she had a plan.

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"…and, it's not as if she likes him because of his looks. Sewage pumps contain cuter things than him. So why is she going to marry him? It makes no sense," Chris spoke feverishly as he paced back and forth in the locker room. Looking slightly bemused, Christian watched his friend's pacing while taping his wrists.

"Look, man, if you like her, tell her," Christian said finally, and Chris stopped in his tracks.

"I-I…I never said I liked her! Not like that! We're just friends. Really…close friends. I don't want her to be stuck with him for the rest of her life."

"You ruined the opportunity of me believing that about ten minutes into the ranting," he replied, smirking. "If you like the broad – "

"She is not a broad!" Chris replied hotly.

"Still going to say that you don't have the hots for her?" Christian shot back, that knowing smile still on his face. "What's stopping you, anyway? Can't be that hard to tarnish her beloved's name and turn her eyes to someone else."

"I've been trying," Chris admitted finally, sitting down on the bench, looking down at his clasped hands. "It's not working."

"Maybe it's working more than you think," Christian said, and stood, clapping his friend on the shoulder as he did so. "I've got some stuff to do, so I'll see you later. Good luck at your match."

Chris nodded as his friend left. His match. He'd nearly forgotten about it, so wrapped up in his feelings for Stephanie. What did one measly match against Kane matter when she was about to marry Hunter? Under any other conditions, he would've probably been preparing for this match since the moment he'd arrived at the arena, but he couldn't get her off his mind. That probably didn't bode well for the outcome of the match, but Chris found himself blissfully unconcerned about such mundane topics as important wrestling matches. Stephanie was all that mattered.

He didn't know what had possessed him, but his feet led him out of the door by their own accord., the vague thought that another chat with Hunter was long overdue running through his mind.

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"Stephanie, I just don't think this is a good idea. If Hunter does come down to the ring, then what? I doubt 'But Stephanie told me to!' would go over well as an excuse."

"To be honest, I'm not all too sure that Hunter will come," Stephanie said softly. "Listen, you owe me one. I got you into this company. You told me that you'd do anything for me. This is all I want, just this one favor. I'll make sure it works out for you in the end, okay? But you have to promise to do anything I say until the end of the night."

"When I said I'd do anything, you know very well I didn't mean this. Stephanie…"

"Please. I need to know if Hunter really cares about me."

"Do you really love him?"

Stephanie bit her lip at the question. "I think I do," she replied in a quiet voice. "Look, neither of us wants Chris to get hurt, but this is the only way." She smiled weakly. "Hey, think of it this way. It's a fifty/fifty chance that Chris will turn out the winner in all this."

Her convincing did nothing to lighten the expression on his face. "Let me put it to you this way, Stephanie. I'm only doing this because I'm your friend. If Chris gets hurt because of this or what happens afterwards, I'm going to hold you personally responsible. And believe me, you don't want that." With those ominous words, he stalked away, wrestling boots clapping against the concrete.

Stephanie sighed softly to herself as she watched him go. She knew he wouldn't be pleased with what she was asking him to do, but the important part was that he was going to do it; that, by the end of the night, she would know if Hunter truly loved her.

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Author's Note: I know it's been forever since I updated this, and my apologies! If you've visited my profile, you know that I've said all of my wrestling stories are on hold. Well, sort of. I want to finish all of my works, so I will update them as I can, but I know how much it stinks when you get caught up in something and it isn't updated for ages! Hopefully this chapter jumps me back on track and I start updating more frequently. That's the plan, anyway. I hope you guys enjoyed, and please review!