"You're mad at me."


"Yes, you are," AJ said, rushing to his side. "I'm so sorry, you know I would have been out there, but she was chasing me, and if she caught me, well, the man-arms and everything, she probably would have twisted me into a pretzel, and not the good kind of pretzel, you know…"

"Yeah, that'd be bad."

"You're so mad at me," she frowned. "Ziggy, I'm so sorry, I'm so, so sorry, but we had to leave, but I came back, I texted you, and we came back as soon as I knew it was safe. I mean, I'm just…I just want to get in her head, and I know that you're on board with that, but I should have been out there."

"It's fine," he told her, getting into the car. "Let's just go back to the hotel, okay?"

"Okay," she said, slipping into the driver's seat. She didn't always feel comfortable driving, but it was clear he was too mad to drive. "Did you…did you win?"

"Yeah, easily," Dolph said shortly, and she nodded once before she turned the engine on in the car and pulled out of the space, a little too quickly, jerking the car a little.

"Sorry," she said. Her driving was already bad, but add to that the anxiety of an upcoming fight, and she was going to be a mess. "I mean for the stop right there, but also for ditching you, but you know, I mean, I had to go, you understand, right?"

"Sure, I understand."

"You're not less important," she tried to tell him, but the words wouldn't come out the way she wanted them to and she cursed herself out for sounding like an idiot when all she wanted were eloquent words. "I'm just sorry I wasn't out there, and I'm sorry I've been so distracted with beating Kaitlyn. I know I've not been the best, and I'm asking so much of you—"

"Yeah, you are, when I have my own things."

"I know," she told him, "I know you do, and I know we have a lot coming up, I mean, we have the NXT thing, and later this month, you have Comic-Con in San Diego, and your birthday is coming up at the end of the month then we have Comic-Con next month, and SummerSlam, and we're both up to our ears in things, and I know it's been weird, and I know we keep saying this, but…I love you."

"I know, babe, I love you too," he told her.

"You do?"

"Jeannie, I could be mad at you for a month, but I'd still love you," he told her, rolling his eyes. "I'm just slightly mad you weren't there, and you ditched me."

"I know, and I'm sorry, but if you'll notice, I didn't do any kind of practical joke this time. I mean, I know you said the things on Monday because I told you to, but I did take them to heart. I just distracted her like you have been distracting Del Rio. So, I listened."

"I noticed."

"Baby, please don't be mad at me, I'm so sorry, I wanted to be out there with you, and I'm such a bad girlfriend, I know, and just…I know I've been bad."

"You're not bad, please stop putting yourself down, that is something you're definitely better than. You've been better than that for a really long time," he told her. "Just let me stew around for a bit, alright? I'll be better soon, but just let me be mad for a bit."

AJ didn't like the sound of that, but right now, she really had no choice. "Okay, okay, I won't push anything, but just know that I'm sorry, and I love you."

"I love you too."

Flynn cooed as she held the sparkler in her hand, "Look, Mommy, I'm holding it, and it's on fire, I'm holding fire, Mommy."

"I know, but be sure to hold it far away from you," Stephanie told her as she sat down on the driveway of her parent's house. Sawyer and Flynn were twirling around sparklers while her mother helped Kensington with hers. Her husband was overseas wrestling so she decided to take the kids to Connecticut for the 4th of July.

"I know, Mommy," Flynn said as Vince came over, beer in hand. Her father drinking beer was always so odd to her, but then, she'd grown up with a very different father from most. He sat in a lawn chair someone put outside, and again, it was all very…domestic.

"So, Dad, on Monday, with Vickie…what do you think?"

"Well, I think she's been doing a good job for the most part, but we'll have to see what she has to say. Do you know what Hunter's thoughts are on the matter? I'm sure he has some crazy opinion that he'd love to share with the world."

"I don't entirely know," Stephanie said, though she did. She and Hunter talked the day before by phone about the situation. She didn't want to tell her father that because it would give him time to think about what Hunter thought, and that might sway his decision one way or the other.

Monday was going to be her playing it by ear. She wished her husband was here to be her sounding board, but she could hardly be mad at him for not being here because he was wrestling for her company overseas. Still, Chris knew everything about her, about her family, and he was friends with Hunter. He could have some insight into how the proceedings would go Monday, and she needed all the different scenarios she could get. She wanted to make sure her name was at the forefront for the GM position. She knew her fake husband might have something to say about that, but she held a higher position and if he challenged her, he would be shot down…fast.

Her father was a different story. She sometimes thought her father forgot she was in charge. Yes, he was still Chairman of the Board, and with that came a lot of power and responsibility, but she was the one who ran the day-to-day operations. Her fingerprints were over everything except the show. Vickie made sure to keep it away from her, dangling it like a carrot in front of her face, and Stephanie was going to make sure it was taken away from her, for good this time.

Was it petty? Yes. Was it mean? Definitely. Was it all perfectly Stephanie McMahon-Jericho? 100 percent absolute.

"I just don't think we should be hasty in picking a new GM should Vickie come out of this without her job," Stephanie said, "not that I'm swaying the argument either way."

"What are you talking about, Mom?" Sawyer came over, his sparkler pretty much out as Stephanie took it from him and put it on the cement to burn the rest of the way. "Are you talking about Miss Vickie?"

"Yeah, we are, what do you think about the situation? Do you think she should keep her job?"

"She wasn't nice to you, Mom, and that's really, really not good because you're my mom and I like you a lot, and when people aren't nice to you, it makes me sad."

"Aww, baby boy," she hugged him with one arm. "Thank you, we'll just have to talk to her, and see what she has to say. She might have a compelling argument. This is why I gave her so much time to think of one or two."

"See, that's nice of you," Sawyer said, coming over and sitting down in Stephanie's lap. Stephanie wrapped her arms around her son's waist and rested her head on top of his. "That's why you're the boss."

"You think your mother is the boss because she's nice?" Vince asked, glancing at his daughter and wondering just how she'd brainwashed her son to believe that one.

"Yes, she is," Sawyer said. "She always takes care of everyone, and when I want to do charity stuff, she always helps me with it, and she does lots of things with me, so does Dad because we like to do stuff like that."

"We've got the best kid," Stephanie gave him a hug, kissing him on the crown of his head as she took the sparkler from Flynn, who wandered over to give her sparkler to Stephanie. "He thinks I'm nice, I'm nice, and I'm going to be fair to Vickie on Monday. I'm not going to immediately go out there and fire her, I like to think I'm better than that, Dad, I mean, really, come on, don't you think I'm better than that?"

"You're a McMahon, no, I don't think you're better than that," Vince told her.

"Either way, I don't think we should be hasty about a new GM should the need arise. I'm not saying let's do the revolving door thing, but I think that we should get some good candidates, and pick from them."


"We can discuss that later, let's just enjoy the rest of the holiday."

Dolph pulled into the parking space and got out of the car without saying another word to AJ. That was just how it had been all weekend. It was very awkward sharing a bed with someone who barely said two words to her. It was moments like this that made her wish she still had Kaitlyn as a friend. She hated herself for even thinking that she'd want that ungrateful woman back in her life, but with a lack of friends, she really didn't have anyone to turn to when things like this arose.

She was about to get out of the car when Dolph opened the door for her. He still did stuff like that. They went shopping on Saturday for some household items (they needed new sheets), and he held open all the doors like he usually did, and carried all the bags like he usually did, but he was still upset with her, so all the little nice things he always did made her feel worse because he did them because he still loved her.

"Thanks," she said, hoping it would get more than the one or two word answers he'd been giving her.

"No problem," he told her, "I'll get your things, you just get the kid."

"Okay," she said, glad it was an entire sentence. She went around the car and grabbed the traveling carrier that Nacho was in. She opened the top of it so he could stick his little head out, and she gave him a rub. For all Dolph's anger at her, he never took it out on Nacho. It was safe to say Dolph was definitely Nacho's daddy now, through and through.

He grabbed their bags and brought them inside. Being the diva's champion, she got her own dressing room, and he brought their things in there. "I'm going to walk around," Dolph told her, "you want to come, Huevos?"

"I think he's tired," AJ said, pulling him out of his carrier and setting him on the couch. Nacho immediately curled up into a corner.

Dolph laughed, "Okay, I get the point, dude. I'll be around."

"Okay, but maybe you can stay, and we can talk," she said, walking over to him and pressing her hand against his chest. "I mean, I know you're still angry, but maybe we can talk and make things better, or at least just talk…"

"I'm not having angry sex with you…again," he added because sometimes they couldn't keep their hands off each other, no matter the state of their relationship. "I just need a few moments to think, okay, like, I'm glad you didn't go to Tampa, okay, I'm glad you stayed in Phoenix with me—"

"We live together, there's nowhere else I'd rather be."

He gave a small, tiny, barely there smile over that one, but still was not happy, "I just need some time to myself because we live together, and that means we're always in each other's space. I know that last week I said that it was cool if you didn't come out, but you ditched me on Friday, and that's where I'm upset, you basically said you didn't want to be out there with me."

"I know," AJ nodded, looking sad. Dolph sighed, and walked over to her, kissing her on the forehead before he left. She didn't like that kiss. It reminded her of Daniel. But Daniel didn't love her, he never said it, not sincerely, and she knew she and Dolph would be okay. Whenever she did tell him she loved him over the weekend, he would say it back, so it wasn't like he fell out of love with her. She really wished she had someone to talk about…well, there might be one person.

AJ had to suck up all of her pride when she knocked on the door. "Come in!"

She pushed the door open, and stuck her head inside. Stephanie was alone, and she was glad for it. "Um, hi, boss lady."

"AJ, I didn't think I'd see you here, what did you want?"

"To talk? I know we're in this really weird place, and I was really mad at you, and part of me still is, although if Dolph wins on Sunday, I think I'll be over it a little bit, but um, I just, I don't have…many…friends that are women, at least not here, in New Jersey, I do, but we're here in Baltimore, and I just…"

"Come in, AJ," Stephanie gestured towards the seats in front of her. AJ scurried into the room and took a seat. "You're lucky you caught me, I was just about to leave."

"Oh, great, um, where are the kids and Chris?"

"They're around somewhere, they were happy to see him since he was in Japan, so they're catching up, and let me guess why you're here, Dolph?"

"Yeah," AJ said, "I've really messed things up, not just with him, but with a lot of things I guess. I know why you put me in my place. I know why you think I need to be put in any place, but I'm not like that, Stephanie. I'm not, and I know everyone thinks I'm crazy, but I'm not."

"I know," Stephanie said, "sometimes though, you do get a little overboard, but I probably could have handled the situation better, and you were worried about your boyfriend, and I've been there, believe me, many times with Chris."

"Yeah, I know, I mean, you are kind of my idol," AJ said sheepishly. "I just don't want to mess things up more, how do I fix this?"

"You know, I must say, you have changed. The AJ of old would have gone crazy, would have done everything she could to try and get her boyfriend or any guy who showed her some affection to forgive her, but where is Dolph now?"

"He needed some space, I gave it to him."

"There you go," Stephanie said, "you're more mature now, he's mellowed you out, being with someone for a while has changed you."

"He's changed me."

"Don't sell yourself short, AJ," Stephanie told her. "This is actually what I meant when I said you should act like a champion. You should be mature, and you are. You aren't clinging to him, and you aren't following him around like a puppy dog."

"He's the one who encouraged all this," she told Stephanie. "He's the one who wanted me to have the title, he's the one who wanted to be a power couple, he always saw the potential in me. I don't know, I just…I hate that he's mad at me."

"I've had so many fights with Chris, you learn to deal with the fight then move on. If you really love someone, there's always a way. And it's very clear that you love Dolph, and that he loves you. I think he would do anything for you if you simply asked him."

"I think so too, but don't tell him that, I think he likes to think he wouldn't," AJ giggled. "I'm sorry I got mad, I mean, I know I'm still mad, but I mean, I shouldn't have yelled in your face like that. I could have handled it better."

"Yeah, I could have too," Stephanie intimated again. "He'll come around, they always do then comes the best part, the making up part of it all."

"That is the best part," AJ blushed, "Dolph is just…well, I guess you can say the ring isn't the only place he shows off."

"And I didn't need to know that, but thanks."

When Stephanie left AJ, finally, it was to find Hunter. She knew that she needed to get his opinions today on what was going to happen later. She located him in his office, texting someone. "Who's the lucky girl?" Stephanie asked as soon as he put the phone down.

"How did you know it was a woman?" Hunter asked.

"Your stupidly goofy grin," Stephanie told him. "Did you tell her that if she watches the show, I am not your wife?"

"No, because she's not going to watch the show. I haven't really told her about it."

"Who is she?"

"This woman I met the other day at the grocery store…don't judge me, Stephanie," Hunter said, "you do not know how it is out there, and apparently the grocery store is a great place to meet people. I learned that firsthand."

"I'm not saying anything," Stephanie held her hands up. "In fact, I'm glad you met someone. You deserve someone, and I'm glad for it. Now, onto actual things that I care about…I mean, I will be interrogating you at some point if this goes anywhere, but right now, Vickie Guererro, has your opinion changed?"

"Not really, I'm not sure she's doing a great job, and I think maybe firing her would be the best option, what about your dad? We both know he's going to have a lot to say."

"I haven't talked to him today, so I'm not really sure about his opinion on things."

"You know, for all your talk, I never really heard your opinion on it."

Stephanie was trying to keep her opinions out of it for now, though her opinion might actually be quite obvious. It was no secret she despised Vickie, and the same could be said of Vickie's opinion of her. When you had two females who were in direct competition for power, there were bound to be clashes, hell, when you had two people in direct competition for power there were going to be clashes. She and Vickie were both alpha females, and neither was willing to give an inch.

Still, she didn't want to reveal her cards just yet. If she acted like she was going to remain objective, she wouldn't look like she was trying to oust Vickie from power. That's where another branch of her plan came in: the fan vote. She was going to open up the polls to the fans, telling them what to make of Vickie. She knew how they would vote, it was glaringly obvious when you took into account the reactions Vickie got in arenas around the country. If things worked out like she thought, nobody would even think her culpable when in reality, she was the puppet-master.

Her father was going to want Vickie to stay, she knew that now. Her father told her this morning that whatever Vickie was, she got a reaction, she was controversial, and she could be useful. Hunter, now, was telling her that she should be fired. When they were out there, she would be the deciding vote. Her father and Hunter would both look to her because she wasn't going to say a damn thing. The two men were so full of themselves, they would snipe at each other like cats, while she would be the tiger to take everything down.

And she wouldn't even look like she was really doing it.

"I'm going to hear what she has to say," Stephanie said with a shrug. "I mean, I know we've had our differences, but in the interest of fairness, I don't think it would be wise of me to pre-formulate my opinion until I hear what she has to say."

"There's nothing that can convince me she would be an asset," Hunter scoffed, "I thought you would feel the same way."

"I'm the President, I can't afford to be bias, if she's going to get fired, I have to make sure there's damn good cause because I'm the first one she'll go after if she thinks she was wrongfully terminated."

"That's actually a good point."

"I guess we'll just have to wait until later," Stephanie said, "I'm glad I got your opinion on it though, I'm going to take your thoughts into consideration too. I really want to make sure this is objective so I don't get sued by her. You know she would."

Hunter laughed, "Sue you? Yeah, she would definitely do that."

"Dad, do you think you'll beat Curtis Axel?"

"Yeah, definitely, I mean, do you know how many years of experience I have over him."

"Daddy, his daddy is Mr. Perfect, huh?"

"Yeah, that's right," Chris said, "wow, by the time you're an adult, you're just going to be a walking wrestling encyclopedia."

"I know," Flynn said with a smile. "You can beat Curtis though because you're better. You're better than everyone, and he's not fun, and Paul Heyman is stinky."

"He's stinky?"

"Yup, because he doesn't like Mommy, and Punk, he won't leave Punk alone," Flynn said. "Even though Punk told him and told him and told him that he needed to not be there, but he was there, and then everything happened and Punk doesn't need that."

"Have you talked to Punk today?"

"With Mommy, but only for a second because then he had to go and find Britt because Britt is his girlfriend, and I'm just his best friend, but that isn't as big, but I don't have any boyfriends, Daddy."

"Good, I don't want you to have any for the rest of your life until you get married."

Flynn giggled, "Daddy, I can have them, but just not now, I'm little. Kensy is even littler, and that's why she doesn't have a boyfriend either, but Sawa, you have a million girlfriends, right?"

"No," Sawyer said, "I don't a girlfriend, I'm seven."

"Daddy has a girlfriend."

"Daddy has a girlfriend?" Stephanie asked, coming up behind Flynn and kissing her cheek and looking at her husband. "I was not made aware that Daddy had a girlfriend, this is quite the news for me, especially when Daddy and I have been together almost eleven years."

"He does," Flynn nodded eagerly.

"I do?" Chris asked with a laugh. "Wow, are you spying on me, Flutterby? Who's my girlfriend?"

"Mommy!" Flynn started laughing uproariously like she made the funniest joke in the universe, sending little bits of food flying all over the table. Stephanie grabbed a napkin and wiped her daughter's mouth, which only made Flynn indignant as she grabbed the napkin and wiped her own mouth. Stephanie worked her way down the line, kissing Sawyer and Kensington's head before she came to her husband. She sat down next to him and leaned her chin on his shoulder, kissing his jaw.

"So how is your evil plan going?"

"Perfectly. Everything is falling right into place," Stephanie told him. "I mean, it took some planning, but really, it's everyone else acting predictably, and me taking advantage of it. I better go though, the show is starting, and Vickie wanted the top of the show, I better watch what happens."

Stephanie did end up watching Vickie, and she had to hand it to her, she did book a pretty solid show for the evening, but it was better to go out on a high note so she felt no remorse for what she was planning later. Vickie would just have to find something else to do. Surely she had some skills that would suit her in the real world. It wouldn't be Stephanie's problem.

Her only problem would be what to book at next week's show.

AJ told Big E that if he could listen for Kaitlyn that would be great because she knew Kaitlyn was still looking for her. Kaitlyn made that point abundantly clear on Twitter, and AJ would rather she survive the night in one piece. Sunday was going to be brutal enough, and she wanted to go into her match being as close to 100 percent as possible, and that included not getting broken in half by Kaitlyn.

Dolph walked up to them, and she turned and hugged him, hoping that his time to cool off had indeed given him time to cool off. When Dolph asked E to leave, she knew he was still upset. He proceeded to air their dirty laundry for everyone to see, and accuse her of thinking only of herself. His walk and time alone obviously did not go well, and she wanted to know what happened, but she had to diffuse the situation first.

She told him that her only priority was them, was being the power couple they so desperately wanted to be. Those twenty minutes were not enough, they would never be enough and she wanted more. It was greedy of them both, but neither cared. He still wouldn't budge, barely looking at her, even when she wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned up on her tiptoes to get to him. She appealed to the dirty side of them, the ones they had no problem tweeting out to the world, and it softened him a little bit.

She could feel him breaking, and by the time he responded in kind with her little dirty innuendo, she knew he was breaking down, and his smile, the first smile she'd received all weekend was now her favorite thing in the universe as he leaned in to kiss her. She kissed him back, grinning when she pulled away.

"I love that smile," she told him.

"I can't stand mad at your stupid face," he told her. "I'm sorry, I mean, I shouldn't be mad at you for not being out there with me, and last Monday, we agreed to that, and I don't know, I was just angry, I'm dumb."

"No, I shouldn't have ditched you, that was wrong of me," AJ told him. "I love you so much."

"I love you too," he told her. "You're…you're the best, I'm just the dumbass who gets mad at things."

"No, you're not," she kissed him again.

"I'm just preoccupied with Del Rio…you do know the title is not more important than you, right?"

"Of course, and you do know my title is not more important than you, right?"

"Yeah, I know, we're just…I felt ditched, and it wasn't fun getting ditched by your girlfriend, it's never happened before because look at my face, I mean, whatevs, it's just really good-looking, and people don't normally ditch this face."

"I'll never ditch that face again if I can help it, I mean, if Kaitlyn is in fact chasing after me again during one of your matches, I will run out in the middle of your match, jump in the ring, kiss you or grope you, one or the other, then run back out."

"Grope me? You mean like how you just grabbed my butt when you wrapped your arms around my waist?"

"I haven't gotten to grab it in a while," she pouted. "I really am sorry for leaving you high and dry like that."

"I'm sorry that I got mad about you and Kaitlyn, it's stupid, I do the same thing with Del Rio, and I know all the things you're doing with Kaitlyn, you tell me these things."

"So we're good."

"We're always good, babe."

Chris really couldn't care less about his match. Oh sure, he cared on some level, he still wanted to win after all, but what he really wanted was to see what his wife was going to do later, and that semi-distracted him during his match. Curtis was good, but he wasn't Jericho's level of good yet, so in the end, he came out of the match with a win, much to Heyman's chagrin. But what did Heyman expect, a Goldberg-like streak? It wasn't going to happen, not if Chris could help it.

But as soon as he was backstage, his attentions turned to Stephanie. She winked at him as he came over and gave her a brief kiss before going back to his locker room to take a quick shower and change. He didn't want to miss his wife's latest coup. She was amazing to him. She took on the world and she won every, single time. She wanted to be President, she took it, now she wanted to be the GM, she would grab that too.

And she still made time enough for him and their kids.

As far as Chris was concerned, Stephanie could do anything and everything. That's what made her special. She was always on top of everything, and half the time, he didn't know how she did it, and he was married to her. Once he was done dressing, he quickly made his way back to the gorilla, sitting down next to Flynn, grabbing Kensington along the way and setting her on his lap so he could steal her seat.

"So how long until you go out there?" he asked eagerly.

"After this match between Del Rio and Sin Cara," Stephanie gestured towards the screen. "Oh, look who's here."

"I know you don't like me," Dolph said, looking at Chris then Stephanie, "but if you could just do me a favor, maybe because you like my girlfriend."

"Did you two go at it on that staircase?" Chris asked.

"Did you and Stephanie go at it in your dressing room?" Dolph asked.

"No, we have kids."

"Well, we have…E around."

"You want me to cue up your music?" Stephanie asked before this turned into some weird contest.

"And a microphone?" Dolph asked. Stephanie handed him one. "Thanks, I know you talked with AJ, and just thanks."

"No problem, but Dolph, take care to remember that what you're about to do is exactly what you complained about your girlfriend doing, don't be that guy."

"Oh," Dolph said, "um, yeah."

Dolph couldn't tell her that at least last Monday, that was all planned, and that what he was really angry about from Friday was not her being chased, but her leaving. No matter now, he had things to do, things like become Del Rio's new personal ring announcer. It was actually fun getting out there and acting like a total geek like Ricardo was. He could never understand how Ricardo put up with Del Rio.

His fun and games were put to a halt when Del Rio attacked him, taking him down again. Sin Cara luckily made the save and let Dolph escape to the back where his disapproving girlfriend was standing. "Really, the head, do you have to leave that thing exposed? That helmet hair is only going to protect you so much."

"I'm fine," he told her, kissing her lightly. "Don't worry."

"Um, I'm going to worry, did you see your match at Payback?"

"Yes, I did, and I've learned from that. I won't let him get to me that way again."

Later on that evening, AJ was in the same way. She tried so hard to stay away from Kaitlyn, even going so far as to stand on the floor and not the apron during her match. When Alicia, her partner, who actually didn't hate her for once, had Layla down, tagged her in, she was ready to do some damage. Well, she was until Kaitlyn attacked her unprovoked. AJ managed to get to the floor, but then Kaitlyn speared her.

Things went hazy after that.

Big E picked up AJ and carried her backstage. Dolph was right there, rushing over, taking AJ straight from Big E's arms. AJ groggily came back to the world, "Ziggy?"

"Babycakes, you've got to stop doing this," he told her, kissing her forehead, this one a sharp contrast from the one he gave her earlier. She wrapped her arms loosely around his neck in a far less arousing way than she had earlier to try and mend things with him. "Do you really have to leave your midsection exposed like that, those abs are only going to protect you so much."

"Shut up," she told him.

"Come on, let's go back to the hotel with Huevos, he can take care of us, make sure his parents don't fall apart before Sunday."

"I don't think he'd be a very good nurse."

"Okay, then we can just play doctor together."

But wait, let's go back to earlier in the evening. Stephanie stood in between Hunter and Vince, waiting to go out to the ring where Vickie was waiting. Her father's music hit, but they all walked out to it. She walked beside her father while Hunter acted like an idiot behind them. She climbed into the ring first, going over and making a move to sit down while Hunter and Vince postured around. She didn't have time for those kind of shenanigans, she was on the cusp of getting everything she wanted.

When they were finally done, Vickie was asked what she actually brought to the table. Vickie rattled off a list of people she purportedly brought back. Stephanie was glad she didn't say Chris's name because like hell she brought Chris back, even though Vickie took credit for it when it happened. It was also ludicrous to take credit for Taker. Stephanie wanted to know, though, if bringing Brock back was a good idea because he'd attacked both her father and her fake husband. Vickie waffled for a while before her father began to speak.

Just like planned, her father acted like he wanted Vickie to stay, to become permanent GM. To Vince, Vickie was weak, something he could bend to his whim, and someone who would do his bidding. He liked that kind of minion in his grasp. He said Vickie was entertaining, and while that was true, Hunter didn't think that meant she was good at her job. Stephanie sat back and watched the two go at it, taking opposite ends of the spectrum like she knew they would. It was creating tension until Hunter brought her into the equation.

This was all too easy.

Hunter proceeded to tell them how she called the meeting, how the decision should be hers. Vince was all for it because he thought that she would choose his side, and Hunter, faking being her husband and acting like he had any place in her life, thought she would side with him, but that's not how it was going to be. Vickie was looking at her like she already knew her fate, but Stephanie wasn't going to decide Vickie's fate.

Not really, anyways.

Stephanie told everyone it would be up to the fans to decide, and that was how it was going to play out. All evening, people had voted, and if Stephanie was correct, the vote would not even be close in favor of firing Vickie. She knew how the fans saw her, knew how they reacted to her. There was not a lot of positive to Vickie Guerrero, and the fans would recognize that, and Stephanie could almost feel the results before she saw them.

She was right, it wasn't even close.

Upon seeing her fate, a fate Stephanie had no hand in (not to the naked eye), Vickie promptly went…well, a little crazy. Stephanie kind of hoped AJ was watching backstage so she could see this display. Vickie was AJ in that moment, stripped of something she so desired, and Vickie kind of deserved this. She'd torn the position away from AJ, and now the WWE fans had torn it away from her. Vickie got up, climbed on the table and begged. Stephanie tried not to laugh, tried to keep a straight face, but it was difficult.

The job was as good as hers. She and her father and Hunter, and the Board would all discuss the candidates eligible, but she would subtly thrown her name in there, and there was no way they could turn her down when she would make the most compelling arguments. "Come on, Hunter, Dad, this is getting pathetic."

Her father did not follow, presumably to comfort Vickie, so Stephanie walked backstage with Hunter. "I guess this means we find another GM, huh? I wonder who's going to want that job," Hunter looked at her. Stephanie stared at him blankly. "Come on, Stephanie, you want the job, we all know you do, I'm surprised you didn't fire her yourself."

"I had to remain objective, honestly, she could have kept it for all I cared," she lied smoothly, taking a few steps forward as her father tried to comfort Vickie, addressing the crowd for their wrongful termination of Vickie. "What is he doing? Why is he still out there?" she was about to turn to ask her husband when her father did something unimaginable.

He made Brad Maddox the GM.

Stephanie stood there, mouth agape as she watched her father help Vickie from the ring. She couldn't believe this. What happened to waiting, what happened to brainstorming good candidates? This was not supposed to happen. She was supposed to be the GM! She was supposed to get her show back! She was supposed to have everything! She'd so carefully planned it and she stood there, fuming, ready to punch her father in the face. When she heard her father's footsteps coming backstage, she turned on her heel, standing there, her hands in fists, her nails digging into skin.

Her father walked with Vickie, helping her along, barely acknowledging anyone else's presence until he came to Stephanie. He stopped briefly, just to say one thing, just to say the one thing that made Stephanie's blood run cold.

"I'm your father, Stephanie, I invented mind games." And in that moment she knew.

He'd figured her out.