A/N: Sorry I had to cut this short, real life getting in the way of writing time, so I will catch up next week, I promise. Thanks for reading though, I really appreciate it! :)
"You're kidding me?" Christian said, looking between his brother and Lita. "You guys are getting married tomorrow? Does Mom know? Grandma Edna's not even here, you can't get married without Grandma Edna here."
"Dude, Grandma Edna is like 92 years old, I don't think she's great for traveling," Edge told his brother.
"Still, she came to my wedding, and she said she wanted to come to yours."
"Tomorrow?" Trish glared at Lita. "You're getting married tomorrow, how could you! I mean, not that you needed a big wedding or anything, but a little notice would have helped because we don't have a gift for you, where are you even having it! Oh my God, we need to at least coordinate something!"
"We're kidding, Trish," Lita said, "we're just kidding, we wanted to see if you guys would fall for it, and you did, okay, but I think Trish is about to have a heart attack, so we're not going to play this any longer because I fear for her health."
"You're awful, I don't want to talk to you anymore," Trish said, grabbing Tilden's hand and walking away. "Don't even talk to me, Lita!"
"You pissed her off," Stephanie said, "not that I'm not pissed off, well, not really because if you did get married, that would be great, but yeah, maybe a little more coordination when you do actually do it. I'm going to go calm down Trish before she rips the entire set down."
"I'll come with you, I think I need to apologize," Lita said, "we thought it'd be funny to see if you guys believed us since we've been saying that we don't really need to get married." Lita walked over to Stephanie.
"You know," Stephanie said when they were out of earshot from the guys. "That gold dress you're wearing tomorrow for the show would make a killer wedding dress. You look absolutely gorgeous in it, the color does wonders for you, and it's classy while still being a show-stopper with the back of it."
Lita thought about the dress she was wearing during WrestleMania tomorrow, and it did have a certain flair. Ad when she pictured getting married, she never pictured herself in the traditional white wedding gown. Gold would be an appropriate color and…God, now she was actually getting sucked into this wedding business, but it would be a nice gown for a simple ceremony.
"It wouldn't be awful."
"There's the gleam in your eye," Stephanie said knowingly. "Someone is definitely thinking about a wedding even if they don't want a wedding right now."
"I'm admitting to nothing," Lita said as they caught up to Trish, who was just entering the bathroom with Tilden. Trish turned to look at them.
"I'm helping Tilden with the bathroom, do you mind?" Trish asked.
"Sorry," Lita and Stephanie waited while Trish took her daughter into a stall. "I'm sorry, Trish, I didn't mean to make you think that I was getting married tomorrow, it was just a way to diffuse from all the feelings tonight. I mean, it's just all overwhelming, and we wanted to break the tension."
Trish came back out and helped Tilden wash her hand, lifting her up so she could wash them before she washed her own hands. "So you thought that the appropriate way to do that would be to just announce you're getting married?"
"Yeah?" Lita shrugged, trying to look innocent.
"I just, I know that a wedding for you guys isn't about me," Trish said, "but I want to at least have fair warning for it because…well, it'll be a big deal to me because we'll get to be sisters, and it's just like, you've been like a sister to me for so long now, and it would just…it'd be a big deal."
"Trish!" Lita said, reaching forward to hug her best friend.
"You guys are making me wish you had a third brother I could marry," Stephanie laughed as she watched them hug.
"Get in here!" Lita said, opening up her arms as Stephanie stepped forward to get in on the hug as well. Tilden just stood there kind of watching them and thinking they were all kind of weird. Who hugged in a bathroom? That was just kind of odd.
"Group hug!" Stephanie laughed.
"I'm sorry," Trish pulled away. "I just, whatever makes you happy."
"I know, believe me, I know."
"WrestleMania!" Stephanie nearly leapt out of bed, and if this were a cartoon, she would already be fully dressed. As it was, she sat up and quickly grinned, thinking about the show later. She turned to her husband, who was about 95 percent asleep still, but that meant he was 5 percent awake, and that was enough for her. She pulled the sheets back and straddled him, sitting astride him and running her fingernails up and down his torso.
"Five more minutes," Chris mumbled, still hazy.
"Not on WrestleMania morning!" Stephanie exclaimed. "There's so much to do, we have so much to do. Last night was great, but tonight is the real show, and we have to get on the road. I'm probably going to have to leave early because I need to get there early, make sure everything is set up. I have the kids' tickets and your parents have their tickets, front row, yup, I've got the hook-up, I know a guy, it's a whole thing, kind of exchanged sex for the tickets, but front row to WrestleMania, I mean, do you know how hard those are to get?"
"You're starting to worry me," he opened up one eye. "This is the first WrestleMania in a while that I won't be at, I think I'm going to sleep in for an hour or two."
"Not on your life," Stephanie told him. "You cannot sleep, tonight is the night—"
"That Daniel Bryan is probably going to win it all," Chris told her and he dared open the other eye to see Stephanie glaring down at him. "I'm just being realistic, baby. You've pushed him around enough to make him angry, and Daniel is way more dangerous than you think."
"I underestimated him once, and I know that there's a good chance he comes out the champion tonight, but I have to trust that Hunter can put a stop to that. I have to trust that he can actually get the job done."
"If he got the job done, you'd probably still be married to him."
Stephanie stared at him for a moment before she burst into laughter, "Wow, okay, that was a good one, if only Hunter were here to hear that. But I mean, he's been training really hard, and while I know that's not him getting into the ring, and while I know he's going to have some ring rust, he's…well, he was the best at one point and time, and he's not that old."
"He is older than both of us," Chris pointed out, "but he's definitely not in his prime anymore, not to mention he doesn't wrestle regularly. I'm not trying to point out his faults, I think we've been over those plenty of times, enough times to know that he's far inferior to me, but I'm trying to make it clear that tonight might not go the way you want, and if that happens…"
"Hunter can demand a rematch, he could demand a thousand rematches if he wanted," Stephanie said, "that's his privilege, but I guess if worse came to worse, he'd be champion, and we'd deal with that, but nobody is champion forever."
"God, I know that one," Chris scowled.
"So I would just have to hope that while he is champion, he doesn't screw anything up. And you know what, for the record, I'm getting a little tired of his mouthy fiancée. She keeps wanting to challenge me, but I don't think she has the guts to actually do it."
"Well, you are the boss," Chris pointed out, "and on top of that, you can kick her ass. People underestimate you all the time, and you can kick ass."
"She should try to come after me," Stephanie said, "but enough about that, we have to get the kids up and ready and then we have to head on over to the show, and it's WrestleMania! So things are bound to happen."
"Not me returning though, that's not going to happen."
"Don't bring that up," Stephanie said, shoving him a little in the chest. "Don't remind me that you should be there and are instead going to be sitting backstage. Even I'm on the show, what does that tell you?"
"When Sawyer is on the show and I'm not then we'll talk," he told her, sitting up and cupping her face in his hands. "I love you, and you're going to do well tonight in whatever capacity you're there in. I imagine you're thinking about kicking or punching or hitting Daniel at some point?"
"Oh, you'll just have to wait and see."
Christian waited as the doctor looked over the results of his impact test. He was desperately hoping for some good news. He'd been here all week, but he'd taken it easy by anyone's standards. He'd only done his signings and other media appearances, which Stephanie scaled back extensively to accommodate for his head, and he'd not gone partying, and he'd done nothing but sit around and hope for the best. It was frustrating, and he just wanted some good news.
Trish rubbed his thigh as they both waited. He'd told her she didn't need to come, that she should stay back with the kids, get them ready for the show, but she'd insisted on being here, and he couldn't say he hated the company. Trish was his rock, his support system, and she should be here to hear how he was. He knew she was worried about this string of injuries, but he didn't know what to tell her. He wasn't ready to retire, he just wasn't. He was still seeking that one last run at glory, and he didn't want to leave without at least getting that shot.
"It's okay," she whispered to him, leaning her forehead on his shoulder. "Whatever it says, it'll be okay."
The doctor let out a breath and turned to them. They both instantly knew without asking what the outcome was. "I'm sorry, Christian, but I can't clear you yet. You didn't pass the tests, and so I just can't clear you to wrestle."
While he appreciated all the steps the company was taking to ensure the safety of their wrestlers, and he knew that in the long-run, his mental health was the most important thing here, he still kind of longed for the days when he wouldn't have even missed a week. That wasn't to say that way was better, it wasn't, but he just wanted to get back to doing the thing that he loved, the only thing he'd ever known.
"Thanks," he said, masking his disappointment poorly. "I mean, what can you do?"
"I'm sorry," Trish rubbed his lower back, looking up at him with soft eyes.
"Not your fault," Christian told her.
"We'll give you a new test every week from here on out to get you cleared as soon as possible, I am sorry, Christian," the doctor said, and Christian could see he meant it.
"Thanks for taking care of me," Christian hopped off the table and shook the doctor's hand before he left the room, Trish trailing after him, saying her own thanks to the doctor. She caught up with him and grabbed his hand, cradling it in both of hers.
"I'm really sorry, Chrissy," she told him sympathetically.
"There's nothing you can do about it."
"I know you don't want to hear this, I know it, but I'm going to say it anyways, maybe…maybe it's time," she told him, knowing he'd know what she meant. She didn't want to say it, but this rash of injuries, head injuries to be exact, they had to be affecting him. It was taking longer now, each time, it was taking longer to recover, which had to mean something. What happened if he got another concussion? She knew that Dolph Ziggler had suffered a couple within the past year, the first one enough to cause him to lose memories of a couple days. What if Christian got a third one and lost time like that? It scared her to think that he could just have memories wiped away like that.
"I know, I know, you hate considering it, but just…I just think that maybe it's time you consider it," Trish said, "maybe let your contract run out. I'm not saying do it today, leave right now, I'm just asking you to think about it because you have a family, Christian, a family that needs you. Our kids are both under the age of five, Maxie isn't even a year old yet, and we just need you, you know."
"I know, I'm not going anywhere."
"But it's taking you longer to recover every time you have a concussion, and I'm scared of what will happen if you get another one."
"I'll be more careful."
"You don't think people are careful but still get concussions," Trish shook her head.
Christian looked at his wife and saw the distress in her eyes. He didn't want to be the one to put it there. "Okay, I promise that I will at least think about it, but tonight, I mean, I guess we just enjoy the show."
"Thank you," she said, "your health is the most important thing to me here, and I'm not saying this to be a nagging wife or anything, I just want you to be safe."
Christian leaned down and kissed the top of her head, "I know, and I love you for that, and I love you for always being here for me when I need you, and I just love you."
"I love you too," she said, "now can we talk about what a jerk move that was by your brother and Lita last night?"
"They're kind of jerks to begin with."
"We should get them back somehow."
"Oh yeah, do you have anything in mind?"
"No, but maybe I'll think of something."
With the kids out in the audience with Chris's parents, and the show getting into full swing, Chris was just settling into the gorilla with Vince to help with the show. Hunter's match against Daniel was the first on the card, so Stephanie was getting ready for her return to the WrestleMania stage. The last time she'd been on the WrestleMania show, she'd been accompanying him, and he couldn't believe it had been that long. That was before everything, before their kids, before their marriage, before them really.
He remembered being with her in that capacity, the small, niggling feeling in the back of his head that told him to still be wary of her, that maybe she'd set him up all along and she was going to help Hunter win. Even though Hunter did win, it wasn't because of Stephanie. She was actually on his side, to the point where she put her career on the line for him. He should have realized then she had feelings for him, but he'd been stupid. He didn't believe anything could ever happen between them, didn't believe that even if they did get together that it would last.
It was Stephanie herself who broke her from his haze of the past. He could hear the clicking of her heels first then, as if from a fog, she emerged, and all he saw was legs. His eyes traveled up and down those stems that seemingly went on forever, but really stopped at the bottom of her leather shorts. Leather, she knew what that did to him. If it had been vinyl, he would have grabbed her by now. His eyes traveled up, and she looked stunning, and it was such a testament to her that she could still make him drool.
"Put your tongue back in your mouth, Jericho," Vince muttered to him. "I don't need to see you ogling my daughter."
Chris shook his head and glanced at his father-in-law. "Sorry, Vince, but I'm married to her, I'm allowed to ogle."
"Hey," Stephanie said, reaching them. "So, I'm ready, have you seen Hunter? I'm going out there to introduce him, has his entrance arrived, I'm anxious to see what he has planned."
"You still don't know?" Chris asked, distracted as Stephanie bent over to look at the schedule sitting in front of Chris. Her breasts were very close to his head, but her father was very close to his left side, and so he refrained from taking more than just a peek.
"No, he still won't tell me, and the show is starting very soon. The tag match is on right now, and I think that should be over soon."
Chris looked up and he had to do a double take, "Um, Steph, I think he's here."
"Oh great, I hope—" Stephanie looked up and blinked a couple times. "Am I seeing things or…um…"
"No, no, he's carrying a gold helmet and wearing a cloak," Chris said.
"Hey, guys, I'm ready, they're bringing in my throne right now, and putting it into place to go out there," Hunter said, "what do you think?"
It was then that he put the helmet on his head, which seemed to be custom-made just for him. Stephanie looked to Chris to answer, but Chris was too busy holding in his laughter. Vince was the only one who could keep a straight face, but he probably didn't care. "Can I see your throne?" Stephanie finally asked, biting her lip so hard she thought she would draw blood.
"Yeah, come on."
"I've got to see this," Chris nearly jumped out of his chair as they followed Hunter. "Wait, um, Trips, who are the women?"
"I got some of the NXT girls to help me out," Hunter said.
Stephanie buried her face into Chris's neck as the throne came into sight. Chris could feel her shaking with silent laughter, and he had to admit, she was doing a better job than he was. "Okay, so I think we now have a visual representation of your hubris."
"What?" Hunter asked.
"Trips, my God, seriously, dude, throne, cloak, half-naked women, a gold helmet, really? Like, wow, I never thought you could top that other throne, but you have managed it, my friend."
"You don't like it?" Hunter seemed slightly put out. "I thought it was cool."
"Oh my God, I can't even hold it in anymore!" Stephanie exclaimed, doubling over in laughter. "What are you thinking!"
"Hunter, my God, how egotistical do you have to be to concoct something like this?" she covered her face. "I can't even look at you right now. Oh my God, how am I going to introduce you when I see this in full action?"
"I thought it looked really cool," Hunter said.
"Oh, okay, yeah," Stephanie turned around so he wouldn't see her turn red from holding in her guffaws.
"I think she's trying to say that whatever works for you," Chris said, "but really, dude, how big does your ego have to be to think of this? I mean, really, what's next, floating in on a cloud with chicks dressed as angels next to you?"
"That's not a bad idea."
"Oh no, what have I done?" Chris asked.
"Stephanie, you're on," Vince told her as Austin, Hogan, and Rock wrapped up their opening segment and the video package for Hunter's match started.
Stephanie stood up straight and tried her best to compose herself. She took a deep breath and straightened her jacket. "Okay, I can do this, I can do this. Hunter, seriously, you got a gold helmet made! You look like Bowser from Super Mario!" Stephanie let out what could only be described as a goose honk of a laugh before she turned her face to stone and waited for her music to hit.
She walked down to the ring, the spotlight on her, and she introduced Hunter. She knew the camera wasn't on her as it was focused on Hunter's ridiculous entrance, and she let herself laugh a little bit before she looked to her left to where her kids were sitting. They were all cheering for her, and clapping, and she raised her left hand a little and gave them a little wave. Hunter made his way to the ring then Daniel. Stephanie gave Hunter a small pep talk before she climbed out of the ring.
Admittedly, half the time she was supposed to be cheering on Hunter, she was watching her kids, who were watching with fascination, especially Flynn. Their eyes followed the action, and she had to focus on the match itself. She cheered on Hunter, tried to will him to victory as best she could, but she was also noticing that there was a sense of fatigue with him. It wasn't that he'd lost a step necessarily, but Daniel was faster, even when he was injured. There was a lot of fight in Daniel, and Stephanie knew this wasn't going to be an easy match.
Hunter had pride on the line though, and his pride wasn't going to allow Daniel to win. There was also the fact that if he won, he'd get a shot at the title, and that was always a motivating factor to him. This match almost felt like his Last Man Standing match with Chris. Daniel was this underdog trying to make a name for himself in a business he loved, and Hunter was standing in his way. Hunter had beat Chris, and there was no reason he couldn't beat Daniel too. Who was Daniel anyways? He was this nobody who couldn't even get a win on NXT when he'd been a rookie. There was no way he should be the face of this company.
Stephanie pounded on the mat as if that would get Hunter going, making him faster, quicker, younger somehow. It didn't work or didn't help, but she tried anyways, circling the ring sometimes, trying to watch the match from every angle. She could hear the crowd, but they were white noise. She wanted to shut them up though. She wanted them all to shut the hell up.
Then, in the blink of an eye, Daniel hit Hunter with a knee, and it was all over. Stephanie's eyes widened and she stood there, dumbfounded, as she saw Daniel celebrating his win, and his official admission into the WWE World Heavyweight Title match. She couldn't believe it, well, she could, but she was still in shock. She knew this was a possibility, but she'd hoped, oh how she'd hoped that it wouldn't turn out this way.
Seeing him celebrate incensed Stephanie, and sometimes, if you wanted something done right, you had to do it yourself. Stephanie climbed into the ring, and she went over to Daniel, slapping him as hard she could then she slapped him again and again, as hard as she could, making sure he knew what she thought about this outcome. Hunter finally got up and hit Daniel, taking him out. He then brought him to the ring post, wrapping his arm around it, and hitting him with a steel chair. It was the least he could do. Stephanie put up a brave front, but she was livid.
As soon as she was backstage, she unloaded on him. "Fix this, Hunter, do something! If he wins…oh God, he's going to win. He's going to win, and this is all your fault, I knew you were out of ring shape. I should have sent someone, anyone to do it instead of you!"
"Stephanie, he caught me off-guard, that's all!" Hunter protested.
Stephanie threw her hands up in the air, "So much for that entrance meaning anything! All you have is your damn ego, and you can't even—"
"Stephanie, hey, baby, why don't we go over here and you help me with the show."
"Fix this, Hunter, I don't know how, but you fix this!" Stephanie demanded of him as Chris pulled her towards the gorilla so she could calm down. "I knew it, I knew it!"
"Well, I knew it," Chris said, but Stephanie speared him with a glare so he amended himself, "I mean, well, he should have done better."
"Damn straight he should have done better," Stephanie huffed as she sat down, grabbing some headphones and starting to direct the show with a vigor unknown even to her. She even started talking over her father, who just let her go ahead and take over as long as it calmed her down.
Hunter went back and showered, washing the grime off the match. He didn't even need to have Stephanie disappointed in him, he was disappointed with himself. He could and should have done better, and Daniel Bryan beating him, that pipsqueak, it was just the icing on this crap cake he was being served. He dressed in some warm-ups, not even bothering to put on a suit. Then he sat there, trying to think of a way to fix this before Stephanie fired him. There was a knock at the door and he gruffly told them to go away, but the door opened anyways.
"Hey," Britt said, sticking her head in before she came in fully.
"Did Stephanie send you to berate me?"
"No, I just wanted to tell you that you did a good job out there, you lost, sure, but for a guy who hasn't been in the ring in so long, you did a good job," she pressed herself against the door. "You shouldn't beat yourself up."
"Stephanie told me to fix it."
"Well, sometimes Stephanie talks when she's angry and she doesn't really mean it."
"I think she means it this time," Hunter said, "she sounded pretty convincing this time."
"Yeah, but even if you don't, she'll get over it, that's what people do. She's not the one who holds grudges forever, that's her husband, so you're good. Don't sweat the small stuff. Daniel is a good wrestler, Hunter, we both know it. So what if he doesn't have this imaginary look that you think he should have."
"Yeah, but it was about me getting the title back too, and I'm mad at myself for letting that opportunity go."
"You can get another shot."
"You're way too optimistic."
"And you're way too pessimistic," Britt told him, "but, I guess if you're hell-bent on somehow making this better, good luck."
"Thanks," he smiled over at her, "I needed a little bit of a pick-me-up."
"Well, you know what they say about me?"
"What do they say?" he asked.
"That I pick people up," she joked, winking at him before she left him alone again, his spirits certainly bolstered by her encouragement.
Across the arena, Stephanie had calmed down considerably as well. She was no longer practically yelling at everyone, and was letting her dad and husband actually speak on the headsets instead of completely commandeering the show. Maybe Chris's hand rubbing her upper thigh under the table was helping with that a little. What Vince didn't know was going on wouldn't hurt him, not really. They were all stunned into silence, though, when Undertaker lost, and they all simply blinked when it happened.
"Um, did he just lose?" Chris asked.
"How did…I can't believe that happened," Stephanie said, "I never thought…"
"Wow, I never thought I'd see that happen, hey, maybe he isn't magic or something after all."
Stephanie turned to her husband, "So after all these years, you might finally concede that Undertaker doesn't have weird supernatural powers? It only took him losing for you to see that?"
"Well, you have to admit, he beat some really good guys, never faced me though so who knows, I could have been the guy to do it," Chris shrugged, "I would have fought for your honor since, you know, he wanted to marry you and everything."
"Get over that," Stephanie said as she saw Taker finally making his way backstage. She stood up and walked over to him. Chris watched as she said something to him, and they hugged. He would never understand their friendship. It just always seemed so out of place and odd, but they got along, so he never really questioned it. It was just something he'd never understand.
"He okay?" Chris asked as Stephanie came back over.
"He's Taker, he doesn't show emotions all that well," Stephanie said, "but I don't know, there was defeat there I haven't seen from him ever before, so…I don't know."
After that, Stephanie was sullen, and it was noticeable. Taker losing seemed to affect everyone. It was suddenly quiet backstage, and the whole event seemed to take on a different demeanor. It wasn't until the main event was going on that people started to come back to the show. They were getting into the match, or more specifically, they were getting behind Daniel.
"Come on," suddenly, and out of nowhere, Hunter was tugging on her hand. She looked up in confusion.
"You wanted me to fix this, well, let's make sure Daniel doesn't win."
Stephanie let Hunter drag her out of her chair and took her around the arena, making it so they had to enter the ring from the side. He pulled her along then went ahead of her. She passed by where her kids were sitting, and they looked in surprise as she rushed past them. She didn't know what Hunter was planning, but as Daniel got the yes lock hold, Hunter pulled the referee out of the ring. That was his plan? That was it?
It wasn't it. Hunter went so far as to bring out his trusty sledgehammer and tried to use that. But nothing was going to stop Daniel on this night, nothing, not Batista Bombs, not RKOs, not a combination of both. Tonight was his night, and he wasn't about to let it go without a fight. He was going to take on the world, and he was going to make it his bitch, and Stephanie could only watch it happen. She saw him win, and that was it, he was the champion. He was the face of the company, he had won, and there was nothing she could do about it.
Until the next night.
Then there was something she was going to do. She was going to give Hunter a rematch, well, he was going to give himself a rematch, except this was going to be for the title. Hunter was sure he could win it this time, that Daniel was too banged up to make the match. What they didn't count on was The Shield being with Daniel, becoming a kind of united front. That wasn't something they accounted for. But you could only push a group of people so hard before they started to push back. There was only so far they would follow you, and clearly The Shield had enough.
There was a war brewing, even if Hunter didn't want to admit it at first. There was a war brewing and it was going to reach a fever pitch soon, but the disadvantage that Hunter had, and by extension, Stephanie had, was that he didn't have a cohesive unit. The Shield had been together for over a year now, so they knew each other well. They knew how to work as a team and work efficiently and with great results. They'd taken out so many people, they'd dominated over anyone who came at them. Hunter didn't have that…or did he?
"What are you doing out there, Hunter?" Stephanie asked, running her hand through her hair. "You're starting something, and you might not be able to finish it. What are you going to do? God, everything is falling to shit around us."
"I may have a plan."