Chapter 9

Chris laid in the bed on his side with his back to Stephanie, listening to her breathe as she slept. The sound of her breathing just added to everything else that let him know that once again, she was there. It was almost the way it used to be. He could remember how they once were, the way he used to listen to her breathe while she slept, how he used to sometimes wake up and look at her while she slept, just to make sure that she was still there. He didn't know why he had fallen for her back then, and he didn't know why he was still crazy about her now. But most of all, he didn't know why he'd told her that they could only be friends now.

He turned to look at her and propped himself up on his elbow. He could barely see her in the dark room, but he could see enough, and for some reason that was comforting to him. Why did I tell her that it was over? he asked himself. Almost immediately, the answer came to him. It was because he was scared that he would be hurt...again. That was it. The only one who really knew how much he'd been hurt when he found out she was married to Paul was Riley. Riley had been there for him during all the rough times. He'd been there when Chris had wanted to just give up and leave everything behind... Chris didn't want to go through it all again, but he had to admit, Stephanie was still the love of his life, and he still loved her as much as he had two years before, maybe even more...

He reached over and turned on the lamp next to his side of the bed. The lamp cast a dim glow over the room. He looked back over at Stephanie and sighed. "My princess," he whispered, smiling lightly. He wanted to reach over and touch her, maybe just move a little closer to her so he could hold her in his arms, but he knew he shouldn't. Really, he couldn't, after what he'd told her. He had to stick to what he'd said and resist the temptation that was Stephanie McMahon.

With another sigh, he reached back over and turned the light off. He laid there for a long time, still listening to her breathing, before he finally dosed off to sleep...

He woke up at around three in the morning to the feeling of a talented hand softly touching him, feeling his body. He turned over and knew instantly that it was Stephanie. He would know her touch anywhere, even though he hadn't felt it for a long time. He flipped the lamp on again and looked at her. She just looked back at him, never stopping the feathery soft caresses.

"Christ, Steph, what are you doing?" he asked, catching her hand as he felt his body responding to her in ways that he knew it shouldn't.

"I need you," she answered simply. "I want you."

"I thought I told you that we could only be friends," he reminded her, letting her hand go. "I thought I told you that we were really over."

"You didn't mean that and you know it," she said in a low voice, leaning over him. "I just need to be with you... I need to be with you right now."

"Steph, I'm still married, and I'm one hundred perfect committed to my wife," he said. But you're not happy with her, a voice in his head taunted. "What we had is over now. We were perfect together, but you hurt me, and I can't go through it all again."

"I was hurting, too. I'm still hurting now," she whispered, one hand on his bare chest. "I ache for you, Chris. I ache for you all over."

"I ache for you, too," he admitted quietly, closing his eyes as she touched him. His skin tingled as she gently moved her hand over his chest, touching, feeling. "But we can't start this all over again... We can't get back what we had."

"We could try, couldn't we?" she pleaded. "Chris, I want to try."

"We can't," he whispered, trying his hardest not to give in. He knew, though, that if she kissed him... If her lips touched his skin anywhere, he knew he would give in and give her what she wanted, hell, what they both wanted...

She looked at him for a minute, right before she laughed. She didn't find the situation to be even remotely funny, but if she didn't laugh, she was going to cry. "I am so pathetic," she said, in between laughs. "I can't even turn you on anymore."

"I never said that. I'm feeling the effects of that now," he told her, looking pointedly down at the sheets, then back at her. "But Steph, we can't dive headfirst into this...into whatever this is. We can't do that again, or we'll both get hurt."

"You're right," she said, moving away even though she didn't want to. "You're absolutely right."

"Let's just try being friends," he said in a low voice. You idiot, you can't be friends with her, he cursed himself mentally. You know you want her.

"With benefits?" she asked hopefully. Damn, I sound desperate! she thought, but she didn't care. She wanted him, she needed him... She couldn't just lay in a bed next to him and not be with him... It was torture.

"Friends with benefits? That's how this whole thing started with us in the first place. Don't you remember?" he asked, sitting up all the way in the bed.

"Yes," she said. "But don't you want me anymore?"

He looked at her for a minute, thinking that she looked really pretty in the glow from the lamp. "Of course I still want you," he whispered finally. "I want you so bad that it's driving me insane! But I can't get back on this roller coaster with you again. I just can't."

"I never know anything with you," she said, closing her eyes. "One day you like me, the next day you don't. One second you tell me you want me and the next second you're telling me that we can't happen." She opened her eyes and looked at him. "I just can't deal with the mixed signals, you know?"

"I'm sorry if I'm sending you mixed signals," he apologized. "That's how I'm feeling inside right now, though. Really mixed up."

"I know how that feels," she said with a sigh.

"One minute, I want to yell at you and tell you just how much you made me hurt when you married Paul," he said in a somewhat louder, angry voice. "I want to hurt you the way you hurt me. I want you to know how it feels to have your heart ripped out of your chest the way you ripped mine out."

"I'm sorry," she whispered, getting closer to him and putting her hand on his arm. "I'm sorry for everything..."

"And then the next minute..." His voice trailed off as he touched her face, gently rubbing her lip with his thumb. "The next minute I just want to forget about all the pain... I want to look you in the eyes and tell you how much I love you... I just want to kiss you again, the way we used to kiss..."

"Then do it," she urged him. "It's what we both want. Do it."

"But I can't," he whispered, pulling away yet again. "I can't take you back."

"Then why get my hopes up?" she asked as tears of anger and disappointment came from her eyes. "Why make me believe that we have a chance when we don't?"

He shrugged. "I don't know, Steph. I just don't know anything anymore."

"I know something," Riley said sleepily from by the door. Both Chris and Stephanie looked over at him as he stood there, hair messy and eyes heavy-lidded, looking so much like his brother. "I know that you two really need to be quiet. It's, like, nearly four in the morning. I can understand that the two of you are having a 'heartfelt' conversation, but really, some of us need our sleep."

"Sorry," Stephanie said contritely, moving back to her side of the bed. "It's all my fault. I didn't intend to wake you up."

"Don't apologize to him. He's the reason we're sharing a bed right now, anyway," Chris pointed out, frowning.

"Well in that case, maybe I should thank you," she said, trying her hardest to smile and not let Riley see how she was really feeling.

"You're welcome. Anything for you, Steph," Riley said, yawning. "Now I'm going-"

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Chris asked, narrowing his eyes at his brother.

"What are you talking about?" Riley asked, bewildered.

"Anything for you, Steph," Chris mocked, rolling his eyes. He laid back in the bed on his back and closed his eyes. "Get out, Riley, and close the door on your way out, ok?"

"Out of the hotel room?" Stephanie asked in disbelief.

"No, not out of the hotel room. Out of this room. Go get on the couch where you were, dude," Chris ordered Riley, sounding exasperated. "You two can talk or flirt or whatever, but I need to get some shut eye."

"Geez, are you PMSing?" Riley asked. When Chris didn't reply, Riley just shook his head and left the bedroom, closing the door softly behind him.

Stephanie debated on whether or not to ask Chris to turn off the lamp, which was on his side. Finally, she decided that she would turn it off herself. She crawled over to his side, then leaned over him and reached for the lamp. Unfortunately for her, she somehow slipped and landed draped across his chest. She got off him quickly and looked at him with wide eyes, biting her lip.

"What the hell is your problem?" he asked, sitting up and grabbing both of her shoulders. He frowned at her. "What are you trying to do to me?"

"I was just trying to turn the lamp off," she explained meekly. She got inexplicably nervous all of a sudden. Maybe it was because of the way he was tightly gripping her shoulders, or maybe it was because of that familiar wild look in his eyes. She didn't know what was about to happen, but something was definitely going to happen.

"A likely excuse. You... You're impossible, Stephanie McMahon," he snapped, and then he pulled her to him and pressed his lips to hers. He didn't know why he was kissing her. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that he was wrong for what he was doing, but at that moment, he could care less about whether it was wrong or not. He missed her...

"Chris," she whispered breathlessly, pulling him to her when he ended the kiss. "What was that for?"

"I don't know," he whispered back, his lips right next to her ear. "But we really need to go to sleep."

"Sleep?" she repeated incredulously. "You want to sleep?"

"No, I don't want to sleep," he said honestly as he pulled away and laid back down. "But now I can." He smiled at her, wondering if she understood what he was trying to tell her.

"Right," she said, lying down next to him. "We'll sleep now... But we need to talk in the morning."

"Night, Steph," he said in a low voice, looking at her.

"Good morning, Chris," she replied, looking back at him.

He reached over and turned the lamp off, and soon they were both sleeping soundly...

A/N: So they're both pretty mixed up right now. I don't think Chris knows what he really wants. I guess he just can't resist her...