Second Place Award Winner for Best Male Wrestler and Best OC in the SBG Fanfic Awards. Check out Queen of Kaos' or Vera Roberts' profiles for more details.
Summary: Dave Batista takes notice of the newly hired ringside photographer, Orianne Thomas-Anderson, when Randy Orton decides to add the woman to his list of conquests. While Orianne is impervious to Orton's advances, she can't deny the growing friendship with Batista, which eventually leads to a torrid affair while her husband is absent.
Rating: M for mild swearing, mild violence, and, most importantly, sexual situations. These are intended for a mature audience. If you don't think you should be reading it, then skip on down (Now that's going to make you want to read it, right?).
Disclaimer (1): I do not in any way lay claim to any name or character in the WWE. This is not-for-profit fiction. The only profit received is pure entertainment. Original characters of the Thomas and Anderson families, Cara Whitfield, and Cedarius Cooper, along with other various peripheral characters, are copyright of Disco Inferno1, 2006.
(2): As a married woman, I am sensitive to such issues as affairs and want readers to know that I do not take marriage and affairs lightly. This is simply a plot I am exploring in writing. Also, I have my opinion regarding military occupation in foreign countries but this is not the place to voice that. The point of this is that I mean no disrespect to anyone by this story. Personalities presented within are not necessarily those of the characters in real life nor are the views presented within necessarily those of the author. Poetic license has been taken with character personas and television canon.
(3): Even though the fic is based on "reality," I have not used wrestlers' real names or their families' names (which I have subsequently made up). I am highly uncomfortable doing so since it feels as if I am writing a fic, for instance, about Sean Bean instead of "Boromir."
A big thanks to WandaXmaximoff for reading this for me and offering her opinion. (You've been of tremendous help.) Hop on over to her page and read her latest works. She has borrowed Cheryl from my "Blessed, Not Unlucky" for her "The Fine Line Between Love and Hate" (a fic about Cena); so if you're a fan of Cheryl, you can check that out and be a fan of her OFC Sam too.
Chapter I: Didn't See It Coming
Sloan believed in the American Dream and in protecting it. Six months here and a year there was nothing compared to the trade off of knowing that his future family would be safe and free. Turning down an optional extended assignment in Saudi Arabia was the hardest thing he had ever done but he wasn't willing to put his wife through the kind of treatment she would receive over there. He loved his wife. It was hell to leave her for any of his assignments but he believed that she understood that he was helping forge a path of freedom and stability that their children would grow up in.
She always saw him off with a deep kiss and long hug. He carried a wallet size photograph of the two of them on their wedding day. For him, she was a picture of beauty—her long black hair was down over a strapless gown, a brilliant white that accentuated her dark blue eyes. The joy that sparkled in the young woman's eyes was more than about their union—she had graduated with her bachelor's degree a month earlier with the hopes of starting her own business. She was the picture of America to him, of what he was fighting for, exactly why he kept the photograph. Then, the gray was only beginning to show at his temples and there were fewer wrinkles around his eyes.
Soon, however, he'd retire from the military, when the immediate threat of terrorism was over…of course, they had thought that for three years now but there was still hope that everything would fall into place in the near future and his 2.3 children, dog, and white picket fence would become a reality. They'd spend every Saturday in the park and have lunch on a red gingham print blanket while she took pictures of him and the kids playing with the dog, a floppy-eared basset hound. They'd be exhausted upon returning home and she'd tuck their children into bed, reading them a bedtime story. After laying out their clothes for church in the morning, she'd slide into their bed beside him where she'd fall asleep in his arms. It was the American Dream he had envisioned. So it came as a baffling shock when Captain Anderson learned his wife was having an affair with Dave Batista.
Orianne crouched against the padded wall, camera poised for the one millisecond opportunity when the teen on the free throw line released the basketball. As the interim photographer for the local newspaper, she covered every varsity athletic team during their home games, pulling double duty as the sports writer for the time being. As the teams moved to the other side of the court, she switched cameras to one more with the attached lens more suited for the distance, wondering how she ended up in Prescott's small, sweaty gym taking pictures of the guys' and girls' basketball games. She had been laid off by the local arena in Atlanta that hosted the minor league hockey team before the season got under way and she had a chance to even to work for them. With the previous NHL lock-out, the venue's budget had been obliterated and they couldn't afford to keep an additional photographer despite the sport's return last year. After that, she began doing freelance work for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution but chose to return to Prescott for a "vacation" instead of putting in her resume for their opening—she had to get out of the traffic, smog filled city. However, she was still waiting for the response on one other job opportunity.
The game was a blow-away and Orianne decided to leave before the fourth quarter was over—she'd get the final stats from the manager tomorrow. However, it would require maneuvering around the cheerleading squad. She had also taken action shots of them but these girls always wanted to pose for more—they were absolute camera hogs. Checking the amount left on that roll of film, she took some more of the pepband and then edged behind the squad, who immediately caught her. Amongst the giggles and then the disappointed sighs, she could only take a few more and give the legitimate excuse that the roll was now empty.
She started to move away to a chorus of 'goodbyes' when an especially peppy cheerleader called after her, "Ori!"
Rolling her eyes, she turned around. No matter how much time she spent away from her hometown, no one would ever forget the nickname. She didn't want to be called by Patrick Swayze's character in North and South by anyone other than family, specifically for that reason. Her life had been hell when the miniseries came out and the nickname was solidified in the small, Alabaman town for the rest of her life. She had tried using her middle name in the several places she had lived but her first name was always plastered on her press ID, her driver's license, etc., which inevitably led to you know what. She loved her name and its Southern uniqueness but always heard Madeline crying to Orry, her knight in shining armor.
"I was gonna come by the paper tommorra an' ask ya this but since yer her're…can I inte'view ya for this women's hist'ry class I'm doin'?" she asked in a thick Alabaman accent that only another Alabaman, or maybe a Texan, could interpret.
Poor child, Orianne thought, knowing full well that she was not without faults, particularly her own speech pattern. She didn't sound like a mountain hick and hardly like Vivian Leigh's version of Scarlett O'Hara but her travels through the US had melted her accent into something of an enduring accent. People no longer asked the new Southern girl to say things.
"Do you want me to meet you in the library tomorrow after school?"
The perky, slender blonde thought about it a moment, a look on her face as if she was calculating times to permit the meeting. "'Kay! Gotta go!" she said, jerking her head towards the squad. "See ya!"
Back at home, Orianne carefully set aside her equipment before going to make herself a snack. She had barely opened the refrigerator door when her phone rang. "Hello," she answered, pulling her blinds up and waving at her parents' home from where she stood in the small guest house on their property.
"I saw you were home and I wanted to make sure you had eaten."
"I ate at the game, Mom. I told you I would."
"I know but it's so good to have all of my babies home," Marian, her mother, gushed. That was hardly true as her brother and sister weren't even in the state at the moment. "Can I bring you a piece of my freshly baked apple pie?" she enticed.
Orianne was torn between the desire for company and the need to get the photos from the evening's games processed. The paper would be expecting them in the morning before well-intentioned mothers streamed in to buy them at-cost. Neither she nor the paper made or lost money on the deal. It was like a giving-back to the community. If her mother came over, there was a really good chance the pictures wouldn't get processed.
"I'm not hungry. Will you save it for me? I promise I'll have dinner with you and Dad tomorrow, okay?" she asked, quietly pulling a few items out of the refrigerator.
"I'll make your favorite!"
"You've made me chicken and dumplings four times in three weeks, Mom. Surprise me?"
When her mother finally agreed, Orianne disappeared into her dark room after a quick PB & J sandwich.
The dark room was once her cave, a refuge from the chaotic world, a place where all was at peace. Recently, it had become lonelier than her empty living room. Thinking about the interview with Chandra helped combat the feeling. She debated on which portfolio to bring. The one she took to job interviews depended on the job. What she called her "resume" portfolio would do for tomorrow. It was a sampling from everywhere she had worked as a photographer—from college to the San Antonio Spurs to the '96, '00, and '04 Olympics. It would help her remember all of her previous work.
The next afternoon, Orianne flipped through the portfolio pages in a library conference room as she waited for the teenager. She tried to remember all the womanly words of wisdom she had prepared for the girl. She was proud of her travels, of how much of that she accomplished alone, and her work in the world of photography. The career was not overly masculine but her positions were. She was a sports photographer and professional sports were dominated by male leagues. She studied every sport she photographed to the point where, if she had the ability, she could play them. Men were generally the only ones who knew this much about athletics.
She was always on the field taking the pictures of football or basketball players in motion and dodging the athletes. The beauty of hockey, her last hopeful position, was the protective barrier. This would be the first time she had been employed by a professional hockey team. Her most and least favorite sport to photograph was wrestling. She fell into the Southern stereotype of watching wrestling, racing, and monster trucking, all of which she had professionally photographed. Wrestling was enjoyable to watch but, once behind the camera lens, the view was limited and it was easier to take a hit than behind the sidelines.
Orianne checked her watch for the date and figured up how long it had been since she had sent in her resume and portfolio to WWE and how much longer it would be before she got a call with a final answer. It would be any day now and she felt confident from the phone interview and because she had done her research. They employed four full time photographers on the road and two for photo shoots. She had applied for the road position as action shots were her specialty. Of the three currently employed, none of them had done as much extensive work in sports as she and she had assumed the same of the majority of applicants. Plus, she had proposed a new money-making strategy for them through the use of fan photos and the Internet. While wrestling wasn't her favorite to photograph, she still immensely enjoyed the job. Hopefully, they'd overlook the fact that she was a woman as they had only employed a few women photographers in their entire history. She wished they'd already called with a positive answer so she could include this in her "woman is power" talk to Chandra.
Thinking of the girl was like a summons. Dressed for cheerleading practice, she entered like a whirlwind, her backpack over one shoulder, a duffel bag over the other, and yearbook materials in her arms. "Jus' a minute," she said and dug through her things until she found blank paper and a pen. Orianne stifled a laugh as she remembered that she too had spent her high school years in a whirlwind of activity—mainly editing the yearbook and photographing as many athletic events as possible.
"A'right," Chandra began, "Wha's it like to be a military wife? Can ya go with Cap'n Anderson overseas?"
Orianne Thomas-Anderson had opened her mouth to reply with a quote from Elizabeth Cady Stanton when she realized the questions she had just been asked. Hiding a grimace and plastering on the I-support-my-military-husband smile, she related her travels and career through Sloan's posts and spoke of her pride in him, but she left out the sacrifices involved and the encroaching overwhelming feelings of loneliness.
Dave Batista stormed into the men's lockerroom, clearly unconcerned about his attitude affecting anyone else present. He violently threw his gymbag into the locker, making the wooden cubicles slightly shake. The other wrestlers were not necessarily afraid of him but they were wary enough to say nothing and to stay out of the way, especially since they had only seen him act this way in the ring. They all began filing out to the required Monday afternoon meeting—codeword for where 'the shit hits the fan'—for the wrestlers and the majority of the staff before prep for RAW began.
Batista's circle of friends in the lockerroom mainly consisted of the former members of the now defunct Evolution and Carlito and Edge. His congenial nature invited most of the wrestlers and staff that he was on a first name basis with to consider him a friend. However, he seemed to be closest to Ric Flair and Randy Orton; Flair probably because of their mentoring relationship and Orton possibly because they were such opposites. Randy was the only one present willing to speak to him. "You coming to the meeting, right? We got about two minutes to get there."
"Just because I'm late doesn't mean I'm not coming. I got bigger things to worry about than Vince bitching at us about the dress code. If he says anything, tell him I'm coming," Dave growled back and took out his cellphone. Randy wasn't sure he wanted to leave him in such a state and he hesitated as he watched the larger man start to dial the phone and then stop the call before it went through. He hung his head for a moment and repeated the same actions, still stopping the call before it connected.
"Dave, man, what's going on?" Randy asked, still debating on hurrying to the meeting or taking whatever crap McMahon would dish out to stay with Batista.
"Later," he sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. "Let's go get this over with." He dropped his cellphone in his bag and strode out, leaving Randy to catch up with him.
Batista paid absolutely no attention to what was being said and he didn't care. As Heavyweight Champion, there would be little repercussion if he violated some new or re-enforced rule. As to his place that night on RAW, the director would go over it again with him. Right now, he was wracking his brain for a solution to his problems.
Dave had sat in the back corner with his arms folded defensively across his chest and deep in thought. He had no idea it was over and everyone was filing out until Orton nudged him. "Steam's coming out your ears. What's up?" Randy asked as they rose to leave the room.
Batista waited until they were the last wrestlers in the hall and angrily stated, "I am done with women." Orton, the consummate ladies' man, could only stare at his statement. "Gabrielle pushed me over the line this time."
"What'd she do this time that was so bad?"
"Everything I own is in the frontyard and the county's under a severe thunderstorm warning. Knowing it was gonna rain, she had her new fiancé put all of my stuff on the sidewalk!"
"Fiancé?" Randy exclaimed.
"Oh, that's my next point," he replied, as if things sarcastically were about to get better. "You know how she's been pushing me to get married?" Randy nodded and Dave continued. "Three weeks ago, I found a ton of bride magazines under the bed and mentioned it. Gabrielle took this as a sign and actually proposed!"
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because it was so embarrassing. First off, that's my job. Second off," he angrily held up two fingers, "I'm not ready for that kind of commitment and I've told her that time and time again. When she never asked me to move out, I thought we were okay. After she proposed, she started acting funny, staying out with her friends more."
"You didn't ask questions?"
"No, stupid me," Dave muttered more to himself. "I was kinda glad that she was leaving me alone. She dropped me off at the airport and told me to move out. I knew she should have moved in with me," once again, this more to himself than to anyone, "I promised her I would do it as soon as I got back."
"Who are you gonna move in with?" Randy asked, willing to offer Dave a place to stay if they didn't live so far away. The man was a chick magnet and now that he was back on the market, Orton would have loved for him to be hanging out in his apartment.
"I don't know. Mom and Dad for a few days—don't say it, I know I'm too old to be living with my parents but it's only gonna be a few days."
"So where does this fiancé come in?" Randy asked, reining in his selfishness.
Batista folded his arms across his chest, shook his head, and laughed before explaining. "She called me as I was leaving the hotel, told me she found someone who would marry her, and since I'm so bad about keeping my promises—let's not go there—she'd have her fiancé take care of that."
"And he dumped your stuff in the yard?" Orton asked, unbelievingly.
"Yeah, she told him to!" Dave replied, tightening his arms across his chest and resisting the urge to hit something.
"And you didn't see this coming?"
"I should have. For the past six months, we've been a walking Nickelback song." Randy stared at him in confusion. "Which one of their songs aren't about relationship problems?" The smaller man stopped and looked up in thought, as if counting the songs. "Stop it," Dave said, "You're missing my point."
"Then maybe this is for the best."
"Yeah, but not for my crap in the yard."
"I've got a cousin who might be willing to pick it up—Neil, you remember Neil?" Randy asked and Dave nodded with a groan. "Well, you got anybody better?"
"How much do you think he'll want?"
"Moving truck, storage, labor…" Orton trailed off, counting up amounts on his fingers but stopped when Dave made a disgusted face. "It's either pay him or replace everything."
"I know, I know, call'im for me, will you?"
Orianne shoved the tupperware container of left-over fried catfish into the refrigerator and dropped her mail on the countertop, Sloan's letter on top. There was never anything in them beyond a few endearments that wouldn't warrant any embarrassment by letting her parents read it. They had taken him into the family as if one of their own despite his being fifteen years older than their daughter. Her mother was a sucker for a stray and Sloan was an orphan from age six. The woman had made it her mission in life the past nine years to be the mother he never really had.
Her mother had forced supper on her when she had arrived home from working the day at the newspaper office to get in the special articles for the weekend sports section. They passed Sloan's letter around the table as they feasted on her father's fresh catch from earlier that day. Her husband had little to say, other than that he was safe and was thinking about them. He also inquired as to how Orianne was doing in this transition phase and if she had decided on what she wanted to do since their house on the base would only be available for another few months if she didn't give them a decision soon.
"Screw the damn house," she muttered as she picked her camera equipment up off of the countertop and carried it towards the dark room. That one part of the letter had started one of those fights with her mother, the kind where she nicely insinuates what she thinks instead of just arguing like normal parents do.
"Well, you can't just abandon yours and Sloan's home," Marian had said.
"We barely lived there two years," Orianne protested, twisting her dinner napkin in her lap.
"But all the memories…" her mother wistfully replied.
No, there were none. Out of two years in Atlanta, her husband had been home for six months. "I thought maybe I could get a job that wouldn't matter whether or not Sloan was home."
"But don't you work with all the other officers' wives welcoming new families and organizing all those charity functions or whatever it is you do? I know it's prestigious work."
It was awful work. Sloan was a career officer, even though Orianne refused to believe it—he would retire soon and they'd settle down and everything would be alright, she continually told herself. Because of his career 'choice', she was expected to be the consummate officer's wife and work devotedly to their committee work. She didn't fit in at all. It was either that she was too young, she wanted a career of her own, or she didn't have children. The other women were happy being housewives and mothers. Nothing was wrong with that; it just wasn't for her.
"I've put in some applications that would allow me travel a lot," Orianne excitedly replied, hoping her zeal would be contagious.
"And what's that, Ori?" her father asked, finally getting into the conversation to change the course of the argument.
Before she could reply, Marian interrupted, "Sooo…that means if you do leave Atlanta permanently, you're not coming to stay with me. I mean, you're not going to live in the guest house?"
"I might. It depends on where the home operations are and what the job requirements are."
"Oh," she meekly replied.
"Oh," Orianne mocked, wrinkling her nose, on the way to the guest house. She loved her mother but she couldn't move back home 24-7. Tupperware and mail in hand, she stopped to watch one of life's most beautiful and graceful pictures. Deacon Malone, her brother's right hand man on the family horse ranch, was leading a black stallion around the training circle. Orianne assumed the gorgeous horse was still not allowed out after an injury had kept him cooped up. She first watched the grace of the animal before her eyes slid over to Deacon. When her father first hired him on their ranch twenty years ago, Malone was the hottest thing she had ever laid eyes on. All of her friends would giggle endlessly in his presence. She herself had had the worst crush on him. It wasn't until after the accident and his teaching her how to ride again that the crush turned to platonic admiration. Even now, he was a looker, as her mother would put it, and Orianne was one with a taste for older men. Sloan had been deployed barely six weeks ago and she was thinking of the even lonelier nights ahead. With one last glance at Deacon, who in his 'old age'—as he called it—allowed himself to be called the stereotypical name 'Deke', she had trudged on into the guest house.
Now in the dark room, she was trying to not grow maudlin over Sloan's absence and the empty home left behind. No matter how lonely she got, how much she wanted a man in her bed every night, she would never cheat on Sloan because that's the way marriage was supposed to be. She had to have something to occupy her time and the local paper was not going to do it. If only WWE would offer her the job, she thought, and then realized that she hadn't checked her messages to see if they had called. Not having started the film to developing, Orianne rushed out of the dark room to check the answering machine. The little red light was blinking and she held her breath as she pressed the play button.
"Mrs. Thomas-Anderson, this is Jennifer McNay with World Wrestling Entertainment. We have reviewed all of your application materials and, after last week's phone interview, we would like to interview you in person. WWE will be glad to pay for all of your travel expenses. Please give me a call back as soon as possible at…"
Orianne hurriedly grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled down the number. She glanced at her watch but knew it was too late to return Jennifer's call. The photographer started to rush out and tell her parents but then remembered their fight. She picked up the phone to call someone but there wasn't anyone to call besides her brother and sister. She hadn't made any close friends since their last move to Atlanta. That was Orianne, a ton of acquaintances, a few dinner companions, but no one but her family to call to share her joys and sorrows. "This sucks," she yelled at no one and slammed the phone down. "Well, sort of," she amended, tucking the piece of paper with Ms. McNay's number on it in her file of things to do for tomorrow.
Maybe she would call her brother, even if he was probably perched on some aluminum stadium bench watching his competition in the bull-riding event somewhere in Texas. He was with their sister and they were making the summer rodeo circuit rounds while she was on her college break. Orrin, her twin brother, would never be drawn away from the rodeo, even after he had to take over their ranch. Carter, their father, had been injured in a bull-riding competition gone wrong, forcing him to retire from the rodeo scene. Eventually, the beginnings of arthritis made the old injuries too painful for him to carry out the physical aspects of running the ranch. Orrin took over several years earlier than he had wanted but Deacon, knowing what he had been like at Orrin's age, agreed to do double duty for Orrin and Olivia to occasionally travel out of state for rodeo engagements.
In one of those weird moments that only twins have, Orianne began to dial her brother's cellphone as her callerID popped up a call from him. "How ya doing, Ori?"
"Well, if I can get past my fight with mom," she began.
"One of those, huh?"
"Yeah," she sighed, "but guess what? You know that I applied for that position with WWE?"
"I got the second interview!" she squealed.
"Hey, Liv…Olivia!" Orianne heard Orrin call for their sister. Olivia was eight years younger than her siblings and studying veterinary science. She would join Orrin and her father in administration of their ranch, particularly wanting to expand the ranch enough to need a 'horse doctor,' as she lovingly put it.
For a few moments, there was silence, in which Orianne figured her brother was getting Olivia's attention. "Guess who Ori's going to be drooling over next?"
There was a startled gasp and then a scream, "Randy Orton?"
"Bingo," her brother replied, which was accompanied by a squeal.
"Let me talk to her! Now, now, now!" Orianne laughed as she held the phone away from the screech, hoping her siblings realized it was only a second interview, and wondering what had made Orrin call her.