In this farewell
There's no blood
There's no alibi
Cause I've drawn regret
From the truth of a thousand lies
So let mercy come
And wash away what I've done...
Linkin Park: What I've Done
When you fall into a vice, there is always a voice of reason over your shoulder that tells you to stop. The voice of reason pleads its case, and it is always a sane one that makes perfect sense. Most of the time, the voice of reason wins and you never fall into the trap. Maybe you experiment once or twice, and then the guilt and shame overwhelms you and you never do it again. Another life experience some would say. Another lesson to be learned from. But sometimes, it doesn't work out like that. Sometimes, the voice of reason doesn't win, and what started off as a forgivable mistake, momentarily lapse in judgment, or impulse to experiment quickly spirals out of control and becomes an addiction.
The first time Stephanie McMahon had allowed Chris Irvine to see her naked body and to do as he pleased with it, the voice was strong in her head. She had children, the voice argued. Paul was not a bad husband. He was there when she needed him, always trying his best to be a good husband and a good father. She was a married woman. Her behaviors were shameful. All valid points that left Stephanie feeling like she was drowning in shame the next morning.
But then it happened again.
And then slowly, over time, the voice began to fade away to silence. A fleeting moment of sanity and reason that would appear as soon as she gazed into his dark, lust-filled blue eyes. She would hesitate momentarily, but then her primal urges won over reason. Once she felt his warm touch, the voice disappeared and there was only Chris. His hands, his body, his heat. Now years later, the voice no longer haunted her, and for this she was thankful. It was as if the voice was her conscience, and it simply didn't care anymore.
Now Stephanie found herself sitting in her office, alone and trembling, with only one thought on her mind.
Why hadn't she listened?
Slowly, she took a deep breath, but it was shaky when she exhaled. Her hand visibly trembled as she turned the note over to read it again.
The cat is out of the bag sweetheart. Jess is my friend. Stay away from him or she'll know the truth – and so will the rest of the world.
This couldn't be happening. This could not be happening. Not to her.
Not to her.
If she had only listened to that voice of reason… she clenched her fist, crumpling the note tightly as she contemplated what to do. Deep down though, she knew the truth. There was only one thing left to do, and it was something she should have done a long time ago.
She had to end it. She should have ended it before it even started so long ago. But could she? Could she actually do it?
She sighed deeply, before rising. Her bloodshot eyes looked down at the crumpled up note in her hand. Whether or not she could didn't really matter anymore. Whether or not she wanted to continue her affair with Chris didn't matter anymore either. The only thing that mattered is that someone else knew her deepest and darkest secret.
And that meant that she had no choice.
Chris felt the water running over his skin, his eyes closed, his face right under the shower in his private dressing room. The water was getting hot, too hot, almost burning, but he made no move to turn it down. He liked the heat, liked the steam that it created. It calmed him down, relaxed his muscles that were aching and hurting after his match. It took his mind off of things, especially that morning which had been particularly brutal with Jessica. One of his eyes twitched at the thought of his wife.
When had his life gotten so complicated?
There was a time, long ago it seemed, when he had been happy with his wife. They had their son, and things were fine. More than fine. He had been happy… and then, somehow, without rhyme or reason, things began to change.
His friendship with Stephanie began to change.
His marriage with Jessica began to change.
His entire life began to change.
He sighed, not wanting to think about how he had started seeing Stephanie McMahon of all people on the side. Methodically, he opened his eyes and poured out some shampoo for his hair. He scrubbed it onto his scalp, rubbing it into his hair, forcing his mind to be blank. He didn't want to remember. What good what it do anyways to remember the hows and whys? It wouldn't change anything now. It wasn't like she was forcing him to have sex with her. And it wasn't like it had only happened once or twice, when it could still potentially be a forgivable offense in his wife's eyes.
No, Chris had been seeing Stephanie on the side for years. He looked down, closing his eyes again as he let the water rinse all the shampoo out of his hair. He wasn't innocent in any of this, and he had no one to blame but himself for the guilt he felt.
Out of habit, he voided himself of all thought, going into his comfort zone where he allowed himself to feel no emotions at all. Nothing but blank numbness, where he didn't have to adhere to standards he could no longer reach. He didn't have to be the deadbeat husband who was fucking his boss's daughter on the side and stringing his wife along while being on the road over 300 days a year. He didn't have to be the other man ruining another marriage and potentially tearing another family apart. He didn't have to be the super dad with incredible expectations that he always feared he wasn't meeting.
He didn't have to be anyone when he went into this zone.
Here, he was just a guy. A guy who breathed, and who had a heartbeat.
His eyes slowly opened at the sound of her voice. Was he daydreaming it? Narrowing his eyes, he pulled back the curtain and leaned out a little bit.
"Stephanie?" he called out, confused. Normally, if they needed to talk during the show, she would send someone to come find him and he would go to her office. There they would talk about his promo for the night or perhaps about the direction for his character. Small, business chit chat. Always straight to the point. Never any diverging into personal and family life. Rarely was there any joking around. Those were the only conversations he had with her, and even those did not come often. Now to have her in his dressing room without any type of warning was strange. She hadn't dropped by like this in years and he suddenly felt very uneasy.
"Chris," he heard her voice right outside of the door leading to the bathroom. "When you're done taking a shower, come to my office. We have to talk."
"I can't," he called out over the water. "I have to meet up with Jess tonight and I'm already running late. Sorry, I don't think I have the time tonight."
"I'm sorry, I don't believe I asked you for an opinion," Stephanie replied dryly. "I'm not asking you, Chris, I'm telling you. Finish up, get dressed, and come to my office. Now."
Chris frowned, straightening and pulling the curtain forward again, not bothering to reply. That was okay though because Stephanie wasn't bothering to wait for a reply. Chris was lowering his head under the water again when he heard the door to his dressing room opening and closing as Stephanie left. He let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding when he heard the sound, his feeling of unease now spreading through his body. His mind was racing against his will, his comfort zone out of reach as he tried to think of what was going on.
Was she ending them? Was she pregnant? Were one of her children his? Or both of them? Was she leaving Paul? Was it all of the above? His mouth ran dry at all of these questions.
He stayed in that position for another minute, before finally turning the water down.
There was only way to find out.
Chris hesitated outside of Stephanie's door, and he wasn't sure exactly why that was. He swallowed heavily, glancing down at his watch. Yes, he was going to be very late in meeting up with Jessica that night. They were going to see a midnight premiere of whatever movie his wife had decided was worth seeing at midnight. He was fairly certain she wasn't interested in the actual movie and just wanted to make amends after one of his twin girls had walked in on her calling him a worthless father. A muscle flexed near his jaw as he remembered his anger. He forced the feeling aside, figuring he might as well get this over with.
He raised a hand, his fist ready to knock on her office door when it suddenly opened before he got the chance. Chris blinked in surprise, before being met with a pair of very indifferent eyes.
"Irvine," Paul muttered gruffly.
"Paul," Chris replied evenly. The tension between them was palpable as Paul gave Chris a hostile glare while Chris stared back.
"Good, glad you're here, Chris," Stephanie said in that professional tone, ignoring the fact that the two men in her life were silently giving each other looks that could kill. Chris shifted a bit to look over at her past Paul, and they briefly made eye contact. "Come on in. See you later, Paul."
"I'll see you back at the hotel," Paul called over his shoulder to his wife, before walking out of the room altogether. He didn't try to avoid contact with Chris, perhaps even seeking it out as his shoulder shoved the smaller man back as he exited. Chris scowled deeply but chose to let it roll off his back like he usually did. He had so many problems to deal with, that he had stopped trying to figure out Paul's hatred for him a long time ago.
Especially since he had now given the man a very legit reason to hate him, even though he could never know about that.
Stephanie glanced up at Chris briefly before looking back down and scribbling something down furiously. "Come in and close the door."
Chris silently obeyed, before looking at his watch. "I'm pretty sure everyone who hasn't already bolted for the doors is getting ready to leave. I doubt anyone will be stopping in to see you this late." Stephanie just ignored him though and he sighed, walking up to her desk and taking a seat in a chair across the desk from her. "Steph, is this going to take a long time?" he asked, trying not to let her know how anxious he felt. If she was going to drop bad news on him then he wanted it done as soon as possible.
"Just give me one second," she said mechanically, no emotion in her voice as she kept her eyes down.
Chris looked to the side so as not to stare at her, but he could tell that she hadn't been sleeping well in days. Of course, he could tell that when they had their nightly rendezvous, but it was much easier to ignore then. He could close his eyes, let his mouth and his hands see for him, give in to her and not study her appearance while hoping she didn't study his. Here though, there was no getting around it.
"I just don't want to hear her bitching at me for being so late," he said, breaking the awkward silence. Stephanie shot a quick look up at him, but he was looking off to the side. Normally, without insatiable lust making his eyes a smoldering dark burning blue, his eyes were a light and clear blue, eyes that shined instead of burned.
But tonight, his eyes were doing neither. They were focused on another time, or maybe another place. She could see that on this night they were a clouded blue, and she knew that he was off in another world. Judging from his rather gruff appearance, it looked like he also hadn't gotten much sleep if the rings under his eyes were any indication. Stephanie shook her head and looked down as he turned to look back at her.
"So are you going to tell me why you called me in here?" he asked, his question neither pressing nor indifferent as his eyes scrutinized her. She swallowed heavily and tapped her pen on her desk rhythmically as she thought of how to ask the question that was weighing on her mind. Chris frowned but waited patiently, even though something inside of him was tightening with every second that she hesitated.
Finally, she decided that being blunt would be the best course of option.
"Have you told anyone about… what's going on between us?" she asked quietly.
Chris tensed at the question. "No." They stared at each other, questions dancing in both of their eyes. He frowned and voiced one of his, "Have you?"
"No. But someone knows."
Stephanie slid over a small note across her desk that had been once been crumpled but was now straightened out. She watched as he took it and studied him as he lowered his head to read it. His eyebrows furrowed as he fell deep into thought.
"I see," he finally said, his tone emotionless. He kept his head down but his eyes flickered up to hers. They were no longer clouded. He was focused now, his eyes a stormy blue as he tried to make sense of it all. "Where did you get this?"
"I left to go speak to Shane about a segment on the show that he was responsible for. I came back and it was on my desk," she said matter-of-factly.
He frowned deeply, looking off to the side, his mind racing. "She has a lot of friends here," he said thoughtfully.
"It doesn't matter," Stephanie said indifferently. His eyes immediately locked with hers. He narrowed them, silently responding to her statement. She cleared her throat and clarified, "What I mean is that someone knows."
"It's a baseless threat," Chris replied.
"We can't take the chance," Stephanie said, her voice low. "It can't go on anymore, Chris."
"No one is going to say anything," he said in a forceful voice. Stephanie sighed and looked off to the side, feeling his eyes on her. "For someone to open their mouths and tell the world what's going on, they'd be risking their career. Who is going to do that for Jessica?" he asked, as if the mere idea was absurd.
"Someone knows!" Stephanie snapped. "Chris, if word of this gets out, it'll ruin us both. You know it will."
Chris scoffed at that. "People in the business get caught doing this all the time. If we were caught and word spread, we could capitalize on it and turn it into an angle. Big deal," he shrugged.
"I didn't mean professionally." He looked away at that, not responding, his face set in stone. Stephanie looked at him for a while, and something inside of her started to ache. She reached out and placed a hand over his, and saw him visibly tense. She let her hand linger before slowly moving it down and pulling the note out from under his fingertips. "And I don't know about you and Jessica and your kids, how you feel about that, but I know that I don't want the drama in my family. I don't want to put that strain on them."
He remained silent. She silently willed him to look at her, but he kept his eyes away. A muscle flexed near his jaw as he slowly nodded.
"It's over then. For real this time."
"Yeah," Stephanie said, pulling the crumpled note to her. She looked down at it, wondering what she could say. She was supposed to say something grand here. The truth was all she had though, and it didn't seem that grand. "It was wrong anyways, Chris."
He stood up then, before seeming to dust himself down, even though there was no dust around. Perhaps it was a symbolic gesture that he was ridding himself of her. Or perhaps he needed to do something to hide the fact that his hands had a slight tremor to them. She noticed this, but said nothing as he cleared his throat, still avoiding eye contact with her. "That's fine, then. Is there anything else? I was supposed to meet my wife and now I'm running late."
It seemed as though the truth was all he had too. She knew she was being foolish, but for some reason, hearing him say those words seemed to finalize everything and that made her heart hurt. She nodded, forcing herself to speak. "That's all. You can go."
Her words were hardly out of her mouth and he was already walking out of the room. The door closed behind him without a look back. Stephanie looked at the door for a while, before feeling her spirit slowly dwindle down as she looked down at her work. She felt completely deflated.
He was gone now.
It was really over.