Chris paced back and forth in his locker room on his cell phone, listening to it ring while he carried Skylar in his arms. He sighed impatiently as he paced, knowing that he only had a few minutes to get to Vince's office, lest he have Stephanie on his case. And after their rather awkward encounter a few moments ago, he didn't want to get on her bad side and make an even worst impression on his first day back.
He groaned impatiently as the phone kept ringing, "Come on, come on, come on…" he mumbled to himself while he paced, knowing he had to figure out what to do with Skylar for the night. Finally, someone from above felt pity on him and decided to give him his first real break of the day when the ringing stopped.
"Adam, hey, it's Chris, Chris Irvine," Chris said, feeling relieved that he had gotten through.
"Hey, Mr. Making A Big Return Tonight, what's up man? How come you didn't tell me you were coming back?"
"No one was supposed to know about it," Chris sighed.
"You told Jay though, come on, you had to know it would get to me."
"I didn't tell – you know what? It doesn't even matter, everyone and their mother knows I'm coming back tonight, but that's not why I called you."
"What's going on man? Are you in some kind of trouble or something?"
"No, I just need a favor right now in a bad way, are you here at the arena yet?"
"Yeah, I'm in my locker room, I just walked in like two and a half seconds ago," Adam said, dropping his bag on the floor of his locker room and removing his sunglasses.
"Listen, I have a meeting right now with Vince, can you come by my locker room for a few while I go talk to him, please?" Chris asked, trying not to sound too desperate.
"Uh, sure," Adam said, confused as he turned around and walked right back out the door. "Mind telling me why?"
"Just, come over here, I'll tell you when you get here," Chris said, before hanging up on him. Adam looked at his cell phone and scowled a bit, confused and not knowing what the hell that was all about. But he shrugged, and having nothing better to do until the show started, figured he'd go and see what was going on with Chris.
Chris, on his part, hadn't hung up to be rude. He had felt Skylar squirming in his arms and could see that the baby was a few seconds from bursting into tears, and so he had just instinctively hung up. He didn't want to tell Adam what was going on over the phone. No, it needed more tact than that.
"Shhh, shhh, I know you're hungry kid, but come on, just bear with me for a second, please," Chris told the little boy in his arms, who started crying. "It's okay Sky, shhh, Uncle Edge will feed you when he gets here, okay? How's that sound?"
It sounded irrelevant as Skylar continued bawling and Chris sighed. He was thinking about starting to make a bottle when he heard knocking on his door. Instant relief came over him, and he once again reminded himself of being tactful as he quickly went over to the door with a crying and squirming Skylar in his arms.
He opened the door and was greeted by a bewildered looking Adam, whose sunglasses were covering his widened eyes at the sight of Chris carrying a baby in his arms.
"Oh, thank God you're here man," Chris said, relieved.
"Uh… who's the kid?" Adam asked dumbly as Chris grabbed his arm and hauled him into the room.
"His name is Skylar, I need you to watch him for me," Chris said, handing the baby over to Adam who instinctively took him, a look of disbelief on his face.
"What the hell, Chris, do I look like a babysitter or something?" Adam asked defensively. "I'm not even good with kids!"
"Adam, please, just for a few minutes, just watch him for me!" Chris said desperately. But indeed, he was becoming a desperate man, and he needed a break from the little boy to get his thoughts together. He wasn't used to being a father or even being in a fatherly role, and if he didn't get away for a few minutes, he felt like he was going to lose his mind.
"What am I supposed to do with him!" Adam cried out in exasperation.
"Sing to him, I don't know! I have to go talk to Vince!"
"Dude, I don't even know who the hell this kid is!" Adam said, anger creeping into his voice. Granted, he was friends with Chris, good friends at that, but this situation was hardly what he would call fair.
"Just… look at him," Chris said, as Adam looked at the baby who was staring up at him with teary eyes. There was something startlingly familiar about his blue eyes, and it only took Adam a few seconds to place where he had seen those same eyes before. He looked up at Chris, speechless, as Chris nodded and pointed to Skylar's diaper bag. "I'll explain when I get back, there are bottles and diapers and all that shit, it's all over there, so please, just watch him for me."
"All right," Adam said reluctantly, and Chris didn't need a second opinion since he was out the door as soon as the words were out of Adam's mouth. Adam watched him leave and cursed him under his breath, before plopping down on the sofa with Skylar. He held the little boy out at arm's length, letting his small feet rest on his thighs even though he was pretty sure that Skylar was too little to stand on his own. Skylar looked back at him curiously, the tears still in his eyes, even though he looked calm now.
"Hi," Adam said, uncomfortable with this situation. What the hell was he going to do with him while Chris was gone? Skylar broke his train of thought when he reached clumsily out to Adam's face and grabbed his sunglasses, removing them from awkwardly from his face. Adam scowled as Skylar cooed and put the edge of his sunglasses in his mouth, before Adam snatched them back. "Hey, these babies cost me four hundred bucks, they're not your slobbing toys."
Skylar sniffled as Adam sighed, bouncing the little boy to entertain him as he watched the boy curiously. He had Chris's eyes, of that there was no doubt…
Chris stopped running once he got to Vince's office, before running both hands over his face. He hadn't gotten much sleep at all the night before, and he hoped that he wasn't showing the effects of it. The last thing he needed was to make his big return with bags under his eyes. He brushed the thought away though, figuring Vince would tell him if that was the case and would order some makeup people to take care of him.
He opened the door and walked in, smiling courteously as Vince glanced up at him from his desk. Stephanie was sitting across the desk from her father and she looked over her shoulder at Chris as he walked inside.
"Well, look at this, I don't even know who you are stranger," Vince chuckled as Chris went and sat down next to Stephanie.
"Yeah, nice to see you too, Vince," Chris said easily, shooting Stephanie a quick glance. She ignored him though as she wrote something down, and he resisted the urge to roll his eyes. She always ignored him when she was mad at him, so things hadn't changed that much.
"It's great to have you back, Chris, we've really missed you around here."
"Oh yeah?" Chris said, with just a hint of cockiness in his voice as he smiled. "The kids not getting it done around here?"
"Well, we're definitely in need of some veterans, that's for sure."
"I was just messing with you Vince, I'm really happy to be back, I've missed being around here," Chris said genuinely. Stephanie snorted a little, which went unnoticed by Vince, but not by Chris. He ignored her though, because she was being immature like she always was. And if she thought he was going to be the first to crack, then she was sorely mistaken.
Of course, he knew deep down that he would eventually crack and attempt to make peace between them, but at that moment, his stubbornness was prevailing over his common sense.
"Now about your return," Vince said, breaking Chris's train of thought, "I don't know if you've been made aware of this or not, but it's been leaked online."
"I already told him," Stephanie cut in just as Chris was about to respond. He sucked at his teeth, knowing that she was understandably angry with him for not telling her about Skylar, but she was being unreasonable about the whole thing. He mentally summoned his willpower so he wouldn't explode and trigger a huge fight with her in front of Vince, calming his temper and nodding.
"Yeah, I know, Stephanie was kind enough to inform me," Chris said, with a very subtle tinge of sarcasm in his voice.
"Did you tell anyone?" Vince asked bluntly. "Because I specifically told you to try to keep it under wraps so it could be a surprise for the fans."
"Vince," Chris sighed, tired of being beaten over the head with this subject, especially when something (or someone) else had unexpectedly showed up in his life that he had to take care of, "I have no idea how it got leaked, but trust me, I didn't say anything. I got a call early this morning from Jay Reso and he told me that it was already online, I had absolutely nothing to do with that."
"Sure you didn't," Stephanie interjected disbelievingly, and if this had been an animation, Chris's face would've been turning bright red and there would've been steam coming out of his ears, and maybe a few whistles going off on top of that. Instead, he closed his eyes momentarily and stretched out his neck, trying very hard to pay her no mind.
"You both know how much I hate when online reporters get a hold of what we're going to do, it completely eliminates the element of surprise," Vince said disgustedly, and Chris and Stephanie both nodded. "And I'm not just saying this for you two specifically, but it's a problem in general in the company."
"Yeah," Chris said, fidgeting his knee a little at the thought of Adam being alone with Skylar. It wasn't that he didn't trust Adam, but he was starting to feel a tad bit guilty over the way he had handled himself that day, both with Stephanie and with Adam. He was only vaguely aware of Vince continuing to talk, and though Chris was looking right at the man, the words just sounded like an assortment of meaningless sounds as his mind kept going back to Skylar.
"In any case, for the meantime, we think a feud with John Cena for starters would make the most sense for you and give some continuity from the last time you were in the company," Vince reasoned. Stephanie glanced at Chris as he nodded numbly, and she could tell that his mind was somewhere else like it usually was.
"What do you think about that?" Stephanie asked him directly, startling Chris as he glanced over at her.
"It's fine by me," Chris said, going with the safe answer since he had no idea what had just been said. But truth be told, his life was a little more complicated than who he would be facing in the ring.
"Excellent, well, I hate to cut this short, but I have a meeting with several lawyers in a few minutes," Vince said as he looked at his watch. He stood up from behind his desk, and Chris and Stephanie stood as well. "It's damn good to have you back, Chris," Vince said as he reached for Chris's hand.
"Damn glad to be back," Chris answered as he shook his boss's hand while Stephanie gathered up and organized some papers on her father's desk.
"Stephanie, you'll take care of him?" Vince asked, looking at his daughter. She nodded, giving Chris a cool look.
"Yeah, I'll make sure he knows what he's doing tonight," she said, before turning and heading out of Vince's office. Chris hesitated for a moment, before excusing himself from Vince who was busy dialing some numbers on his cell phone. He headed after Stephanie quickly, his annoyance in the room for the most part gone as he caught up to her.
"Steph, hey, hang on," Chris said, jogging up next to her as she walked quickly down the hallway.
"I'm busy," Stephanie responded in a dry tone. Chris reached out and grabbed her arm, stopping her from walking.
"Can we talk for a minute?" he pleaded, looking her in the eye. "Please?"
She sighed, and cracked like she always did, "Fine, but only for a minute, I'm really busy, Chris," she told him. He hardly seemed like he was listening anyways, since he pulled her into what appeared to be an empty locker room close by.
Chris closed the door and turned to face Stephanie, who was standing a couple of feet in front of him, one hand resting on her hip and an impatient look on her face.
"Look, I'm really sorry that you found out the way you did about Skylar… you know, the kid, that's his name," Chris started awkwardly.
"I figured that's who you meant," Stephanie said.
"Yeah, it was bad, I should've told you from the get-go, but it's like… I don't know what to do, Stephanie," he admitted, beginning to pace as a look of frustration came over his face. Stephanie folded her arms over in front of her as she watched him while he continued, "This kid, I mean, he's just a baby, not that it's that big of a deal cause I'm pretty sure I could handle it, the responsibilities and all that, but it's just… weird, like it's not happening to me…"
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know."
"How are you going to take care of him?" Stephanie asked incredulously. "Because I find it hard to believe that you're just going to stumble across this baby and just adapt your lifestyle to suit him, you probably can't even make a bottle."
"What are you implying?" Chris asked as he stopped pacing, angry with where she was taking this. Here he was coming to her for help, to her of all people, and she was basically chopping him down before he even figured out a plan.
Stephanie sighed, "Look, I'm not saying that you're an incompetent father, but for God's sake Chris, you do realize that this is a huge responsibility, right? It's hard for fathers to ease into the role, you've had it dumped on you like a pile of bricks… of course, this is assuming that you're not bullshitting and you're not making up a story to appease me."
"Oh my God, here we go," Chris said, annoyed now. "Look, this doesn't revolve around you, not everything revolves around you, sweet cheeks."
Stephanie rolled her eyes, "Fine, then someone left him for you today. Right? That's what you told me in your locker room?"
"Yeah," Chris mumbled, resuming his pacing.
"How do you know he's yours then? Is it possible that this could just be a fan trying to shake you down for your money, some sick fan willing to use a baby for six or seven figures in compensation?" Stephanie asked curiously, feeling somehow compelled to clarify the situation if she could help him. Their relationship had diminished severely from what it used to be, but she couldn't erase the obligation she felt to at least try to lend him a helping hand when he sorely needed one. She could tell that he was legitimately thrown for what to do, and that wasn't like Chris at all. He was usually very decisive and direct with who and what he wanted, so it did bother her a little to see him at such a loss for what to do.
"He looks just like me," Chris sighed, stopping his pacing in front of Stephanie. He was facing the side wall though, giving her a look at his profile as he scowled. "You know what?" he said after a moment of silence. "Fuck it, I'm going to get a DNA test, maybe later this week or something."
"What are you going to do with him in the meantime?" Stephanie asked. "If you want, I can talk it over with my dad, and we can get you a good attorney to figure that all out for you."
"Figure what out?"
"What you're going to do with the baby, I mean, you don't honestly think that you can take care of him on your own in the meantime, do you?" she asked, making him give her an angry look. She rolled her eyes, "Chris, seriously, a baby is a huge responsibility."
"I already know that," he snapped.
"No, you don't fucking know that," she snapped back. "I've taken care of my nephews and it's not something you just dive into… I think it'd be better for him, and for you, if you just let it go through a legal process so that he's taken care of."
"No, I can take care of him," Chris argued stubbornly. "It's not fucking rocket science, he eats, he craps, and he sleeps. Oh, and he drools. Yeah, that's real tough, maybe I need a hardcore title to watch over that," he added sarcastically as Stephanie sneered at him.
"Fine, then what the hell are you asking me advice for? You've obviously got it all figured out, you know everything and you're always right."
"Look…" Chris sighed, "Just don't tell anyone else the real story with me and Skylar, okay? Everyone's going to see him and know him because I can't fucking hide the kid in a box or something, but they don't have to know the real story."
"I don't even know if it is the real story," Stephanie said nonchalantly as Chris groaned.
"It is the fucking real story," he said slowly, trying not to lose his temper with her. "I have nothing to gain by lying to you about it, it's the real story, I can show you the note the bitch left me if you want proof, or hell, you can come with me and see the kid again, that's good proof-"
"Okay, Jesus, I get the point," Stephanie said, cutting him off. "I'm not going to put your business out there either, because frankly, it doesn't concern me. So long as you fulfill your obligations to my dad and this company, then that's all I care about."
"Of course," he said sarcastically. "Why would I ever think otherwise?"
Stephanie gave him an ice cold stare, "Fine, then since I'm such an insensitive bitch, I should be going back to work so I can fire some more people and bolster my incredible reputation online. Besides, you said this would only take a minute, and that was about five hours ago."
She walked past him, feeling a frustration festering deep inside of her that was painfully familiar, and she was reaching for the handle when he spoke, "Steph, wait."
"What is it now?" she demanded impatiently, not looking back at him.
"I just wanted to say thanks," Chris said, not looking at her either. His eyes were on the floor as he contemplated how he was going to make this all work out, and for once, his scathing conversation with Stephanie wasn't lingering too heavily on his mind. After all, they had had far worse, especially near the end of their relationship a year ago.
"For what, keeping your dramatic life to myself and not posting it over everyone's locker room door?" Stephanie asked sarcastically.
"No," Chris said quietly, sneaking a glance at her.
"Then for what? Giving you advice that you're not even going to take?"
"No," he said again, before cracking a small smile, "Just for listening."
Stephanie took in his genuine tone and stood silently at the door for a moment, before opening it as Chris looked back down at the floor. He crossed his arms over his chest as she looked back at him, hesitating to leave for some reason.
"You're welcome," she told him, her tone genuine as well. He didn't look up at her again, but she did catch a glimpse of a smile on his face. She couldn't help having a small one herself, before leaving the room altogether. She chalked up their exchange to familiarity and habit. Old habits died hard, she supposed.
Unfortunately, the same could be said about her feelings for him as well.