Chapter 2

A/N: I thought I had already posted this chapter. Apparently, I was wrong. Sorry, to anyone who may be reading this or might have been waiting. And just in case it's been confusing to anyone, though I'm pretty sure y'all are smart enough to figure this shit out, Randy's narrative is in bold type, and Cody's is in regular type. Enjoy!

Perception is such a weird thing, ya know? Maybe you have to have some modicum of success, or popularity, or whatever to really know what I'm talking about. But I was a pretty quiet kid. Not to my friends or my family, they would all tell you that I had a huge fucking mouth. But the other kids at school probably wouldn't even remember my face, let alone tell you anything about me, had I not become a wrestler. And I think that was part of the reason that I wanted this life, with the action figures and the tee shirts and the trading cards. Because I just wanted people to notice me, and remember my name.

Of course, it's one thing to be remembered by people who take the time to get to know you. It's another animal all together to have millions of people 'think' they know you because of website rumors and the character you play on television.

As difficult as it may be to believe, I was never popular in high school. I was the kind of guy that even the dorks picked on. Tall. Skinny. Speech impediment. Oh, and let's don't forget the fact that I was oh-so-pretty, too. Not in a movie star, hurts to look at him kind of way. I looked like a girl. My face didn't become masculine until I was about sixteen, and by then, the damage had already been done, and I was already singled out as the school's punching bag. On the plus side, my daily abuse was actually pretty inclusive. It didn't matter your age, creed or race. Everyone was free to beat on Cody Rhodes. Just doing my bit for inclusion, I guess.

You'd think that having a father who was a huge superstar in the wrestling industry would make it better, but it didn't. It really only made it worse. The guys on the football team hated me – I always thought it was jealousy. They used to beat the crap out of me under the pretense of 'running drills' during practice, and the coaches pretty much let it slide as I was a disappointment to them, as well. Had been pretty much since the day I was made captain of the wrestling team.

I mean, they made me captain before the coach had ever laid eyes on me. He'd just seen my name on the sign-up sheet and figured out who my dad was. I guess he assumed that there had been some magical transference of wrestling ability that occurred at conception or something, and that my lanky-ass, five-foot-ten, fifteen-year-old frame was going to be equipped to lead the team to victory. My reign as captain lasted exactly thirty-two minutes. By the time they scooped me off the gym floor, it was clear I wasn't exactly 'naturally gifted.'

I've worked to build my wrestling skills, ya know? Eventually, I developed into an ass-kicking, death-defying superstar. The one you all know and love. But it took years, and a lot of hard work to get to the place where I'm standing now. I didn't get breaks because of who my father is. The opposite, actually. I've had to fight and claw for every single thing I've gotten, to prove that I'm worthy of the Rhodes name. And I'm damn proud of it, too. So if I sometimes come off as aloof or arrogant to the fans, I don't mean to. It's just that I know what it took to get here, and I'll be damned if I let it slip, inside or outside of the ring.

See, the wrestling business is a little stranger-than-fiction sometimes, because we don't exactly talk about scripts and story lines the way other television shows do. If you play an asshole on television, like I do, then you're expected to, at least in part, keep your distance and play one outside the ring, too. Wouldn't want to ruin the illusion of reality, even though ninety-eight percent of our fans are smart enough to know that it's not real. To hear my father explain it, it's a tradition thing to be respected.

But my father didn't grow up in the age of the internet rumor, ya know? Or the age of computers, in general. My father didn't grow up with millions of girls around the world making up stories about who they thought he was, or lonely bastards with a laptop in mom's basement, posting made up shit about him trashing hotel rooms and acting like a drunken party boy. My father didn't have to contend with half the shit that builds our images and reputations these days.

People might consider it strange, but I never really idolized my father when I was growing up. I mean, he was just my dad to me. He wasn't the 'American Dream' at home. He was just the guy I saw every time he had to come home and rehab an injury or something. In those days, guys didn't get nearly as much time off as we do, because they weren't salaried. If you wanted to get paid, you worked. Which meant you weren't home. Which meant that your fourteen-year-old son resented the fact that you were never around.

I still followed his career, of course, and I'm really proud of his achievements. Now that I understand the nature of the business, I'm really proud of just being my dad's son, too. I know how much he gave to be able to give us what we had. But back then, I was more enamored with the likes of Shawn Michaels, the Undertaker, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. They were where it was at to my thirteen year old eyes, and they were what I wanted to be like.

And when I finally realized that this was what I really wanted to do with my life? That's when I witness the brilliance that is Randy Orton for the first time. I got a call for a tryout down at OVW, and took a couple of friends down to watch one of their shows. This was before Orton was famous with Evolution, and before the multiple championships and everything.

Back when I saw him for the first time, he was just a talented kid, a third generation star following in his father, and his grandfather's, footsteps. Forging his own path out of the shadow. And right then, it was like this lightning bolt struck. I guess you could say I had an epiphany, of sorts. I knew he was exactly what I wanted to be. And I don't think I've ever really gotten past that feeling.

I know it sounds like I'm complaining a lot. Maybe I am. But sometimes, it just strikes me as so bizarre, this life I live. Like when I introduce myself to a chick in some bar, and she already knows my name. And then she tells me who I beat in my debut match, and runs down my top five matches, in her opinion. She'll tell me that I'm her favorite because she's always had a thing for the bad boy, and I'll smirk my trademark smirk and pretend that's exactly who I am.

In reality, I'm smiling because it's fucking funny to me that anyone would consider me the bad boy. Cena drinks harder, curses more fluently, and one-night's it ten times more than I do. Batista can't be faithful to a woman to save his life, and has no problem leaving a sleeping chick without so much as a note in the morning. Hardy? Jesus Christ, he can smoke me under the table any blasted time we light up together. Compared to the guys who come off as such baby-face goody-goodies on television? I'm a fucking choir boy. But since I'm the one who plays a womanizing dick on TV, I'm the one they think is 'bad.'

With guys, it's even stranger. They have a tendency to act like I'm some kind of hero to them or something. I've had a pretty great career, and I get that. From that standpoint, I guess I can understand the 'awe' or whatever. But when they go on to say that they've been watching me from the beginning of my career, and that they want to be just like me? Dude, really?

Because my life's probably not all that different from anybody else's. I mean, what you see in front of the cameras is, like, two hours of my week. The time that I spend in the ring during house shows is an hour and half, give or take a few minutes here and there. And if I do a meet and greet, that might be another three hours. So, out of the 168 hours that we all have in a week, I spend about six and a half of them doing the things that they all admire.

The rest of the time, it's a little less glamorous. Let me just reiterate that I'm not saying I don't love my job. I do. But when I travel, it's not with a car full of buddies. And when I go home, it's not to some huge party with all of my friends who have been waiting around for me to get home. When I'm not in front of the television cameras? I'm not the Randy Orton that they see every week. I'm just a regular guy, with obligations and bull shit responsibilities, and a lot of damn free time. I fuck up my personal life more often than not, and I don't really talk that much.

I feel like I'm staring at him. Hell, scratch that. I know that I'm staring at him. If I looked any harder at Randy, I'm pretty sure my eyes would explode right out of my head. But I can't help it. Just look at him, for God's sake. He's theRandy Orton. Legend Killer. All-around amazing Adonis of a man, in the flesh. Of course, it's not like I've never seen him up close before, but it's taking on a whole different significance now. I'm actually working with him. Me, Cody Rhodes. The scrawny little punk-ass kid of the great 'American Dream', who nobody ever thought would amount to anything greater than a Wal-Mart cashier. I've even got a certificate to prove that.

And I get to work with Randy Orton.

So I'm staring. Pretty gay, I know. But if I am, who cares? I figure I've earned a little ogling for all the crap I've put with it over the years. If those losers from high school could see me now. To hell with it, I'll have to get on the web when I get home and post a message to everyone I've ever met and tell them that I'm gonna work with Randy. I'll do a Myspace blog. Works for Matt fuckin' Hardy.

Unless that would spoil Creative's idea? Dammit, probably will. I have to keep quiet about working with my hero? Well that just sucks harder than Kelly Kelly on a Friday night. How am I ever gonna keep this to myself? I can't even stop looking at him! We left the office almost five minutes ago and I don't think I've blinked yet. I don't trust myself to not run on top of a roof somewhere populated and shout it out to everyone who will listen; 'I'm working with Randy Orton, bitches! Who is the loser, now?'

Being as I sort of consider myself a regular guy, it's a little off-putting that Cody hasn't stopped starin' at me out of the corner of his eye since we left Stephanie's office. Cena always jokes that the kid has a crush on me. I don't know, maybe he's right. Wouldn't be the first time. But I think it's more than that. I can see it - that look's not unusual in my world. It means that he respects me, that he's all excited about the opportunity to work with me. And it's just plain fucking weird. At least, to me, it's weird.

Okay, I really need to look away somewhere other than his face right now. I'm even making myself uncomfortable.

Once we round the corner, I stop and rest my hands on my waist. "Look, man, I don't know what you think this is going to be," I start, my shoulders drooping somewhat. It's better if I just dispel any illusions of amazement from the beginning. "But you're gonna have to stop starin' at me like that if we're gonna be workin' together long term."

His dark eyes go round, and his cheeks flush pink. "Oh my god," he shakes his head. "Dude, I'm not," he starts to stammer immediately. "I'm not, like. . . I'm not into guys! At all!"

The statement makes me laugh a little bit. Not into guys? Who the fuck is he kidding? Nobody dresses like we do in the ring if they're not a little into guys. "Dude, what you snack on after hours is none of my business," I assure him, smiling and resting a hand on his shoulder. "Look, here's the deal. I'm just one of the guys, okay? So stop lookin' at me like I'm Superman and shit, and fuckin' say something." I guess that part of my on screen persona where I can be a total dick is kind of accurate sometimes, after all. But only when I'm irritated.

Cody nods his head and mimics my stance with his hands on his hips. I don't think he means to. At least, that's what I tell myself. "Sorry, it's just," he shakes his head and then drops it back to laugh toward the ceiling. "You're, like, Randy Orton." Again, he shakes his dark head. "I mean, obviously, you know that. You know who you are."

His voice trails off again and I'm afraid that he's going to start drooling or something. It's not that I don't appreciate it, but it's awkward. I mean, what do I say to that? "Come on," I motion, nodding down the hall.

Just one of the guys. Yeah, right. And I'm Hugh freakin' Hefner. Maybe I am taking this hero worship thing a little bit too far, but I can't help it. How often does anyone get to work with their idol? Surely Randy must have felt the same way when he worked with Hunter and Flair, right? Like, maybe he crushed out just a little bit, too?

Wait, crush is the wrong word. I don't like him like that. At least, I don't think I do.

What am I thinking? Of course I don't!

I mean, I appreciate that he's a handsome dude. And his body? Well, it's amazing, of course. Do you have any idea the kind of dedication it takes to get a cut like his? Not to mention the broad shoulders and the tight, little waist. And those trunks? Come on, now. They don't exactly leave a lot to the imagination, do they?

But what if I may have considered what he's packing down there? That's a normal guy thing to do. We always compare size, even if we don't admit to it. It doesn't mean I'm into him in a gay way, just that I really admire him. It's not a real crush, just more or a pseudo-crush. Yeah, that makes more sense, pseudo-crush. I like that. A man crush. It's a man crush.

After a while, he begins to follow without a word, and then someone calls out behind us. "Hey Orton!"

I turn and see Ted DiBiase jogging toward us. DiBiase's a cool kid. Not nearly as freaked out around me as some newbies can be. I'm not sure he's got what it takes to last around here yet, but I've been wrong before. Plenty of times. "What's up, man?"

We share a hand shake/half hug, and he gives Cody a weird look that I don't understand. Must be a tag partner thing or something. "So we're gonna do this thing, huh?" he asks and I just nod. "Where we headed?"

I feel my face fall, just for a second, as Randy hugs Teddy in greeting. What the hell? How come I didn't get the friendly reception and the hug? I'm the one who has the whole hero worship thing going on, so why is Ted treated like the friend? He smirks at me, totally on purpose, the traitor. He is so going to get it.

We fall into step behind Randy, and I immediately nudge Teddy in the ribs. Okay, maybe nudge is the wrong word. I practically cracked a rib, but I don't care.

"Ow! Jesus, Code," he hisses at me, "What was that for?"

Gritting my teeth, I keep my eyes forward, dropping my voice low so that Randy won't hear me. "You know exactly what that was for. Where do you get off acting like the best friend?"

Ted smiles like he's just scored a threesome with two Divas. "Jealous?"

I bite down on my tongue to stop myself screaming at him. "That's not even funny, Ted. Of course I'm not jealous."

Ted turns to me, and I can practically see the incredulity plastered across his face without looking at him. It's thick in his voice when he returns my hushed whisper. "Oh I think you are, Codykins. Jealous that your boy just put his arms around me, and not you. Sucks to be you, right?"

I swing my elbow out again, but miss as Ted easily dodges the blow. He's pushing my buttons, on purpose, as usual. "Just don't fuck this up for me, okay, Teddy? You know how badly I've wanted to work with Randy. I don't need you and your stupid meat-head screwing things up, okay?"

Teddy's rumbling laugh is stifled as he clamps his mouth shut. "I swear to god Cody, you turn more and more into a woman every day. Just chill, okay? You think I'm gonna screw up our shot at the big time? We brothers, man." He says it while slapping my back, as if that somehow proves our bond. "And you know I would never do anything to get in the way of your plans for seduce Orton."

"Seduce?!" My voice reaches decibels I didn't know existed, and I force myself to repeat it at a level that humans, as opposed to dogs, can hear. "Seduce? What are you talking about?"

"Nothin'." His face is the picture of innocence, and anger floods my stomach.

"Don't mess with me Teddy. What do you mean?" I say it a little more forcefully this time, grabbing his arm and forcing him to turn to look at me, stopping us both in the hallway.

"I said nothing," he replies, pulling his arm away, "God Cody, I'm only messing with you. Randy's your hero, I get it. Just stop acting like a 12-year-old at a Jonas Brothers' concert around him. It's embarrassing and not at all cool."

"I-I'm not." Okay, that was pathetic, even for me. "I just want this to go well. That's all."

Ted mumbles something about me loving him, but I ignore it. I know I don't. I just want to work with Randy. My idol. My hero. Man crush aside.

Shaking my head, I find myself having to remind my psycho inner voice to get a grip. Letting go of Teddy's hand, I fall back into step behind Randy, wondering if he heard any of what just transpired. Maybe I am taking this whole thing a little too seriously. It's nothing to have an aneurism over, after all.

You ever have one of those flashes where you see what your life could have been if you were the person you'd always wished you'd been in high school? I'm walkin' down the hall, followed by Rhodes and DiBiase. It's like I'm the quarterback, flanked by his O-line flunkies or something. They're bickering about something amongst themselves, but their voices are hushed and I can't really hear it. Still, it amuses me enough to pull a smirk at the corner of my lips as I pull my cigarette pack from my back pocket and pound it against my palm.

"Hey, Randy," Kelly greets me from the doorway of the Divas locker room. I just nod and she waves before disappearing behind the door. That's enough to make my spine tingle a little bit. She was hot when I left a few months ago, but only being able to see her on television? Jesus, she's even hotter now. Like the head cheerleader, tossin' a flirty glance in my direction.

Oh great. Raw's own answer to the proverbial bicycle. So aptly named because everyone's had a ride on Kelly at least once. Me included. Really wasn't that hot. I want to tell Randy not to get side-tracked, but I know that would be a mistake. I keep my mouth shut, but send the look of death at Kelly. She'd better get the message to back off. We're a team now; me, Randy and Teddy. I'm just looking out for my team mates. We don't need her getting involved to mess things up.

Unfortunately, the look doesn't have the desired effect and she starts fluttering her eye lashes at me like she's got an twitch.

"Easy, Code," Teddy whispered into my ear, "looks like someone's hot for you."

"She's hot for everyone," I mutter as we move beyond her outside, "I heard she gave somethin' nasty to John Morrison. She should come with a government health warning."

Teddy guffaws and I smile at him. It's like having a brother on the road with me, who shares my sense of humor. If nothing else, I know I can always make him laugh. He drives me insane most of the time, but I couldn't have asked for a better partner than Teddy. I wouldn't swap him for anybody else.

Well…maybe CM Punk. But nobody other than that.

Catching a glance of our reflection in the glass doors, I can't help feeling a little bit encouraged about this whole stable situation. I mean, the three of us, dressed in jeans and tee shirts, look pretty impressive. Out in the ring, under the lights, worked out and oiled up? We'll look pretty damn imposing, I think. Especially when I see the way Cody smirks at DiBiase behind my back. Don't know what that's about, either, but I know in an instant that I was right. Cody Rhodes as the potential to be the next cocky-ass Randy Orton. And I'm okay with passing him the mantle in a few years.

We step into the chilled, autumn air and I light my cigarette while considering the pair of them. "So, how do you guys wanna play this?" I ask them after I've exhaled a long plume of smoke.

He's asking…us? This the worst time for my mouth to go dry and my throat to close up. So of course, that's exactly what happens.

They share another glance. "What do you mean?" Cody manages to croak, like I'm the teacher calling on him and catching him off-guard in class or something. Kid's gonna have to lighten the fuck up if we stand a chance of accomplishing anything.

"Well, we can't really control what happens inside the ring. Steph'll take care of that. But outside, we can kinda make our own rules." I scratch my arm and look out over the parking lot. Who the hell am I kidding? I don't know shit about being a leader. Jesus, this was a stupid idea. "It's kinda up to us how we much time we spend together or whatever."

Tucking his hands casually in his pockets, Cody squints against the sun behind me. "Didn't you, like, spend all your time with Evolution? Isn't that where you learned most of the shit you learned with them or whatever?" he asks, and the sincerity in his eyes means something to me. I know that's kind of fluffy, but it does. Like he really cares what I have to say.

"Dude," DiBiase interjects, rolling his shoulders as he swings his head toward his partner. "Why don't you just get down on your knees and suck his fucking cock so we can get on with business?" he taunts.

I freeze, snapping my mouth shut with a very loud clack. Did he just…he totally just did! Son of a BITCH! That's it. He is dead. He is so dead he's already past tense. I am going to mail his body back to his father, piece my stupid, ape-faced piece!

I feel my fists tense at my sides, my mind awash with venom as a hundred retorts sizzle in my brain, not the least of which remind DiBiase of the night we first won the tag team titles. He wasn't so cocky when I was putting my mouth to good use then, was he?

Not that I often bat for the other team. It happens, occasionally. Well, twice to be exact. Once was with Teddy, the other time was during high school. But everyone experiments at some point during school, don't they? And I was so drunk when we won the belts, he could have put a stick of dynamite in my mouth and I would have sucked until it came.

But that's beside the point. That was a low-blow, and I have to respond in kind or I'm gonna look like a total pussy in front of Randy.

Cody opens his mouth to defend himself, but I just chuckle and interject, "Tempting as that may be," I wink at nobody in particular, "I don't let mid-carders anywhere near my cock."

O-kay. I wasn't expecting that. I physically falter at the wink, and wonder what it means. Is Randy…I mean would he..

Jesus Christ Rhodes! Stop projecting the adoration. He's just fucking with you, like any one of the guys would. Oh, so that's the way Randy wants to play it. Funny guy.

They both look slightly stunned and then Cody's lips turn up into the makings of a real-life Orton smirk. "So, yeah, I learned a lot from Flair and Triple H when I traveled with Evolution." Sucking back a hard drag of my cigarette, I shake my head as I exhale. "But we ain't Evolution, and I sure as hell ain't Ric fucking Flair, so don't be expectin' miracles or anything."

My ex always used to bitch that I was too self-deprecating all the time. I know I have some things that I could teach these guys. I just also know that I'm not Ric Flair. I don't have anywhere near the career that he had, and I don't pretend to. If there's one thing I can say about myself, it's that I'm honest enough to know my role in this company and accept it. I may be Randy Orton, Legend Killer on television. But behind the scenes? I'm just a kid who's been around the block a couple times, and is lookin' to do it again a few more before I have to hang it up. I'm still tryin' to learn, too. I don't want unreal expectations from these two deluding me into forgetting that.

"Can you pull chicks like Flair?" DiBiase asks, his eyebrows wiggling suggestively.

Jesus Christ. Talk about a one track mind. I throw Ted a stare that plainly asks how the windows tasted when he licked them this morning, but he's oblivious as always. His eyes are too far lost in the potential plethora of pussy he can score with Randy's expert tutelage. Am I the only one who wants to learn about the business here? I'd be lying if I didn't wonder how many girls I could get with a few of Randy's tips, but I'm not crass enough to ask him within ten minutes of talking to him. Obviously my ape-faced friend doesn't share my point of view.

Now, I will admit that this is the one area where I have a hard time letting go of character. I'm not really all that comfortable picking up women in bars or hotel lobbies. I'm about as fond of the possibility of rejection as I am root canals and thumbs to my eyes, but something about my ego can't ever admit that. So I play the part, because it's easier than admitting that I feel like a totally inept tool when it comes to women. Trust me, I have a trail of pointless relationships to prove my point here.

"Dude," I smirk and take my cigarette between my lips again. "Ask Flair who used to score more pussy back in the day," I boast. It's true. Not because I was more charming or charismatic than the infamous Ric Flair. I think, partially, he'd had his fill by the time he brought us together. And because I had something to prove, I just tried harder. And sometimes hard work pays off.

DiBiase shakes his head like he doesn't believe me and pulls the ringing cell phone from his back pocket. "I gotta take this." He turns toward the door and then looks back over his shoulder. "Talk more after the show?"

I just nod and he disappears. Turning back to Cody, I finish my cigarette. "You ready for this, kid?" He kind of half-shrugs/ half-nods as I toss the butt of my cigarette to the ground. Like he's not sure, but he hopes so.

That makes two of us.