Paul stared at the stark white walls as his stomach churned anxiously. Being here unsettled him terribly. He hated the sharp smell of disinfectant that lingered in the hallway. He also hated sitting waiting impatiently while a bunch of quacks decided on his future. A future that may or may not involve what he loved to do the most; wrestling. God knows it had been his life for so long and he had loved the rush it gave him. He had thrived on pushing his body to the limit while he entertained fans in their thousands. Or at least he had thrived on it until a psycho decided to bash his fucking brains in with a sledgehammer. Now the thought of it left him cold inside. He wasn't sure he wanted to go back. He didn't even know if he could get in that ring again.
Paul sighed heavily and shifted his feet, his boots scuffing against the pale beige carpet. He felt her squeeze his hand reassuringly. He turned his head and saw her big blue eyes smiling back at him. Stephanie. She was the reason why he was sitting here in the first place. She had wanted him to have the medical. She had wanted peace of mind that he had recovered from the attack physically and he had to admit he did too. After all, he had responsibilities now and he wanted to make sure he was around to take care of them.
Tilting his head to the side, Paul rested his head on Stephanie's shoulder. He felt her press her lips against his hair and he slowly closed his eyes. He loved her with everything he had. She and Hope were all that mattered to him. They were his life now and he knew he would do anything and everything for them.
"Are you okay?"
He nodded his head and smiled at the concerned tone in her voice. Stephanie had been nothing short of incredible through this whole damn thing. If it hadn't been for her, he knew he would have fallen apart. He had needed her so much and she hadn't once let him down even at times when he had tried his hardest to push her away.
"Hopefully the doctor won't be much longer."
Paul pressed his lips tightly together and glanced over at the double doors just down the corridor. The doctor had walked through them over an hour ago. He wasn't in any particular rush to have him walk back through them. Not knowing the truth meant he wasn't forced to face the future. It was a decision he wasn't sure he wanted to face up to. That's if he even had a decision to make. He wasn't naive. He was more than aware that his wrestling career could be over. And while the mere idea of that would have killed him only months ago, right now he wasn't sure he even cared.
Licking his lips, Paul's eyes fell to their joined hands that rested in Stephanie's lap. Her diamond sparkled in the soft glow of the lights. His thick fingers reached out and touched it absently twisting the gold band.
"I wonder if your mom got Hope to sleep."
He smiled gently grateful for the change in subject. "Our little troublemaker doesn't know the meaning of the word sleep."
"But she is getting better."
Paul lifted his head. His brown eyes twinkled at her. "Oh yeah. She's better alright. She's managed to extend nap time from five minutes to ten."
Stephanie chuckled and leant her forehead against his.
"She's still young enough to trade in you know. We should do it now before we get too attached to her."
"Who are you trying to kid, Levesque?" Stephanie said as she lifted her head and smiled at him. "You're already attached. In fact, our daughter has you well and truly wrapped around her little finger."
"That's because she's manipulative just like her mommy."
"I'm not manipulative." replied Stephanie as she tenderly tucked a stray blonde strand behind his ear. "I just know how to work things to my advantage."
Paul was about to reply when out of the corner of his eye, he saw the double doors open and his body tensed as he watched the small, burly doctor walk through. Sighing heavily, he felt the tight knots in his stomach. He felt Stephanie's thumb lightly graze his cheek before her hand fell away.
"It's going to be okay, Paul."
His brown eyes fell upon her. Despite her reassurances, he could see the fear in Stephanie's eyes. She was scared of the truth every bit as much as he was.
Paul stood up and forced himself to smile at the middle aged man. His hand still gripped hold of Stephanie's tightly.
"Would you like to follow me to my office?" he smiled.
He nodded and tried to ignore his heart as it pounded wildly in his chest. He walked behind the doctor in silence. He didn't even look at Stephanie. All he could think about was that this was it. The moment of truth and a decision that had the ability to affect the rest of his life.
The doctor opened the white painted door and stepped aside to let them pass. The tastefully decorated room still smelled of lemon furniture polish and the sun shone through the large glass window behind the wooden desk. Paul dropped Stephanie's hand and took the seat he had sat in only this morning. The brown leather creaked underneath his weight. His thick fingers twisted nervously together as he clasped them in front of him. The doctor's eyes were kind as they looked between him and Stephanie.
"Sorry to have kept you waiting. I had to await the final results of your CT scan."
Paul nodded and swallowed hard. The blood was beating loudly in his ears.
"And I'm pleased to tell you that everything looks fine. There is no swelling to the brain and we can't see any evidence of any long term damage."
He let out a long, shaky breath feeling the relief wash through his body. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Stephanie wipe at her face. She turned her head and smiled at him. Her eyes were glossed over and her lips trembled slightly.
"But while you've recovered physically, Mr Levesque, I can't help but be a little reluctant to clear you medically fit to return to work."
Paul looked at the doctor. His brown eyes were confused by his words.
"What do you mean by that?" asked Stephanie. Her hand rested on Paul's arm. His big hand covered it and his skin felt cold.
"I've spoken to your therapist." replied the doctor as he leant back in his chair. "Glen has concerns that you haven't yet dealt with what happened to you. He says you have yet to discuss the incident leading up to your injuries. Is that true?"
Paul nodded his head and swallowed hard.
The doctor smiled at him. The expression on his face was kind. "It's perfectly normal to need time to cope mentally with what has happened to you. Fixing a head injury takes a long time. It's the most complex machine in the world. I always tell my patients that head injury is like running a marathon. You can't sprint through your recovery. You have to pace yourself for the long race and keep as positive an attitude as you can along the way. But the good news is you will get better. You are getting better, Mr Levesque."
Paul licked his lips. He wasn't sure what to say. He didn't know how he felt about all of this. Although deep down he knew what the doctor said was true. He hadn't dealt with the attack. Not really. He kept pushing it to the back of his mind too scared of the anger, the uncontrollable anger that accompanied the memories.
"What I'd like to do is reassess you in the New Year after you've completed your therapy sessions with Glen."
He nodded automatically. Stephanie's hand gripped his arm.
"Your injuries may have healed physically however mentally I still feel you are at risk. But we are pleased with your progress, Mr Levesque. You just have to be a little more patient."
Paul smiled at the doctor more than happy with the assessment. See, he could be patient especially when it meant he could put off any decision about his career. Instead he could focus on Stephanie and his baby daughter. It was all that mattered right to him now and at the end of the day they were all he really cared about.
Hours later Paul was smiling as the large chair rocked slowly back and forward creaking rhythmically in the dark silent nursery. The moonlight shone through the large bay window behind them and a mixture of light and shadows fell across Hope's beautiful face. Her long dark eyelashes rested against her cheeks and her small full lips were slightly parted. Paul's heart swelled with pride as he watched his little angel sleep. It was amazing really, the emotions that he felt. Every time he looked or held his daughter he was overwhelmed by his love for this tiny, perfect creature. He still found it hard sometimes to believe she was really his. That he had been partly responsible for creating something so amazing and so beautiful. Hope made his life mean something, like he'd accomplished something worthwhile. Every thing he had achieved or every title he had won before her was paled into insignificance. He had created a life, something so special, that he couldn't find the words to express what it meant to him.
As his fingers lightly traced her warm cheek, Paul wondered why he had been so scared of being a parent. In fact, until he'd met Stephanie it was something he'd never ever contemplated. He thought he was content just to be successful in his career. He'd never ever dreamt he could be just as successful as a father. And while he still had a long way to go and a lot to learn, he didn't think he was doing a bad job. Hope knew love. She wanted for nothing and he'd do anything for his baby girl. He'd never let her down.
"Here you are."
The light from the hallway illuminated the room as Stephanie walked into the nursery. Paul smiled as she knelt at his feet inhaling the clean smell of vanilla body lotion she used. Her freshly washed hair was damp and piled on the top of her head.
"Did she drink her bottle?" she asked as her finger lightly traced Hope's chin.
"Every last drop."
"And she didn't cry?"
Paul shook his head. "She's been out like a light for the last half hour."
"Thankfully those colic drops seem to be working." Stephanie pushed herself to her feet and bent down to kiss his hair inhaling the smell of his conditioner. She felt his hand rub the back of her bare knee. "Are you coming to bed?"
He nodded and brushing his lips softly across Hope's cheek, Paul passed her carefully to Stephanie. He watched her carry her to her crib as he pushed himself to his feet and yawning, he made his way to the bedroom, his bare feet shuffling tiredly across the carpet. His thick fingers unbuttoned his jeans and he let them pool to his feet before stepping out of them. His hair bristled with static as he pulled his shirt over his head and pushing back the covers, he hopped into bed. His body relaxed the second he nestled into the soft pillows. His eyes closed over as he heard Stephanie enter the room. He listened to her footsteps as she approached the bed and the mattress shifted as she got in next to him.
"Hey." she said softly.
His brown eyes popped open as he felt Stephanie lean across him. Her chestnut hair tickled his face and his lips curved up gently as her fingertips trailed across his jaw line. "Hey." he replied.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm going to sleep."
"You can't." scowled Stephanie.
"And why not?" he said as he closed his eyes again.
"Well, I thought we could talk."
"I'm tired. I don't want to talk."
"Paul…!" she sighed.
He slowly opened his eyes once more to see her frowning as she stared ahead. His hand snaked around her waist as he shifted his head on the soft pillow and leant into the crook of her neck.
"God, you smell good." he murmured.
Stephanie closed her eyes and sighed softly as Paul kissed the column of her throat. His tongue flicked across her skin and she felt a tingle of pleasure down her spine.
"I thought you were tired." she mumbled as her fingers moved to tangle in his hair.
"Maybe not so much." he breathed into her ear. His wet mouth covered her lobe as he nipped at it gently.
"Good then we can talk." said Stephanie as she pulled away from his embrace. She swallowed thickly as she met his dark brown eyes. They smouldered with his want and desire for her and she lightly shivered under his watchful gaze.
"I thought I told you already. I don't want to."
Paul's big hand pushed down on her hip and he rolled her onto her back. The mattress creaked underneath them and his huge body hovered above her.
"Besides, didn't anyone tell you that talking is overrated?" he stated as he moved his mouth towards her. He rested his bodyweight on his thick forearm as his other hand skimmed up her thigh, pushing up the hem to her silk nightdress.
"Then what is it you propose we do instead?" she asked as she licked her lips, wetting them in anticipation of his kiss.
"Well I could do this….." Paul's voice trailed off as he captured her mouth with his. He kissed her languidly as his hand moved to the top of her leg. He squeezed her hot flesh gently and her throaty moan echoed in the silent room breaking their kiss.
"What?" he asked teasingly as he brushed his upturned lips against the corner of her mouth. His thumb deliberately swept against her underwear and her hips bucked against the pressure of his hand.
"Touch me. Please." Stephanie whispered.
Paul's thumb rubbed her through the lace as she closed her heavy lidded eyes. "I don't know. Maybe you're right, Steph. Maybe we should talk." he smirked as he trailed his wet mouth along her jaw line.
Paul snorted and lifted his head, his fingers skimming across the waistband of her underwear as he watched her face. Her eyes were pressed together as her top teeth pulled on her lip. Christ, she was beautiful and God did he need her. "That's quite a mouth you've got there, McMahon."
Her blue eyes popped open and there was no mistaking the hunger or her need for him. "Shut up and make love to me, Paul." Her hand pushed his head closer towards her. "It's been way too long." she mumbled before she pressed her lips against his.
Stephanie's mouth parted and she began to kiss him deeply. Her stomach pooled with the anticipation at the thought of being so close to him again and feeling every part of him. God knows it had felt like forever since she had been with him so completely and she had missed it. She had missed him. The palm of her hands ran up and down his back as she moaned softly into his mouth. She could feel the hard firmness of the muscle underneath his smooth skin. It felt so soft and burning hot like his skin was on fire. She was burning too; burning with her desire for him and her intensifying need to be with him.
Feeling his big hand squeeze her left breast, Stephanie slid her tongue into his mouth. It brushed against his tasting the gentle mint on his breath. Paul always tasted incredible. She could never get enough of him and he was a constant craving to her.
Her hand pressed his body closer and she whispered his name as his mouth began to make a downwards trail towards her chest. She closed her eyes as her whole body tingled and she arched her back into him, letting herself get lost in him. Paul. He was so much more than she had ever hoped for. She loved him with everything she had and she felt so much for him at times she couldn't breathe.
Whispering his name, Stephanie let her mind drift as she succumbed to his touch and his caress. A while later, she was struggling to find her breath in the aftermath of their lovemaking and her body lightly trembled in Paul's arms as he held her close to him. His lips brushed over her temple.
"Wow." he whispered as he tucked a messy strand of hair behind her ear. "I forgot how good I was at that."
She couldn't help but snort with amusement as she leant back and looked at him. She shook her head in disbelief. "You don't believe in being modest, do you?"
"What's the point?" he replied smirking. "You know the truth. I've got no need to hide it."
"You're a cocky bastard."
"Yes I am but it's one of the many things you love about me." he grinned. His brown eyes sparkled at her and she smiled as her hand curled around his cheek.
"Well I have to admit you do have a certain charm." She paused as she gently kissed his forehead. "I'm also very proud of you."
"Proud of me?"
"Why?" he asked, his nose scrunched in confusion.
"Well look how far you've come." Her thumb lightly traced his jaw line, his stubble scratching her skin. "Only a few months ago, we thought your injury meant you might never wrestle again."
Paul glanced away. His hand fell away to rest against her hip.
"It's only a matter of time, baby. Just think. Six weeks from now you could be in that ring doing what you love to do."
"But what if I don't want to?" he asked her abruptly. He narrowed his eyes as he looked at her. "I told you before I wasn't sure I wanted to wrestle again."
"But I thought you just needed time Paul….."
"Yeah?" he interrupted. "Well how stupid of me for thinking you understood."
He lifted Stephanie up removing her from his lap. She pulled the covers to her chest as she shook her head in confusion.
"Of course I understand." she said as he picked up a pair of track pants thrown across the chair. She watched him pull them on before pushing back his hair from his forehead. "Paul?"
"What?" he asked as he pulled out a drawer and rummaged through it.
"Talk to me, please."
"I told you, Steph. I don't want to talk." He roughly shoved his head through the shirt. His soft blonde hair fell messily around his shoulders.
Stephanie sighed heavily. "I thought we were past all this."
"Past what?" he snapped finally looking at her, his brown eyes flashing with his temper.
"You! You shutting me out and trying to deal with this on your own."
"I'm not shutting you out." he cried in frustration.
"Well it sure feels that way." She pulled the sheet tighter to her chest and sighed. "Christ, Paul. I'm going to be your wife in a few weeks. We should be helping one another with our problems not arguing about them."
"I'm not arguing. You're the one that brought this up in the first place."
"And of course here comes the stubbornness."
"Drop the sarcasm, Steph. It doesn't suit you."
Just then Hope began to cry. Paul picked up her monitor and headed towards the door. "I'll see to our daughter. It's not like I'll sleep now anyway."
The door slammed shut behind him. Stephanie fell back onto the bed and groaned loudly in frustration. She couldn't believe what had happened just now but she wasn't going to even try and reason with him. She had learned from experience to leave Paul well alone when he was like this. She'd just have to be patient and wait to talk to him when he had calmed down because as much as he protested that he didn't want to wrestle, deep down she knew it wasn't true. Not really. Paul loved wrestling so much. It was in his blood. It was his passion. He was just feeling scared right now; scared of her father and what he could potentially do to him. She knew Paul hated being in such a vulnerable position. It made him feel weak. Well maybe there was something she could do about that. Maybe it was time to talk to her father and set him straight on a few things. Basically he was either done fucking with Paul or he lost her and Hope for good. Plus she needed to get some information out of him about Andrew. He was another psycho she was going to have to deal with because she was done with both him and her father thinking they could screw around with the two people that mattered most to her. She loved Paul and Hope. She loved them with all her heart and she was going to do whatever it took to protect both of them. She would do whatever she had to for her family.