Summary: "I witnessed a horrific mental image that will always be etched in my mind." –Matt Hardy. The fire had cost him everything- his house, his belongings, even his beloved dog. But Jeff Hardy finds comfort in still having the one person he loves most during this difficult time, not knowing what he would do without her. What happens when her life is threatened? Will he be able to save her, or will everything he knows once again go up in flames? Jeff/Beth.
Song: "Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven
Disclaimer: The following story is fiction based on actual people and facts. Obviously, the Hardys or any of their friends and other wrestlers are not mine. Nor is the passage from The Scarlet Letter. That belongs to Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Author's Note: Hey! I'm new to this category, but I love wrestling, so I thought I would try this out. As I said before, the pairing is Jeff and Beth, but other superstars are also included. All of the chapters are named after song titles that fit the content of the chapter, which I also do not own. Your reviews are greatly appreciated, but no flames please. So, enjoy chapter one! Thanks for giving this a shot!
Chapter 1- Heart-Shaped Box
Jeff sighed as he entered his brother's house and set his bags down, still not used to this place being "home." Without a doubt, it was incredibly kind of Matt to take both him and Beth in after their house burned down due to unknown faulty wiring, a mistake that had cost them everything, but it still wasn't the same as being in your own place. And Matt was his best friend, and he knew that there was no place where he would rather stay while he built his new house. And with Beth, anywhere could feel like home.
The younger Hardy smiled when he heard soft, scurrying footsteps, and he watched as Lucas, Matt's white, fuzzy dog, came running at him from the kitchen. "Hey, there you are," Jeff said as he bent down and scooped up the excited creature into his arms. "I'm sorry if I woke you." That would be the best explanation of the delay in Lucas' typical greeting. After all, it was late.
As if to prove his statement, Lucas yawned before he licked his cheek. Jeff kissed the top of the dog's head quickly as he ruffled his fur. He had noticed a definite change in his behavior ever since the house fire had taken his own dog, Jack. Lucas was the only dog Jack had ever really gotten along with, and now that he was gone, Jeff could see the negative impact it was having on Lucas.
"There's no place like home, huh, Jeffro?" Matt Hardy asked as he came up behind his brother with his own bags.
"Yeah," Jeff muttered as he set Lucas on the floor again, the dog jumping with newfound energy around their feet. "You've gotta' love the brother versus brother storyline."
"Totally," Matt agreed, using the same sarcasm as his brother had. "Strange they're making us do it again."
Jeff nodded. He hated pretending that he was Matt's enemy, and he knew that it wasn't the easiest thing for Matt either. But it was just a storyline. They were best friends outside of the ring.
"Just leave your bags in the living room for tonight. We can put stuff away in the morning," Matt told him, noticing the exhaustion in his brother's eyes. "That is, if you don't need anything out of them."
"Nope, I'm going straight upstairs to bed," Jeff replied, wincing when his shoulder throbbed slightly as he set his bags down near the couch. He had either landed on it wrong or pulled a muscle during his last fight. Fortunately, it didn't seem to be too serious. "Beth's probably already sleeping since it's after midnight…"
Matt smirked. "Yeah, but don't worry. You'll be able to talk to her in the morning," he said. "Get a good night's sleep, Jeffery."
"You too," Jeff muttered. But instead of going upstairs right away as he had originally planned, Jeff stopped by the kitchen first and grabbed a cup out of the cupboard. He filled it with cold water before splashing some on his face, drinking about half of the glass and emptying the rest into the sink before putting it in the dishwasher. It had been a long week, and he had missed Beth every minute of it. Even if she were sleeping now, he would at least be able to see her again. He would at least be able to sleep with her in his arms again.
Seeing that Matt had already left the living room, Jeff hurried up the stairs, anxious to be with Beth after a week without her. He opened the door of the guest room that they were using, surprised to see that the lamp by the bed was on and the bed itself was empty. His eyes moved around nervously, but then, he saw with confusion that Beth was sitting in front of the closet, looking through a shoebox of seemingly random items.
When she heard the door to the room open, Beth quickly looked up, startled, but her face radiated inexplicable joy at seeing her Enigma. "Hey!" She immediately got up and threw her arms around him, smiling broadly as Jeff kissed her passionately. "I missed you so much…"
"Not as much as I missed you," Jeff muttered, kissing her again before he held her close to him, feeling comforted by her presence. "Though I am curious as to what you're doing. I thought you'd be sleeping."
"Oh, that? It's nothing," Beth said with a slight laugh, shaking his wondering off. "Nothing important anyway."
Jeff smiled down on her, gently kissing her forehead. "Well, it must be important to you if you're doing it this late at night," he countered. "And if it's important to you, it's important to me."
Beth returned the smile, though it wavered slightly. "I… I couldn't sleep," she explained. "And, so I wasn't just sitting around and… thinking about things, I decided to go through this box to see if there was anything that I actually needed. It's just some old stuff from when I was in high school and our earlier years together before I moved in with you. My parents sent it to me while you and Matt were gone. They thought it would help cheer me up after the… well, after the tragedy…"
Her sentence trailed off, and Jeff sighed as he gently ran his fingers up and down her arm in a comforting manner. It was then he realized that she couldn't sleep because of memories of the house fire, the horror from that night still fresh in her mind. In that long moment where he simply held her, he wondered how many nights Beth had suffered alone with her thoughts, how many sleepless hours she had longed for something else to cling onto. Jeff knew that he didn't want to leave Beth again so that he could be there to protect her from those memories.
"Here, let's take a look at this, Beth," Jeff said quietly, bringing her over to the closet and looking down at the shoebox that she had previously been going through. He knelt down in front of it, Beth beside him, and he slowly lifted the lid to see its contents since Beth had covered it back up before she greeted him.
"You're going to have to explain all this to me," Jeff muttered, completely lost. A lot of the pictures and items in the box were from an era of his girlfriend's life that he hadn't been a part of.
Beth smiled as she pulled out a golf ball and handed it to him. "I had a close group of friends during all four years of high school," she told him. "We were all walking through a park near a golf course one day, and we found these random golf balls on the trail. So, we each decided to take one to keep as some sort of token. It's silly, I know, but it means a lot."
Jeff smiled, setting the golf ball down as Beth handed him a program. "You were in the school play," he said, seeing that it had been "Beauty and the Beast."
"Yep." Beth opened it, pointing to her highlighted name. "I was Mrs. Potts."
"I think you should have been Belle," Jeff told her, kissing her nose and making her laugh.
"Yeah, well, I had fun anyway." Beth then proceeded to pull out a few pictures and handed them to him as she explained them. "Here's our senior trip to Niagara Falls. And this is my graduation picture. We had a pretty small class. Oh, this was the party I had with my friends before we went our separate ways to school or work and stuff. And this is my prom picture from senior year…"
Again, Beth's sentence trailed off as Jeff raised his eyebrows when he saw the last picture she gave him. "Who's the guy?" he wondered.
"Don't worry about him, Jeffro," Beth laughed as she rubbed his arm. "Prom was the only night I guess you could say I dated him. His name was Brett. He was on the football team. But, he's nothing compared to this guy here."
Beth took the prom picture from Jeff and set it on the pile with the others before pulling another from the box and giving it to him. Jeff smiled when he saw that it was a picture of a younger Beth, out of high school, standing in the arms of a boy with hair dyed red.
"Hmm, he's quite handsome," Jeff teased as he set the picture down and wrapped his arms around Beth. "I may have competition."
"No one could compare to you in my eyes," Beth told him reassuringly, kissing him quickly.
Jeff smiled, tenderly brushing some hair out of her face. "You're the only one I'll ever want, Beth," he whispered. "You're the only one I'll ever need. I don't know what I would do without you."
Beth could feel tears coming to her eyes, but she blinked them away as she looked back in the box. "Remember this?" she asked, pulling out a fake but beautiful red rose. "You gave it to me on our first date, telling me that you would love me until the day it wilted."
"I do remember that, and I meant every word," Jeff answered with a laugh since their first date had been dinner and a movie at Beth's house. "Your dad thought I was a bit eccentric when he first met me when you brought me home with you."
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, he hasn't thought any differently to this day," Beth muttered as she laughed also. Then, she beamed when she pulled out a silver chain with a brass key on it. "And then there's this…"
"The key to my heart," Jeff stated, wrapping his hand around Beth's so they both held the key. "You're the only one who will ever have this. It belongs to you and you alone."
Beth sighed as she leaned back against Jeff's chest, feeling comforted being surrounded by the warmth of his body. The past week had been Hell without Jeff to say the least- there hadn't been one night where she hadn't longed to be in his arms, those tattooed arms that shielded her from the problems of the world. And now, that's exactly where she was, right where she was supposed to be. He was here now- everything was going to be all right.
She was startled out of her thoughts when Jeff suddenly laughed a little. "What's this?" he wondered, reaching his free hand forward since his other was occupying Beth's waist. "It's pretty crazy."
"Oh, that?" Beth smiled when she saw the small teddy bear that he had taken out of the box. Its body was white, but the hair on its head that at one time had been the same color was dyed rainbow. "My best friend gave that to me on the last day of senior year. She told me that it was meant to represent the one person you're meant to spend the rest of your life with. After I met you, I knew the bear didn't fit you properly since little did I know my Prince Charming was going to have crazy hair. So, I found some dye and made it more… well, more you. Besides, with this, it feels like you're never far away, even when you're on the road."
Jeff sighed as he rested his chin on top of Beth's head. "I'll never be far away, Beth," he told her. "I'll be here for you whenever you need me, even if I'm only a phone call away. Speaking of which, I wish you had called me when you were having trouble sleeping this past week, Beth."
"I didn't want to worry you, Jeffro," Beth confessed, lightly tracing Jeff's root tattoo with her fingertip. "You had enough to worry about this week. I didn't want to burden you down with something else."
"Beth, helping you is never a burden," Jeff said, gently tilting her face up to meet his gaze. "We're both going through a rough time right now, and this is when we need each other the most. I want to be there for you however I can be."
"You always are." Beth gave him a small smile, staring deep into his captivating green eyes. "That's what I love about you."
Jeff smiled in return, but before he could say anything else, Beth suddenly reached into the box again. "I want to show you something," she said, pulling out a book.
"The Scarlet Letter?" Jeff read the title as he glanced at the cover before flipping it open to the page Beth had marked by turning the corner down.
"It's my copy from Advanced English," Beth explained. "Did you ever read it in school?"
"My class did," Jeff told her with a smile, and Beth laughed.
"Anyway, do you see the section I starred?" she asked. "That's my favorite passage in the entire book. It has a lot of significance to me."
Jeff found the section Beth had drawn a star by, and he cleared his throat as he read aloud, "It was no wonder that they thus questioned one another's actual and bodily existence, and even doubted of their own. So strangely did they meet, in the dim wood, that it was like the first encounter, in the world beyond the grave, of two spirits who had been intimately connected in their former life…"
"Do you see why I love that passage?" Beth wondered, resting her head on Jeff's shoulder as she looked at the page also.
"Is this what it felt like when we first met?" Jeff asked quietly, turning his head slightly to look down at her.
Beth smiled as she looked back up at him. "Yes," she answered just as quietly. "That and more."
Jeff smiled as he put the book back down in the box, putting everything that they had taken out back in. "You should keep this in a special place, Beth," he suggested. "All of these things are worth saving. They're priceless memories."
"Yeah. I think I'll put it here for now." Beth stood up and crossed the room, setting the shoebox down on the dresser alongside her most recent pictures with her core group of friends in North Carolina. "That's a good spot for it."
"Yes, it is," Jeff agreed, coming up behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist as he looked at the box. "But what do you say we go to bed now? I'm exhausted."
"All right. That's fine…" There was a definite hesitance in Beth's tone. Her sleep had been anything but peaceful as of late.
Jeff gently turned her around to face him, and he gave her a reassuring smile when she looked up at him uncertainly. "You don't have to be afraid of nightmares anymore, Beth," he told her quietly. "I'm here. There's nothing to be afraid of."
Beth smiled back up at him, knowing that he was right. He was here. She wasn't alone anymore. There was nothing to fear. Then, she closed her eyes, meeting Jeff's lips in a tender kiss. She had missed their softness, longed for their gentleness. Jeff placed his hands on Beth's waist as she wrapped her arms around his neck so that there was no space between them.
"Thank you," Beth whispered once they broke the kiss, still remaining close to him.
"Always," Jeff promised, kissing her again. "But let me get changed, and I'll join you in bed."
Beth nodded, kissing his lips one more time before she pulled away from him and lay down on her pillow. Now that Jeff was back, she knew that shadows wouldn't be haunting her mind that night.
Jeff quickly pulled off his shirt and changed into the shorts he wore for sleeping, anxious to join Beth. He switched off the lamp before he climbed into bed beside her, pulling her into his arms as he found a comfortable position to lie in. He had missed this terribly.
"Good night, Jeffro," Beth mumbled, resting her head on his chest and wrapping her arm around his waist as she closed her eyes. That night was the first she was not afraid of what she would see.
"Good night, Beth," Jeff replied, kissing the top of her head as he rubbed her back. "Sweet dreams."
Author's Note: That's it for chapter one! Not too exciting, but it sets everything up for what's to come. I promise, there will be a lot more action. Thanks for reading! Your reviews are much appreciated (just no flames please)! Thank you!