Old Habits Die Hard
By Misha

Disclaimer and Notes in Chapter One.

Chapter Twelve: Coming to Terms With the New Stephanie

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

"Hey Shane-o, how are you doing?" Hunter asked, stopping by Shane's hospital room to check on his former brother-in-law.

Shane had been flown back to Connecticut by private jet that morning and was being kept in the hospital for a few days under doctor's observation and since Hunter lived in the same city as Shane, he figured the least he could do was come by and check on how he was doing.

"How do you think he is?" Marissa answered agitatedly, before Shane had a chance to say a word.

Shane's wife looked completely distraught, not that Hunter could blame her. It was an ugly situation for all of them and it was taking a toll on everyone involved, him included.

He hadn't been able to sleep, torn up by thoughts of Stephanie's betrayal, having to sit by helplessly and watch on television as she declared herself an Orton instead of a McMahon hadn't helped. The previous night's Raw had left him feeling sick, so he could only imagine what Stephanie's family was feeling.

"He's laying here in a hospital, in acute physical pain and he has to deal with the fact that his put him there!" Marissa continued, unable to hide how upset she was.

A part of Hunter still wanted to defend Stephanie, to point out that she'd never laid a physical hand on Shane, but he refrained. There wasn't a lot he could say to defend Stephanie's actions from the previous night. True, she hadn't thrown any punches herself, but she'd stood there and distracted her brother to give Rhodes and DiBiase the chance to jump him and really, that was just as bad.

Any way you looked at it, Stephanie had thrown her lot in with Orton the night before, proudly announcing to the world that she was Mrs. Randy Orton and Hunter knew that he had to accept that Stephanie was really one of them now. She was in control of her own destiny and not some innocent victim, no matter how much he'd like to be able to convince himself otherwise. For some God awful reason, Stephanie had actually chosen to be with Orton and thus, deserved whatever happened to her.

"Marissa don't jump on Hunter, this isn't his fault." Shane said weakly. "He hates Orton as much as the rest of us."

"I know." Marissa said with a sigh. "I... I just can't believe that Stephanie could turn on you like that! She's your sister, she should be on your side instead of turning on you for a snake like Randy Orton!"

"Steph always did have a tendency to let lust cloud her judgement." Shane said bitterly. "And she always had lousy taste in men."

Hunter took no offence as the statement and for the most part he even agreed with it. Stephanie did have a tendency to all men to impair her judgement and impact her decisions, a trait that could possibly be blamed on Vince's influence.

The way Hunter saw it, Vince had controlled his daughter during her formative years and installed a warped idea in Stephanie that she always needed to please the men in life. That to be happy, her life had to revolved around a man. That she had to go from being Vince's dutiful little girl to finding that same relationship elsewhere, even if she had to change her personality to do so.

No doubt, Vince had intended to pick her eventual husband, someone he could control like Test and the fact that Stephanie had married him might have been the first act of rebellion she'd ever dared attempt, but even with him she'd continued the same destructive patterns and though she'd rebelled again to marry Orton, Hunter was sure she was just continuing on the unhealthy patterns started by her relationship with her father. However, he was smart enough not mention that to Shane, who he knew wouldn't want to hear it--even if it was the truth, so he stayed silent.

"Have you been able to get a hold of Kate?" Shane asked after a moment, obviously no longer wanting to talk about Stephanie and her destructive habits, maybe because he'd come to the same conclusion as Hunter.

"No." Hunter admitted, gritting his teeth.

The nanny wasn't answering his phone calls, but that didn't surprise him. Kate owed him no loyalty, she was Stephanie's employee, so of course she was going to follow her boss' orders.

However, logic didn't make Hunter feel any better. He had no idea where his daughter was, though he had a few guesses, or when he was going to get a chance to see her again and that was not a position he was happy to be in, especially since there wasn't a lot to do about it.

He had no legal rights where Aurora was concerned, something that had seemed like a good idea at the time, but was now coming back to haunt him big time. All the cards were in Stephanie's hands and Hunter didn't like that at all, since he had the feeling his ex-wife wasn't in a reasonable mood.

Still, he was going to figure out something to do about it, because Aurora was the most important thing in his world and he wasn't about to let Stephanie keep her away from him, legal rights or not.

"Stephanie's not answering my calls either, big surprise." Hunter said bitterly. "I imagine that she's going to lay low for the next few days while she and Orton plot their next move."

He imagined that they wouldn't see or hear from Stephanie until the weekend. It was Wrestlemania time and all the talent was expected to be touring, doing local shows all over the place for the fans and those shows kicked off this weekend. Orton would have to be there, of course, and where Orton went, Stephanie was sure to follow.

If she followed the pattern from when they were married, and Hunter was sure that she would, then she wouldn't leave her husband's side when he was working, not wanting to miss all the action. Stephanie thrived at being at the centre of things, it was why she'd gravitated towards him and no doubt why she'd ended up with Orton. Stephanie liked thrills and being in the midst of the action and what better way to achieve that than at the side of a WWE superstar?

No, Hunter was positive she'd join Orton on the road and thankfully, Raw and Smackdown toured together, so Hunter would have the chance then to corner his ex-wife and demand a word with her--something he wasn't looking forward to since confrontations with Stephanie were never pleasant.

"Dad's trying to call the board of directors together for an emergency meeting to get Stephanie removed as General Manager of Raw." Shane confided. "I can't attend, of course, and neither can, but Mom will be and she'll plead our case. I'm sure it won't stop Stephanie or Orton, but hopefully it'll slow them down a bit."

"Do you think it'll work?" Hunter asked. "Do you think the board will fire Stephanie?"

Shane sighed. "Honestly? No."

That was what Hunter had thought, but it was still depressing to hear it confirmed.

"Steph's been a good General Manager. Despite her personal failings, she hasn't done anything wrong yet, at least not on a professional level." Shane explained with a sigh. "Honestly, Vickie abuses her power all the time, as you should know, and the Board of Directors have yet to step in and so I can't see why they'd interfere with Stephanie, especially since she's got the advantage of being a shareholder. Besides, as detestable as he is, Orton's a big star with a lot of pull and the Board won't want to piss him off because he makes a lot of money, or at least they'd need a bigger reason than Stephanie pissing off our father. So, no I don't think they'll get rid of Stephanie, at least for now, but Dad has to try."

That was pretty much what Hunter had thought, but that was fine. Honestly, Stephanie was going to be a menace whether or not she was General Manager of Raw, history had clearly proven that.

"How is Vince taking all this?" Hunter asked quietly. Whatever differences he and Vince had, and they were numerous, Hunter knew that the older man loved his daughter and granddaughter dearly and that Stephanie's betrayal must be tearing him apart.

"Not well." Shane told him, exchanging a look with Marissa. Shane sighed. "I'd stay out of his way for a while, if I were you."

"Me?" Hunter asked incredulously. "What did I do?"

He and Vince were on the same side this time, as unusual as that was.

Shane sighed again. "This whole thing with Steph and Orton... It's brought back some bad memories for Dad and I think he thinks that if you hadn't corrupted Steph in the first place, then she wouldn't have a 'bad boy fixation' and wouldn't have married Orton now."

Hunter shook his head in disbelief. Typical Vince, always needing to blame someone, even if it meant ignoring the obvious. If Stephanie had a 'bad boy fixation' then maybe Vince should consider why and look at the factors that had driven Stephanie into his arms all those years ago--like her father having her kidnapped and sacrificed to his Ministry of Darkness just so that he could screw Stone Cold Steve Austin. With a father like Vince it was no wonder that Stephanie had such a screwed concept of relationships and her own self-worth, but of course Vince wouldn't see it like that.

"I'll keep out of Vince's way." Hunter promised reluctantly. "But I've got my own score to settle with Orton and I plan to make that it's settled."

Things had been ugly between him and Orton for a long time, but Orton had just made it personal. Hunter knew that most people though that Orton had married Stephanie for the power, but that wasn't what he thought.

No, he was convinced Orton had married Stephanie to get at him. After all, what better way to stick it to him than to marry his ex-wife, the mother of his child? Hunter was sure that Orton knew he was Aurora's father, if Stephanie trusted the man enough to marry him, than she'd have confessed that secret along the way, unaware of the kind of ammunition she was handing over.

Hunter thought his ex-wife might actually be naive enough to think Orton loved her and if that was true, then she was going to be in for a rude awakening when all this was over, but there was nothing he could do about that. Stephanie had made her own bed and she'd have to lie in it.

Shane grinned. "I was hoping you would say that and honestly, I hope you tear him apart."

"I will." Hunter vowed, his eyes meeting Shane's.

There was a worry in the other man's eyes, despite the satisfaction and Hunter noted that neither of them mentioned Stephanie, because neither of them knew how to handle her and even now, after the events of the last forty-eight hours, it was hard to contemplate the fact that she was now the enemy.

Hunter had every intention of bringing down Orton and making him regret that he'd ever been born, but he still hoped that somehow Stephanie could be spared, even though he didn't really see how that could be possible...