Chasing Shadows

Summary: Jeff Hardy is facing his last Wrestlemania before dedicating his life to his family. But danger is ever-present and nothing is what it seems as someone is determined to make sure that it's his last appearance. Jeff/Beth.

Song: "Monster" by Skillet

Rating: T

Genre: Drama/Romance

Disclaimer: I own nothing associated with the WWE. (I need a new one of these! Lol)

Thank yous: I actually have a couple of important ones I have to make, here. Thank you Graelam for creating the character of Max. You did an excellent job, and I hope he lives up to your expectations! Expect-the-Unexpected75 and xOallisonqtOx… thank you both for helping me to brainstorm some ideas for this story and helping it get off the ground. I appreciate it VERY much! And of course, to all of my reviewers! You guys are all amazing!

Author's Note: I'm baaaaack! Lol! Hey! Thank you guys so, so much for reviewing "Fighting Fires" and "Melting Ice." I love all of them, and I'm just so glad you enjoyed the first two stories in this trilogy. Being a trilogy, this is the last one of the three, but you can definitely count on more stories coming from me! Um, let's see, some notes about this story. The main characters are going to be: Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Beth Britt, Shannon Moore, Shane Helms (yep! He's in this one!), Randy Orton, Edge, and John Morrison (my first time writing with him too, lol. Bear with me!). Of course, there will be more, as you could see by my trailer, and even more than what you saw there, but these are the main people. Um, none of the guys listed above are actually in this prologue, lol. This is to set up the two new villains, but I hope you still enjoy it! There are pictures of both Brian and Max on my profile under the others. I think that's about it… So, without further ado, enjoy!

Prologue- Mad World

Artist: Gary Jules/Adam Lambert

The little boy held the woman's hand tightly as she led him along the uneven sidewalk, finally coming to a stop in front of a plain, stone building. He looked up at its dark windows warily before moving his dark eyes to her. "Do you really have to leave, Mommy?" he asked quietly, a thin line of tears forming in his eyes.

Sighing, the woman knelt down in front of her young son, tenderly brushing a few strands of his black hair out of his face. "Yes, but it won't be for long, Brian," she answered, giving him a small smile for reassurance though her heart was breaking.

Brian frowned. "Why do you have to go? Don't you love me?"

The woman's expression saddened as she fought to hold back tears. "Of course I love you! Mommy just isn't able to give you everything you need right now," she explained gently. "When I am able to, I will come for you."

"Does Daddy love me?"

This caused a thin line of tears to form in the woman's eyes as she bit her bottom lip. She had never told the boy much about his father since the memories had been too painful. She had been thrilled when she had learned she was pregnant with her first child, but he… he had wanted nothing to do with him, even going as far as demanding her not to even have the child. This, of course, had been out of fear since he had only been seeing her while his wife was away on business, and in his rage, he had completely deserted her and her unborn son.

But she hadn't listened to him. She had the child despite his violent outburst, and now, her son's dark eyes were gazing at her almost pleadingly, longing for an answer. "I love you," she whispered. "And that's what's important." She ran her fingers lovingly over his cheek before kissing his forehead. Then, she removed the cross necklace from around her neck before putting it around his. "I'll come back for you one day, Brian, I promise."

Brian slowly wrapped his arms around his mother's neck, burying his face in her soft brown hair. She wrapped her arms around him tightly, pulling him close to her as a single tear fell from her eye.

"I love you, Mommy."

Brian tightened his hand around the steering wheel as he came to a red light, trying to stop the flow of memories. He hadn't thought about the last day he had ever seen his mother for quite some time…

Despite her promise to come back for him, she never had. Since he was five years old, he had spent every day in that foster care system until he was eighteen when he finally went off on his own. But every day, he had sat by the window, watching and waiting for the one person who had ever truly loved him to return. But every day, she never had. He felt the cross necklace she had given him, a symbol of her promise, against his chest. He had it only for sentimental reasons now, no longer a symbol of hope.

But when he was thirteen, he met the only person who actually cared for him now, a quiet boy named Max Weston. A year younger than his twenty-three years, Max was very intelligent, but a definite loner. He was the only person he ever talked to. He had left the foster care system with Brian when he was seventeen and had shared and apartment with him ever since, helping him to find out all he could about his parents.

Brian didn't like what he had found.

His mother, Stacy Nelson, had been found dead in her apartment a couple of years after she had left him with the foster care system, apparently murdered. His father, a man named Eric Howe, was in prison for a number of murders. Desperate to try to connect with his father, his only surviving family that he could trace, Brian visited him a few times in prison, though Max had definitely been against it. He had made a little progress with Eric through his visits, but then, they had lost touch for a short period when his father had escaped, and then finally, presumed dead.

But a couple of days later, Eric had shown up at his front door in terrible condition- burned and scarred almost beyond recognition. Brian had tried to take care of him as best as he could, but there wasn't much he could do without bringing him to the hospital, which Eric had said no to. That was also when he had found out about a man named Matt Hardy, the one who had nearly killed his father.

Eric had vowed that he would get his revenge on Matt, his younger brother Jeff, and the girl with them, Beth Britt, so he, Brian, and Max flew out to North Carolina to settle things. This was the first time Brian had met Brittany Howe, his younger half-sister. He had worked with her in place of their father since he couldn't do much in his condition, and he learned all about her obsession with the younger of the two Hardys. Even though this feud seemed to be started by Brittany having Beth taken to get to Jeff, Brian wondered if there was something that ran deeper than that, and he had still done everything Eric had asked him to do, desperate for his approval.

Brian sighed as he pulled into the parking lot of the motel where they were staying. He shut his car off, leaning his head back against the seat as he ran his hand through his hair. He had no idea what he was going to say to his father now. Not only had he failed at extracting revenge on the three that Eric had specifically told him to kill, but his sister, his father's beloved daughter, had been killed. This was not going to be pleasant.

Finally, he stepped out of the car, locking it behind him before walking toward their motel room, hands in his sweatshirt pocket for warmth as he shivered in the chill of North Carolina's winter. It wasn't anything like in his home state of California… He couldn't wait to get back there when this nightmare was over.

As soon as he unlocked the door, Brian watched as Max quickly approached him. "Everything all right?" Brian asked as he closed the door behind him again. "You sounded pretty anxious on the phone."

Max nodded slowly. "Fine," he answered, though by his tone, things obviously weren't fine.

Brian sighed as he looked at the man he considered to be his younger brother. He hadn't remembered him looking this upset since he had comforted him after his nightmares about his rough childhood with his abusive mother when they were still in the foster care system. "Is he giving you a hard time?" he muttered, nodding to the closed door that led to the next room.

"Not really," Max replied. "He's just... getting increasingly angry about your supposed failures..."

"Well, if he's getting so damn angry, then he can take care of this himself!" Brian snapped, frustrated. When he saw the surprise flash across Max's face, he sighed and ran his hand through his dark hair. "I'm sorry. I'm just under a lot of stress right now..."

Max looked at his only friend with concern. "Are you all right?" he wondered. "What happened out there?"

Brian looked back at him hesitantly. "Brittany... was killed," he said in nearly a whisper.

"You know he's not going to be happy about that," Max muttered with a sigh.

"No, and I'm probably going to get the blame for it since he loves nothing more than his beloved daughter!" That much was true. Though they shared the same father, Brittany had been the one Eric had given his attention to during his revenge plans while he rarely even got a second glance.

Max looked at him sadly. "Look, I know that all you want is approval, but-!"

Brian held up his hand, to which Max stopped. "I'm just going to get this over with," he muttered as he walked toward the door that separated the two rooms. Not wanting him to face the wrath of the other man alone, Max followed after him.

There was a chair in the middle of the dark room. Brian slowly approached the chair with Max, looking at the man sitting in it nervously. His features were burned and scarred, making them hardly recognizable.

"Judging by your face, I can see that you have failed again," Eric Howe said, looking up at his son with a look of what appeared to be disdain.

Brian sighed heavily. "I'm trying, I really am..." he began.

"Not hard enough," Eric interrupted with impatience. "Your heart needs to be in this, Brian. The only way you'll prove to me that you're trying is when they're gone... for good."

For a long moment, Brian didn't say anything as he stared into Eric's eyes, the same eyes that he possessed. He heard Max take a step closer to him in a defensive manner, and he sighed heavily as he looked down. "Yes, Father."

Eric looked at him for another long moment. "What aren't you telling me?" he finally asked.

Brian quickly looked back up at him. "I... I don't know what..."

"I said, what aren't you telling me?!" Eric demanded, his voice rising.

Sighing again, Brian slowly met his father's gaze. "It... It's about Brittany..."

"What about her?" Eric seemed to be angry now, even almost worried.

"She... she's dead."

Brian had expected grief, confusion, anger to cross Eric's face. But instead, his father's face remained expressionless, almost as though he had felt no emotion at that statement. Then, his lips moved as though he was trying to say something, but no words were coming out. Brian moved a little closer, trying to understand or hear what he was saying.

Suddenly, Eric's hand lurched out, and Brian cried out with pain as he staggered back when he was slapped across the face. Max moved forward, placing his hands on his friend's arms as he glared at the man sitting in the chair. "So, what you're telling me is that not only did you not do what I told you to, but you also let your own sister die?!" Eric snapped, his dark eyes flaring dangerously.

This accusation struck a nerve. Brian knew that he hadn't allowed Brittany to die, but that he had gotten there too late to save her from her own obsession. "So, should it have been me then?" he asked darkly. "Should it have been me that was shot so you could still have your precious daughter?"

Eric smirked up at him. "Well, she would have accomplished more than you ever will."

"Can't you see he's trying?" Max suddenly spoke up, catching Eric off-guard. "He does nothing but fight for your approval, but you never see it!"

But instead of being swayed by this statement, Eric laughed a little. "Oh, so you do talk..."

Max glared at Eric, but Brian placed his hand on his arm to stop him. "If you see me as such a failure, then you can take care of whatever you want on your own," he said, eerily calmly. "I'm not going to be a part of it."

Eric laughed a little more as he watched Brian gently nudge Max toward the door that separated the two rooms before turning and heading out himself. "You always were a mistake, Kid," he told him in a mutter.

Brian paused for a moment, the statement stinging even more than the unexpected slap had, before taking a deep breath and leaving the room, shutting the door behind him.

Author's Note: So, that's it! These are the villains for this story. I hope you liked it! Matt, Jeff, and Beth will be in the next chapter, though, lol. So, thanks for reading! Your reviews are much appreciated!