I don't mind it
I don't mind at all
It's like you're the swing set and I'm the kid that falls
It's like, the way we fight, the times I've cried
We come to blows and every night
The passion's there so it's gotta be right,
Shawn paced up and down until even the rhythm of his own walking started to add to the insanity that had beset him. He couldn't help but wonder what the hell he'd been thinking when he agreed to meeting up with Bret alone. Vince told him that the call had been made to ask Bret to come back and be part of the road to Wrestlemania. Shawn hadn't cared too much as he knew the answer would be negative. Problem was that this time his intuition had failed him and he found himself prowling the foyer of the Hilton as the minutes dragged past like hours.
The conversation they'd had yesterday to make the arrangements was stunted and awkward. Neither he or Bret had known what to say to each other. In truth it wouldn't have mattered how much they'd said, neither believed a word the other had to say. That's not to say that either of them was surprised by that being the case. So many years of hurt were never going to be remedied in that one excruciating ten minute chat.
Shawn knew that his feelings for Bret were locked tightly in the Pandora's Box in the dingy basement of his soul. Once it was clear that there was no way back for Bret either professionally or personally he'd shut that part of him down and filed as the latest on a long list of disappointments. How could it have ever come to be that he believed Vince meant more to him than Bret? Shaking his head he wondered just how many pills he must've taken to make that kind of mistake.
Vince had always looked after him and loved him, no matter how much he refused to admit it. From the glory days to the darkest nights where neither of them thought he'd see the dawn Vince stood by him. He'd scraped him out of bars and bathrooms all over the country, taken punches and pulled strings just about any way he could to keep Shawn in his life. Technically Shawn should've felt honoured that anyone cared about him that much but there had been a long list of contenders for his heart over the years. Only one name on it had ever endured and it damn sure wasn't Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Typically it was the one he'd hurt the most and with the least chance of reconciliation. Or at least it seemed like that until now.
So many nights he'd laid awake in hotel rooms all over the world, wondering where Bret was and what he was doing, if he was with anyone, if the hate that had bubbled between them for so long was still something the other man thought about too. He'd prayed every night since he was born again for some kind of peace between them, whether that meant they never spoke again or could truly put it behind them. The only guidance he'd ever been given on it was when he went to Canada in 2005 and taunted the crowd that Bret was coming back. Truth was Bret had been booked to do it and failed to show up, calling in half an hour before they went on air to say he just couldn't do it. That's when they went ahead with the angle of screwing the crowd. Word never got out and it looked like the perfect workjob. The Heartbreak Kid had cut one of his defining promos on the back of his truly broken heart.
What people didn't realise is that Shawn had got all suited and booted for that special moment. Vince had already said that they'd be kept apart backstage and their in-ring segment would genuinely have been the first time they'd seen each other in years. It also turned out to be the first time in years that Shawn went to see one of the roadies and got some pills to see him through it; pills that dulled the pain and left him rolling around the ring hysterically much to the concern of his colleagues and more so, Vince.
Shawn had got it all worked out in his mind's eye how that evening would go. He and Bret would do their segment, have a chat backstage and everything would work out one way or the other. Either they'd bury the hatchet or that would be it and he'd finally be able to move on, knowing there was truly no chance for them. He himself found it hard to believe that after all these years of unanswered cards, letters and phone calls a tiny flicker of hope still dared to pierce the darkness that surrounded the memories in his mind.
Looking back down at his watch he checked the time against the clock on the lounge wall. He'd been here half an hour already, not wanting to seem tardy to a usually prompt timekeeper like Bret. His date was already a good fifteen minutes late and Shawn was starting to get nervous that this was just a set up that he was meant to fall foul of. Maybe Bret wanted to feel that he was outsmarting Shawn for a change.
Tipping his cowboy hat off his head for what must've been the twentieth time Shawn ran his fingers through his hair and sighed, sick of the nausea twisting in his guts. Just getting dressed to come here today had been an ordeal. He was supposedly straight now, although divorced, so surely it shouldn't matter what he wore to meet an old friend, right? Well he'd gone through his wardrobe with a fine toothcomb, posing in more jeans, trousers and shirts that he realised he actually had.
Every outfit was reviewed with the same question in mind, "Would Bret like this?" and the answer was mainly a resounding "No." When he'd finally exhausted the closet and chosen an outfit he'd slumped onto the storage box where his chaps lived and cried like a child. Wrapping his arms around his bare chest and clinging onto himself for dear life the sobs rung loudly through the large, empty house. He still didn't understand why he still loved Bret and why he'd not been able to let go a long time ago.
On the dresser in the closet lay a gift box that had seen much better days. The bow on the top was faded and dusty, the box corners rounded and rubbed back to the bare cardboard. Having gotten to his feet and still crying profusely he wandered over to the box and dared himself to open it. It hadn't been touched in years and he'd always told Rebecca it was there to remind him to be a better person every day. She'd known part of its contents and claimed to be ok with it but Shawn suspected she would rather it got shoved into the back of a closet with the rest of his 'memorabilia'.
Sliding the lid off he reached inside and retrieved the contents, a pair of Bret's signature pink foiled glasses and a letter. He'd given the present to Shawn on the night of Summerslam 1997 not long before they went out to the ring. Carefully he opened the letter and re-read it, choking the hot tears back as he absorbed the words of love and promised devotion that Bret had crafted together. He turned the glasses over in his hand and there in the centre of the elastic at the back of them was a gold band with one black line and one pink line embossed around the middle. The engraving inside the band simply said "Always."
It had never been worn, let alone even detached from where it was and served as a constant reminder of what a total and utter fool he'd been. Shawn wished he'd had a chance in the lapsed years to explain to Bret that he was clean and a little closer to sane these days. He couldn't blame the drugs entirely for how he was back then but they had played a large part in it. Between the pills and his ego they were the two things that had controlled his every decision before he'd finally wised up to himself and seen the bigger picture. A picture that no longer involved the person he still loved most in the world even all those years later.
No I don't believe you
When you say don't come around here no more
I won't remind you
You said we wouldn't be apart
No, I don't believe you
When you say you don't need me anymore
So don't pretend
To not love me at all
Time marched on. Shawn had drunk enough tea to sink a ship and was trying to avoid having to go to the bathroom so he didn't risk missing Bret if he turned up. Chuckling he realised what it must be like to be the fans that he'd met over the years, waiting patiently for someone with only a dry mouth and sweaty palms for company. Having read the Times cover to cover he realised that he hadn't registered a word of what was in it, the cover story seemed alien to him even though he'd been staring at it on and off for the last hour.
Having eventually secured a table in the lounge near the window Shawn stared out into the parking lot intently, registering every car that came in and every car that went out, checking the occupants for anyone that might look like Bret or one of his inevitable entourage. He had acquiesced to Bret's request that he come alone because the truth was that if it meant being able to see Bret face to face again he'd have done just about anything asked of him.
Tossing his hat on the table to make sure nobody claimed it while he was away Shawn headed for the bathrooms in the lobby, unable to sit there comfortably any longer. He stopped at reception to leave a message that made it clear that he was still in the building. As he crossed the marble floor he grabbed his cellphone and checked it again for any missed calls or messages. Nothing. He shoved it roughly back into his pocket and slammed the bathroom door into the wall behind it as it opened, cutting a glum figure as it slowly closed behind him.
He emerged a few minutes later, relieved in only the physical sense, taking a deep breath and scanning the lobby again for any sign of Bret. There was nobody even remotely similar and the disappointment transferred itself to his gait as he walked slowly back to the lounge. He concluded that this was the revenge Bret had been looking for. It mirrored what Shawn had done; taken someone's feelings and stamped on them as hard as he'd known how to at the time. The feeling of losing everything you ever had and always wanted was not something Shawn had gone through too often in his generally charmed life. It was only once Bret was gone from his life that he realised that he was the one, the one and only.
The lounge seemed much quieter now, that last hour had seen the lunchtime checkouts and arrivals come and go and he slumped down into the same chair at the same table, resuming his reconnaissance. Stopping a passing waitress to order another drink he idly fingered the edge of the newspaper, dropping his gaze to scan the front page again. It was then that he noticed that his hat was gone. He stood to look around to see if it had dropped off the table and checked under the chairs but it was nowhere to be seen. A scan of the lounge didn't reveal that anyone had taken it to wear. Shawn smirked when he realised that there was hardly likely to be a second-hand ten-gallon hat thief in the lounge of the Hilton.
Dejectedly he dumped himself back down in the chair. It wasn't that the hat was worth any great amount of money but it was more the sentimental value. His hats were very much like security blankets to him. Shawn knew that whenever he put that hat on he was as tall as the tallest man in the room and could hold his own with anyone. Without it he always felt like there was a part of him missing.
He checked his watch one last time and ran his hands over his hair, gathering it back to tie it into a ponytail with the band he always kept handy. As he was straightening it out over his shirt the waitress brought his drink and as Shawn paid he could detect a look on her face that was somewhere between pity and sympathy. She'd obviously clocked him pacing and keeping guard out of the window and assumed he'd been stood up by someone. He shot her a kindly smile that she returned and the silent knowing was complete. As she turned to walk away he picked up his drink and the folded paper again, flipping it to read the back page rather than the front which he'd finally grown tired of.
"You can't win 'em all sweetheart. Don't you let anybody keep a girl as nice as you waiting like they did an old fool like me."
She placed a hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. The irony of a girl not even half his age offering him comfort about being stood up by a man he'd last seen when she was probably still learning to write her own name was not lost on Shawn. It did make him realise just how sad it must look to anyone who'd seen him there for the duration but there was nothing he could do about that now. Taking a long gulp of the fruit juice he wondered how quickly he would be able to down it and leave without anyone taking too much notice of him skulking off to his car.
Pretending to scan the newspaper for a final time Shawn raised the glass to his mouth again but before he could drink from it again a voice interrupted him, almost causing him to spill the rest of the glassful down the front of his shirt.
"L...Looking for something?"
Without looking round he saw his hat appear in the corner of his eye as it was held out towards him. The stutter wasn't deliberate and did nothing to disguise the voice that he knew so well; the voice that made his heart stop for the same fraction of a second when all time stood still before him. Shawn got up from the chair and turned around, looking into a face framed by long waves no longer in tight curls or a deep opal colour but now a mousey caramel with a hint of telling grey. The chiselled features had given way to the onset of the years, soft creases having formed in the skin that he barely resisted reaching out to touch as if it were the most rare delight.
There was a familiarity in the expression that made his soul start to turn itself inside out. Tears formed in his eyes as he remembered the last time he'd seen that face express nothing but love; their last night together. He'd stared up into the big engulfing eyes that hovered above his own in the afterglow of their passion and felt love and emptiness in equal amounts. Since his walk began he'd often likened it to Judas standing in the Garden of Gethsemane, just waiting for the dawn to carry out his betrayal. He'd known then just as he knew now that he'd been crazy to believe that they could have a future together after the following night.
I don't mind it
I still don't mind at all
It's like one of those bad dreams when you can't wake up
Looks like you've given up, you've had enough
But I want more, no I won't stop
'Cause I just know you'll come around... right?
"Bret...I've been sat...wh-where were you?"
Shawn was more than a little confused as he had watched all the exits and entrances like a hawk since he'd arrived, determined not to get caught off guard.
"I was sat back there..." Bret gestured to a low sofa at the rear of the lounge "...doing exactly what you were, reading a lousy paper or at least pretending to. I could try and tell you that I was messing you around but I wasn't. It never was my style Shawn, give me some credit."
Bret lowered his head, staring at his feet to avoid any kind of eye contact and hoping Shawn would think better than to bring up his no-show almost 5 years ago.
"But, well, why'd you let me sit here like an idiot for over an hour? I've paced the hell outta this place looking for you and you've been sat over there laughing down your damned sleeve at me Bret. What's going on here, I mean did you come back just for this twisted kind of revenge or something?"
The euphoria of finally seeing Bret was slowly being overtaken by Shawn's natural defence mechanism. He'd never liked to be laughed at but to be laughed at for giving into his emotions stung like hell.
"Shawn, you are the same Shawn Michaels I knew all those years ago aren't you? The one who didn't give a damn about anyone else or what they thought of him apart from the precious Vincent fucking McMahon? You want to know why I sat over there? Well here it is. I was too scared to come over here and speak to you. You happy now? Even after all these years you still...."
Bret heard his voice crack and let his words tail off before he got any further into his rant. There was so much he wanted to say to Shawn but he didn't want it to come out with a snarl attached to it. He was tired of this all being on a constant simmer in his mind and he knew that it had eaten away at some of the most precious and difficult years of his life. Through his divorce and his illnesses all he'd ever thought about was the "What if's?" of his relationship with Shawn. After all this time did one wrestling match really matter that much? Bret had come to realise that the betrayal he'd felt at the time had waned. He'd seen the changes in the clean Shawn that steered clear of the pills who now sent letters and cards filled with words of apology and love that seemed genuine enough. Bret knew from the outset though that to ever be able to believe those words that he'd need to see the change for himself.
"Bret, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bark at you like an angry mutt. It's been, well its been too damned long and we really need to talk. I'm sure we've both got a lot we need to say to each other...c'mere."
With that Shawn threw his arms around Bret's neck, not giving him the chance to escape the embrace even if he wanted to. He rested his head on Bret's shoulder, not caring who was watching, where they were or even what the reaction would be from the man he was now clinging to. His intention hadn't been to lunge in for a hug but he'd sensed the rawness of Bret's words that had stopped him speaking. It made Shawn both optimistic and concerned at the same time, determined to give Bret all the time, space and support he needed to work everything out.
Breathing in he could smell a familiar scent, and a smile spread across his face. Bret was still wearing Aramis, something Shawn had given to him as a present years before their drama unfolded. It wasn't a high end cologne any more like it was back then and and he could hardly believe he'd worn it today. It took him back to so many hotel rooms they'd shared where the dark spicy fragrance would hang heavy in the air when they got back from a match. They'd slide into bed together and make love until the early hours, tumbling and laughing until room service brought their breakfast in bed, both as happy with life as it seemed possible to be.
Bret hadn't taken to the sudden contact with the same ease, awkwardly sliding a hand around Shawn's middle until it reached the small of his back. He allowed himself to be drawn into the warmth and security that enveloped him with a deep sigh of what felt like relief. The feeling of Shawn wrapped around him was like the high from a drug he'd craved for so long. It just was so painfully familiar and Bret closed his eyes, a tear running from the corner of each one as he remembered just what they'd lost for so long. Tossing the hat aside he used his now free arm to tighten the hold.
They clung to one another, lost in the rush of their reunion, neither man daring to look up or move a muscle in case it shattered them all over again or meant that what they desired individually wasn't perfectly mutual.
"I'm so sorry Bret, for everything I ever did to you. I loved you then and God help me, I still love you now and have done every miserable day without you inbetween. I was a damned fool back then and I don't expect you to love me back or anything, it's just, see, I can't take not being upfront with you. I lied to you too much in the past and I don't ever want to do that again. I either tell you now or we have another 12 years of silence as I can't find the energy to lie anymore."
Shawn whispered the rambling words just loud enough for Bret to hear them, not moving another muscle in case the daydream evaporated just like it had done so many times before. All the mornings he had woken up to curl around Bret only to find Rebecca or nobody there at all. All the nights he'd collapsed into bed and wanted nothing more than those strong arms around his body, craving the safety they used to bring to ease him into his ever tormented sleep.
Hearing the hushed words only served to make Bret's tears come faster. These were the words he'd imagined hearing so often in the lonely moments where he stared at the television, watching Shawn wrestle week in week out. He wished that his was the pair of hands buckling up the chaps so they looked just perfect or rubbing in the heat lotion to soothe Shawn's pain before they could collapse into bed together. Shawn saying he still loved him was more than he could've hoped for when he set off on this journey. It wasn't time to let on that the journey had started with more than a little prompting from Vince who was sick of them both acting like petulant children. He wanted the happy ending for them and for all his bad points he'd suggested that the time was right for Bret's return. The deliberate mention that he may be able to resolve more than just the bitter end to his career had made Bret finally reconsider.
Finally pulling away he looked directly into Shawn's eyes that were full of confusion and slowly puddling tears. The tea green hue of his sparkling irises overshadowed the blue tones just like they always did when he cried. Bret wished that he hadn't seen enough of those tears to know that or didn't have a good enough memory to still know it. The questioning look in them was unfamiliar and nothing like the cocky and self-assured Shawn he'd known of old. Although his better instincts told him it was madness in the extreme he leaned in and pressed his lips gently to Shawn's, the first tentative contact a little more stiff than he'd hoped it would be. Slowly he felt Shawn begin to respond and the kiss deepened as he grasped the soft material beneath his fingers and pulled him closer.
Shawn let himself be taken into the kiss, enjoying the feel of Bret's lips moving against his own. It had been so long; too long in fact since he'd felt that sensation and it hadn't changed. There was a spark but not the explosive one of a first kiss, more like the kisses they'd shared when one of them returned from touring or a weekend at home. Tongues slipped against each other, not driven by lust but by love. Running his fingers into Bret's hair he fingered the waves deftly, the soft hair feeling just as he'd remembered it.
As the kiss ended Shawn looked around the room, partly to see how many people had borne witness to their kiss and partly to make sure that there wasn't a camera crew ready to pounce on him at any moment. Everything seemed peaceful and the only people that remained were engrossed in laptops or books, taking no notice whatsoever of the reignited passion that was flickering back to life just feet from where they sat. Resting his forehead against Bret's he frowned, still not able to allow himself the freedom of the moment.
"Bret, I gotta ask, this isn't a setup is it? Nobody's gonna jump out and put this on dot com this weekend are they? Old HBK gets what he deserves – well, I guess I do deserve it, I'd just rather Vince wasn't gonna make, like, fifty million bucks out of watching me squirm."
It was clear to Bret from the tone of the question that Shawn was serious. He didn't blame him. So many people had guessed over time how Bret would get his own back and waited for him to come out of the shadows and make Shawn pay. What nobody realised is that Bret gotten over his hurt. After spending a few years soul searching about what had happened he decided to live his life by his Dad's motto: "Forget regret or life is yours to miss." It had rung so true in his heart that he'd been determined not to lose the opportunity to reunite with the love his life all because of that one day. Sure there were things he couldn't fully understand about why what happened back then came about but it didn't matter any more. He knew that if Shawn was still in love to the degree he was then something had to change before they wasted each other's lives.
"Shawn, I know our track record isn't great where trust is concerned but this time there's no belt, no match, no contracts, nothing. Its just me and you having a shot at being happy again, like we were back then."
Cupping his hand around Shawn's face he took in every detail his eyes could absorb before reaching down for the cowboy hat he'd discarded earlier. He placed the hat carefully over the golden hair and slid his arm around Shawn's shoulder. Steering their course towards the still empty sofa Bret waved the waitress over to order them some more drinks.
It was the girl from before and she instantly looked from Bret back to Shawn where he met her stare and knowing smile with his own. She gave him a wink before heading off to place their order at the bar. Shawn felt relieved. Relieved that Bret still loved him as much as he loved Bret and relieved that his heart felt like it was melting rather than breaking for the first time in over a decade. Staring at the man across the table from him his heart soared and sung like never before, quieting all the fears that had haunted him for so long. His fears had made him feel his humility more deeply than ever before but he knew it was that sober humility that had brought him back to Bret. Back to love.
A/N: Yeah, so I've written the happy ending, I know its a bit fluffy but after 12 years don't they deserve it *grin*? Please excuse any errors, I've gone a bit cross eyed editing and checking this over and over! Lyrics are Pink – I Don't Believe You. All reads and reviews appreciated as ever :)