To Whom It May Concern: If you have not already, please read the following before attempting to make sense of this... Crossfire (found on Redsandman99's page), In the Line of fire (found here) and Collateral Damage (again on Redsandman99's page) or you'll be asking yourself... "Whassup with dis?" That is all.
The stack of papers on the kitchen table wasn't getting any smaller. Everything from bills to letters from the bank and credit card companies had to be dealt with immediately and precisely. If Jeff crossed the wrong t or dotted an incorrect i, he could find himself dealing with a bigger mess.
"Now I know why I let Tommy handle the money." Thankfully, the will had been settled rather quickly and he could get at his late husband's bank account. After paying the funeral expenses and other things there was just over two million left from the five James had given him but still, it was one less thing to worry about.
Jeff sighed loudly. His sigh bounced off the walls and made him realize just how big the house seemed now that he was alone. He tried not to dwell on that too much as he was starting to get pissed off at himself for still crying every time something reminded him of Tom.
Just as he grabbed another bill from the stack... this one was to the Condo corporation that held the mortgage on the house. He almost cried for real when he saw the balance owing on their house.
"Two payments." Jeff took several deep breaths. "Two payments, Tommers, and this place was ours."
The doorbell rang, mercifully taking Jeff's mind away from what he was doing.
"Hey, bro, I figured I'd stop by and see how things were going."
"Matty!" Jeff hugged his brother. "Imma happy to see ya!"
"Sorry I haven't been around much, but y'know..." Matt looked around. "The place seems so much different without him."
Jeff sniffled. "Yeah," he agreed sadly, two tears finally escaping and trickling down his cheeks.
"Shit, I'm sorry." Matt quickly embraced Jeff again. "Here." He quickly pulled a bag of Skittles from his pocket.
"Yayz!!!" Jeff temporarily forgot his sadness.
"Anyway, I was going to call you, but I figured I better tell you in person..."
"Is it badness?" Jeff said, mouth full of candy.
"Well, I talked to Stephanie..."
"Oh, it's badness," Jeff interrupted.
"Let me finish, man. Please? I talked to Stephanie and they've decided to do something nice, if you're interested," Matt explained.
"Unless they're gonna pay out the rest of his contract, Imma don't wanna hear it." The legal battles between Jeff and the WWE were at a standstill. The company flat out refused to honor the remainder of Tom's contract since he was not technically employed by the company at the time of his death. Something about some fine print that made Tom an independent contractor instead of an employee and unless something broke, by the time Jeff saw any of the money, the only thing he'd be able to use it for would be Dentu-creme and Preparation H.
"I have no control over that, but what Stephanie said is that they'd like to induct Tom into the Hall of Fame this year." Matt explained. "Like what they did for Eddie."
The Skittles fell to the floor, and for one scary moment Matt thought his brother might follow.
"They wanna what?" Jeff asked.
"Yeah, bro. Tom Hardy WWE Hall of Fame class of 2010. They've already announced DiBiase and Inoki, and if you're okay with it, they'll announce Tom on this week's Raw." Matt explained "I know you're not all that jazzed about Steph right now, so if you're okay with it, I'll tell her."
Jeff nodded, still shocked for words. "But... but who'll accept the award?" he asked.
"You, silly." Matt shook his head. Sometimes his brother could be so naive.
"Me?" Jeff swallowed "Couldn't you...?"
"They want me to induct him." Matt replied "We'll talk more about this later. How are things with you and Cooper?"
"Uhmmm...." Jeff stammered "Fine, I guess."
"You guess? What does that mean?" Matt leaned against the wall. "Haven't you seen him?"
"Not since the funeral." Jeff replied.
"Matty, it's none of yer business," Jeff pouted.
"Jeffro, c'mon... you can tell me," Matt said. "Does this have something to do with Mark?"
I've seen Cooper at a couple shows with 'Taker. It sure seems like they're trying to make up for lost time." Matt shrugged.
"Mebbe they just wanna get away from James?" Jeff giggled.
Matt smiled. Jeff hadn't giggled much in weeks. It was a welcome noise. "Who wouldn't? So, why don't you call him and see if he'll be your date for the induction ceremony?"
Cooper entered his and Mark's hotel room just in time to see Mark hanging up his phone. The fact that the Deadman looked even more exhausted now than before he had left told him exactly who had called. "Dad call you?"
"Yeah," Mark confirmed. "He saw my little sprint to the ring during the chamber match and pretty much figured out that something went wrong with the pyro." He looked down at the bandage on his chest. "I tried to tell him that it wasn't that bad but he's still going nuts."
"It still beats the shit outta me why you're still doin' this." Cooper smirked and set the food he had just gotten down on the table.
"Simple. Money. If I had to keep on explaining to your father every time I needed a few bucks I was going to flip." Mark answered "It was a sweet deal. I got the title..."
"Had." Cooper interrupted "And if by sweet, you mean almost becoming a Crispy Critter like Glenn..."
"It's no big deal. Shit happens."
"You didn't think it wasn't a big deal earlier. If I remember right, I had to stop you from strangling a couple of the crew people." Cooper added
Mark just grunted and leaned back against his pillows. He wasn't going to admit to the hypocrisy of his statement and Cooper wasn't going to make him. For the first time ever, the two of them were slowly becoming okay with each other. There were moments where Cooper had to restrain himself from his old habits of calling Mark an asshole every chance he got, but for the most part, things were better between them. Mark was proving that he really wanted to start over, so Cooper was giving it an honest shot too. It helped that James wasn't fighting them on this; in fact, he was encouraging them to get along better because it saved him from major headaches that he got whenever they fought (although he had made Cooper promise not to start loving Mark more than him, which was something Cooper was able to promise very easily. He was just starting to learn to like Mark and there was no way he was going to touch the subject of loving the guy yet).
"Here, I got you some burn ointment while I was out," he said. He handed the small tube and some of the food over to Mark. "How are your knees feeling?"
"Shitty," Mark replied.
"And your hips?"
"Extra shitty. Can you get my pills for me?"
"Yeah sure." Cooper walked over to Mark's bag and got the bottle of pain pills out of it. "Here, catch." He tossed the pills over to Mark, who easily caught them.
"Thanks." Mark put two pills in his mouth and chased them down with the bottle of water that was next to him. "So have you talked to Jeff lately?"
Cooper, who had been going back over to the table so he could sit down and eat, stopped in his tracks. "No," he answered. "Why are you asking?"
Mark shrugged. "I was just curious. You two were getting kind of close there for a little bit and now it's like the two of you are avoiding each other."
"We're not avoiding each other," Cooper said as he sat down. "We're just…we're taking it slow." He frowned as he realized Mark wasn't buying that for a second. "Don't give me that look!"
"Sorry," Mark said. "I just think Jeff might need you right now. Matt told me he's been having a really hard time dealing with the fact Tom's gone."
"And I'm supposed to do what? Help him deal? Remember how I chose to deal after Joie died? I think I'm the last person that should be giving him any sort of advice when it comes to this kind of shit."
Mark sighed. "Cooper--"
I feel it deep within, it's just beneath the skin, I must confess that I feel like a monster…
Saved by the ringtone, Cooper thought to himself as he took out his phone and looked at it. Much to his surprise, it was Jeff that was calling him. Speak of the Enigma. "Hello?" he said as he answered it.
"Cooper?" Jeff sounded a little hesitant.
"Hey Jeff." Cooper leaned back in his chair and tried to ignore the amused look that Mark was giving him. "What's up?"
"Not much…I just have to ask you something."
"Okay. Ask away."
"I was wondering if um…well Matt told me that the WWE wants to induct Tom into the Hall of Fame this year and they want me to accept it on his behalf."
"That's great. But what exactly does that have to do with me?"
"Well…I wanted to know if you would come with me."
Cooper blinked in surprise. "You do?"
"Yeah. I mean, if you don't want to then that's okay, but I would really appreciate it if you would do it. I don't want to go there alone."
Cooper thought that offer over carefully…for about six seconds. "Okay," he agreed. "I'll go."
"Really?" Jeff sounded very surprised by that. "Are you serious?"
"Yeah I'm serious. Would I bullshit you?"
Jeff made some sort of weird happy noise that Cooper had no idea how to interpret. "Thanks Cooper. I gotta go tell Matt."
"Alright. Call me back later then."
"Kay. Bye bye."
"Bye." Cooper hung up the phone and looked at Mark. "Jeff wants me to go to the Hall of Fame ceremony with him. They're inducting Tom and…why are you smirking?"
"I'm not smirking," Mark lied. "I just think it's cute…although we should probably hope that James doesn't find out about this."
"Because he was with Jeff?"
"No, because of the Hall of Fame thing. You know how he is…until Owen Hart gets inducted, he wants no part of it."
Cooper sighed. James had appointed Owen and Bret his and Connor's uncles back in the day, and there were still some grudges on James's part when it came to the youngest Hart's untimely death. "Yeah I know…but he'll get over it." He turned his attention back to his food, not bothering to stop the smile that was slowly appearing on his face. I've got a date with Jeff…I don't know if he's going to call it a date, but I am. I just won't tell him if he doesn't seem receptive to the whole thing.
Upon arriving at the arena with Randy for the Smackdown taping, it seemed a lot more crowded than usual until he remembered that half the former ECW roster was now a member of the brand.
"I don't think we'll be getting a private locker room anytime soon." Randy whispered, adding a nibble to Matt's earlobe.
"Randy, we agreed not to." Matt whispered
"I know, but you're just so damn delicious I can't resist." Randy replied
"It's like the first day of school with all these morons running around looking lost." Matt was almost run over by some long haired pretty boy.
"Watch where the fuck you're going!" Randy grabbed the younger man before he could escape. "Whoever you are."
"Good question." Matt didn't recognize him either.
"Let go of me... Trent!"
Another of the unknown talent ran over. "Whassup, Cay?"
"Your partner" Randy used the finger quotes "ran into my partner and unless you two want your stay on Smackdown to be extremely short and pain-filled, I would suggest he apologize!"
"We don't have a match tonight, do we?" Matt added
"Not yet." Randy grinned
"I guess that's one more thing we can ask Teddy about when we talk to him after we see Steph." Matt answered.
"Caylen... apologize. I am not spending my first night on Smackdown in the ring with these two. And do it quickly, we got Guitar Hero to play."
"Right... sorry!" It was obvious that he didn't mean it, but Randy let him go anyway.
"Don't let it happen again or you'll find out pretty damn quick why I am called the Viper." Randy shrugged
Trent and Caylen ran off. "I think those two need a lesson in respect." Matt folded his arms.
"I like the way you think. Talk to Teddy first or Steph?"
"Steph. Jeff agreed to accept, but I'm not too crazy about inducting him. I'd rather be with Jeff when he picks up the award." Matt replied
"I don't mind doing the honors." Randy shrugged
"Actually, I want you up there with Jeff 'n me." Matt answered
"Oh?" Randy cocked his eyebrow. "If we're all accepting it, who's gonna induct him?"
"Mark." Matt responded
"Mark? As in Deadman Mark?" Randy stopped mid-stride.
"I can't see it happening, but..."
"That's why I need Steph's help. C'mon..."
"Oh boy." Randy shook his head and followed Matt. I hope you know what you're doing.