Disclaimer: I do NOT own the following wrestlers, or any of the events that actually happened on camera, or anything else mentioned that is recognizable.
I respect the actual beliefs and sexualities of the following wrestlers.
This is for the Super Special Awesome Spring Slash Lovers Prompt, for the incredible Thorsmaven. Hope you enjoy it.
If there was any kind of day Sheriff Hart enjoyed, it was a quiet one.
The general peace that filled his office was comforting, especially since his town, Cattle Creek, was one of the stops on the way to the 'gold' (something the Sheriff wasn't too sold on, truth be told). All kinds of characters made their way through, from mildly unsavory to morally bankrupt, all on get rich quick schemes supported by arrogance and greed.
These were the kind of men with short tempers, the ones who would start a brawl for no reason other than to see who would step up, and they were the men Sheriff Hart swore to protect the small town citizens from. Most of them just needed reminding on which road let out, and every now and then, he got a man who wouldn't take the easy route.
But today was one of the days where the general avarice didn't touch the sides of Cattle Creek. The kind of day where a man could just kick back, push his hat down to cover his eyes, and enjoy a bottle of diluted whiskey as the day winded down. Sheriff Hart enjoyed the time to think when he could get it, more than most anything, and he was leisurely taking full advantage of it. He told his little brother Owen- his deputy- to take the day off, leaving him to bask in the serene calm of his small office.
The Sheriff took a swig of whiskey, thinking the day couldn't get any better, when there was a sudden knock on the door. He looked out the window, noting the sun's position; it was close to sundown. All he needed was a mere half an hour of peace to perfect the day, so he could go home and begin setting dinner on his table. But it seemed fate had different plans for him today, so he stood up, fixing his hat as he made his way over to the wooden entrance, and opened the door.
Owen stood there, his breath falling out in heavily, denoting that he ran over. He opened his mouth, but words came out in a garbled fashion. Sheriff Hart sighed, went back in for some water, and pushed it into the smaller blond's hand. "Breathe. Drink. Then talk," he ordered. Owen nodded, taking a few lungfuls of air before swallowing the drink. He sighed in comfort, showing him how much Owen needed it.
"Now, what's wrong?" he asked, watching his brother carefully.
Owen met the Sheriff's gaze, his face the perfect picture of gravity. "There's been rumors flying around."
"You shouldn't concern yourself with them," Sheriff Hart said dismissively, "Folks like to chatter. When there's nothing worth spreading, they mutter nonsense."
"I know Bret, but..." Owen shook his head. "No, this isn't the sort of thing folks would tell tales about."
"It must've been some kind of tale to trouble you like this. What have you been hearing?"
Owen nodded. "Talk about understatement. The people have been saying Helmsley and his men are coming for Cattle Creek."
"Helmsley?" Sheriff Hart had heard the name before. Helmsley was the son in law of an iron tycoon, McMahon, who was situated over east. McMahon's company played a large part in railroad construction, and Helmsley was the heir to all of it. But Helmsley's activities were of a far less scrupulous nature. He was the kind of man who could commit the worst of crimes, and still get exonerated because of McMahon's name and wealth. "He's not the kind of man to get into the gold hype. Why would he come through here?"
"Nobody's got a clue, Bret. That's why they're talking." Owen walked over to Sheriff Hart's desk, pilfering the whiskey from it's place and taking a gulp. "But I doubt he's coming to take in the sights.
The Sheriff nodded, thinking it over. "You're right. I don't like it." He moved towards the chair he sat on, reaching for his jacket. "Owen, let's go."
"Where are we going?" Owen asked.
Sheriff Hart slung on his jacket, adjusted his hat, and then said, "We're going to the Hickenbottom."
"Wait... why are we going to the Hickenbottom?" Owen shouted, "Don't you think now's not the time for a drink?"
"We're not going for a drink," Sheriff Hart shouted back, not even looking at Owen as he led the way to the town's saloon.
"Then why are we going? Bret? Bret!" Owen realized that he wasn't getting any answers from him, so he just gritted his teeth and followed him.
It wasn't that Sheriff Hart was ignoring Owen- okay, it was exactly that- but he didn't like owning up to what he was about to do. It always turned his stomach, going to him for help, but sometimes, he had to do what he had to do. And, being the drinker he was, Sheriff Hart was sure to find him hanging around the Hickenbottom.
The Hickenbottom was a pretty lively saloon; music always reverberated through the brightly lit building. The customers usually chatted with each other, if they weren't too far into a game of cards or their fifth drink. Today was no exception. Fast paced piano music supplemented the general camaraderie of the room.
Sheriff Hart and Owen both made their way to the bar, taking a seat on the stools. "Michaels," Sheriff Hart shouted out.
Shawn Michaels set down a mug of beer in front of another customer before turning to the Hart brothers. "Well hey there. If it isn't my favorite sheriff."
"You don't know any other sheriffs," Sheriff Hart said with a smile.
Shawn grinned back. "And Deputy Owen Hart. Great seeing you." He turned his attention to both of them. "So, can I get you two something?"
"The usual for me," Sheriff Hart said. Owen shook his head no, and Shawn went off. He came back with a whiskey for the Sheriff and, as Shawn laid it down, Sheriff Hart leaned forward. Quietly, so Owen wouldn't hear him, he said, "Where is he?"
Shawn didn't need to ask who he meant by he; he knew the tone of his voice well enough by now. The way he said he was almost a curse, like it had to be spat out. Shawn said nothing, nodding his head in the direction he was in. "He's playing poker," Shawn said, "Go ahead."
The Sheriff nodded, grabbing his drink. He raised it in thanks for Shawn, and then patted Owen's shoulder. He walked off into the direction Shawn gave. Owen watched his older brother for a minute, and then he turned back to Shawn.
"What's going on?" Owen asked, "Where's Bret going? Whose he?"
"Don't worry your pretty little head over it," Shawn said, letting a teasing tone enter his voice. Owen blushed, and Shawn said, "You sure you don't want anything, sugar?"
"I'll take a whiskey... I guess," Owen said, his face burning too brightly.
Sheriff Hart made his way to the table in the back, and it almost felt like the aura was getting increasingly darker. Every time Sheriff Hart talked to him, it always felt like the good reputation he worked so hard to create was slowly being drained from his being. He didn't want to share the same air as that man, let alone crawl to him for help, but he had to sometimes. He convinced himself that it was all in the name of justice, associating with him, and that's all it would ever be.
Two men sat at the table in the Sheriff's view. One was unmistakably the town drunk, Scott Hall, who would inevitably be messed up by the end of the night and Shawn would have to find his friend Waltman to get him home. The other was the man he was looking for.
After a moment of quiet tension between them, Scott said, his voice betraying his intoxicated state, "Two of a kind." He slapped his hand down, showing it off. The man studied the hand, looking apprehensive, but then he just smirked.
"Straight." He slapped down his hand. "Give it here."
Scott shook his head, digging into his pocket for a moment before throwing a wad of cash in the other man. He grabbed it, counting the money slowly, making sure every single dollar was there. Once he was satisfied, he said, "Beat it, Hall. We're done here."
Scott stood up, stumbling as he moved away, grumbling about cheating. Sheriff Hart watched him quietly out of the corner of his eye, but then he turned back to the other man. The Sheriff held his gaze on him until he looked up. He collected the cards in silence, agonizingly slow, obviously trying to get a rise out of Sheriff Hart.
He was succeeding.
Finally, Steve Austin said, "Can I help you?"
Sheriff Hart knew, for a fact, that Austin never committed a crime. No, he didn't. But still, Austin was a man who knew each and every worm on the underbelly of society. He was a man who had connections where it counted, and he was intelligent; the morally suspect things Steve Austin did weren't enough to prompt an arrest.
But he wasn't beneath selling the worms of the underground for the right price. The only person Steve Austin looked out for was himself and the highest bidder.
"Maybe." Sheriff Hart crossed his arms, showing that he was all business- that he wouldn't play Austin's games.
Austin knew exactly what the look meant, but it didn't phase him. The Sheriff eventually played his games each time they met. He was patient enough to ensnare him, make him really think about every single word that came out of his mouth. He kicked out the chair Scott previously occupied and said, "Sit."
"I'm fine standing," Sheriff Hart said curtly.
"You know," Austin said, shuffling the deck, not moving his eyes from the Sheriff's, "In most circles, it's considered rude for a guest to snub hospitality." He did a quick bridge before saying, "Come on, let's catch up before we get down to business."
"I'm not your friend."
"You've made that abundantly clear, Hart." Austin slapped down the deck. "You a poker man?"
Sheriff Hart shrugged. "I'm... adequate."
"Is that code for 'I can't play for shit?'"
"No. It's code for I'm adequate."
"It's okay, Hart. You can admit to your shortcomings," Austin offered, sounding falsely supportive. Sheriff Hart's eyebrow raised in a challenging way and, just as Austin thought he would, he took the chair, slapping his fire water down on the table. The quickest way past Sheriff Hart's defenses, after all, was a full frontal attack on his pride.
"Deal them, Austin." Austin's grin didn't visibly faze Sheriff Hart, but Austin knew that he got him to play his game. And that meant that he had a start.
The game started, but the main point was just to force the Sheriff to play a friendly game. He wasn't too concerned with wagers, so he didn't suggest they play for money; although winning was a great way to stab at Sheriff Hart's ego. "So," Austin said, looking over his cards briefly, "Can I help you?"
"That remains to be seen." Sheriff Hart knew he had a job, but he couldn't help but focus on the poker game- he couldn't lose, not to Austin.
"Why don't you run it by me and I'll tell you if I can help you?" Austin replied.
"Well, you've heard the talk, right?"
"I didn't mark you as the kind of person to put stock in 'talk'."
"Yeah, well, sometimes tales are more than just fiction. It's my job to make sure these roads are safe for folks," Sheriff Hart answered.
"Oh yeah. Duty. Forgot." Austin snickered.
"Forgive me, I forgot what your job is," Sheriff Hart retorted.
"No you didn't. I don't have one, and we both know that full well." Austin reached across the table, wrapping a hand around Sheriff Hart's whiskey. "You mind, Hart?" But he didn't wait for an answer; he brought it up to his lips and took a long sip, enjoying the way the whiskey burned down his throat- and how Sheriff Hart's face contorted with anger. "So," he said, putting down the bottle, "What kind of talk are we talking?"
"Rumors. About Helmsley."
"About Hunter?" Austin laughed, and Sheriff Hart wasn't surprised that Austin was on a first name basis with Helmsley. That kind of character was right up Austin's alley. "Hart, messing with fire is bad for your health."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You know what it means," he said, "Hunter's out of your reach. He's protected. It's best you concern yourself with things you can do."
"I'm not going to let Helmsley mess with my town."
"You know, I don't know what's cuter, your bravery or your stupidity." Their concentration was split between the card game and the conversation, neither man willing to give the other an inch in either battle. "You can't play with the big boys, Hart. Don't strain yourself trying."
Sheriff Hart's eyes narrowed; he could hear condescension, but also something else in Austin's voice. The silence remained until Austin said, "You gonna give this up or what?"
"I think you know."
"Fine then. But don't come crying to me when Hunter decides you're a nuisance."
"Trust me, I hope to be more than a nuisance." Sheriff Hart leaned forward, bending his cards so that Austin couldn't see them. "Are you going to tell me about him or was this a waste of time?"
Austin leaned forward too, leaving very little space between his and the Sheriff's faces. Sheriff Hart didn't back down- he refused to back down and show weakness- but the sudden closeness unnerved him a little. "Is my company not enough to warrant a visit?" Sheriff Hart said nothing, allowing his face to show his answer.
"Well, fine then," Austin said, moving away. "Here's the deal, Hart." He lifted his final hand. "You win, I'll answer any question you ask about Hunter."
"And if I lose?" Sheriff Hart asked.
"What's the matter, I called your bluff?"
"No," Sheriff Hart argued. He looked at his hand. He had a straight; not the best hand, not the worst. Six of hearts, Seven of clubs, Eight of clubs, Nine of spades, Ten of hearts. He could take the chance... but not without knowing the consequences. "What happens if I lose?"
"We play a rematch," Austin said, his lips turning into a smirk. "But this time, we're playing over at my place. What do you say, Hart? Game?"
"You've got to be kidding me." Sheriff Hart slapped down his hand. Like that was even an option. "I fold. I don't need your help." He pushed the whiskey over; it was almost tainted by Austin's lips. "Have the rest." He stood up, but, before he could turn around, Steve turned over his hand.
Two jacks, two fives. Two pair.
Steve turned over Sheriff Hart's hand and then he snickered. "Well ain't that a bitch." The Sheriff's face burned, and Steve said, "You're too safe, Hart."
"You say that like it's a bad thing."
"It could be." Austin gathered up the cards. "Thanks for the whiskey. You're welcome back if you change your mind about needing my help."
"I'll keep that in mind." Sheriff Hart walked away, thinking about how he needed another whiskey. He had no idea how he was going to figure out anything about Hunter now, or even if the knowledge would be enough to protect the townsfolk.
Steve began shuffling the deck again. He knew Hart too well. The man was stubborn, safe, and self-righteous; the kind of man who would stand against the plans Hunter had. He was also the kind of man Hunter took great joy in ruining.
"Stupid Hart," Steve said, already contemplating ways to keep the Sheriff out of Hunter's cross hairs. Hart might not consider Austin his friend, but Hart was definitely one of Austin's.
The Sheriff's abandoned whiskey bottle went up to his lips. He needed the boost; after all, he had a job to do.