Randy stared at the doctor, a look of annoyance on his face. He looked up at the clock and realized the doctor was waiting for the answer to his question.
"I'm sorry, what did you ask me?"
"You look a little distracted, Randy. Are you feeling OK?" Dr. Ames asked with a sympathetic look.
Randy rolled his eyes and sighed. "I'm fine. I'm so fine that I shouldn't even be here right now."
"Well, then why are you here? Why don't you tell me what's going on?" Dr. Ames smiled, the pen hovering over the notebook in her lap.
"My husband died and according to my family I'm not handling it well. I think I'm handling it just fine but apparently my way is not good enough for them. They say I'm growing distant, even from my kids, which I think is a load of crap. I think I'm dealing with everything just fine and perfectly normally considering I lost my husband 2 months ago," replied Randy in annoyance. "I pretty much just came here to shut everyone up."
"Don't you think therapy can help you deal with your husband's death?" asked Dr. Ames with a frown.
"Deal with my husband's death? There is no dealing with it! I have to just face it and move on because it's a done deal! He's gone and he isn't coming back and I have to face it," Randy rolled his eyes once more. "I just have to do it in my own way. Conventional methods rarely work on me."
"Well, then what about your children? This must be incredibly difficult on them. I gather they're young children by the fact that you're so young. Are you considering getting therapy for them?"
Randy stared at Dr. Ames and nodded in response to her question, the only good one she had asked since they're session began, in his opinion. "Yes, of course I will. They're barely 7 and they don't understand how they could've lost one of their parents. It's unimaginable to a 7 year old that one day their father just won't be there. I mean, our daughter has had him in her life from the moment she was born and our son had only had him in his life for a few years but it doesn't feel that way at all. It's like he's always been ours…it's like we've always been one unit and now a giant piece of that unit is gone and they don't understand how or why! Hell, I barely understand it."
Dr. Ames nodded. "So, maybe a therapist can help them understand it and come to terms with it. I'm glad you're attempting it. I just wish you would attempt it for yourself and give it an honest shot."
"I'm not a kid, Dr. Ames. My kids may be able to listen to a shrink and one day be able to move on from John's death but I'm an adult. I know life sucks and no amount of therapy will change that, OK," replied Randy.
"That's a very cynical way to look at life, Randy," Dr. Ames said with a shake of her head.
Randy shrugged. "But it's the truth."
"I'm gonna give you an assignment. I want you to bring it back to me next week when we meet again," Dr. Ames shrugged. "I mean, if you decide to come back."
"What?" asked Randy with a frown.
"It might not be completely finished by next week but we can finish it as therapy goes on and hopefully you can pass it down to your kids one day. I want you to start a journal. It can be something as simple as a spiral notebook. Your assignment is to answer this question; who are you? Describe yourself as you want to be remembered by future generations." Dr. Ames smiled. "Start simply. Tell me about yourself and your life with everyone, including John, as if I'm a stranger and know nothing about you. Then, expand and write as if you're writing to your children and their children. How do you want them to remember you? What traits of yours do you hope they carry on and which do you hope they don't? Do you understand?"
"Yeah, I understand writing stuff down but I don't understand how that's therapy," responded Randy, his frown deepening.
"You'd be amazed at how therapeutic writing is. You'll be sharing with me what you write so we will be able to work on all those little things about yourself you may not want to pass on to your children," Dr. Ames smiled. "And, of course, by writing about John, we can start the process of healing from his death."
"Whatever you say, Doc. I'll think about giving it a try," Randy looked down at his watch. "Can I go now?"
Dr. Ames nodded and stood. She held her hand out for Randy to shake and he quickly shook it and said goodbye. Randy hurried out of the office and through the quiet halls to the parking lot. His first impression on Dr. Ames wasn't bad. She seemed smart and competent and didn't push him to talk. However, the whole idea of therapy seemed horrible to him. The last thing he wanted to do was relive John's death and that's what talking about it felt like.
Randy spotted his car in the hospital garage and quickly slid behind the driver's seat. He bought the engine to life and pulled his cell from his pocket so he could send Sam a message before he began to drive.
"On my way for the kids now…"
The messaging screen faded away as he pressed send and he held the phone in his hand for a minute longer, staring at the background picture. John's face smiled back at him, along with their children's, as the three posed together. Randy felt his own lips curve into a smile as he looked at the faces of the three people he loved most, one who he had lost too soon. With a loud sigh, he glanced back at the hospital building and groaned as he realized there was no harm in giving therapy a shot. It may just help…
"I feel like I'm gonna throw up. I don't think I could do this." Randy closed his eyes, his breaths coming in pants.
"Randy, just keep taking deep breaths. You'll be fine. You're used to this. It's just been awhile but it'll click the minute you hear those people react." Ted wrapped an arm around Randy's shoulder and squeezed it comfortingly.
"No, this was a mistake. I shouldn't have agreed to this, Ted. I can't do this anymore. I should just be a stay at home dad for the rest of my life…or at least until the kids get married," Randy shrugged as his eyes darted to the stairs leading to the gorilla position, a position he hadn't been at in over a year.
"Stop it, Ran. You know you want to do this. The nerves are just getting to you." Ted turned Randy over to face him. "You couldn't have gotten a sweeter deal from Vince. You're the youngest person he's offered a contract like this to and he did it because he knows you're still amazing; just Monday TV, pay-per-views and some house show appearances in the area. And, if it isn't working, he'll let you out of it with no questions asked. You have to try it, Ran. You'll hate yourself if you don't."
Randy sighed. "But the kids…"
"The kids have a tutor and are used to bouncing back and forth between the bus and home and Grandma's and Grandpa's. Aren't they the ones who pushed you to do this?" asked Ted.
"Because Vince offered to buy them the horses they've always wanted," replied Randy with an eye roll.
Ted laughed. "Maybe but also because they know you miss this and they miss seeing you out there doing what you loved. They also know John would want you out there, Ran. It's a sin to waste your talent by sitting at home!" He grabbed Randy by the shoulders and shook him. "I should not have to convince you to do this, Randy! It's a great opportunity and you're just gonna have to do it. I will shove you through those curtains if I have to, understood?"
Randy rolled his eyes once more and remained silent. His eyes scanned the back of the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, the back of the arena so familiar to all the others he'd seen in his many years with WWE. The sound of his pounding heart was almost overwhelming in his ears and Randy shook his head, still in shock he was there.
When Vince McMahon had called a couple weeks before to once again try and convince him to come back to the WWE, even if only for television and special pay-per-views, he had quickly turned the man down. He appreciated Vince's persistence and a part of him did want to agree but another part of him just wouldn't let him accept. The thought of returning to a wrestling ring and knowing he would never be able to face John in one again was almost too much to bear. He didn't think he could survive the grind of traveling so much and all the other demands a WWE career put on someone without John by his side. Not to mention, over the past year he had grown accustomed to being with his children on a daily basis. The thought of being on the road away from them for weeks was not something he was willing to consider.
"Ran! You ready for action? We get to bring back Legacy tonight!"
Randy snapped from his thoughts at the sound of Cody's ever excited voice. He stared at his younger friend and shook his head. "No, I'm not ready for this."
Cody's eyes widened. "What? Why not? Are you sick or something?"
"Cody, get out of here. Let me handle this."
Cody turned his gaze to Ted and crossed his arms over his chest as his eyes narrowed. "Well. Excuse me for speaking. Should I just sit here quietly and every now and then bend to kiss your feet?"
Ted smiled slowly and shook his head. "Sitting quietly would suffice…if you could figure out how to do that, dear."
"You're such a jerk…and while we're still in the honeymoon stage. I could still divorce you, you know," responded Cody with a huff.
"The honeymoon is over, kid. We've been married for over 5 months, Codes and you threaten to divorce me at least three times a week." Ted winked over at his husband and turned his attention back to Randy.
"It's almost go time, Ran. You gotta decide if you're doing this or not and you gotta do it now."
Randy gulped and shook his head. "I still don't know…"
"Yes, you do. You want to do this, Randy but you're just scared. Don't let the fear overwhelm you! You're not alone here. You have me and Cody to help you and you have tons of other people on your side. This is what you're meant to do, Randy. Everybody knows it! Just do it." Ted sighed in frustration when he noticed the expression on Randy's face remain the same.
"Randy, don't be afraid."
Randy looked over at Cody, who slowly approached him with a smile.
"John is with you, Ran. He's smiling down on you right now because this is what he wants for you. He wants you to move on and start rebuilding your life. Do this for him and for your babies who will be watching you out there." Cody wrapped an arm around Randy's waist. "Didn't you promise John you would do this? You never break a promise, Ran."
Randy lowered his eyes at Cody's final statement, his mind flashing back to his trip to John's grave a few months ago to commemorate the first anniversary of his death.
"It's such a pretty day!" Alanna frowned as soon as the words were out of her mouth. "Whoa, that sounds weird to say."
"I'll say it does. I mean, we're at a cemetery, Ally!" Angel sighed and looked up at the bright blue sky. "I guess it's true, though. Maybe we're gonna have a good winter."
"Or maybe it's just Daddy making it a really nice day for us," Alanna turned her gaze to Randy and smiled. "What do you think, Dad?"
Randy smiled and nodded. "I think that may be true. He knew we were gonna come today." He watched the kids run forward as John's mausoleum approached. They ran inside, eager to place the bundle of flowers they carried for his plaque. Randy shifted the tray he held in his hands and followed at a slower pace. He had never understood visiting loved ones in a cemetery. It didn't make sense to him to sit in a mausoleum and cry over John's body when the older man wasn't even there. It was just a shell, not really their John. However, it had to be done for all their sakes…and as much as he hated to admit it, visiting John's grave had helped them all.
"OK, Dad, break out the milkshakes!"
Randy smiled over at his son and handed him over the small cup containing the chocolate milkshake he loved. He passed one over to Alanna and then pulled his own out of the bag. Remaining quiet, he watched as the kids ran their fingers over John's plaque and placed the flowers in the iron holders on either side of the bronze. He lowered his body to the small stone bench and lowered his head, taking a sip of the cool drink as his kids began their usual chattering, speaking to John's memorial plaque as if they were speaking to the man himself.
"Dad, you have to tell Daddy John what you've been doing, too."
Randy looked up to meet Alanna's gaze. He shrugged once he realized the kids had finished telling John all about the start of the school year and the new things they'd learned, the new friends they'd made and all the other things that seemed so important to their lives. "I don't have anything to say."
He sighed and bit his lip. "I've gone to a couple meetings at the school and helped Ted and Cody some since they've been back and…"
"That's so boring, Dad," interrupted Angel. He shook his head at Randy and said, "You need to start doing more stuff."
"Yeah, Dad. You've been hanging around school a little too much lately. You need to do something fun," added Alanna with a smirk. Her eyes suddenly brightened and she jumped up. "Hey, why don't you start wrestling again?"
"Oh my God, yes! That would be so cool, Dad! I've missed traveling on the bus and seeing you in the ring so much!" quickly added Angel.
Randy laughed loudly and shook his head, emptying the rest of his milkshake. "Very funny, guys. You know that's not gonna happen."
"Why not?" asked Angel with a pout.
Randy frowned. "Guys, you know I retired. I'm done with wrestling and anything having to do with it. I don't know why you're acting so surprised about it."
"Well, we just don't understand, Dad." Alanna shrugged and shared a look with her brother. "You used to love it so much and you were so good at it. I don't understand how you could just stop one day."
"Yeah. I love soccer and I don't think I could just stop playing one day," Angel looked at Randy intently. "It's because of Daddy, right?"
Randy slowly smiled and nodded. "Kinda." His eyes moved downward, the smile fading from his face. "It would be really hard for me to go back to wrestling and the WWE because as much as I loved it, I know Daddy loved it more. One of the most fun parts about being there was that we could work together and I don't think I could go back there without John."
"But don't you think Daddy would want you to go back?" asked Alanna. "I do,"
"Me, too, Dad. He wouldn't want you to be unhappy and bored at home…" started Angel.
"Hey, I'm not unhappy or bored, guys! I'm having the time of my life being a stay-at-home dad. I love being able to kiss you both before you leave for school and then getting to pick you up. I love that we can have dinner together every night and going on school trips and being able to spend the morning fishing with Grandpa and being able to pack up whenever we want and go to Boston or Florida!" Randy's smile widened. "If I were to go back to work, we couldn't do any of that."
Angel shook his head. "Yes, we could, Dad. You and Daddy used to do it before! Sometimes we would stay with Grandma and Grandpa or Sammy but not for long. "
"And we went to Boston and Florida a lot. We even got to go to some other places because you had the bus," Alanna smiled. "Stop making excuses."
Randy rolled his eyes. "I'm not making excuses. Why don't you two stop scheming? Why are you pushing so hard all of the sudden? Has someone been whispering in your ear?" He watched with a raised eyebrow as both kids shared a look. "Come on, spill it."
"It's just…it's been a year since Daddy died now and things are a little better. They won't ever be all the way better because he's not here but at least they're better. It's like, we're all learning to be happy again and be a family without him, even though we miss him every day." Angel shrugged. "You were so angry before but now you're better. It's still not the same, though. Something is still missing."
"Well, yeah, but what's missing can never come back so I don't see how wrestling is gonna change that," responded Randy with a frown, his eyes darting over to John's plaque.
"Daddy, you're not doing what you promised Daddy John you would do. You promised him you would let us move on and that you would, too. You're not, though. You're paying so much attention to us but none to yourself. You're happy being with us but when you're alone, I know you're still sad," lectured Alanna with a shake of her head. Her tone lowered and she said, "I see your face sometimes when you think no one is watching…"
Randy sighed. "Guys, this is a little too deep for you guys to even be thinking about. I know what's best for us so let's just drop it. If the day comes that I want to return then I will make that decision on my own."
"We just want you to be happy, Daddy," replied Alanna.
"Yeah, Dad. You worry about us and we worry about you," added Angel.
Randy smiled. "How about we all stop worrying about each other and just be normal? It's normal to have good days and it's normal to have sad days. This is going to go on for the rest of our lives because we're never gonna forget Daddy…and that's the way it should be. We're all doing just fine, thankfully."
Both kids nodded, the space filling with quiet as everyone contemplated Randy's words. Randy looked up at the inside of the large mausoleum the disbelief that he was still in one visiting John just as intense as it was the first time he stepped in there. The large stone structure was big enough for many more members of their family to be buried alongside John but Randy could only hope it would be many, many years later.
"So, Johnny," started Randy, his eyes looked on John's memorial plate. "As you can see, not many things have changed in the last couple weeks since we've been to visit you and in the last year since you've been gone. Our two brilliant kids still think they know what's best for everyone, especially me, and are trying to get me to do what they think is best. I guess they'll never learn." He glanced quickly to his side and saw both kids roll their eyes but smile. "I don't really mind, though, just like I know you didn't. It just means they love me and I can't complain about my kids loving me."
Randy looked back at the kids. "Just like I hope they realize that my sticking to them like glue kinda means I love them, too."
"We know that, Dad," replied Angel with a laugh.
"I can't stand the thought of being away from you two. How could I go back on the road and leave you? I don't want you two being raised by your grandparents alone," Randy looked at Alanna. "Or your mother alone! I want to raise you and be a real Dad to you. I don't want you to grow up and have to struggle for memories of us together. I want your life to be full of them! I barely saw Grandpa when he was traveling and I was little and I don't want that life for you…especially now that John is gone."
"But Daddy," said Alanna. "You used to travel all the time when I was little and I still remember you being there all the time for me! You and Daddy John had a way of making it work so that I never felt like I missed you. I know you can do it again."
"Just think about it, Dad. We know you miss it and that it used to make you really happy." Angel shrugged. "I know you say you're happier now but maybe you can get even happier."
Randy smiled and slowly nodded. "Fine, guys. I'll think about it."
"OK, you're right," Randy took a deep breath. "I know what I'm doing. I've done it for years. I'll be fine."
"Well, good because we're up," responded Ted with a laugh.
"It's gonna be great, Ran. We're gonna have a great match and these people are gonna go bat shit crazy when your music hits." Cody pulled Randy to him and hugged him tightly.
Randy nodded as Cody's music blared through the arena. "Thanks, Codes. I'm glad you're with me for all of this."
Cody winked at him before moving over to place a quick kiss on Ted's lips. He ran out through the black curtains and began his monologue, the sounds blurring to Randy.
"Don't run away when I go out there, you hear? I expect to see the Viper out there not some terrified rookie." Ted stared intently at Randy, who nodded. "Remember everything you taught me; all those lectures you would give me? Give them to yourself right now and remember who you are, understood?"
"I will," Randy patted Ted's back as his music rang out through the arena. He watched as his young friend disappeared through the curtains before turning his attention to the mirror to his right. Focusing on his eyes intently, he went over all his accomplishments in the ring in his head. He let the feeling of pride wash over him and pushed back the sudden shot of disappointment that flew through him as a shot of John in the ring beside him flashed through his head.
"I can do this. I know you're with me, Johnny. I hope I'm making you proud," Randy let his eyes close as he whispered to himself. He turned himself around and stared at the curtains, turning all his attention on Cody and Ted's words to the WWE Universe.
"And since we happen to be in St. Louis tonight, we figured we'd ask an old friend to join us in our match…"
"I hear voices in my head…they council me, they understand, they talk to me…"
The arena erupted in cheers at the sound of his entrance music and Randy let his eyes close once more as the sensation washed over him. He felt a soft breeze move past his face in a soft caress and a sudden smile came upon his face. There was never a moment where he was more sure of John's presence beside him that at that moment. He stepped out through the curtain, the cheers intensifying as the crowd got their first look at Randy Orton in more than a year. His fear and hesitation suddenly disappeared and he was filled with the confidence that had ruled him and his career for so many years.
Quickly sharing a quick glance with Ted and Cody, Randy's lips curved into a smirk and he took the microphone Cody extended to him.
"Just in case you've forgotten, my name is Randy Orton."
A/N: Thank you all so much for the support for this story!