I wanted to do a story like this...to explain what went on between Hunter and Stephanie right before Vengeance. The random lines woven into the story at the end are from the chorus of Leona Lewis' "Take A Bow."
Stephanie's hand gripped the doorknob of her suite. She slid the keycard in and waited for the light to blink green. She pushed open the door and took a second to enjoy the fresh, clean scent. She bent down and lowered the straps of her heels from around her ankles. She tossed the shoes aside and closed the door. Her feet rejoiced with relief as they sank into the plush carpet. Barefoot, she padded through the living room and into the master bedroom.
With her free hand, she threw open the door to the mini fridge and pulled out a bottle of red wine, along with a cork. Leaning away from the top of the bottle, she popped the cork and allowed the wine to air out a bit. She pulled down a wine glass from the rack above her and savored the scent as she poured the cool liquid into the glass.
To say that she had made this trip reluctantly would be an understatement. Tomorrow she would have to face two of the scariest events in her life, both personal and professional.
She would lose the man she had loved, for good, when they signed their divorce papers.
Then, she could possibly lose his talent, to her nemesis Eric Bischoff.
Truth be told, she would rather stay in, ordering room service all day long than to face either of those things.
Okay, fine. So she had told a lie and accidentally hurt her husband. Big deal. First of all, the man was known for his lack of expressing feelings. She wasn't immune to that. Not exactly. Oh sure when he wanted something or had messed up hugely, he was all about the feelings. But any other time it was all about wrestling, power and lust.
Hell, he had practically lied to her and the whole damn world when he'd screamed that she had used his emotions against him, knowing how badly he wanted to be a father.
When she replayed the tape of their final day as a couple, she paused it here to stare at the confusion that marked her own face. She remembered exactly what she was thinking when he said that and it was definitely written in her features: what the fuck?
Now, Hunter was certainly not the most romantic person she had ever met. Nor, was he the most sensitive. But she was shocked that even he could think that, "You know, Steph...I'm hot, you're hot. I'm great, you're great. Our kid would be awesome if we had one," counted as informing her of his so-called longing to be a father. How silly of her to peg his words as the total nonsense that she thought they had been at the time.
She hadn't exactly meant to fake the pregnancy, either. But, since Hunter had revealed his epiphany merely weeks ago, she had given it some thought. She always knew she would want a kid someday. She wanted to run the idea by her husband, seriously. Then he had to go and mess up everything with his stupid temper as usual. And she'd blurted out what was on her mind.
He was so self-righteous during the whole thing, too. He told her that she disgusted him, was lower than he was and other insults she didn't care to remember.
Yes, the same man who had orchestrated a hit and run attack that nearly killed a man. Perhaps Hunter thought of himself as blameless because Steve Austin had merely broken a neck instead of died. He'd lost his cool around her several times and had cost them several thousand dollars worth of damage to arenas and hotel rooms. Luckily, nothing had ever hit her. That was purely fate. When Hunter was in a rage, he didn't care who or what was around.
That's why she had been so angry with him. After two years of being disrespected, ignored and sometimes verbally abused by this man, he up and left her for one little lie she hadn't intended to tell. He wouldn't even hear her out when she tried to explain. But, how many times had she opened her arms and forgiven him despite the atrocities he committed?
The fact that she even had the idea of starting a family with that...that psycho was a testament for how mentally ill she truly was back then.
A knock at her door startled her out of her thoughts. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously as she took a long gulp of wine, making her way back into the living room. Without even asking who it was she opened the door.
She amended her thought to: how mentally ill she still was. Because here, in the flesh was her estranged husband. And every ounce of hatred, bitterness and anger she felt towards him vanished. In its place she felt everything that she had buried for the last 5 months, in favor of vengeance, come rushing back.
"Hi," he greeted her with a lopsided smile. His blonde hair was down and cascading around his shoulders. Her fingers felt restless as they practically ached to reach out and stroke through the strands. They would be soft, as always. Like she was caressing silk.
With her blue eyes wide, she returned his greeting. "Hi." She was too stunned to smile.
He sent her a smirk. That sexy smirk that could...well, melt the clothes right off of her, really. At least, the smirk used to have that power. Right now, she was still too confused and in awe of his presence to feel that strongly. "You gonna invite me in for some of that?" His big hand gestured towards her glass of wine.
As if on auto-pilot, she nodded and stepped aside to let him in. He closed the door behind himself. He turned to her, giving that damn sexy smirk again. Then he turned around and locked the door.
She swallowed the hot lump that had stolen her voice. Despite her mental protests, her legs carried her back over to where she had been standing.
Fingers trembling, she reached up towards the rack of wine glasses. She went deathly still when Hunter came up to stand directly behind her, stilling her movement with his hand.
Her eyes closed and she tried, desperately and futilely to ignore the fact that his body was pressed right up against her backside, as he reached up to grab his own glass. The man didn't even bother to move an inch away from her – or, in her estimation, off of her – when he grabbed the bottle and poured himself a glass.
"What?" She winced at the fact that her voice had come out in a squeak. She cleared her throat. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm here to," he hesitated and pressed his lips together as he considered. He swirled the red liquid around in his glass. "Stake my claim, if you will."
Stephanie ignored the ringing in her ears, ache in her chest and butterflies in her stomach. "Oh?" Was all she could get out at the moment.
Because she wasn't hearing what she thought he was saying. For the past few months she had wished he would come to her, just like this. Okay, well maybe not exactly like this. But, something like it. She wished he would come to her and be vulnerable...say that he needed her. That he was only half of a person without her.
She had wished for that because it was how she felt. She was only existing without him. He had started pulling away from her, long before he decided to just go ahead and stomp her heart to pieces. He had married her, for Christ's sakes, under manipulative terms. The games were what their marriage seemed to get off on. Moreover, it's what he seemed to get off on. Then one day, suddenly she went too far and he was morally better than her? And it was over...just like that?
Shattered. That's what she was. It was like the man played with her like a rag doll, then put her back on the shelf, deciding she was no longer interesting. Until she enacted her vengeance. It wasn't long before he retaliated. She swore he got some sick, twisted pleasure from destroying her car and making her break out in hives. The world knew it as him experiencing the joy of one-upping a conniving wife. But, she knew better. Hunter was enjoying this on another level. She could see the desire in his eyes when she viewed the video clips. But, he couldn't very well just forgive what she had done, could he? No, he had a reputation to maintain. Even if it was an inconsistent one.
Was that was this had all been about? Torturing her and making her go through a divorce settlement as some long-term revenge plot? Maybe. And if that was the case, now that she'd been tortured to the brink of near-alcoholism, he was ready to stop this and admit he still wanted her.
Convinced that she knew where this was heading, she suddenly had the courage to look him in the eyes. Hunter downed his wine in one long sip, before sitting the glass down on the bar. He licked his lips and placed his hands on her hips. He leaned close and whispered in her ear. "I love you."
When he pulled back, she took a shaky breath. She wanted to cry. Everything that she wanted as of late, was coming true. Hunter was here, professing his love for her. They weren't going to get divorced; they were going to make love. And he would come be on her show Smackdown. Things would be perfect. They would start all over again and do it right this time. The way normal couples should. And she wouldn't ruin this moment by crying. "I love you, too."
He took her hand and she let him lead her to the bed.
The sunlight streamed in through the open curtains and hit her directly in the fact. Stephanie groaned and threw her arm out. Quickly, she opened her eyes and sat up, surprised that her hand had come into contact with cold sheets. Where the hell was Hunter?
Panic and hysteria set in until she spotted the note on the nightstand. It simply said: see you at the arena later today.
Her heart sank a little. Was that all he had to say? After their reconciliation she expected more. But, who was she kidding? The man hadn't changed overnight. He was still probably fairly repressive of his sentiments.
Two hours later she was well-fed, well-dressed and opening the door to her office. She stopped and her complexion paled when she saw Hunter sitting at a conference table, with their mediator standing at the head of the table. Once they'd reached an agreement, they had called off the lawyers and decided to simply retain someone to make sure everyone signed and things were peaceful.
"Hello, Stephanie," he greeted her emotionlessly.
"Hey." What was going on here exactly? If they weren't getting divorced, the mediator wasn't necessary. Hunter had obviously been here for a while, so why didn't he tell the man his services were no longer needed? "What-uh," she began nervously. "What's going on?"
"Nothing much. We're just signing the divorce papers. Making everything airtight and legal."
Stephanie placed a hand to her chest. If she didn't, she wasn't altogether certain that her heart wouldn't spill out and onto this table. Divorce? Did the previous night mean nothing to him?
"Can you leave us for a minute?" She directed at the mediator. He left the room wordlessly.
"What did you do that for? We're supposed to sign, with him present," Hunter reminded her.
"Sign?" She peeped out. "But, last night. You said you loved me."
His eyebrows raised along with his shrug. "And?"
"I thought we were getting back together," she accused. The tears were burning the back of her eyes, but she needed to understand what was happening to her. To them. Hell, twenty-four hours ago there wasn't even a "them"...would he give that back to her, just to violently rip it away hours later?
His hazel eyes widened, but she recognized that the surprise was false. "Oh you did, did you? Was that your dream?"
She could only nod. If she tried for anything else, she was sure to lose it right here and now.
"Funny. Now you know how it feels to think you've achieved your dream, only to have the rug pulled from under you."
So take a bow
Cause you've taken everything else
Jesus, she couldn't breathe. Hunter had...used her. In that stupid, malicious brain of his he had decided that this was exactly what she had done to him. But, it wasn't. How was she supposed to know he had really wanted a child that badly?
Even if she had known, what could possibly justify this? If he ached for a mini version of himself that much, all he had to do was say so. She'd have given it to him. But, now she couldn't. He didn't want that anymore, not from her.
You played the part
And like a star you played it so well
The rest of the day went by in kind of a blur for her...She signed, he signed.
Eric Bischoff had come to try to rub it in her face that she didn't "sign" him. But, she did.
Hunter had yelled at Eric for mistaking her comment. It was the divorce papers he had signed.
Take a bow
'Cause this scene is coming to an end
"I could come over here to Steph. And I could say 'screw you.' And Well, quite frankly, I know she likes it," he had boasted before he fell into a fit of laughter. And she tried, with every fiber of her being to hate him. But there was nothing left but regret. Regret that she had let him into her heart and her bed again.
"I think I'll go with the devil I know," he assured her. Some part of her came alive again. At least she'd beat Eric Bischoff. The last twelve hours weren't a total waste of time. At least her professional life wasn't in ruins.
I gave you love
All you gave me was pretend
"Sorry, Steph" he grinned at her, before embracing his best friend, Shawn Michaels and effectively, choosing Eric's Raw over her Smackdown.
His brown eyes twinkled with his laughter as he waved bye to her. Shawn was laughing, too. Distantly, she wondered if they had planned all of this from the beginning. She struggled to swallow back the bile that threatened to make her gag. That kind of thing would be right up Hunter's alley. Tell his friend what he had in store for her so they could just laugh about it together like a pack of hyenas.
She watched, with her held head high as the two men made their way up the ramp. She'd be damned if she cried on national television and in front of Eric Bischoff. She would hold it in until she was alone.
Hunter and Shawn flexed at the top of the ramp and then they were gone.
Somehow, she found the strength to slap Eric harder than she'd ever slapped anyone. Maybe Hunter hadn't taken everything. Just the things it took to enter and maintain a relationship. She exited the ring, steeling herself against the emotions that she so desperately wanted to release. In their place, she screwed on the most pissed off expression she could manage. It was pretty convincing and she mentally congratulated herself.
Take a bow