Tonight was the night. Tonight was the pay per view event No Way Out.
Stephanie business partner, Kurt Angle would face her estranged husband in a match to determine the number one contender for the title. That person would go on to face Chris Jericho. The fact of the matter was that this match shouldn't even be taking place. Hunter won the Royal Rumble and had earned his spot at Wrestlemania. But Kurt had been the person he had last eliminated and the man felt the need to challenge him, with Hunter's spot on the line. Why her estranged husband accepted, she would never know. She guessed he just had a point to prove since he was just returning from injury or something.
Love made you do crazy things. Anything sometimes. She knew that firsthand. So in a twisted way it made sense that Hunter had accepted this match despite the fact that he'd fought through over two dozen guys to attain it.
This match was a very back and forth one. Both men had amazing stamina. But Kurt had one up on Hunter in terms of agility. Not that Kurt was able to capitalize on it since Hunter kept pummeling the shit out of him. It was always so interesting to watch him truly decimate opponents. Everything he did in and out of the ring was systematic, plain and simple.
Stephanie winced when Hunter's huge, taped right fist caught Kurt in the cheekbone. That would probably leave a nasty bruise. "Come on, Kurt!" She cheered. God, it felt so foreign cheering – well, against Hunter basically.
Dismissing her thought, she grabbed the bottom rope and paid close attention to what was going on inside the ring. Maybe Kurt was motivated by her or something, because when Hunter used his left hand to hold Kurt in place while he drew his right fist back, Kurt grabbed him. Her eyes widened when Hunter hit the mat after a particularly vicious belly-to-belly suplex. It was executed a little awkwardly because Hunter weighed more than Kurt and because Kurt was still loopy from being punched in the head. Hunter landed partially on his right side and leg.
Despite the fact that they were broken up for all intents and purposes, she couldn't shake her concern that his leg might get re-injured. That's if it wasn't already. Totally forgetting about the fact that she should be applauding Kurt, her eyes stayed on Hunter and she silently willed him to get up and be okay.
So when Kurt leaned through the ropes, grabbed both sides of her face and puckered his lips, she was stunned. It hadn't even registered that he'd entered her line of vision. She snapped back to reality quickly and slapped him just before his lips would have made contact with hers.
Kurt touched his cheek and glared at her questionably. "What the hell, Stephanie? What game are you playing at, huh?"
"What's wrong with you?" She shot back. "We're business partners. Nothing more."
Kurt let out a frustrated yell and reached for her again. Stephanie backed up and threw her hands into the air in defeat. She was done with this crap. The last thing she needed was more drama. She moved away from the ring, past the commentating booth and in the direction of the ramp.
The crowd cheered and she heard a thud, but she didn't look up to see what was going on. She tried to force herself not to care about how either man was faring in this match.
While lying on his side, Hunter had seen Kurt try to kiss Stephanie. He couldn't deny that he was happy she'd slapped him and decided to be done with the situation. It eased his fear that she was already well on her way to replacing him. While Kurt somewhat followed her with a confused expression, Hunter was getting up. He tapped Angle on the shoulder and when the man turned around he was met with a pedigree. Quickly, Hunter got to his feet.
"Hey!" He suddenly yelled from the direction of the ring.
Stephanie tensed up at the word, but decided that Hunter couldn't possibly be talking to her. She wasn't going to embarrass herself by turning around. Even if he was talking to her, what he had to say would probably be horrible anyway. Defiantly and proudly, she lifted her head and stuck her chin out the slightest bit while she continued up the ramp. She heard the noise signaling that a tech had turned on a microphone and handed it over.
It was Hunter's gravelly voice that echoed loud and clear throughout the arena. "Stephanie, wait!"
Breathe, she told herself. She needed the inward pep talk. Because as soon as her name left his lips, most of her body's functions had ceased to work. She stood frozen to her spot and breathless.
Upon seeing he had her attention, Hunter took a deep breath. It was now or never. Over the last few months he'd become a fairly private person. But already so much time had been wasted fighting with her. And their talk – if you could call it that – had really struck a chord in him. Yes, she was still in the wrong for faking a pregnancy. And that was about it. He was guilty of much more over the course of their marriage. And Stephanie was right; she did deserve a better husband. It wouldn't be fixed instantly. They'd caused each other too much pain. But since he'd sort of started this by being an asshole, he would take the initiative to suggest they start mending their marriage.
"The other night," he began evenly. "You said you wrote me a letter apologizing and asking me to meet you so we could talk about our problems. You said you went to our spot and stayed...until it closed."
Still facing the direction of the backstage area, Stephanie swallowed and drew her bottom lip in. Why was he doing this to her? Why now? Why here? Did he hate her so much that he'd ask her to further humiliate herself on national television? Did he want her to say to the entire world that she'd pathetically tried to crawl back to him and beg for forgiveness? She blinked rapidly in an attempt to keep the tears at bay. She wasn't going to turn around. Wasn't going to let him see that he was getting to her. He would probably get off on it.
Then he uttered something that surprised and pissed her off all at once. "Is that true?"
Once again deciding that things like dignity, pride and self-respect could go to hell – because they really didn't do anything tangible for her anyway - she spun around and didn't bother trying to stop her tears this time. Unable to believe his fucking nerve, she shook her head and signaled for someone to get her a damn microphone. Once she had it in hand she let out the breath she'd been holding ever since he told her to wait. If he wanted to do this now, they would. She was about to show everyone exactly how much of an asshole he was. "Yes it's true, Hunter," she said fiercely. "But you already know that. Because you got my letter asking you to meet me at 6. You got my text message where I sent you a question mark an hour after you'd stood me up. And you wanna how damn naive I am? Even once I saw that you'd read the message but didn't reply, I continued to wait. I waited until the cafe closed. Then I ended up at our house, for reasons that are beyond me. But I saw the reply you'd typed in on your phone. That my efforts weren't good enough. But you couldn't send it, could you? No, you just had to let me wait alone in the cold like a damn fool for two hours." She tilted her head and drew her eyebrows together in brief concentration. "In the grand scheme of things, I guess that's not a lot. Not when I'd truly been waiting for you for almost a solid year."
Slowly, Hunter shook his head. "I never got your letter Stephanie. When you sent me the picture and the question mark I thought that was your attempt to make things better."
Her mouth parted but no words came out. While this was surprising, it changed absolutely nothing. This whole ordeal had just made her realize exactly how shitty of a partner he'd been to her. So what if he hadn't received her letter? That didn't magically erase the other atrocities he committed against their relationship.
"If I would've known, I-"
"You'd have what?" Stephanie interrupted. "Met with me and agreed to work on us? You might be able to lie to all these people, but not to me. Not anymore. We've had this conversation already. Letter or no letter, you don't give a damn whether or not we stay married because you never really loved me anyway."
"That's not true," he disagreed.
She chuckled bitterly. "No? Well then you sure have a confusing way of showing your love. Or maybe you just don't know what you really want." Stephanie nodded, sure that she was doing and saying what was right for her life. "Quite frankly I'm simply tired of the confusion and the pain." She turned around and led the way to the backstage area with her temper. She didn't know what it was; maybe her defenses had just gone on high alert. Because Hunter was pretty much saying exactly what she used to hope he would. Only she wouldn't allow herself to believe it. She couldn't, really.
Since she wasn't paying any attention, she didn't realize that Hunter had climbed out of the ring and started to walk after her. Right as she reached the titantron she heard him speak again. "Where are you going?" He asked.
Brow furrowed, she turned back around and saw that he was standing at the end of the ramp. "I don't know," she admitted. "I think I need a break from all this craziness. Maybe I'll book myself a vacation to someplace tropical."
He nodded and considered quickly. "I haven't had one of those since our honeymoon. And well, I guess my quad could use some rest..." he trailed off and looked at Stephanie with a softened expression.
Stephanie inhaled deeply but chose not to take the bait. She reminded herself that every time they fell apart at the seams, he changed for all of five days and then went back to being a workaholic and a jerk. "Maybe you should take a vacation then," she replied neutrally.
"I agree. So...where are you going?" He asked again.
"Maybe Hawaii. Or Tahiti. I don't know."
Hunter rubbed at his thin beard. "Nice options. Personally, I was thinking of the Bahamas," he paused and stared at Stephanie very seriously. "I've made some great memories there. I was thinking that maybe if I go there again then somehow I can get those memories back. And instead of neglecting them because I was afraid of how good it felt to have them...I'd cherish them."
Stephanie grazed her teeth over her bottom lip. The Bahamas was where they had spent their honeymoon. Technically it had been Christmas as well, but they hadn't been able to take a break from the business until that holiday rolled around.
The crowd started chanting "you suck" which caused Stephanie to look towards the ring and Hunter to turn back around. Kurt Angle was in the ring celebrating the fact that Hunter was being counted out. If that happened then Kurt's number one contender's spot was secured. Currently, the referee was at the count of four. If Hunter turned around and climbed through the ropes now he'd make it back into the match with time to spare.
Surprising the hell out of Stephanie – and in some ways, himself – Hunter dropped the microphone and turned his back on everything except Stephanie. He stepped away from the ring, the referee, Kurt Angle and the match. Away from his chance to go on to reclaim the title in just three days. He ran up the ramp to where Stephanie was still standing, looking like a deer in headlights. Once he reached her, his breathing was momentarily heavy and he gave her a lopsided smile.
"You-you should g-go back," she stammered out. "The ref is on six."
Hunter lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "I've got something more important to take care of," he answered honestly.
God, she asked in a tiny voice inside her mind, is this really happening? If this is a dream I swear I will go out and break every last one of the ten commandments tomorrow. Please let me have this. For good, she added, not just temporarily. She arched an eyebrow and asked, "What could possibly be more important to you than the title?"
"Love," he answered immediately. "I've been a bastard husband. I really have and I'm sorry for it. It doesn't totally excuse what you did...but I understand. And I understand the miscommunication that had you so pissed off at me over the last few days."
The referee shouted louder with each number. In truth, he was counting rather slowly because he didn't particularly fancy Kurt Angle and was hoping that Hunter won. "Eight!" He yelled loud enough for them to hear.
Stephanie gestured towards the ring. "You could still make it," she urged lightly.
Hunter glanced over his shoulder before turning back to grin at Stephanie. "I could," he agreed with a shrug. "But there's a lot I want us to talk about. A lot of time has been wasted, so I want a head start." He held out his hand to her and decided to ask one more time. "Where are you going?"
Stephanie's blue eyes glanced down at his outstretched hand, then back up to his expectant face. He looked sincere. But he'd looked sincere all the other times they were supposed to be making things better. So why should I believe things will change this time? She wondered inwardly.
The referee shouted ten and the bell rang wildly followed by Kurt Angle's music playing to signal his triumph. Hunter's gaze didn't waver from hers while he waited for her reply. But she had the answer for the question she'd asked herself. This time things really would be different. Hunter had basically just forfeited his shot – his technically rightful shot - at the title to try to work things out with her. He'd suggested they return to the location of their honeymoon. Yes, his quad was a little weak. But it was nothing he hadn't been through before. She'd seen him wrestle with broken ribs, arm injuries and with his head bleeding profusely. The sole reason he was taking some time off was for her. For them. That alone conveyed how serious and committed he was to the idea of saving their marriage.
She placed her slender hand in his.
Hunter smiled at her hugely and she found herself smiling back before he yanked her up against him and into a kiss.
Kurt Angle might have won the match - hell, he might just go on to win the title from Chris Jericho. But they had won back their chance at a future together. And quite simply Stephanie was pleased that Hunter finally realized that nothing could or should compare to that opportunity.