Steve Borden, otherwise known as the man called Sting, grasped Dixie Carter's shoulders in what he hoped was a reassuring hold.
"Trust me, trust me." his words, so filled with confidence and conviction, called out to her over the cheers of the crowd.
Dixie looked away for a moment, unsure of what to think, what to feel. She felt as though she had been sucker punched not once, but twice. First, knowing that Sting wanted to step down as General Manager to concentrate all his time and energy into once again being a wrestler. Then finding out that he wanted to hand the reigns over to the very man that had stolen Impact from her not so long ago.
"Hey, Dixie, look at me." Sting called to her, garnering her attention., "Look at me."
She finally turned back to him, catching sight of her reflection in his dark sunglasses. The woman staring back at her looked unsure and a little lost. Also, and she hated to even admit it, the woman looking back her appeared a little afraid.
"Do you trust me?" Sting questioned her gently, "I'm not going to let you down."
Dixie found herself shaking her head and instantly replying, "You know I do. You know how much I trust you."
And she did. With everything she had, she trusted this man. Nobody had ever gone to bat for her like he had. He had put his body on the line for her. Some would say he had even put his sanity on the line not only for her, but her company. Of course she trusted him. With everything that she had she trusted him.
It was just that she wasn't sure she could trust Hogan. Not again. Not after he lied to her, cheated her. Stolen away the very company she had put so much into.
"It's gonna be all right, I promise you. It's gonna work." Sting tried to assure her.
At the sound of his words, the assurance written on his face, Dixie wanted to believe him more than anything.
The crowd continued to chant for Hogan as Sting led her out of the ring and to the back.
As they disappeared behind the curtain Dixie took a step away from him, running a hand across her forehead. A myriad of emotions raged in her, each thought and feeling fighting to reach the forefront.
"Hey." Sting's kind voice reached her ears as she felt him once again gently take hold of her shoulders and turn her around.
She looked up at him, concerned over what he would hit her with next.
Sting looked down at her, instantly regretting how he had gone about his announcements. The poor woman looked as though she had been hit with a bus. And, figuratively, he supposed that maybe she had. He wanted to kick his own butt at seeing the worry, the fear, written across Dixie's features. He always hated seeing her look that way and here he had gone and been the one to cause it this time.
Way to go, Stinger, he chastised himself.
"I'm sorry for doing this to you." he stated, sincerity coloring his words, "But when I heard you were about to tell the crowd you wanted to fire Roode. . .I don't know, I guess I felt that now was the time to say something.
"I know I've hit you pretty hard and you need time to think. So I'll just leave you alone and let you sort all of this out." he told her as he slowly released her shoulders and backed way.
"Thank you." was the only thing Dixie could think to say at that moment.
Almost shakily, she turned and slipped into her office. She absently wandered over to her desk chair and sank into it, her mind racing.
She wasn't sure what upset her more. Possibly gaining Hogan back or losing Sting. The man who had been her partner, her confidant in all of this.
She looked up at the ceiling and sighed unsteadily. No, he was more than that. The truth was, he had been her rock through all of this turmoil.
And that was what really had her upset. He meant so much to her. Done so much for her. He was her friend. One of her best friends, if she was going to be absolutely honest with herself. Without him there to stand by her, she reluctantly admitted to herself, her confidence would really be shaken.
She leaned forward, running her hands through her red hair. She just wasn't sure what she should do.
Sting made his way through the backstage area. As he rounded a corner he found himself face-to-face with a few of the wrestlers. They came up to them, some reaching out to shake his hand. Others slapping him on the back.
"I'm really going to miss you being our GM." Tara replied with a frown.
"Yeah, I'm sorry you've decided to step down." Matt Morgan agreed.
"You've got to do what's best for you." Devon, always the voice of reason, chimed in, "And personally, I can't wait to see you come back and kick Bobby Roode's ass."
"Hell yeah." James Storm agreed, earning laughter from the others.
Sting grinned at them and shook his head, touched and honored by their kind words.
"Still. . ." Velvet Sky sighed, "You were the best GM ever."
"Hear, hear." Devon agreed.
"Thank you." he told them all sincerely, "Thank you. I appreciate that. But my mind's made up. It's a done deal."
The group thanked him for his tenure as General Manager and offered a few parting "good lucks", "we'll miss yous" and "hurry backs" before dispersing and leaving Sting alone.
When they were gone Sting found himself leaning back against a nearby wall. He removed his ever present shades and rubbed his eyes, sighing.
His thoughts traveled back to Victory Road and he instantly felt his temper begin to rise. Silently he cursed himself for being so cocky. He should have been more careful; more aware of what was going on around him.
He had been really out of it after that chair shot and still didn't remember much from that night. He had had to watch it back later to clear up some of the cobwebs of his memory. And what he had watched angered and disgusted him.
The anger deep inside burned and bubbled in the pit of his stomach. He could feel it churning and rising, threatening to explode at any given moment. It raced through his veins, almost like lava about to erupt from a volcano.
He was livid. Not for what Roode had done to him. No, that was to be expected from a piece of garbage like him. No, he was livid over the fact that Roode had put his hands on Dixie.
And Dixie. . .Sting shook his head in silent wonder. He couldn't believe she had put herself in harm's way again and again to try and help him.
He was touched that she would do that for him. And angry at himself for letting her get into that position to begin with.
And he was more than a little pissed off at Bobby Roode.
A cold smile found his way across Sting's face as he slipped his shades once more into place. It was a good thing the coward wasn't there tonight. Because if he could get his hands on him. . .
He raked his hands through his hair, straightened from off the wall. He needed to take a much needed walk and calm down.
The door to Dixie's office flew open and seconds later a twelve-year-old ball of energy came roared into the room.
The energy ball, complete with a mop of reddish-brown hair and light blue eyes, hurried over to Dixie's desk and slammed his hands down onto the cool wooden surface.
"Mom!" her son, Davy, chattered away excitedly, "Is Sting really leaving for good? He's not really leaving for good, right? You'll make him stay, right?"
Dixie found herself smiling as she looked into the earnest face of her youngest child. Every child had a hero and Sting was clearly Davy's. The little boy had been a fan since he was six-years-old, likening the wrestler to some sort of super hero. And, in way, she supposed he kind of was.
"Sting is not leaving for good." Dixie assured her son, "But he has a concussion and he needs to go home and take care of himself."
"So when's he coming back?" Davy demanded.
Dixie shrugged, "That's up to Sting and his doctors. What he needs to do right now is rest and heal. After he does that. . .hopefully he'll come back soon."
Davy flopped into one of the chairs by her desk and sighed, "Man, that match between him and Bobby Roode was awesome! And Sting would have one, too, if he hadn't hit his head."
Dixie found she could only smile, silently agreeing with her son. She remembered sitting there at Victory Road, completely in awe of Sting, herself. He had been amazing that night. He was in the best shape of his life and the way he had commanded the crowd. . .it was incredible.
The crowd had chanted that he still had it but to Dixie he had never lost it. He had been a wonder and she had found herself cheering for him right along with the fans. She remembered jumping to her feet and clapping as he took it to Bobby Roode. She recalled how her heart had leapt into her throat when he almost been hit by the steel chair Bobby had sent crashing towards him, when he had landed on the steel barricade and especially when he had performed the superplex off of the top rope.
And she remembered the moment her heart had stopped completely when he had hit the back of his head on that steel chair.
Dixie felt a cold shiver of fear race down her spine at the horrible memory and she briefly closed her eyes. She shook her head, as though to case those terrifying visions away.
When she opened her eyes again, she fixated on her son and smiled, asking, "Have you seen your sister or your father?"
Davy let out a shrug, "I don't know where Dad is. But Tamara was hanging out with some of the Knockouts."
He wrinkled up his nose, adding, "They were talking about clothes and makeup and girly stuff like that."
Dixie couldn't help but grin, fighting hard not to laugh out loud. To do so would just be encouragement for her son.
Davy once again grew serious as he leaned forward, bracing his elbows on the top of her desk and putting his chin in his hands, "Hey, Mom? Are you going to let Mr. Hogan work for you again?"
"I'm not sure what I'm going to do." she leaned in and mirrored his stance, asking him, "What do you think I should do?"
Davy leaned back in his chair, thoughtfully pondering her question. After a few minutes he gave her a shrug and replied, "If Sting trusts him then maybe you should, too."
Dixie smiled at that, but didn't comment. She instead rose to her feet and rounded the desk, nodding, "Come on. Let's go see where your sister and father are hiding."
Davy jumped to his feet and together the pair made their way around the backstage area. They had just passed by some of the backstage film crew when Dixie spotted Tamara standing a few feet away. Her teenage daughter was leaning forward, running her hands through her dark brown hair and smiling demurely up at Garrett Bishoff.
As they drew closer Dixie could hear Tamara gushing, "Garrett, you are so brave to take on your dad and Gunner. You know, I really admire you for that."
Garrett offered her a embarrassed smile and shook his head, "Yeah, well, I just feel like this is something I have to do. I have to prove to my dad that I'm my own man, you know?"
Tamara nodded seriously, "I completely understand. My parents are always trying to tell me what to do. They need to understand that I'm not a little girl anymore. I'm sixteen, you know. Practically a grown woman."
She reached out and lightly trailed her fingers up and down the young man's arm, sending him a sunny smile of encouragement. Again, that embarrassed grin crossed Garrett's lips and he nonchalantly ducked away from her touch.
Dixie sighed, shaking her head slightly. The mom in her wanted to pull her daughter aside and very gently, but firmly, tell her that Garrett was a grown man and maybe she should spend some time with boys her own age. But then she tried to remind herself of what she had been like when she was sixteen. It hadn't been an easy time. You always felt like you stuck between being child and an adult. Always feeling like you were caught between two major phases of your life.
Garrett looked over Tamara's head and caught sight of Dixie and Davy as they approached. One look at the mother of the girl who was trying to flirt with him, not to mention his boss, made the young man instantly nervous.
He offered Tamara a kind smile and a nod, murmuring, "I better go. See you later, Tamara."
And with that he was gone.
Tamara watched after him in surprise, disappointment welling up deep inside her. She turned around with a sigh and finally noticed that her mother and brother were making their way towards her.
Her brown eyes narrowed, realization coming over her, and as her mother approached she put her hands on her hips and demanded, "What?"
Dixie drew to a stop, frowning at her first born. She looked back at the irritated, defiant teenager before her and wondered what had happened to the sweet, loving little girl she once knew. Where at that little girl gone?
She offered her daughter a ceasefire by way of a smile and gently stated, "Tamara, I really like Garrett. I do. He's a hard worker and a good asset to the company."
"Yeah. And?" Tamara inquired.
Dixie sighed, this was going to be harder than she thought.
"And I can understand why you like him." she began, trying to choose her words carefully, "But you have to remember that he's a grown man. He-"
Tamara instantly cut her mother off with a narrowed look, "Look, whatever you're going to say you can just forget it. Okay? Anyway, I was only talking to him. It's not like you caught us making out or anything."
"Tamara-" Dixie started to interject but thought better of it. She knew when her daughter got into a mood it was near impossible to talk to her. The best thing she could do was just let the matter drop, for now, and allow Tamara to cool off. Besides, this wasn't really the time or place for this type of conversation anyway.
"You two stay put, all right?" Dixie told them, ignoring Tamara's eye roll and Davy's groans of protest, "I'm going to go find your father."
She turned on her heels and continued through the backstage area. Though she was still troubled by her confrontation with Tamara she forced herself to put it out of her mind for now. The truth is, she had a lot to go over and think through. And she would have really liked Serge's take on it all. She trusted his opinion.
As she rounded a corner she finally spotted her husband. He was standing a few feet away, laughing and talking excitedly with James Storm. At the sight of him Dixie began to smile. They must have been talking about James' upcoming music video.
Serge had written and preformed James' theme song and for the past few weeks now all he could seem to talk about was the music video they were planning on producing for it. Dixie was so proud of him and what he was accomplishing with the music department at TNA. She just knew this was only the beginning for him and what he could do.
Serge and James shook hands and James headed off to compete in his next match. Dixie began to approach when suddenly Madison Rayne slinked up to Serge's side. The pair greeted each other with warm smiles, Madison leaning up to receive a hug.
Dixie found herself drawling to a stop, a frown crossing her features. She watched on with irritation as the pair began to talk. Madison issued one of her annoying, high pitched giggles and rubbed her hand up and down Serge's arm. For his part, Serge didn't seem to mind as he kept a goofy smile plastered on his face.
Dixie's eyes narrowed and she started to take a step forward when she felt a warm hand on her shoulder. She turned around and discovered Sting looking down at her. Even with his shades hiding his eyes, she could still tell he was concerned.
"Are you doing all right?" he questioned her quietly.
Dixie gave him a small smile. The truth was, she did feel a little better with him there.
"I'm fine." she assured him, "Just going over everything in my mind. You've given me a lot to think about."
"Yeah." Sting bowed his head and rubbed the back of his neck, thoughtful, "I just want to apologize again for springing all of this on you at once."
"No, I understand." Dixie promised, "You had to do what you thought was best at the time."
"Yeah." Sting nodded, once again gazing over at her.
He glanced over the top of her head and caught sight of Serge and Madison standing a few feet away. He felt his eyes narrow as he noticed the pair standing very close together, Madison's hand holding onto Serge's upper arm as though she was staking her claim.
He focused back on Dixie and told her with absolute certainty, "Everything will be okay, Dixie. I promise."
Serge suddenly materialized at their sides at that moment, slipping an arm around his wife's waist and pulling her in close. Sting took notice of the action, something indescribable churning in his gut.
Serge offered Sting a warm smile and a nod, "We're sure going to miss you around here, Sting. Hope you heal up quick and return soon."
Sting regarded him silently for a few moments before answering quietly, "Thanks for that, Serge. I know just how much you mean that."
An icy undertone came to his voice as he added, "And don't you worry. I will be back here as soon as I can."
He glanced back to Dixie, his features softening, as he stated, "I'll talk to you later, Dixie. Excuse me."
And with that he turned and walked away. Dixie followed his back, confused by both his sudden change in mood and hasty retreat.
"Jeez, does that guy run hot and cold or what?" Serge muttered in irritation.
Dixie blinked, coming out of her thoughts, and turned back to her husband, "Serge, be fair. Sting's been through a lot these past few days. Besides, he has gone above and beyond for me more than anyone else. I trust him."
Serge regarded her evenly, frowning, "You still trust him even after he endorses Hulk Hogan to replace him as GM?"
Dixie started to protest but he cut her off, "Come on, Dix. Sting fought to get Hogan out of power for over a year. He finally does so and now he's just going to turn around and say the guy deserves to come back? It doesn't make any sense."
"I'll admit that the timing is bad." Dixie conceded, "But if Sting believes that Hulk is the right man for the job. . ."
She threw up her hands and sighed, "Sting knows Hulk better than anyone. And if he believes in him, if he believes he's really changed, then that's good enough for me."
Serge scoffed and turned away, shaking his head in disbelief. Dixie grabbed his arm and turned him around, imploring him to look at her.
"Look, I'm still not 100% sure what I'm going to do." Dixie confided to him, "To be honest, I don't know if I want Hogan back at Impact. I just. . .I just don't know."
At that moment the pair heard Sting calling Dixie's name from the arena. She bit her lip, turmoil welling up deep inside her. What was she going to do?
"Well you better have something figured out." Serge muttered, "Because I don't think Sting's going to wait for an answer any longer."