"The Hierophant"

By Penumbren

Disclaimer: No one is mine, darn it. But I'd happily buy HBK if they were selling him.
Distribution: Kliq's Camelot, Shadows, anyone else please ask first
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Triple H
Content: ANGST, language, m/m relations
Author's Notes: Please forgive any factual faults or time line inconsistencies; I've researched as much as possible, but I wasn't watching wrestling during the 1990s, so I'm sure mistakes will creep in.

The title comes from one of the major arcana of the tarot. Each tarot card has two meanings, depending on whether it's dealt head-up or reversed, head-down. The Hierophant is a symbol of moral law, a wise and capable advisor, a practical instructor and spiritual guide. Positive associations with this card include advice, wise counsel, spiritual consolation, knowledge, identification, faith, conformity, and tradition. Meaning taken from http://www.free-tarot-reading.net/meanings/index.php.)

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~ Backstage, 2004 ~

Leaning back in his chair, Ric watched Hunter leave. The younger man's head was down, his shoulders slumped, and Ric could practically see the depression oozing from him.

He sighed, hating to see Hunter like this. It didn't happen all the time, but when it did, it was always because of Shawn. He'd watched Hunter suffer through agonizing injuries, backstage gossip and backstabbing, rumours, stupid angles, bad matches, a failed marriage, and being completely misunderstood by everyone he knew. All of that, Hunter had more or less shrugged off. Not that it hadn't affected him, but it had never brought him to this kind of low. Only Shawn could do that.

Swiveling his chair around, he spotted Shawn sitting across the room, staring unseeingly at the wall. Jericho wasn't there; Ric wondered if Shawn even knew that the other man had left. Shawn didn't look like he was feeling much better than Hunter... and Ric was positive that he wasn't.

The two stubborn sons of bitches might both be in the deepest denial he'd ever seen, but that didn't mean that their friends were oblivious to the situation. Or, Flair suddenly decided, how to fix it.

He pushed his chair back and stood up, determination filling him. He'd always tried to stay out of their lives, but he couldn't stand watching this anymore. And now, for the first time, they were both in positions to do something about this melodrama hanging over their heads. By God, he was going to make them do something!

****

Chris followed Hunter out the door, casting a last glance behind him at Shawn. He shook his head, wondering how the man could be so amazingly dense. It was so obvious how Hunter felt about him! Yeah, Shawn was probably scared to death to try again, but if he'd just talk to him...

Well, if Shawn wasn't going to take that step, then Chris was perfectly happy to take it for him.

He waited until they'd gotten a distance down the hallway, then called after the other man.

"Hunter! Hey! Wait up, would ya?"

He managed not to smirk when Hunter paused, turning to see who was behind him. He walked a little faster, trying not to curse his legs. He'd never felt particularly short until he'd taken up this line of work, and now he always felt like a kid. Well, short and cute came in handy sometimes. Like now, hopefully.

"What do you want, Jericho?" Hunter sounded more depressed than grumpy. He was definitely not in a sociable mood. Glancing around, Chris spotted an open door... Bischoff's office. Well, if it was empty... He took a quick look inside and nodded in satisfaction.

"I don't want anything but for you to listen to what I have to say, Trips." Taking advantage of the surprise, Jericho put a hand on Hunter's shoulder and pushed him through the door. "C'mon in here and have a seat. This could take a while."

****

Ric stopped in front of Shawn, looking down at him for a long, silent moment. He waited until the other man became aware of his presence, looking up in some bemusement. Before Shawn could speak, Ric did.

"How long are you going to play this game, Michaels?" He kept his voice harsh. Shawn blinked, taken by surprise.

"What... what do you mean?" The resigned tone of voice told Ric that Shawn knew damned well exactly what he meant, and his eyes narrowed. They'd been friends once... but Ric barely knew this defeated-looking man in front of him. Shawn's head dropped, his eyes studying the ground as he avoided meeting Ric's glare.

"This little back-and-forth you've been playing with Hunt for years now. Haven't you ever thought about just telling the man how you feel?" That got a reaction.

"What the hell do you care, Ric?" Shawn's head snapped up, his eyes flashing. "If it were that easy, don't you think I would've done it years ago?" His voice was trembling in anger. Ric cocked his head, casting a measuring look over him.

"Yeah, I do. I'm sure there were reasons why you didn't---good or bad, doesn't matter now---but there aren't any reasons not to talk to him now." His voice softened slightly as he watched Shawn wince, his shoulders slumping again.

"Because he wouldn't believe me, Ric. I... I hated him, you know." His words were almost a whisper. "I loved him for so long, and there was always something... some reason. Bret, Joanie, injuries, Stephanie... and by the time I came back, I hated him. Do you know what it's like, to love someone so much and hate them at the same time?" He paused, and Ric felt himself softening, his own anger draining away at the bone-deep hurt in Shawn's voice. "I just... I just wish that I could go back to the beginning and change it all."

Ric stared at him, wondering how many times he'd heard Hunter say something similar... always when he thought no one was listening, of course. Trying to keep his touch gentle, he reached out, putting his hand on Shawn's shoulder, and asked, "Why don't you try changing the present, Shawn?"

****

Chris shut the door behind him, leaning against it as Hunter stared at him, just waiting. Finally, Hunter exploded.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Jericho? What the fuck is so important that you have to drag me into here, of all places, and talk to me, huh?"

Shaking his head, Chris walked over to Hunter and pushed him backwards until he hit the couch, almost falling onto it.

"That attitude's a good start, but beside the point at the moment. For now, Hunter... shut the hell up." He couldn't help but smirk as he said it, but the words had their desired effect. Hunter glared at him, but stayed silent.

"Now, then. I'm sure you're going to tell me to fuck off because this is none of my business, but you'd be wrong. Do you love Shawn?" The unexpected question obviously took Hunter by surprise, and he flushed, opening his mouth before closing it again... and slowly nodded. Chris nodded himself, and continued.

"Good. Because Shawn loves you." Hunter paled at that, shaking his head in disbelief. Chris ignored him. "He's been in love with you practically since the moment he met you. I know that, by the way, because you are all he can talk about. He'll go on and on and on about how much he loves you and how many times he screwed up and how he ruined your friendship and how jealous he was of you... well, you get the point."

Taking a step forward, Chris pointed at Hunter.

"Not that you're blameless here, junior. Neither of you can communicate worth a damn, but you have to be the king of oblivious. Your own little snit fits over the years have played right in to this whole mess. I'm sure you think that Shawn hates your guts, and by all rights, he probably should... but he doesn't. He's head-over-heels in love with you for some incomprehensible reason, and he's been absolutely miserable for years because he's convinced that you hate him."

****

Wide blue eyes met Ric's, and he shook his head. "Damn, Shawn. Are you that stupid? I know you and Hunter have played this game for years now, but that doesn't mean that this is how things have to be."

"But... God, Ric, if you only knew the things I've done to him... the things I've said..." Shawn shuddered, his eyes closing momentarily.

"Probably no worse than what he's done to you," Ric replied. "This is a whole lot easier than you're making it. Do you still love him?"

Shawn stilled under his hand for a long moment, then slowly nodded.

"Then quit tearing the man's heart out every night and tell him how long he's had yours!" Ric's voice was low, but the emphasis was unmistakable. He shook his head at Shawn's disbelieving stare. "For God's sake, Shawn, he nearly tore Kane limb from limb because of what he did to you. Did you know that he had a breakdown backstage at that show? He was almost hysterical because he blamed himself for what Kane did. He wanted to visit you in the hospital, but he was sure that you blamed him, too, and was too damned scared to go."

"But... but he couldn't have known... it wasn't supposed to happen like that..."

Ric cut across Shawn's stammered whisper.

"Exactly. But that didn't stop him from blaming himself." Ric paused, debating, then decided to hit low. "You should talk to Stephanie sometime, too." Shawn just stared at him. "You're the reason she divorced Hunter."

Shawn nearly choked on that, and Ric shrugged. "You don't have to believe me, but she'll tell you if you ask. She told him that she was tired of competing with you."

****

Hunter drew in a breath before exhaling deeply. Staring at the ground, he said quietly, "I do. I did. I hate him, Chris... but I love him. He did so many things to hurt me, to hurt us, and I hate him for that. But... I've loved him since I first laid eyes on him."

Chris waited, but silence filled the room. Finally, he shrugged and knelt in front of Hunter, putting a hand on his knee.

"Then why don't you stand up, take a deep breath, stiffen your spine, and go tell him that?" he demanded. Hunter drew back from him.

"I can't, Chris. What if.--"

"Oh, for Christ's sake! I just told you, Hunter: Shawn loves you. What more do you need to know?"

Hunter paused, then met his eyes.

"Why do you care? You've been screwing him for the last year and a half, Jericho."

Chris rolled his eyes. "And that's been about the limit of it, too. I knew from the start that Shawn was hooked on somebody else... and he knew that I still had feelings for Benoit. I am not your excuse, junior. You don't have an excuse any more, and you know it. So quit squirming around in cowardice and get your ass up and out there."

****

"You've got to be kidding me, Ric. Steph loved him. And we've been friends for years. She would've said something."

"Sure, Shawn. She would've headed straight over to you and poured her heart out to the person who she felt was responsible for her marriage failing? I think not." Ric clapped Shawn on the shoulder and took a step back.

"Hunter loves you, Shawn. Hell, I think at this point everybody but you knows that. So what's your excuse now for not talking to him?" He leaned in close, and said, "And don't even try to use CJ. I know him and Benoit are back together... and I'm pretty sure I know where he's at right now. What's it gonna be, Shawn?"

Speechless, Shawn stared at him for another long minute, then sighed. "I guess... I guess you're right. But... Ric, I'm terrified here. I've screwed up every relationship I've ever had. I don't want that to happen now."

"It can't get much more screwed up than what it is now," Ric said pointedly. Shawn winced, then nodded, but didn't make a move to stand up. Stifling the impulse to slap him, Ric said, "If you'd rather be miserable, I'm sure I can convince Steph to try again. She still loves him, y'know. But she was willing to let him go to be happy with you. If that's not going to happen..." He let his words trail off meaningfully. Obviously stung, Shawn stood up.

"Fine. I... I'll go talk to Hunter." He took in a long, shaky breath and turned toward the door before stopping to look back at Ric. "And if this doesn't work, Ric..."

He shrugged. "Come pound on me, cry on me, whatever. Just talk to the man... please." Shawn looked at him, nodded, and walked purposefully, if unsteadily, out the door.

Ric grinned.

****

Watching Hunter squirm was just too much fun, Chris decided. The man knew he was caught, knew he didn't have an option, but he was still twisting around trying to find a way out.

"Why would Shawn listen to me? He's still got you," Hunter finally tried. Chris laughed, enjoying the surprise on Hunter's face.

"Not any more, junior. As of today, Shawn and I are over." His voice softened unintentionally as he continued, "Benoit and I... we've talked. And let me tell you, Hunter; if Chris and I could get over our fucked-up past, so can you and Shawn. But you have to want it---you have to try."

He watched Hunter turn that around in his head for a few minutes before getting impatient. Chris was waiting for him, after all, and probably wondering where the hell he was. It wasn't like he'd planned on playing yenta for these two stubborn assclowns.

"C'mon, Hunter. There's nothing to think about here. The only risk you're taking is in waiting too long. He may just decide that he's finally had enough and move on." Yeah, right. After almost a decade? Not likely, but he wasn't about to point that out. "Get your ass in gear, junior. If I have to lock you in a room with Shawn, I will."

Hunter obviously wasn't too certain of how to take that, but seemed to reach some kind of decision. He stood up, looking at least better than he had ten minutes ago.

"Okay. I'll do it, Jericho. But first... you have to get out of my way."

Taken by surprise himself, Chris couldn't stop the grin that swept over his face, and stepped to the side, opening the door with a flourish.

"After you, Hunt. After you."

Hunter shook his head and walked out with a determined gait.

Jericho stood in the hallway watching him, and chuckled. "Wish I could be there to watch this one..." he muttered, then headed off to find Benoit.

~ finis ~

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