"Hammers & Handcuffs"

By Penumbren

Disclaimer: No one is mine, darn it. But I'd happily buy HBK if they were selling him.
Distribution: ask first
Rating: R-ish (for subject matter)
Characters: Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Triple H, Kevin Nash
Content: Lotsa angst, lotsa mushiness. Spoilers for the 4/7/03 RAW.

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Chris made himself take a breath, watching Hunter heft the sledgehammer in his hands, a wicked grin on his lips. He forced a matching sneer to his face. Ric stood just behind him, also smirking, but Chris could hear him mutter, "It'll be okay, kid. Don't worry." He nodded slightly to acknowledge it, but his attention was centered on the man sprawled in front of them, already bleeding from the forehead and handcuffed to the ring ropes---totally helpless. His lover.

He watched as Shawn tugged futilely at the cuffs, looking utterly frightened at his situation. After all, his three biggest enemies had him completely at their mercy. /And what an absolutely beautiful sight,/ Chris's mind supplied. He forced the thought away, shifting as he tried to quell his body's reaction to the thought. Shawn caught his eye and winked slightly at him, and Chris had to force himself not to smile in return. /Vince'd have my head if I broke character on live t.v. But... / The frown that appeared on his face as he watched Shawn react to Hunter's taunts was real. /Something's not right. He's really tense over this. He agreed to it... said he'd be fine... but something's wrong./

Barely noticing Hunter's taunting, Chris's attention was on the sledgehammer in his erstwhile partner's hands as he started to raise it above his head. When a sudden blare of music hit, his start of surprise wasn't faked; he'd been so caught up in the moment that he'd forgotten Kevin's cue. He glared at the figure running down the ramp, hiding the relief that washed over him as he ducked to the side and out of the ring, out of Kevin's way as he hit the ring "just in time" to rescue Shawn. /Everything went according to the script, but something's not right about it./ He frowned in thought as he limped dramatically up the ramp. He couldn't help but glance back at the ring, just to reassure himself that Shawn was all right. His eyes met Shawn's, and Shawn grinned cockily at him; he glared in return, knowing Shawn would see the relief behind the look.

He nearly ran into Hunter as he walked through the curtain. He'd dropped his "Triple H" persona and was waiting near the gorilla position, openly eager as he watched Kevin on the monitor. Chris had to laugh.

"Hunter, it's not like he's got better things to do after this than find you," he teased, much more at ease around Hunter these days. Hunter rolled his eyes, but otherwise didn't look away from the monitor. "I thought Kevin got in last night---didn't you get to see each other?" Hunter's shoulders slumped slightly as he finally looked over at Chris.

"Nope. He got in in the middle of the night and spent all day either in meetings or at the gym. When I got here, Vince had him cornered in a meeting with the writers. By the time that was over, I had to get ready for our spot." Chris nodded sympathetically.

"Well, at least you've got the next couple days off. You can make up for a little lost time," he offered, joining Hunter at the monitor. Hunter looked at him, an odd expression on his face.

"You didn't like the scene tonight, did you?" It wasn't really a question, but Chris slowly shook his head.

"No, I didn't. I mean, I know you weren't really gonna hit Shawn with the sledgehammer, but... I didn't like it. Something about it just didn't seem right," he admitted, looking at the floor.

"Don't worry, Chris. We all get nervous about scenes like that, especially when it's somebody we care about." Ric's voice startled him, and he turned around.

"I know... it's just... well, different now, y'know?" He and Shawn hadn't hidden their relationship, but it had barely been a week. Hesitantly, he asked, "Do you ever get used to it?" Ric shrugged.

"Not really. I didn't, anyway... but you get used to having to deal with it. Force yourself to do it and move on."

Any reply Chris might've had was cut off by a sudden frustrated outburst from Hunter.

"Goddammit, how long is that man going to talk?" Chris and Ric grinned at each other and Ric shook his head, slapping Chris on the shoulder before heading down the hall.

"You've known him for how long, Hunter? Even I've figured out that he likes to run his mouth," Chris said with a smirk. Hunter glared at him, but was cut off himself.

"Not as much as your man likes to, though." The low rumble brought both Chris and Hunter's attention back to the curtain, just in time to see Kevin grin at them before wrapping an arm around Hunter and leaning in to kiss him. /Wow./ Chris had to take a deep breath, watching the two of them. He didn't see Shawn beside him until an arm snaked around his waist.

"Little distracted, boy?" The soft drawl made Chris shudder, and he turned, Shawn's smile sending warmth through him.

"God, I love you," he murmured, smiling himself at Shawn's surprised blink. He took a few steps backward, out of the way, taking Shawn with him. Before Shawn could say anything else, he pulled him close, kissing him hard. When he pulled back a moment later, Shawn cocked his head at him.

"Anything in particular bring that on, or was it just random?" Shawn's smile was evident in his voice, and Chris returned it, shaking his head. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hunter and Kevin leaving, arms still wrapped around each other.

"Just random." He eyed Shawn, trying to figure out what that strange tension in the ring had been about, but saw no trace of it. /Hmmm. I guess I'll just have to keep my eyes open. I know he won't tell me what was wrong if I ask; the man is like a clam sometimes./ "Just felt like I needed to say it, especially after that scene." Shawn's smile faltered for the briefest instant, but he covered it with a shrug.

"Anytime you feel like saying it, babe, I'll feel like hearing it." Chris's lips quirked at that.

"Really? Well, I'll remember that next time I have to interrupt one of your speeches." Before Shawn could respond, he said, "C'mon. Let's get to the locker room and get cleaned up. I'm starving." Shawn shook his head with a laugh, but followed him down the hall.


/Damn, that's good,/ Kevin thought with deep satisfaction as he tasted Hunter's mouth for the first time in far too long. Finally pulling back, he smiled at Hunter. "Miss me a little?"

"God, yeah. Like crazy." Hunter's voice was a little breathless as he leaned his head against Kevin's chest. Kevin could feel him shudder at the contact, and had to remind himself that they were in a very public place. /But god, I'm looking forward to getting him in private./

"Don't ever do that to yourself again, okay?"

Kevin laughed, wrapping his arms around Hunter. "Well, sure, I'll try not to---but only if you promise the same thing." Hunter rolled his eyes and looked up at Kevin, suddenly serious.

"Kev... you know I love you, right?" Kevin nodded.

"Love you too, Hunter," he said. Hunter smiled, but Kevin was puzzled as Hunter drew him down the hall toward the locker room, stopping near the door but far enough away to have some privacy.

"Hunt, what's up? Something wrong?" he finally prompted. Hunter hesitated a moment, then sighed, running a hand through his hair.

"Not with me." He paused again, then looked at Kevin as a sudden thought struck him. "You know Shawn kept me company while you were out, right?" Kevin frowned again.

"I'd certainly hope he did. You're not feeling some weird kind of guilt about it, are you?" Hunter shook his head.

"Hell, no. But... I dunno." He lowered his voice a bit, glancing behind them before he said, "Kev, did you get a good look at Shawn tonight?"

"Yeah. He looked fine. Looked pretty damned good, actually. Why?"

"No, not back here. In the ring. Did you get a good look at him in the ring tonight?"

"Not really. Why, something wrong?" Kevin tilted his head, frowning down at his lover.

Hunter snorted. "Something wrong? What could possibly be wrong about Shawn being handcuffed and completely helpless?" He looked pointedly up at Kevin.

"Oh, god..." Kevin groaned, suddenly realising what Hunter was getting at. /How could I have been so stupid?/ Hunter nodded.

"Exactly. He was obviously trying to shrug it off---but he was really terrified. That wasn't acting. Chris picked up that something wasn't quite right, but he doesn't seem to have realised what was wrong. And..." Hunter paused, looking around them again. "Kev, he was turned on."

"What?" Kevin stared at him. "You can't be suggesting..." Hunter nodded again.

"I am. I think Chris didn't notice because he was trying so hard not to freak out about the whole scene. But Shawn was incredibly turned on, Kev. Some part of him was enjoying it---and I think that's part of why he was so scared. I was close enough to him that he couldn't hide it from me." He paused, frowning slightly. "I mean, he's been able to joke about handcuffs and stuff, but that's always been it, until tonight."

"Jesus. Well... maybe he's finally going to try to deal with it?" Kevin wondered, his attention diverted for the moment. /This'd be a good time for it, what with this new thing with Jericho and all.../

Hunter started to answer, but instead turned his head and smiled over Kevin's shoulder. "Hey, Shawn, Chris." They nodded at him, pausing as they came abreast of the other two men. Kevin looked closely at Shawn, noticing his slight flush and the increased pulse that was fluttering in his throat... and the unmistakable bulge in Shawn's tight jeans.

"Hey, Shawn... can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked casually. Shawn blinked, then glanced at Chris.

"I'll be just a minute...?" Chris smiled and kissed him, nodding at the others as he headed into the locker room. Hunter glanced at Kevin, then followed Chris inside.

"So, what's up?" Shawn crossed his arms and leaned against the wall, trying to look casual. Kevin could tell it was just a pose, though. Shawn was practically exuding waves of nervousness.

"Not much, really. Just wanted to make sure you were okay---what with the scene and all. Hunter was worried that maybe the handcuffs had been... hard for you." Kevin kept his voice casual, not wanting to push Shawn. Shawn's eyes narrowed and he pushed himself upright to glare at Kevin.

"So Hunter's afraid that I can't handle things, huh?" he growled. Kevin shook his head.

"No. He was just... concerned. About your reaction to it." Shawn obviously hadn't been expecting that. His eyes widened and some of the arrogance dropped from his pose.

"What... what reaction?" His voice wasn't as steady as it had been a moment earlier, Kevin noticed. /Damn. I think Hunt's right. This could get messy./ He glanced around, making sure that they were unobserved before leaning in to Shawn.

"This one," he said quietly as he pressed a hand firmly against that tell-tale bulge in Shawn's jeans. A low moan escaped Shawn as his hips bucked against the touch, but he almost immediately bit his lip and backed up, glaring at Kevin.

"What the hell was that?" Shawn hissed, sounding more mortified than angry. Kevin looked at him closely, seeing his widened eyes and shallow breathing.

"That's the reaction Hunter was worried about, Shawn. He noticed it in the ring." Kevin kept his voice steady. Shawn flushed, but before he could say anything, Kevin continued. "He doesn't think Chris noticed, if that's what you're worried about. But Shawn... don't you think it's about time to... deal with things? You can't let this haunt you for the rest of your life." Shawn's eyes closed and he slumped back against the wall, not even trying to pretend that he didn't know what Kevin was talking about.

"It's easy for you to say that, Kevin. But you don't understand. It's not something I can just say, "Okay, I'm done now," and let go of." His voice dropped nearly to a whisper. I still... I still have dreams about it, sometimes."

"Hey." Kevin gentled his voice as he pulled Shawn into an embrace. "You know that if anyone understands, I do. I know it's not easy, but... it's hard on us, too, watching you suffer." He paused, debating, then shrugged. "It's not an uncommon reaction, you know, especially with that kind of setup. Most people get turned on to some extent by that kind of public display."

Shawn laughed bitterly. "But not many people have the sort of experience I have, do they, Kev? I have reasons for not wanting to "deal with" things."

"You're right. But Shawn... look, if you ever decide you want to take that step... I'd be glad to help however I can."

Shawn smiled a little at that. "Anything to get your hands on me again, huh?" Kevin smiled back, relieved at the turn in attitude.

"Something like that. But I think I'd need to check with someone first." He tilted his head toward the doorway, where Chris was poking his head around the corner, clearly wondering what was taking so long. Shawn did smile at that, and nodded.

"Yeah, I think you would. And... I think it would take a while before he'd say yes." Kevin raised an eyebrow.

"New to the Clique idea, huh? Well, I don't blame him for not wanting to share." He hugged Shawn and dropped a quick kiss on top of his head before letting him go. He watched Shawn head to Chris, saw the doubtful glance that Chris threw his way before kissing Shawn. He sighed. /Hopefully this won't come between them. I haven't seen him this happy in a long time./

With a shrug, he headed into the locker room to find his own lover. /It's been too damned long since I've had Hunter to myself,/ he thought, already planning all the ways he was going to keep Hunter awake that night.


/Dammit, dammit, dammit!/ Shawn thought viciously as he stared at the ceiling. Chris was curled up next to him, and Shawn's lips curved involuntarily into a smile as he looked down at his lover, who was completely relaxed and smiling a little in his sleep. He reached over and ran a gentle finger along Chris's cheek. /He should be worn out,/ Shawn smiled to himself, remembering their intense lovemaking hours earlier. But as that memory led to others, the smile dropped from his face, a frown taking its place.

/I should be worn out, too. Damn Kevin anyway!/ Knowing, even as he thought it, that he couldn't lay the blame for his current problem at anyone's feet but his own. /Well, mine---and Marty's,/ he amended, an old familiar pain wringing his body at the name. He pushed it away, as he'd done so many times, for so long.

He thought back to scene earlier that night, of being handcuffed to the ring rope---and being incredibly turned on. Chris had gotten the benefits of that, but the emotional turmoil it had caused him was keeping him awake now. /There's no way I'm going to be able to sleep at this rate./

Finally, with a quiet curse, he got of bed, careful not to wake Chris. He pulled on his clothes in the darkened room and let himself out of the room, making sure that the door closed silently behind him.

Once he was standing in front of Kevin and Hunter's door, however, he was caught in an argument with himself. /I don't want to interrupt them---this is the first time they've had to themselves in months./ The shiver of heat that ran through his body at the thought of his two friends told him that he was lying to himself. /Dammit. I don't want to have sex with them! Not right now, anyway. All that would do is make things worse. But I really need to talk to Kevin./ He sighed. /But Kev will tell me that I need to try it again with someone I know I can trust---him, probably. Or see a therapist./ He snorted at that. /Not damned likely. I don't know if talking to them will help... but I guess it can't hurt./

Gathering his courage, he raised his hand and knocked on the door. After a minute, there was some muffled noise, and then Kevin was opening the door, dressed in a pair of sweats, concern on his face.

"You okay?" he asked, but as Shawn started to answer, he found his throat clogged with unexpected tears, his emotions overwhelming him. He shook his head mutely and met Kevin's concerned gaze, suddenly needing nothing more than to be held. Kevin held out his arms and Shawn fell into his embrace with a soft, pained noise, letting Kevin draw him inside the room and toward the bed. He couldn't stop the shaking that overcame him and he couldn't seem to find his voice, although he tried.

"Did something happen?" Kevin asked gently. Shawn shook his head, not able to answer. His normal arrogant pose had deserted him.

"That scene tonight did get to you, didn't it?" Hunter asked quietly from his position on the bed next to them. Shawn nodded, trying to speak.

"Shh, shh. It's okay, baby. I know. I know how scared you were. It's okay," Kevin murmured, rocking slightly. Shawn clung to him, shaking uncontrollably, his mind suddenly overwhelmed with fear and pain, both real and remembered, and too upset and confused to sort through any of it. He felt Hunter's arm slide across his back and he was aware of Kevin continuing to murmur comforting nothings in his ear, but none of it seemed quite real. The stress he'd tried so hard to ignore took over, and he closed his eyes, trying to work past the images and feelings that were haunting him.


/Damn it. I knew he was trying too hard to pretend everything was all right./ Hunter met Kevin's eyes over the top of Shawn's head as he wrapped his arms around the two of them. Shawn was too upset to even speak, and the way he was shaking... /I've got to remember that he's more vulnerable than he pretends. He's acted like he was fine for so long, I think he even believed it... until tonight threw everything back in his face./

Hunter stroked Shawn's back, half-listening to Kevin's murmurs, until Shawn finally calmed down enough to stop shaking and take a long, shuddering breath. He saw Shawn wipe at his eyes as he raised his head to look at Kevin, whispering hoarsely, "Thank you." Kevin smiled slightly and brushed the hair out of Shawn's eyes, smoothing it across his shoulders.

"You're welcome. But no thanks necessary, Shawn. I love you," Kevin said quietly. Hunter had to blink away the sudden moisture in his eyes as he watched Shawn have to blink away tears of his own at those words.

"Love you too, big guy." Shawn's voice sounded rusty and he cleared his throat as Hunter leaned over and kissed his cheek. He brought a hand up to rest on Shawn's shoulder, letting him take his time.

"So... what brought that on?" Kevin asked after a lengthy silence. Hunter felt Shawn take a deep breath, resting his head on Kevin's shoulder again.

"Tonight. The handcuffs. The people watching. Chris." Shawn laughed softly, but Hunter could hear the bitterness in the sound. "We had incredible sex tonight, Kev. Some of the best I've had in a long time, in fact. And it's because I got turned on by being publicly handcuffed and beaten." Hunter clearly saw the fear in Shawn's eyes as he looked at Kevin again. "That... that doesn't make me like him, does it?" The emphasis on "him" was obvious. "It doesn't... it doesn't mean that I... I liked what he did to me? Or... or that he could... he could tell, somehow? God, Kevin... I feel almost... dirty. And broken. I think he broke something in me," Shawn finished in a whisper, a small sob escaping him.

Hunter's heart constricted, watching as Shawn, always so strong, so confident, crumbled right in front of him. The person in front of him wasn't someone he saw often, and he hated that Shawn had been reduced to such a wreck. /If I ever get my hands on him.../ he thought fiercely, fully expecting the matching anger that he saw in Kevin's eyes.

"Baby, you're not broken, and you're not dirty," Kevin soothed, gently rubbing Shawn's back. "And no, what happened tonight doesn't mean that you enjoyed what Marty did to you, or that you asked for it. It has nothing to do with him, baby. It just means that you happen to share a turn on with a lot of other people, one that doesn't get talked about much." Shawn looked at him disbelievingly.

"Like who? Other broken people?" he whispered miserably. Hunter's heart wrenched at the soft words. Kevin's eyes closed for a second before he answered.

"No, baby. You're not broken." Kevin hesitated, then said softly, "He may have hurt you, maybe even damaged you, but you're too strong to be broken." He sighed. "And as for who else might get off on that sort of thing... most of the people you work with, for a start. I don't know any wrestler who doesn't get at least a little bit excited just by being in the ring, and more of them than you might think get off on the pain. Haven't you ever noticed Rocky after a match? Or Kurt? Hell, even Mark likes it. I know you've seen the effect it has on Hunter."

Hunter blushed a little as Shawn looked at him, but he nodded. "He's right, Shawn. There are times when I get backstage and just have to get off somehow, from things in the ring. You've seen the effects of that, more than once." He paused, debating, then admitted, "There are times when I almost don't make it backstage, you know. That match we had at Summerslam..." He smiled a little at the shock on Shawn's face. "You didn't think it was just adrenaline, did you? If it had been, we wouldn't have gotten past kissing once it wore off. I, uh... I don't think about it much, but...." He shrugged, a little uncomfortable at the admission, but added, "I've never minded the pain. There are times when I enjoy it." When Kevin snorted, he shrugged. "Okay, there are times when I love the pain. But it depends on the situation. Would you have reacted the same way tonight if, say, Glenn were the one beating on you?"

Shawn blinked, and slowly shook his head. "No. I probably would've just been scared. I... I've never thought of it that way before."

"Maybe you should," Kevin said. "It might help you start accepting it. Maybe you're ready to accept that you're not broken or dirty for liking certain things. You're sure as hell not like Marty, Shawn---you don't like hurting people just for the sake of hurting, do you?" Shawn shuddered and shook his head.

"But... you're not like him, either... except you are," Shawn frowned, confused. Kevin shook his head.

"Not really. If you'd ever been able to let me explain, or to watch me and Scotty sometime---and I know why you couldn't, Shawn. It's okay," he soothed as Shawn looked hurt. He kissed him on the forehead before going on. "But if you could have, you would've seen that I don't do anything my partner doesn't want me to do. There are limits, and safewords, and there are some things I just won't do. Marty... Marty just liked to hurt people. There was nothing mutual in it, except by accident. What I do, when I do it, is for both people, to make sure we're both enjoying it."

"But how can you enjoy something like that?" The bewilderment and lingering hurt in Shawn's voice were obvious, and Hunter leaned forward.

"I don't know if there is an explanation, Shawn. Kevin and I... we don't play the type of games that he and Scotty played. But there are times when we... get into a different space." Hunter knew his words weren't enough as he spoke, but he wasn't sure how to explain without showing, and he knew Shawn would freak out at the thought. Shawn's confused look deepened, and Kevin spoke, his eyes conveying his appreciation for Hunter's attempt.

"I think maybe you should talk to Scotty sometime, Shawn. It would give you some insight." Kevin paused, then said slowly, "Or... maybe asking yourself that question would help. You're not like Scott---you don't have the mindset, as far as I can tell. But there are definite elements of it in you, if you could get past being afraid of it."


/In me? There can't be!/ Shawn thought frantically, hiding his face against Kevin's chest again. But his own mind taunted him. /Really? Then why did that scene get to you so much earlier? Why did Hunter hitting you give you a thrill? Why were you almost ready to explode by the time Kev got those handcuffs off you?/ He shook his head, hating himself for his weakness, for not being able to deal with this without falling apart.

"I don't... I don't know anymore, Kev. I'm so damned confused... and I'm tired of it," he said after struggling with his emotions for a few moments. "I'm nowhere near ready to experiment---with you or anyone else." He looked almost defensively at Kevin, surprised at Kev's shrug.

"You may never be, Shawn. Or you may feel ready for it tomorrow. It doesn't really matter. But if you can accept that there is a part of you that enjoys being dominated, you'll be better off than you have been."

Shawn's heart thudded wildly in his chest at Kevin's words. /Dominated? But I don't.../ But the memory of his arousal at being in the handcuffs earlier that night stopped his own protest before he could even finish it.

"I... I don't know if I can do that, Kevin. It... it's too much like admitting that I liked what Marty did to me." He cursed himself for the break in his voice.

"What Marty did and what you need to start accepting are two entirely different things, Shawn." Kevin paused for a long moment, and Shawn could see that he was debating with himself. "What Marty did... that was rape, Shawn, plain and simple. You may have agreed to it initially, but what he did, in going beyond what you'd agreed to and making sure that you had no choice... that was rape. The trappings may have been exotic, but what happened wasn't."

There was a long silence. Shawn's mind seized on the one word, his body feeling almost numb for a minute. It took him a few tries before he could speak again.

"I've spent a decade denying that word, Kevin," he finally whispered. /I've never... never called it that. But.../

"I know, baby. But there it is. If you can't deal with anything else right now, please---try to deal with that. You've gotten past the immediate effects, but it's obvious that you've never really dealt with the guilt. You've spent ten years blaming yourself for something that you had no choice in." Kevin's voice was gentle, but Shawn could hear a thread of anger in it and shivered, even knowing that the anger wasn't aimed at him. "You were raped, Shawn. It's a nasty, brutal word for a nasty, brutal act. If you can start to accept that, I think a lot of your confusion about what happened tonight will resolve itself. What he did to you, and how you reacted tonight, are two separate things."

Shawn stared sightlessly at the wall behind Kevin's head for a few minutes, turning Kevin's words over in his head. /Well... how hard can it be?/

Taking a long, deep breath, Shawn said haltingly, "I... I was... r... raped."

/Okay, so a lot harder than I thought,/ Shawn thought somewhat wildly, not prepared for the rush of emotion that nearly swamped him. Blinking hard, a soft noise from the side caught his attention. /How strange. Hunter's crying. Why is he crying?/ The thought was almost abstract, and he didn't realise that he'd spoken it out loud until Hunter answered him.

"Because I love you, Shawn. I'm so damned proud of you." His voice was shaky, but he was smiling. Shawn reached out and wiped the tears from Hunter's face, before kissing him soundly.

"I love you too, Hunter... you big softie." He looked from Hunter to Kevin for a moment before speaking again. "I guess... I never realised how much what affects me, affects you." He laughed softly. "After everything we went through with Scotty and Sean, I should've known better... but..." Kevin interrupted him with a finger on his lips.

"But it's easy to see other people's problems. It's not so easy to see your own." Kevin smiled. "I'm proud of you, too, baby. That was awfully brave of you."

"Thanks. I... I can't promise that I'll ever be able to deal with the... domination thing. But..." Shawn took a breath. "I was raped. I think I can deal with that. The concept, I mean. You're right in that I've already dealt with a lot of the aftereffects... with you guys around, not being physical isn't really an option." He smiled fondly at Kevin. "But wrapping my mind around the difference between the... rape... and the... trappings, I guess you called them, may take a while."

"However long you need, baby. If you need me, I'll be here for you," Kevin said softly. "It won't be easy."

"I know."

"If you need either of us, Shawn, just ask," Hunter added quietly. Shawn smiled at both of them. It was a quavery smile, but a real one.

"I just... I don't know how to tell Chris. He needs to know," Shawn frowned. Hunter put a hand on his shoulder.

"Give it some time. You won't be able to tell him until you can tell yourself. And he won't stop loving you, Shawn. He loves you because of who you are---knowing that something bad happened to you doesn't change that."

"Yeah, I know. I'm not worried about that, honestly... I just don't want him to think I'm hiding things from him."

"So don't. Just tell him as much as you can, when you can. He'll understand if you tell him that you're still trying to deal with things," Hunter offered.

"I guess so. I'll just have to deal with it as it comes up." Shawn took a breath and released it slowly. He looked at the other two, a sudden thought striking him. "Oh, for... did I interrupt you two when I knocked?"

Hunter laughed, and Kevin looked a little abashed.

"Nah. Big Sexy here had all sorts of plans---which worked beautifully---but all you interrupted was some cuddling," Hunter smiled.

"Good. I'm sorry I barged in on your first night together..."Shawn started, but Kevin stopped him.

"No, you don't. If you weren't welcome, I wouldn't have let you in. So none of that. Besides, this was important," Kevin said seriously.

"Thank you. Both of you. Now..." Shawn stood up, rubbing his eyes. "I've got this really hot blond waiting in my bed who I need to get back to." His smirk was a little shaky, but solid.

/Never thought HBK would be so useful outside the ring,/ Shawn thought ruefully, drawing on that confidence. Kevin and Hunter both smiled at him, recognizing what he was doing. He hugged them both, then headed back to his own room, his thoughts serious but his step much lighter than it had been earlier.

He slipped back into bed, spooning up behind Chris, who was still soundly asleep. As he looked at the face of his sleeping lover, he felt a smile slide across his face. /The past is the past. No matter what, I will deal with it. But... my future is right here./ He lifted Chris's hair and kissed the back of his neck as he draped an arm across his chest. He fell almost immediately into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

~ finis ~

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