"Well, Chris, I appreciate that fact that you took time out of your demanding schedule to meet with us tonight. I feel that we're very close to reaching an agreement."
Chris Jericho shook Vince McMahon's extended hand firmly, biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing as he nodded agreeably. "Absolutely, Vince. Very close."
A faint hint of laughter may have crept into his voice there, but Vince didn't seem to notice as he sank back into his leather chair. "Excellent. I'm sure the WWE fans would be thrilled to see Chris Jericho back in action sooner rather than later."
Chris nodded again, shaking hands with the two members of the writing staff in the room. "Nice to meet you, Bill and..." Ted? That surely couldn't be right...
"Tom," the young man supplied helpfully.
"Tom. Right. Well, thanks for flying me down here, Vince. It was definitely...an excellent adventure. I'll call you later." Chris managed to slip out of the room and close the door behind him before breaking into laughter.
Tommy Dreamer looked up from the backstage monitor he was watching, automatically breaking into an smile of his own. "Dude, what's so funny? You coming back or what?"
Chris snorted, still chuckling. "Sure. Just as soon as they figure out a storyline for me that doesn't sound like it was written by dyslexic monkeys on PCP." His laughter redoubled at Tommy's disappointed look.
"In other words, when pigs fly."
"When hell freezes over," Chris agreed.
"When Vince admits he was wrong about something."
"When HHH asks to put me over clean."
"When Kane starts wearing a tutu to the ring."
Chris hushed him, casting a melodramatically worried glance at the door to Vince's office. "Don't give them any ideas. They already suggested a 'complete character makeover' for me."
Tommy stared at him. "For real? They wanted you to--"
"Play heel. Ditch the flashy clothes and the 'comedy gimmick.'"
Tommy physically cringed at the idea. "Right, because why would they want the fans cheering the long-awaited return of one of the most popular superstars ever?" he asked sarcastically. "I'm sorry, man."
"Hey, it's cool. I'm keeping myself busy with Fozzy anyway."
"Yeah, that's good. The writing staff lately...well, they're calling this ECW, you know what I mean?" Tommy gestured toward the monitor.
Chris had a sarcastic response for that, but abandoned it at the genuine sadness in Tommy's eyes. "I'm sorry," he murmured instead.
"It's just...you were in Philly. You know." Tommy shrugged, shaking himself out of it. "That's the business. Hey, I've gotta get dressed for a match; it was great to see you, though."
"You, too." A quick hug later, Chris lingered by the monitor as Tommy walked off. He stared at the screen, trying to reconcile the grainy ECW promos he remembered with the slick WWE-style packages in front of him. Not all the changes were for the worse, he recognized, but that didn't eradicate the nostalgia.
He frowned as a wrestler he didn't recognize came on the screen, wearing a jacket that could've been scraped off any rural highway in America. "And the writers told me the 'flashy' look was outdated," he muttered to himself.
"For a look to be outdated," a voice behind him replied, "It had to be in style at some point. I'm not sure I ever saw that jacket on the cover of Vogue."
Jericho snorted, turning to acknowledge a tall, dark-haired wrestler slouched against the wall, arms folded over his chest. His eyes ran over the baggy black warm-up jacket, tights, and kneepads, hesitating slightly on the black fingernails. "And you look like the type with a Vogue subscription."
The young man smirked. "Never miss an issue," he claimed, moving forward and extending a hand. "CM Punk."
"Chris Jericho," Chris replied automatically, shaking his hand. Punk maintained his smirk, but didn't comment, so Chris turned back to the monitor. "You know this douche-nozzle?"
"John Morrison. Number one contender to the ECW heavyweight title."
" 'John' Morrison?" Chris rolled his eyes. "Who's he fighting for the title...'Mike' Jagger?"
Punk laughed quietly, recrossing his arms. "I've been compared to a lot of guys, but Mick Jagger's a new one," he confided.
"You're the champ?" Chris asked in surprise, stealing another glance at his companion. He didn't exactly fit the WWE mold. Nice legs, though, Chris noted.
"That's what they tell me. Haven't been following the show, huh?"
"I catch RAW on every once in a blue moon," Chris admitted. "I avoid Smackdown! like the plague. And I tried watching ECW once and decided I would rather swallow my own tongue. No offense," he added quickly.
Punk's smile never flickered. "None taken." He nodded back to the screen as Morrison wrapped up his promo. " 'Shaman of sexy' kind of sounds like one of your old lines."
Chris scowled. "Yeah, if every ounce of charisma was surgically removed from my body and set on fire before I delivered it. Was he always this dull, or did all that hair bleach strip his personality, too?"
"Careful," Punk warned, dropping into a stage whisper. "He's got his own little fan club on the writing staff."
"He doesn't need a fan club, he needs a sandwich," Chris insisted. "He looks like Mary-Kate Olsen in drag. I'm getting bulimic just looking at his stomach."
"Oh, don't do that," Punk responded quickly. "Just think how upset the readers of Tiger Beat will be to hear that the Ayatollah of Rock-and-Rolla has fallen by the wayside."
Chris waved a hand dismissively. "I needed something tragic for the 'Fozzy: Behind the Music' special anyway."
"Just get a drinking problem like everybody else. You've already lost too much weight since you left."
Chris looked down at himself in surprise. "I've lost a little. Is it that noticeable?"
Punk shrugged, looking away for the first time in the conversation. "I was just watching some old tapes of you last week. It's probably not that noticeable otherwise."
"What tapes?" Chris asked, brow furrowing in confusion.
"A little bit of everything. I mostly wanted to see the 1995 Super J Cup finals. I hadn't gotten around to them yet."
"Really? You didn't see them at the time?"
"Itwas '95," Punk explained. "I was sixteen, and I was kind of busy with school."
Chris looked down, shaking his head and muttering under his breath. "You were sixteen in 1995?" he finally repeated. Punk nodded. "Jesus. You were probably going to proms while I was winning championships halfway around the world. And now you've got a belt of your own. You sure know how to make a guy feel old, kid."
To his surprise, Punk laughed at that. "I do what I can. The Undertaker hasn't quite figured out text messages yet, so I send one to him every night. He honestly thinks his phone is trying to communicate with him. And then I go and build fake Triple H MySpace pages where he professes his undying love of furry porn and Britney Spears."
Chris burst into laughter so loud it echoed against the high ceilings of the room. "You...you--" Another fit of hilarity overtook him before he could catch his breath, and he nearly collapsed onto the floor.
"Shh..." Punk moved forward, putting a hand on Chris waist to steady him, barely fighting off laughter of his own. "You can't tell anybody, you know. I still have a job here, and I'd like to keep it a while longer."
Finally pulling in a gasping breath, Chris tossed his head back to look up at Punk. "I won't say a word," he promised, as solemnly as possible. "You know, Punk, the writing staff and guys like John Morrison aside...with guys like you as champion, I think wrestling's going to be just fine."
"Why, thank you," Punk acknowledged, his smile widening. "Coming from the King of the World and all, that means a lot."
"You're welcome," Chris answered, flushing slightly as he noticed Punk's hand still resting on his waist. He glanced back up at the taller man and was immediately caught in a surprisingly intense stare. His smile fading, Chris swallowed hard and pulled back a step, letting Punk's hand fall to his side.
"I, uh..." Chris glanced at the screen, hoping Morrison was still there waiting to be mocked, but no such luck. Damn.
"You probably need to get going," Punk supplied helpfully. "Your plane--"
"Isn't until tomorrow," Chris blurted.
Punk smiled slowly, running a hand through his hair. "So...I guess you're pretty busy tonight, but--"
"Busy" was an understatement. He hadn't seen most of the boys in forever, and he had been looking forward to catching up with them. Jeff had even picked up tickets for a late-night local concert, and..."Not at all," he lied, unsuccessfully trying to tuck some of his shortened hair behind his ear out of habit. "Do you want to go out and grab a few drinks with me, maybe?"
Punk's smile wavered. "I'm...I don't really--"
Wow, read that one wrong. Chris heaved an internal sigh, but kept his smile in place. "That's cool. Maybe some other time."
Punk grabbed Chris' upper arm just as he started to turn away, then immediately released him. "Sorry, I just meant..." He blew out a deep breath of air, looking annoyed at himself. "I don't drink, but if you still want to go out, I'd love to come."
"Oh." Chris stared at him for a moment, then shook his head to clear it. "Yeah, we should do that. I can give you some time to shower and stuff, and then pick you up back at the hotel, if that works."
"That sounds great," Punk answered, sounding relieved. "I'm in room 452 right across the street from here. Just come up whenever you're ready."
"Absolutely. Great to meet you," Chris added. He walked away smiling, jabbing a few buttons on his cell phone as he turned down the hall. "Jeff?" he said into the receiver, straining to be heard over the thumping music on the other end. "It's Chris. Listen, what can you tell me about CM Punk?"
Chris was staring at the door to room 452 exactly one hour after the show ended, wondering if an hour was enough time for Punk to shower and change. He didn't look like the type of guy who spent hours in front of a mirror, but then again, maybe he worked really hard for the casual look. Maybe he spent hours getting that dark lock of hair to fall across his eyebrow ring just perfect. In which case, Chris reasoned, I should probably go change again, maybe put on those leather pants instead of his jeans. Or maybe that was a very bad idea, since even that fleeting thought about Punk in the shower had made the crotch of his jeans uncomfortably confining, and leather had a tendency to show things like that.
Fuck it, he decided, knocking quickly before he had a chance to consider it further. There was some muffled thumping inside the room before the door swung open.
"Hey." Punk's eyes swept over him, apparently pleased with what they found. "Come on in, I'm just about ready."
Chris slipped past him, laughing as he stumbled against a pile of clothing partially obscuring Punk's gym bag, haphazardly placed at the foot of the bed. "You drag all this around on the road with you?"
"It helps keep me in shape," Punk insisted. "And looking good, too."
Chris laughed. "You're a fashion plate, baby."
"Tell me about it." Punk turned in a slow circle, arms outstretched to showcase his faded Ramones tee and baggy jeans. "McMahon makes us play dress-up all the time. I never get to wear the cool stuff."
Chris just chuckled, flopping into an armchair as Punk pulled a worn baseball cap over his hair. "So where are we going?"
"Your call. Whatever you want to do."
"Well, if we're not going to drink--"
Punk interrupted quickly. "I said I wasn't going to drink, man. You do what you want. It won't bother me, unless you turn into a total asshole."
"Or get so wasted you have to carry me to bed," Chris joked.
"Yeah." Punk glanced briefly at him, and Chris could've sworn there was a note of sarcasm in his voice. "That would definitely suck."
A brief silence followed that, which Chris decided to break before it got awkward. "I don't really drink that much either. It's just not something that appeals to me."
Punk shrugged, frowning as he scanned the floor of the room. "So you just want to go somewhere and talk?" His expression cleared as he spotted a pair of black boots by the window and moved to retrieve them.
"Yeah, that sounds..." Chris hesitated, noticing the slight limp as Punk crossed the room. "Do you always walk like that?"
Punk seemed surprised, but shrugged it off. "Tweaked my knee during my match. It's nothing."
"Oh." Chris bit his lip before suggesting, "We could do this another time, you know. If you're hurt and you don't want to walk--"
Punk sat on the edge of his bed, reaching for his boots. "I'm fine. And when else would I get a chance to hang out with you?"
"But I don't want you to be in pain all night."
"I won't be," Punk told him decisively.
"Look. If we're just going to go out and talk...why don't we just stay in here?" Punk paused in the middle of untying his laces. "I mean, we can talk here, right? Probably better than with a whole bunch of noise going on. And you won't have to walk anywhere. And we won't have to worry about the WWE Dress Code Nazis hunting you down."
"I..." Punk seemed momentarily at a loss for words. "That's really cool of you, but I don't want to ruin your visit here. If you want to go out--"
"I don't," Chris told him, toeing off his own shoes to emphasize his point.
"Fine with me," Punk agreed, dropping his boots carelessly and pulling up his feet to sit crosslegged on the bed. "So...what do you want to talk about?
"There is no way you're going to eat that."
Punk just smirked as he squeezed the last of the prepackaged relish onto the mountain of chili and cheese drowning his hot dog.
"Really. That's revolting," Chris insisted.
Keeping his eyes locked on Chris', Punk grabbed the hot dog bun in both hands, slowly raised it to him mouth, and took one huge bite. "Mmmm," he moaned in exaggerated pleasure while chewing, then winked at Chris.
"That's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen," Chris told him, strangely unable to turn away.
Punk swallowed hard, finishing with a huge smile. "Delicious, though," he answered happily as he licked the chili off his lips.
"Yeah..." Chris whispered to himself. Confusion washed over Punk's face, and Chris mentally shook himself, tearing his gaze away from Punk's mouth and to the grilled cheese sandwich in his hand. "Disgusting," he repeated, dropping that sandwich onto the paper plate in his lap. "Now I can't eat anymore."
"That's what you said after the popcorn," Punk pointed out, taking another bite of his chili dog and suddenly snapping his attention to the TV in the corner. "Hey, it's a fight! Turn it up!"
Chris snatched the remote control, turning up the volume just as the hockey brawl ended. "That sucked."
"Majorly. I don't see why they can't fight with the sticks."
Chris leaned back on his hands, looking around the room for a clock. He had been there for hours and should probably be trying to find a room of his own, but he was enjoying himself too much to leave just yet. An innocent comment about Punk's Cubs cap had turned into a huge baseball discussion, which led to football and somehow segued into hockey. Now they were both planted on Punk's bed, watching highlights of the last NY Rangers game, surrounded by piles of leftover food they had ordered up and talking about wrestling during commercials. All in all, not a bad way to spend an evening.
Chris lazily rolled his head towards Punk. "Hmm?"
"You're looking awfully satisfied with yourself."
Chris shrugged. "Nope, just...happy. I forgot how much fun stuff like this is."
Punk still seemed confused. "Stuff like what?"
"Just hanging out. Talking. You know, in the real world, people don't usually randomly invite people they just met to stay up all night eating and watching TV."
Punk considered that before nodding. "Point. But in the real world, people don't usually randomly meet people they've watched on TV forever. So I guess it's unusual for both of us."
"Mmm." Chris took another sip of his soda before announcing, "I'm really glad I met you tonight. But it's going to make things a lot harder for me."
Punk transferred his plate from the mattress to the floor and switched positions, lying on his stomach on the bed. "How so?"
"Well, before I met you, I could tell Vince to screw off if I wanted to, because there was really not a lot left for me to do in wrestling. But now I'm starting to think...I think you and I could have one hell of a little feud."
"Really?" Punk propped himself up on his elbows, clearly intrigued. "That would be amazing."
"Yeah. I think so, too. Now if we could just get the writers to agree."
"Eh, they'd just screw everything up anyway," Punk pointed out, shaking his head. "Let's just come up with the angle ourselves and pitch it to them. If you're really serious about coming back, I mean."
"Yeah, I really am," Chris said, surprised at his own enthusiasm. "I think we'll work really well together."
"Me, too. Inside the ring and out. I mean--" Punk stopped short, then started again. "I meant both wrestling and coming up with the storyline," he finished, sounding embarrassed.
Interesting, Chris thought, but didn't comment. "Yeah, I know. I'm going to gain 500 pounds hanging out with you. I'll make my debut looking like I just ate John Morrison."
Punk snorted. "Or you could just go on the John Morrison Diet and Exercise Plan. 1 egg-white omelet, 5 diet pills, and 6 hours of fucking anything that moves."
"Oooh, gossip!" Chris scooted closer to Punk, batting his eyelashes and raising his voice to an exaggerated falsetto. "So do tell. Or should we break out the nail polish so you can get me in the loop?"
Punk rolled over onto his back, lazily examining his black nails. "I think I'm good, I just did them this morning. But I'll tell you anything about anyone."
"Hmm." Chris tried to remember some of the younger talent he had seen during the show. "Mike Knox."
"Possibly the most boring man I've ever met," Punk responded promptly. "I would be surprised if he knew that sex could involve more than one person."
"The one with the beads in his hair...Elijah?"
"Burke. He's a good guy. Quieter than you'd expect. I really don't know much about his private life."
Punk look scandalized. "I thank God I know nothing about his sex life! Fuck, can you imagine those damn worms--"
"Stop!" Chris interrupted, already laughing despite his expression of horror. "Let's not talk about it. Let's see...what about you?"
Punk's smile disappeared. "What about me?"
"You don't drink, you don't do drugs, what else don't you do?"
"I..." Punk frowned, then started again. "I mean, I'm no Johnny Morrison, but I'm not...I mean, if the opportunity arises..."
"You'll take what you can get?" Chris finished with a small smile.
Punk shook his head as he pulled himself up onto his knees. "I'm not really into the love-em-and-leave-em thing. I mean, if I find somebody I like enough to fuck, I'm not letting them go, you know?"
Chris' smile broadened at the answer, but he kept his tone light and amused. "So you're a chain-them-to-the-bed type of guy? Should I be making a dash for the door or something?" He patted the bedspread for emphasis.
Punk's eyes darted away before his rushed denial, "No, I mean, I'm not going to, you know, pounce on you or anything unless you...I mean..." His eyes widened in panic, and Chris couldn't resist leaning and in kissing him.
And here I was thinking I was nervous, Chris marveled to himself, feeling the tension in Punk's entire body. He softened the kiss, moving a hand to cup the side of Punk's neck, rubbing gently.
The stiffness left Punk's body in a sudden rush of warm air, and Punk pressed forward, wrapping his arms around Chris' waist. Chris smiled, and Punk's tongue took that as permission to slip into the warmth of Chris' mouth. Chris pulled him tighter, moaning encouragingly. The kiss deepened, and Chris let himself be pushed gently onto his back. Punk reached for the hem of Chris' shirt, then paused, clearly unsure. Chris immediately grabbed his own shirt, breaking the kiss to pull the fabric up and over his head.
"Holy fuck," Punk whispered, his eyes drinking in the expanse of golden skin under him. Chris smiled up at him as Punk's fingers brushed gently over his stomach, his chest, his face. "Chris, I'm sorry," Punk murmured as he leaned in, pressing a trail of kisses along Chris' jaw.
"For what?" Chris panted, concentrating on the swelling in his pants pressing up against Punk's thigh.
"I didn't mean..." Punk told him between kisses, "to jump you like this...I really thought...we could just talk and..." His voice caught as Chris' hips pressed upward. "Fuck, you're so hot."
"Do you see me trying to get away?" Chris demanded impatiently. "The only way you're going to make me mad right now is if you tell me you don't have a condom."
Punk pulled back to meet Chris' eyes, his expression unreadable until comprehension dawned a few seconds later. "Oh, my God. You're fucking serious. I can't..." He shook his head hard, then pulled off of Chris completely. "Two seconds," he promised, diving for his gym bag.
He was back in half the time, sans shirt and holding a foil wrapper and small tube of lubrication. Chris laughed, rolling him over onto his back and straddling his waist. He managed to unzip and push off his pants with one hand, keeping the other tangled in Punk's dark hair as he kissed him deeply. Punk's tongue-ring brushed against the roof of his mouth just as Punk's hand wrapped around his erection, stroking him through his navy blue silk boxers. Chris shuddered, pressing down hard against the younger man.
A few minutes later, Punk's hand disappeared, and Chris bit back a frustrated moan in favor of shucking off his quickly dampening underwear. As he tossed them casually off the bed, he heard the snap of the lube opening. "You're amazing," Chris said quietly, flashing another grin at the man under him. His crystal blue eyes widened as he felt a slick finger pressing at his entrance, and he moaned in anticipation.
Eyes locked on Chris' face, Punk pushed into him, using his free hand to steady Chris' hips. He added another finger quickly and paused, luxuriating in the warmth of Chris' skin. By the time a third finger was introduced, Chris was nearly growling in impatience.
"C'mon, Punk," he muttered, pushing down hard before lifting his hips again. "No teasing."
"Not this time," Punk promised with a smile, pulling Chris' head down for another kiss as he pulled his fingers free and grabbed the condom.
Chris' breath caught as he felt Punk nudge his hole, widening his knees for better balance. He pushed down just as Punk thrust up, deep enough to surprise both of them. His eyes closed, Chris gritted his teeth against the pain as Punk concentrated on retaining control.
Moments later, the pain ebbed away and Chris allowed himself to relax, letting his head fall back as he slowly dropped his hips. Punk's fingernails dug deep into Chris' flesh and the younger man released a barraged of profanity that had Chris chuckling softly as he pulled himself back up. "Tell me about it," he agreed, pressing back down and starting a slow, almost languid rhythm.
Punk's hand found Chris' dick again, stroking in time with Chris' movements. Eventually, the demands of Chris' body overcame his enjoyment of the moment, and he began to ride more forcefully, taking Punk deeper with every thrust.
Seconds later, Punk flipped them over, grabbing Chris' shoulders for leverage as he pounded into him. The change in angle caused Chris to lose control, moaning loudly as he came, coating Punk's stomach. Punk slowed his thrusts and leaned closer, gasping as he felt Chris' muscles tightening around him in aftershock. A few unsteady pushes later, Punk fell over the edge, collapsing onto Chris as his strength deserted him.
Punk rolled over as soon as he could summon the energy, but remained close to Chris as they both sucked in deep breaths. "Wow," Punk finally offered, a sentiment with which Chris agreed wholeheartedly.
"That was amazing," Chris said as he pushed himself up, swinging his feet off the side of the bed. "I need a shower," he explained in response to Punk's questioning look.
Punk nodded. "Good idea." He paused, then added. "I'd join you, but I don't think I'm up to standing yet."
Chris laughed, kissing him before getting out of bed. "I won't be long."
"Chris," Punk's voice stopped him just in front of the bathroom door. "You think we could do this again?"
Chris smiled at him, reaching down to fish his cell phone out of the pocket of the pants lying on the floor as he answered. "I think we're going to have all the time in the world to do this pretty soon," he assured Punk, stepping into the bathroom and closing the door behind him to block off any further questions. He turned on the shower and dialed his phone as he waited for the water to heat. "Vince? It's Chris Jericho. So where do I sign?"