Hard To Keep - Kate
NC-17 - Language, explicit m/m sexual content
Characters: John Cena/HBK
Summary: Challenges come from unexpected directions.
Distribution: Shades of Gray. Anyone else who wants it, just ask.
Disclaimer: We own neither the characters nor the individuals who portray them. Written solely for our own entertainment.

"Sting a little bit?"

Shawn Michaels turned his head to see John Cena smiling at him sympathetically. "What?"

"Not being nominated," John clarified, nodding at the monitor Shawn had been staring at moments before. Even backstage, they could feel the floor vibrate with the crowd's roars of approval as the video package listed the nominees for the Slammy Awards Superstar of the Year. John ignored it. "I mean, I definitely would've put you ahead of Batista and--"

"Forget it," Shawn interrupted. "I'm not exactly losing sleep over not being the one losing to you."

"What makes you think you'd lose?" John asked. Shawn lifted his eyebrows, but John's curiosity seemed genuine. "I mean it, I'd vote for you. Think about it: you had the feud of the year against Jericho, you had the match of the year at No Mercy, you stole the show with Flair at WrestleMania, you--"

"I turned heel last week," Shawn pointed out, "which tends to skew the voting."

"Point." John chewed his gum thoughtfully, shifting almost imperceptibly closer to Shawn. "You know, you probably could've convinced the writers to wait a week on that, so you could've been in the running."

Shawn wrinkled his nose. "No offense, man, but you can have the Slammy."

"How come?"

Shawn rolled his head back, letting his neck crack. "I've been The Guy before, John. It's a lot more pressure and a lot less fun. You think they would've let me and Chris feud that long if I was champ throughout it? Besides, it's a lot more fun to be the hunter than the target. I've been in the WWE 20 years now, and champ for 395 days of that. And trust me, that was 394 days too long."

John nodded, touching the belt on his shoulder absently. "It's tough sometimes."

Shawn laughed abruptly. "Yeah, it is. But you didn't come over here to bitch about stress. What did you want to talk about?"

"Nothing, really," John shrugged. "Or anything. I mostly just wanted to come talk to you."

"Yeah? Why?"

"So I could figure out some way to ask you out."

Shawn laughed again, shaking his head as he turned back to the monitor. "You kill me, Cena."

"I'm serious. What do you think?"

"I think you're still too young to be pulling ribs on the veterans. Champ or not."

"It's not..." Frustrated, John grabbed Shawn's shoulders, turning him so they were face-to-face. "It's not a rib," he promised. "I think you're amazing. I think we could be good together. I'm asking for a chance."

Shawn knocked his hands away, waving dismissively at Hunter and Batista, who were looking up from their own conversation in concern. "Shit, John, why are you doing this here? There are way too many people around."

"I know, but...I was too nervous to ask before. I figured if you turned me down tonight, I could at least pretend it was because you were mad about the Slammy."

"I told you, I'm not mad about the Slammy."

"I know," John repeated blandly. "It kind of shot a hole in my theory." He paused, then offered a hopeful smile as Shawn fought back another laugh. "So what do you think?"

"I think you're young. And you're cute. And you should find some other young, cute guy to play with." John's face fell, and Shawn patted his shoulder. "I'm really sorry, man, I'm just not interested. It's nothing personal."

"Oh." John nodded, trying unsuccessfully to mask his disappointment. "Well...can't blame a guy for trying, huh? Are we still cool?"

"We're cool," Shawn confirmed, just as Hunter came up behind him, sliding an arm around his shoulders. "Hey, Hunt."

Hunter nodded in acknowledgment, but his eyes stayed on John. "Your conversation looked more interesting than ours. Whatcha talking about?" Batista stayed off to one side, but focused on John with equal intensity.

John shrugged, obviously uncomfortable under the scrutiny. "Nothing, just work stuff."

"Speaking of which," Batista offered, laying one hand on John's shoulder, "I have some work stuff I wanted to run past you. Let's talk." His touch stayed light, but the firmness with which he steered John toward his locker room allowed no argument.

"I was fine, you know," Shawn commented dryly, amused despite himself at the younger men's protectiveness.

Hunter turned to face him, clearly trying to read his expression. "You didn't look comfortable with the conversation."

"I wasn't. That doesn't mean you had to sic Dave on him."

"What did he want?"

Shawn fidgeted with his ring gear as he considered his options. He could easily refuse to say, but Hunter would just go interrogate John instead. "A date," he finally admitted.

Hunter blinked in surprise, then grinned. "Really? I didn't think he was ever going to ask you."

"What does that mean?"

"He's been wanting to hook up forever; I kept telling him to go for it, but I guess he was shy. When are you going out?"

"We're not," Shawn said, frowning at the idea of Hunter discussing his love life.

Hunter's eyebrows shot up. "Are you kidding me?" Shawn remained silent, and Hunter slapped his forehead dramatically. "Christ, Shawn, what more do you want? The kid's sweet and funny and hot and talented and--"

"I know all that. It's just...I'm not really looking for anybody right now, that's all."

"Still, man, give the guy a break. He's head over heels for you and..." Hunter trailed off, his eyes narrowing. "Is that the problem? He's too into you?"

"That's ridic--"

"Holy fuck, Shawn, you always do this. You're always chasing somebody or flirting with somebody or seducing somebody--"

"I have never seduced anybody!" Shawn declared hotly.

"--and then as soon as you get them, and you're inside their head, you start losing interest. Because they're not a challenge."

"That is not why I do it," Shawn insisted. "You're making it sound deliberate. It's not like I enjoy hurting people." He glared at the monitor, trying to get his emotions under control.

"I know that," Hunter acknowledged after a long pause. "Look, I'm sorry. I know it's kind of a touchy subject. But I really think you should give this a chance. Just hang out and have fun with him. You don't have to make it a competition all the time."

Shawn breathed deeply, his anger slowly dissipating. Hunter knew him too well, which was alternatingly infuriating and touching, but his advice was always good. "I've got to get ready to go out there," he stated flatly, not yet ready to concede.

"Yeah," Hunter said, stepping back. "Just keep me posted, OK?"

Shawn nodded shortly as he headed toward the curtain.

"...and then he said he wasn't interested," John sighed, tugging his baseball cap lower over his eyes.

"Just like that?" CM Punk asked, eyebrows raised. "Just, 'Sorry, not interested'?"

"Yeah, pretty much. What can you do?"

Kofi shook his head sympathetically, but his ever-present smile never dimmed. "'s rough, my friend. But you know he may come around someday."

John nodded, although he privately remained doubtful. "Anything could happen, I guess."

"You still want him?" Punk asked, his head tilting to the side as he finished lacing one of his boots.

"Yeah, I mean, obviously I want him; just look at the man." John paused momentarily, trying to figure out how to express his hesitation. "But if he's in a place that he doesn't want to be with me, or he just doesn't like me, or he's not willing to chance it, or whatever, maybe it's just better if we don't. Does that make sense?"

Punk grinned up at him, nodding over John's shoulder. "I don't know, run it by him and see."

John twisted around on the locker room bench just in time to see Shawn hesitate as he got close enough to hear the conversation. "Hey."

"Hey," Shawn answered. "Run what by whom?"

"Nothing, we were just being stupid," John explained, cutting Punk's response short. Punk flashed him a grin and started on the other boot. "So what's up, Shawn?"

"I've been thinking," Shawn started hesitantly. "About what you said last week. And, I mean, I know what I said, but I was thinking that I was pretty rude about the whole thing. I mean, I really do like you, and giving it a shot wouldn't kill me, right? So if you're still interested and all, maybe we could give it a shot."

John's polite smile froze on his face as he felt his stomach drop. If there was one thing he hated more than rejection, it was pity. "Wow, um...yeah." Shawn was waiting patiently, and John had to fight not to get lost staring into Shawn's wide blue eyes. He solved the problem by dropping his eyes to the ground as he answered. "Well, I was thinking about it, too, and I was thinking you were probably right. There's no real reason for us to go out, right?

"Well, no but--"

"Shawn, it's cool. We can just be friends, right? I mean, really, I just wanted to be your friend anyway. I don't know why I didn't just tell you that."

"Oh." Shawn seemed at a loss for words, so John stood up, looking for a way out of the increasingly awkward situation. "Look, I need to talk to Vince now, but give me a call or something sometime, OK?"

"Yeah, sure..."

"It's a damn shame, man. You two would've been good together," John heard Kofi tell Shawn as he left.

"...so the thing is, I'll slowly be going more and more heel while JBL tries to--"

"Yeah," Hunter interrupted. "So when are you going to fuck him?"

Shawn blinked. "JBL?"

Hunter snorted, and Shawn could hear him smile even over the phone. "You know who I mean."

"Mmm. Sorry, Hunt, that's a no-go. I asked him out yesterday and he shot me down." Shawn listened to static for almost a full minute before wondering if his cell had lost connection. "Hello?"

"That's crazy. He's nuts about you."

"He was," Shawn stated matter-of-factly, trying to ignore his own disappointment. "Punk says that he thinks I'm too flighty or indecisive or something now, and he's not interested. So back to my storyline--"

"Jesus, Shawn. I'm sorry. I really thought he was kind of serious about you."

Shawn bit his lower lip, trying to choke back his annoyance. "Obviously not. Can we stop talking about this, please?"

"You're really hurt, aren't you?"

Shawn stood up from his bed before answering, giving in to the urge to pace. "If I said no, would you believe me?"


"Dammit, Hunter, what do you want me to say? So he doesn't want to fuck me. OK. I think I'll get over it. It's not like we would've worked out long-term anyway."

"How do you know that?"

"Because I need the chase, Hunter. You're right, I'm that competitive. Best case scenario: I fuck him once and we both love it. And then he wants more. And every time we do it, it gets a little less interesting, and a little less fun. I get bored, and he sees it, and he starts trying to build something other than sex. And--" Shawn broke off, swallowing hard against a sudden tightness in his throat.

"And what?"

"And I'm no good at that," Shawn admitted quietly, sitting on the edge of the bed. "I'm very good at sex, but not so much the other stuff. And he's going to see that, if I stick around too long." Laying back across his bedspread, Shawn stared at the ceiling, concentrating on preventing the tears forming in the corners of his eyes from falling.

"Shawn, can I tell you something?" Hunter finally asked, his voice subdued.


"You know I love you, right?"

"What, Hunter?"

A deep breath later, Hunter finally blurted out, "You're not all that good in bed."

Shawn's laugh took him by surprise, harsh and more than a little hysterical. The sudden change in breathing sent the tears precariously balanced in his eyes sliding down his cheeks, and he buried his face in a pillow until the half-laughs, half-sobs subsided.

"I don't mean that in a bad way," Hunter added gently as soon as Shawn quieted.

That statement provoked more giggles. "Really?"

"I'm just saying nobody's that good, you know? How long have we been friends? How much have we been through together? Do you really think I still hang around you because we used to hook up once in a while back in the day?"

"I never meant you--"

"I know, but think about it. If you didn't have any good qualities besides sex, trust me, Heartbreaker, I would've dropped your ass years ago." He paused to let that sink in, then added, "You're a better person than you think you are. And John Cena knows it."

"Obviously, he doesn't, Hunter. He turned me down."

"So try again. You're the one who likes a challenge, right?"

For a couple deep breaths, Shawn didn't respond. Finally, he conceded, "I'll think about it. And thanks. For everything."

"No problem, Shawn. Now, go get some sleep. You've got a hottie to seduce."

John had just stripped and pulled down his coverlet when a loud knock sounded against the door. He thought about ignoring it, but his curiosity got the better of him. Through the door's peephole, he could barely make out Shawn's face. "One second," he called, reaching for his discarded jeans.

It had been days since he had spoken to Shawn, and he wasn't prepared for an impromptu conversation. It took enough focus not to openly leer at the man when John was fully awake; he doubted he would have the willpower to remain civilized this late at night. Deciding to end the conversation quickly, he yanked on a jersey, cap, and tennis shoes before yanking open the door. "Yo."

"Hey." Shawn eyed his outfit with something like disappointment. "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

"Actually, I was just about to go out with some of my boys," John started, but stopped when he noticed Shawn's light sigh. "Is something wrong?"

"No," Shawn answered, smiling tightly. "Nothing. I just wondered if you had time to talk, but if you're busy--"

"Nah, they can wait. You wanna come in?"

Nodding, Shawn entered the hotel room. He sat on John's unmade bed without comment, and John leaned back against the opposite wall, trying to appear casual. "So what's happening, Shawn?"

"You know how I was thinking about what you said, and I thought you were probably right?"

John nodded, "But I thought you were right when you turned me down."

"Yeah. Now I'm thinking we were both wrong."

John raised his eyebrows, but didn't trust himself to comment.

"Look, I've got problems," Shawn pressed. "I know that, and I'm sorry. But I like you a lot, and if you'd still like to get together, I'd like to give it a shot."

Shawn pulled one foot up onto the bed as he waited for an answer, and John's heart sped up at the long, lean thigh muscles flexing during the movement. Pushing it out of his head, he tried to concentrate on the conversation. "Why now? Is it because I turned you down? Is it an ego thing?"

Shawn nodded understandingly, not offended by the accusation. "I know it looks like that, but trust me, John, it's not. You just caught me off-guard the first time, but the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense. It might not work, but I'd like to try."

There was sincerity in those blue eyes, and John couldn't stop himself from nodding. "I'd like that, too."

"Cool." Shawn smiled and stood, glancing at the door. "Well, I better let you get going. It's already getting late."

"Yeah, I--" John's response was cut off by Shawn's mouth, his back flat against the wall as he reeled from the kiss. Shawn's touch was surprisingly light, and John moaned in approval as Shawn's tongue swept past his lower lip.

Shawn grinned as he pulled back. "Hey, John?"


"If this had been an ego thing," Shawn told him, nudging one hip against the bulge in John's jeans, "this would've made me feel a lot better."

John laughed, slightly embarrassed. "If that's all it takes, your ego's going to get huge hanging around me. That's pretty much a permanent condition when you're in the room."

"Yeah?" Shawn's hand cupped him, and his breath was hot on John's ear. "Can I see?"

John shucked the baggy shorts instantly, stripping off the rest of his outfit as an afterthought. Shawn laughed as John leaned in for another kiss. "Really, John, commando? I'm shocked."

John grunted between kisses. "Was going to bed when you knocked. No time for underwear."

"I thought you were going out with friends?"

"Staying in with you sounds like a much better option."

It took considerably longer to get Shawn undressed, thanks to frequent stops for kissing newly exposed skin, but in John's estimation, it was well worth the wait. His eyes shone in the dim light as he pulled John flat on top of him, both men shuddering as their aching members slid against each other.

Shawn pressed up against him, his voice heavy with urgency as he encouraged John to hurry. John managed to snatch the condoms and lube from his bedside table without looking up, a product of spending years in hotel rooms identical to this one. He fumbled only slightly as he rolled the condom on, applying lube quickly before reaching between Shawn's legs.

"I'm good, let's go," Shawn demanded impatiently, wrapping his legs around John's hips and pulling him down.

"Jesus," John moaned as he felt the head of his cock press against Shawn's hole. "You sure about this, babe?"

Shawn leaned up and kissed him, his tongue sliding into John's mouth and leaving him breathless. "I am now," he responded with a faint smile. "Come on, honey, and quit playing hard-to-get."

John grinned and pushed forward as gently as he could, his hands flat against the headboard to keep his weight off Shawn. The pressure was incredible, and he noticed his arms were trembling by the time his hips were flush with Shawn's ass. Focusing on the wood grain of the headboard to maintain control, John almost lost it when Shawn rolled his hips, angling John's cock even deeper.

Fighting an enthusiastic Shawn Michaels was a losing battle, John soon discovered. Despite all efforts to maintain a gentle rhythm, he found himself slamming hard into the smaller man, sweat pouring off both their bodies. Shawn was amazingly responsive, switch positions and maintaining a nonstop stream of encouraging moans and gasps.

When he finally came, John could feel the toes of both feet go numb as his world spiraled down to a pinpoint of white-hot light. He couldn't even feel Shawn immediately follow him over, splashing cum onto John's chest and stomach.

By the time Shawn woke up the following morning, light was streaming through the windows. Shawn squeezed his eyes shut tighter and kept his breathing even, trying not to alert John to the fact that he was awake as he considered his options.

He hadn't meant to stay the night. It would've been easier to play off if he had slept in his own bed, but he could still probably convince John that he had just been exhausted from work and passed out. A temporary lack of good judgment, a one night stand, and a friendly parting, and they could both go back to their lives unscathed. John wouldn't have to watch Shawn become restless, and Shawn wouldn't have to deal with John's disappointment.

The plan worked for Shawn, but it didn't explain why he was so reluctant to put it into action. It was probably John's eyes, he decided. It was hard to act casual when those big blue eyes turned on you.

Hoping that he would luck out and be able to sneak away while those eyes were still closed, Shawn tentatively lifted his head, surprised to find the bed behind him empty. There were no sounds from the bathroom, and John's jacket had disappeared. Off to find breakfast, Shawn decided, relieved that he could get away with a simple note.

Dressing in his clothes from the previous night, Shawn scanned the room for paper, finally locating a pad in the center of the small desk. Before he could reach for a pen, though, he noticed John's oversized printing on the top sheet.

"Hey, babe, so sorry to run out, but Vince had a radio show he wanted me to do this morning. Good to be the champ, huh? I might have completely failed at playing hard-to-get, but hard-to-keep is a whole 'nother game. I'm up for it if you are, though. -- JC"

"Hard-to-keep," Shawn echoed out loud. He could believe it. Between the craziness of both of their schedules, the politics in wrestling, the travel, and the injuries, it was virtually impossible to keep a relationship alive and functioning in wrestling. It was a challenge finding time to even date.

Shawn's phone beeped, and he glanced at it to find a missed call from Hunter. He returned it immediately, still staring thoughtfully at the note on the table.


"Hey, Hunt, missed your call."

"Yeah, I was just wondering how Mission: Seduce John Cena was going."

Shawn snorted, scratching his neck. "Actually, that was kind of why I missed your call."

"Yeah?" Hunter paused, but when Shawn didn't offer any more details, he sighed in disappointment. "That exciting, huh? So, onto the next target?"

"Well, actually," Shawn muttered, "I had a different kind of challenge in mind."