CM Punk was used to hotels.
By this point in his career, he had been on the road long enough to become accustomed to waking up under overstarched comforters with the sun peeking between curtains he had forgotten to fully close. The clothes strewn across the floor and the dim light from the unoccupied bathroom were the most familiar morning scene he knew.
Housekeeping would be knocking on the door in less than an hour. Checkout was at 10:00. The coffee would probably suck. It was a morning like any other.
Somehow, that fact surprised him more than anything.
"Dude, you should totally come."
Punk frowned doubtfully at Tommy Dreamer. "I don't know, man, I don't even know the guy--"
"That's the point; he hasn't been here in forever and wants to meet the new guys," Tommy insisted.
"Yeah, but shouldn't he be hanging with his friends tonight? I'm sure you two have a lot to catch up on."
"Everybody's a friend of Van Dam's; he's just a cool guy. You'll like him. You can talk about your weird kung fu shit or whatever."
Punk laughed despite himself. "It's called Muay Thai, Tommy, it's not--"
"Yeah, whatever," Tommy interrupted, pulling away just long enough to tell his ride he was on his way, then turning back to Punk. "Everybody's going to be there celebrating the Rumble anyway. And Rob specifically asked if you were coming. Come with us. Please?"
"You sure you're not just looking for a designated driver so you all can get smashed?"
Tommy blinked, trying for innocence and failing completely. "Would we do that to you? C'mon, Punkers, pleeeeeease...."
Punk rolled his eyes, but finally shrugged. It's not like he had other plans for the night. "Let me grab my bag."
Tommy was dragging him out the door before he had time to rethink his decision.
His familiarity with hotel room layouts came in handy as Punk stumbled toward the bathroom, his eyes screwed shut to block out the intrusive sunlight. Safely in the tiny bathroom, he closed the door, automatically flicking on the lights. The harsh glare revealed more than he was prepared to deal with, and he snapped the lights back off immediately. A moment later, he yanked the softly glowing nightlight out of its outlet as well; even in that light, he looked like a wreck. Standing perfectly still in the dark, Punk waited for his thoughts to organize themselves in anything resembling coherence.
It didn't work. A shower might help, he decided, and reached for the knob.
As wrestling parties went, this had actually been pretty tame, Punk realized. The boys were still pumped from the pay-per-view and excited to see Rob, but they were also exhausted from performing and dutifully focused on tomorrow's RAW. They had only been thrown out of one bar, and for a group of thirty-odd drunken wrestlers, that was something of a record.
Cooler heads prevailed as the morning approached, and wrestlers began drifting away from the group and back to their own beds. The party was down to six now with Miz and Morrison involved in a heated discussion of their own, Evan Bourne and Rob Van Dam laughing over a story about a mutual acquaintence from Japan, and Tommy Dreamer, trying valiantly not to let anyone see him yawning.
All in all, Punk was glad he came. Everyone seemed a little more relaxed than usual, letting go of some of the stress of the job. If Punk was guessing, he would say it was probably Rob's influence. His easygoing attitude was hard to resist. Even after a 6 year absence from wrestling, he slid into the group dynamic effortlessly.
"Hey, we should probably get going," Miz suddenly announced to the group at large, reaching for his jacket. "Big day tomorrow."
"Technically, today. It's after midnight," John Morrison corrected, and Tommy rolled his eyes.
"Quitting on us already? Jesus, I would've thought you young kids could drink better than that. Not as good as me, maybe, but--"
Rob laughed out loud. "Tommy, what are you talking about? You've been fighting to stay on that barstool for the past hour."
"It's crooked," Tommy insisted, his speech only slightly slurred.
"Am not," Tommy grinned affectionately at Rob. "Just happy to see you."
"And the judges say?" Rob chuckled, looking at Punk for a verdict.
Punk stared at Tommy speculatively as he made his decision. He was tired, but not quite ready to go home yet. "I've seen worse," he finally stated.
"I win!" Tommy giggled, tossing his bar napkin in the air in celebration. Evan joined in happily, too buzzed to care what they were celebrating.
Rob shook his head in mock disappointment. "If I don't send you all home soon, Vince is going to sign me just so he can have the pleasure of firing me." He waved the bartender over. "We're going to play a little game, Tommy. If you can drink three shots of Jack faster than I can drink three beers, you get to stay. Otherwise, you're all going home."
"You can't stay without us," Tommy protested, but Rob waved him off.
"I'm not ready to go yet, and I'm not the one who has work tomorrow." The bartender set up the requested drinks, and Rob raised his eyebrows challengingly. "You think you can do this?"
"Fuck yeah, I can do this," Tommy blustered, reaching for his first shot.
"OK. One rule: we can't touch each other's glasses, OK? Otherwise, you'd just knock my beer over."
Tommy laughed as he admitted, "I totally would not have thought of that, but that's fucking hilarious. OK, ready?"
"Go," Rob said, slamming back his first beer.
Tommy finished his shot well ahead of Rob, laughing as he picked up the second. "This was a terrible bet for you," he noted.
Rob nodded agreeably as he drained the last of his beer, watching Tommy take his second shot. Without warning, he flipped his pint glass over, setting it deliberately over the third shot before grabbing his second beer and taking a leisurely sip. "Looks that way."
"Hey, asshole," Tommy complained, reaching to knock Rob's glass away.
Punk was too quick, though, snatching Tommy's wrist and shaking his head. "No touching the other guy's glasses, remember?" Rob grinned at him, and he found himself returning the smile automatically.
"Son of a bitch!" Tommy shouted as the trick finally sank in. "That was dirty."
Miz laughed, clapping Tommy on the shoulder. "Give it up, man, you got schooled."
"Yeah, let's just get out of here," Evan agreed with a yawn.
"I can wait," Punk offered.
Rob looked surprised. "You've got work, man."
"I'm not tired yet. I'm kind of a night person," Punk explained. "And you're going to need someone to get you home."
Rob paused, then nodded. "Cool. Thanks. And thanks for coming, guys. Give me a call sometime, OK?"
The shower wasn't helping.
If anything, it was making things worse, clearing Punk's head and replaying the previous night. He tried thinking about other things, but kept coming back to Rob as he tried to process the events.
Sometimes Punk wished his memory was worse.
"You know, you really don't have to stay if you don't want to," Rob pointed out for the fifth time.
"I know that," Punk told him. "I just wanted to hang out some. And make sure you got home all right, of course."
"I'll be fine," Rob assured him, grinning. "I'm not exactly a damsel in distress, you know."
"Yeah, but you've been drinking some," Punk pointed out. He thought about calling Rob drunk, but he wasn't, really. His eyes were still as clear and his smiles as quick as ever. "I want to make sure you can get back to your hotel," he finished lamely.
"I'd make it back."
Rob shrugged, leaning back to glance out the window of the bar. "I don't know, it's a nice night. I'd probably walk."
"And who are you going to call when your stupid ass gets mugged?"
Rob grinned again, dimples flashing. "And why exactly are you so interested in the fate of my ass?"
"I..." Punk stopped, momentarily thrown by the sudden shift in the conversation.
Rob's smile broadened, his expression becoming languid as he let his eyes slide over Punk's body. "You're cute," he finally announced, seemingly amused at Punk's embarrassment.
"Relax, man, it's called flirting," Rob chuckled, turning away and sipping his beer. "Don't tell me you've never heard of it."
With Rob's gaze was off him, Punk finally felt like he could breathe again. "I'm not...I'm sorry, I don't really like guys like that," he managed quickly. Rob still looked amused, and Punk ground his teeth at his own inarticulateness. "I'm not gay," he state more firmly.
"Me neither," Rob said casually. "I'm married."
Relief washed over Punk. "Oh, sorry, my friends and I joke like that all the time, I just thought--"
"I wasn't joking."
"Oh." Punk stole a glance at the door during the silence that followed, wishing he had gone home with Tommy after all.
"You OK?" Rob finally prompted, genuine concern in his eyes.
"Yeah, well...to be honest, man, I'm just not into that whole idea," Punk admitted. "I don't mean to judge or anything, but I'm just kind of the type who likes to stay loyal in a relationship. Straight Edge means no promiscuous sex or anything, so the whole one night stand thing..." he shrugged. "I just like sex to mean more than that."
Rob seemed unoffended but confused by that comment. "Who says one night stands don't mean anything? Some of the most meaningful nights of my life have been one night stands."
"And your wife's OK with that?" Punk asked, keeping his voice intentionally mild.
"My wife's fantastic," Rob smiled affectionately. "And she wants me to be happy. I'm big enough to love more than one person, you know."
"I'm sure you are," Punk muttered automatically, catching himself when Rob laughed. "I didn't mean--" Punk's phone cut him off with a beep, a welcome distraction from the conversation. He flipped the phone open, smiling as he read the incoming message.
"So tell me about her."
"Sorry, what?" Punk blinking, looking up from the phone.
"The girl texting you," Rob explained. "Tell me about her."
"Oh, it's not a girl. It's from my...a friend of mine, named Colt Cabana. He was just returning a message from earlier." Punk snapped the phone shut, sliding it back into his pocket.
Rob watched him closely, finally smiling to himself and reaching for his beer. "You're into him," he noted, more a statement of fact than an accusation.
Punk shook his head violently. "I told you, I don't--"
"I know what you said, but dude, you should see the way you smile when you talk about him. Don't be embarrassed by it," Rob encouraged, "it's nice."
"We're just friends," Punk repeated firmly.
Turning the ineffectual shower off with a sigh, Punk grabbed a towel before stepping out into the dark, steam-fogged bathroom. It took him a few deep, calming breaths before he was able to flick on the lights and face the damage.
After wiping the steam off the mirror, he realized that he didn't look as bad as he expected. His eyes were a little bloodshot from lack of sleep, but on the whole he looked ready to start the day. He didn't exactly feel bad either; a little sore, perhaps, but more relaxed than he had been in months.
Still, not all damage is visible, he reminded himself, forcing himself to meet his own gaze in the mirror. His jaw tightened as he waited for the guilt to set in.
It didn't come.
"Dude, relax, you're a fucking rock," Rob instructed, his hands sliding Punk's back and shoulders.
Facedown in his bed, Punk grunted, twisting his head to one side so he could speak. "I was working upper body in the gym yesterday."
"Yeah, me too, but that doesn't mean you've got to walk around this tight. Ever heard of stretching?"
Punk started to respond, but he lost his train of thought as Rob's fingers dug into a particularly sore spot.
"That's better," Rob soothed as he worked the tension out. "So, tell me about this Cabana guy."
Punk immediately tensed and Rob laughed, his hands momentarily stilling. "So I guess we've found the source of tension, huh?"
"We're just friends," Punk repeated.
"Whose idea was that?"
"We've always been friends. Since we met." Rob's hands were moving again, and Punk had to stifle a groan. "We'll always be friends. He's too important to me to fuck that up."
"Is that why you haven't told him?"
The longer the silence dragged on, the harder it seemed to dispel. "I'm good the way things are," Punk finally muttered. "He's not gay, you know."
"Neither are you," Rob reminded him. "Neither am I." Punk remained quiet, so Rob pressed on. "What's the worst you think could happen if you told him?"
"He could say no," Punk answered automatically.
"And then you'd be just friends. Which you are now. It doesn't sound like you have much to lose, does it?"
"It doesn't sound it."
"Look," Punk said, twisting out from under Rob and sitting up in bed. "I appreciate the backrub and all, but I should really get some sleep, so--"
"No problem," Rob agreed easily, slipping off the bed and reaching for his sneakers. "Thanks for getting me back to the hotel."
Punk nodded awkwardly, standing as Rob finished tying his shoes. "It was really great to meet you, man."
"Yeah, same here. Give me a call if you're ever in Cali, OK?" Punk nodded silently, and Rob offered another quick grin as he headed for the door.
"Do you really think I should tell him?" Punk blurted out suddenly.
Rob paused, his hand on the doorknob. "Honestly? No."
"I don't think you're ready, kid. You've got to be comfortable with what you want before you can understand what he wants."
"And how do I do that?"
Rob moved quicker than Punk expected, coming back to the bed and pulling Punk into a soft kiss. Punk's body went rigid, and Rob pulled back immediately. "You learn to relax and enjoy yourself."
"I can do that," Punk insisted, leaning forward into another kiss. Rob took over immediately, pressing back hungrily until Punk let himself fall backwards onto the bed, pulling Rob on top of him. "See?"
Rob's hand slid over Punk's hip, and the younger man shivered. "Still nervous?"
Punk shook his head. "Just...your wife..."
"I told you, she's cool," Rob murmured, lips brushing the side of Punk's neck.
"Yeah, but Colt--"
Rob pulled back far enough to look Punk in the eyes, his hand abandoning it's exploration of Punk's side. "Listen, man, we don't have to do anything you don't want to do here. But I see it like this: I wasn't supposed to even be here tonight. Christian was signed and ready to go, but they decided to save him for this Hardy storyline, and they needed another surprise entrant into the Rumble. People popped when I came out. They would've popped for Christian, too. They pop for Hunter, for Taker, for you...does that mean they're cheating on Cena? They've got enough to go around. They can love a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. That's the way love works; it builds on itself. It's not like a fucking brick you can give someone, and then you can't give it to anyone else. It's an energy. The more you love yourself, the more you love someone else, the more you love everybody." He paused, watching Punk's expression. "If you don't see it like that, if you want me to leave, I'll leave."
"I don't want you to leave," Punk admitted softly.
Rob smiled faintly. "Good." Leaning back down, he wrapped an arm around Punk's waist, pulling him flush against him. "So tell me what you do want," he whispered into Punk's ear.
So he did.
Punk was still staring into the mirror, trying to dredge up some shred of regret from the night before, when he heard his phone beep. Sighing, he left the bathroom, grabbing some clothes on his way to the bed. He pulled on his pants as he dialed his voicemail, somehow knowing it was Cabana before he heard the familiar voice.
"Dude, guess who called me this morning. Go on, guess. I'll wait." Punk caught himself smiling as he waited out almost a full minute of silence. "Why would the Pope be calling me at--you know what, never mind. It was Mr. Monday Night himself; how weird is that? Anyway, he said you had something you wanted to talk to me about, so give me a call or something if you know what he's talking about. Oh, and he said I was a lucky guy, if that helps."
Punk was returning the call before he could stop himself, his fingers shaking nervously as he waited for Cabana to answer the phone. Cabana's half-asleep greeting instantly calmed him, though, and he caught himself smiling as he told his friend, "I think we need to have a talk."