Back to Fiction

Out of Character - Kate
NC-17 - language, m/m slash
Characters: Steve Austin/Ken Kennedy
Summary: Sometimes fact is better than fiction.
Disclaimer: We own neither the characters nor the individuals who portray them. Written solely for our entertainment.

Tires squealed as Steve whipped his truck into a parking space at the very end of the lot surrounding the Amway Arena. Vince had instructed him to turn the vehicle over to the valet on the east side of the building, but Steve had opted for a slightly less conspicuous entrance. He didn’t really like people driving his truck anyway.

A quick glance in the rearview mirror convinced Steve that he looked as ridiculous as he felt in his dark blue suit, purchased especially for the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. He scowled at his reflection and made a half-hearted attempt to straighten his tie before climbing out of the driver’s seat and into the night air.

There were too many lights around to see the stars, but Steve took a few moments to gaze upwards anyway, appreciating the clear night. It was pleasantly warm, but still too early in the year for the typically Florida mugginess to settle in. The electric buzzing of the rapidly filling arena couldn’t quite drown out the sounds of the crickets chirping upwind.

Peals of laughter suddenly broke out a few yards to Steve’s left, and he automatically ducked his head and started walking toward the arena, hoping no fans would recognize him.

“…and then I’d stomp a mudhole in his ass, and if his girlfriend wanted some, I’d stomp a mudhole in her skinny ass, too! I’m an equal opportunity mudhole ass-stomper!” More laughter sounded from the small group to the left.

Steve felt himself grinning even while he shook his head at the terrible impression of his accent. “What the hell?” he muttered to himself as he changed course, heading toward the laughter. “Might as well give some fans a thrill.”

“Jesus, Ken, you’re going to give me a heart attack!” Brian Kendrick giggled, leaning against his car for support as Ken continued his tirade.

“WHAT?” Ken demanded, pitching his voice low. “You got a little heart condition? WHAT? You gonna need a cardiologist? WHAT? An EMT? WHAT? Some defibrillation paddles? WHAT?”

Paul London straightened suddenly, recognizing the distinctive swagger of the man now approaching them. “Shut up a minute, Ken,” he warned, but Ken was already on a roll.

“I’ll tell ya somethin’, boy, you’re gonna need a whole lot more than that when I get through with you. You’re gonna need a surgeon to pull this here boot out of your ass! And that’s the bottom line… “

“Hi, Steve,” Paul piped in nervously.

Ken whipped around, finding himself trapped in Steve Austin’s icy glare. “Ah, shit!” he swore, automatically taking a step backwards.

“Finish the line,” Steve offered, his voice dangerously mild.

“Steve, he didn’t mean anything by it,” Brian rushed to explain, but Steve silenced him with a look before turning back to Kennedy.

“Finish the damn line.”

Ken took a deep breath, then set his shoulders and continued. “And that’s the bottom line…” he boomed, his voice losing the fake Texas accent. “Because Kennedy…Kennedy…KENNEDY SAID SO!

The half-second of silence that followed last eons in Ken’s mind, but Steve shattered the tension with laughter before anything else could be said.

“Yeah, I thought I recognized that voice,” he commented, sticking out his hand. “I don’t think we’ve officially met yet. I’m Stone Cold Steve Austin.”

“I know who you are, Mr. Austin,” Ken returned, flushing with what he decided to interpret as relief as he shook the man’s hand. “I’m Ken Kennedy.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen some of your matches. Good stuff. I like all the shit with the microphone.”

Ken nodded, but couldn’t think of an appropriate response, so he settled for staring at the ground and willing his heart rate to return to normalcy.

Brian and Paul had already introduced themselves by the time Ken dragged his eyes back up to Steve’s face. “We were just about to go in,” Paul was explaining. “We just wanted some fresh air, and—“

“And a little room to breathe,” Steve finished, nodding sympathetically. “Glad to hear I ain’t the only one going to be sweating bullets in this damn monkey suit.” He caught Ken’s gaze and winked quickly. “You gonna make it through, kid? You look about like I feel.”

“I’ll be fine, Mr. Austin,” Ken managed.

Steve sighed, rolling his eyes. “You’re gonna have to knock off that ‘Mr. Austin’ crap before you really piss me off.”

“Sorry, Mr. A--“ Ken caught himself. “Steve?”

Steve laughed, clapping him hard on the upper arm. “That’s better. Tell ya what, kid, if we both survive this shindig, I’ll buy you a beer. How’s that sound?”


“See you then,” Steve nodded decisively, turning and walking off toward the side entrance of the arena.

The three younger wrestlers waited in silence until Steve was out of hearing distance. “Dude,” Brian finally breathed, turning his wide-eyed stare on Ken. “You almost got your ass kicked.”

Ken didn’t even bother to disagree.

Two hours after the ceremony, Steve and Ken grabbed a table at a tiny bar down the street from the arena.

“So what’d you think?” Steve prompted as their first round of beers arrived.

Ken dug deep into his repertoire of sparkling conversational skills and came up empty. “It was OK. Big.”

“Big how?” Steve pressed, looking genuinely interested.

“Just…a lot of people,” Ken explained lamely, mentally rolling his eyes at his own nervousness.

Steve frowned skeptically. “You perform in front of lots more people all the time. You getting shy on me, Ken?”

Ken mentally shook himself and leaned forward in his chair. “It was different than performing,” he stated firmly. “I wasn’t really playing a character or anything. I had nothing I wanted to say or get across to the audience. It felt like we were all just sitting there while people talked about us. It was kind of embarrassing.”

Steve grinned at him, shrugging out of his jacket. “You better get used to people talking about you, Mr. Kennedy. I got a feeling it’s going to happen a lot more in the future. But I know what you mean about it being embarrassing.”

It was certainly no more embarrassing than the surge of excitement Ken felt as he watched Steve tug off his tie and drop it onto the table. Luckily, the table hid his physical reaction to the image of Steve fully undressing that popped into his mind. “What are you doing?” he asked nervously as Steve unbuttoned the top two buttons of his dress shirt.

“I’m a firm believer that nothing good ever came out of making guys dress up like penguins,” Steve told him.

Ken was groping for a witty response when a small group of teenagers brandishing pads and pens converged on their table. Conversation was suspended as the wrestlers scrawled a few autographs.

Steve was standing with his arm around one of the fans, posing for a quick snapshot when he saw a small mob of fans approach the entrance of the bar. He sighed, shooting what he hoped came across as an apologetic glance at Ken.

Ken looked up from the autograph he was signing and spotted the oncoming fans, as well. Steve watched his expression flash from disappointment to a professional smile and made a snap decision. “Come on,” he ordered, grabbing Ken’s hand and dragging him behind the bar.

The bartender and cook voiced promptly-ignored protests as Steve maneuvered his way through the kitchen and out a back door. Ken turned back to offer an apology and was confronted with an oncoming swarm of fans, overturning platters of food and dishes in their haste to follow.

“Holy fuck, run!” Ken yelled, shoving Steve forward.

The chase scene that followed could’ve been directly lifted from a “Three Stooges” movie. Both wrestlers hightailed it down the alley, Steve gritting his teeth against the pain in his left knee and Kennedy slipping almost continuously on the slick soles of his new dress shoes. They managed to get a little distance on the mob by slipping through a back alley shortcut, but all hope was lost when Ken’s foot flew out from under him on the slick asphalt of a city park sidewalk.

Ken landed hard on his back, dragging Steve to the ground as well. It took a few seconds for him to catch his breath, during which he listened to Steve chuckle softly to himself. “Go on without me,” Ken finally wheezed, as overdramatically as he could manage.

“You have to save yourself.”

Steve grinned maniacally down at him. “I ain’t leaving you behind!” Dropping his face even closer, he growled, “Don’t you die on me, you son of a bitch!”

Ken was laughing too hard to worry about the interesting things Steve’s proximity was doing to his body. “Tell my mother I love her,” he pleaded, even as Steve grabbed him by one leg and dragged him off the asphalt and behind a nearby bush.

It took a massive effort to control their laughter as they listened to the confused fans wander past their hiding spot. “So…” Ken finally said when the noise had drifted away. “Come here often?”

Steve grinned at him, moonlight streaming through the tangled branches to glint off his teeth. “More than you would think. Some of those fans are fast little motherfuckers.”

“Does that always happen when you go out?”

Steve shrugged, dropping from his crouch to sit on the grass and stretch out his leg. “Yeah, sometimes sooner, sometimes later. I usually just give in and sign the autographs, though.”

Ken’s head tilted to one side as he considered. “That sucks.”

“Price of fame. You don’t hear me bitching.”

“Still,” Ken insisted. “You must want to be alone sometimes.”

Steve stared into the darkness as he thought about that. “That’s what home’s for,” he finally announced decisively. “And hotels when I’m on the road. Speaking of which, I’ve got a case of Miller in my room and I still owe you a beer. Wanna come?”

“Why, Steve,” Ken drawled. “I only just met you. I couldn’t possibly accompany you to your bedroom.”

“You just outran a mob of desperate fans chasing you around city streets at night,” Steve pointed out. “I’m pretty sure you can handle an elevator ride and a key card.”

“Your faith in me is touching.”

“So how’s your back?”

“Better than my suit,” Ken announced, brushing uselessly at the grass stains covering the knees of his slacks.

“You can always buy more clothes,” Steve told him philosophically, draining the can of Miller Lite in his hand. “But Vince’ll kill me if I cripple the next breakout WWE superstar.”

Ken flushed for the millionth time that night, staring down at his own beer. “You know, I wish you wouldn’t say stuff like that. It’s real hard to be cocky and obnoxious when you’re already putting me over.”

“Is that what you’re trying to be?” Steve blinked. “I thought you just knew how good you were. It ain’t cocky if it’s true. And anyway, you gotta get used to it. The blushing is cute and all, but lots of people are going to be singing your praises soon, and—“

“That’s different.”

Steve paused. “Why is that different?”

“Because you’re Stone Cold Steve Austin, dammit.”

Steve grinned briefly. “I should tack that onto my name. ‘Hi, Padre. I’m Stone Cold Steve Austin, Dammit.’ “ His smile faded as he noticed Ken’s serious expression. “What?”

Ken opened his mouth, then shut it with a frown. “I can’t…I don’t know how to say this.”

“That’s an easy one. Have another beer and you can say anything.” Steve flung a beer to Ken, which he caught on reflex, then set on the floor. “Spit it out,” Steve demanded calmly. “It can’t be that bad.”

Ken closed his eyes and exhaled. “I’m a huge fan of yours,” he admitted, keeping his eyes closed.

“Hell, that’s not bad at all.”

“A huge fan,” Ken repeated, his eyes snapping open. “Like, I kind of got into wrestling because…I used to watch your matches, and you were just so cool, and…” He trailed off, snatching the beer off the floor and popping the top quickly, drinking deeply.

“You got into wrestling…because of me?” Steve asked quietly.

Ken nodded, clearly miserable. “You’re my favorite wrestler ever. I even have a dog named ‘Austin’ after you.”

“You got a dog?” Steve asked quickly.

“Two, actually. I love them.”

“I got a couple, too,” Steve announced, smiling affectionately. “I got pictures of ‘em in my wallet somewhere.”

“Cool. So, are you going to throw me out for being a total loser mark or what?”

“Ken. You really think I’m gonna be mad that you’re a fan of my work? Shit, I’m a fan of your stuff, too.”


“Tell you what. Next dog I get, I’ll name him ‘Kennedy,’ and we’ll be even. Problem solved.”

Ken let out a relieved laugh. “Simple as that, then.”

“Simple as that,” Steve agreed. “Man, the way you were acting, I thought you were gonna say something big.”

“Like what? Like maybe I’m secretly an alien inhabiting a human body?”

“Like maybe something about that hard-on that keeps popping up every time I get close to you,” Steve stated matter-of-factly, reaching for another beer.

Ken froze. “I…” His mind reeled, but there was no easy way out of this one. He squeezed his eyes shut again as he moaned. “Jesus Christ, you could see that? Fuck, Steve, I’m so sorry. I just…I know I should’ve told you earlier, but I thought maybe you were thinking…I didn’t want it to seem like…fuck.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes before Ken tentatively forced his eyes open. “Steve?”

Steve blinked at him twice before bursting into laughter. “Hell, kid, I was talking about my dick, not yours. I thought maybe you noticed and were pissed about it or something.”

Ken swallowed hard as his gaze slid to the floor. “I should never talk again,” he decided quietly.

“That’s all right,” Steve comforted, still chuckling. Putting his beer down, he started picking his way over the empty bottles to Ken’s side. “I think I’m about done talking anyway.”

Ken’s mind went blank again, but the kiss they shared said enough for both of them.

Steve stripped off his suit like the fabric burned his skin, flinging the material carelessly against the far wall. Ken laughed breathlessly, but was silenced with another hard kiss, Steve’s stubble scrapping against his skin. His tongue was sliding along the ridge on the roof of Steve’s mouth when he felt his own dress shirt being ripped apart.

“Hey!” Ken protested halfheartedly as Steve tugged the ruined shirt down his arms.

Steve just chuckled against Ken’s neck, sending vibrations straight down the younger man’s spine. “You were gonna throw it away anyway.”

Ken pulled his hands free from the sleeves, dropping the shirt onto the floor. He unzipped his pants as well, stepping out of them before Steve could get his hands on them. Steve reached for his boxers, but Ken stepped back. “You’re going to ruin my whole wardrobe.”

“You shouldn’t have worn so damn many layers,” Steve countered, eyes wide as Ken slowly peeled off his undershirt and boxers. He reached out again, but Ken gently shoved him backwards, leaving him seated on the edge of the bed.

“Slow down,” Ken insisted softly. He dropped to his knees between Steve’s legs, letting his hands slide up Steve’s calves and across his thighs. Steve moaned deep in his throat, and Ken met his eyes with a smile. “I’ve wanted to do this for years. I want to enjoy it now.”

Steve pulled in a deep breath and nodded silently, leaning back on his elbows and allowing Ken to control the pace.

Ken took his time, licking the inside of both of Steve’s thighs before running the tip of his tongue along the underside of his cock.

“Jesus, kid,” Steve groaned, reaching down in an attempt to grab a handful of Ken’s short blond hair. Ken batted his hand away and pulled his head back, lightly pumping Steve’s shaft with one hand.

“Let me do this,” he half-asked, half-demanded, his voice low. Steve lay back onto the bed in answer, covering his eyes with one arm. Satisfied, Ken leaned forward, bracing one forearm across Steve’s hips before engulfing his cock.

Steve bucked hard, but Ken’s forearm kept his hips flat against the bed. Pulling back with a swirl of his tongue, Ken grinned at the sight of Steve writhing in front of him before sinking back down. The desire to tease was quickly overwhelmed by need, and he set a hard, deep rhythm.

After several minutes, Ken could feel Steve’s stomach shaking with the exertion of staying still. He sat back on his heels, taking a minute to regulate his own breathing as he continued pumping Steve’s saliva-coated erection.

Steve pushed himself into a sitting position, grabbing Ken’s arm and pulling him forward onto the bed. “Fuck, Ken,” he moaned, his eyes blazing with desire he was struggling to articulate.

“Oh, yeah,” Ken responded anyway, planting a knee on either side of Steve’s torso. Steve’s hands dropped to Ken’s hips, helping to support his weight as he shifted back slowly.

Ken’s eyes slipped shut, mouth partly open as he felt the heat rush from his core to every part of his extremities. He had barely seated himself fully when Steve unexpectedly rolled, pinning him to the mattress. “Steve,” he panted desperately, arching his hips up as Steve pulled back.

“My turn,” Steve murmured against Ken’s lips, kissing him hard as he pressed forward slowly. Ken’s legs wrapped around his hips, pulling him deeper with each slow thrust.

“That’s the worst thing I’ve ever read.” Ken announced, looking up from the sheaf of papers in his hands.

Brian grunted in distracted acknowledgement, keeping his eyes locked on the TV monitor in the corner of the room. Paul glanced at Ken, then looked away, visibly uncomfortable.

“Look at this,” Ken demanded, shoving the papers toward Paul. “Look at what they wrote in my promo. I would never say that.”

Taking the script with a sigh, Paul scanned down the page, frowning as he read.

“How stupid is that?”

“Pretty stupid,” Paul agreed. “But, you know…we all have to do stupid stuff sometimes.”

Ken grabbed the papers back, rereading the phrase in question. “There’s no way I’m going to say that. I’ll just talk to the writers before RAW starts.”

Brian finally tore his attention away from the TV long enough to roll his eyes at Paul.

“What?” Ken demanded. “What’s up with you two?”

“Look, Ken,” Brian started reluctantly. “Maybe you should just let it go. I know it’s dumb, but they write the same dumb stuff for all of us, and…we all just deal with it.”

Ken cocked his head, confusion written on his face. “Bri, that’s what the writers are there for. We can go and talk to them and work out our stories.”

Some of us can,” Brian corrected.

“What does that mean?”

“It means some of us aren’t fucking Steve Austin!” the blonde snapped. “You’re getting put over as the future of the company by maybe the greatest of all time, so of course you can go tell the writers what to do.”

Ken felt his stomach drop. “That’s not—“

“It doesn’t matter,” Paul interrupted softly. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, it’s what everybody’s saying. And they're going to keep saying it until you stop spending all your time talking to the writers.”

“That’s bullshit! I’ve always had a ton of input into all my stories. Steve has nothing to do with any of that."

Paul and Brian said nothing, and Ken sucked in a deep breath, struggling not to lash out at his friends. "You believe me, right?"

"Of course we do," Brian assured him, "I'm sorry I said anything. careful, OK?"

Ken nodded, but the sick feeling in his stomach remained.

Being careful, Ken quickly discovered, did little to improve his storyline.

Three weeks of lackluster promos and poorly booked matches found him at the arena an hour early, standing outside the writing staff's office door. He listened to the voices inside the conference room, picking Vince's and Hunter's out from the crowd. From the rising levels of volume, he gathered that a debate was just beginning to heat up. Doubt crept up on him, and he took a step back from the door.

He could always come back at a better time, he rationalized. He could talk to Brian and Paul first. Maybe even get Steve's advice.

The overwhelming desire to call Steve made his decision for him. Ken lifted his chin stubbornly and knocked loudly before he could back down.

"What?" Vince yelled. Ken took it as an invitation to enter.

Hunter shot a smug look to Vince as soon as he saw Ken, but Ken ignored it, focusing on his boss. "Vince, I want to talk about my storyline."

Vince frowned. "Is there a problem?"

"No. There are problems. Plural. Lots of them."

Hunter snorted rudely. "Of course there are."

"Ken, you know I maintain an open door policy with my employees," Vince told him. "Please feel free to discuss any issues you might have with your usage with the booking committee."

"You are the booking committee," Ken pointed out. "And here I am."

"I'll take care of this," Hunter muttered to Vince, just loud enough for Ken to hear. Pushing his chair back from the conference table, he smiled as he walked toward the door.

"Listen. I just--"

“Let’s talk, Kennedy,” Hunter offered, wrapping an arm around Ken’s shoulder and steering him out into the hall.

“Hunter, I don’t want to fight,” Ken started as soon as the door shut behind him.

“Of course you don’t.” Hunter seemed genuinely surprised by the idea. “You can’t possibly imagine you can win a fight against me. Or were you thinking your new boyfriend was going to be able to bail you out of trouble.”

Ken returned his stare coldly, refusing to allow himself to show embarrassment.

“Oh, you did? Let me explain something to you, kid.” Hunter slowed his speech deliberately, savoring his words. “There is a reason that Steve Austin is sitting on his fat ass at home right now and I’m the next World Champion. He knows damn well that he can’t compete on my level, and to be honest, he never could. He’s a dried-out, half-crippled shell of what he used to be, and you think fucking around with him is going to get you what you want?” He grinned, shaking his head and snapping his gum. “Sorry, kid. You’ve got talent, but you picked the wrong dick to suck.”

Ken's split-second fantasy of smashing Hunter's face in was instantly swallowed by images of the repercussions, the mildest of which would be immediate suspension. He unclenched the fist he hadn't realized he was making and focused on remembering to breathe.

"Glad we had this talk. Tell Steve I said hi," Hunter said casually, patting Ken's shoulder and turning back to the conference room.

Ken closed the car door quietly after stepping out onto the gravel driveway, unwilling to break the early morning silence around him. He wasn’t typically an early riser, but his insomnia the previous night made it more practical to spend an hour driving to Steve’s house than lying in bed staring at the ceiling.

He closed his eyes and pulled in a deep breath, enjoying the fresh air. Steve’s two dogs came running around the corner of the house, rushing up to him with tails wagging. Ken dropped to his knees to pet them.

At moments like this, he almost understood why Steve lived so far away from the city. He had asked him once, and received one of Steve’s trademark blank stares. Steve really did see the world in black and white. Public life was crazy and loud, private was quiet and peaceful. Simple as that.

“Get the hell in here,” Steve called from one of the windows of his sprawling ranch-style house. He didn’t bother to open the front door. It was never locked.

Ken let himself in, grabbing the cup of coffee Steve had just poured for him off the kitchen counter before following him into the living room. Steve was sitting on the couch, already dressed for the day in jeans and an old WWF t-shirt. His eyes were alert, but he was exuding none of his typical Stone Cold swagger as he sipped his own mug of coffee.

"So what's wrong?" Steve's voice was low, but still made Ken jump.

"What makes you think---"

"My coffee ain't good enough to drive all the way out here for, and you don't seem in any hurry to get naked," Steve smiled briefly, but his eyes stayed steady, "so I'm thinking something's up."

Ken shook his head, sipping his coffee before answering. "Nothing's wrong, Steve. I've just been on the road for a while, and I needed some quiet time. You said I was always welcome here, so here I am."

Steve's eyes clouded and he shifted uncomfortably. "Yeah. I wanted to talk to you about that." Kennedy stared expectantly at him, so he set down his mug and forced himself to continue. "You know I love having you here, Ken, but I ain't sure it's a real good idea for you to come around so often." A wave of guilt hit him as he watched Ken stiffen.

"Why not?"

"It just doesn't look good." Ken frowned at started to object, so Steve rushed on. "Look, a couple of your buddies gave me a call and told me what was going on backstage. Being associated with me is hurting you more than helping you, and that's not what I'm trying to do."

"That," said Ken, his words clipped, "is bullshit."

Steve refused to rise to the bait. "Bullshit or not, that's the way it is. You're too talented to get railroaded by backstage politics. I'm not gonna let that happen." Decision made, Steve stood up, picking up both mugs and heading into the kitchen.

Ken was on his heels the whole way, trying unsuccessfully to keep his voice level. "So what exactly is that supposed to mean? You're breaking up with me for the good of my career? Sorry to tell you, Steve, but my career doesn't have a damn thing to do with you."

"You wouldn't have a career if it wasn't for me," Steve retorted, dumping the leftover coffee into the sink.

The statement annoyed Ken all the more for being true. "And you think that gives you the right to make decisions for me? I don't get a choice in this at all?"

"Well, somebody sure as hell needs to make some decisions for you," Steve snapped, whirling around to face him. "If you had the sense God gave a tree stump, you wouldn't be fighting with Helmsley."

"Hunter's a douche."

"He's your future boss."

"He's also a giant douche. If we weren't fighting over you, we'd be fighting over something else."

Steve shook his head stubbornly. "If you want to get yourself fired, knock yourself out. But it's not going to have anything to do with me. Get the hell out of my house." An apology immediately jumped to the tip of his tongue as raw hurt flashed across Ken's face, but he forced it back.

Ken seemed to hear the apology anyway, and the hurt disappeared behind a mask of disdain. "You know, you're probably right. I should go make nice with Hunter. Clearly, I'm a horrible judge of character anyway. The man I thought you were wouldn't change his life just because people might say bad things about him."

Steve's jaw tensed. "The man you thought I was doesn't exist, Ken. You fell for a character, and I can't be Stone Cold Steve Austin all the time. Not even for you."

"I didn't fall for a damn character," Ken insisted. "I fell for a man. Not that it really matters, because you're clearly not either of those."

The crack of Steve's fist against the wall caused more surprise than pain. Steve stared down at the tiny blood droplets forming on his scraped knuckles before locking eyes with Ken. "If I was the man you thought I was, you wouldn't be conscious right now." He left Ken standing in the kitchen as he shut himself in the bathroom.

Ken let himself out.

"Dude, I'd just lay low if I were you," Paul warned Ken a few weeks later. "Hunter's on the fucking warpath again."

"Why this time?" Ken asked automatically, although it was obvious to everyone that he didn't care.

"Something about your new t-shirt looking a lot like a design he made or something."

"Or maybe he's just a giant douche," Steve offered, leaning against the frame of the open locker room door.

Brian and Paul glanced at each other, then mumbled some lame excuses and left. Ken made a mental note to thank them as Steve came in, closing the door behind him.

"See?" Ken pointed out, leaning back in his chair. "I told you Hunter would find something else to bitch about."

Steve chuckled softly, running a hand over his head. "I didn't come here to apologize. I wish I did, but I didn't. It'd be real easy for me to just say what you want to hear, and if you were just a little less talented, I'd do that. But your career is too important to both of us to do anything that might mess it up."

"It's too important to you? I thought nothing was more important to Stone Cold Steve Austin than getting what he wants."

"Exactly," Steve said, flashing a quick grin. "That's the point."

"So why are you here?"

Steve sighed deeply, shoving his hands in his front jeans pockets. "I missed ya. I thought I could just watch you on TV and shit, but you were always being Kennedy Kennedy Kennedy and I missed you just being Ken."

"Steve." Ken got out of his chair, moving close enough to lay a hand on Steve's shoulder. "I've done a lot of thinking about it, and I think you're right. This just isn't a good move for either of us."

"I know that," Steve nodded.

"Stone Cold and Mr. Kennedy both have careers to worry about. But Steve and Ken...there's nothing really stopping them, is there? In fact, I--"

Steve cut him off with a hard kiss, pulling away just as suddenly. "I was kinda hoping you'd see it that way."

"That's funny," Ken panted breathlessly, "I was kinda hoping you'd kiss me that way."

Steve laughed as he pulled him into another, softer kiss. "The boys are still gonna talk, you know."

"They always do."

"What are you gonna say?"

"I'm going to tell them the truth," Ken informed him, blinking with exaggerated innocence. "That I broke up with Stone Cold and started dating someone else."

"A new guy, huh?" Steve chuckled, nibbling at his earlobe. "What's he like?"

"So far, so good." Ken shot a significant look at the couch in the corner of the room, then turned back to Steve. "I don't normally put out on the first date, but in this case..."

Steve was still laughing as they dropped onto the couch cushions.