Me and Stetson took a trip/To shed the traces, dodge the whip/Been wearing out our shoes and our welcome...
- Tom McRae, "Me and Stetson"
It's different now; Kevin can admit that.
Sure, on the outside, they try to pretend it's the same. Kid still sings horribly off-key in the car; feet on the dashboard, arm out the window, fiddling with the radio stations until Kevin smacks his hand and Scott tells him off. Scott still comes up with most of the really good ideas for their promos (turning EY monster face, the contract-or-leave stip for Destination X, letting Kid on the stick to call out Bisch) and then backpedals by calling himself a dummy or something. Kevin still tries to play Mom, cutting Kid off when he's had one too many, reminding Scott he's got to be reasonably sober for the house show tomorrow, and watching out for EY when he's bummed some Percs off Kaz and decides to take a swing at JB.
They go out to eat and they drink (a lot less, only five beers instead of a case, and Scotty's still coherent most nights), smoke (only cigarettes now, failing the drug tests carry a steeper price than it used to), and bullshit/talk shop (Scott talks up Daniels, Kid's got beef with Starr, Kev's pondering mixing it up with Styles after this feud's done). They prank-call Hunter and Shawn, except the calls turn more into mutual sunshine-blowing fests - just because Hunt and Shawn still work for Vinny Mac doesn't mean they don't watch the competition, and just because Kid's burnt his bridges and Scott and Kev don't want to toe Vince's line doesn't mean they don't want to see their boys shine.
Because they do. Shawn and Mark are bringing down the house every Monday night. Hunt's being a fucking saint about putting over the new kid the office is high on. DX - unlike, Kev can admit, the nWo - still draws, no matter how long between runs. Shawn talks religion at Scott and Kid (one day at a time; sobriety's a bitch but you'll be a better person; God doesn't test those who aren't worthy) and says how proud he is of Kevin for his patience. Hunt says only a few words to each of them, and Kev later finds out they're the same words.
"You guys are fucking gold. I mean it. Comedy fucking gold. Don't let Hogan get in your ear. Do what you want to do. You're good enough that you can do anything and take it all the way to the bank. And look out for each other, okay?"
In Hunter-speak, it means "you hilarious, lucky-ass sons of bitches, I love you all and fuck everyone else". Shawn gets back on the line and they put Steph on for a bit before they hang up. Kid rolls his eyes because he's still not over Jo and he'll always kind of hate Steph, but Scott wants to talk to her about the new baby and Kevin always likes to hear from the Princess.
When they split up for the night, it's just like it always is. Kid goes off to crash with someone - right now it's EY, and him and Kid spend half the night chain-smoking and listening to Judas Priest CDs - and leaves Kevin and Scott to their own devices. It should feel familiar, because it's the same thing they've done for thirteen years. It should feel totally routine and comfortable, but it doesn't, because things are different and when it's just the two of them, they can't pretend they're not.
It's not just the big things, like how Scotty still oversleeps, but instead of letting him crash and making excuses with the bookers, Kevin boots him out of bed and it's his own fault if he doesn't get up. Or how Kevin still snores like a chainsaw, but instead of shaking him awake, Scott is usually out cold from the meds. It's the little ones: Medicine bottles instead of beer bottles for Scott. Business suits instead of leather and jeans for Kevin. Two double beds instead of a king. Scott sleeping in boxer shorts and Kevin waiting until Scott's in the shower to get dressed.
It's not just that they're not fucking anymore, it's how obvious it is to everyone else.
Kid keeps rolling his eyes and getting that "you fucking morons" tone in his voice whenever Kevin and Scott show up separately. EY constantly gives up the spot next to Kevin in the locker room so Scott can have it. Ric comments when Scott hits on a girl at a bar one night and when Kevin leaves for a weekend without Scott. Hulk and Bisch swear up and down that it's even showing on television, that the arguing and potshots are coming out too real.
But it's for their own good. Kevin can't be everything to Scott any more - friend and road buddy and occasional health counselor, yes. Lover and enabler? No.
At least, that's what he's convinced himself. Scott has a different opinion. He's always subscribed to the "what happens on the road stays on the road" philosophy, even more than Shawn, and he's convinced that nothing should change between he and Kevin. But Scott and Kid aren't like Kevin (or Shawn, or Hunter) - they don't have families or outside responsibilities. Kevin's wife doesn't ask a lot of questions, but he's transparent when it comes to Scott. If he started fucking Scott again, she'd know.
Everyone would, because despite kayfabe, there are no secrets in the business.
Both Shawn and Hunter have offered their opinions as well. Shawn, despite his religious beliefs, tells Kevin that addicts need something to replace the cravings and maybe being Scott's substitute for the booze and the pills is the lesser of a few evils. Hunter listens where Shawn talks, lets Kevin bitch and moan about what he should do about him and Scott, then tells him that he and Scott are it for each other. The connections between them can't just be cut off - 2001 taught him and Shawn that, and those years between WCW and TNA should have taught Kevin and Scott that.
Kid only says, "you can't leave him again. I put him back together once - it won't work a second time," and nothing else.
There's no danger of that. Even if things are uncomfortable, even if he and Scott aren't what they used to be, they still have each other. They'll have to pry Kevin's cold, dead body away from this business, and that includes Scott. So Kevin slogs through the strained silences between the double beds, the clenched jaws when one of them scores with one of the rats, the rattle of pill bottles and the long nights when Scott's lost the battle between him and the booze. He still ends up in the bathroom with Scott, on his knees on the tile holding Scott's hair back, and he still ends up sprawled on his back on the nearest bed with Scott's arm slung across his chest. They'll wake up the next morning, and it'll start all over again, but in a way, it's better than it used to be.
They used to hide in the sex and the drugs and the booze. Swallowing another shot of whiskey was easier than admitting "I don't know what to do". Popping a couple Somas and sleeping them off the next morning while Hunter drove made the partying last longer. Slamming Scott against a wall, flipping him around and fucking him until he couldn't walk was better than arguing. Letting Scott give the orders, dropping to his knees and sucking Scott off was something Kevin needed on the days he got tired of playing nursemaid.
Coping mechanisms, yeah, but coping mechanisms that worked. The ones they're employing now are stopgap measures at best. Triage; figuring out the critical things that need fixing and focusing on those to the exclusion of all else. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don't. Last Thursday, when Scott and Kid showed up drunk to a house show. Kevin was prepared for the comments - "there go Hall and Waltman, drunk off their asses again". He wasn't prepared for even one of the rookies muttering "you'd think Nash could keep a better eye on them".
Sometimes he's tired of being Scott's keeper. And sometimes, late at night, when Scott's slumped against the wall having thrown up the last four beers, and says exhaustedly "thanks, brother" and clumsily hugs Kevin? Or when he stands across from a clear-eyed Scott in the ring, adrenaline shooting through his veins as they lay out a perfect promo?
Those are the times Kevin wouldn't trade for the world.