Actions

Work Header

Roman in Wonderland

Chapter Text

Monday 30 October 2017 PM – after RAW

 

Dean stretched out on the bed, head propped on a sea of pillows.  His eyes scanned the words on the pages of the tattered blue book.

 

Seth’s braying laughter broke his concentration and Dean snarled in frustration at his brother.

 

“Keep it down, I’m trying to read.”

 

Sensing an opportunity to rile Dean up, Seth paused the video playing on his laptop and peered over the rim of his glasses at his roommate.

 

“Since when do you read?” he mockingly asked.

 

“’bout the time some, Jackass, hit me in the back with a steel chair,” Dean snapped.

 

He ignored the guilty expression on Seth’s face.

 

“Of course, now you’re back to be a regular pain in my ass, so you may as well tell me whats so fucking funny.”  Dean lowered the book across his chest, scowling at Seth.

 

Seth turned his laptop to face Dean and pressed play.   A video of frolicking baby goats dressed in pyjamas played on the screen.

 

“Bayley sent me this link, it’s pretty cute,” Seth replied.

 

“Bayley?”  Dean’s eyebrows rose.  “I thought you and Sasha were doin’ the pants with no dance.”  His suspicion was confirmed when Seth’s face blushed red.

 

“We might have an arrangement, Seth spluttered.  It doesn’t mean I can’t be friends with other people.  We aren’t like you and Renee.”

 

“Leave Renee out of it,” Dean warned.

 

“Oooohhh, someones being precious about his private life,” Seth teased.  “What’s the matter, Deano?  Are you in love?”  He made kissy noises, stoking Dean’s temper.  “Dean and Renee, sitting in a tree...” Seth sang.

 

“Fucking quit it,” Dean ground out from behind clenched teeth.  “Or I’ll turn you into one of those damn goats.”

 

“K.I.S.S.I...”

 

Flipping the book up, Dean chanted the words on the page.

 

Energy gathered from the four corners of the room, melding into a swirling funnel over Seth’s bed.  The lights flickered before plunging the room into darkness.

 

“Seth?” Dean called into the darkness. 

 

“Maaaa!”  The distressed voice of a goat replied.

 

The lights switched on and Dean blinked in dazed wonder at the black baby goat sitting amid the pile of Seth’s clothes on the bed across from him.  He sat up swinging his feet to the floor and pointed accusingly.

 

“I fucking told you!”  He whooped in delight.

 

“Maaaa!”  The Seth kid bleated angrily, shaking its head, sending the reading glasses flying from the end of its muzzle.

 

Dean approached cautiously.  He moved the laptop out of the way and perched on the edge of the bed.  Scratching the goat behind its ears he flicked through the pages of his book.

 

Seth nudged impatiently at Dean’s arm.

 

“Give me a minute alright, I’m fixing it.”  Dean sighed heavily.  “I see being cute hasn’t improved your patience any,” he grumbled.

 

Gentle concern soon turned to worry which quickly amped up to panic as Dean scanned page after page looking for the reversal spell.  There would be hell to pay if Roman got back before he’d fixed this mess.

 

When he couldn’t find an obvious answer, Dean looked at Seth and explained gently.  “So, um.., there doesn’t seem to be a reversal spell.  But don’t panic cause I’m gunna try just saying it backwards and then, Poof! We’ll all be good.”

 

Seth’s high pitched bleat indicated exactly what he thought of Dean’s plan.

 

Dean draped his arm over Seth’s withers and pulled him close.

 

“If you breathe a word of this to Roman, I will kill you in your sleep.”  He pressed a kiss to the goat’s head before reading the spell backwards aloud.

 

--o0o—

 

Juggling the bags of takeout and the six pack of beer under his arm, Roman let himself into the hotel room he shared with Dean and Seth.  The hair on the back of his neck rose in a warning as the lights flickered.

 

“Fuc...”  Dean uttered as the lights blacked out again.

 

“What the hell?”  Roman blinked as the room lit up.

 

“Maaaaa!”  The kids cried in unison.

 

The little black goat leapt off the bed, bleating in distress as it pawed frantically at Roman’s leg.

 

The ginger kid shot daggered glares at its companion and shook its head with a disgruntled snort.

 

Roman shuffled across the room, tripping over the Seth as he dumped the food and beer onto the end of Dean’s bed.  He knelt down to pick up the book from the floor and was immediately pounced on by both goats.

 

Shooing the goats away, he turned to sit on the floor and leaned back against Seth’s bed. “This has to be some kind of joke,” he muttered to himself turning the pages of the book. 

 

Finding no obvious answer, Roman pulled his phone out and called Dean’s number first. 

 

Dean’s phone rang in the pocket of his jacket hanging from the back of a chair. 

 

Seth’s phone danced a merry jig on the night stand next to his bed.

 

Whatever this was, Roman thought, if he just played along things would sort themselves out.  They’d have a bit of a laugh and everything would return to normal and he wouldn’t have to think too hard about the nagging except in the back of his mind.

 

Except.  He was sure he’d seen Dean sitting on the bed with the book and the black goat just before the lights went out.

 

Except.  There were two piles of Seth and Dean’s clothes on the bed.

 

Except.  There was nowhere in the small hotel room for two fully grown men to hide. 

 

He checked under each bed to confirm, feeling foolish.

 

Roman’s stomach twisted into a knot.  “What the fuck have you done, Dean?” he asked, not wanting to believe the impossible.

 

Dean grew bored with Roman’s internal musings.  He was hungry and the food smelt good.  He bounded onto the bed and started nosing at the bags.

 

Roman reached for the food, his effort thwarted by a clingy Seth.  Burgers and fries tumbled from the shredded paper bag onto the covers of the bed.

 

Swiping the spilt food onto the floor, Roman snatched the protesting Dean and deposited him roughly down on to the ground.

 

Seth watched in wide eyed dismay as Roman settled himself onto the bed.  Placing the beers on the nightstand he turned on the television and started to eat his dinner.

 

“What?”  Roman muttered as Seth stubbornly refused to eat.  He sighed wearily and shuffled over, making room for the black goat. 

 

“Come on, Princess.”  Patting the mattress beside him, Roman chuckled as Seth launched himself gracefully onto the bed.  His tail wagged ecstatically when Roman offered him a chip.

 

--o0o—

 

A knock on the door interrupted Roman’s argument with Dean about why goats shouldn’t drink beer.

 

“Who is it?”  He barked, herding the goats into the bathroom and shutting the door.

 

“It’s Renee, I’m looking for Dean.”

 

It wasn’t unusual for Renee to spend time in their room hanging out.  Roman liked the woman and for the most part she was a good influence on Dean.  He hesitated, wondering if he could trust her enough to let her in on the current shenanigans.

 

Hooves scuffled on tile and the bathroom door shook with an alarming thump, leaving Roman no option but to invite Renee in.

 

The two goats bleated shrilly, crowding around Renee when Roman released them from their confines.

 

“Um..., meet Dean and Seth.”  Roman scratched at the back of his neck, feeling stupid.  “Apparently, Dean thought it would be a good idea to turn themselves into goats while I went out and got dinner.”

 

He wondered if his own face had held the same look of disbelief as the one Renee was currently giving him.

 

“Do you want a beer?”  He passed Renee a can as she sat on the floor surrounded by the excitable kids, jostling for her attention.

 

She tried to keep her voice casual.  “So you think, Dean’s responsible for this?”  Renee knew her boyfriend, and a prank involving animals certainly wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.

 

Encouraged by her apparent calmness, Roman spilled the entire story.

 

“It’s got something to do with this book.”  He waved the offending tome in Renee’s direction and wasn’t completely surprised when her face scrunched up in disgust.

 

“I know it.”  Renee confirmed.  “Dean’s been obsessed with that damn thing from the day he found it in Vegas.”  She looked at Roman, questioningly.  “You don’t really believe it’s magic though?”

 

Roman thought for a moment, drinking his beer.  “I don’t know to be honest, I’ve looked through it, front to back a dozen times all ready and all I’m seeing is lines and squiggles yet I’ve watched Dean read it like it’s the most fascinating book ever written.”

 

“Are you sure it’s not a prank?  I mean, they’re cute and all but are these goats really Dean and Seth?”  Renee wrestled with Dean as he tried to drink her beer.

 

“Dean! I said, No Beer!”  Roman growled.  He patted the mattress to get Seth’s attention.  “Cross Fit is the stupidest exercise ever invented,” he told the goat.

 

Seth immediately leapt onto the bed and started to berate Roman with angry bleats.

 

“Ok, ok.  I believe you.”  Renee laughed.  She stood up, carried the wriggling Ambrose under her arm and made herself comfortable on the bed.  “Do you have any ideas how we fix this?” she asked.

 

Roman lobbed the book over to her and Renee turned the pages confirming his story.  She looked at him with concern.

 

“Nothing beyond leaving here without getting busted and getting them to my folks place in Florida where I know they’ll be safe.  If you think of anything, I’m open to suggestion.”

 

Dean took advantage of Renee’s distraction, knocking over her beer and lapping eagerly at the frothy mess.

 

“Damn it Ambrose! I don’t need your dumb goat ass getting drunk!”  Roman manoeuvred himself off the bed and fetched a cloth from the bathroom to mop up the spill.

 

Renee was deep in thought when Roman returned from disposing of the towel.  “We could ask Bray to help.”

 

“No! Not in a million years.  I’ll turn myself into a goat first before I go begging to Wyatt for help.” 

 

Frustration radiated from Roman as he fussed with his hair.  He was tired.  Monday nights after Raw were never the best time to push his brain into mental gymnastics.  He stifled a yawn and turned to face Renee.

 

“I don’t mean to be rude, but do you think we could pick this up again tomorrow?  Who knows, maybe everything will go back to normal in the morning.”  His rueful grin belied the fact he didn’t believe that at all.

 

Renee took the hint.  “Well, I’ve gotta be at Smackdown tomorrow evening so I’ll pop in around eight and give you a hand, if you’d like.”

 

Dropping a kiss onto Dean’s head she gently chided him, “Try to behave.”

 

Getting to her feet, Renee hugged Roman briefly before letting herself out, her mind a whirl at what she’d discovered.

 

--o0o—

Chapter Text

Tuesday morning 31 October 2017

 

“So don’t get mad...” Renee figured she’d take advantage of Roman’s distraction to break the bad news.  “But I called Chris Jericho last night.”

 

“Jericho?”  Roman repeated as if he hadn’t heard her correctly.  His voice hoarse as he confirmed what she’d said.  “The man with the podcast and contacts through virtually the entire wrestling universe?  That Chris Jericho?”

 

He scowled threateningly at Renee.  “Why not take a fucking photo and post it all over Twitter!”

 

“Whoa!”  Renee raised her hands to ward off Roman’s anger.  “I’m trying to help, so just hear me out.  Ok?”

 

Dean’s head popped up and he glared at Roman from the spare bed.  Renee scratched him behind the ears reassuringly.

 

Seth continued to race around the room, including Renee in his circuit as he jumped from one bed to the other and back onto the floor in never ending circles.

 

“Look.  I know you want to keep things quiet but we need help, Roman.  Dean and Chris talk about paranormal stuff all the time, I know we can trust him.”

 

She watched Roman close the suitcase he was packing, as Seth bounced enthusiastically over the top of it.

 

Knowing Roman’s reaction to the next piece of news would be far from favourable, she went for it.

 

“Chris told me to talk to Xavier, so I did and...”

 

“What!”  Roman was astounded at Renee’s stupidity.  “You told Woods, from the New Day, that Dean had turned him and Seth into goats?”  His frustration boiled over and he gave up trying to keep his cool.  “They’re the competition at Survivor Series for Christ sakes!”

 

When put like that Renee could see why Roman was getting upset but he’d forgotten that she was used to dealing with Dean.  She stood, placing her hands on her hips ready to defend her actions.

 

“Xaiver promised me he won’t say a word and if you’d just listen to it what he told me could actually be of some help.”

 

“Well?”  Roman turned to face her, knowing in the pit of his stomach there was more bad news to come.

 

“Xavier suggested, Matt Hardy.”  Renee pressed on when Roman didn’t immediately explode.  “I called Matt this morning and he’s willing to take a look.  He’s expecting you at the Hardy Compound tomorrow.”

 

Oh, this was too much.  Roman internally rolled his eyes.

 

“For, Christ sakes, Seth!  Cut it out!”  Roman yelled at the goat more as a means to vent his frustration than for any good reason.

 

Seth crashed into the wall and cowered on the bed.

 

Pushing the suitcase out of the way, Roman sank down onto the bed and offered his hand in supplication.

 

“I guess I’m driving to Florida today and then off to...?”

 

“North Carolina, Cameron to be exact.  I’ve booked you a flight and a car for tomorrow,” Renee replied ruefully.

 

Raking his hands through his hair, Roman stood.

 

“Can you mind these two while I pack the car and do a supply run?”

 

At Renee’s nod, Roman collected the nearest cases and weighted down with his burden staggered from the room.

 

--o0o—

 

Half chewed pancake fell from Dean’s mouth and he kicked angrily at Roman as he fastened the harness around the goat’s midrift.

 

A disgruntled Seth stubbornly refused to eat the cereal in the bowl on the floor.  Jumping onto the bed he bleated until the Samoan placed the bowl in front of him.

 

“Still a fucking, Princess.”  Roman muttered connecting the straps of Seth’s harness together.

 

While the goats ate he finished packing the car and tidied up the hotel room.

 

They hurried down the stairwell into the car park, the goats covered in bunched up coats and pressed against their chests.

 

Roman was running a mental checklist when he heard Renee cry out.

 

Dean was a ginger flash as he raced past Roman, little hooves tapping rapidly on the concrete.  He slid to a halt against the black SUV and pawed at the front passenger door.

 

“No!”  Roman growled.

 

“Maa Maa!”  Dean stubbornly bleated.

 

“I don’t care if you called shotgun.  This is all your fault.”  Roman opened the back door and bucked Seth into place.

 

Dean stood his ground.

 

“Livestock in the back.”  Roman pointed at the back seat.

 

The battle of wills continued.

 

“So help me, God, I will dump your ass at the nearest butcher if you don’t get in the fucking car, Ambrose.”

 

With a huff, Dean conceded and jumped into the vehicle, wriggling impatiently while Roman secured his seatbelt.

 

Roman looked at Renee as she laughed.

 

“Remind me again why these two Jackasses are worth it.”  He begged.

 

--o0o—

 

The drive had been relatively easy, Roman decided as he watched his daughter and the goats play in his parent’s back yard.

 

Of course, he’d had to yell at Dean for chewing the seatbelt and the head rest, but yelling at Dean was fairly normal part of road tripping with the man.

 

He hadn’t counted on Seth’s motion sickness.  Fortunately that problem had been solved by winding the windows down with the added bonus of keeping the two goats entertained with the wind rushing in their faces.

 

Watching Dean eat cigarette butts off the ground at a truck stop hadn’t been a particularly pleasant experience but knowing Dean, he’d probably done worse at some stage and it was cheaper than having to buy him a pack.

 

Thanks to Seth stealing an apple from a small girl and making her cry had cost him twenty dollars.  He’d thrown the money at the child’s parents in the middle of trying to apologise when he’d seen Dean running for the road, a cup of Mountain Dew stuck to his face.

 

The point is, they’d made it home and his parent’s hadn’t instantly had him institutionalized after he’d told them the story.  He hoped that one day soon his wife would stop giving him the side eye like he was demented and life would return to normal...if he didn’t kill Dean first.

 

Roman’s mother patted him on the shoulder, breaking his reprieve.

 

“Do you want to stay for dinner?”

 

“Thanks Ma,” he smiled.

 

All he had to do now was get Hardy to reverse the spell.

 

Easy. 

 

Right?

 

--o0o—

Chapter Text

Wednesday 1 November – Hardy Compound

 

“Sister Renee is most resourceful.  Yes?”  Broken Matt’s fingers scanned the lines on the pages as he sat across his dining room table from Roman.

 

“A most useful ally.  Loyal.  Discrete.  The Great War needs these things if House Hardy is to be, Victorious!”  Matt’s arms flung in the air as he cackled wildly.

 

Roman sighed, rubbing at the band of tension running from temple to temple.  He’d been at the Hardy Compound barely an hour and already he grew tired of Matt’s theatrics.

 

“Can you help or not?”  Roman snapped with impatience.

 

It could be worse, he reminded himself as he bit down on his temper.  Dealing with Hardy was a far better prospect than jumping through hoops for Bray f’ing Wyatt.

 

Matt raised his hand, never taking his eyes from the book.  “Patience, Brother Roman.  We shall restore the vessels of Brothers Dean and Seth.”

 

He lowered his tone conspiratorially.  “King Maxel will need good soldiers for the Great War.”  Matt’s face brightened with a toothy grin.

 

Roman closed his eyes and grimaced.  He really hoped it wouldn’t come to violence.

 

“We shall make a list.”  Matt proclaimed proudly.  “You shall adventure on your marvellous quest and Senor Benjamin will prepare the hallowed ground.”

 

He clapped his hands excitedly.

 

“Rebecca, My Queen.  A quill and parchment if you please.”

 

Reby Hardy appeared from the kitchen, a baby on her hip.  She dropped a notepad and pen in front of Roman and walked silently from the room.

 

“Do you perchance know of a Druid?”  Matt asked casually.

 

The look on Roman’s face clearly indicated no and Matt moved on graciously as if it were no small matter.

 

Roman’s hopes sank like a rock in his gut that the problem would be an easy fix.

 

He wrote the word Druid on the page and in a flash of inspiration added the name Finn in brackets beside it.

 

“Iron sharpens Iron,” Matt muttered.  “New moon.  Arise.  Spendid!”

 

Roman wrote quickly, afraid he’d miss something important.  The new moon appeared to be a reference to a date and he wondered how much time he’d actually have to gather the necessary supplies.

 

“A purse made from the gown of a virgin.”  Matt looked expectantly at Roman.  “Your good lady wife’s wedding dress, I’d wager.”  Clearing his throat he waved his hand dismissively as Roman’s face flamed red.

 

“Gifts given with love.  Delightful!”  Matt’s clapping hands masked the sound of Roman’s exasperated groan.

 

“Tokens of Irish Fire, English Rose and Scottish Banshee.  Blood from a Loyal Royal.”

 

“Stop!”  Roman dropped the pen and held his hand up.  His head was pounding, thoughts skittering away with each new item on the list and now apparently he was going to have to hijack the upcoming Royal Wedding and demand blood.

 

Matt rested his chin on steepled fingers, watching with fascination as the wheels turned in Roman’s head.

 

“Perhaps you are too literal” he prompted quietly.

 

Roman’s thoughts turned.  If not British Royalty then...?  He drummed the pen on the table.

 

Royal... royal...King! 

 

Roman’s fingers few over the page as he made a list.

 

Neville and Bad News Barrett were obviously both out.  The book said loyal.

 

Booker T had once been a King and there was always Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler to consider.

 

Roman felt his face break into a grin.

 

“Are you not of Royal Blood?”  Matt asked, bewilderment clouding his voice.

 

He winked at Roman as if sharing a well kept secret.  “House Anoi’i has long held the darkness at bay.”

 

Roman’s blinked in disbelief.

 

Matt turned the book towards Roman, his face concerned.  He tapped on a line of squiggle.  “Shall we continue?”

 

“I can’t read it,” Roman confessed.  “What does it say?”

 

“A demons defeat to amuse the masses,” Matt whispered.

 

“You don’t happen to have one chained up in the basement by any chance?”  Roman meant it as a joke, but found his voice caught in his throat at the end.

 

Matt’s voice remained low.  “Brother Finn, perhapsssss.”  He dragged out the ‘s’ sound before snapping the book shut with a bang, causing Roman to jump.

 

Pushing the book towards Roman, Matt stood abruptly.  Without a further word he straightened the lapels of his garish coat and cackled manically as he swept from the room.

 

Tearing the pages from the notepad, Roman stuffed them into the pocket of his jeans.  He collected the book off the table and let himself out the front door.  His skin crawled with the awareness of one being watched and he hurried to the car, heaving a sigh of relief when he drove out past the gate.

 

--o0o—

Chapter Text

Thursday 2 November – after a House show

 

“How did the meeting with Hunter go?”  Renee asked from the screen of Roman’s laptop.

 

He grimaced remembering facing his boss that night at the house show.  The fake medical certificates Renee had faxed him earlier in the day had held up to scrutiny but Roman’s body still ached from the nights mixed man match Hunter had allocated him as punishment for being the bearer of bad news.

 

“Just great, if you consider a match between me, The Bar and the Miztourage fair,” he grumbled.

 

“Do you know anything about why everyone backstage is giving me a wide berth?”

 

Renee laughed.  “I may have told a couple of indiscreet people that you were with Dean and Seth when they contracted Measles.”

 

Roman rolled his eyes.  At least he would be left in peace while he figured out what they hell to do next.

 

“How are our boys?”  She asked softly.

 

“I spoke to Mom today.  Seth’s still demanding to be hand fed and Dean has been banished to the garden shed after eating a hole in the couch.  Jojo’s under the impression they’re her new pets and is driving Galina mad with wanting to spend every minute of the day playing with them.”

 

The enormity of the situation weighed heavily on his shoulders and Roman pinched the bridge of his nose begging the pounding headache to cut him some slack.

 

“So I’ve been looking over the list and I have a few ideas,” Renee prompted, recalling his focus to the reason for their chat.

 

Doubt consumed him.  The most current new moon, according to Google, was set to arrive the night of the 17th of November, right before Survivor Series.

 

“What if it doesn’t work?”

 

“It won’t be from a lack of effort,” Renee reminded him pragmatically.  “You’re not alone in this, Roman.  Always remember that.”

 

She gave Roman a moment to collect himself.

 

“A Druid?”  Renee laughed nervously.  “I see Matt when easy on you.  Now I see you’ve put Finn’s name beside it.  I guess you can ask him about it when you’re discussing the demon fight.”

 

“Yeah, and maybe he’ll work some magic and get Vince to televise it while he’s at it.”

 

“What if it’s not televised?” Renee asked, her mind racing to formulate a plan.  “It only says defeat a demon to amuse the masses.  We could probably pull off an unsanctioned match in front of a few trusted colleagues if Finn agrees.”

 

It wasn’t a wholly terrible idea, Roman conceded.  There were certainly risks involved and the very real end to his career if they were to get caught.  The humiliation of explaining to his father how he’d tarnished the family name by being fired was also an added deterrent.

 

“All I can do is ask.”

 

“Ok.  So I looked up ‘Uses for Iron’ and the word enigma jumped out at me.”  She looked at Roman expectantly.

 

“Jeff,” she prompted. 

 

Roman shook his head, baffled.

 

“They used to call, Jeff Hardy, the Enigma.  He makes sculptures in his free time.  I bet he knows where to source Iron from.”

 

Renee’s enthusiasm was infectious and Roman allowed himself a small smile.

 

“Now the moon we’ve sorted.  Any luck with a virgin’s dress?”

 

Roman shook his head and Renee moved on, focused on solving what they could.

 

She played with the pendant on her necklace and her face flushed as her and Roman reached the same conclusion.

 

“Dean tied himself up in knots after he brought that,” Roman spoke softly.  “I’m glad he finally stepped up and showed you how much he really cares.”

 

Renee wiped at the mist in her eyes.  “I miss him so much, Ro.  I just want him back.”

 

She got up from the table and Roman could see her fetching a drink in the background.

 

“Sorry, just needed a drink.  Now, what about Seth?  Is he seeing anyone?”

 

“There’s been a fair few messages with Bayley recently and Dean’s been giving him a hard time about, Sasha, which he’s always been shady about.”  Roman groaned as he realised the task ahead.

 

“Is there any chance you’ll ask them for me?” he asked hopefully.

 

Renee’s face broke into a mischievous grin.  “Not a chance in hell, Big Dog.”

 

He checked the time on the digital clock, dismayed to see it was already past one AM. 

 

“Not much more and then I promise I’ll let you get some sleep.  I think I may have actually cracked this next one if Banshee is actually meant to be a woman, like the myth.”

 

At Roman’s nod, Renee continued.

 

“Using my theory, we just need a token from ladies of English, Irish and Scottish descent.  Correct?  Well, we already know two and surely with a bit of investigating there’s bound to be someone on the roster with Scottish heritage so voila!”

 

Roman’s could feel his hopes rising.

 

“You’ll talk to, Becky next week at, Smackdown?  He asked.

 

“Yeah, and I hear Paige is back at the Performance Centre.  I’ve still got her number from when we were filming Total Divas so I’ll try that first and I’ll let you know if I get the goods.  If we get lucky, she might even point us in the direction of the elusive Scottish woman.”  Renee couldn’t help but beam with excitement.

 

He smiled back.  “Well, Mad Matt assures me that my blood is of sufficient royalness due to me being wrestling royalty so I won’t be getting arrested gate crashing a royal wedding anytime soon.”  He couldn’t help but laugh at Renee’s comical expression.

 

Renee checked the list, afraid they’d missed something vital.  She caught Roman’s stifled yawn from the corner of her eye and yawned in response.

 

“I should let you go, it’s late.”

 

“Thanks, Renee.  I couldn’t do this without you.”  Roman said softly.

 

He pressed his closed fist to the screen and laughed when Renee returned the gesture.

 

“Our boys are coming home.  Believe that.”

 

--o0o—

Chapter Text

Monday 6 November – RAW

 

Roman was hardly surprised when Finn Balor approached him in the locker room that Monday at Raw.

 

“Renee said you need my help.”  The Irishman got straight to the point after checking they were alone.

 

Indicating that Finn should take a seat Roman prepared to tell his story.

 

“It’s going to sound crazy, but I need you just to hear me out.  Can I trust this will stay between the two of us?”

 

Finn nodded agreeably.  He watched Roman pull an old blue book from his locker and hissed in surprised when he felt the demon inside him recoil.

 

“Dat’s not ta be messed wit’.”  Finn shuffled a ways down the bench.  “I don’t want no trouble now, Roman.  Best you be puttin’ dat away.”

 

Doing as he was asked, Roman put the book back in his locker and cleared his throat.

 

“Dean turned him and Seth into goats using the book you’ve just seen.  I’m working with Renee and Matt Hardy to try and fix things but it appears we need your help too.”

 

Unholy interest gleamed in Finn’s eyes, his face twisting as if battling something inside.

 

“The demon wants justice, Roman.  It wants its title back.  Do ya accept the price?”

 

Roman shook his head confused.  He knew Finn meant the Universal Title, the one currently in Brock Lesnar’s possession.  There was no way he was getting a title shot before Survivor Series, even if he begged Vince McMahon.

 

“I can’t give you what I don’t have, Finn.  The deadline is the 17th and there’s no way I can make it happen before then,” he pleaded.

 

“A promise, then? The demon hissed.  “When you’re the Universal Champion, I’m the first challenger.”  He thrust his hand at Roman, eager to seal the deal.

 

Roman was alarmed at the power he felt course through the smaller man’s arm as they shook hands.

 

Finn blinked, his face draining of colour.

 

“Renee said you need an unsanctioned match against the demon, somewhere private?”  Finn clarified the details.

 

At Roman’s nod, Finn continued.

 

“Do you know what you’re doin’ Roman?  Cause I can’t protect ya once da Demon attacks.”

 

Finn stood up, feeling sick at the business he’d conducted.  “I’ll let ya know, when it’s sorted.”  He got to the door before Roman called out.

 

“You don’t happen to know a Druid by any chance?”

 

“Do I look like da bleedin’ yellow pages?  He shot Roman a wink as he popped the collar of his leather jacket and walked out the door.

 

--o0o—

 

It had been days since news had leaked of Dean and Seth’s mystery illness and still people whispered about him and made sure to give him plenty of room when he walked the halls.  He found Renee at the make-up station and was mildly annoyed when the make-up woman suddenly walked away.

 

“Have you talked with Finn?”  She asked eagerly.

 

“Yeah, we’ve reached an agreement.  He’s getting back to me with the details.”

 

Something niggled in the back of his mind about Finn’s reaction to the book.

 

“Did you say anything to him about the book?  I can’t put my finger on it but I swear it’s like he recognised it.”

 

Renee shook her head and Roman let the matter drop.  He was still public enemy number one in Hunter’s book and he needed to get his head right in time for the night’s match.

 

“Well, I have some good news.  I talked to Paige and we are having lunch in Florida on Wednesday.  She said there’s also a Scottish chick down at the PC so fingers crossed, once I’ve talked to Becky we might just have our three tokens ticked off.”  She did a little victory dance in the chair.

 

When Roman didn’t join in, she squeezed his arm.  “Rome wasn’t built in a day, Ro.” She reminded him.

 

He couldn’t help but chuckle at her corny attempt at humour and she shooed him away.

 

“Now go so I can get ready.  We’ve still got jobs to do.”

 

He gave her a subtle fist pump as he turned to leave.

 

--o0o—

 

Matt Hardy shuffled up the ramp with his awkward gait; eyes alight with victory and madness.  Passing through the curtain he spotted Roman awaiting his cue and grabbed the man’s shoulders, shaking him.

 

Broken Matt shouted for all to hear.  “Brother Nero decrees, the elements sing your name and he is.  Inspired!”

 

Roman laughed awkwardly along with the staff, daring to hope he was reading the message correctly.  He was still gathering his thoughts and putting his game face on as he walked down the ramp towards the ring.

 

--o0o—

Chapter Text

Wednesday 8 November – Florida

 

The phone rang at an ungodly hour and Roman quickly sidled out of bed and into the hallway to take the call.

 

“I hear Young Deano’s got ‘imself into a spot o’ bother.  You tell ‘im that I’s said its payback fo’ bein’ a brat to me at Smackdown an’ next time, if ‘e ain’t careful, it’ll be a newt.”  Becky Lynch chortled with laughter.

 

It was little wonder Dean and Becky had hit it off so well if two AM phone calls were her usual sense of normal, Roman decided.

 

Not waiting for a response Becky continued.  “So I’ve given Renee a lock of me hair.  The real stuff mind, not those damn extensions they weave in there.  Now don’t be alarmed if it looks a bit brown, it’s auburn in the light.”  She paused for a breath.  “That’s genuine Irish fire for sure, so be carefuls wit’ it.”

 

Stifling a yawn, Roman replied.  “Thank’s Becky, I really appreciate it.”

 

Becky apparently hadn’t heard his yawn and started to talk again.

 

“Now I been t’inkin’ ‘bout yer wee virgin problem and I don’t know if you Samoans are a religious bunch but have ye considered a wee baby gown from a christenin’ or such like.  Surely somethin’ blessed by a priest would suffice, just ta be on da safe side ya know.”

 

Roman’s heart flooded with joy.  The relief from the weight in his chest made him want to reach through the phone and hug Becky until she begged for mercy.

 

His broken laughter echoed in the dark kitchen.

 

“You’re a god damn miracle worker, Becky.  I can’t thank you enough.  If you ever need anything, I’ll do it.”  He wiped a tear from the corner of one eye.  “How can I ever repay you?”

 

Becky didn’t think she’d done anything spectacularly brilliant to earn such high praise and she hesitated for a moment before naming her prize.

 

“You tell Ambrose he’s pickin’ up me tab at Survivor Series.  I’ll be drinkin’ whiskey and plenty o’ it.  He’ll need deep pockets.”  She laughed gleefully.

 

“I’ll be lettin’ ya get back ta sleep now, Roman.  Good night and God speed,” and like some mythical Irish pixie come to his rescue Becky was gone.

 

--o0o—

 

Roman’s calloused fingertips caught on the fine material of the gown in his hand.

 

Guilt churned in his stomach, the rising bile a metallic taste in his mouth each time he swallowed.

 

There were so many memories attached to this particular dress.  It had originally been his mother’s wedding dress and as their family grew, the material had been fashioned into the one he now held in his trembling hands.

 

Each child, including himself had worn the gown at their respective christenings.  His family’s own tradition had become to place each first born child of his siblings into the gown for their induction into the church.

 

He remembered the day he’d held Jojo as the priest had said the words and anointed her head with the holy water.  Roman smiled fondly.  His daughter had practically raised the room from the church with her cries.

 

Tears slipped silently down his cheeks and he sent up a prayer asking for his mother’s forgiveness as he took the shaking scissors to the dress and with two large cuts, separated the skirt from the bodice.

 

--o0o—

Chapter Text

Saturday 11 November – House Show

 

He was running out of time.  Roman chewed the skin on the inside of his mouth as Bayley approached.

 

“Hey, Roman.”  The woman affectionately known as the Hugster greeted him with a hug.  “How’s Seth doing?  I’ve been texting but there hasn’t been any reply.”  She looked expectantly at him.

 

Roman shuffled his feet awkwardly.  “He’s getting better, slowly, both of them are.  The doctors are hopeful they’ll be back in time for Survivor Series.”

 

Bayley beamed innocently at Roman’s news.  “That’s great!  We’ll let him know that I’m thinking of him and sending my best.”

 

She gave Roman a quick squeeze and turned to leave waving as she spotted her friend Sasha further down the corridor.

 

He knew he couldn’t stall any longer.  “Um, Seth hasn’t, by chance, given you anything, has he?”

 

She thought for a moment.  “No, um... I still have his controller from the last time we played games at Xaiver’s.”

 

Roman shook his head.  No, that wasn’t what he needed.

 

Bayley’s face flushed a bright pink.  “I do still have the sweatshirt he loaned me the last time we went out for coffee,” she mumbled sheepishly.

 

“Coffee with who?”  Sasha butted into their conversation.

 

“Oh, Roman was just asking me if Seth had given me a present.”  Bayley quickly filled her friend in on the conversation.

 

Sasha’s eyes narrowed in suspicion at Roman.

 

“Why?”

 

Despite having considerable height over both women, Roman felt intimidated.

 

“Ah, he sort of told me he gave someone something and he needs it back.”  Roman wished the ground would open and swallow him whole.

 

Sasha bristled with fury.  “That spineless; snivelling, sleazy, weasel!  I can’t believe he’s making you do his dirty work.”  She started to work on the butterfly holding the glittering earring in her ear. When she had the second one free she thrust them at Roman.

 

Bayley looked at the two decidedly confused.

 

“But you said...”

 

Sasha ignored her friend, choosing instead to dismiss Roman with a threat.  “You tell Seth Rollins if he ever, comes near me again, I’ll kick his teeth down his lying throat.”  She pivoted and stormed away down the hall, Bayley trailing forlornly in her wake.

 

Walking back towards his own locker room to safely store his latest trinket Roman promised himself he’d have front row tickets to that particular showdown.

 

--o0o—

Chapter Text

Monday 13 November – RAW

 

He was wiping the sweat from his face when he very nearly crashed into Asuka.

 

She bowed, as was her custom and Roman bowed back in automatic response.

 

“Mr Roman.  I look for you.”  Asuka spoke in her broken English.  “You have problem.  I help.”  She thrust the envelope in her hand towards him, waving it encouragingly when he faulted.

 

“Thank you?” he said mystified.

 

“When Asuka NXT Champion, I win, big victory.  Last woman.”  She watched to see if Roman understood her.

 

It took Roman a moment to put the pieces together.  “You won a Last Woman Standing match at NXT,” he confirmed.

 

Asuka’s face split into a smile.  “Yes, Asuka beat Nikki Cross. She crazy, very hard.”  She paused looking for the right words.

 

“I take...trophy, from her.”  She nodded, pleased with herself.  “Now give to you, you need more.”

 

Curious, Roman opened the envelope surprised to find it contained many strands of what appeared to be human hair.

 

He smiled appreciatively and bowed low to Asuka.  “Thank you, Asuka.  Thank you so very much.”

 

The Empress of Tomorrow grinned knowingly.  “Bayley and Sasha, not friends.  You already help Asuka.”

 

--o0o—

 

That night sitting alone in his hotel room, Roman worked diligently on his project.  The hotel receptionist had been most helpful in his quest for a needle and thread.  As he pricked his finger once again he wished he’d thought quick enough to ask her to do the actual sewing as well.

 

He secured Sasha’s earrings at the bottom of the first purse and reminded himself to ask Renee for her necklace in the morning when they met for breakfast.

 

The second purse came together quicker as his skill improved.

 

The hair proved harder to work than he’d imagined, his neck and shoulders ached as he hunched awkwardly over the thumb tack pressed into the desk, painstakingly platting the strands of hair together to form the two individual cords he would eventually use to close the purses.

 

He was starting to doze off when the message came through on his phone from an unknown number.

 

‘PC 10pm, 11/16. Witnesses and official arranged.  God have mercy.’

 

Roman sent a message back.

 

‘Deal as agreed.’

 

Three days.  He had three days before he faced the Demon.  The Friday after that, God willing and if hard work meant anything like his father had taught him, he would get his brothers back.

 

--o0o—

Chapter Text

Thursday 16 November – NXT Performance Centre, Florida

 

Roman stood with his back to the corner ring post inside the practice ring at the Performance Centre.

 

He’d chosen to wear his usual ring attire, all the better to help keep him focused.

 

His gym back containing the book and a change of clothes sat on the floor at Becky Lynch’s feet.

 

Becky had been the last person, Roman expected to see when he’d pulled his car into a parking space and he’d been equally surprised when the Irish woman had greeted him like an old friend.

 

Now as he surveyed the faces surrounding the ring, he wondered if she might be his only friend in the building.

 

He recognised a few faces from episodes of NXT airing on the Network.

 

When the members of the Shield had first been called up to the main roster, Seth had insisted they watch NXT to keep their eyes on any potential call ups that could eventually cause them trouble.  It was a habit Roman and Dean had continued after Seth left them.

 

Kassius Ohno flanked his friend Hideo Itami.  The short Asian man dipped his head respectfully at Roman and Roman returned the gesture.

 

Johnny Gargano and his wife Candice LeRae talked quietly to each other.

 

The people gathered in a group around the opposite post to the one Roman was leaning on were not so considerate.  Nikki Cross clung, like a witch’s familiar, to the hulking mass known as Killian Dane.  She snapped her teeth at unseen menaces and Roman thought Asuka’s description of her was appropriate.  Next to Dane were the other two members of Sanity and Eric bounced on his feet as he spoke to his comrades.

 

Tucker Knight and Otis Dozovic appeared to have assigned themselves as Becky’s knights in gym shorts and the three made quiet conversation, keeping their eyes firmly on the ring.

 

An imposing woman with many tattoos stood with her feet apart and arms crossed as she silently judged Roman.  The petite figure of Kairi Sane, beside her, a startling contrast.

 

Last of all was the lone figure, his face hidden in the hood of a black sweatshirt, steely eyes ready to bear witness to the events about to unfold.

 

Roman flinched as the referee, Drake Younger, tapped him on the shoulder.

 

“I’m only here to ring the bell to start the match and count the three when the cover has been made,” Drake explained.  “Once the match starts, there will be no rules, no count outs, no rope breaks and no submissions.” 

 

He continued once Roman nodded his agreement.

 

“This is not a lumberjack match.  There will be no interference from the crowd, they will not touch you.  They are here only to witness.”  Drake looked over his shoulder towards the locker room.

 

“Finn said to remind you, do anything to win.  He told me to stress the anything part.  He said the Demon will show you no mercy.  Do you understand, Roman?”

 

Big match adrenaline started to course through his blood and Roman was glad for it.  “I understand,” he muttered to Drake.

 

Stepping forward Drake raised his arms for silence.

 

Roman felt the air in his lungs being drawn out as Balor’s entrance theme began on its long breath first note.  A cold chill ran up his spine as the Demon crawled towards the ring.

 

The few blows Roman managed to land felt like hitting concrete, vibrations jarring up the bones of his arms and settling into his shoulder joints.

 

The Demon was quick on its feet.  Strikes like blows from a sledgehammer, knocked the breath from Roman’s lungs and broke his body down into pockets of pain.

 

Roman lost all track of time.  Each passing minute became a battle for survival.  The world narrowed down to a simple; breath; step, a clash of body against body and scrapes of canvas against bruised skin.

 

He had faced Finn before and bested him but Roman soon realised the creature before him was no longer the smiling Irish man he knew and he scrambled blindly through his arsenal looking for a move to win him the victory.

 

Stars danced at the edge of Roman’s vision as once again the Demon choked off his air supply.  In desperation, Roman sank his teeth deep into flesh, filling his mouth with the metallic taste of blood and body paint.  He was rewarded with a few precious gasps of air.

 

Roman’s head whipped against the padding on the rope buckle when he was flung into the corner and he dizzily wondered if either Brawn or Brock had hit him as viciously.  The thought gave him an idea and the next time he managed to get his hands on Balor he slammed the Demon to the canvas in a move reminiscent of Brawn’s running power slam.

 

It appeared to have little effect.

 

Lifting the Demon’s body, Roman launched it into a suplex, following up with Lesnar’s signature move, the F5.  Using frustration to his advantage, he dragged the Demon onto his shoulders before slamming it down with an AA.

 

The Demon’s head lolled on the ring apron under the top rope, daring Roman to make his next move.  Rolling from the ring he missed with a drive by and the Demon repaid him dearly, lifting him almost effortlessly to drive his kidneys and lower back savagely into the apron.  When he tried to stand, Roman’s legs buckled refusing to support him.

 

His fingers scrabbled helplessly under the skirt of the ring, searching for a weapon.  He almost wept for joy when he finally grabbed cold steel and he pulled the chair in front of him, holding it like a shield.

 

Balor’s knee bounced off the chair and it gave a yelp of pain.  Roman swung the chair repeatedly, concentrating the blows at the Demon’s legs and knees.

 

His lungs burned from lack of oxygen and thinking he had the Demon beat down enough to catch breath, Roman turned his back.  Thrusting the chair into the ring ahead of him he took a precious few moments to roll under the bottom rope.

 

The Demon sprung from the top rope in a Coup de Grace and Roman felt a rib pop as Balor’s heels clipped his side.  It rolled onto the folded chair and picked up the weapon.

 

Pain from his old hernia scar sent blazing fire through Roman’s midriff as the Demon drove the chair home.  Gasping for air, his arms wrapped protectively around his middle as he hunched over, he barely heard the clatter of the chair as the Demon dropped it.

 

“Are we done?” The Demon whispered.

 

Something stirred deep within Roman’s essence.  Beyond the control of his mortal mind it urged him to stand and his body obeyed.

 

He launched himself at Balor, spearing the Demon to the canvas.  Hooking his arms under Balor’s armpits he dragged its body towards the chair before slamming it face down in Dean’s dirty deeds DDT.

 

“Not yet,” Roman rasped.

 

Weak and giddy, Roman staggered to his feet.  The Demon appeared to be slow getting to its feet and he captured it, pulling its arms roughly behind its back sending the body down in a pedigree manoeuvre.

 

Something red, moved at ringside catching Roman’s attention and he looked at Becky as he hauled himself up to lean on the top rope.  He pointed at the bag at her feet, his voice cut off as the rope snapped against his windpipe.

 

The blows continued as he hit each rope on the way down to the canvas, hand reaching futilely for the book.

 

Becky darted towards the apron, sliding the book under Roman’s chest and wrapping his arms protectively around it he rolled back into the ring.

 

The Demon hissed when it saw the book and Roman threw it with all his might at the Demon’s face.  Balor dropped to its knees, stunned, as the book glanced off its temple.  Distracted, it swung its head round looking for the book and Roman seized the opportunity.

 

He’d cried out in fear, the day he watched Seth stomp Dean’s face into the cinderblocks.  It sickened him the day Dean returned the favour.

 

Bile rose in his stomach as Roman moved across the ring.  Raising his foot high, he curb stomped the Demon’s head down onto the exposed pages.

 

Rolling the prone body over, Roman fell to his knees upon Balor’s shoulders pinning him to the mat.

 

There was no bell.

 

Drake’s hand sounded like cannon fire as it hit the canvas.

 

One.

 

Two.

 

Three.

 

Roman rolled off Finn, collapsing face down.  His stomach heaved, remorse and guilt mixed equally with physical exhaustion.

 

“Becky signalled Tucker and Dozovic and the two men sprung into action dragging Roman from the ring, carrying him towards the exit.

 

“Finn?”  he croaked.

 

“He’s alive.  Becky reassured.  He’s not good, but he’s alive.”

 

The two men stopped to readjust Roman’s dead weight as they reached the door.

 

“What are ya waitin’ for?” Becky scolded them.  “Get movin’ a’fore we get caught!”

 

--o0o—

Chapter Text

Friday 17 November AM – Becky’s Apartment, Florida

 

Roman’s head swam like being underwater.  His body ached in a myriad of places despite the pills Becky had forced him to swallow before they left for the airport.

 

Snippets of the night before flashed in his brain and he was no longer sure where reality begun or ended.

 

He remembered asking about Seth and Dean.  Becky’s assurances that they were safe with Renee and the movement of the car sent him nodding into another waking dream.

 

By the time they reached the airport, Roman was aware enough to pull himself together sufficiently to pass through check in and airport security before boarding his flight.

 

Stowing his bag in the overhead locker, he collapsed into the seat and fastened his seatbelt.  He soon fell back into the trance like sleep, caught halfway between wakefulness and slumber.

 

He didn’t know if he’d dreamed meeting Jeff Hardy when his flight landed, but he followed the man just the same.

 

--o0o—

 

Friday 17 November – Hardy Compound

 

Roman woke in an unfamiliar room.  A bedside lamp lit the room softly.

 

His body throbbed in time to the pounding in his head and Roman blinked slowly, waiting for his vision to clear before he moved gingerly, forcing his body into a sitting position.

 

One hand felt heavier than the other and it opened it cautiously, surprised to find two pieces of delicately crafted metal in his palm.

 

They clinked together as he rolled them.

 

Two small shields with three fists joined together on the surface of each one.

 

He smiled at Jeff’s handiwork and rolled to place them on the bedside table alongside a glass of water and set of car keys.

 

Swinging his legs of the bed, he bit back a cry of pain from his abused back and kidneys.

 

Sipping the drink of water, he tested his weight through the balls of his feet before finally standing.  He shuffled like an elderly man through the open door of the ensuite.

 

With one arm propped against the wall to support his weight, Roman was dismayed at the sight of the orange liquid filling the toilet bowl as he relieved himself.

 

“Get it together, Roman” he muttered as he washed his hands and raked his wild mane of curls back into a semblance of order, securing it into a bun with the hair tie from around his wrist.

 

He shuffled back into the bedroom, relieved to find his bag on a small desk.

 

Carefully lowering himself onto the chair, he unzipped the bag and removed the contents.

 

Two white purses made from his family’s christening gown were securely closed by the drawstrings made from the women’s’ hair.

 

Seth’s pouch contained Sasha’s earrings while Dean’s held Renee’s necklace.

 

Holding his battered ribs, Roman reached for the iron pieces and placed one each into the bags, pulling the cord tightly.  He placed Seth’s to his left and Dean’s to his right.

 

Fishing the two small collars from his bag, Roman was glad he’d had the forethought to buy them in different colours.

 

With shaking hands he threaded each purse onto the appropriate collar, red for Seth and blue for Dean, fastening each buckle as he went.

 

The final pieces needed were his blood and the cursed book and he would be ready.

 

He yelled in anger when it became evident the book was missing.

 

The door slammed open and Broken Matt stepped dramatically into the room.

 

“Marvellous!  You’re awake!”  Matt proclaimed loudly.

 

“The Druid waits.  The moon arises!  We shall have...Resurrection!”  He cackled gleefully.

 

In disbelief, Roman uttered the fateful words.

 

“I’ve lost the book!”

 

“The book?”  Matt waved his arms as if it were of little consequence.  “Does the Druid not have the book?”

 

Roman tried to remember the last time he’d seen it.  Images of the Demon face down amongst its pages, his last clear memory.

 

“Quickly, quickly now. Are these your offerings?”  Matt lunged at the collars with cat like reflexes.

 

He dangled them in front of his face, eyeing them greedily.

 

“Where is the blood?”  His eyes focused accusingly at Roman.

 

Roman yanked the collars from Matt’s grasp, grunting as his ribs protested the movement.

 

He stretched for the car keys blinking furiously as stars danced in his field of vision.  Clasping the keys in his hand he breathed heavily, trying not to pass out.

 

Laying the collars on the desk before him, Roman placed his hand flat and gritting his teeth stabbed the point of the key into his palm, drawing it downward, opening a bloody gash in his skin.

 

He pressed the wound down upon each purse, watching the material change colour.

 

“There’s your fucking blood,” he snarled at Matt Hardy.

 

“Ah, Brother Roman,” Matt sighed, “It is men like you who win Great Wars.”  His eyes unfocused as he drifted on memories of days long past.

 

Roman watched the transformation, lost for words.

 

Matt’s grin spread widely across his face and with a blink he regained focus.

 

“Resurrection Awaits!”  Matt wheeled on his heels and marched from the room leaving Roman to stumble in his wake, the car keys slipped into his pocket.

 

--o0o—

Chapter Text

“Where’s Renee?”  Roman followed Matt towards the Lake of Resurrection.

 

“Sister Renee is safe.  My good lady wife shall entertain her.”  Matt assured him.

 

Roman paid little attention to the glowing moon or mist rising from the water when the goats bleated joyfully and ran to meet him.

 

He dropped to his knees, burying his face in their soft fur, overcome with emotion.

 

Movement at the water edge caught his attention. 

 

A naked man moved in graceful steps, the book balanced in one hand.  Ink appeared to crawl over his skin and Roman felt himself hypnotised by the glowing eyes on the man’s back.  The man bent to collect a knife from the grass, its blade reflecting the moonlight.

 

“You never said anything about killing them!”  Roman shouted, gathering Dean and Seth protectively against him.

 

“They must be Deleted,” Matt replied as if it were common knowledge.  “Have faith, Brother Roman, their Vessels will be Resurrected.”

 

“The time is now.”  Aleister Black’s soft voice cut across the tension between the two men.

 

Roman mumbled softly to the goats as he fastened the collars around their necks.

 

“Come.”  Aleister commanded.

 

The goats broke free from Roman’s grasp and trotted sedately to their doom.

 

Roman felt something in his chest break and bowing his head, screwed his eyes shut as Alesister raised the knife.

 

Matt’s hand rested weighed heavily on Roman’s head.

 

“I will bear witness,” he whispered.

 

The splash of bodies hitting the water, roused Roman and he stood to watch as Aleister drew symbols with the bloody knife into the dark soil on the shore of the lake, as he chanted softly.

 

Matt gave a joyous shout as the water began to bubble.  Roman’s jaw dropped in disbelief as first Dean and then Seth’s heads broke the surface.

 

Sobbing and laughing in relief, Roman ran into the water almost sending the three of them crashing beneath the surface as he fiercely hugged his brothers, overjoyed at their return.

 

They lurched unsteadily onto the shore and Roman released them for a moment to wipe the water from his face.

 

“When we get out of here, I’m gonna kill you,” he whispered jokingly elbowing Dean in the chest.

 

“Maaa”

 

Water ran down Dean’s face as he stood stock still, his vacant eyes blinking.

 

Horror churned in Roman’s stomach as it looked at the equally vacant stare of Seth.

 

He turned angrily to face a jubilant, dancing Hardy.

 

“Stupendous!”

 

“What the fuck is this!” Roman roared, waving his arms at his brothers.  “You promised me I’d get them back!”

 

Matt stopped his dance, his head tilted sideways in obvious confusion.

 

“Have I not delivered?  Have Brother’s Dean and Seth’s Vessels, not been Restored?”

 

Matt turned his back on the angry Samoan and walked towards Aleister to engage him in conversation as the man finished dressing.

 

“Tell, Itami, I’m done.  The debt has been paid.”  The Druid pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head.

 

“But the Great War... You must...”

 

Black fixed Hardy with a chilling stare.  “It’ll take no sides in the war, Madman.  It is no concern of mine.”  Slipping his feet into his shoes he walked away towards his car.

 

A flustered Matt fiddled with the lapels on his coat, plastering his trademark grin on his face before he faced the Shield members.

 

“Come!  King Maxel awaits.  We shall dine at the Feast of Resurrection.”  He shuffled towards the house, leaving the fuming Samoan and robotic vessels of Dean and Seth to trail after him.

 

--o0o—

 

Roman sat with his elbows on the table, hunched over the plate of uneaten food, as Matt’s excited ramblings competed with the sound of cutlery on china.

 

Renee sat silently on his left, her face a reflection of his own horror.

 

Dean and Seth sat across the table from Renee, dressed in the ridiculous coats the Hardy’s favoured.  Their hands moved the food mechanically from the plate to their mouths, in blinking silence.

 

“There has to be a way to fix this.”  Roman demanded, thrusting the book towards Matt.

 

“I assure you, Brother Roman, King Maxel is Delighted to have acquired such fine Vessels for the Great...”

 

Roman’s fist thumped on the table as his anger burst forth.

 

“No!  I’m sick of your ramblings you crazy, asshole.  You promised me and you haven’t delivered.”

 

Matt remained steadfast, regarding Roman serenely as if angry outburst were a common occurrence at his table.

 

Roman stood, snatching the book up.  He looked at his companions before delivering his final threat.

 

“I swear, Hardy, if you, ever, come anywhere near me, my brothers or Renee again, I will end you.

 

Renee stood and Roman looked at his broken brothers.

 

“Dean, Seth.  We’re leaving.”

 

His shoulders sagged in relief when they obeyed his command.

 

--o0o—

 

Saturday 18 November – North Carolina and Houston

 

Roman had shut down on their drive to the airport, ignoring Renee’s suggestion of people they could call to ask for help.

 

They’d stopped at a quiet truck stop and he’d help Renee dress Dean and Seth into less conspicuous clothing.

 

It was midday before they reached their destination in Houston, Texas, hiding out in a shabby motel, well away from where the rest of the roster was staying.

 

After a shower and a few short hours of sleep, Renee had frantically called the few people she could think of, seeking aid.

 

Finn’s only help had been a contact number for Hideo Itami.

 

Itami supplied her with a number for Aleister Black.

 

Black had refused to help, disconnecting the call abruptly.

 

Roman had spoken with his family and now lay dejectedly on the bed, ice melting on the worst of his aches.  He couldn’t bear to look his brothers knowing he’d failed them.

 

Sunday rolled around all too soon.

 

--o0o—

Chapter Text

Sunday 19 November 2017 – Survivor Series, Backstage

 

Getting into the arena had been the easy part, Roman lamented to himself.

 

For their part, Seth and Dean were remarkably pliable.  Like lifeless puppets, each followed Roman’s commands and he’d dressed them in their ring gear and now they sat waiting further orders.

 

He pleaded with any deity that would listen, to restore his brothers.

 

His prayers fell on deaf ears.

 

Roman paced the narrow confines of the room, battling to keep his rising panic in check as the minutes to show time ticked away.

 

“Only me,” Renee called as she knocked before entering the room.

 

“I need to do a quick interview with you before the panel starts,” she said quickly surveying the room.

 

She framed a shot and gestured to Roman to come stand where she wanted him to.

 

“If you stand here, then we won’t get the guys in the shot,” she explained quickly.

 

She plastered on a reassuring smile and called for the camera man.

 

Nodding at Roman, she asked, “Are you ready?  Just follow my lead.  Ok?”

 

Roman composed himself and settled into his Big Dog persona.  Answering Renee’s questions he talked up the Shield’s chances against the New Day in their upcoming match.

 

“And, we’re done.”  Renee signalled the camera man.

 

She stepped closer, wrapping her arms around Roman’s waist and taking care not to squeeze his injured ribs she hugged him gently.

 

“You did everything you could, Ro,” she assured him.  Letting go, she stepped back. 

 

“I’ll be back soon.”  Renee promised as she walked to the door.

 

Roman’s attention had already turned and he was busy looking in his bag for some Advil, shoving the book out of the way.

 

Voices in the corridor tittered nervously as the door opened.

 

“Oh, by the way, Roman...”

 

He turned to see what Renee was going to say, surprised to see the camera man still filming.

 

“You’ve been, Swerved!”  Renee announced loudly.

 

People in the corridor crowded at the open door in raucous laughter.

 

A hand clapped down hard on Roman’s shoulder and his ears rang with Seth’s braying laugh.

 

“Your face!”  Seth chortled, wiping tears from his eyes.  “You should see, your, face!”

 

“Got you good, Brother,” Dean beamed, slapping Roman on the chest as he bounded towards Renee, sweeping her into a hug as they celebrated the success of their prank.

 

A joke.

 

Roman stared hollowly at the people in the room as reality sank in.

 

His heartbeat thundered in his ears, wiping out all sound as his anger grew.

 

“Get out.”  His voice, deep and low growled out from behind clenched teeth.

 

All the unnecessary worry; the stress, the sleepless nights compounded by the ever persistent throb of his battered body, stoked the anger to rage.

 

It had all been a fucking joke.

 

Roman roared and everyone, including his brothers, fled in the face of his fury.

 

The voice he’d heard during the match with Balor spoke softly in his mind.

 

“Pay.  It promised.  We will make them all pay.”

 

Upending the bench where Seth and Dean had sat earlier, Roman grabbed it by the legs and smashed it to smithereens against the block wall.

 

His rage grew.

 

His eyes settled upon the hint of blue, visible inside his bag and he snatched up the battered book flinging it through the doorway.  It hit against the corridor wall with a loud bang and fell to the floor.

 

Like a beast, his head swung from side to side searching for victims to enact his revenge upon.

 

Roman stalked from the room, scouring the hallways, seeking his brothers.

 

--o0o—

 

Bray Wyatt sauntered down the hall, whistling a merry tune.

 

A book lay abandoned on the floor and he smiled happily as he picked it up.

 

“Hello, Old Friend,” he said, straightening the spine.  He lovingly stroked the cover bringing the gold leaf title to life.

 

soahC roF sepiceR reflected in his dark eyes as he chuckled.

 

“Sister Abigail will be most pleased you have returned to us.”  Bray purred.

 

He cradled the book against his chest and continued his stroll, voice raised in song.

 

“He’s got the whole world in his hands...”