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One thing that Roman didn’t think he’d ever get used to was learning important information about people he loved through social media.

Kevin Owens was the first person to notice. “Has anyone heard something about Seth getting hurt?” he asked the room at large, without looking up from his phone. One of the drawbacks of the European tour was that the backstage areas tended to be much smaller, and they had to spend more time with people like Kevin Owens. “Twitter is saying it looks like he tweaked his knee.”

“Twitter always thinks people’re getting hurt,” Dean said. He was poking irritably at his mashed potatoes. “Remember a couple months ago when everyone thought I got stabbed?”

“Rollins can’t get hurt,” Cesaro said. “CrossFit, you know? CrossFit Jesus doesn’t get hurt.”

Kevin said, “Mmm.”

By the end of the show, everyone had seen the footage of Seth’s bad landing.

“Oof,” Cesaro said, peering over Ryback’s shoulder at his phone. “Okay, maybe this time CrossFit Jesus get hurt.”

“Think he’ll have to vacate?” Ryback asked, not bothering to disguise his hope. He must have seen the rage creep across Roman’s face, because he was quick to add, “Sorry about your number one contendership, man. Maybe he’ll be good for one more match?” Like Roman would ever be satisfied with winning the title like that.

It still didn’t feel real when the news came out the next day. Six to nine months. Roman didn’t think that he’d ever seen Seth take off for six to nine days. For the first time, Roman regretted not having a twitter – Seth wasn’t picking up his phone, so he and Dean were reduced to refreshing the WWE’s twitter for updates.

They didn’t manage to get Seth on the phone until after Smackdown. “Hey,” he said, voice rough and exhausted. “Guess we’ll have to take another rain check on that singles Pay Per View match.”

Roman cleared his throat. “No worries,” he said. “It’ll be here when you get back.”

Seth didn’t reply. For a moment, all of them just breathed together. None of them had ever been great at dealing with a crisis.

Finally, Dean said, “You holding up okay?” It was a nothing question, but at least it was something.

Seth said, “Yeah. The New Day hasn’t given me a moments peace.”

Roman exhaled. At least Seth wasn’t alone; Seth needed support now more than ever.

Between the European tour and Seth being shuttled from doctor to doctor, they barely got to speak to each in the next couple weeks. Roman had a feeling that Seth wasn’t dealing well with the knowledge that his championship was up for grabs in a tournament, either.

At least Dean and Roman didn’t have to rely on whatever intern updated the WWE’s twitter feed anymore. Seth was back home in Iowa and Marek Brave had been keeping an eye on him. Roman didn’t know Marek super well, but he trusted him a lot more than he trusted Xavier Woods. Plus, Marek had gotten Roman’s phone number from Seth and took it upon himself to send him and Dean periodic updates.

It wasn’t the same as being there for him, but Roman still appreciated knowing that Seth hadn’t fallen in the shower and busted his head open in the last two hours. Plus, Seth must have let Marek know about their relationship, because some of the pictures Marek sent were, well.

“Fuuuuuuuuuck,” Dean said, dragging his eyes over Marek’s latest offering with an almost physical weight. “Marek better not have been too rough with him.”

The picture showed Seth napping with Kevin curled up by his head, Seth’s mussed hair blurring into the dog’s fur. Seth usually slept curled up on his side, but he was on his back in the picture, to minimize strain on his knee, probably. He was shirtless and it was clear that he’d already stopped dealing with his body hair, now that he was no longer appearing on TV. His chest was littered with the usual scrapes and bruises, ugly red spots that a wrestler was never without, but Roman doubted that even Seth would be dumb enough to try and train this early in his injury. The marks were probably old, from that last match with Kane.

A lot of the pictures were kind of questionable, but Roman had gotten used to the idea that indie friendships didn’t have a lot of boundaries. There was one that must have been taken while Marek was supporting Seth in the shower, his hand visible on Seth’s forearm. Seth’s skin was tinged red from the heat, the inviting curve of his ass almost enough to distract from his wrapped knee. Another showed Marek feeding Seth chocolate chip pancakes, with a sequel where Marek licked a smudge of chocolate off his face. Roman had been half expecting Seth to spend the next six to nine months lying alone in the dark with Simple Plan playing in the background, so it was a relief that his best friend was there to keep him from falling into black depression.

By the time that Dean and Roman got down to Iowa, things had pretty much settled. Seth’s surgery was done, he had a rehab plan, the championship tournament was underway. Roman felt guilty to have missed the worst of the crisis, but, shamefully, a little relieved to have not had to deal with Seth at his most dramatic.

Seth’s house was surprisingly modest. It was easy to forget that success and money were so separate for Seth, that he’d turn his back on his brothers to be The Man but buy a used car. Even the fact that he stayed in Iowa was bizarre– if you could live anywhere you wanted, Roman didn’t know why you’d stay somewhere so damn cold.

Marek greeted them at the door with a manly bro-hug for Dean and a handshake for Roman. He was clearly exhausted, but still smiling.

“He’s in the living room,” Marek told them in low tones, while he hung up their coats in the closet. “We’ve been watching Fight Club practically on loop since he got home. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s started closet cosplaying Tyler Durden again by the time he’s recovered.”

Dean snorted. Roman had understood maybe half of the words in that sentence, so he asked, “Is he okay?”

Marek bit his lip. “Well, he’s definitely been better,” he said. He swung the closet door closed, but didn’t immediately turn back around to face them. “I think that once he gets properly started on PT and can be a little more active, he’ll get some of his fire back.”

It wasn’t what Roman was hoping to hear, but it was better than it could have been. He and Marek followed Dean into the living room – Roman made a mental note to ask Dean when he’d been here before – where Seth was sprawled out on a denim couch that had clearly seen better days. There was a fleece blanket thrown over him and his tiny dog was curled up over that. There was plenty of room on the couch, but Dean bypassed it to sit on the floor and knock his head against Seth’s good knee. Seth had one hand resting on his dog and the other thrown over the back of the couch, marking off an area that Marek dropped down into before reaching out to tug at the sloppy bun in Seth’s hair.

“Your boys came to see if you were still alive,” Marek said.

Seth let his head roll over to face Marek next to him and Roman still hovering awkwardly in the doorway. “I am Jack’s busted knee,” he said. Roman wasn’t sure if it was a joke or not, but Marek laughed and Dean sniggered into Seth’s leg.

Seth moved his hand from Kevin to Dean, curling idly around his ear, but his eyes were on Roman. “Join the pain huddle,” Seth said, so Roman stepped over Dean to sit on Seth’s other side. Dean dropped a hand onto Roman’s foot and Seth moved away from Marek to rest his head on Roman’s shoulder. Honestly, it wasn’t how Roman had expected this to go but it was. Good. Relaxed, in way that they rarely were with each other anymore.

Roman had seen Fight Club before and it didn’t really interest him. Pointless violence and nihilism wasn’t really his bag. He let his eyes roam around the room instead. It was, in a way, very Seth; the walls were plain white with very little by way of decoration, only a couple of wrestling posters hung around more or less haphazardly. The cover of the issue of Playgirl that Shawn Michaels had been on was framed above the TV. Roman couldn’t decide if that was surprising or not. Clothes and dog toys and energy drink cans were littered around the thin blue carpet, including, bizarrely, some plain white cotton briefs, even though Roman knew that Seth preferred boxers when he bothered to wear underwear at all. The coffee table was so thoroughly marked with water stains that Roman thought it was part of the design for a moment. It was all what Roman would have expected from someone like Seth, who was almost never home and tended to be careless about things that he didn’t rate as important.

Roman had started to nod off, lulled by the dim light of the movie and the relief of having both his boys in reach again, when he felt Marek start to stand up on Seth’s other side. “I’m going to get a beer. You want anything from the kitchen, babe?” he asked in a hushed voice.

“Grab me a tomato juice,” Seth said. His breath tickled Roman’s neck.

“Sure thing,” Marek said. He leaned forward and kissed Seth on the lips, casual and deep. Seth leaned up into it before nuzzling back up against Roman. “Roman, Dean, how about you?”

“Dr. Pepper,” Dean’s voice came from the floor, but Roman’s heart was pounding so loudly in his ears that he could barely hear him. He felt like his vision was tunneling and his chest was full of ice.

“Roman?” Marek asked, calm as anything with his palm still pressed up against Roman’s boyfriend’s neck like it was nothing. “You good?”

It took a couple tries for Roman to get his throat to work. “Yeah,” he said. No one seemed to notice how rough his voice was. Marek flashed him a smile and left.

Roman stared at Shawn Michaels’ smarmy face above the TV and wondered what it would be like to not be constantly on the outside, out of step, disconnected and bringing up the rear.

---

Before long, Seth started to fall asleep. “He’s been pretty wiped lately,” Marek told them, apologetic in the way he hadn’t been when he was kissing their boyfriend in front of them. “You have no idea how pissed he’s going to be when he finds out he passed out before ten.”

Roman felt like he was drifting through his own life as Marek and Dean joked and said their goodbyes. When he slid into the passenger seat of their rental, Dean was already humming in the driver’s seat. “I was expecting a lot worse,” Dean said. He backed out of the driveway without looking, like he did. “Getting laid regularly’s no replacement for being champion, but it looks like it’s helping, you know?”

Roman stared out of the windshield at the dark road ahead of him. “Yeah,” he said. “I’d take cuddling on a couch over getting thrown though a table any day.”

Dean laughed. “That’s where you and me differ,” he said. They turned a corner and Seth’s cosy domestic hideout disappeared behind them.

Chapter Text

Roman spent the next few weeks taking out every memory he had of his relationship with Seth and pouring over them, trying to find clues that he had missed the first time around. More than a few incidents looked very different to him now, their once pleasing colors thrown into sharp contrast by the unforgiving fluorescent light of the truth.

The one Roman kept coming back to, again and again even though it made him hot with anger and humiliation, was the first time he’d ever met Marek. They had been dressing after a Raw in Iowa, back when the Shield was still together, and Seth had thrown out casually (but without meeting either of their gazes, Roman noted now) that he was going to meet up with an old tag team partner and did they want to come? The four of them had ended up crammed into a booth at a run-down pizza place, him and Dean on one side and Seth and Marek on the other. They’d had a fine time, swapped some stories, shot the shit. Roman had noticed that Marek’s hand was resting lightly on Seth’s wrist the whole time, his thumb stroking gently against the tattoo there, but it hadn’t seemed important.

On the way back to the car, Dean couldn’t stop grinning. He had nudged Seth with his shoulder and said, “Seth, you dog.” Seth had smiled at the ground, and Roman had wondered why he looked so relieved.

In the end, Roman had chalked it up to the weirdly intense bonds that indie wrestlers had sometimes. He hadn’t really thought about it much. It hadn’t seemed that important.

“This is my boyfriend.” Would that have been so hard? Why did Seth have to complicate everything, move in circles instead of straight lines? Why couldn’t Marek have made it obvious, kissed Seth goodnight instead of just letting his hand rest for too long at the small of Seth’s back? Why couldn’t anything ever be simple?

There wasn’t anything to be done about it now. Roman tried to put it out of his mind. He had a tournament to win and a championship to keep warm.

---

The next time Roman and Dean made it down to Davenport, they were delirious with happiness and dripping with championship gold. Roman spent most of the trip staring down at the belt, turning it over and over in his hands. It still didn’t feel real. He half expected Triple H to roll out of the overhead compartment and snatch it away.

Dean was even more fidgety than usual, but in a good way, like his happiness was trying to vibrate out of his skin. When Seth opened the door for them, Dean didn’t waste a minute before lifting him up, Seth wrapping his arms around Dean’s neck and his good leg around his waist to help him. “Gonna fuck me with the belt on, champ?” Seth said, smiling fondly, and leaned in easily so that Dean could devour his mouth.

Roman hovered by the open door, feeling a little awkward. He jumped when Marek said, “Take it to the bedroom, guys,” from the other end of the hall. Dean broke the kiss but not the eye contact and carried Seth toward the bedroom at something that wasn’t quite a run.

“They’re like little kids, huh?” Marek said. He still had that condescending little smile on. Roman gritted his teeth, determined not to let this interloper ruin his celebration.

“Yeah,” was all Roman said. Marek leaned past him to swing the door closed. There was a distant thump and a familiar shout, signally that Seth had been dumped onto the bed.

“Better make sure they don’t start without us,” Marek said. Roman’s hand tightened on his title as he followed Marek to the bedroom.

Seth was already naked except for the knee brace, his shirt and sweatpants lying crumpled on the floor, and Dean had ripped off another of the paper-thin undershirts he’d taken to buying. Roman had thought that he would never get tired of this sight – Seth spread out like an offering while Dean lavished attention on every part he could reach – but at the moment, Roman was mostly struck how much like a complete unit they looked. He and Marek could go out for beers and they probably wouldn’t even notice.

If Marek was having the same thoughts, he showed no sign of it. He hooked a finger through one of Dean’s belt loops and pulled him back. “Wanna get these off?” Marek asked.

Dean flipped onto his back and started to tug off the belt holding up his painted-on jeans. He was still lying on Seth, his head pillowed on Seth’s chest now, and Seth draped his arms over Dean. He hadn’t so much as made eye contact with Roman yet.

Marek said, “Hips up,” and Dean’s pants were coming off. Marek picked the Intercontinental Championship off the bed with reverent fingers. Seth tugged Dean into sitting position by his hair and pushed him toward Marek, and Dean went without protest, ready to let this stranger belt him.

Roman forced himself to stop lingering in the doorway. He clambered onto the bed, feeling awkward and bulky in comparison to his boyfriends’ lithe grace. Watching Dean let someone else lay hands on him made Roman’s stomach twist painfully, so he settled down against the headboard next to Seth.

“Hey,” Roman said, feeling like an idiot. Seth’s eyes flickered briefly over to him, before lurching quickly back to Dean.

“Hey,” Seth said. His voice was subdued, none of the excitement Roman would have expected for his triumph.

“This takes me back,” Marek was saying, tracing the belt around Dean’s waist. “How many replica belts did we fuck in over the years?”

“How many replica belts are there?” Seth asked.

Dean laughed. “Did you lose your virginity in a WWE Undisputed Championship belt?” he asked.

Seth leaned forward, out of Roman body heat, to shove Dean in the back. “It was just the WWE Championship then, thank you,” he said, some of the old light back in his eyes.

Through with being ignored, Roman cupped Seth’s cheek and drew him into a kiss. Seth went willingly, but the kiss was less than enthusiastic, and Seth broke away to let Dean know that when he’d given it up to Marek for the first time, Brock Lesnar had been the champion.

“Wrestlemania XIX,” Roman heard Marek say, fond, and Roman pulled Seth in for another kiss. He poured his heart into it, trying to catch Seth’s interest. I’m a champion, too, Roman thought, and hated himself for his pettiness.

Finally, Seth parted his lips and let Roman explore to his heart’s content. Roman pulled out all the tricks, curled his tongue around Seth’s, nibbled on his bottom lip. When he got a tight grip on the back of Seth’s neck, he won a low purr, a sure sign that Seth was enjoying himself.

Distantly, Roman heard Marek ask, “Ready?” and Dean answer, “Yeah,” and then there was the sharp, familiar crack of flesh hitting flesh.

There was no thought process. One second Roman was having a halfway decent make out session with Seth and the next he was spearing Marek into the wall. Dean was on him in an instant, yanking him back, even as a bright red mark appeared on his face.

“Holy shit, reign it in, big guy,” Dean said. He sounded halfway amused and Roman could feel Dean’s erection against his thigh, like he hadn’t just been goddamn assaulted in the middle of sex. Seth was screeching his head off, but Seth had just demonstrated once again that he didn’t have the good judgment that God gave an orange, so Roman ignored him.

“Are you okay?” Roman asked, reached for the red mark on Dean’s face. It was far from the worst wound Dean had ever gotten, but that didn’t matter; Dean shouldn’t have to deal with that shit here, when they were in bed. Dean just looked confused.

“Yeah, I’m not the one who just get thrown into the fuckin’ wall,” Dean said. Seth was shoving himself off the bed to get to Marek. Nobody, in Roman’s opinion, was appropriately horrified that Dean had been assaulted.

Roman felt a surge of triumph when he heard Marek groan from his position on the floor. Seth was less pleased, which he expressed by punching Roman in the back of the knee. “What the fuck, Roman!” he snapped.

“What the fuck yourself!” Roman snapped back. His face was heating up in anger. He moved in front of Dean, trying to protect him with his body.

Seth puffed up, clearly ready for one of his trademark tantrums, but Marek, Roman suddenly realized, was talking him down.

“… fine, babe, he didn’t know. We should have gone over limits and junk before trying anything… it’s fine, I’m fine, get back on the bed, babe, I don’t want you putting pressure on your knee…” Seth deflated, and he and Marek helped each other to their feet.

Marek smiled through a wince. “That was brutal, man. I almost feel bad for Triple H!” He chuckled. Roman wanted to Superman Punch him in the head.

Dean wrapped his hands over Roman’s forearms, holding him back. “Cool it,” Dean said. “You know I like getting hurt sometimes, yeah?”

Roman’s brain stalled out for a second. He felt himself start to blush. “So that was a… like a bdsm thing?”

Dean snorted. “You, uce, it’s a bdsm thing.” Dean wasn’t wearing anything except for the Intercontinental Championship barely covering his junk, and Roman was the one who felt like a moron.

Marek punched him lightly in the chest, like they were friends or something. “No big, man,” he said. “You didn’t know.”

Seth was on the bed again, off his knee. He was still angry, mouth twisted, eyes focused on where his hand was tangled with Marek’s. He didn’t say anything.

Roman broke a little bit. “I’m not wrong,” he said. His voice was too loud but he couldn’t stop it. “I’m not the one who’s wrong here. Don’t fucking condescend to me. Normal people don’t smack each other when they’re trying to fuck.” Dean’s hands left Roman’s arms and his heat left as he took a step back.

Seth’s nostrils flared. “Don’t talk to Marek that way,” he said. “Everything was fine until you started attacking people!”

“Everything was fine until you decided to get greedy!” Roman could feel his fingernails digging into his palm. Seth’s eyes were wide and hurt, but at least he was actually looking at Roman now.

Roman barked out a rough laugh. “I don’t know why I’m surprised. Nothing’s ever going to be enough for you, is it? You always want more, more, more and you don’t care what you have to destroy to get it, right?”

Marek tried to get into Roman’s space, hands held up in a defensive gesture. “Hey, don’t – just calm down, okay, let’s just talk about this before we start making accusations.”

A growl forced its way out of Roman’s throat. “Shut the fuck up,” he snarled. “This has nothing to do with you.” Roman made sure to maintain eye contact with Seth. “I don’t know why I thought you’d changed, that me and Dean could actually be enough for you. Well, this time I’m not waiting around for you to leave.”

Roman stormed out in a cloud of anger, clutching his title so tight it cut into his hand. It wasn’t until he slammed the passenger side door behind him that he realized Dean hadn’t followed him out.

It was a good half hour before Dean stepped out of the house. He didn’t say anything when he got in the car, just lay his title over his lap and started it up, his movements jerky and tense.

Roman cleared his throat. He didn’t know what he was going to say, but it ended up not mattering because Dean cut him off anyway.

“Don’t,” Dean said. “I don’t want to talk to you right now.”

Roman closed his mouth and stared out the windshield.

When they merged onto the highway, Dean said, voice flat, “Seth broke up with us.”

Roman’s head snapped toward him. Dean continued, “He said it wasn’t fair to make me choose between you when it was his fault you were mad.” He jerked the turn signal too hard.

The atmosphere in the car was so tense it was almost hard to breathe.

“I’m not wrong,” Roman said, but some of his conviction had leaked out as his protective anger waned. He was just… he was just so sick of being made to feel like an idiot. “You can’t be mad at me for not wanting to see you get smacked around.”

Dean growled at him, actually growled. “It’s not your job to tell me how to feel,” he snapped. Roman flinched back. Dean seemed… really, really angry, about more than just tonight. Roman didn’t say anything.

When Dean pulled up in front of the hotel they usually stayed at the last time they had visited Seth, he turned off the car and just sat there for a moment. “We’re going over there tomorrow,” he said. Roman jumped, Dean’s voice a surprise after the long silence. “Get a good night’s sleep, cool down, come back and work it out in the morning,” Dean continued, his usually wild voice empty of inflection. “That’s the plan.” Dean tapped his knuckle on the Intercontinental title for a few moments, more thoughtful than restless. “I’m going to get a room,” he said, finally. “You can get your own.”

Roman waited for Dean to slam the door behind him before he dropped his head onto the dashboard. The title was still in his lap, mocking him with its tacky jewels.

“Good going, champ,” Roman mumbled to himself. The belt didn’t have anything to say to that.

Chapter Text

*the next morning Dean shows up to Roman’s door with coffee for him*

Dean: Sorry I got so mad at you last night, you totally weren’t at fault. I’ve just been afraid of this relationship falling apart for so long that when it finally happened I just took it out on everyone. 

Roman: Really? I thought I fucked up.

Dean: No, you were right, this 100% wasn’t your fault. Anyway let’s go talk this out with Seth and Marek.

*They go to Seth and Marek’s house*

Marek: Seth, I can’t believe you never told them we were dating.

Seth: I thought it was obvious!

Marek: We specifically talked about how you shouldn’t do that.

Seth: *starts crying* Don’t be mean to me! I’m hurt and my career is over and Roman has my championship!

Roman: Is THAT why you were such a dick to me yesterday?

Seth: Of course that was why!!! I’m jealous and sad and irrational right now.

Roman: Yeah, I can see that.

Marek: I think that Seth has been trying to act like he’s King Shit of Polyamory Mountain, so you should probably know that is the first serious relationship we’ve ever been a part of. Before y’all it was mostly just me watching other people fuck Seth, because that’s a thing we’re into. Also Seth has a ton of shame about having multiple lovers that he’s not great at dealing with or expressing.

Seth: *cries louder* I’m just a greedy bitch who wants too much and ruins everything!!!

Roman: *sighs* Seth, I didn’t mean that, I was just mad and said what I thought would hurt you the most. Oh, huh, I guess that’s easier to do than I thought.

Seth: *sniffs* … Yeah, I guess on some level I knew that. I’m sorry I made it seem like you couldn’t have any questions or reservations about our relationship. I was trying to convince you to make less snap judgements but then I pushed it too far because my personality is a paper mask that I’m worried won’t stand up to scrutiny and any pressure will reveal how worthless I am inside.

Dean: Uh, yeah, same, tbh.

Roman: I understand where you’re coming from but we have got to talk about this stuff if we’re going to keep dating. Plus now that I know about Marek I feel like me and Dean are just Seth’s sidepieces on the road and I’m not comfortable with that.

Marek: Really? I feel left out of such an important part of Seth’s life now that I can’t wrestle anymore and like you guys get to spend more time with him while I just wait at home like a loser.

Seth: I don’t think of any of you like that! I literally don’t compare you in my mind at all. The love I feel for each of you is different and unique. Marek, I would never think less of you for not wrestling anymore, why would you say that?

Marek: … Maybe because you’ve been acting like your knee injury means you might as well be dead?

Seth: Well, yeah, for me, cause I’m not an inherently worthwhile person like you are.

Roman: Man, there’s a lot to unpack here, huh?

Dean: Yes. Let’s deal with all our emotional issues in a subtle and nuanced way that leaves our relationship stronger than ever.

*they do that*

*also some sex scenes happen*

*everyone lives happily ever after the end*