He wakes up alone in a hospital bed, every part of his body aching, including muscles he's not sure he could even name, and his first thought is What if I can't wrestle again?
He doesn’t know where that came from, who he is, or what happened to put him here. Car accident? Mugging? Plane crash? A fall from a four story window? Nothing rings a bell. He's relieved to find that he can move, at least. The pain is familiar, somehow, like he’s been hurt before in much the same way, and that should probably be distressing if it wasn’t for the fact that right now, he’ll take any familiarity he can get.
When the nurse comes, she calls him Seth and asks how he's doing, cheerful and unconcerned. Tells him he's still under observation but should be released soon. The only time her composure cracks a little is when she asks if he has someone who can come pick him up. ”You really shouldn’t be alone. Isn’t there anyone - a neighbor, a coworker...?"
"It's fine, I'll just take a cab. I won’t be alone, my brother will be home later tonight.” He’s surprised at how smoothly the lie passes over his lips. Lying feels like second nature and he adds it to the short list of things he knows about himself: Seth. Wrestler. Liar.
He doesn’t tell her about the memory loss. They'd keep him there and it doesn’t feel safe. He can’t explain why, just knows that there’s something he needs to do, someone he needs to see, and that’s not going to happen trapped in a hospital bed racking up bills he might not have the means to pay for.
When he gets his things back, he finds a driver’s license in his wallet and gets a surname to go with his first. Rollins. Seth Rollins. He's 29 years old, has a car parked somewhere if the keys in his pocket are anything to go by, likes melon-flavored gum, apparently works somewhere with a dresscode, given the suit and tie, but prefers skinny jeans and band tees in his downtime. He clearly works out. Slightly worrying is the lube and the sweaty, shiny latex gear that makes him suspect that his personal life might be just a little bit out there. Which, given what he’s done to his hair, probably shouldn't be that surprising.
His phone is locked and he can’t remember the pin code. There are no missed calls. No messages. What kind of a person wakes up alone in a hospital with two broken ribs, a minor concussion and enough bruises to last them a lifetime without anyone around who gives a damn?
It takes a couple of hours before he gets released and his phone remains stubbornly silent the whole time. He gets a headache when he tries to read, can’t get into his phone to listen to music, so he ends up just sitting on the bed, watching the sky outside of the window and struggling to piece together what he knows. He's still in Pittsburgh, but according to a scrawled note in his calendar he was supposed go to Detroit yesterday. There’s nothing indicating why. He wonders if he’s lost his job for not showing up or if the reason no one’s called him is because everyone who needs to know already does. He travels a lot, apparently. Before Pittsburgh was Allentown, Brooklyn, Washington, Newark, Buffalo… he’s flipped back through the pages and it just goes on and on, city after city after city, often up to four different places a week. He’s even been overseas. It’s insane. What is he, a rockstar? A traveling salesman? An escort?
He worries about the hospital bills right up until he finds out that they’ve already been taken care of. The receptionist looks at him as if he ought to know that, so he can’t bring himself to ask by whom. He just grabs his bag and heads off to the elevator, like he has any idea where the hell he’s going and how he’s going to get there.
The phone, he thinks. If he can just get it open he’ll have access to his contact lists, e-mail, social media accounts. Maybe there’s photos. Probably there will be someone he can call. Family members. A boss. Something. He steps out of the elevator on the ground floor, lost in thought, and it takes him a while to realize that someone’s saying his name.
He looks up, catches a glimpse of messy amber hair, blue eyes, jeans and boots and a leather jacket thrown over a muscular frame, and the recognition goes through him like a jolt.
The relief of seeing something, someone he knows makes him lightheaded. It doesn’t even matter that that is all he knows: just the name, the face, and an impression of safety and comfort and home. He would kill for a hug right now, for a chance to bury his face in the crook of that neck and breathe in the scent of something familiar, but the man - Dean - takes a step back, lips tightening.
”Where’s mom and dad?” he says, with enough brittle contempt to make Seth pull up short.
Are they family? It feels right and wrong at the same time. Seth remembers a kiss, or he thinks he does, skin against skin and a hand tangled in his hair, or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. He hopes Dean’s not his brother. Hopes that whatever else is wrong with him, that one isn’t on the list.
”I... don't know?” Dean glares and it makes Seth's guts twist. He's the only familiar thing in a sea of strange and suddenly Seth feels like his life depends on his ability to appease him. "I'm sure they'd be here if they could."
It's apparently the wrong thing to say, because Dean gives a harsh, mocking laugh. "Sure they would."
It hits Seth that Dean doesn't like him and doesn't think that mom or dad does either. Whatever they are - brothers? ex-boyfriends? - they’re not on good terms, and judging by the way Dean looks at him, he thinks it’s Seth’s fault. Seth doesn’t know what to do with that. He could apologize, but he wouldn’t even know what for.
A man pushes past them to get into the elevator. They’re blocking the way, and when Seth starts walking Dean doesn’t follow. He panics a little, but he’s too proud to turn back and ask for help from someone who hates him, and look at that, another item for his list: Seth. Wrestler. Liar. Proud. Possibly stupid, too, because it’s not like he’s oblivious to the fact that getting himself checked out of a hospital with no memories and nowhere to go can’t be the best idea he’s ever had, but the decision’s already made and he’ll be damned if he’s going to go back on it now.
It’s a cold, windy day, and he pulls his coat tighter as he exits the hospital, pausing on the curb to take stock of his surroundings. His head hurts. His ribs hurt. He stares at the traffic, hugging the handle of his bag, trying to think of something to do. Hail a cab, probably. Ask the driver to take him… where?
"Hey." Dean grabs his arm from behind, pressing down on a fresh set of bruises. Seth hisses between his teeth, and Dean lets go as if it burns. There is a strange look on his face, wary and exasperated and worried all at the same time. "You all right?"
Seth almost laughs at that. He’s so far from all right that he can’t even begin to describe it. He gives a tight little nod, not trusting his voice to carry.
”What did the doctor say?”
”Bruised mostly. Mild concussion. I just have to-”
”-yeah, not my first rodeo.” Dean rolls his shoulders, cracks his neck, and stares at Seth until Seth starts looking for an escape route just in case his first instinct was wrong and Dean is less about safety and more about skinning him alive and wearing him like a coat. Finally Dean gestures towards the parking lot. ”Come on. I’ll give you a ride.”
Seth should probably decline. He can’t remember his mom, but he bets she taught him to never get in the car with a stranger, and he knows weird things about the man in front of him, like the way his eyes light up when he smiles or how he looks with his hair plastered against his skull after a shower or the fact that he can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but that doesn’t mean he knows him.
”Look, asshole,” Dean snaps. "You can’t drive, you can’t stay here, and the Authority clearly doesn’t give a fuck. You’d really rather try to get a cab than spend ten minutes in a car with me? Seriously?”
”All right. Yeah. Thank you."
Dean gives him that weird look again. ”Whatever. Don’t make me regret it.” He turns and strides away, leaving Seth to trail behind him, hoping that wherever Dean takes him will be somewhere that feels at least vaguely like home.
It’s a hotel. It’s a goddamned hotel and Dean leaves him standing right there in the lobby with a gruff ”better go call daddy, huh?” as a parting shot. Seth grits his teeth and walks up to the counter.
”Morning,” he says to the clerk on the other side, trying not to see the his double-take at the sight of his bruised face. "I’ve misplaced my key, do you think you could…?”
”Sure thing. What’s your room number, sir?”
Seth rubs his face with the back of his hand. He feels a lot like crying. Everything’s hurting and he just wants to lie down and not have to think for a while. ”I don’t- I can’t remember. Two hundred…something? Maybe?” He takes up his wallet and slides his driver’s license over the counter. ”Can't you look it up on my name?”
The clerk glances at the license, types at his computer and then frowns. ”This isn’t…” He looks up, uncertain. "Sir, are you certain you’re in the right place?”
”Let me guess,” Seth says tiredly. ”You can’t find me.”
”I can, but- Sir, you checked out early yesterday morning.”
Seth stares at him and then he laughs wearily. ”Of course I did.” He doesn’t like the way the clerk is looking at him, a mixture of wariness and pity. He takes his driver’s license and sticks it back into his wallet. ”Thanks anyway.”
He finds a bench outside of the hotel where he sits down, feeling as if the wind has been knocked out of him. The phone is still dead quiet and he can’t help but fret about it. How is it possible that no one wonders? If he’s really this lonely, shouldn’t he know? He sniffs, rubbing his cold nose with the back of his hand.
He doesn’t know how long he’s been sitting there when someone joins him. He glances up, surprised to see Dean again, cigarette in hand.
”What is it with you and sidewalks these days? Pretty sure the hospital didn't release you just so you could freeze your ass off." He digs out a lighter from his pocket and cups his hand around the flame for a moment.
He’s got beautiful hands, Seth notices. Of course he does. Bastard. ”I checked out yesterday.”
”Shit. You guys like to travel right after the show, don’t you? Probably had fucking plane tickets booked and everything.” Dean takes a deep drag of the cigarette and is courteous enough to blow the smoke the other way. ”Why didn’t you tell me?”
”Forgot,” Seth says, and it occurs to him that it’s the most honest thing he’s said since waking up.
”Huh.” Dean nods at the phone Seth’s still clutching like a lifeline. "You talk to Hunter yet?”
The name ought to mean something to him, but it doesn’t. This place ought to mean something, but the more he struggles to remember, the worse it gets.
Seth. Wrestler. Liar. Proud.
That’s not a lot to go by. He swallows thickly, forces himself to keep it together, to act like someone who knows who he is and what he’s doing. ”I can't remember my goddamned pin code.”
The admission - or maybe the edge of frustration in his voice - earns him Dean’s full attention. ”For real? It’s the same you’ve used for years.” He holds out his hand, snapping his fingers impatiently when Seth hesitates. ”Gimme.”
Seth hands over the phone and Dean unlocks it on the first try. ”Shawn Michael’s year of birth. Come on, you knew that.” He tosses the phone back to Seth, who struggles to catch it with fingers already numb from the cold. Dean’s eyebrows draw together. "You sure you’re all right?"
”How did you-?"
”You think just because you walked away I forgot everything I ever knew about you?” Dean leans his head back against the wall and breathes out, watching the smoke rise against the grey sky. ”You hate changing your passwords. Bet I could still get into your e-mail if I wanted to.”
That’s more than I could, Seth wants to say, but doesn’t. He scrolls through his contacts and call history, looking for anything that will strike a chord. There's not a lot of numbers there and only a few that he uses regularly. He doesn’t have Dean’s number. He does have Hunter's, whoever that is. According to the phone's history he doesn’t call Hunter; Hunter calls him. Their talks are short, rarely more than five minutes, and the texts are all business.
Here goes nothing, Seth thinks, and calls. He leans back against the stone wall, closes his eyes and listens as the signals go through, one after the other. When the call goes to voice mail he hangs up, equal parts disappointed and relieved. Out of the corner of his eye he can see Dean watching him. Seth turns his head towards him. "We're not friends, are we?"
Dean laughs, harsh and sudden. "I wouldn't spit on you if you were on fire."
It's not entirely true, Seth knows that much, but it's probably more true than not. He can’t figure out why Dean gave him a ride from the hospital or why he’s out here talking to him now. He tries to pull the coat's sleeves over his fingers. "Do I have any friends? Anyone I could call who'd care?”
”Why the hell are you asking me?”
Fuck, it’s cold. Seth sniffs again, rubbing his hands together. ”You’re here. Hunter’s not picking up. I guess I could call whoever but I don’t know who any of these people are.” He jabs at the phone, angrily. "I don’t know who Hunter is or why you want me to talk to him. I can’t tell the goddamned pizza delivery guy from my own father. It’s just names. It doesn’t - I can’t- I don’t know who I am!”
He throws the phone against the pavement, watching it shatter, and it’s extremely satisfying for exactly two seconds before he realizes what he’s done. He’s down on the ground in an instant, picking at the pieces of plastic and glass that was his only way to learn anything about himself.
”Shit,” Dean says.
Seth laughs brokenly, cradling the pieces of his broken phone in his hands. His head is pounding like it’s about to split right open. ”Yeah. Shit."
”Do the doctors know-?”
”No. They’d have kept me there and I couldn’t-” The cold from the ground is seeping into his jeans, gravel cutting into his knees. He stares at the broken phone for a while, then drops it and climbs to his feet, feeling far, far older than his twenty-nine years. He can’t look at Dean but he hears him stand, feels a light brush of fingers against his shoulder.
”I hear you. Fucking awful places, hospitals.”
Seth turns, surprised. ”You’re not gonna tell me I’m an idiot?”
”Like I wouldn’t have done the same thing.” He takes a last drag of his cigarette and tosses it. ”Honestly? I don’t know if you have any friends. I mean, back in Iowa probably, but on the roster? Dunno, man. Think it's all about work for you.”
He’d guessed as much, but it still hurts hearing it. What kind of a person doesn’t have any friends? Is it his fault or theirs? He stands up slowly, grimacing at the pain of it and at the wave of nausea that rolls through him. The insistent pounding in his head is getting worse. ”What do I do?”
”Shit, I don’t know."
”I mean for a living. I've got this crazy itinerary I can't make sense of, city to city, and it's Tuesday, I should probably be at work but no one's missed me, no one's wondered where the fuck I am, and my hospital bills were all taken care of and I've got weird shit in my bag and if I'm some high-end escort or a stripper or errand boy for the mob-"
”Whoa, hold up. Just what do you have in your bag? No, wait, don’t tell me. Whatever weird sex games you've got going with Hunter is your business, I don't want to know." He shakes his head as if trying to dislodge the mental image from his mind, and Seth just stares at him. When Dean seems to realize that he’s serious about not his question, his expression changes into something more difficult to read. "You're a wrestler."
"Yeah, I know that, but what's my real..." Seth trails off and thinks about the bruises littering his body, the fresh ones as well as the ones already yellowing and faded. He thinks of the contents of his bag, protein shakes, towel and compression shorts and kneepads and tape and boots and- "Holy shit. I'm a wrestler. Professionally.” He pauses, looks at Dean. "Am I any good?"
As it turns out, he is. He sits on Dean’s bed with a borrowed iPad in his hands, watching himself wrestle on Youtube. It's a relief to find that he’s not moonlighting as a sex worker, but he can’t deny those pants look kind of fetishy, especially combined with the black latex gloves. It’s not a bad look, per se, and as far as fashion choices seem to go in the world of professional wrestling he’s still definitely on the side of the angels, but he can’t blame himself for jumping to conclusions.
He's found his Wikipedia page, but it makes his head ache, names and places and dates he can’t keep straight. Easier to stick to the wrestling videos. Those, at least, make sense, he can feel the rightness of it with every traded blow he witnesses, every drop kick and curb stomp and phoenix splash. It makes his heart race in a good way, reminds him that, hey, look at that, there is something in this world that he loves, something that loves him back.
Dean's in the bathroom on the phone, voice agitated, and Seth's trying hard not to listen even when he hears his own name mentioned. Instead he just turns up the sound, hitting the next video, and the next. There’s no way to piece together a whole life from random bits and pieces of wrestling matches, but he does the best he can. The wrestling itself falls into place easily. It’s the rest that haunts him. Roman Reigns is familiar in the same way Dean is, a sense of happiness and home, but there are screenshots and thumbnails of him taking a chair to Roman’s back and he can’t watch that, not yet. He's still busy trying to wrap his head around the rest of it.
When Dean finally comes out, he’s watching highlights from their Hell in a Cell-match a couple of months ago, the two of them full-on brawling while hanging off the side of the steel construct. His heart's in his throat and just when it looks like they’re both about to fall Dean leans forward and shuts the video down. He takes the iPad out of Seth's hands and shoves it into the bag. "C'mon. We're going."
"I'm taking you back to the hospital."
Seth stops halfway through rising and plants himself right back down on the bed again. The sudden movement sends a wave of nausea through him. "No."
"What are you, three?" Dean glares, exasperated. ”Look, I talked to Roman, and he’s smarter than both of us combined, so we’re doing this his way. You don't know who you are. I've got a show to do and a four hour drive, I can't be here babysitting your ass. And here’s the thing. If you did remember anything - anything at all - there is no way in hell you would have left that hospital until you were a hundred percent sure you were fine. Because I may be a crazy son of a bitch, but you’re not, and when Hunter sticks you in a hospital bed and tells you stay put you stay put, like a good little boy, because you love wrestling more than you’ve ever loved anyone or anything and you’d die before you risked your entire career on some stupid, ill-advised scheme like this.”
”No.” Seth stands up and crosses his arms. ”You don’t get to make decisions for me. You got to go, you go. I’ll be fine.”
”How the hell will you be fine? You don’t know who you are, you don’t know where you’re going, hell, you don’t even have a phone anymore.”
”That’s not your problem, is it?” He raises his chin, staring at Dean. ”I have a car. I’ll drive to Detroit. Find Hunter. If I recognized you, I bet I’ll recognize him too.”
For a moment, Dean looks like he’s been slapped. Then he laughs darkly. ”Oh, he’d love that, wouldn’t he? A blank slate, a vulnerable, impressionable Seth Rollins, ready to have his entire past rewritten, to believe every little lie he tells. And he’s such a good liar. He’ll have you eating out of the palm of his hand.”
”If he’s so bad, why were you so insistent I call him?”
”Because I didn’t know you’d forgotten!” Dean practically screams in his face. ”Because calling Daddy when the going gets rough is what you do, you pathetic cowardly son of a bitch!”
Seth blinks. He should probably feel threatened by a guy of Dean's size getting all up in his personal space like that, but his body’s reacting with a surge of adrenaline that has very little to do with fear, and he’s suddenly aware of how close they are to one another and how little it would take to bridge that distance. He breathes in; takes a step back.
”I don’t actually remember why you hate me,” he says quietly, even as his mind is busy adding more items to the mental tally.
Seth. Wrestler. Liar. Proud. Coward.
Something complicated is there and gone on Dean’s face and he lets out a ragged breath, lowering his shoulders in what seems to be a conscious attempt to appear unthreatening. ”Which is why you should go to the hospital.”
That's not going to happen, and there's no point arguing about it. ”Just tell me one last thing, and I’ll get out of your hair. How’d I get injured? Was it a match?"
Dean looks faintly ill. ”They didn’t tell you?”
It seems strange that they wouldn’t, but then again, maybe everyone at the hospital assumed he knew. It’s not like he asked. Or maybe they didn’t want to upset him by bringing it up. ”I mean, they might have. But I’ve got nothing.”
There is a moment when he thinks that Dean will refuse to tell him. Then he nods grimly. ”Does the name Randy Orton ring any bells?”
It’s not a memory, not exactly. It’s just that the air in the room suddenly gets thinner, the walls closer, and he can feel his heart racing, his pulse pounding in his ears. There’s a roar in his head, a taste of blood in his mouth, and for a moment he thinks of concrete and feet all around him and bright, glaring lights in his eyes. He swallows thickly. ”I… don’t think I like him.”
”Good. I’d be worried if you did.” Dean looks at him for a long while, then sighs. ”What the hell, Roman can only kill me once. You can ride with me to Detroit. I’m pretty sure they’ve got hospitals and doctors there too.”
Seth doesn’t know what prompted him to change his mind, but he’s not stupid enough to ask. With the way his head is pounding he’s not sure he’d be up for the drive, and even if he were, he has no idea where his car is parked or even what it looks like.
”I’m pretty sure I won’t need them. But thanks.”
Dean shakes his head. ”I’m so fucking dead,” he mutters as he grabs his bag and heads for the door. ”So. Fucking. Dead."