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building bridges, pt. I


Jan 1, 2000
upstate NY
He shuffled up the steps, a heavy suitcase in each hand, a big duffel bag slung across his chest. Awkwardly using his elbow to hit the doorbell, Cassidy Stewart quickly shifted the weight of one bag, losing his grip momentarily. Clenching his teeth, he muttered under his breathe.

"...come on, come on, come on..."

Forcing a smile as he heard the bolt and latch unhinge, he strengthened his grip on the bags. That forced smile melted into a genuine one at the sight of his remarkable fiancee opening the oak door.

"Hey you," she said smiling.

Cass stepped inside and gave her a quick peck before trundling off towards the stairs. "Got some boxes in the car, but... " he called out over his shoulder. He dropped his suitcases at the foot of the stairs and groaned the duffel bag off of himself, setting it on top of the cases before collapsing onto the second to the last step "...I need to catch my breath."

And for a silent moment, he did.

"I missed you, you know...", Cassidy said.

Rebecca Zachary-Xavier knelt down before Cassidy and they embraced. It had been three weeks since they'd last seen eachother; the nature of Cassidy's job as a talent rep/scout in the wrestling business. Rebecca knew all too well the toll the industry could take on a relationship. She'd seen it first hand, first growing up the daughter of Vin Zachary (a fixture of the business in the sixties and early seventies). It was at her father's wrestling school where she met her first husband, a man who would go on to be a recognizable name in the business - a man who ultimately put the business AHEAD of their faltering marriage. As she neared her second marriage, Rebecca was all too well aware of what she might be getting into. "I missed you, too," she softly replied, nose to nose with Cass.

This was her chance.

"Uh, listen, we ... need to talk," she told him. By the weight and cadence of her words, Cassidy knew that "whatever it was" was important.

He took another deep breath and rubbed his travel-weary eyes. "Is everything okay? ... Is Brooke--?"

Rebecca nodded her head, quickly. "Brooke is fine. She's in her room doing her homework ... she likes most of her classes ... most of her new teachers, so ... yeah, Brooke is fine."

Cass squinted his eyes, examining Rebecca's reactions. "Is it her Father?"

Rebecca shook her head this time. "No. Mason's been fine. He took her last weekend, they had a blast..."

"Good," Cass answered automatically. He loved his 8 year old soon-to-be step-daughter, and was committed to taking care of her ... it was her biological father that, at times, concerned him. Actually, it was Mason Xavier's apparent lack of concern for his own daughter that, at times, concerned Cassidy. Brooke deserved a father. And if "Havoc" didn't want to "do that job", then Cassidy was more than willing.

"It's your work," she finally told him. Rebecca got to her feet, wringing her hands. It was clear that this had been weighing on her.

"I can't handle you being away for weeks at a time. I ... I know it's what you love, but ... it's just so hard," she said. "I don't want to be selfish, but ... at this point in my life, for myself ... and for Brooke ... I HAVE to be."

Cassidy rose to his feet to meet her, brow furrowed. "Look ... Beck ... I know you hate the wrestling business--"

"No, I don't!", she shot back.

"--and what it's done to your mother and ... and what it's done to YOU and your daughter, but ... it's not just my career, it's my LIFE. It's not like I'm getting the snot kicked out of me every night, not like I'm going to come home on crutches. I'm a Representative, baby. I'm never in any kind of physical danger," Cass kept on, ignoring the fact that Rebecca shook her head through everything he was saying. "Honey, You KNOW what I do!"

She wiped a tear from her cheek. "I know that it keeps you from me ... from the family we're trying to make ... here. And THAT is what I hate. Not the business. Not whatever DANGER is out there. I hate the fact that you'd rather be half-way across the country than--"

Cassidy broke in again, loosening his tie, fighting the urge to roll his eyes. "Rebecca, you KNOW I'd love nothing more than to be here with you, all day ... every day. You KNOW that."

It was quickly escalating, growing into an argument - not a discussion. Rebecca closed her eyes and took a deep breath of her own before continuing. "I'm not trying to make this into a huge production, Cassidy ... I ... look ... my father called me last week."

"Vin?" Cassidy asked, concerned. "Is it his heart?"

"Well," Rebecca began, "the doctors want him to stop working. To leave his business. Stress, they say."

Now Cassidy was confused. Where, exactly, was she going with this? Vin Zachary ran, as he had for just over twenty years, the "Vin Zachary School of Wrestling" there in San Diego. A school that had produced a handful of future World Champions of promotions; Havoc, Smoove, both doomed Blackshire brothers, and many others.

Rebecca ran a hand through her dark brown hair, choosing her next words carefully, it seemed. "He ... needs someone to takeover the financial-side of the School, Cassidy. Someone with a brain for the business - how it works - and with a business sense he can trust." She locked eyes with her fiancee before continuing. "I ... suggested you, and he agreed."

Cassidy's jaw dropped. "You did What?"

Rebecca grabbed both of Cassidy's hands. "Aw, Cass ... you could DO it! My brother, Don, will be there to help ... I know a little bit about the accounting, and ... you'd be here, with me and Brooke, 365 days a year."

Cassidy quickly mulled it over. It certainly wasn't a job he'd seen himself doing, but the more he considered it ... the better it sounded. Maybe he COULD do it.

That was about the moment when he suddenly remembered who the Head Trainer at The VZ was. Mason Xavier - Havoc - Rebecca's Ex-Husband.

"Wait," Cass started. "I ... take it that Mason would be staying on?"

Rebecca eased back slightly, but tightened her grip on his hands. "...yes. But please don't let that affect your decision, he--"

Breaking away, Cassidy turned back for the stairs, retaking his former seat. "Babe ... I don't know if I can--"

"You CAN," Rebecca pleaded. "Think about what it would do for my father, it would put him at ease. Think about what it would do ... for us."

Cass sullenly looked up at his one-day wife. Damn, it was hard to deny her. "Did Mason agree to this idea?"

Rebecca quickly shook her head. "Daddy hasn't asked him yet."

"Jesus, babe..." Cass said, running his hands through his dirty blonde hair, thinning though it may be. "I'll ... think about it."

She knelt down again and smiled up at him. "I ... kinda told him you'd meet with him ... tomorrow morning."

Cassidy shook his head, smiling despite himself. "You kill me."


Jan 1, 2000
upstate NY
building bridges, pt. II

(so as to not clutter the board, all of this storyline will be posted in this thread - disregard the "pt. I" in the title. i'm a moron, nice to meet you.)

Mason Xavier made a quiet entrance, his gym bag slung over his shoulder. He could hear some light-training going on in two of the three rings in the complex, and could even tell by the sounds of the bumps just which trainees were participating; he knew his students, and this school, that well. While his ears were set on the faux matches going on around him, his eyes were transfixed across the gym, where two men seemed engrossed in what was clearly an intense conversation.

Those men were Vin Zachary ... and Cassidy Stewart.

The former has served as Mason's father-figure for almost as long as he's known him. He was even his father-IN-LAW for a time. Once known as "The Shredder", Vin Zachary trained Havoc. He trusted him with his only daughter, and years later, as Head Trainer at Vin's Wrestling School. Now approaching seventy years old, the years have shredded the shredder. His back is a mess, leaving the once imposing man hunched over slightly. Wearing a grand-fatherly green sweater and khakis, his dark hair has long-since faded to a pale grey, thinner in more places than not. Even a hundred and twenty pounds lighter now than he was at his peak ring-condition, Vin Zachary commanded respect. And he got it, in spades, from Mason Xavier. Which is made it so ... unsavory for Mason to see Vin with ... Him.

Cassidy Stewart. If asked, Havoc could describe his ex-wife's fiancee with three words; "Smarmy. Fake. Transparent." would be his likely first choices, even if his opinion WAS ... skewed a bit by emotion, it didn't dull it's edge. Dressed in a flawless Italian suit, yellow tie, Stewart noticed Xavier's arrival first ... but chose not to alert Vin, who was apparently in the midst of something ... profound. Mason adjusted the bag over his shoulder and turned, angling towards the lockerroom.

He had come to deliver some important news to Vin ... but it would have to wait.

"Mason!" the Shredder called out. Xavier turned his head - meeting eyes with Vin only. "...in the office," Vin croaked across the gym.

Mason didn't reply, verbally or otherwise, but simply marched towards the office, feeling his hands ball themselves into fists. He entered Vin's small, cluttered office to find Cassidy already seated, legs crossed, mug of coffee in his hand. Stewart made no attempt to make eye-contact. Xavier waited a moment, then sat down across from Zachary, who poured himself a cup of coffee before gesturing towards Xavier, as if to ask him if HE would want any.

Mason shook his head.

"Here's the situation, Mason," Vin began, clearing his old throat. "...as I was just telling Cassidy, here--"

Even the NAME annoyed him.

"--the doctors say that with my heart, my back. and ... everything, that now is the time for me to retire from the business. To leave the School."

Mason frowned. Next to him, Cassidy took a sip of coffee. There was a silence that Vin didn't seem to expect.

"I need to make sure that it's left in good hands. We've been turning a sizeable profit and creating recognizable stars for twenty years, and I don't want that to suddenly stop when I walk out that door," he smiled. "I spoke to Rebecca about it and she suggested that Cassidy take control of the financial-side of the School--"

Mason shifted his weight in the chair, suddenly uncomfortable.

"--and I'd like YOU to stay on as Head Trainer."

Another long silence. Finally, Havoc shattered it.

"We have to talk," he announced.

Vin's brow furrowed as he glanced between the two of them. "Aren't we talking now?"

Mason cleared his OWN throat. "Alone. The two of us. Without Him."

Cassidy set his mug down on Vin's desk and half stood up, one hand holding his tie in its place. "Should I step outside, Vin?"

Mason finally glared at Stewart. "Yes," he spit at him.

"No!" Vin shot out. Cass slowly settled back in his chair, a lop-sided grin firmly in place. "Mason, I realize this may be an uncomfortable situation for you both ... but, be an adult. Whatever you have to say can be said in front of Cassidy," Vin barked.

Stroking the stubble on his chin absently, Mason finally said the words he'd been obsessing over secretely for the last few months.

"I ... think I'm ready to get back in the ring. On the road. With a national promotion."

Both Vin and Cassidy were taken aback. This was CERTAINLY not what they had expected to hear. Mason hadn't wrestled professionally, full-time, since the closing of the CWL in 2001 (excluding a few dates for CSWA just before his knee surgery). Many wrestling "pundits" (of whom Cassidy surely counted himself among) assumed his in-ring career was finished. As Cassidy picked his jaw up from the floor, he noticed the smile beaming on Vin's face.

"Well, I'll be damned...", Vin offered in surprise.

Cassidy was simply speechless.

"You've thought about this?" the old man probed. "You want that road life again?"

"It's what used to drive me, Vin. I .... need to get back out there again. It's time."

Zachary folded his arms approvingly, still beaming as he leaned back in his chair. "It's probably PAST time, kid. Hah. I'm proud of you."

Mason swept the hair from his eyes. "I don't want to leave, Vin -- not if you're leaving. If you think I should stay, for the School, then I will."

Vin slapped the table, suddenly angry. "I don't want to hear anything like that, dammit!", Vin croaked out - his face suddenly flushed. "I told you from the first day I hired you, that you're a WRESTLER ... that you still had it in you ... that you should get out there and wrestle, and win matches, and beat asses, and claim belts, and bust up stables, and get heat, and STEAL heat ... everything a great wrestler does, everything YOU can do!!"

Vin stood up with a slight grunt. "I've got a good training staff here, Mason. The school will do fine. You need to do what's right for you." He reached his hand across the desk. Mason stood and they shook. It was now Cass' turn to clear HIS throat.

"Can I ask which promotion you're signing with?" Cass suddenly blurted out. It was the man's natural curiosity. Being a former internet wrestling-columnist/scoopster and having had some dealing or another with nearly every established promotion in the "mainstream" as a talent representative, Cass couldn't help but dig deeper. "...I've gotta ask..."

Mason snickered, eyes kept on Vin. "I haven't talked to anybody yet. I wanted to talk to YOU about it first, Vin."

"You have my full support," Zachary quickly replied. Mason smiled, slightly, with a nod.

"I'm gonna go tell the kids," Mason said before turning for the door.

Cassidy quickly got to his feet. "If there's anything I can do, Mason ... any calls I can place ... any one you want me to talk to. Just say the word."

Mason stopped, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Nearly ten years in the sport, Stewart. I won't tell you where I've been. Who I know. Who I've beaten. I'll just tell you that when it comes to this business, the ring it revolves around ... I can find my OWN way."

Cassidy shrugged his shoulders. "Fine, then. Just fine. I wish you luck."

Without another word, Mason Xavier - the wrestler known as 'Havoc' - blew out of the office, relieved that he had Vin's blessing but double-concerned about Cassidy Stewart's involvement in the School. ...not to mention his "involvement" with Rebecca ... and little Brooke.


Jan 1, 2000
upstate NY
building bridges - pt.III

Dodgers Stadium surged. Game Three of the NLDS. Seated in the third row from the rightfield wall, probably 350 feet from home plate and still in the pulsing heart of the Los Angeles faithful, Mason Xavier handed the vendor a twenty with a nod, then passed two hot dogs to his 8 year old daughter, Brooke, whose Dodgers hat was pulled down over her blue eyes, brown hair flowing from under it in the crisp breeze.

Mason wore a smile he couldn't pry from his face if he wanted to. Every moment he spent with his daughter was something he held dear. Precious. For the first five years of her life, he hadn't even known she existed. He had a lot of time to make up for. And he savored it.

"Ok," he began. "Bottom of the third. Bases freakin' loaded. Here we go." He clapped, his daughter clapping with him, riding the wave of the crowd. The Dodgers were at horrific risk of eliminiation. This game, coming in, had all the makings of another Cardinals victory. But something in the air told otherwise. It was palpable. It wasn't over. Not yet.

"Dad, can I ask you something?", Brooke oddly put in.

Mason nodded, eyes on the game.

"You don't like Cassidy, do you?", she finally asked. The question wasn't posed as a question. More as an assertion that Brooke wanted to hear confirmed. Mason picked up on this and clearly hesitated with his response. He knew it was important to be both honest and sensitive to ... the situation. He swallowed hard, knowing he would come across like a politician if he tip-toed around the truth.

Cassidy Stewart stood to soon become Brooke's Step-Father. He would soon marry Rebecca Zachary-Xavier, a woman who Mason couldn't entirely say he ever "got over".

"How I feel about Cassidy isn't really important," he said, floundering slightly then finding a quick way out. "Ooooo. Nice pitch."

Brooke kept her eyes on the game as she pressed on, much to Mason's unease. "It's important to me," she said plainly before adding: "And I know it's important to my Mom."

He glanced at her briefly, then back to Werth stepping to the plate for LA. Brooke broke the pair's uneasy silence, clapping loudly. Mason quickly followed up on it.

"Your mom wants everyone to love eachother, Brooke," Mason said. "Stewart and I ... just don't ... mesh. He's a nice guy, I ... suppose. And as long as he takes good care of you and your Mother then he and I won't have any problems."

There. Well played.

Werth popped up to the right side and Pujols charged into foul territory, coming back into Mason's view with his glove raised in the air - and the first out. The crowd sighed along with Brooke. The tension rose again as Steve Finlay stepped up next, weighing the bat in his hands as he entered the box.

"Look," Brooke asked. "I know that you and Mom aren't getting back together." She shrugged now, a bit sad. "Not anytime soon, anyways ... but I just think it would mean a lot to me, AND mom, if you ... made more of an effort to get along with him."

Mason eyed his daughter sideways, shocked by the outright maturity of her words. He stiffled a laugh. "Your mother put you up to this?"

Brooke was quick to shake her head, eyes focused still on Finlay at the plate as he fought off a fastball, sending the ball into the seats behind homeplate. "Nope. I've just been thinking about it a lot lately", she replied matter-of-factly.

Mason smirked. "You have, eh? Well ... I'll think about it."

Brooke looked at her Dad for the first time since beginning this line of questioning. "You're gonna be wrestling again, right? ... well ... maybe he can represent you!"

Now Mason was quick to shake his head; an emphatic "No".

CRACK. Finlay blasted the sinker from Cardinals hurler, Matt Morris, into left field. The stadium erupted, all to their feet. Two runners came charging home ... and suddenly, there was LIFE breathed back into the team. Hope for One More Game.

Brooke jumped up and down, repeatedly, cheering with the throng of fans around them. Mason found himself mutter under his breath - and the rumble of the stadium.

"I'll ... think about it."

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