Actions

Work Header

Words

Chapter Text

 

The Royal Rumble is called one of the “Big Four” for a reason. This is where much of Wrestlemania’s plans fall into place.

 

Finn Balor had planned on entering the Rumble proper to hopefully punch his ticket to Wrestlemania and finally reclaim the Universal Title. He’d had more than a fair fight from Roman, but he owed it to his Samoan friend to take that belt away from a Beast who had no respect for it.

 

With Braun Strowman’s elbow issues, Finn received a golden opportunity. He fought twice in one night and stood up to his boss about the matter, and now he would fight for the Universal title two months early.

 

The narrative was “David v. Goliath” and Finn had openly admitted that he had relied too much on the Demon’s assistance when it came to big matches like this. He had a point to prove, not just to the fans, not just to himself.

 

Balor sulked in the locker room as he dressed for the match.

 

“‘Rely’,” Balor carefully pronounced. His spoken human words were still hard. “‘Rely’..... ‘Trust’?”

 

Finn glanced up. “Not the same thing. I trust you, even if very few others don’t.”

 

“‘Rely’,” Balor said with a little more confidence. “‘Ally’?” he tried to find a similar word.

 

“I don’t want to ‘rely’ on you. I don’t want to ‘depend’ on you,” Finn clarified. “The humans think that I have to invoke you every time I HAVE to win a match.”

 

Balor blinked at the statement, confused. “I know there are a lot of humans out there who want to see you against the Beast,” Finn further explained.  “But there are some things I have to do myself.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I’m asking you this favor. I don’t want to rely on you because one day you might not be able to save me.”

 

“‘Save’?” Another word. “‘Rescue’?”

 

Finn nodded. “You may have raised me, but a lot of others believe a different story.”

 

“What story?”

 

“I was talking to Seth Rollins a few nights ago when I was trying to decide which one of us should face Lesnar. Seth may not completely understand how we work together, but he and a lot of others were told I defeated you to wield your power.”

 

“Fight?” Balor brightened. He liked sparring with Finn.


“Seth made an interesting point. You’ve heard him called ‘Kingslayer’.”

 

“Not me!” Balor puffed his chest out, teeth glimmering in the lights of the locker room. He still prided in working with Finn to beat Seth at Summerslam a couple of years ago.

 

“No, not you,” Finn chuckled. “But if I’m just a man who conquered the Demon King, that means I’m stronger than just an ordinary Kingslayer, right?”

 

 

Finn watched as Balor added all this up. “Demon, King, slayer?” Balor pointed at Finn.

 

“That’s what Seth called me. So if I’m a Demon King Slayer, a Beast shouldn’t be a problem, right?”

 

“But….”

 

“I’m not that scared little boy anymore. Let me at least try.”

 

“..okay…” Balor tried not to look like he was sulking as Finn picked up the black jacket.

 

“Either way, do not leave this room. No matter what happens. Do not leave this room.”

 

“But….”

 

Finn gave his demon ally a very pointed look. “I’ll make YOU explain it, and I know your Human language isn’t good enough for that.” He pointed to a monitor installed in the room. “You can watch from here. No excuses.”

 

Balor made faces at Finn as his human strode out for the match.

 

------------------------------

 

Balor hated watching on the little window that Finn brought to the locker room. He knew he’d be in trouble if Finn found out he left the locker room, but as long as he stuck to the shadows and no one saw him, he could find a better view of the ring.

 

It could be tricky with all the different lights. He didn’t get to scout the arena like he usually did for big events like this. This wasn’t the show that Finn would let him “play”... that was in the summer, even if it felt like summer here.

 

He settled in a shadow and listened to the fat man who accompanied the Beast to the ring.

 

“The Balor-beating Beast, continuing his Conquering….” the fat man announced. Balor bristled. Were he in the ring, the fat man would have not gotten that many words out.

 

Paul Heyman continued, “...and that’s not a prediction, it’s a spoiler…

 

Balor would have to ask his human friend about that word. Why did the humans like the fat man? He didn’t fight, he wasn’t around much, only slightly more than the Beast. Balor would puzzle as he watched the match unfold.

 

The battle started in Finn’s favor, much to Balor’s delight. He knew his human had the speed and agility to avoid most of the lumbering Beast’s punches. Finn kicked and stomped, sticking and moving to keep clear of the Beast’s massive arms. His first mistake might have been going for a Sling Blade too early, and the Beast threw him out of the ring.

 

“Finn..?” Balor worried. He cringed as the Beast threw his human around like a toy. He calmed when Finn shoved Brock into the announce table, hoping that the corner hit the Beast somewhere…. Tender. Twice.

 

“Good Finn,” Balor grinned as the Beast staggered from the blows. He savored the Beast’s struggle to re-enter the ring as Finn continued to pour on the offense. He salivated every time Lesnar dropped to a knee in pain. “Yes. Good Finn,” he repeated he Finn focused on that area, then floored Brock with the Sling Blade.

 

He winced again when he saw - no, heard - Lesnar clothesline Finn nearly out of his boots. His human was breathing strangely and his eyes were glassy. Is my human still conscious? Balor fretted for a second or two before he saw Finn reverse the F-5 into a DDT. The Beast refused to stay down.

 

“Stomp. More. Coudegrah,” Balor pleaded. Lesnar rolled clear of the stomps and Finn threw himself at the Beast a few times. He looked to the fat man, and grinned even wider as he saw the dawning panic on his face. “More, Finn. Coudegrah.”

 

As if Finn heard his demon friend, he finally launched and landed a picture perfect coup de gras, immediately covering Lesnar. “Win!!” Balor cheered.

 

Lesnar’s body shifted. The ref didn’t hit the mat a third time. Balor didn’t hear the bell. The bell ALWAYS rang after Coudegrah. “Win?”

His eyes grew wide as his human suddenly wrapped up, one arm bent awkwardly. Finn flailed and screamed, trying to get an arm or leg free to reach a rope. Balor stopped himself from teleporting down there. “Finn!!” he whimpered.

 

He promised not to interfere. Then again, he promised not to leave the room.

 

Finn started slapping the mat like the referee should have. The bell rang. The wrong music played. Finn remained on the mat holding his arm.

 

“...hurt?” he growled. Again he resisted teleporting down there.

 

The music stopped. Lesnar grabbed Finn and started throwing him around again.

 

“No!” Balor snarled. “STOP!!” He almost teleported again. He shook with anger as the Beast left the ring, taking the fat man with him. Balor paced in that shadow as his poor human clambered to his feet, mindful to not use the almost-broken arm. The crowd cheered Finn for his effort.

 

That wasn’t enough for Balor. He teleported back to the locker room and slammed the monitor into the wall. “BEAST WILL PAY!” He fumed, the rest of his tirade an acid storm of infernal curses. His imagination drew bloodstained abstracts of the remains of the Beast once Balor got his claws and teeth sunk deep enough into him. He’d let the fat man live just to watch him soil himself as his pet monster meets a REAL monster! Balor smashed a bench, imagining it to be a femur bone shattering under his power. He swung at a locker and caved the door deep inward. He ripped another door clean from its hinges and flung it at the wall, sinking it an inch deep into the concrete.

 

The door to the locker room opened, and Balor turned to roar at it. “FINN!!”

 

Finn held up his good arm to try to calm him friend. “I’m all right-”

 

“NO!!” The demon protested, marching right up to his human. “Rely! Trust! Let me kill Beast! Let ME kill Beast! Let me KILL beast! LET ME KILL BEAST! You hurt! I KILL-”

 

“No.” Finn calmly replied.

 

“KILL! MAIM! BITE! CLAW!”

 

“No,” Finn repeated. “I lost fair and square.”

 

“HE HURT YOU!”

 

“And I hurt him back. A lot. He’s in the trainer’s room.”

 

“I go there and KILL-”

 

“No!” Finn ordered. He raised the bad arm. “Here. See? It’s not broken.”

 

Balor growled and fumed, but indeed the arm was not damaged. “Hurt? Maim? Bite?”

 

“No, no and no,” Finn chided. “I told you to trust me and let me try.”

 

 

“You…. lost,” Balor whined. “I don’t lose.”

 

Finn shook his head. “Next time.”

 

“Now,” Balor grumbled. He would have tried more words if someone hadn’t knocked on the locker room door.

 

“Hey, everything okay in there?”

 

Finn peeked out the door to see Seth Rollins with a hand up ready to knock again. “Sorry man,” Seth apologized. “You looked good out there. More offense than most of the other guys get.”

 

“Thought I had him. Didn’t beat him down enough.”

 

“You sure you’re ok? I heard some crashing around in here….”

 

“Oh, that,” Finn rolled his eyes and opened the door a little more. “I think you already know that answer.”

 

Seth peered in, spotting Balor sulking next to the remains of the monitor. “You probably should have let him go out there.”

 

“Rely,” Balor spat. Seth turned back to Finn.

 

“He’s angry that I don’t want to rely on him,” Finn confessed. “And angrier that I lost.”

 

Seth took a few cautious steps toward Balor, who eyed him warningly. “Hey, don’t be mad at Finn.”

 

“Mad at Beast,” Balor grumbled.

 

“A lot of people are mad at him. Want me to try and take him out?”

 

“Beast not King!” Balor protested.

 

Seth smirked. “If he’s only a Beast, then a Kingslayer shouldn’t have a problem with him, right?”

 

Balor glanced over to Finn, recalling their conversation before the match. Finn sighed. “I told him that since I was a ‘demon king slayer’ I could win.”

 

Rollins deflated at hearing this. “Are you sure he’s not mad at you, Finn?”

 

Balor shook his head no. Finn sighed again. “If I face Lesnar again… well, it won’t be me.”

 

“Hey,” Seth crouched down next to Balor. “Do you trust me?”

 

“‘Trust’...?”

 

“Do you think I can win the Rumble?”

 

“Win?” Balor repeated. He knew that word. “Win.” He looked over to his human.

 

“I’m not in the Rumble, but Seth would be my pick to win it.”

 

“Win. Kill Beast.”

 

“I can’t go that far,” Seth smirked again. “But if I win, it’s my turn to fight him. If I don’t, there’s still a lot of time for you two to get that shot.”

 

Balor stood, Seth standing up at the same time. “Rely. Ally. Win,” Balor ordered, placing a hand on Seth’s shoulder.

 

Only now did Finn smile. “Good Luck, Seth.”

 

“Thanks guys.” Rollins hurried out of the room as he heard music starting up for the Rumble. He didn’t want to let on how spooked he was at the slight jolt he felt from the demon’s touch…

Chapter Text


“BURN! IT! DOWN!”

 

Balor startled his human who had been resting while the Rumble played on. Finn ached from the beating he took and had been dozing while Balor watched the entire Rumble, transfixed once Seth Rollins hit the ring. Finn had heard Balor try to say some of the other wrestler names or give them names he would remember. Mustafa Ali was “Angel”. Dean Ambrose, “Angry”.

 

“Why all this?” he pointed to No Way Jose who brought out a conga line. “All… in?”

 

“No, he has friends that walk with him to the ring. Or dance.”

 

“Walk… with… you?” Balor pointed back and forth.

 

“Not many of them know we’re two different beings.”

 

“Oh.” Balor turned back to the monitor, pointing at Seth. “Win,” he said with conviction.

 

“He’ll win. He’s done really well this past year.”

 

“Win!” Balor reaffirmed, stretching a clawed hand. Finn’s eyes narrowed.

 

“What does that mean?” Finn mimicked the gesture. Balor grinned. “You didn’t…”

 

“Thrall!” Balor balled his clawed hand into a fist. “Win!”

 

Finn shook his head. He didn’t know whether to scold Balor for helping Rollins or thank him for giving their friend a boost for the match. “Did he notice when- “

 

“No,” but Finn knew better. Seth left pretty quickly, he’d already drawn his number…

 

“Wait, where did you get thrall to use on Seth? You haven’t been- “

 

Balor lowered his head a little and curled his hands together. Finn frowned. “You took it -”

 

“End for you.. Night.. End…” Balor hated human words.

 

“I was done for the night, so you took some from me? I could have been healing up - “

 

“Lie still.. End… close…” Balor sputtered out a curse in infernal.

 

“Use the words.”

 

“Fuck!”

 

“That’s better. Human cuss words if you’re angry. I’m angry too.”

 

“Shit. Fuck. I…..”

 

“I’m actually pretty fuckin angry with you now. How much did you take?”

 

“Took… some…” the demon looked away.  “shit….”

 

“You took more than ‘some’,” Finn was having trouble sitting up, falling back at a twinge in his lower back and his arm.

 

“Said not hurt. Lie?”

 

“I didn’t lie to you, I wasn’t hurt. I’m sore from being thrown around.”

 

“So are?”

 

“Sore. I hurt.”

 

“You’re Hurt!”

 

“Not THAT hurt, it just-” Finn lay flat on his back, rubbing his face with his hands. “I’m not hurt enough that I had to see someone about it.”

 

“Tray-nyr?”

 

“Trainer, right. But I could have healed with that. Seth didn’t need that boost.” He pointed at the monitor with his good arm. “Hear that? They’re giving him plenty.”

 

“And you… hurt?” Balor drooped. “Too much?”

 

Finn kicked at Balor. “See if YOU hurt! Get the fuck away from me!”

 

 

Balor didn’t budge from the kicks. “Hurt…?”

 

Finn kicked him again. “I SAID GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME! In fact,” Finn grabbed the remote and turned the monitor off. “There. THAT should hurt.”

 

Balor looked at the monitor, then at the weird wand in Finn’s hand. “Give me,” he reached.

 

Finn kicked him again. “Back it up!”

 

“Give me. Watching. Seth. Win!”

 

“He’s going to fucking ‘Win’ thanks to what you did! Now you don’t get to see it!”

 

Balor reached again, this time with a hand and his monstrous tongue. “Give me!”

 

“You broke the other monitor and a lot of other things in our room. That cost money. That hurt, too?”

 

“Hurt where?” Balor reached again for the wand.

 

“In my wallet! I had to pay for what you broke!”

 

“Wall…. It?” Balor started prodding at Finn’s body, “where?”

 

“It’s not part of my fucking body!” Finn winced as he grabbed Balor’s tongue and twisted as hard as his bad arm let him. “Back off. You’ll sit in the fucking corner and stare at it while I sleep!”

 

“I don’t sleep.”

 

“Then learn some fucking WORDS!” Finn got both hands around the giant tongue, squeezing and twisting it with what little strength he had left. Balor whimpered and winced from it.

 

“Hurts!”

 

Finn let go and kicked at Balor’s maw. “Good! Now get away from me before I kick out a fucking fang!”

 

Balor slunk away from his human and curled up in a shadow. “Good sleep,” he whispered.

 

“That’s ‘good night’,” Finn snapped.

 

“Fuck you,” the demon whispered.

 

“I heard that. Fuck you too. Now let me sleep.”

 

----------------------------------------

 

Balor made sure his human was very asleep before teleporting to the roof of the hotel. He brooded in the cold, having not been scolded so hard by his human in a long time. He helped Seth. His human was finished fighting for the night and could get thrall at the next show. What was that word? “Share”? He huffed at the word, almost glad there was no infernal equivalent.

 

His ears caught excited voices in the parking lot. He peered from a shadow to see Seth Rollins writing things for some other humans who were excited to see him. Seth juggled items the other humans gave him to write on while trying to keep control of his wheelie bag. The humans cheered him and hurried off, talking in low but excited tones about Seth.

 

Balor crept down the wall and peeked in a window as Seth talked to another human behind a giant desk. He wrote something for her before walking down another hall. Balor couldn’t go inside just yet, he’d be seen; he tracked Seth along the windows until he entered another room full of weird machines. It’s a room like many of Finn’s friends would visit. A “wait room”? That sounded right.

 

Having zero shadows in the room to hide, he had little choice but to knock on the window to get Seth’s attention before he plugged his ears. Seth startled at the glowy blue eyes staring sideways at him.

 

“The hell are you doing out there?” Seth marched up to the window. “Finn?”

 

“Sleep.”

 

“He’s asleep? Then what are you - wait,” Seth glanced over his shoulder. “Don’t move.”

 

Balor puzzled the order as Seth jogged out of the “wait room” and met him outside. “Someone’s gonna see you,” Seth whispered.

 

“...win?”

 

Seth wasn’t expecting that question. “You didn’t watch?”

 

“Finn said fuck no.”

 

Seth gave the demon a weird look. “Well, I won, so don’t worry about that.” Then the F-bomb sank in. “Whoa, Finn cussed at you?”

 

Balor nodded sadly. “Fucking stupid,” he whimpered and pointed to himself.

 

“You’re not stupid. But we can’t talk here.”

 

Balor brightened. “Move!” Finn snapped a hand to Rollins’ shoulder and teleported them back to the roof.

 

Rollins blinked and staggered once they settled on the roof, dropping to a knee. “Fucking WARN me!”

 

“See? Stupid.”

 

“You scared me is what you did. That wasn’t stupid, that was wrong. You don’t scare friends.”

 

“Scare Beast!” Balor snarled.

 

“Finn doesn’t want you attacking him and neither do I.”

 

Balor sulked at Seth. “Hurt Finn. I hurt Finn.”

 

“You hurt him? Why?”

 

“... help you. Fight Beast. Fight everything.”

 

Rollins then recalled that little spark of energy when Balor put his hand on his shoulder the previous evening. “You did that. You boosted me, didn’t you? That ‘thrall’ stuff that you and Roman and some of the other guys can use, right?”

 

“You use,” Balor retorted. “And win.”

 

“No no no no no no no - that’s not how this works. Look, I’ll thank you now but now you need to help Finn.”

 

“Mad at me. No fucking help him,” the demon sulked.

 

Seth folded his arms and mulled things over. “Ok, just so I got this straight…. You were mad about Brock beating up Finn?” the demon nodded. “You chose to help me because you thought I needed help against Brock?” Another nod. “Did it occur to you that I haven’t even decided who I’m gonna face? You do realize I have a choice of opponents.”

 

“No. Fight Beast.”

 

“I could face Daniel Bryan!” Seth protested.

 

“No!” Balor had a sudden smile. “Roman.”

 

Seth bit his lower lip, knowing he was busted. “Fine. But You’re gonna do something for me. I’ll teach you a word, and you’re gonna show Finn that you learned it.”

 

“Words,” Balor made a sour face.

 

“You’re going to say ‘sorry’ to Finn.”

 

“Sahr-ree?”

 

“There you go. ‘Sorry’.”

 

“Sorry is…”

 

“You did something wrong. Now you’re going to admit it by saying ‘sorry’. He might cuss at you again, but if you say ‘sorry’ nice enough maybe he won’t and you two can be friends again.”

 

“Sorry,” the demon repeated, trying different inflections. Seth nodded each time. “Sorry… friend?” Balor carefully paired the words.

 

“There. If you tell Finn you’re sorry, then you two should be friends again.” Seth then peeked over the roof. “Can you get me down from up here before you go?”

 

“Wait room. Wheelie bag?”

 

“Crap, my bag’s still in the weight room?! Dammit Balor!”

 

“Sorry.”

 

Seth took a measured breath. “Thank you. Now let’s get back downstairs. I need to get my wheeli- my bags out of the weight room and you need to be in Finn’s room if he wakes up.” He scouted the roof and found an access door. “Here. This’ll get me back downstairs.”

 

“Follow?”

 

“You can teleport to Finn’s room, I won’t tell him you even left.”

Chapter Text

 

Finn stirred in his sleep, somewhat aware that Balor was likely staring at him. That was one of many odd things about this demon - he didn’t understand sleep no matter how many times Finn explained it. Balor would leave him alone for exactly six hours unless otherwise instructed.

 

“Awake?” he heard the demon’s voice. He opened one sleepy eye to indeed see the demon sitting at the foot of the bed, just watching.

 

Finn stretched out his sore body and yawned. “I’m awake,” he slowly sat up.

 

“I’m… sorry.”

 

Finn blinked. “Sorry?”

 

“I’m sorry. Bad and wrong. I’m sorry… friend.”

 

“About breaking things? And what you did to help Seth?”

 

“I’m FUCKING sorry,” Balor pleaded. Finn rocked backward into the pillows.

 

“So you’re actually sorry,” Finn clarified. “What will you do now?”

 

“Stay.”

 

“You can’t stay here,” he reminded Balor.  “We have to go to the arena together.”

 

“Stay in lock room. Not leave.”

 

“And Seth?”

 

“No more help…?”

 

Finn nodded. “Now what about me?”

 

The demon lowered his head. “No thrall. Angry?”

 

“I’ll figure something out.” Finn slowly pulled himself free of the covers, still feeling like he’d been run over by a train.

 

“Still hurt..?” Balor already knew the answer as his human friend offered his own apologetic look. “Help, some.”

 

Finn nodded slowly, sitting on the edge of the bed. “For now.”

 

Balor closed his own eyes, allowing his body to relax and fade, scattering into a fine black mist. The tendril crown sank slowly to the floor as the mist seeped into Finn’s body, wrapping around sinews and bone in a deep and unholy embrace. Finn kept his breathing slow and steady, not even a wince as the dark warmth permeated his body and settled across every fiber of his mortal form. The Demon’s energies also weakened due to lack of exposure to Sin, but buoyed some of the aches and pains within his human host.

 

I’m sorry, Balor’s voice whispered in Finn’s mind, now having better access to the Words. I did not want to hurt you, I wanted to help Seth. You are in charge, I will follow within.

Finn nodded and finally rose from the bed.

 

-----------------------------------------------

 

Balor chose to stay in the locker room while Finn went to address the fans. “Thrall,” Balor suggested.

 

Finn nodded absently and walked to the ramp. He stopped along the way to shake hands, bump fists and trade hugs. Bayley offered her usual warmth and deep friendship in her hugs; Finn had missed that, but it did little to ease the pains of the battle he fought the previous night.

 

Balor had his “window” to watch his human walk out to the audience. He puzzled at the still images of what happened the previous evening, but perked as the music that always announced their arrival started to play. His human walked out slowly, hands still down at his sides.

 

In an instant the arena washed over in pure white lights, and all the humans assembled raised their arms in jubiliation for Finn.

 

Finn did not raise his arms. Not the first flash, not the second flash. Balor leaned closer to the window. “Thrall,” he whispered.

 

Finn climbed up the stairs and stood on the apron. He looked out to the crowd, watching them raise their arms in the pure white light; he did not join them. “Thrall!” Balor insisted, thinking his human could hear him through that window. Finn entered the ring, almost seeming to ignore all the reverence given him. Balor drooled at the Lust and Envy showering down on his human. He could almost taste some of the Idolatry the fans gave him.

 

Finn was given a microphone. “Last night for about ten minutes, I stood toe-to-toe with Brock Lesnar. I make no excuses, he beat me. Then he beat me… again.” There was little emotion to Finn’s voice, reluctantly narrating events.

 

Again Balor bristled. “Again?” He guessed that Brock wouldn’t know ‘sorry’ even if he used a swear word with it.

 

Finn continued, “I’ve never felt power like it, never felt speed like it, and never felt it combined.”

 

“Me? Power, speed, both!” Balor protested to the screen. He growled despite Finn’s assurances that even if he was hurt, he made Brock “believe”.

 

New music played, interrupting his human. “Now what?” he reached for the monitor and stopped. “No breaking things,” he reminded himself.

 

Two humans marched to the ring - one that looked just as muscular as Brock, the other smaller than his human. The smaller one did most of the talking, his voice grating on the Demon’s ears. The larger human just stood there to intimidate. “Fat man and Beast,” Balor compared.

 

Despite being hurt, Finn stood up to them. Finn insulted them. Then this “almighty” big man attacked Finn, kicking his legs out from under him and slamming him to the mat.

 

“NO!” Balor snarled at the monitor. “NOT HURT FINN! TOO HURT! FUCKING HURT YOU BACK!!” It was everything to keep him from teleporting out there.

 

Finn once again thrown around like a toy. Balor couldn’t take it. “NO!! FIGHT ME, WHITE BELT! FIGHT ME, TINY DOG!! NOT YOUR CLOTHS ON MY HUMAN! FIGHT ME!!!”

 

With a furious snarl Balor clawed through the monitor, shredding it to pieces. He threw the pieces at the lockers, leaving dents and broken bits everywhere. He looked at the mess and shook out his crown.

 

“FUCK!!” He cursed himself out. Now he’d have to apologize all over again.

Chapter Text

 

Seth Rollins sat with his bags backstage. Alone.

 

Roman had to abdicate the Universal Title. Dean hadn't been the same since. Now the word’s out Dean wants to leave after Wrestlemania.

 

So here Seth was, near the proverbial top of the mountain, his Wrestlemania match in place. Neither of his boys around to celebrate with. He'd stuck around through the end of show and part of teardown, making small talk with crew and some of the boys while he stared at his phone. He thanked them for checking on him after the manhandling he took. Crew would shoo from one place to another to sit; he finally settled on a ledge near the loading ramps. He let the noise of the forklifts and semis muffle any spoken frustration as he stared at the virtual keyboard, swiping a few words before clearing everything to start again.

 

What can he say to Roman? What should he say to Dean?

 

Did it even need to be said?

 

They had all become Grand Slam Champions. They fought with each other and against each other.

 

And now the loudmouth of the Shield couldn't find any Words.

 

He sighed and nearly put his phone away. Taking a half-dozen F-5s was not the plan, but his “Difficult” decision was the most obvious one of the night. Hell, even the “Demon King” figured it out, and he’s still learning language, never mind the ins and outs of the wrestling business.

 

“Is that all you got?” A nearby voice mocked.

 

Seth didn’t expect too many people left in the building, least of all Dean Ambrose. He put his phone down and stood. “Look, Dean, I - “

 

“‘IS THAT ALL YOU GOT~!?’ “ Dean shouted in his face.  “Is that all YOU’VE got? You can’t out-tough me and I swear to god if you lose to Lesnar at Mania you’ll never sleep again! Even IF I leave this dump I will haunt you and make your life a living hell if you screw this up!”

 

Before he could respond Ambrose had grabbed both of Seth’s forearms. Seth froze as Dean’s blue eyes locked in. They were wide in that dangerous stare that Seth recognized from a few years ago, when Dean made a similar threat to him and didn’t stop chasing him for a solid two YEARS. The lunatic’s glare almost distracted him from a strange throbbing in his arms, pulsing mostly upward toward his shoulders. Dean’s grip remained eerily steady as the fluctuations only made Seth’s heart race. He tried to pull back but Dean’s glower only darkened; were those blue orbs of his… glowing like Roman’s did? “Dean, what-”

 

“DON’T say anything.” Dean held Rollins’ arms a few seconds more before staggering back. “Now you got zero excuse.” He grabbed his gear and stormed off without another word.

 

Seth looked down at his arms, utterly perplexed. What did Dean just do ? Is this more of that magic-whatever? “Dean!”

 

“All yours, Golden boy!” Dean slammed the car door shut and launched out of the garage.

 

Now Seth had a lot of questions; questions he knew Dean won’t answer. And despite all the questions, once again at a loss for Words. He threw his hands up in frustration and finally decided to hit the road.

 

He trudged for his rental car, still very sore from his beatdown. He almost didn’t hear rushed footsteps closing on him.

 

“Seth!! This your phone?”

 

Seth stopped, let go of some of his bags and started slapping at pockets. “Might be, I - “ He looked up to see Finn holding the misplaced phone in one hand while dragging his bags with the other.

 

“You still look a little rough from the main,” Finn offered the phone and a smile. “I think we both need to get to the hotel and rest.”

 

“Yeah… “ Seth took his phone back, the message window still open waiting for him to send something to Dean and Roman. He set the response to "Only me". He didn't want to be dogpiled in the wrong way. He didn't want any more drama than was already there. Not like Dean’s gonna read or respond.

 

So to Dean and Roman, he simply asked, "What do I do now?" No emojis to add context. Let them decide.

 

“Everything ok, Seth?”

 

“If you’re not too wiped out from the beating you took from Bobby and Lio, I might need to borrow you for a bit.”

 

“Text me when you get to the hotel. Hopefully the rooms have coffee.”

 

Seth made a sour face. “Gross. And not this late. But yeah.”

 

Finn smiled again to his friend before heading off to his own vehicle.

 

Seth tossed his phone in the front seat and loaded his bags in the back. He packed two extra bottles of water out of habit, expecting someone to hop in and ride with him. He opened one bottle and downed half of it immediately, it only dawning on him he hadn't had anything to drink since right after the show. He sighed and climbed into the car, started it up and plugged his phone in the charger.

 

He fussed with the GPS, mind in a dozen places at once. He mumbled about the trip and shook his head.

 

First alert pops up on his phone: his flight’s been cancelled because of the weather conditions near his hometown. He’d have to make some calls in the AM, could barely focus on the drive.

 

Second alert pops up: a text back from Roman? Good, he’s up. A moment later the call came in. “What’s up Big Dog?”

 

“I am,” Roman’s deep voice echoed a little in the car. “Why you askin dumb questions like this so late? Someone give you coffee after the show?”

 

They both laughed. “My flight’s cancelled because most of Iowa’s frozen over. Did you watch?”

 

“Some,” the big Samoan yawned. “Channeling your inner Dean or did you ask him for that?”

 

“Channeling - you know Dean would have said ‘no’, even if he’s thinking about leaving.”

 

Roman knew Seth hated not having both of his brothers around at the same time. “Dean’s had it rough for a year, he’ll come around.”

 

He’s  had a rough year? Uh, Roman, you’re - “

 

“Made a movie, spent time with my family, watching you two when I can. It’s not like I’m stuck in bed being feed through a tube. Now what’s with the question, ‘What do I do now’?” Roman’s voice pitched up to try to match Seth’s nasally timbre with surprising accuracy.

 

“I … “ Seth pounded the window with his right forearm. “Just, this sucks! I’m getting my main event feud for Mania and you’re not gonna be there, Dean’s gonna be checked out if he’s there at all - “

 

“Who says I won’t be there? I might not be working it but I’m coming to see the show. And Dean? Just let him cool off, ok? Get your ass outta your own head!”

 

Seth put both hands to the steering wheel as Roman scolded him. “Look, Seth - you’re in a really good place with the company. You won the Rumble, you’re going to Wrestlemania, and you’re gonna beat Brock, plain and simple. There’s enough people complaining about the Universal title not being on TV and you KNOW that I was trying to fix it. Now it’s your turn.

 

“Dean needs to calm the fuck down and take it out on Hunter. We both know that Hunter would even do a hardcore match or street fight at Mania where’d he take a buncha random stuff like Brock didn’t do when they fought. Triple H would even let him tease the chainsaw and get chased around some!”

 

Rollins exhaled as he pulled into the parking lot of the hotel. “Thanks man, I really needed that. I think I got this.”

 

“Of course you do - you were good when you cashed in on me, now I’m not even in your way this time!” Seth could hear Roman’s smile through the phone, the all-too-infectious tone translating to him.

 

“I got this.” Seth felt like repeating.

 

“Besides, you’re stealing my lines about heart, now you HAVE to win. Now go get some sleep and let the airlines figure you out.”

 

-----------------------------------------

 

Finn beat Seth to the hotel, giving himself time to drop off bags in his room. He could see his demon friend brooding, waiting for Finn to “lie still” so he could get out for a bit.

 

“Behave yourself a little longer. I’m going to talk to Seth, you might learn some Words while we discuss whatever’s on his mind.”

 

I can go to his mind, Balor offered.

 

“Words,” Finn reminded him.

 

“Me, in Sseth’s mind,” Balor managed with a devious smirk.

 

“No. He still doesn’t quite understand all of…. This,” he pointed back and forth. “At least he’s getting a little more comfortable with you.”

 

“Stay..?” Balor pointed to himself.

 

“You can stay, let me see if he’s here yet.” Finn heard his phone ping. Nodding, he grabbed it and texted the room number. “He’ll be up here soon.”

 

Sure enough, a quiet knock at the door caught Balor’s ear. “Seth?”

 

“That was quick.” Finn jogged up to the door, finding his friend standing there, still with his bags. Finn gave Seth an odd look.

 

“Sorry, kinda important. My room’s not going anywhere.” He wheeled in his bags and stuffed them in the otherwise empty hall closet. Finn noticed that Seth looked strangely relieved that Balor chose to stay in the room.

 

“You…. ok?” Balor’s cadence still wasn’t natural but he spoke with more confidence than usual.

 

Seth nodded. “Yeah, guess whatever you did on Sunday, I had some left.”

 

“So is this about what he did to you at the Rumble?” Finn finally asked, motioning toward the coffee maker in the room.

 

“Not drinking their generic mud. And yeah, this is about Sunday and today.”

 

“Congrats.” Finn tried to smile.

 

“Conga rats,” Balor tried to say the same Word as his human. Seth laughed at the image but stopped after a moment realizing what Balor meant.

 

“Thank you,” Seth replied to Balor with some apology in his voice. “But I’m not here for a pat on the back. Between what you did,” he nodded to Balor, “on Sunday and something with Dean tonight, we’re only one night into the Rumble to Mania road and I’m actually a little freaked out this time.”

 

“You’ve survived a few Wrestlemanias,” Finn reassured his friend. “And beating Lesnar would almost top your cash-in.”

 

“Can you believe that was FOUR years ago? Still blows my mind. And I’m already a year removed from facing Triple H? Last year was my Grand Slam match?”

 

“And this year, the main event. Where you belong. Where all of the Shield belonged at some point.”

 

“And there’s a chance that only one of us is even gonna be there,” Rollins sighed. “Roman looks good but I don’t think he’ll be cleared in time. I’m hoping Dean’s just frustrated about how last year went and he wants time off.”

 

“You shouldn’t feel alone about all this. A lot of people are behind you for Wrestlemania, you heard that crowd.”

 

“And I heard them when you were fighting Lesnar at the Rumble.” Seth jumped a little when Balor growled at the mention.

 

“...probably not a good time to bring it up.”

 

“Fight white belt,” Balor growled. “Want Beast.”

 

“How about this?” The Architect smirked as he turned his attentions to the Demon. “ If I beat Brock, I’ll take on either one of you as a fighting champion.”

 

Balor pointed to Finn first, then its face contorted to curiosity. It crept toward Seth, looking him up and down. “Explain,” Finn reminded his demon.

 

“Thrall?” Balor puzzled.

 

“Hey, hey!" Rollins leaned away from Balor. "I don’t need any more of .. that. Not til we’re a little closer to Mania.”

 

“No. Now.”

 

“Don’t touch him if he doesn’t want to be,” Finn commanded.

 

“Other Thrall,” Balor fumbled. “Not YOUR thrall. Not mine.”

 

“I can’t do any of the wacky crap you guys do,” Seth held up both arms. “But if you ‘see’ something, hope you can explain it.”

 

Finn looked back to Seth. “You think someone else gave you thrall?”

 

“Ambrose caught me after the show. He gave me an angry pep talk. Like he was still wound up about the first segment, or mad about what I did in the main.”

 

“It certainly sounded familiar,” Finn chuckled.

 

“Angry?” Balor perked at the word. “Angry,” he repeated, pointing at Rollins’ arms.

 

“I’m not angry," Seth replied,  "I'm just really confused.”

 

“Angry,” Balor said to his human. “Angbrose. Mean Angross.”

 

“Angry Dean - Mean Ambrose?” Finn clarified. Balor brightened and pointed again at Seth’s arms. “What did Dean do to Seth’s arms?”

 

The Kingslayer showed his arms to the Demon King. “You tell me, you can probably see it. I still can’t see some of this crap. Only reason I can see Balor is because you guys let me.”*

 

Balor poked at this other human’s fuzzy forearms with a claw. He grumbled something before imitating what Dean had done earlier that night, glancing up to Rollins. “This?”

 

“Yeah, just like that.”

 

Balor nodded, releasing Rollins’ arms and studying one arm up to the shoulder, poking and sniffing at it.

 

“Explain,” Finn reminded him.

 

“Angbrose thrall. Armor…? Leather…?” Balor fumbled for the right Word, looking to both of them helplessly.

 

“Leather armor?” Seth’s inner geek kicked in. “Dean gave me ‘armor’....”

 

“Dean could always take a beating, you’d think he was wearing it.”

 

“No, that’s it!” Rollins stood up, rubbing at his arms. “That’s what he meant, that’s why he threatened to kick my ass if I lost. He made SURE I could take it. Like... he gave me his healing factor, or his pain threshold, I - I still don't freaking GET this!" He stomped around a moment, realizing that's exactly what Ambrose does when he gets frustrated. He looked back at the other two in the room, more confused than before and a little scared.

 

“He did that? And where was he hiding that power?” Finn boggled. He’d spent more than a year just trying to figure out how Dean “operated” and finally gave up.

 

“Armor,” Balor confirmed. “Slay Beast. Armor help.”

 

“Knowing what he’s been through, it probably just runs like an anti-virus or some background program. It’s there, just nothing he has to think about.”

 

Balor looked a little lost from the explanation. “Back… armor?”

 

“Dean apparently doesn’t have to think about his ‘armor’ just like you don’t think about sleep,” Finn tried to compare. “Dean has to lie still sometime, and so do we.” He nodded back to Seth.

 

“Stay?” Balor offered to Seth.

 

“No, that’d just be weird. This is weird enough, but at least I kinda get it now.” He stifled a yawn as he went to gather his bags. “Oh, and Roman’s been watching the show, I’m guessing he misses you guys as well.”

 

Balor drooped. “Help Roman,” he pouted.

 

“Just like Finn has to fight some of his own battles, this is one Roman has to do on his own. Just pra-” Seth stopped himself, not sure if that’s a good Word to use. “Just keep him in mind. You got his number, Finn? Text him anytime, and tell him I sent you.” A smile finally returned to Rollins’ face.

 

Finn smiled back. “He’s looking well, I may just have to do that.”


*this will be clarified in “What do Demons want with Justice?”

Chapter Text

 

Seth Rollins didn’t have to be at Raw this week. They wanted to emphasize the “horrific trauma” his body went through with Lesnar throwing him around as much as Lashley had been throwing Finn around. The two men shared some coffee when the video package of the devastation aired.

 

Seth jumped a little when he heard a growl in the room. “I thought he was - “

 

Balor peered out of a shadow. “Hiding.”

 

“Acutally, I thought you were… how do I put this without it sounding creepy..”

 

Finn chuckled. “Mostly when I’m traveling, since he doesn’t quite fit in a suitcase.” He savored Seth’s cackling laugh. “Besides, this week I’m just a stubborn Irishman.”

 

Seth nodded at the bandages on Finn’s ribs and arm. “Rough landings?”

 

“Lashley’s as strong as he looks.”

 

 Balor quizzically gestured at each of them. “Hurt…?”

 

 "Not hurt enough for the trainer,” Finn assured him.

 

 “My back’s not 100%,” Rollins quipped, “but it should be sore from carrying this show!”

 

 The demon slunk closer, increasingly curious. “Hurt?” he asked Seth again. He then turned to Finn and pointed at the bandage on Finn’s ribs. “Hurt?” He puzzled at both of them. He fretted a moment before pointing to himself. “Hurt.”

 

 Seth turned to Finn. “So it bothers him if we’re both hurt?”

 

 “I know it bothers him when I’m hurt,” Finn admitted. “It bothers him even more that he can’t go out there and ‘save’ me.”

 

 Balor tried to point “around” to Seth’s back. “Hurt?” he lowered his head in apology. “No help…”

 

 "Aw come on, what could you do to help me if my back WAS hurt?”

 

Again with Words. Balor huffed. “Mess-age?” he made motions with his hands.

 

“Mass-age,” Finn corrected. “You wouldn’t even know where to start.”

 

“Mass-age,” Balor pronounced carefully, “inside?” he pointed to Seth, a faint smile starting to form.

 

Finn pointed right in Balor’s face. “NO possessing anyone else!” 

 

Seth's face contorted at the possibility; he's seen too many horror movies to see where this could go. He tried not to laugh as the Demon's face twisted a little in confusion at the order.

 

“Pose..?” Balor didn’t quite catch all of the Word.

 

“Possess,” Finn and Seth pronounced in unison. Seth smirked, even if he felt unnerved by the demon's all-too-casual suggestion.

 

“Pause-ass?”

 

Seth couldn’t hold it in anymore and fell across the bench laughing. Finn facepalmed. “Just tell Seth to get well soon.”

 

Seth’s laughter drowned out the instruction, but Balor tried anyway. “Get hell, too,” he told Rollins, who erupted into another crescendo of laughter. The demon turned to sulk, only to feel Finn’s hand on his arm.

 

“Close enough. That sound Seth’s making is helping him. See? You’re helping.”

 

Balor brightened, then watched in fascination while Seth spent the next several minutes regaining his composure.

 

Chapter Text

 

Balor rarely had company watching the show through the window left in the locker room. Seth decided to stick around, since he didn’t have anything scheduled for the evening and had to keep a low profile, much like Balor did.

 

Finn had hobbled to the ring for his match, supposedly against Bobby Lashley. Again Balor growled at the monitor at the replays of his human being brutalized by Lesnar, then by Lashley.

 

“Know hurts,” he grumbled as the show returned to live and played Bobby Lashley’s entrance.

 

Seth tried not to respond, but both of them rolled their eyes as Lio Rush started making fun of Finn. “This never made sense to me,” Rollins offered. “Finn’s built like a Greek statue, and Lio dogs on that? I guess the height thing is only for Vince.”

 

Balor snorted derisively. “Size nothing.”

“And there’s a lot of smaller guys who can wrestle better than the big guys,” Seth refrained from referring to himself directly.

 

Still the Demon grumped. “Fight Beast, not White belt and noisy dog.”

 

Seth smirked at the descriptions. “Do you have names like that for everyone?”

 

“Seth,” Balor pointed definitively.

 

“But you don’t know their names?”

 

“Why?” Balor remained unimpressed with the duo on the ramp. Lio was still talking. “No fight, just talk,” he pointed to Lio. “”Not Beast,” he pointed to Bobby.

 

Lashley had the microphone now. “Newsflash - I’m better than Brock Lesnar. I can beat him in a wrestling match, I can beat him in the ring, I can beat him in the octagon - I can beat Brock Lesnar in my sleep!”

 

Balor gave Seth a knowing look. “No no no no no no no no,” he tried imitating Seth’s typical objection. Seth grinned, not sure if he should be flattered or scared.

 

When the match changed to Finn vs. Lio, Balor pointed at Lashley again. “Scared?”

 

Seth could have answered but Bobby attacked Finn again! Balor’s head whipped toward the monitor. “Again!?!??!” He protested.

 

“Hey, it’s not - “

 

“WHITE BELT HURT HIM!!” Balor lunged for the monitor.

 

“Hey, HEY!” Seth tackled Balor away from the monitor. “Easy, easy!”

 

Balor snorted at the monitor. “Easy…” he stopped struggling and sulked back to his seat.

 

They watched the match mostly in silence, Balor grumbling when Lio would get the upper hand. Seth couldn’t keep his eyes on the monitor; each growl startled him, even though he expected them. He glanced at Balor as he would shift in his seat, re-settling like a cat on a blanket. Its stare never wavered from the screen until Seth could hold his tongue no longer.

“So why do you do this?”

 

“Hm? Why?”

 

Seth had a thousand questions in his head, like a rookie in the same room with the Undertaker. Where do you even start in asking someone who’s been around for so long about what they know? Rollins went with the broadest question just to see what Words Balor would use.

 

“Ally,” Balor answered first, pointing to Finn. “Guardian,” he answered next, pointing at himself. “Sh… share,” he managed, but his hands couldn’t really convey what that last word really meant.

 

“Ok, so you two are allies and you’ve got some deal where you protect him.” That made a lot of sense to Rollins; after all, isn’t that how most stories go? “So what do you two ‘share’, besides a body when you’re on the road?”

 

“Share... learn?” Balor wasn’t sure if that was the right Word. He moved his hands around, as if pointing on a map. “Learn. Learn. Learn. Learn.” He pointed to the screen. “Learn.” He pointed to himself. “Learn.”

 

“You can put all those ‘learn’s together into one bigger word. Experience.”

 

“Ex, pair, a, ants?”

 

Again, Seth chuckled. “Ex-peer-E-ance. You two are learning from each other. You’re learning about humans, but what is he learning about Demons?”

 

“Uhm…..” this time Balor wasn’t trying to figure out a Word. What WAS he teaching Finn? “Brave…? Strong…?”

 

“I think he’s got those down. What else?”

 

“Not… evil.”

 

“Just you, or all demons?”

 

Balor shrugged. “Not evil,” he confirmed and pointed to himself.

 

Both glanced back to the screen as Finn pinned Lio and escaped the wrath of Lashley. “There you go,” Seth gestured to the screen. “Nothing to worry about.”

 

Balor nodded at the screen. “Win. We both win.”

Chapter Text

For the first week in some time, Finn allowed the Demon to “accompany” him to the ring because of the long match ahead. Drew McIntyre would be his opponent but Bobby and Lio would be out there watching. Finn figured the exercise would keep Balor placated for a bit and let them both vent on Bobby, Drew and eventually Baron Corbin.

Demon reveled in the exercise, not even angry when there were pauses in the action for Finn. He knew that Finn respected Kurt Angle and Braun Strowman respected them both. Demon also knew he could take all five of the others on by himself and win. Thoughts like this trickled into Finn’s mind, causing the occasional spontaneous smile.

Once back in the locker room, Finn settled himself in a chair as Balor carefully peeled himself free of his human host. He knew better than to just jump out, especially after such a long stretch of physical activity. He didn’t want Finn’s body to react to a sudden shift of power. Finn always relaxed a little more once he opened his eyes to see Balor smiling down at him, flush with pride. “Miss that,” The demon said with gratitude.

“I know you do. Trust me, when it’s your turn, the thrall is always worth it. Do you remember the first couple of times you were allowed out there when we were in Orlando?”

Balor straightened his back, a sinisterly blissful grin on his face and maw. “Screams. Fear. Thrall!”

“Exactly. Some people out there were truly scared because they didn’t know what you were. Didn’t know who we were. It’s better when we can surprise them.”

“Surpress?” Balor recalled a similar word in Finn’s thoughts.

“No, not ‘surpress’. That’s when I need you quiet or not with me. ‘Surprise’ is when they don’t know you’re coming and they’re expecting me. Like what we did last summer to Baron Corbin.”

“Bald wolf scared!” Balor delighted in the unmitigated panic on Corbin’s face when the bell rang.

“And when it’s a surprise, then the fear is multiplied. I promise you’ll get to scare someone soon enough.”

“...supress?” Balor drooped.

“Instead of surpressing you, I let you sit in here. Your time will come.”

---------------------------

Seth Rollins strode to the ring, body still aching a bit from the previous weeks. He wanted to at least show up for the fans tonight and talk with them.

He regaled his past year and the craziness that he could talk about - the gauntlet match, his Grand Slam win at Mania, his showing up every night to perform for them and glad to have them at his “side” through it all.

He couldn’t talk about the rollercoaster of emotions of the last three months of last year. Roman’s situation throwing a giant monkey wrench into everything. Dean hadn’t taken it well at all, and still lashed out randomly and angrily; lashes that reverberated all the way back to Connecticut.

Seth soldiered on through his tale, having the attention of the audience… and finally catching the ear of Paul Heyman.

Seth rolled his eyes as Heyman launched into the same promo he’d been cutting for the last seven years, knowing that it wasn’t just going to bore him and the crowd…

-----------------------

“TOO MANY WORDS!” Balor shouted at the monitor. He turned his back to it and sulked, ears stinging from the fat man’s meaningless squawking.

Finn had stepped out to get some more water, returning to seeing his demon friend sulking away from the monitor. He chuckled. “I see the fat man has returned.”

“No Beast,” he huffed. “Too many words. Seth AND Fat man.”

“Look on the bright side. That means our match was so good Seth isn’t even trying to top it.”

“Still too many words.” But some words did catch the Demon’s ear.

Seth’s Words.

“Brock Lesnar has held this industry - the industry that I love more than anything in this world - he has held it hostage for two LONG years, and I will not stand for it ANYMORE!” Seth’s voice escalated with determination.

“So I do not care if Wrestlemania is a suicide mission, because I will BE that martyr, Paul! I will be that martyr - I will sacrifice everything! I will sacrifice my body, I will sacrifice my heart…

“Paul, I will sell my soul to the devil. I will burn in hell if that means that Brock Lesnar does not leave Wrestlemania as Universal Champion. And Paul, that is not a prediction. THAT is a spoiler.” The confidence oozed back into his voice as he threw Paul’s catchphrase right back at him.

Finn’s jaw dropped. Balor locked his gaze on the monitor. “Soul….?”

“You’re not thinking - “

“Helped once,” Balor grinned, maw flexing a bit. “Bargain? Soul?”

Of COURSE he would know those words, Finn resigned. “You’re a Sin Eater, not a Soul Eater.

“Soul Proud and Greedy,” Balor drooled.

Finn prepared to talk him out of the idea before new music blared. Heyman had left the stage, but now Dean Ambrose emerged. Balor immediately turned back to the monitor. “Mean Angross!”

Finn was similarly intrigued. The argument about Seth’s soul could wait.

----------------------------

Dean sauntered to the ring as usual, an expression of calm not normally seen on his face. Seth had never seen his crazy friend so… at peace with things, it seemed. The crowd cheered, unsure of what Ambrose had in store for them this time around.

Dean skipped the pleasantries of walking around the ring and hopped right up on the apron. He nodded to Seth, enough that both could hear the slight ring of the dog tags that Dean sported. He had forgone the shirt again, shoulders and arms bundled in that bulky bomber jacket he’d picked up shortly after he’d struck out on his own. His close haircut and well-trimmed beard still alien to Rollins; Dean had been king of the hobo haircut and shaved on a whim. Tonight, he looked properly groomed for camera, and tonight he had something on his mind other than dealing with Nia Jax or even Triple H.

He held his hand out expectantly to Seth; not a request for a handshake, despite a faint chant to the contrary. No, that’s not Dean’s style and Seth knew it.

Dean wanted the microphone. Not another one from ringside, he wanted Seth’s.  

With a shrug Seth handed it over, watching as his longtime brother in arms curl it into his hand, most of his fingers wrapped around the flag. There was no haste, no rush to speak up. Just a simple, stoic glance from those haunted blue eyes. He shook out his right shoulder before bringing the mic up to his face.

“I only got one thing to say to you,” Dean surprisingly blunt. Seth was prepared for a speech, a tirade, something that would be more than just a handful of Words. Seth puzzled his friend as he rocked slowly from one foot to the other and back, fingers tapping on the mic flag while he decided what that one thing would be. Seth braced.

Dean cocked his head to one side before speaking. “Slay the Beast,” he said simply.

Dean let that sink in for a moment before giving Seth a very definitive and confident nod, a reminder that they’d already spoken of it. Seth blinked at Dean, shocked that he was getting encouragement after their previous encounter. It looked like his former Shield-mate wanted to say something else, but chose not to. Dean dropped the mic and rolled clear of the ring, grabbing a seat at ringside as he watched Seth puzzle what just happened.

Dean didn’t need Words to explain any more to Seth. He casually raised both hands, opening and closing them to remind Seth of his little pep talk in the parking garage. A slow smile crossed Seth’s face from the gesture. Balor was right. Now Seth Understood.

As Seth departed the ring, Dean’s music began playing. The sirens were gone. Maybe Dean was at peace with himself and his situation.

----------------

Balor excitedly pointed at Dean’s gesture. “Thrall!!”

“So maybe Seth doesn’t have to bargain away his soul… or did Dean steal it?”

Balor boggled at his human friend, who enjoyed a laugh at the Demon’s reaction. It didn’t make Balor angry; he just smiled again to watch someone heal themselves.

Chapter Text

 

Finn made an early stop in the trainer’s room to have his ribs checked over before his match against Lashley and Lio. 

“Surprised you’re not painting up for this one,” the trainer quipped as Fiin stretched out his left side. “You didn’t for Rumble, are you saving it for Wrestlemania?”

Finn nodded and winced as the trainer poked around. “I like to save it for bigger occasions.”

“The Intercontinental title isn’t a ‘big enough occasion’?”

“I like saving it for Summerslam. Besides, I don’t think Lashley and Lio can work together when there’s a chance that one of the other could become champion. So it’s more like a Triple-threat match, yeah?”

The trainer nodded. “You’re closer to 100% than I was expecting. Good luck out there.”

Finn slid off the table and forced a smile. Did they really think he needed the Demon against these two? He had a size advantage against Lio and a speed advantage against Lashley even without the Demon. As long as they can’t double-team him, he knew he could make this happen.

Backstage buzzed with anticipation for the two Chamber matches. The entire womens’ divisions from both shows had commandeered a monitor and extra chairs in one of the meeting rooms to watch it together. Finn spotted Kofi Kingston warming up, smile missing for the moment while he concentrated on the biggest match he’d participated in in ten years.

He heard the monitor in his locker room as he approached. Sometimes Balor would turn the volume all the way up so it sounded like he was in the arena. But before Finn opened the door, he heard some of the cross chatter about his match.

“Finn Balor, that guy’s a warrior,” Booker T tried to talk over Coachman and Sam Roberts at the preshow table. Roberts interrupted him anyway.

“Look, he’s gotta be able to take care of these two guys, he’s fighting both of them tonight. Here’s the thing with Finn Balor that drives me crazy and I think drives a lot of people in the WWE Universe crazy….”

“An what’s that?” Booker managed to squeeze in edgewise. Sam still kept talking.

“It’s the same mistake that he made at the Royal Rumble. For some reason - heck, he made the mistake at Wrestlemania last year. He cannot win big matches unless he’s got the paint on. Unless you see the Demon come out - and you see Demon shirts everywhere in this arena, you see Demon action figures on all the shelves, but we never see the Demon come out anymore. And guess what else happens? Finn Balor never wins the big matches.”

Finn took a very deep breath before entering, knowing exactly what to expect. Sure enough, Balor stood next to the monitor, pointing at the red-haired man. “See? Knows. You NEED me.”

“You believe a man who’s never fought a battle in his life?”

Balor folded his arms. “He’s right!”

“No he’s not,” Finn turned the monitor off. “I can’t have you fighting all my major battles for me.”

“Win!” Balor countered.

“Samoa Joe,” Finn shot back. The demon growled.

“You. Fucking. Need. Me.”

“Oh, do I? Looks like I’ve got something to prove to you then.” Finn grabbed his jacket and placed a chair in front of Balor. “Have a seat.”

Balor gave his human a strange look before seating himself. He couldn’t deny he liked that faint taste of Pride he got as Finn left the room, sadly soured by his own Envy.

He’d forgotten his human had shut off the monitor.

“Wait! Open window!”

-------------------------------------------

 

“...Will Finn Balor be able to separate and destroy?” Corey Graves questioned from the announce table. “” I have all the faith in the world in what Finn Balor is capable of. Everything you said about Finn Balor is true. He is an unbelievable competitor. But he’s only a human being, and there isn’t a human being on Earth that stands a chance against both ‘the All Mighty’ and the Hype Man.” 

Finn couldn’t hear Corey over the waves of thrall from the audience, his two opponents on his mind. He couldn’t worry about the Demon right now, who likely sulked in the locker room or is tearing it apart looking for the “wand” to see if he can watch the match. Barring that, Balor would find a way to teleport to a proper shadow to see for himself. Finn wanted to test the Demon’s patience just as much as he needed to test himself.

Finn knew that Demon could not see the match, but could likely hear the roars of the crowd. Finn drew in all this thrall for himself, feeling that rush on his own. Perhaps a little something else in the air, he couldn’t put a finger on it. Whatever else caught the edge of his senses, it wasn’t from Lio or Bobby. They’re both Blind, Finn guessed. They’d think the Demon nothing but paint, like Sam Roberts does.

Finn did have one advantage: Lio and Bobby had to tag in and out. He didn’t get one of the senior referees to help enforce this, but the level of confidence - or arrogance - from Lio and Bobby kept the match somewhat fair.

At least as fair as a 100+ pound disadvantage Finn had against Lashley. The Irishman knew he just had to isolate Rush long enough to take care of business, and Lio made that mistake to Finn’s delight.

He cornered Lio on the opposite side of the ring. The Hype Man darted to Finn’s left, but this was speed the Irishman could match. Lio panicked; a rather devilish laugh escaped Finn as he caught the smaller man’s ankle, twisting it and watching Rush flail. He even taunted Bobby by letting the Hype Man get ohhhh so close to tagging himself out.

Finn could feel the thrall building as he toyed further with Rush, then used it to knock Lashley away from the ring long enough to finish the smaller man off. Coudegrah, Finn chuckled inwardly at the Demon’s pronunciation of it.

That chuckle erupted into cheers as he pinned Rush well out of reach of his muscle man.

The arena erupted in cheers. Finn had done it.

Two and a half years of frustration finally culminating in a title victory. Music he knew that Demon could hear, and thrall that even the Demon could feel in the bowels of the arena. He quickly took the belt from the ref and escaped Bobby’s wrath, taking his own victory lap around the ring to escape. As he passed the announce table, he clearly heard Renee despite the cheers.

“I Told you there was magic in the air in Houston tonight! And no one deserves this win more than Finn Balor!”

Finn saluted the crowd to further gather thrall… and to savor the angry look on Bobby Lashley’s face. He knew the Demon will like that.

 

--------------------------------------------

 

The wand didn’t work. It flashed when he pushed on it in certain places, but the window never opened.

Smashing the window with the wand didn’t work either. Balor sulked impatiently, wanting to just fling open the door and shout for his human. He didn’t teleport out to the arena; Finn finally found out about his previous escapes. Now he had to wait. And wait. He pried the wand out of the window and fussed with it some more, finally breaking it somehow and large metal pieces falling out and rolling around on the floor.

He heard the door open as he gathered the metal pieces, expecting to be yelled at again for breaking the window. Instead he heard chuckling. His human was laughing? Healing himself? That always sounded like good news. He stood, holding the remote in one hand and a battery in the other, dropping both when he saw what was in Finn’s hands.

“Wha - wha~??” Balor babbled as he bounded over to look at the white leather trophy that someone else had been carrying only an hour before. “What - why - how -” He was so baffled he didn’t know which question he needed to ask! Finn only smiled brighter as the Demon traced his fingers along the plates, over the logos, finally snatching it out of Finn’s hands. His face contorted into a flood of questions he didn’t have the Words for.

(Credit @sinip759)

“Now I am a Champion,” Finn said proudly as he took the belt out of Balor’s surprised grasp. “So what about you? Do I ‘need’ you?”

The usual, definitive “Yes!” didn’t come. Balor slunk back as he saw his human hold the belt over his waist. “I - “ he actually looked down and away from his human.

How did this happen? How did his human get so strong again? Had something gone wrong? Again, too many questions and not enough Words.

(Credit @sinip759)

“Need?” the Demon asked after a moment. “Want?” he followed up before his human could answer.

“Can you even answer that question?” Finn playfully taunted, not realizing that even demons have hearts.

“No.” Balor lowered his head, remaining in a kneel. His eyes were closed, his maw silent for a few moments. Then his monstrous tongue twitched.

Pride.

His human’s Pride. He glanced up.

Finn offered him a hand. “Stay. But now I’m in charge.”

“No. Bigger.” Balor pointed at the white belt, gesturing about the Universal title.

“WE won that. *I* won this.” Finn slapped the center plate of the belt for emphasis. He turned and offered the hand again.

“No.” and the Demon vanished.

 

Chapter Text

#9

 

6am.

Finn hadn’t slept well. The Demon’s disgruntled reaction bothered him this time. He was used to the Demon’s tantrums, he’d teleport away to sulk. He’d usually be back by now, sitting at the foot of the bed to stare him awake. He had not returned.

Finn cautiously turned on all the lights to his hotel room. “Balor?” he asked aloud to no response. “No games today,” Finn continued. Still nothing.

He picked up his phone and sent two quick texts - one to Seth (“Apologies if Balor bothered you at all last night”) and one to another powerful ally.

“H, I think the Demon might be a little disgruntled. Not me. Need backup.”

He barely put the phone down when it rang. “Hunter, I - “

“You have got some REALLY bad timing,” Triple H growled through the phone. “I’ve got a lot of ‘disgruntled’ guys -”

“Hunter, this isn’t the same thing. I’m not planning on going anywhere. In fact, I hope you enjoyed the Intercontinental title match. I’ll even defend it tonight if you can do me a bit of a favor.”

Finn wilted a little at the exasperation and frustration in his voice. “What do you need?”

“Backup. The Demon disappeared on me last night and he hasn’t come back yet.”

“What do you mean, ‘disappeared’? It’s too early in the morning for -”

“The crown is gone. He’s not in the room.” Finn checked his texts. “And I’m still asking around but he hasn’t bothered anyone else.”

A long silence chilled the phone. Finn hoped that pause would be enough for the Demon to leap out of a shadow shouting “Surprise!”. Nothing.

“Finn,” Hunter began evenly. “I can get a couple of the NXT guys to come to the show tonight, but that thing is YOUR responsibility. If it does something that gets the company bad PR, it’s gonna be on your head. I hired you both for a reason. I hold you both to the same standard. If you need to translate that for him, remind him that the King of Kings still has ‘Authority’ over him.”

“I understand. I’m hoping he’ll turn up before the show starts, but I’m at least getting you a head’s up about it.”

“I’ll see what I can do, Finn. Meantime, you better see what you  can do about this.”

----------------------------------------

Demon or no, the show must go on. Finn made sure he arrived at the arena early, dropping his bags off in a separate locker room before taking a long tour of the building. Every nook and cranny, every locked and unlocked room, every road case needed at least a quick peek to see if any trace of the Demon could be found. What little he could See on his own gave him no further clues of Balor’s whereabouts.

A slight supernatural tug did turn him toward a meeting room, where he spotted Triple H talking with a few other performers. Finn would have otherwise dismissed it until a touch of what felt like Undertaker’s or Wyatt’s dark energies caught his attention. He peered in the window for a better look.

He recognized Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa immediately. Currently the two top champions at NXT were summoned to perform tonight, a move Finn wasn’t sure aligned with his phone call from that morning. To be best of his knowledge, neither of these two “Knew” about the Demon or any of the other supernatural goings-on in the business, though over the years Ciampa has changed a great deal in his wrestling and his overall look. Gargano, endearingly known as “Johnny Wrestling” going back to his independent days in Ohio, also didn’t come across as someone with such knowledge. Finn wasn’t too sure, given what he had seen of their work in NXT.

He exhaled in relief when he spotted their third, a bald, darker-skinned young man with dark eyes and brilliant tattoos down his right arm. Ricochet’s arrival in NXT was celebration enough, having another high-flying entity on board, one whose agility and speed might only be enhanced by wings on his back that reminded Finn much of Mustafa Ali. Ricochet was no angel - they’d crossed paths in the past and he looked forward with working with him again sooner than later. Sad that their first work together might be looking for the Demon.

The fourth figure sat opposite the rest of the group, close to the door. A stone-faced man covered in tattoos and sigils, listening intently to the King of King’s instructions. A shiver shot down Finn’s spine.

“Aleister Black….” Finn whispered. Word from NXT was he was a demon hunter in his own right. Triple H knew how to get help, but this could be drastic. Much like Samoa Joe, Black didn’t really care about mystiques and monsters. While he’d been some help with some supernatural issues down south (something about Velveteen Dream getting his Eyes forced Open), Black was so named because that was likely the color of his heart. And his thrall.

Finn needed a plan. He went back to his locker room for the belt, and hoped he could grab a microphone on the way to the ramp.

------------------------------------

Seth Rollins found a workout area backstage, idly pedaling on one of the eliptical bikes. He watched Raw with the sound off, especially with Heyman on his screen. His back bothered him from recent weeks, but not being cleared to do anything bothered him even more. Lesnar wasn’t in the building as usual so Paul likely rattled off the same damn promo again. That bored Seth, who guessed it bored the crowd. Seth wondered if it even bored Paul.

A slow smirk finally crossed his face seeing Finn stride out to show off his freshly won Intercontinental Title. The Irishman looked to be in good spirits, a sharp contrast from the odd text that morning about the demon bothering him. Rollins guessed that the Demon decided to show up in the hotel room that morning and everything should be cool with those two.

He closed his eyes picked up the pace a little on the bike as the commercials came on. This is boring. This night has been boring. Just talking tonight will be boring.

“Seth,” a deep voice whispered.

Rollins kept pedaling.

“Seth?” the voice a little louder, but still whispery. Rollins mumbled something about his ears.

“Seth!” the voice at normal volume now, almost an order. He opened his eyes and glanced behind him.

Balor’s blue eyes peered from the shadow of the half-lit workout area, where he crouched near a black wall. The crown completely swept back over its broad shoulders to hide the silver and red tendrils, the jet-black skin muting much of the reds into deep maroon. It covered its jagged maw with a black t-shirt (turned inside out) and crouched low, watching people walk by and ignore the room despite Seth Freakin Rollins trying to keep loose on one of the cardio machines. It blinked a couple of times at the Architect, reluctant to speak.

“What’re you doing back here?” Seth queried as he clambered off the bike. “I thought you’d be out there with Finn, celebrating.”

“HE won,” Balor clarified for Seth. “Lost,” he pointed at himself. He then pointed carefully at Seth. “Hurt?”

“Yeah, not wrestling tonight.”

“Beast,” Balor growled. Seth could see the maw moving under the shirt. “Kill beast. Hurt Fat man. Get THAT Symbol.”

“‘Symbol’?” Seth puzzled.

“Symbol. Trophy. Power.” Balor sat up a little and made a broad motion across his midsection, the familiar “belt on me” taunt that Rollins and so many other wrestlers have done.

“You want the Universal title as bad as I do. And probably as bad as Finn does.”

“Finn not need…” Balor reluctantly pointed to himself. “Just ‘demon’.”

“‘Just a demon’? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“King. Slayer,” Balor pointed at Seth.

This made Rollins smile. “I earned that nickname.”

“Demon King,” Balor pointed at himself angrily. “... just ‘demon’ now.”

“I thought that’s what ‘Balor’ meant…. ‘Demon King’. I know I called you that enough when I fought you both a couple of years ago.”

Balor sighed. “Not Needed. Finn said.”

“He didn’t mean it that way-”

Balor’s gaze peeked up to the screen, seeing Finn and Ricochet tagging against Lashley and Lio. “See?”

“So he’s in a tag match,” Seth shrugged. “That doesn’t mean anything.” He offered a hand to Balor. “Let’s just go back to your locker room and -”

“Move…. Ok?”

“Yeah, I’m ready for it this time.”

Balor took Seth’s hand but teleported instead to Seth’s locker room. “Safe here,” he asked and answered his own question.

Seth wobbled to a bench, confused. “Safe? And why aren’t we in Finn’s locker room?”

“Friend. Not Finn.”

“No, no no no no no no - I can’t have you in here, don’t you and Finn - I mean, you two - “

“Hide…?” The Demon had a strange glint in his eyes.

Seth was too spooked to understand Balor’s question. “Look, you can’t hide in here for long.”

“Hide…. Here?” he pointed at Seth’s arm.

Seth jerked his arm away, not liking where this was going. “Finn told you not to.”

“Fuck Finn.”

“No and no,” Seth had no interest in either suggestion from the Demon. “Look, you can hang out here, but eventually you’re gonna have to go back to Finn.”

Balor slumped a little but nodded. Even if this human didn’t know everything, he guessed well. “Stay. Need, not want.”

---------------------

Finn hadn’t worked with Ricochet in a long time, but could see that he’d not lost a step. The Irishman should not have been too surprised that Ricochet partnered with him against an Angry Lio Rush and a Wrathful Bobby Lashley; such Sin, along with the combined Lust and Envy of fans and perhaps Greed from his foes, would be temptation enough to bring Balor out of hiding before Aleister Black caught him.

The match itself drew considerable Thrall as well; that was something Finn and Ricochet could use. They shook hands before Finn gave Ricochet the ring to gather his own thrall.

The newcomer flagged Finn down once both had returned backstage. “So what’s this about the Demon just… disappearing on you? That’s not like him at all.” Ricochet admitted being just as perplexed.

“He wasn’t out there with me when I won the title. I know he didn’t like that.” The Irishman glanced down at his belt. “I thought he’d be happy that I was Proud of winning this, but that wasn’t enough. Figured he’d be back by now, but nothin.”

“I can get to the rafters pretty easily, I know you couldn’t check around up there,” Ricochet offered. “What do you want me to tell him if I find him?”

“Don’t force him to do anything, and whatever you do, none of the Holy business*. That might make things worse. If he asks about me, tell him I’m sorry and we need to talk. He knows he can’t get too far away for too long.”

*see “What do Demons want with Justice”, chapter 11

 

---------------------------------------

 

The video package that Paul Heyman constructed felt more like a cop-out than anything else to Rollins. He showed up every week, Heyman was in the building, but it seemed that Paul had about the same level of “Lazy” that his client had for the last couple of years. Balor crouched next to him, peering intently at the “window”. He bristled at every image of Brock Lesnar throwing someone around, but held back a little when it came to Finn. He growled louder and louder as too many Words and not enough actions crossed the window, short of the last line.

“It’s not a prediction,” Heyman explained in an atypical calm demeanor, “It’s not even a spoiler. It’s the end of the story of a Man named Seth Rollins.”

Balor heard this word from Heyman before. He recalled Seth using it recently as well. “Spoy - leer?” he asked Rollins.

“Spoiler? It means giving away the ending.”

“End of …?”

“He thinks that Lesnar is going to beat me and that’s that. I don’t plan on going down that easily.”

“You … spoiler?”

“I want to ‘spoil’ his idea of how that match is going to end.”

“Help?” Balor offered.

“What did Finn say about that?”

Balor looked away. “No fucking help.”

“Come on, you really need to go back and talk to him. I don’t know what he did - “

A sharp knock at the door interrupted them both. Balor instinctively dove into a shadow as a voice outside followed the knocking. “Hey, get off your phone, you got an interview.”

Seth grabbed his phone and tucked it in his pocket. “Be right back.”

-------------------------------------

 

As Seth slipped out the door to his interview, another door to the locker room rattled open. Balor slipped into a different shadow to watch the intruder.

He heard heavy breathing and stumbling. A man staggered into Balor’s view, shirtless and sweating and still in the process of catching his breath. The man slumped on the bench next to Seth’s bag and rubbed at a sore shoulder.

Balor recognized this one. “Mean Angross,” he whispered.

Dean Ambrose glanced around a moment. “Huh? Seth, you in here?”

“Balor,” the Demon spoke up, letting his eyes glint in the shadow.

“You’re in the wrong dressing room, buddy. Technically, so am I.” Dean didn’t seem too bothered by his mistake. “Thought you’d be hanging out with the new IC champ? Or is the new guy with wings bugging you?”

“No. Bored.”

“Thought you were out there with him.”

“Not needed.” Balor continued to sulk.

Dean casually wrapped an arm around Balor. “I think we’re both bored. I haven’t been having much fun lately either, just don’t really have anyone to go to.”

“....Roman.”

“Yeah, I miss the Big Dog. I hope he’s doing better, I’ll have to call him tonight.”

“See Roman?”

“I don’t have time for that. Trust me, I’d go if I could. But I want to see him again, and soon. For now, I guess I got Seth. And what’s wrong with Finn? Who takes care of who, huh?”

Balor puzzled that question. “Care?” he mulled over the Word. “Share?” he tried a similar Word.

“Kinda both, I guess. You probably keep him out of trouble, he keeps you from turning into some sort of science experiment. Or killed outright. Demons have really bad reputations - except Undertaker, but I think he just kinda bullied his way out of that.”

“Me?”

“Nah, you’re cool,” Dean assured Balor. “You’re not gonna be bored for too much longer. Just watch your step getting back to Finn’s locker room, ok?”

“And you?”

“I needed to talk to Seth, where is he?”

“Why?” Balor didn’t want Seth mad at him if Dean was going to attack.

“Because I care about Seth,” Dean’s eyes rolled at having to admit it. “Don’t tell him I told you that, ok?”

Balor pointed to the door Rollins had exited. Dean ruffled the tassels on Balor’s crown before stumbling out.

 

------------------------------------

 

“Seth,” Charly Caruso began carefully, “After what we just saw, any regrets about choosing to face Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania?”

Seth could almost hear Balor in his head about his choices, and the Demon’s absolute answer “Roman.” No way he was going to back down now.

“You know Charly, you can call Paul Heyman a lot of things, and I have, but, uh… a liar is not one of them. Every single thing he said about Brock Lesnar is the truth.

“Where Paul’s got it mixed up though is I’m not walking into Wrestlemania with a death wish. I’m walking into Wrestlemania with an acceptance of my fate. And Brock Lesnar needs to accept his fate - because at Wrestlemania, it’s all over for him.”

Screams and cheers started up in the crowd. This only emboldened him. “His reign of terror is done.  And as for my fate? Whether I leave on my own two feet or I get carried out on a stretcher, I promise I’m leaving Wrestlemania as Universal Champion.”

He wanted to believe these Words; he put all the conviction he could muster into them. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, thinking about how he was stuck doing this on his own.

He heard someone grunting behind him. Charly had already taken her leave, meaning Seth was now standing by himself next to a slightly battered Dean Ambrose. Seth’s lunatic friend tugged at his own neck and rotated out his shoulders, seemingly oblivious to someone standing there.

“Can I help you with something?” Seth impatiently asked, finally getting Dean’s attention. The Cincy native turned, looking bewildered where he’d ended up. He shrugged.

“Yeah,” Dean managed to answer, “Where were you out there, man? Jeez….”  Dean went back to cracking his neck and checking for loose teeth.

Now it was Seth’s turn to be bewildered. The two of them hadn’t shared space in almost two months after “Settling” things in the ring at the TLC pay-per-view the previous year. Dean hadn’t shown up out of nowhere in a while, and here he is like nothing had happened since the middle of October?? Seth had enough on his mind with a runaway Demon hiding in his locker room, his issues with the medical staff, he didn’t need Dean to add to the pile. Rollins didn’t ask Dean to deflect McIntyre away from him, Seth wasn’t cleared to be out there anyway, and hadn’t they already been through discussions about helping each other out?

“Have you completely, completely lost your mind?” Seth finally asked, thankful he could even come up with a coherent question. Dean paused in his histrionics to look Seth in the eye.

Dean figured Seth already knew that answer. “Eh,” he shrugged again and ambled off.  Seth could only watch, still flabbergasted.


--------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Aleister Black walked purposefully through the backstage area, satisfied with his first outing against the muse Elias. He’d heard that all manner of creatures hid in plain sight on the traveling roster, even more so than some back in Orlando. He didn’t mind the visit to Louisiana and their tastes of magic; good spirits, bad spirits, many spirits in disarray. It was the chaos he could See, that many others could not.

Triple H had summoned him to this event, explaining part of the situation specifically to him and Ricochet. He knew that Ciampa and Gargano were Blind, and he tolerated Ricochet for now. He and Ricochet were told to scour backstage for any sign of Demon Balor. Black long held suspicions that the elaborate design, lights and smoke for the Demon’s entrance hid a dark truth from the humans who watched; under some Demons’ gaze, they could feast on their souls and cloud their minds. How could such a creature get away with these things? He wanted to know more.

Ricochet still flew about in the rafters in search of the creature. Black guessed that if this creature wanted to stay hidden, it would choose a shadow away from any regular foot traffic. He didn’t have all night to wander, the show would be over soon.

He chose a roadcase in the loading docks and seated himself, closing his eyes and reaching slowly through the Aether with his Left Hand. He started to whisper, a deep, harsh growl of sounds that most people would ignore. The mantra had meaning and only one set of ears could translate it.

A low rumbling growl nearby confirmed Black’s guess of just how good a Demon’s ears were. His eyes remained closed, and he spoke Words that only Balor would understand.

“Sin Eater, Shadow Walker, He with Human Host,” he whispered in a tongue no human should be able to speak. “Stray from your Darkness and return to your Host, I have the guide of the Left Hand Path to find you and Punish for your desertion.”

Balor appeared in front of Aleister, sitting in the same position with his eyes wide. “Speak...demon?” He began in human tongue. Black’s eyes opened, glowing a faint yellow.

“I know Your Words, Sin Eater. I was sent by the King of Kings to find you.”

Balor shuddered. “B-boss?” he stammered, still trying to speak Human despite this human’s grasp of Infernal.

“King Golden Hunter sends me. You have Strayed from your Host. Go Home.”

“I am cast aside by my Host. He chooses not to use me,” Balor finally spoke in his native tongue. “Human Words have carried the message that I cannot ally with him.”

“Neither will survive should you continue to Stray,” Black warned him. “I could sunder you where you sit, but I have no issue with your Host. Destroying you might destroy him as well.”

Balor snapped to his feet, roaring through his maw at Black. “My Human! My human from birth!”*

Black didn’t even flinch. “What of your Human Host? If you were born the same day, the Twin Bond cannot be broken. You choose to sever it at your own peril.”

“He forgets my name, BALOR. Demon KING. They merely call me Demon. I am Demon KING!”

Black pushed to a standing position. “Then don’t force my Left Hand. Go back to your Host and ACT like a King.”

Balor reared to strike only to be kicked off the road case. “Your power wanes the longer you Stray. No mere Human should be able to strike a Demon King. Go Home.”

The Demon held the side of his face, angry and embarrassed. “Go,” Black repeated, this time in human tongue. “Finn is looking for you. Don’t get your human in any more trouble. Then there will be no more trophies and Thrall.”

Balor slipped into a shadow to find his way back to Finn’s locker room. Black closed his eyes to “Follow” and to make sure he was indeed heading for the locker rooms.

A slow clap interrupted his concentration. He wheeled to see Ricochet sitting on the hood of one of the semis. “And here I thought you’d just run him through and be done with it.”

“It would have been very easy,” Aleister admitted. “But if Balor IS twin-bonded to Finn then I might have killed both.”

“Twin-bonded? Wow, I didn’t even think of that.” Ricochet looked back down the hall. “So are they getting back together?”

“They’ll have to at least talk. Balor’s Human language is better than I expected.”

 

 

 

*If events from "Our Birthday" are part of the canon.....

Chapter Text

#10

 

The buzz backstage felt more like a Wrestlemania weekend. Finn felt it the moment he walked in.

 

Everyone had smiles on their faces and some wiped tears from their eyes. He chuckled to himself when he overheard Dean Ambrose saying something about “sweating too hard” and making a show of wiping his forehead(and his eyes). But not a single sad face in the house.

 

Roman Reigns was in the building. People caught glimpses of him as he was quickly shuttled to a private locker room, but he’d sneak out a wink and that little kid grin that everyone had missed. Finn himself found that grin infectious, as did most of the locker room. People speculated on what the news would be, but judging from the glimpses they had seen of him it had to be good news. He was opening the show so the suspense wouldn’t be AS long, but even in the afternoon and the hours before the show people kept trying to sneak to Roman’s locker room to knock or listen in. His phone was turned off, only staff could bring him food and water, and any requests he made were quickly handled.

 

Roman held up the tank top they hand-delivered when he arrived. Black and orange, his Shield standard colors and the chosen color for Leukemia awareness, respectively. He tried it on, checking himself in the mirror, grinning even wider. He tried to put on his stoic face and gripped at the top of the shirt like he would his Shield vest, only cracking himself up more. He couldn’t wait to get out there!

 

He turned away from the mirror and rehearsed some of the speech in his head. He was happy but still nervous.

 

He nearly screamed when something leapt out of the shadows and clung on to him like his daughter would. This tackler was….considerably heavier.

 

“Roman!!” Balor tried not to shout. “Back! Better? Stay? Fight? Tell me~!”

 

 

The big Samoan took a moment to gather himself as he recognized that he’d been pounced by an over-eager demon. He gave the creature a resigned glance before peeling it off his arm. “How the hell did you get in here? I’m not telling you anything before anyone else!”

 

“But - “

 

“I’m not even telling Seth and Dean ahead of time and they’re my brothers.”

 

“Tell!” he demanded. Roman shook his head no.

 

“I’m not telling you anything because you broke in here, first of all…”

 

“Sorry.”

 

Roman nodded. “Now you’re gonna sneak your ass back to your brother Finn or I’m gonna carry you over there.”

 

“Finn….brother?”

 

“I don’t think you two could get any closer. I figured that’s how you two rolled.”

 

“Demon King,” he pointed to himself proudly. “Finn is my human.”

 

“But his name comes first on the door, y’know? ‘Finn Balor’ is one person to a lot of other people. You realize that without Finn, where would you be?”

 

“I…” the Demon King didn’t have the Words in either language.

 

“So I think you need to go find your brother. Don’t make me use this.” Reigns smirked and held out his right arm, which sparked a brilliant blue.

 

Balor crept up to the arm to watch it flicker. “Thralllll…..” he drooled.

 

“More than I could ever imagine,” the Samoan just as entranced with the glow. “So much support from all over the world, and a whole lot more coming tonight. But for now you need to be with YOUR brother.”

 

----------------------------------------------

 

Caught up with the wash of positive emotions in the building, Finn hadn’t been worrying too much about where the Demon went. He’d relayed the good news to Triple H that Balor hadn’t gone rogue and would be “handled” from there. Hunter, unimpressed, told Finn that Black and Ricochet will be there that Monday night to keep tabs on both of them.

 

“ROMAN!”

 

Finn nearly jumped out of his boots as Balor hopped out of a shadow, somehow even making his giant maw grin. “Roman!” He repeated. “Better! Happy! Thrall! THRALL!” Balor flexed one of his red and black arms, using his other hand to wave over it to mimic the glow from Roman’s tattoo.

 

“You snuck into Roman’s locker room? You’re really gonna get me in a doghouse, aren’t you?” Finn chided, both hands on his hips and shook his head. “No one’s supposed to be in there. Not even Seth Rollins or Dean Ambrose were -”

 

“Sorry… brother?”

 

“‘Brother’? Hulk Hogan in the building?”

 

The joke sailed over the Demon’s crown. “No. Seth, Roman, Dean, brothers.”

 

Finn nodded along. “They’re a brotherhood and they’ll always have each other’s backs.”

 

“Human… Finn… my… brother?”

 

“A Demon King wanting to be brothers with some lowly human?” Finn chortled. “I thought I was just your ‘pet’.”

 

“Have … back. You have mine?”

 

Finn stared at the demon, incredulous. “I never thought you’d ever be… humble.”

 

“Hum bell?” Another new Word.

 

“Humble - Calling me ‘brother’ instead of just ‘human’ or ‘Finn’ is like we’re equals,” Finn explained.  “Are you sure you really understand what you’re saying?”

 

“Still KING!” Balor pointed to his crown. “Your… ‘crown’?” he pointed to the Intercontinental Title.

 

“It’s A crown, but not THE crown,” he patted the belt. “So perhaps not quite equals yet. Just no more strayin off for now, ok?”

 

“Not Stray,” the demon shuddered, knowing that the Demon Hunter lurked outside of the locker room. Balor then turned himself to mist to “sit” with his human through the opening segment with Roman. He wanted to understand all of the Words. He wanted to show Finn all of Roman’s thrall.

 

(author's note: Roman's return brought a lot of people back together :')  )

----------------------------------------------

 

Reigns returned backstage to more hugs and handshakes, more “welcome back”s and “looking great”s. He couldn’t be happier just to be back in the building, never mind back with his buddies and hopefully working along with everyone. His right arm quivered a bit from the thrall overload of the opening segment; he dismissed to everyone as the jitters from being back. He’d been nervous through his entire speech, just waiting for the booing to start up again. None. Not a negative word to be heard, and if there was, it was shouted down.

 

He finally spotted Finn amongst the backstage crowd, stopping to shake hands and hug him. He could hear Finn apologizing over the rest of the ruckus and laughed. “Hey, it’s not a big deal,” he told Finn. “I think just about everyone wanted to do that to me before the show.”

 

“Still, he’s been a bit of a brat because of my fights with Lesnar and Lashley. I think I ruffled some feathers further up.”

 

“Hunter doesn’t stay mad. He’ll call in that favor soon enough.” Reigns dug something out of a pocket in his jeans. “Just so you know I ain’t mad, I got somethin for him.”

 

“A cross?” Finn snarked. Roman actually paused. “I wouldn’t do that to him,” Finn grinned back.

 

“Ok, ok. Here.” Roman held up what looked like a cheap remote starter for a car. “Lio Rush lost a bet last week so here’s his punishment. At some point tonight he knows his music’s gonna play and we’ll send him out completely cold on what’s gonna happen. I think your ‘friend’ would like that ‘honor’.”

 

Reigns handed Finn the remote with a big red button on it. “He watches the entire show, right?”

 

Finn nodded. “He just doesn’t like it when there’s too much talking. He did listen to everything you said, and he’s happier than I thought he’d be to see you back- he didn’t complain once about ‘too many words’, even when I had to explain some of them.”

 

“Well, if anything tonight gets too ‘talky’ for him, tell him to press this button and there won’t be talk for a good ten minutes afterward.” He offered a fist bump. “And you guys always give me a good match. We’re gonna have to do that again sooner than later.”

 

Finn agreed and touched fists with the big Samoan. “For my belt? Or will you have one when our paths cross again?”

 

Both enjoyed that laugh before Roman was dragged off by one of the producers. Finn slipped back into his locker room to find Balor watching the monitor nervously as Ricochet and Aleister Black worked together in a tag team match. “What’s wrong?”

 

Balor pointed at Black. “Can see me?”

 

“Not through this window. And he won’t come in here, as long as you don’t go out there.”

 

“Stay. Stay!” Balor promised.

 

“Roman mentioned you when I went out there,” he reminded the Demon, “but he’s not angry. He wants you to use this later tonight.” He handed the device over. Balor rolled it around in his hands, puzzled by it.

 

“If you think you’ve heard too many Words tonight, press this button. Then the Words will stop for a while, how’s that?”

 

Balor brightened. “Thank Roman?”

 

“I’ll try to catch him again tonight, but I know he’ll be busy. Just be ready to use that, okay?”

 

The demon nodded, playfully balancing the device on his giant tongue. Finn shook his head and closed the door.

 

----------------------------------------------------------

 

Ricochet and Aleister Black succeeded in taking out the Revival in the opening match. It wasn’t for the titles, but Ricochet got in some flight while Black played some mind games with the old-school team.

 

“I get why we were called up,” Black pondered as they walked through the curtain. “But working together wasn’t something I had in mind. No offense.”

 

“None taken,” Ricochet shrugged. “But if it means tag gold, we should stick with it.”

 

Black’s expression didn’t change. “I’d rather chase singles gold. Too bad the one everyone wants isn’t even here.”

 

“Depends on who you ask,” Black interrupted by a smiling Irish voice. Ricochet slowed as Black stopped altogether to face Finn.

 

“You’re welcome,” Black replied. “I see it’s not out here with you.”

 

“‘He’,” Finn corrected, “was scared all the way back to the locker room last week. What did you say to him?”

 

“I told your demon buddy that Triple H wasn’t too happy about being out on his own. That seemed to be scary enough for him.”

 

“He takes the ‘King of Kings’ moniker literally,” Finn admitted. “Triple H knows we are separate entities.”

 

“You get double pay out of that?” Ricochet couldn’t resist. Black stared him silent before turning back to Finn.

 

“I’ve still got a lot of questions, but this isn’t the time or place. A word of advice, Finn: you might want to call that demon by his formal name. Something’s gotten into his head that he’s been ‘demoted’ to ‘just a demon’.”

 

“Not how I heard him, but I’ll do that,” Finn agreed. “He at least tries to call me ‘Finn’ and not just ‘human’.”

 

------------------------------------------

 

Balor listened to Bald Wolf’s Words. “Roman hurt him,” he requested.

 

He tried to enjoy Elias’ music, and didn’t understand why some woman walked out just to walk away. He did enjoy Dean spiking Elias with Dirty Deeds, even if that took a few Words to get there.

 

Watching the women fight until a fire-haired gal using a crutch showed up was fine, but now why all these men trying to stop it? “Let them fight!” he ordered as the chaos continued. Was the red-haired woman not one of the performers? Was this a “wrong” thing? Finn had told him stories about fans crossing over the walls to try to get to the wrestlers, and anyone who did would be severely punished. Finn also warned Balor to not attack the fans no matter what they said or did, unless they actually try to physically hurt him. That being said, Balor didn’t fear any of the humans on the other side of the walls.

 

The newest of the women there had the belt and was shouting for someone. “Vince?” He repeated, knowing that was the name of another “king” in this strange business. Different music played, and he recognized the female who emerged. “Queen of Queens,” he whispered with reverence. He put the button down, knowing that you don’t interrupt her OR her chosen husband, the King of Kings.

 

-----------------------------------------------------

 

Finn and Aleister Black found a small office where they could speak privately.

 

“Explain to me,” Black began, “the Twin Bond. He said you were ‘his human from birth’.”

 

“I’d rather not, but you’d try and kick my head off if I said no.” Finn really didn’t want to go into details that he hadn’t even told Triple H. Explaining it to a Demon Hunter is almost worse.

 

“You share a birthday, but do you share your ‘Birth day’? He’s the same age as you are?”

 

“He is.”

 

Black steepled his fingers and pondered that a moment. “I made the correct choice. I could have struck him down with something worse than Black Mass.”

 

“You were gonna - “

 

“It was an option,” Black interrupted. “But it would have been the last option if he continued to defy an order to return to you. If you two are separated for a long enough period of time, it would affect you both - physically. It wouldn’t be pleasant.”

 

This had Finn genuinely curious. “How ‘long’ can we stay apart?”

 

“He hadn’t been with you for over a week, and couldn’t defend himself against me. Unless me invoking Triple H kept him from striking back.” Black ran some numbers through his mind. “A month, then you would both start to feel the effects. Weakness of the body, fatigue no matter how long you sleep. No appetite, no interest in anything. You would both wither into husks and blow away.

 

“In that week apart, the fatigue was already affecting him,” Black guessed,  “despite having ready food sources even without you around.”

 

“He’s got a taste for Thrall, almost as much as he does Sin. So does that mean he’d need both now?”

 

Black brooded over that question for almost a full minute. “Congratulations, I don’t have an answer for that,” he replied with little emotion. He stood up and gathered his jacket. “What you’ve told me won’t be told to anyone else… unless I HAVE to.”

 

Finn bristled. “You wouldn’t - “

 

“Then keep your Demon King on a tighter leash.” Black walked out of the office without another word. Finn huffed to himself before storming back to his locker room. Maybe Balor should teach me some swears in Infernal…

 

---------------------------------------------

 

Balor awaited his human to give him his belt. He saw that Finn would be featured in a segment with one of the other women who weren’t part of that fight where all the other men got involved. He puzzled the chairs and table at the top of the ramp. Did that mean there’d be more Words?

 

Finn peeked in for his belt. “Thanks. Gotta show this off if I’m out there, yeah?”

 

“Words?” Balor lamented.

 

“If you need to press that button, press it. Surprised you didn’t press it when Ronda and Stephanie-”

 

“Not to Queen of Queens,” he insisted, referring to Stephanie. “No more trouble.”

 

Finn chuckled. “You have my permission, or there’s going to be a LOT of Words.”

 

The door quickly closed. Balor groaned and reached for the button.

 

He watched Finn show off the belt. He frowned as he sat down to just talk.

 

“....that title sure does cover up your beautiful abs,” Alexa commented. “You gotta let those babies breathe, y’know?”

 

He could see his human flushing a bit from the fake flattery. “You tryin to make me blush?” Finn joked.

 

“I’ll make you a deal,” Alexa offered. Balor had the button ready.

 

“You show me your abs,” Alexa said coyly, “and I’ll show you my - “

 

 

Balor looked at the button. How did Seth say it? “Cut the crap,” he snarled and pressed the button hard.

 

Sure enough, Lio Rush’s music interrupted her offer. The crowd sounded displeased. “Enough Words. More fights!”

 

Balor hoped that his timing made Roman happy. He knew Finn was.

 

Chapter Text

 

Dean Ambrose wandered through backstage, keeping to himself for the night. It was Philadelphia; he bled here, he wept here, he left some of himself here. Even if CZW was way back in his rear view mirror, the scars were still there. Badges of honor. He almost missed it… almost.

Roman was opening the show again. That’s good, let his brother get those happy cheers while he can. He figured there’d be a couple of boos tonight, since Philly could never make up their minds about Roman. Hated him at the Rumble, loved him when stomped Triple H 11 months later. He shrugged it off; the fans like me, it’s the office that has the issues.

He’d found some roadcases to relax on, but no cargo blankets for a pillow. He checked through a few of the cases before finding one already, suspiciously unlocked. Dean pondered that for a moment before knocking on the lid. “Candygram!”

The lid opened slightly, and a pair of icy blue eyes peered out. “Dean?” a whispery, raspy voice asked.

“Finn? Huh, thought you liked your locker room.”

“Balor,” it corrected. “Not tell annie - one I here.”

Dean looked around before crouching down eye to eye with the hiding demon. “Finn’s gonna be really mad if he finds out you left the locker room.”

“Not work tonight,” he sulked.

A mischievous smile crossed Dean’s face. “You know what I used to do when I came to a show and they didn’t use me? I’d go sit in the crowd. I think you’d be able to pull it off. I dare you!  Don’t tell annie-one I told you.” Balor nodded. “Ok, now can you change color? I know you can change patterns.”

“Why?” Balor preferred all his blacks and reds, sometimes some blue.

“Can you do green? You’ll get fewer questions but it’ll get you a seat out there.”

“Hmmm,” Balor glanced at a red stripe on his arm. Tapping it with a claw, it slowly turned a murky dark green. “This?”

“Yeah, and all the reds change to green. Bet you won’t try to sit out there since oooo, it’s not allowed…”

“Trouble? Black?”

“What’s Aleister Black gonna do, stare you to death? Besides, it might be one of the last times you’ll see me and my brothers together.”

Balor startled at the revelation. “Brothers…?” Balor asked his lonely friend. “Roman?” he clenched a fist. “Seth?” he made the same hand-clasping gesture he signaled Seth with a couple of weeks prior. “Thrall. Why?”

“Because I want the best for my brothers, even if I might not be here for it.”

“Why?” Balor closed the road case and sat himself down. “Sick? Hurt?” He knew those two things made people disappear from time to time.

“Nope. I’m leaving. Once we’re done with Wrestlemania, I’m out. Too much happened in the last year.”

“But… Roman? Brother?” Balor couldn’t comprehend that Dean would even consider leaving now that Roman was back in the building.

“Plans can change,” Dean shrugged.

“And… Seth?”  Balor repeated the hand clasping gesture.

“Oh, that? I don’t think I need it anymore. Seth’s gonna need more than his speed and luck against Lesnar.”

“Armor!” Balor guessed.

“Something like that. And all the glowy, flickery whatever on Roman’s arm hurts my eyes. Never seen it that bright.”

“Roman… fix?” Balor pointed to Dean’s arms. Again Dean shrugged.

“Nothing to fix. It’s gone. And in a few weeks, I’m gone.”

“No,” the demon scolded.

Dean ruffled the tendril crown again. This time the tendrils wrapped around his arm. “Hey!!” He slid out of his jacket and backed up. “You’re not helping.”

“Stay!” Balor ordered.

“I’ll stay if you go sit out in the crowd, how’s that?”

Balor nodded, but pointed warningly at Ambrose. “Promise!”

“Ok, I promise, if I see you in the crowd, I’ll stay.  Just remember, if I see you there, who knows who else will?”

------------------------------------------------

 

“..and in Philly, we take our Yard back!” Roman declared to a jubilant Philly crowd.

Aleister Black quietly stirred his coffee as he watched the opening of the show on a monitor. Ricochet warmed up nearby, even though their match was scheduled for much later. “Can’t believe we’re getting a tag title match tonight,” Ricochet grinned as he stretched.

“I don’t think there’ll be a lot of attention on us tonight,” Black absently responded as he continued to watch. Roman had called for Seth Rollins to join him in the ring.

Ricochet jogged up to the table. “Roman’s not ready for singles matches after coming back so quick, is he?”

“He’s in a lot better shape than he’s letting on. And he wants to be in the middle of it all again as soon as he can.” Black gathered the remote and turned up the volume.

“...I think I know where your head’s at,” Seth calmed after blustering about defeating Lesnar at Wrestlemania. “I understand what it’s like to vacate a title and never lose it. And if there’s anyone out there that deserves an opportunity against Brock Lesnar as much as I do, it’s you.

“So if that’s where you’re at, man, let’s talk about it.” Seth looked pretty worried himself.

“Roman’s not greedy,” Ricochet commented. Black nodded in agreement as Roman spoke.

“I thought you knew everything,” Roman needled his little brother. “But you’re wrong. While I was gone, one person watched over this place and it was this man, right here!” Roman pointed to Seth, eliciting cheers from the crowd.

“One man kept this place in line, one man knew what was best and that was you. Nobody has more confidence in you than I do. I’ve been in that ring with Brock. I know what it’s gonna take to take that championship and I know you got what it takes. So the only thing I got to say to you about Brock, the Universal Championship and the main event at Wrestlemania is  ‘good luck, my brother’. But, I need a favor.”

“Anything you need,” Seth immediately replied. “You know I got your back.”

Roman wanted to make sure of that. “Anything?”

“Anything at all.”

Roman nodded. “I wanna get the band back together, one last time!”

The crowd cheered in approval. Seth was a little flustered. Aleister Black was distracted.

He spotted a figure in one of the floor seats that looked all TOO familiar. Arms raised. Hollowed eyes. Tendril crown. Mostly closed maw, but a maw there nonetheless. He kicked his chair away and nearly threw his coffee across the room.

Ricochet jumped back, almost spreading his wings. “Whoa, what - “

“BALOR,” he pointed at the screen. He stomped off to  Finn’s locker room to investigate. Ricochet decided to keep watching; he didn’t want to be in the middle of that.

-------------------------------------------

 

Roman was a little surprised that Seth Rollins - the self-proclaimed “Architect” of the Shield - didn’t want to work with him and Ambrose again.

Roman wanted it. The crowd really wanted it. Seth could only stand there, conflicted. “Look man,” Roman explained, “When I was out I looked through a different perspective and the fact is, man, tomorrow’s not guaranteed. We don’t know how much time we actually have.” Dean should know that too, what he’s been through, Roman thought to himself.

“Life is short, man. The most important things are the relationships that we have and you two are my Brothers, man. And I have no clue what’s going on with Dean, I don’t know if he’s coming or going or what he’s doing. All I know is that he’s making headlines! And *I* know I want one more moment with my Brothers before we may not be around anymore.

The crowd murmured in curiosity and worry. “So what do you say, man?”

The crowd erupted into its third or fourth “Shield! Shield! Shield!” chant, tugging even harder at Seth’s heartstrings. October had felt eerily final, and Dean’s temper tantrum that followed had only made it worse. He paced the ring for a moment, looking to the crowd. He already knew what THEY wanted. Did he want that too?

He then realized that the last time he had bumped fists with both his brothers was that very emotional night. He could barely see through his tears, trying to match up to Roman’s hand. Roman had remained still and watched him find his place, his glance most likely reassuring and focused. Seth didn’t see if Roman had looked at Dean at all during that moment. That whole night had gutted him twice.

That’s not how the Shield ends, Seth realized.  We came in like lions, we took over this business, we can’t end it with that.

He could see Roman out of the corner of his eye, the big Samoan’s arms open wide and that same little kid grin on his face. Deep down, Seth really felt that was just not fair.

“You know I put that part of my life behind me,” Seth reminded Roman. Seth knew that he himself screwed it up once, circumstances screwed it up a couple more times, but now?

“But you’re right,” Seth admitted. “Life is too short! Tomorrow’s not guaranteed! You want the Shield, one last time?”

Roman definitively gestured “one last time”. Seth nodded. “Then for you, my brother, I’m in!”

Roman pumped his fist in triumph. “Philly, we got two, we need our third, bring Ambrose out here RIGHT NOW!!”

The crowd cheered and celebrated, eagerly awaiting the chainsaw guitar riff. Everyone rose to their feet as Dean lumbered out, a little surprised despite this somewhat being “home turf” for him.

He heard them chanting his name; small comfort as he tried to find the right Words to say to his brothers before being waylaid by a guitar. It felt like a block of concrete on a stick slamming into his back. He collapsed and writhed on the stage, Seth and Roman hurrying to his side. He felt Roman’s hand on his shoulder; small comfort. Seth kept a couple of steps back, kicking aside the remains of the smashed instrument. Dean couldn’t look either in the eye, guessing they’d ask him why it only took one guitar shot to take him out. He stumbled to his feet like an angry drunk and headed backstage, maybe go back to his hiding place…

“Told you his mind isn’t in a good place,” Seth admitted to Roman.

“Still, who does Elias think he is?”

--------------------------------------------

 

Aleister didn’t have time for pleasantries or wanted to give Finn any warning. He spotted the Irishman leaving his locker room, belt around his waist. Black could see the demon wasn’t “with” him.

“Where is he?” Black demanded. “Did you lose your demon ‘friend’ while getting ready for your match?”

Finn startled and backed up. “You’re the second or third person back here - “

Black shoved Finn aside and kicked the door open. “BALOR!”

“Here,” he nervously whispered. “Here. All here. Always here. Finn????” he sunk deeper into the shadow, partially panicking to what Black would do to him anyway.

Black started to approach the shadow. Finn marched inside and grabbed Black’s shoulder. “What is going on out there? I’ve got a match.”

“He’s been in here all night?” Black asked half in disbelief.

“He got all his wandering in before the show.”

“Mean angross,” Balor mentioned.

“What about Dean Ambrose?” Black took another step toward the shadow, Finn reaching for him again.

“It doesn’t matter,” Finn sternly interrupted. “NO ONE sits out there, no matter how inconspicuous.”

Balor slunk deeper into shadow. “Not trouble.”

Black exited the locker room. “Fine. I’ll have arena security take it from here. After last week, I would think someone,” he glared in Balor’s direction. “Learned their lesson.” He stormed off, shouting for the WWE security detail.

“Sounds like you have a fan,” Finn grinned to his ‘other half’ before striding off for his match.

--------------------------------------------

 

Balor sat in silence, sulking at the window while his human once again trampled by his enemies, especially the one that his human stole the white belt from. He appreciated that tiny dog got squished near the end of the match, even if it cost his human an ally.

His ears caught Ricochet’s voice nearing his locker room. “Thanks Jimmy,” were the Words. Balor had been told that “Jimmy” means “guard” here, and “Jimmy” wasn’t allowed to see him either. He wondered what Black’s angel friend wanted.

Ricochet opened the door slowly, trying to be gentle with his approach. “Someone here to see you,” he said in a voice more polite than policed.

“Who?” Balor quietly growled. “Callomah?*”

“Your twin,” Ricochet playfully replied before pushing the door completely open.

Balor almost leapt into the shadow, but froze at the sight at the visitor. Was it human, or truly like him? It wasn’t as tall as his human, but wore a green and white tendril crown, an eagle head in the center of the leather. Its left eye lined in white and its maw closed, the lower jaw of it peeking over a black shirt with giant numbers on it. The creature had dozens of charms around its neck and wore a replica belt. Balor slid closer, just as fascinated.

The green demon raised its right hand in the salute Finn used with his human friends. “2 Sweet?” it asked Balor. The demon brightened.

“2 Sweet!!” It replied happily and matched the gesture, the two saluting each other. Ricochet took a couple of quick pictures with his phone.

“Demon also?” Balor asked. “Balor?”

“Demon Eagle,” the other explained. “Mawashi.**”

Balor brightened again. “Sin eater, too?” He asked Mawashi in Infernal. “I didn’t know there were others like me!”

Mawashi nodded. “And where I usually go, it’s mostly Anger, Wrath, Pride, Gluttony and Sloth.” The shirt moved slightly, spooking Ricochet. “You get all of them here?”

“All but Gluttony and Sloth. These are Greedy, Proud warriors. Out there is Envy and Lust. Anger and Wrath is common. Never hungry.”

“Mmmmmm.” They nodded knowingly to each other.

“So,” Balor switched back to Human tongue. “Why here?” Balor asked his two visitors.

“We’re going to find your friend a new seat away from the cameras so no one else thinks you were out there,” Ricochet explained. “But I HAD to do this, and he wanted to meet you.”

“It’s an honor,” The green demon piped up.

“Thank you,” Balor nodded to his green counterpart. “Say nothing.”

The green and white demon nodded. “I won’t tell.”

Balor glanced to Ricochet, who tacitly understood this secret would be kept. “And Aleister Black is NOT coming by here again tonight,” Ricochet assured Balor. “I’ll make sure of that.”

“Phone?” Balor reached for Ricochet’s phone. “Avie - dance-”

“‘Evidence’? I’ll send it to Finn’s phone.”

Balor nodded as Ricochet closed the door to bring the fan to a new seat.

 

 

(*”Callomah” is Undertaker’s demon name. See “What do Demons want with Justice?”)

(**”Mawashi” - literal, “Devil Eagle”. If you speak Japanese and this is in error, message me and I will correct accordingly)

-----------------------------------------

 

“So he WAS here,” Finn marveled as he looked at the pics Ricochet sent. “I’d met him before, I didn’t even notice.”

“Sin Eater like me!” Balor said proudly.

“Oh, he is? Then he’s come to the right place. Make sure you share.” He put the phone aside to settle in, thankful for what thrall he had left to heal up. “So who brought him back here?”

“Rick O’Shea.”

“Ricochet did? Where was Aleister Black?”

“Not here,” Balor was quite relieved for that.

“Lotsa talk backstage about it, hopefully Triple H didn’t think that -”

A strong knock at the door stopped the conversation. Finn nodded at his demon, who shuffled into a shadow. Finn carefully opened the door, relieved that Roman was standing there and not Triple H. Reigns didn’t seem to be in a much better mood.

“I’m here for the Demon,” he turned from Finn to scan the room. “He did come back this time, right?”

Finn pointed to the shadow. “He’s here and wasn’t out there. Just a fan in costume. Only time he was outside this room was before the show.”

“Dean…” Balor whispered.

“What about Dean?” Finn and Roman asked at the same time.

“Roman.. Fix.. thrall?”

“Nothing wrong with mine.” Roman held out his right arm again, showing off the glowing tattoos.

“Dean, Seth, thrall, fix!” Balor insisted, glancing to his human. “Shield!”

“Seth got a little ‘gift’ from Dean a few weeks ago,” Finn “translated” for the Demon King. “apparently whatever ‘armor’ Dean has was given to Seth. Too bad it wasn’t until after he got thrown around by Lesnar.”

“He did what?” Roman looked back and forth to them, incredulous.

“Dean thrall… Seth. Help against Beast.”

Roman’s eyes widened. “Dean’s been thinking about leaving longer than he’s been letting on. That happened before I came back, didn’t it?”

“Seth was a little spooked by it,” Finn recalled how quickly Seth came to the hotel room. “so he came to me. Balor figured out the rest. Seth probably doesn’t know how to use it, and I see they’re not having him do much physically.”

Roman took a deep breath. “I get it now. Dean’s still thinking about leaving, he didn’t think I’d be back for a while so he gave up his power or defense or whatever it was we couldn’t figure out if he actually HAD anything and gave it to Seth. Since then he’s really had to work at winning matches. And he shouldn’t have been in that much pain when Elias got him with the guitar.”

Finn grew just as concerned. “You gonna try to change his mind?”

“I’m working on it.” He glanced down at his arm again. “Hey Balor, you seem to know a bit about this. Can I use this - “ he pointed to the glowing ink - “to get that power back to Ambrose? Or somehow take part of it and split it between Seth and Dean?”

The Demon blinked a few times, having trouble understanding this complex plan. “Strong thrall, split thrall?” he made a breaking motion with his hands, then pointed to Roman’s arm. “Fix Dean?”

“Without breaking Seth in the process,” Roman finished. “Take that ‘armor’, make it bigger or stronger, then split it between those two. And give em both a boost in the process, whether they want it or not.”

“You… armor?” Balor would think Roman should benefit, too.

“THIS is my armor,” Roman flexed his right arm, which sparked brilliantly. “And the Shield is gonna get that one last ride, no matter what Dean finally decides.” His arm dulled a little. “I’m going to bat for Dean, do what I can to get him to stick around.”

“Help Brothers,” Balor nodded, “Strong thrall, split thrall, Fix Dean, help Seth.”

Finn also nodded to Roman. “Sounds like you’ve got a plan that should work. Good luck.”

--------------------------------------------------

 

Despite how deep into the arena he’d gone, Dean still had to deal with Roman and Seth.

He couldn’t look Roman in the eyes, he knew if he did he wouldn’t have a choice. Roman was ALWAYS his brother, and Roman kept his promise.*

Seth? Seth screwed him once, then didn’t understand what was going on in Dean’s head after Roman broke the bad news. It WASN’T a betrayal! Dean was going to lose the one man he trusted with anything and everything in the world, and couldn’t get his brain around it. Seth’s attempts to calm him only made him angrier, and all that grief and frustration came out in a complete misunderstanding of Roman’s “Condition”. Dean wasn’t a doctor and every time he’d heard the word “Cancer” it was pretty damn final!

Seth “poured his heart out” to Dean, but he couldn’t trust that either. He had cut Seth off and tried to get his head on straight and back into today.

It didn’t help. He lost to Elias. Didn’t even need the guitar this time. Dean just wanted to scream and curse and froth about it, he didn’t need the extra burden of Seth and Roman coming down to help him up. He refused their assistance and tried not to hear their Words.

“We got one more shot at this thing,” Seth reminded Dean, “What’s it gonna be, alright?”

Roman said something as well, but it was lost under the cheers and chants. Dean angrily pointed at Roman. “Don’t put ANY of this on me!”

“Look it’s not on you!” Seth insisted. “It’s on ALL of us! We gotta do this together, all right? We only got one more shot to do this the right way!”

Dean walked away from Seth to get to the ropes,  but Roman held out his arms to block.

“You’re still trying to put this on me!” he growled at Roman.

“We’re trying to take this OFF you, man!” Roman protested.

Dean couldn’t listen any longer. He pushed through his brothers and hopped out of the ring, choosing to leave as he did that one night: he legged over the guardwall and started up the stairs, leaving Seth and Roman alone in the ring. Fans pleaded with him as he walked away; he just couldn’t do it. He was near the exit when music started up.

Corbin. McIntyre. Lashley. All of them mockingly bemoaning that this reunion wasn’t happening. Drew derided Roman almost to his face, taunting that they weren’t worthy of a match at the Pay Per view. No, this would end tonight!

Dean hesitated on the stairs as these three mocked the Shield method of attack, turning it directly on Seth and Roman. The Big Dog squared up with McIntyre while Lashley and Corbin double teamed Seth. Dean watched, knowing that Seth could weasel his way past Corbin and deal with Lashley. Roman wasn’t in any danger against McIntyre.

Corbin split off from Seth to help Drew with Roman. Corbin wasn’t the best fighter but he had purpose, given all the grief Roman gave him when Corbin worked for Kurt Angle. Drew and Baron had Reigns off his feet, slowly slumping into the corner.

Dean fumed. They were double teaming his brother. Lashley had Rollins down. Dean fussed. Seth was getting his ass handed to him.

Out of the corner of his eye he thought he spotted Balor. The Demon hid in plain sight near the top of a nearby section, clapping and cheering him on. It even figured out how to do all the rest of the reds in green. I made that promise. I owe him for this.

He looked down to the ring where his brothers still flailed against the trio. His brain raced with so much conflicting noise it may as well be static. In that static, in that chaos between his ears, he could hear voices.  Familiar voices.

Believe…. Believe… Believe!!

Dean rubbed his face with both hands. His body felt like it was starting to cramp up. He shook his head out. The static couldn’t drown out the voices.

Sierra

Hotel

India

Echo

Lima

Delta

Dean couldn’t take it anymore.

SHIELD.

“GOD DAMMIT~!!!”

He galloped down the stairs with new purpose. Without thinking he effortlessly vaulted the guardwall and slid into the ring, eyes wild and fists flying. He made sure that Corbin, McIntyre AND Lashley got a faceful of his taped fists! He laid into Corbin while Roman Superman Punched Drew out of one side of the ring and Seth superkicked Lashley out. Dean swung and flipped Corbin out of the ring, snarling at him as the former Constable bounced partway up the ramp.

Dean still growled and flailed, but Roman could see what he had suspected and Finn confirmed. Despite all the cheers and chants for his Brother, Ambrose’s movements still sluggish. At least Dean came back to help, so Reigns would give this one last try.

Roman shook out his right arm and stretched his fingers, feeling the hair tie warming from the thrall coming up through his skin. He quickly switched it to his other wrist. He then clenched his right fist and held it out. Seth could actually see some of the sparking and shimmering of Roman’s tattoos this time; almost awestruck by the glowing ink he put his fist out carefully, trying not to touch fists and leave room for Dean.

Dean stomped and paced behind them, a war raging in his mind. He’d burned his vest and swore off the Shield. Roman doesn’t take “no” for an answer and Seth hitting him with something short of a marriage proposal only made all the noise in his head louder. The “Shield!” chants escalated from the crowd, but Dean fell deaf to that. He could hear his brothers clearly.

“Come on…” Seth taunted.

“You’re still my brother whatever you choose,” Roman assured Dean.

“Come on!” Seth demanded.

“One last run, that’s all I’m asking.” Roman’s arm started to tremble as he focused all of that Thrall, all that power and love and respect showered on him for the last four months, just begging to be let loose.

Dean grabbed the top rope, facing away from them. Is it loyalty or hypocrisy? Is it redemption or his one chance to walk away? What would his brothers do? What would they think? The questions spun faster and faster.

“COME ONNNNN~!!!!” Seth pleaded, knowing that deep down Dean doesn’t want to be alone anymore. Roman knew it, too.

Dean had his own promise to keep. He promised Balor. He never abandoned Roman. And Dean wasn’t up for either of their wrath.  He lunged between his brothers, fist finally connecting with theirs.

Roman ROARED and unleashed all that pent-up thrall to his brothers. A blue shockwave erupted from his arm and through his fist, flooding Seth and Dean with an unfathomable boost of energy.

Seth roared along, feeling all that power pinballing through his body. The aches in his back faded. His muscles pulled taut. His eyes sharpened with a focus he hadn’t felt in years.

Dean stood strangely still, just allowing that energy to help disperse all the noise in his head and calm him down. But in that rush he felt something else. His mind flashed back to CZW again. To the dozens of shows at the old ECW arena. His blood. His sweat. The clanging of chairs, the bite of the barbed wire, the smashing of tables and the cold concrete. His body retelling of that toughening time, a new layer of leather seeping up his arms.

With his fist still in place, a flood of memories of the last six years washed away the blood-stained past. Thousands of miles, dozens of titles, stories that he, Seth and Roman had written with blood, sweat, tears, anger, laughter.

His brothers really did want him here. A smile crept through his beard, the flashback fading at the sound of Roman’s voice.

“Thank you.”

Dean pulled his arm up, slapping at the tape on his wrist. “It’s back, baby~!” He traded forearms with Seth and Roman before turning to the Philly crowd. They showed their own round of the Brotherly Love the city had its reputation, and the thrall utterly intoxicating. Roman soaked it in before reminding his brothers of the match they’ll have that Sunday. The taunts from the stage lost in the roar of the crowd, but Dean made sure he was heard.

 

(*Check out “Enough” for Roman’s promise)

------------------------------

The energies swept through the arena, all the way back to the locker rooms. “Mmmm,” Balor gave a relaxed sigh as some of that thrall sated him. Finn nodded quietly in agreement.

“So what about Dean?” Finn reminded his demon.

“Dean Stays,” Balor confirmed.

“How do you know?”

“Mawashi help. Trick Dean. Saw demon.”

Finn smirked. “You tricked him, but he would have done it even if you two didn’t. Dean’s loyal to his brothers.”

“Royal?”

“Loyal. He would protect them as much as you’ve protected me.”

Balor looked to the window in awe. “Loyal,” he repeated, sitting closer to his human. “Brother.”

 

Chapter Text

Finn settled into a comfortable chair in the suite provided him for Fastlane. Perturbed that he wouldn’t be performing that night, he’d accept this generosity knowing that there would still be work tomorrow.

He did look forward to the Shield match. The match technically had no stakes, and with Baron Corbin involved, Drew and Bobby would have their work cut out for them. If he had to face Bobby again, the Shield would be happy to make sure he’s less than 100% for that defense. Lio Rush wasn’t in the building either, so one less factor for that match.

Balor agreed, but seemed restless. Finn closed his eyes, using the Demon’s ears to listen.

The Demon had heard a commotion in the Shield locker room.

“It’s a FUCKING curse!!” Dean was screaming. “Something goes wrong whenever we try to get back together!! Like we’re not allowed to be together!! That’s not how this works!! That’s not how ANY of this works~!!”

“Dean-” Sounded like Roman was trying to calm Dean down with little luck.

“You pushed me AWAY after all that?” Seth’s incredulous question.

Dean started talking faster, and sounded like he was struggling against something. “You were in the blast radius!   I Almost didn't come back! I was afraid You weren't coming back, Roman! and I couldn't hold that in! If anyone else was in that ring I'd have done the same thing to them! I pushed you away because the last thing we needed was two of us on the shelf!”

I want to help Dean, Balor requested.

“We both will,” Finn whispered as he rose from his seat. “But if it’s really a curse, what do we do?”

I don’t uncurse. But Hafaza* does. The new angel here does too, I think.

“Where are they?”

Hafaza is alone. Ricochet is with Aleister. Can we just ask, ourselves? Balor didn’t want to be anywhere near Black tonight, especially with their loss to the Revival earlier.

“Stay with me,” Finn requested. “Then Black can’t interrogate either of us. We’ve done nothing wrong tonight. But if Dean’s concerned about a curse, and you think it’s real, we might have to talk to him as well.”

Finn felt the shudder, but he reassured Balor that no harm would come to either of them.


 

(*Hafaza is Mustafa Ali’s actual title, a Muslim version of a guardian angel. See “What do Demons want with Justice?”)

 

---------------------------------

 

“You realize that I don’t exactly have an ability if this turns out to be Thrall related,” Cesaro reminded Finn.

“Can you curse with Thrall?” Ricochet queried.

“I haven’t read of one,” The Swiss soldier shrugged. “But there’s always a first time and a first case. I relish the idea that I might be the one to report it.”

“The curse is real enough or I wouldn’t have come looking for you,” Finn explained. “I didn’t realize Mustafa Ali had a match tonight…”

“To be fair I think he didn’t know either,” Cesaro chuckled as he approached the doors. He smoothed his coat before raising a hand to knock. “Are you sure?”

Finn nodded. “We need to get these three completely on the same page, and Dean is still not completely on board.”

Cesaro shrugged and knocked. The room fell quiet short of some very frustrated growling from Dean. Seth marched to the door and yanked it open, not expecting three people standing there. “Did you bring the whole locker room?” Seth asked, already exasperated at having little luck in calming Ambrose down.

“I heard ‘curse’,” Finn nodded to Seth. “And Dean didn’t sound terribly happy about it.”

“Maybe one of you guys can magic some sense into him.” Seth pushed the door completely open to let the trio in.

The “locker room” The Shield had been given looked more like a small conference room, with a private bathroom and several different sized tables. The main meeting table had all the TAC gear spread out for Seth and Dean. Roman was already dressed and crouched next to Dean, tugging at the scruff of Dean’s neck to try and settle him. Dean kept shaking his head no and pawing Roman back. He glanced up at Finn and the others and rolled to a crouch. “What, everyone here to see me ‘go Lunatic’?” He spat. “Do you have any idea what could happen here? Someone’s gonna get hurt - or worse!” Ricochet backed up when Dean’s wild eyes swept past him. Cesaro and Finn stood their ground as Dean stood, shoulders swaying a little. “Not here to sing and dance.”

“We’re not here to watch you do anything but explain yourself,” Ricochet responded. “Are you being literal about this ‘curse’?”

“Why? Are you guys Ghostbusters or something? This isn’t something that can be fixed with no hocus-pocus. Nothing that Flyboy here-” He pointed at Ricochet - “or Jason Statham-” he pointed to Cesaro - “or Chuckles and Hyde can do about it!” he pointed at Finn.

“Maybe not,” Finn agreed. “Maybe Ali or Aleister-”

“THE WHOLE GODDAMN LOCKER ROOM!!!” Dean raged, backing away from the trio. “Everyone come see crazy Dean Ambrose before he - “

“You’re not leaving,” Balor’s voice erupted from Finn. Dean slowed, turning toward Finn.

“Then maybe one of you can tell me why I go down on the same day as Roman did!” Dean demanded as he sauntered toward Finn. “I busted up my arm at TLC. Then Roman -”

“Dean,” Roman pleaded as he stepped between Dean and Finn, “I swear it’s just a coincidence. I didn’t even think of that.”

Dean wasn’t convinced. “How much of a curse, then? Seth, you hurt your knee-”

“It was in early November,” Seth readily answered. “So there can’t be a connection, can there?”

Ricochet paced a moment, looking at this brotherhood that did look pretty shaken by the three incidents. Seth blowing out his knee at a house show, Dean tearing up his arm at a Pay-Per-View event that Roman wasn’t there for, then Roman’s Leukemia diagnosis. “Could be a coincidence, though that time of year a lot of things tend to turn… Sinister,” he smirked at Finn.

“So if it’s not magic related, then it might be Thrall related,” Cesaro pondered. “Thrall energies are very flexible. Everyone has a way to use it, and some have some very strong controls over it. Since Thrall is closely tied to the individual, it can be disrupted by personal or psychological traumas.”

“So did you have any of that around that time?” Ricochet glanced over to the trio.

Roman shook his head before turning back to Finn. “If there’s any ‘magic’ to it,” Roman surmised, “it’s nothing any of us did. If there’s any ‘thrall’ to it, it’s nothing we did on purpose.”

“Ok, so it’s some sort of supernatural Halloween ‘prank’ that hurts people? Yay us?” Dean snarked.

Ricochet shrugged. “I can try to scan and see if it’s magic, but if it’s not, then what? Cesaro doesn’t -”

“No, I don’t have that sort of vision or control of Thrall,” Cesaro repeated with firm authority, “but we can figure out a solution that we can implement through Roman and Dean. In the case of Dean’s injury, I know that might have been thrown off a bit with Roman’s ‘illness’. A brotherly bond that strong can be shaken from such things. I think in the second case it was not a strong enough ‘rebonding’ and possibly tainted by either the disruption within or Roman’s health.”

Dean looked away, mumbling something under his breath. Things that lead up to TLC the year before weren’t the smoothest, even if the outcome was getting to work with Kurt Angle. Seth gave the others a helpless glance before trying to talk to Dean again.

Cesaro pondered a moment before turning to Roman. “I’m pretty sure the first one was a thrall disruption*, but the second reunion you three weren’t really on the same page.”

Roman didn’t understand. Cesaro knew he had to tread carefully. “When you won the Universal championship, I’m sure it was an amazing feeling and rush to finally, FINALLY have that belt in hand.”

“Three. Years. Of chasing,” Roman sternly clarified. Cesaro nodded, raising a finger before speaking again.

“Yet you with the Universal title, Seth with the Intercontinental Title, and winning the tag titles in Roman’s name wasn’t very ‘unifying’, was it?”

Roman glanced to Dean. “Don’t put this on Dean, man.”

“Hear me out. You were back together, but you weren’t a team. You were vulnerable because of your pride, Seth as we all know has an ego-”

“Hey!!” Seth objected. Roman smirked and motioned for Cesaro to continue.

“Dean seemed jealous and frustrated while you two waved your belts in the air.”

Pride, Greed, Envy, Balor checked off in Finn’s head. Now I’m hungry.

“Well this time we’re not that distracted,” Roman half-argued, though he kept looking back at Dean.

“Perhaps.” Again Cesaro gestured to the three of them. “Monday was a good start, but is it a definitive reunion? How truly ‘brotherly’ are you now, especially with Dean?”

“Brother enough that I don’t want him to leave?” Roman admitted. He took a deep breath before his further response. “But Brother enough to know if he’s not happy, I can’t make him stay.”

Cesaro then turned to Ricochet. “Anything?”

“It’s a curse, I’m pretty sure,” Ricochet frowned a little at his own uncertainty. “I think it was more than just a disruption for that time of year. So what now, Mr. Thrall expert?”

Seth pulled a still grumbling Dean to his feet. “So it’s not some random coincidence?”

“What bothers me about it, though,” Ricochet added, “Is that I can’t really trace where the curse came from. It’s there, but to me it’s really faint.”

“Don’t look at me,” Cesaro gestured to himself. “I’m just a theorist. What little I can see is just on Finn and Ricochet.”

Roman shook out his right arm. “Surprised you don’t see or feel this,” he clenched his right fist and the tattoos alighted readily, to everyone but Cesaro.

“Let me try something, then,” Finn finally stepped forward. “We,” gesturing to himself (and indirectly to Balor) “Can See both. Ricochet, I know you can as well. But show me where the curse ‘stops’, and perhaps we can fix it.”

“Ok, let me find it again.” Ricochet lowered his head a moment and closed his eyes. Gray wings slowly opened from his back, which he spread fully before dropping them on his shoulders like a cape. He opened his eyes to search, carefully walking around each member of the Shield, especially a very agitated Dean.  

Finn looked at the trio through Balor’s eyes. He could readily see the thrall glow on Roman’s arm, and strong traces of similar energy on Seth and Dean. Dean’s thrall still appeared very faint on his lower arms, more gray than blue. Seth’s energies mirrored Roman’s, mostly on his extremities, a rich blue cloud around his arms, legs and eyes.

“Here it is,” Ricochet stopped behind Seth.  “Sneaky. And ironic.”

“What, what?” Seth instinctively turned around to try and look at his own tattoo. Roman actually chuckled.

“There’s some purple in all that blue. Right…. Here,” Seth felt a poke at the back of his neck. He wheeled, and Dean poked the exact same spot. Seth wheeled again, Ricochet poked it again.

“Hey! Hey!!” Seth protested, spinning around and almost kicking Ricochet in the face. His kick blocked full by one of Ricochet’s silvery wings.

Dean was grinning again. “Not so perfect, are you ‘BeastSlayer’?”

“Hey, you didn’t see it either until he pointed it out!” Seth shouted, rubbing at the spot on his neck. “And if you had seen it, would you have told me?”

Cesaro cleared his throat, quieting the room. “Show me where this spot is.”

Seth glared at Ricochet as he pushed back his hair, allowing everyone to see the bushido tattoo on his back. Cesaro strode forward like a senior professor, eying the tattoo from top to bottom. “The Bushido code,” he recognized the symbols immediately. “Justice. Courage. Mercy. Respect. Honesty. Honor. Loyalty,” he recited with calm reverence. “A Code that at one time you’ve broken, Seth. A fence I hope is completely mended.”

“Ancient history,” Roman replied for his brother. “We don’t dwell on that.”

Cesaro nodded, raising a hand in tacit apology. “There’s a dark trace here, still. Not sure how long it’s been there, and it’s very faint. No telling when it was placed.”

Ricochet looked again at the purple spot in Seth’s tattoo. “And this little thrall bomb they put in the one kanji that would piss all three of you off. They hid it in the symbol for ‘Justice’.”

“So what CAN you do, Bouncing Bomb Angel?” Dean snarked as he marched back into Ricochet’s face.

Ricochet would decide later if that was an insult. “I want Cesaro to look at it.” He reached over to the Swiss soldier. “Do you want to See it?”

“You can show me this? Then yes, show me.” Cesaro looked off Dean and Roman as the Gray Angel put his hand on the Swiss soldier’s shoulder.

Cesaro blinked a few times as his vision fluctuated, light and darkness and back again, as if calibrating custom goggles. Now he could see what they spoke of - dark bluish hues around the three that called themselves a Brotherhood, accents of the energies on Roman and Seth’s tattoos, midnight blue traced around the plain black of the sigils. But as Ricochet described, one stroke within the “justice” kanji outlined a particular shade of purple. The purple trace shimmered, moving bits within its tiny sphere of influence. Peering closer, the Swiss Soldier discovered that this trace a moving image, a battered old clock you’d find in an abandoned house on a dusty shelf. It was too small to read, but Cesaro’s interpretation unnerved him. “The Angel’s quip is a little too accurate,” he started slowly. “It looks like a tiny clock, which is of course a universal symbol of measurements and countdowns. The analog design of it can partially hide its purpose or its ‘deadline’.

“Seth, this tells me your knee injury doesn’t factor into the equation.” Cesaro poked at it as well, making Seth wince. “I believe that this was placed deliberately, perhaps to cause something on that very same date this year?”

“But that’s a Tuesday -” Seth started to protest, then stopped. “Smackdown…”  

“I’m willing to believe that similar ‘devices’ had been placed on Dean and Roman, given the timing.”

“Where would they put that on me?” Dean looked himself up and down. “I don’t have a tattoo to stick something like that on me… that I know of.”

Roman looked up and down his arm then inside his vest at the chest piece. “Dunno what I’d even look for.”

“I have a guess who placed them,” Cesaro continued. “And he wouldn’t leave a trace. Dean’s would have to be set first, because he would somehow break it before it’s established time. Roman’s would be later.” He checked the visible back piece on Roman’s tattoo sleeve. “He likely placed it back here, somewhere that it wasn’t noticed. The trace is exceptionally slight. Were the consequences less dire, I would color myself impressed.”

Seth rubbed the back of his neck in frustration. “Just get it off my back, or there’s gonna be three problems real quick.”

Ricochet removed his hand from Cesaro. “As long as your ‘brothers’ give me a chance to-”

Dean heard those air quotes a little too clearly. “I think you need to get to the de-bombing part of this conversation,” he growled as he started crowding Ricochet toward Rollins.

“You wanna see how close ‘Brothers’ we are?” Roman warned, closing in from another direction. “A lot closer than this!”

Seth closed the circle around Ricochet. All three of them wanted to tear into him for even suggesting that they weren’t on the same page, of all nights! All this time, all the blood, sweat and tears, all the broken bodies and all of the fear of not being able to do this one more time bubbling over in a dark blue cloud of angry Thrall.

Finn continued to watch this through Balor’s eyes, watching as the three auras started to match colors again. The gray in Dean’s aura brightened to its correct blue, tracing further up his arms and into his shoulders. The glimmer around Seth’s eyes narrowed, showing much more focus. They didn’t have to worry about Roman. They were going to have to worry about Ricochet in a moment. Cesaro stepped forward to break up the potential fracas, feeling a hand on his arm to slow him.

“Give them a moment,” Finn whispered with Balor’s voice. “This is exactly what was needed.”

“They might not accept his help at this rate,” he hissed back.

“Dean is no longer scared of this ‘curse’. Seth does not dwell on his past. Roman needed no encouragement. They are Brothers.”

With a sudden, impish smirk Ricochet’s wings slipped between Seth and Roman, pushing them into each other and squeezing himself free of the trio. He ducked a Thrall Punch from the Big Dog and kept his wings clear of Dean’s grabbing hands. Cesaro and Finn watched as the Gray Angel dodged around the three of them, their strikes closing in as their Thrall continued to meld. He spun Seth in Dean’s direction, the Architect nearly eating a punch from his own brother. That pause being enough for Ricochet to use their united Thrall and a touch of his own magic to pry that little bit off Seth’s back. Rollins staggered into Dean, both falling into Roman and into a pile on the floor. Ricochet then winged away from them, landing next to Cesaro. “Done.”

“Then I suggest you find safe haven before they all get up and-”

Roman held both his brothers back, realizing what Ricochet did. “You got a five second head start, then we all get a swing!” The Big Dog grinned from ear to ear as Dean and Seth struggled under his arms. Dean would get a one second head start on that. Seth flailed but kept reaching for the back of his neck.

“Allow me.” Finn Balor put a hand on the Swiss Soldier and Gray Angel and teleported away.



(*not spoiling “What do Demons want with Justice” for you guys! ;) )

Chapter Text

 

“Too many Words! Too fast words! Seth beat up Fat Man!” Balor covered his ears and wagged his giant tongue at the screen. “No more Talk! Poison!”

Finn chuckled as he watched. “Keep that up and Aleister Black will come in here-”

Balor teleported behind his human. “Nahofuni.”

“It’s not funny? He won’t hurt you if you’re behaving. And for the most part you are.”

The demon grumped through the rest of Rollins’ and Heyman’s verbal confrontation, thankful when Shelton Benjamin arrived. “Not Beast?”

Finn shook his head no.“Please, like Lesnar would fight on Raw.”

“I fight. Beast, Not Beast.”

“Not tonight.We’ve been over this. I have to do this on my own. After all,” Finn hefted the Intercontinental championship over his shoulder to pat the center plate. “I won it, I should defend it.”

“I don’t lose,” Balor reminded his human.

Again Finn shook his head no. “He’s no Brock Lesnar. I’ll be fine.”

Balor glanced at the “window” with a sigh. “Win. Prove.”

“I’ll do that and then some. This crowd is good for Thrall.” Finn guessed that might be part of the reason the Demon wanted to tag along.

Balor kept looking at the window as they watched Rollins defeat Shelton Benjamin. Finn quietly shook his head and headed to the ramp.

 

--------------------------------------

 

Finn stopped to shake hands with the departing Seth Rollins. Seth seemed surprised that Finn was out here alone. The Irishman repeated his comment of confidence and if Seth wanted to watch in their locker room he was always welcome.

Bobby had stomped out there in a foul mood. Finn fully expected a good stretching and pounding to start, if he can weather that his own conditioning will take care of the rest. While knowing he was faster than Lashley, Finn also knew it would take a lot to slow the big man down.

Knocking Bobby out of the ring didn’t help much. Throwing his body weight at the “all mighty” did even less. Finn just kept moving as best he could to hopefully tire the larger man, hoping to keep him down after a double foot stomp or a Sling Blade. But Lashley somehow kept getting up.

Finn finally got Lashley staggered enough to drop him near a corner. He turned to climb the turnbuckle to finally get a literal leg up and land a Coup De Gras to keep his belt...

 

-----------------------------------------

 

“Coudegrah!!” Balor demanded as his human climbed the corner turnbuckle. He’d worried through most of the match that Not Beast was too powerful and his human would lose. Seeing Not Beast on the mat and Finn climbing the corner got him grinning again, looking forward to that final strike…

Clinkclinkclinkclinkdingdingdingding!! The sound of metal on metal slowly morphed into the familiar sound of the bell signaling the end of the match.

“But Coudegrah,” Balor puzzled until the window changed camera angles, showing someone in the timekeepers’ area, decked out in a gray hoodie and pounding on the ring bell to the astonishment of others there. “Wrong? Win? No Coudegrah…”

The angle changed again, revealing Lio Rush in said hoodie, scooping up the belt.

“NOT YOURS, TINY DOG!” Balor shouted at the window. He didn’t care about Lio’s Words at this point. “BELL! NOTBEAST DOWN! WE WIN!”

Yet the bout seemed to continue as Lio attempted to run away with the belt. Finn gave chase. “NO!” Balor snarled. “LET TINY DOG RUN! FINISH NOTBEAST!”

Finn seemed to hear the instruction, shoulder blocking Lashley away and kicking Rush in the head to send him sprawling. Bobby had staggered to the other side of the ring to get his balance back. Finn now had a clear shot at putting Lashley back down again, perhaps with a springboard dropkick. He vaulted to the top rope and launched, stopped dead in mid-air by Lashley Spearing Finn to the mat.

“NOTBEAST NOT ROMAN~!” Balor protested as Finn crashed to the mat. If that wasn’t bad enough, that mid-air Spear made his human lose. “NO! FUCK NO!! TINY DOG AND NOTBEAST NOT HAVE WHITE BELT AGAIN!”

Then Lio Rush slid into the ring to hand over the belt while Finn coughed and gasped on the mat nearby. Lio raised Bobby’s arm, giving Finn a disdainful glance. Balor couldn’t take it anymore.

“FUCK NO! I DO NOT LOSE! NOTBEAST NOT WHITE BELT! FUCK NO! TINY DOG DIE SLOWLY, ROMAN HURT NOTBEAST!” He picked up the “window” and smashed it on the concrete floor, slamming the “wand” on top of it and stomping that to pieces as well. Flinging Finn’s gear bag across the room, he dug his claws into the bench and ripped it free from the floor and snapping it in half. The halves broken twice more, the bench legs twisted into handles as a makeshift weapon. “NOTBEAST AND TINY DOG PAY! HUMAN FUCKI G WRONG! I! DO! NOT! LOSE!” His frustration degenerated into a flood of infernal curses as he swing his weapon at the lockers, through a second bench, cracking the concrete floor with his wrath.

He raised the weapon again as the door to the locker room swung open. With a feral snarl he faced the door, weapon in hand and maw wide. “FINN!”

His eyes locked to a raised Left Hand. “Your ‘human’ isn’t here right now,” Aleister Black coldly declared. “I don’t want to leave a message for him.”

“Black…” Balor slowly lowered the weapon, eyes wide. “Not leave -”

“Wasting your own Wrath on physical objects,” Aleister continued in Infernal. “You adhered to your human’s wishes to stay behind. But what is all this? Chaos and destruction unbefitting a true Demon King.” He walked slowly closer, Left Hand still raised. An eye opened in the palm and locked on Balor. “These actions WILL cease. You WILL be punished.”

The Demon chose to respond in Infernal. “Things can be replaced!” Balor raised the broken bench piece again. “There will be consequences to their crime of stealing the White Symbol from my human!”

A tiny flame appeared over one finger of Aleister’s Left Hand, a floating candle light flickering at Balor in silent warning. The Eye in the palm blinked slowly as each finger lit in turn. “This room and things were not yours to break. You have chosen this poor behavior, now you cannot choose your consequences.”

Balor crouched. “I am not the one that needs punishing! Why are you not chasing those who felled my human?”

“Because your human chose poorly. YOU have chosen poorly.” The Left Hand began to glow as the room darkened unnaturally. “I’ve been waiting for this, Demon King. You’ve crossed a line to where even the King of Kings will look the other way to the punishment served.”

Balor flung the bench piece at Black. The makeshift weapon kicked out of the air, his Left Hand still steady. The Eye stopped blinking. Balor continued to crawl back, finally hitting the wall. He could only answer with a feral growl.

“You savor the taste of Wrath, Sin Eater. But there is no flavor to mine.” Aleister lunged, Left Hand forward. Balor focused on that, swinging at the Eye with a clawed hand. Black’s right hand caught the flailing arm and twisted. The flames floating over his Left Hand flickered in the winds of their active magic, but did not extinguish. “My Wrath is not the fire. My Wrath is the cold. The cold of black iron.”

Balor screamed as the grip on his arm started to sear his skin, the telltale burns of cursed cold-forged iron. The Left hand started glowing brighter, a searing heat that staggered Balor further. “You’ll learn to tame your Wrath, or you AND your human suffer. The King of Kings will learn of your actions. He will learn of the Twin Bond. But for now,” the glow fading from the Left Hand. “You can fade…. To Black.”

The room suddenly dark. Completely dark. “Absolute…. Night…” Balor gasped through the pain. His monstrous tongue suddenly seared as well, the Left Hand grasping the appendage and burning it with molten heat and acids that wept from the Eye. He started to slump, but managed one last unholy wail before collapsing at Black’s feet.

The room slowly faded up to normal, Black vanishing with the Absolute Night. Balor lay unconscious, arm and tongue still smoldering from the hands of the Demon Hunter.

 

--------------------------------------------------------

 

“You better have a DAMN good reason why Finn’s in the training room!”

Triple H had only just finished taping his hands when an agent informed him that Finn had collapsed backstage. The last thing he needed tonight would be a distraction before having to talk to Batista. Talent wrangling he’d usually leave to Adam Pearce or Finlay, but they wouldn’t understand WHY he would be angry about this.

Aleister Black didn’t get a chance to answer immediately; the larger man (and his boss) slammed him against the wall, at least giving him the courtesy of his feet still touching the ground. “You told me to watch Balor,” he defiantly responded through a cough. “And he demolished a locker room - “

“Was anyone else injured?” Hunter demanded. “The whole point of you being here is to keep that Demon for hurting anyone. He’s broken rules and trashing a locker room is one of them. Seeing him in the crowd last week turned out to be a false alarm. The WWE can afford fixing a locker room.”

Black locked stares with his boss. “You wanted him kept in line,” he repeated. “This isn’t the first time he’s damaged property. How long before he actually gets to one of us?”

“Don’t try that jedi mind crap on me!” Hunter pressed Black against the wall harder. “Undertaker and I go way back. I know most of these tricks. So I’m gonna ask again: What did you do to the Demon and why is Finn in the trainer’s room?”

Black gritted his teeth at the demand. He really wanted to save that card to keep Finn’s back against the wall. “They’re Twin-Bonded,” he grumbled. “Hurt one, it hurts the other but not as much. They know when the other is in danger.”

Hunter’s grip tightened. “Why is this coming up now? Did you know this before today?”

“I-"

“You know what, never mind. Don’t have time for this.” He released Black. “Go home. You need a week to cool off. *I* need a minute to cool off before I see how much damage you did to those two.” He shoved the Demon hunter aside before marching to the trainer’s room.

Ricochet peeked up from behind a roadcase where he’d been listening. “Busted.”

“Don’t give me a complete reason to take this out on you,” the Demon hunter grumped before stomping off to his locker room.

 

--------------------------------

 

Triple H already had the door partially open when he knocked. “Finn? You still in here?”

The Irishman offered a weak, slightly embarrassed wave. Despite having the time to cool down, Finn still had a good coat of sweat on him, arm and chest partially wrapped in ice. Despite the loss and whatever knocked him out backstage, he remained in somewhat good spirits. “Nothin too serious,” Finn offered. “Might have overdone it a bit in the match.”

Hunter glanced down at the floor for a moment before responding. “Finn, any other time I’d like to believe that. I know that you do a lot for WWE and I made a good choice bringing you in. What happened at Summerslam* was unfortunate and bad timing, and I still admire how much you still put into the match despite your injuries.”

Finn started to sweat for a different reason. “The doctors checked me out, I’m - “

“No no, you’re not talking your way out of this one,” Hunter interrupted rather cordially. “Thanks to a little ‘creative omission’, I think I understand a little more about how you tick.” He nodded to the trainer, dismissing him for the moment. “Now then. When you went out there tonight to defend the Intercontinental Champion, where was your little buddy in the fancy hat?”

“Balor?” Finn clarified. “I haven’t had him go out there with me very often, he watches the show backstage.”

“Why?”

“To keep some of the other goings-on back here out of the public eye. Though the one in Philidelphia wasn’t Balor, that actually WAS a demon.”

“Hm, guess it’s true that we do have a universal audience**,” Hunter’s smirk faded quickly. “Look, I found out what happened and that’s partially my fault. Aleister isn’t here to take out the Demon once and for all. I signed you both for a reason and I meant that.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Your little buddy broke a monitor and trashed the locker room when you lost the title again,” Triple H informed the Irishman. “Black saw that as grounds to intervene.”

“Balor shouldn’t be doing that anyway. He likely deserved it.”

“No he shouldn’t,” Hunter’s fatherly retort tinged with sarcasm. “But what happened tonight was a bit much on Aleister Black’s part. He won’t be here next week so you both should be a little more comfortable performing.”

“You don’t have to do that - “

“I still want to make it up to you. I know it’s Wrestlemania season, but I have some diplomatic work that needs to be handled in your ‘home town’. I can have you on a plane tonight or first thing in the morning to go back to Ireland.”

“So I’m - “

“You’ll be back on Monday. Black won’t be. And your trip is all paid. Out of HIS pocket. Now rest up. I don’t know what I can do for your twin in the locker room, but hopefully some time on native soil can help that out.”

Finn could only manage a grateful smile. Hunter flashed the Kliq hand signal before getting back to work. "Go Home. Both of you."

 

 

*Referring to Summerslam 2016 and Finn Balor completing the match despite the shoulder/labrum issues.

** will be addressed in "What do Demons want with Justice" in a later chapter.

 

Chapter Text

Finn squeezed a day in his native Ireland before being summoned to Abu Dhabi for a soccer benefit. He’d brought the Demon along as usual, letting him get some fresh air and free time away from things that Balor would otherwise find boring. The time away, however brief, does heal the soul, clear the mind and let his thoughts wander toward Wrestlemania. There was still time to get him on the card, but who would he be facing? Would he be dealing with Lashley again or still over the IC title? Would he be relegated to the Andre Battle Royal? He wanted a good one-on-one match, but who would be left?

No answer awaited him when he rejoined the Raw crew back in the States. They’d teased he’d have a mystery partner for his match that night, and would be the opening match. An easy night for the Irishman, still recovering a bit from all the travel.

Balor saw the “mystery partner” pic on the screen and pointed at himself. “Par-ner?” he asked with a bit of hope in his eyes.

“I think you already know the answer to that,” he reminded his demon friend. “I wish we could go out there together, side by side. Only way you’ll be out there tonight is where you’d usually end up.”

Balor sulked anew, hoping that without Aleister Black in the building he would be allowed to roam a little more. No such luck; the rule still in place, if he wanted to be out there he had to “hide” inside Finn.

He decided to stay “out” as he watched Seth Rollins bash Drew McIntyre repeatedly with a chair. “Harder!” he ordered as Seth swung faster still. “Now Beast!” he pointed to the right side of the “window”. Finn stifled a chuckle as Lesnar and Heyman retreated from an enraged Rollins.

“Are you sure you don’t want to be out there?” Finn asked one last time. “I know it’s only a tag match, but you like tagging along.”

“Tag?” Balor queried. He slapped one hand with another, mimicking a tag. “Tag? But - “

“You can come with me, but we can’t go- “ Finn realized his confusion. “Sorry. That’s not changed. I said ‘tag along’ as a way of saying ‘come with me’. Aleister’s not in the building, you always want to be out there. And,” he added with a wink. “Afterwards I’m sure there’s some others you want to see.”

Balor brightened. “Fight, then hide?”

“Just behave yourself, remember who ELSE is in the building.”

 

--------------------------------

 

The Chicago crowd were always loud and proud of their favorites, something Finn knew all too well. He’d seen some of the surreality that these fans had, the lengths they would go for when it came to those they would back. He’d heard that roar, felt that thrall as he emerged from the smoke. He didn’t have to even pose for these masses, but that would disappoint them. The volume of Thrall made Finn smile broader, perhaps some of that smile for Balor’s excitement as he soaked in both the Thrall and the Sin of the thousands that attended.

Balor’s attentions turned his human toward ringside, where someone waved a “Beware of the demon Finn Balor” sign. Finn acknowledged the sign with a “2 Sweet” salute, returned by the individual wielding it.

Another me?  Balor queried to his human. He glanced again, flashing the “2 Sweet” sign. The one that caught their attention had a front row seat, dressed mostly in black. Its crown slicked down a bit, but no mistaking the maw. This one certainly different from the one watching from the ring, who gave the sign a second look. Written between the letters on the sign a message in enchanted ink just for Balor:

“For Everyone” means even us. Thank your Human.

Finn could tell that his demon didn’t even care about the match now. His human had said for “Everyone”, meant it and proved it.*

Even Black, Finn added.

Words later, Balor retorted as Strowman’s music hit.


(*Something else to watch for in “What do Demons want with Justice?”)

---------------------------------------------

 

Ricochet had a locker room to himself this evening. He wasn’t sure if he really liked it; he and Aleister got along, but their tag team had been one of convenience. There’s a reason “One and Only” is heard in Ricochet’s music! That moment of pride let him spread his gray wings. One and Only, indeed - an angel who can’t go home and isn’t dark enough for Hell. Thus his near wordplay of “Ricochet” - hurting his head on the “ceiling”, but never quite falling through the “floor”.

He’d watched the opening match and spotted yet another of Balor’s kind in the audience. Another one? And he apparently bought a ticket, too. He smiled to himself, thinking of Mawashi back in Philadelphia. Why not Chicago? He folded his wings and decided to flag down one of the Jimmy squad.

 

-------------------------------

 

Balor watched the show not just for the action tonight. He’d seen the black and white demon in the front row and read the message. Despite asking in as many ways as his Words could conjure, Finn wouldn’t let him go see this one 

“But… other? Meet. Learn.”

“I’m sure you two would learn a lot from each other, but even if Aleister Black isn’t here you’re not going out there. Not even shadow hopping to get to him.”

“Back… here?” Balor referred to backstage. They had brought Mawashi to him. “Bring me.”

“I can ask,” Finn offered as he pulled on a T-shirt and sweats. “I just don’t think it’s as simple as - “

“Thanks Jimmy,” Ricochet’s voice heard outside. Finn facepalmed.

Balor bounded to the door. “Rick O’Shea?? Find brother?”

“How’d you guess?” The Gray Angel walked in with the near solid black demon, face and crown partially hidden under his hoodie. “He actually wanted to speak to both of you.”

Finn’s curiosity piqued. “I thought you’d just be here for Balor.”

“Balor? Sin Eater?” The demon pointed to his newcomer friend, who shook his head no.

“Fear Eater,” the jet black creature replied. “Egwu na-eri Ekwensu.*”

“Not sure you’re in the right building for that,” Ricochet joked 

“Tiny dog?” Balor guessed. Ekwensu nodded.

 “There are so many Fears here,” Ekwensu continued in Infernal. “The people fear each other. Some fear what is beyond their door. Animals fear the roads. And all fear that death comes too soon.”

 “This could be any city,” Balor replied. “But here?”

 "Here is also a grand market. I am one to bargain for things.”

“Actual words,” Finn requested.

 Ekwensu turned to the Irishman.

“Can’t calm the fear, and it comes in 99 flavors.

Fear caused by hate and unknown neighbors,

guns and the money as the sirens scream,

Fear push em all down, breaking their dreams.

Fear is my potions and the taste is real,

closing down streets when all I can feel

is their terror, their worry, why they walk in a hurry

in hopes their next week’s not in front of a jury.

I’m not a hipsta, I’m a tricksta

Bargain for things outside of the fears, mistah!”

 

“But not a soul trader?” Ricochet clarified. Ekwensu nodded in agreement. “So you traded something for the tickets to be here tonight?” Another nod.

“Trade Beast?” Balor queried. The black demon shook his head no. “Fight Beast,” Balor pointed to himself. “Trade..?”

“I don’t think we can allow something like that,” Finn glanced between the two demons.  Ricochet shifted uncomfortably as well.

“Help Seth fight Beast?” Balor asked Ekwensu.

“No!” Ricochet and Finn shouted the poor demon down. Both demons sulked.

Finn offered the “2 sweet” salute again to the newcomer. “It was still good to meet you. I read your sign through Balor’s eyes. I mean what I say about ‘everyone’.”

They exchanged the salute before Ricochet pointed out a shadow for Ekwansu to go back to his seat. “Ekele,” the black demon thanked them for the visit.

“Find more,” Balor said in human tongue. “Mawashi. Others?”

Ekwensu grinned through his maw before disappearing into the shadow. Balor started to follow. “Oh no you don’t,” Finn warned. “Where are you going?”

“Seth. Brother. Tell about brother.”

Finn turned away from the shadow and winked at Ricochet. “I’m sure someone will be watching you while you’re out.” Ricochet smirked and nodded

*Egwu na-eri Ekwensu

“Fear eating devil” (loose translation from African Igbo)

---------------------------------------------------

 

Balor didn’t have to hunt down Ekwensu to barter out a deal for later in the show. Infernal whispers have reach, and a deal made. Next on Balor’s list: Seth. He’d enjoyed Rollins’ rampage on Drew, that Anger and Wrath something he had not tasted from the Architect in a long time. The Demon wanted to thank him personally, and hope that he wasn’t too lonely without his brothers in the building.

Rollins himself had cooled down a little from swinging that chair, the irony not lost on him. For this, though, he had swung harder. Swung faster. That rush of revenge bolstered by having fought side-by-side with his brothers in recent weeks, compounded with Wrestlemania season, compounded further by the daunting task of facing Brock Lesnar, someone his own brothers had trouble facing. Adrenaline and thrall this time of year made it all the more intoxicating.

Even this lost in his thoughts he felt eyes on him. The locker room was dark enough so he already had a guess. “Does Finn know you’re here?”

“Knows,” a voice replied from the shadows. “Brothers?" 

“Dean and Roman aren’t here tonight, you knew that.” Seth turned to pinpoint the voice.

“Alone?” asked the shadow. 

“I’ll be fine, just for tonight. Drew won’t bring his backup thanks to Finn fighting Lashley earlier. Lesnar, maybe.”

“Fight Beast!” Balor snarled.

“I know, I know, you want another crack at Lesnar. Let me take care of - “

“Thrall?” Balor offered as he emerged from the shadow, holding up a clawed hand.

“No no, I’m not going through this again,” Seth appreciated the offer. “Save it for you and Finn and whoever you face at Mania. I wanna see you guys win too.”

Balor continued to offer his hand. “Brother?”

“Look, I can’t take that if you’re not giving any to Finn.”

“Hmm,” the Demon pondered as he looked to his own hand. His gaze traced up Seth’s body to lock into the childlike glance of the soon-to-be BeastSlayer.

“Fight Beast like I fight Beast,” he ordered. “Win.”

“Wouldn’t do it any other way. I promise.” Seth offered to bump fists, but lowered his quickly. “Uh uh, you’d sneak some of that whatever on me, wouldn’t you?”

Balor playfully shrugged as he heard a knock on Seth’s locker room door. “Dude, are you always on your phone before interviews?” Someone complained from the other side of the door.

Balor nodded and bounded back into the shadows. Seth shook his head and stepped out to talk to Dasha.

“Seth, earlier tonight you blindsided Drew McIntyre and attacked him with a steel chair. Is unorthodox behavior like that your best strategy against a larger opponent like Drew McIntyre and… Brock Lesnar?”

“It’s pretty simple,” he explained. “You hurt my brothers, you better be prepared to get hurt! If I gotta wear out Drew McIntyre with a steel chair all night long,” he danced his head back and forth. “So be it. Tonight is for Dean. Tonight is for Roman, and tonight’s … kinda for Brock Lesnar, too. I hope he’s watching my match with Drew later tonight. I’m not gonna be pushed around! Not by Brock Lesnar, not by Drew McIntyre, and I’m not afraid to fight Fire with Fire! Drew’s gonna see that tonight, and Brock’s gonna find out about it at Wrestlemania, when I burn Suplex City straight. to. the. Ground.” He strode off with a smirk.

 

---------------------------

 

Finn continued to watch the show while his Demon roamed. He spotted Ekwensu again, this time waving a sign about Ronda and Becky. So this one’s just as much a fan, he thought. He guessed his assumption came from the fact that Balor didn’t seem all that interested in other matches save for the members of the Shield and whenever Brock decided to show up. He expected almost no interest from him when he reappeared out of a shadow just before the Womens’ title match started, only glancing at the screen before finding a more comfortable spot.

“Did you talk to Seth?” Finn asked without looking away from the monitor.

“Talk. Brothers. Beast. Thrall.”

“You didn’t try to give him some of the Thrall we got tonight, did you?”

“No trick Seth,” Balor shrugged, shaking his head no. “No thrall.”

“You’re early for the main event. Seth won’t be out there for a little bit yet.”

Balor still glanced over Finn’s shoulder to see Ekwensu’s sign. Mixed in with the message about Becky defeating Ronda contained a note to Balor: “Seth won’t be alone. We have a deal." 

Satisfied, Balor settled in to watch the rest of the show with his human.

 

-----------------------------------

Somewhere backstage, a shadowy hand pushed open an exit door and propped it open with an empty bottle. “Here,” a hollow voice directed.

“Thanks, compadre. Wouldn’t have missed this for anything.” A lone figure let himself in, gathering the bottle. “Though next time, leave me a full one.”

 

--------------------------------------

 

“See?” Balor pointed to Seth countering Drew’s suplex into a Falcon Arrow. “Thrall!”

Finn gave his demon a warning glance. “But you didn’t give him that, right?”

“Not my thrall,” he pointed to the crowd reactions. “Thrall. Seth learn!”

“You know that I can’t see it,” Finn reminded the Demon.

“Drain a lean?”

“‘Adrenaline’,” Finn corrected. “I thought Seth had figured out some other abilities - “ He frowned as Rollins lost his match thanks to a distraction from Lesnar. “He’s going to need help learning to channel and focus it properly if he’s that easily distracted.”

Balor puzzled the screen, almost ignoring Finn. The show ended, fading to black for the night. “No no!” Balor pounded on the top of the monitor. “Stay open, window! Not done!”

“Ten o’clock, according to my phone.” Finn held up the device.

“No. More. Open win-” The crowd in the arena exploded as Dean Ambrose’s music started playing. Balor grinned. “Brother,” He said proudly.

Finn glanced toward the arena proper. “He wasn’t -”

“Surprise!” Balor cheered before snarling at the window again. “Not see it.”

“There’ll be video to see later. Show’s over now, let’s go.”

Balor nodded, a little relieved that Finn didn’t ask about how or where Dean came from.

Chapter Text


“Again,” Balor grumbled. “Again. Again. Again. Again. Dumb.”

Finn shrugged as he gathered his jacket. “Hopefully this will just mean I have to face him one more time, and that will be at Wrestlemania.”

“Notbeast, tiny dog. Again. Again. Again.” Balor picked up the “wand”. “Close window?”

Finn’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “You’re not gonna watch? You watch every week.”

Balor placed the “wand” next to the monitor. “No.” He offered his human a strange smile before dissipating to enter Finn’s body. Coming with you. Making sure NotBeast and Tiny Dog lose.

“I can handle this,” Finn replied impatiently.

WE should handle this, Balor insisted.

“Fine. But I still take the lead on this. Guessin they’re both Blind, but not taking any chances.”

----------------------------------------------------------

“... and I’m thinking we need some backup.”

Lio Rush sat on a roadcase that his boy Bobby Lashley casually leaned against. The Hype Man was swipe-texting away as he explained himself. “I wanna make SURE that Finn Balor’s not gonna be at Mania, and maybe get you someone else to fight.”

“I think the two of us can handle him… IF you stay out of my way,” Lashley’s boyish voice still intimidating. “He’s beaten you, he can’t beat me.”

“I’m not taking chances!” Lio insisted. “The last few weeks there been other demons in the crowd! Who knows if there’s one out there tonight! I know Finn won’t sic HIS demon on us on a regular show, but I - “

“Lio, who’s gonna help us?”

Lio grinned and showed Bobby his phone. “That enough backup for you?”

Bobby nodded, satisfied.

----------------------------------------

Other demons…? Aleister Black frowned. Being away from Raw for a week was one week too long. Hearing it from a Blind-as-a-bat Lio Rush made it all the more concerning. Balor’s attracting more of his kind to the shows. I know Ricochet didn’t do anything about it, either.

Ricochet didn’t mention it, either. Black needed to talk to that Gray angel.

---------------------------------------

Finn’s arrival brought the crowd to their feet, saluting him when the white lights shone down. Even with a handicap match ahead of him that smile still crept up, reminding himself of how much he loves this business. He could “Feel” Balor almost dancing inside as Thrall and Sin washed over the both of them.

The smile faded quickly as Bobby and Lio came out. Finn added an eye roll for good measure.

“Your road to Wrestlemania goes through us,” Rush’s speech surprisingly serious. “Believe me when I say this isn’t a road you wanna be on right now! Y’see, Finn, you should have just quit while you were ahead. Now you’re going to be forced to leave the game as a beaten, broken, hot piece of garbage like Rob Gronkowski!”

The name incited the Boston crowd. The Words were inciting Balor.

We should go get them, he urged his human. Finn refused to give Lio the satisfaction.

“Now as much as I would love to end your little Wrestlemania dreams myself tonight,” the Hype Man continued, “unfortunately, at the hands of your little tag partner Braun Strowman I’m not medically cleared to compete tonight.”

Liar! Balor shouted in Finn’s head.

“So the All Mighty Bobby Lashley isn’t gonna be teaming up with the Man of the Hour. He’s gonna be teaming up with this man.” Rush pointed back to the entrance, stare locked on Finn to see the reaction.

The strum of sitars announced the arrival of Jinder Mahal and the Singh brothers to back Bobby Lashley up. Lio didn’t stop grinning. Finn gave them room, pondering the odds on this match.

They’ll need more than that, Balor bragged.

Finn nodded. Now he and the Demon were going to prove it.

--------------------------------------------------

“Were you actually going to TELL me about the demon sighting last week?” Aleister Black’s cold voice slowed Ricochet’s walk. “Two other demons in less than a month! This could be -”

“Could be a little bit of that ‘equality’ Finn talks about,” Ricochet turned and shrugged at his tag partner. “At least that’s Finn’s take*.”

“It’s dangerous,” Black growled. “Balor might be bringing his kind here the way Cerberus kept trying to infiltrate*. Balor’s got a lot more sway when it comes to the level and ‘quality’ of demon. What was its name?”

“Ekwensu. Called himself a Fear Eater and a bargainer.”

“Ekwensu,” Black repeated. “An African demon. A Trickster and bargainer, an entity of wars. A strategist and soldier with Balor in charge.”

“You’re reading WAY too much into it,” Ricochet rolled his eyes. “Ekwensu and Balor met up backstage-”

Black’s normally stoic face broke into astonishment. “You brought a trickster demon backstage??”

“He was with me the whole time,” the gray angel promised. “They met, they talked, Ekwensu went back to his seat. No harm done.”

“For your sake,” Black’s Words stabbing at Ricochet like heated daggers. “That no harm is done. Or there will be. And you, Finn nor Triple H will stop me if this turns into a war.”

“For YOUR sake,” Ricochet shot back, “we better not be enemies over this.”

The two marched in silence to the ramp.


(*from “What do Demons want with Justice?”)
-----------------------------------------

Finn returned to his locker room still chuckling about the win. He guessed some of that humor was also coming from the “inside”, as he could feel Balor’s excitement mixed with his own. “We’re goin to Wrestlemania!” Finn declared as he plunked himself down on a bench to let it soak in. The smile felt even broader and the most genuine in quite some time.

Balor slipped free of his human host. “We going? You said ‘we’,” he pointed back and forth. Finn nodded. “YES!!” Balor shouted with all the triumph of Daniel Bryan before hugging Finn. “Fight NotBeast for white belt! Help Seth! Help Roman -”

“Whoa whoa whoa, don’t get too far ahead of yourself. We need to focus on preparing for Wrestlemania. For OUR match.” He slowly peeled Balor off him and turned on the monitor for Balor to watch. Both settled in as they watched Drew McIntyre walking through the garage, pausing for a rather impatient Dean Ambrose.

“What did you call me out there?” He asked with a touch of mock-confusion. “A ‘cockroach’? That you ‘exterminated’ me?” He glanced away. “I don’t feel ‘exterminated’.” He turned back to Drew, learning his head at a strange angle. “Why don’t you give it one more try? Me, and you, Last. Man. Standing.”

“Roman hurt?” Balor puzzled. Finn was more intrigued with the match, knowing that Drew would be facing Roman at Mania, and guessing (correctly, he found out later) that Drew and Roman butted heads again, likely prompting Dean to challenge the Scottish Terminator.

Drew scratched his forehead in consternation. “I legit do not know how you are standing right now. But I promise you, you won’t be after tonight.” He stared the indifferent Dean down before turning back to the locker rooms.

Balor stood and pointed at the monitor with purpose. “Ambrose not die! Fall, stand, fall, stand!”

Finn had to agree. “But is this for Roman, or for himself?”

“Brothers,” Balor nodded definitively. “Maggintear lose!”

“Drew McIntyre’s dangerous if he can take out Roman and Dean in the same night. Seth’s got his own worries having to face Brock Lesnar.”

Balor huffed. “Fat man Words,” he groaned.

“Seth will likely have Words for him too.”

“Words….” Balor pondered. “Fucking Shut up!”

Finn laughed. “He can’t say that, though I’d love to hear it.”

-----------------------------------------

Ambrose had taken the time to get his fists re-taped for his match against Drew. He checked in on Roman, making sure big brother could still walk. He then found solitude in a closed-off section of bleachers, mind whirring away at what he’d have to do to keep Drew down for a 10 count. Anything goes in Last Man Standing, which meant Dean could get “creative” and maybe sneak in a low blow on top of all the other ideas he had from his personal encyclopedia of hardcore.

He heard Seth talking down Heyman. That was music to his ears. He couldn’t put a dent in Lesnar since he never showed up. Drew would just have to do for now.

“Dean?” came a whisper from a nearby shadow. Ambrose recognized it immediately.

“Whatcha doing down here, buddy?” Ambrose did not turn toward the voice. “I thought Aleister Black woulda sent you to your room.”

Balor growled from the shadow in irritation. “Yeah, that was probably a bit low. Sorry if I’m not too cordial, Drew McIntyre needs to be beat up some more.”

“Why?”

“We’re not officially the Shield anymore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be brothers looking out for each other. Something’s bugging me about Drew and I can’t figure it out.”

“Words?” Balor suggested.

“Nah, I understand his accent. Threatening Roman’s family, now that,” Ambrose gritted his teeth. “That’s out of bounds. Drew hit Roman with a low blow, called me a cockroach and probably got a good look at my wife on his way to the back. That should be enough reasons to go after him, right?”

“Fight. Win.”

“Always the plan. Got a little ulterior motive, too.”

“Alter…?”

Dean smirked. “Another reason to fight him. Something about him, not sure what. My Deano senses are tingling, I think Roman’s walking into a trap at Mania.”

“Senses?” Balor blinked. “Thrall?”

“Yeah, something’s up with that. What bugs me more is that I can’t figure it out.” Dean’s shoulders swayed a little. “Can’t talk to Corey Graves about it* until after the show. Get a better look at him while I finish him off tonight, you got that?”

“I watch. You fight. Win.” Balor confirmed the orders.

“Deal. Watch your step getting back to Finn, a’right?”

 

(*Corey demonstrated in “What do Demons want with Justice?” that he has some knowledge of Thrall.)
---------------------------------------------

Roman tried not to grumble as he carefully climbed out of his gear. He’d stopped seeing stars from Drew’s low blow earlier and still caught most of Seth mic-duelling against Heyman. He was proud of his little brother, not being intimidated against one of the best talkers in the entire company. The big Samoan knew he needed more practice, even if he trash-talked with his cousins over the phone and other family calling to check in. He’ll listen to Seth’s promo again later, but he really dug Seth’s rallying over the prone advocate.

“Paul, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m not asking for Thoughts and Prayers. I’m here to Answer them. Because WE are going to Wrestlemania! WE are gonna beat Brock Lesnar! WE are gonna take the Universal Title! And WE are going to march into Suplex City and WE are gonna - “ His mic raised like a Liberty torch to allow 10,000+ to finish the statement.

“BURN! IT! DOWN!”

“Yeah, that’s how it’s done.”

He blinked after a moment as he swore he’d heard another voice with the crowd. He glanced over his right shoulder, spotting Balor watching from a shadow. “What’re you doing in here? I don’t mind, but - “

“Drew hurt you.”

Reigns stirred uncomfortably in his seat. “Yeah, I think I’m still gonna feel that for a minute. We’ll face off at Mania.”

“Hurt back?” Balor queried.

“Oh don’t worry about that,” Reigns brimmed with confidence. I’m gonna hurt his back, his head, his manhood and his ass.”

“Dean hurt Drew?”

“Dean? That Falls Count Anywhere match was rough. Wish he hadn’t done that, but I don’t think I coulda stopped him even if I was 100%.”

“No. Dean hurt Drew, now.”

Roman’s confidence fell to confusion. “He’s out there fighting him again, isn’t he?” Balor nodded.

“Dean. Drew. Thrall?” Again Balor fretted with words. “Drew thrall hurt you?” he tried again.

“Nah. But I need to see what Dean’s trying to prove. You need to be back in Finn’s locker room.”

The Demon sulked, hoping to watch with Roman. The big Samoan lowered a fatherly stern look to Balor, who then slunk into a shadow. Roman stormed off to find a monitor to watch the match.

-----------------------------------------

Dean Ambrose doesn’t bother planning, especially in Last Man Standing. The opportunities will show up, and he’d be ready for them. His favorite opportunity? The “Foley’s folly”.

He’d seen it in hundreds of matches, fallen for it and won because of it. Someone brings a weapon into the ring, there’s a good chance they’ll end up taking it. Drew McIntyre dodged that with a kendo stick earlier, but the steel chair took him a little longer than normal to set up.

Drew lodged the chair between the middle and top rope, hoping to sling Dean into it and be done with it. Dean saw the setup and managed to fall to his knees, sliding short of the corner. Drew charged, and Dean deftly dodged, driving Drew into his own chair. A dazed Drew stumbled directly into Dirty Deeds, planting the Scotsman. The crowd roared in approval.

Dean frantically pointed at the prone McIntyre as he slid back to the ropes to pull himself to his feet. He stumbled backwards to the corner as John Cone started the count. Drew started stirring at five, stumbling at six, to a knee at seven and to his feet at eight. Dean’s eyes grew wider realizing his finisher didn’t stop the Scottish Terminator.

Dean lunged for the almost-standing Drew and knocked him back down. He frantically rained down punches on his opponent and snarled something about staying down. Dean guessed that Drew would still get up and chose to slide out of the ring to risk Foley’s Folly with a table.

--------------------------------------

“Dirty Deans!” Balor mis-called Ambrose’s finisher. Finn chuckled and watched along. They figured that the finisher would be the end of this matchup, since Dirty Deeds felled just about anyone on the roster. Both stared in shock as Drew made it to his feet at 8.

“Dirty Deans… coudegrah?” Balor said, astonished. Finn blinked back surprise as well. Now Balor really leaned in to watch, seeing the dark blue thrall of Dean’s flare up when he tackled Drew, then when he got the table set up in the ring. He glanced to Drew, noting a faint silvery aura around the Scotsman as he scooped up Dean and threw him into that table.

“Dean!” Balor reached for the monitor. Finn put a hand to the Demon’s shoulder to calm him.

“You know he doesn’t go down that easily, just watch,” he pointed to the monitor again. Balor stared, seeing more blue thrall around Dean, pushing him to his feet with the encouragement from the crowd. Drew’s silver aura sparked as he slid up to Dean and waylaid him with a Claymore kick. Dean collapsed, the blue aura dissipating.

“Thrall… break?” Balor pondered as Dean struggled to get up after the one-two punch of the table and the kick. Despite his efforts, there was no Thrall to help him up, and Dean sunk back down to the mat. Balor nodded. “Thrall break,” he repeated.

“What does that mean?” Finn asked.

The replay came up of the table spot. Balor waved his hand over Dean’s body, suggesting Thrall at work to get him to his feet. When the replay of the Claymore was shown, Balor closed one hand just above Dean’s prone body. “Drew break Thrall,” he explained. “Break Roman thrall?”

“That might explain why Roman’s had trouble with Drew. I’ll get a message to Roman, he’ll need this for Wrestlemania.”

Balor turned back to the monitor, growling at the Scottsman howling in his victory.

 

Chapter Text

17

 

Balor toyed quietly with the wand as Finn started unpacking for the night. He could sense some excitement from his human, a little rise in his energies like the previous year. He'd watched last year’s Wrestlemania from a shadow in the elaborate stage set, as Finn walked out with several other humans that had designations for themselves that for some reason their society didn’t always accept. They looked no different to Balor; humans were humans were humans. They sometimes had different colored skin, different colored hair, different colored eyes. It was important to Finn, so he chose not to ask questions. Maybe he just needed to interact with them more.

Something else stirred in the Demon King’s mind. He had watched his human fighting Bobby Lashley over and over and over again. They would do battle one last time at Wrestlemania.

“Finn,” he finally spoke as his human finished dressing for the evening. The Irishman paused.

“Somethin on your mind?”

“Not Beast. White Belt. Tiny Dog.”

“We won’t be fightin tonight, that’s being saved for Sunday.”

Balor nodded. “Main-eya.”

“Right. Wrestlemania.”

Balor took a couple of deep breaths. “I fight Not Beast. I win White Belt. I help. YOU watch.”

Finn blinked. “You - “

“My Fucking turn,” Balor snarled. “Watch,” he pointed to himself angrily, “Watch watch watch, some help. My. Fucking. Turn.”

Finn paled. “But we - “

“But fucking no,” Balor slid to a standing position and started marching toward Balor. “I. Fight. Not. Beast. You. Watch. This. Time.”

“I was -” Balor appeared directly in Finn’s face.

“No. MY. TURN.” Balor was in no mood for excuses or compromise. “Not help fight Beast. Not help fight Not Beast. Lose. Lose. LOSE!  I. Do. Not. Fucking. Lose.” He had Finn backed to the wall. “I! FIGHT!”

Finn’s worry started fading into panic. The Demon King never raised a hand in anger to his human over anything before. There was no conflict when he asked to participate when they lived in Japan. There were requests before Balor would get impatient. Perhaps not letting him try against Lesnar had been a bad idea.

“Are…” Finn stammered. “Are you still angry about the Rumble?”

Balor raised a clawed hand, firmly cupping Finn’s chin, giving his human a slow, deliberate and definitive nod. “I. Fight. This. Time. No Words. No ‘No’. I. Fight.”

Finn nodded slowly, the Demon’s eyes locked with his. “Right words? Me, Not Beast, Mane-eya?”

Finn slowly nodded again. Balor released him and gave his human room to move. His gaze remained on Finn as he walked backward to his gear bag, eyes still a little wild from the Demon King’s threat.

Finn raised one hand as the other went back into the bag. “Phone,” he managed as he took it out of his bag to answer it. “Hello?”

A familiar, authoritative voice came over the line. “Finn? It’s Hunter.”

Balor tilted his head, able to hear the voice. “King of Kings?”

“Yeah, Hunter...“ Finn chuckled nervously. “You’ve got really good timing… or bad timing, dependin on who you ask.”

“Is that so?” Triple H’s voice trickled with amusement. “I take it I’m interrupting something?”

That gave Finn an idea. “Do you want to speak to Balor? I think he has a request.”

The Demon King blinked at his human’s comment. What was Finn up to?

“Yeah, actually, does he know how to talk on a phone?” Hunter asked. “Actually, hold on. Just put it on speaker, since you both kinda need to hear this.”

Finn carefully put the phone on the bench and turned on the speaker. “Ok. Balor’s here listening, too.”

“King of Kings?” Balor asked again.

“Yes, that’s me,” Hunter affirmed.

Balor immediately dropped to his knees. “Not hurt Finn!” he panicked, thinking that Triple H somehow knew he’d threatened his human.

“I’d rather you didn’t,” Hunter admonished, “But since you were nice enough to leave Finn intact, I wanted to ask if you wanted to fight Bobby Lashley at Wrestlemania.”

“King of Kings… asks?” Balor’s voice suddenly turned to one of nervous joy. “You ask me?”

“I’m asking you,” Triple H confirmed. “You get to fight Bobby Lashley. Would you be comfortable being on camera tonight? Just for something real short, I promise. Then Sunday, you’ll have 70,000+ cheering for you when you fight Bobby.”

“And you?” Balor asked.

Finn decided to clarify. “He needs to know if there’s anything he can do in return.”

“I just want you to have a good match, Balor. I hired both of you for a reason, and this is one of em.”

“But -- but Black?” Balor wondered.

“Aleister Black is not going to put his hands on you at all on Sunday,” Hunter assured the Demon King. “I’ve made sure he’s so damn busy that he shouldn’t even be thinking about you or any of these other ‘demons’ that have come to the shows. But if by some chance he TRIES, I want to know immediately. I will make him disappear. Deal?”

“Deal!” Balor bowed to the phone. “I fight Not Beast. Win White Belt. Scare Tiny dog. Please King of Kings.” Balor remained on his knees, eagerly awaiting the answer.

“That’s right. You fight Bobby, I hope you win. Wait - I KNOW you’ll win. Because that’s what Demon Kings do.”

“Thank you,” Balor replied, another tremble in his voice. “Thank you, King of Kings.”

“You’re welcome. Now let me talk just to Finn, okay?”

“Yes, King,” he complied, teleporting away. Finn turned off the speaker and picked up the phone.

“You know, Hunter,” Finn said with a touch of exasperation, “I could have just shown him that all the Wrestlemania ads had him in it.”

“What’s the fun in that?” Triple H laughed. “I just wanted him to make sure he would be ready. I know I usually give you more notice than this, and I apologize. Mania season and all that.”

Finn agreed. “So what did you need us to do tonight?”

“I’m having a camera set up in a separate room. Make it look like you transform. You know what I’m looking for.”

----------------------------------------------------

 

Dean Ambrose found an empty office in the backstage area to hide out and listen to the show. The energy was still there; the magic was still palpable and the crowds still loud. He sipped away on a beer he “acquired” and just listened. The clatter of the mat when someone hit hard. The thunder of the music as someone walked out to the ring. The cheers, the boos. Why was he walking away again? He didn’t want to tell Seth OR Roman the real reason. He blamed it on the office to avoid more questions.

Last week he felt something break. It wasn’t his heart, it wasn’t his arm. Just whatever he had that he’d passed on to Seth only for Roman to give it back. Maybe he’d worn it all out. Drew McIntyre throwing him through a table was nothing new. It was the kick he followed it with that did all the damage. He sighed, took another sip of his beer, let the sounds of the arena soothe him.

A rustling noise much too close to him froze him a moment, opening his eyes. He swore he’d heard his name.

“Dean,” came the softest of whispers that somehow echoed as the Word reached his ears. He cracked his neck a couple of times before responding.

“Don’t tell anyone I’m here,” he replied at normal volume. He closed his eyes again and felt someone sit next to him.

“Dean,” the voice repeated. “Don’t hide.”

“I might go out after the show, I dunno,” he said without opening his eyes. “Let me think about it.”

“Sunday?” the voice queried.

“I’ll be there Sunday. After that’s kinda up in the air.”

“Why?”

“Look, don’t make me think right now,” Dean grumbled

He felt a clawed hand on his shoulder. “Thank you.  Friend.”

“What are you thanking me for? Keeping your secret? Being nice to Finn?” Dean opened one eye to see the strangely soft gaze of Balor’s ice-blue eyes.

“Friend,” Balor repeated. “Help. Not afraid. Good friend. Stay?”

A smile did finally cross Dean’s face, boyish dimples hiding in his scruffy beard. “I'll always be there when you need me. I'm gonna be okay, and so are you. Thanks for checking on me, compadre.” He ruffled Balor’s crown again.

“Sunday?” Balor asked again as Dean messed with his crown. “I Fight.”

“Really? That I definitely want to see.” Dean freed his hand from the crown and patted Balor on the shoulder. “I’ll be there for that. Just let me sit here for now. Just gonna take it all in tonight.”

---------------------------------------------------

 

Seth Rollins had some extra pep in his step from his promo and interview. He’d managed to get in not one but TWO nutshots on Lesnar, wishing one of those could have been to Paul Heyman. He wondered if people would hear him screaming in the rafters without a microphone and his manhood smashed into paste!

His night finished for now, he’d probably just hang out with Roman until his interview and try to keep Drew McIntyre from interrupting things. He had some other business to care to first.

Despite the “do not disturb” sign on Finn Balor’s locker room door, Seth had been requested to stop by as soon as he was available. He wasn’t sure what was up; maybe Balor just wanted to “wish him good luck”? Did Finn himself have a special request for that Mania match? Curiosity only tugging harder at him as he gave the door a few raps with his left hand.

“Go away!” Finn shouted.

“Hey man, you told me to drop by,” Seth reminded everyone in there.

After a quiet pause the door opened, allowing Seth to enter but not show who opened the door for him. Finn was still rummaging through his gear bag as the Architect entered. “Right, I did ask,” he said with a flash of his signature grin. “Can’t wait to see how you fare against Lesnar this Sunday.”

Seth shrugged. “I owe it to you, and I owe it to Roman to get that belt back on TV. I’m guessing you’ve got similar plans for the Intercontinental title?”

I do,” Balor explained rather forcefully.

“Whoa, easy. Finn told me to drop in when I had a minute, if you don’t want me here-”

“Stay,” Balor apologized, offering a faint smile.

“Don’t mind him, you’ll understand later tonight.” Finn sat as far as he could away from Balor, a hand on Seth’s shoulder. “I asked you to come by here because I know you’re still a little nervous about this match with Brock.”

“This is really, REALLY big,” Seth gestured broadly. “I meant everything I’ve said over the last two weeks. I know it’s a lotta Words for your buddy over there, but they all had to be said. Now I HAVE to deliver, and you’ve really helped me out on that end.”

Finn beamed. “Just glad you were never angry at either of us over Opening your Eyes.*”

“Are you kidding? It’s almost like you gave me a superpower!” Seth’s brown eyes widened to that little kid stare Finn and the rest of the world saw the night Rollins won the Rumble. “Now I’m so attuned to all of this I would never think of stopping now! It’s brand new, it’s - it’s - wow, it’s really hard to explain.”

Finn nodded, enjoying Seth’s continued amazement. “And this is the reason I wanted to talk to you. Since then we’ve worked together on it. I’ve wanted you to understand what we’d done and how you could utilize it. I know that you can’t see everything. I can’t either, I just know what I do because of Balor. But now, you’ll really get to test all this out.

“Lesnar relies only on the strength in his body, and while that's powerful, it's not ALL of the power that we in this business can tap into. He was never about wrestling, so he's already going in with a handicap. You have that one edge, and for the last two years we've shown you what thrall can do.

“All of that focus, all of that precision, all of that agility and speed will come to bear. Spare some Thrall for your strength and the ‘armor’ that Dean gave you. You’ve had time to formulate a strategy, you’ve watched Roman’s matches. Even the one you ‘won’. When you win at Wrestlemania, Seth, the explosion of thrall will shake the entire building, and that same rush will come. You’ve come full circle from that night. And what you will have on your back afterwards won’t be a burden.”

Seth nodded. “I’ve got this,” he affirmed.

Finn shook his head. “Louder.”

“I’ve GOT this!” Rollins pumped his arms and thumped his chest.

Finn smirked. “Louder for the nosebleed sections!”

“I’VE! GOT! THIS!” Seth shouted to the heavens. “AND THERE IS NOTHING THAT BROCK LESNAR, PAUL HEYMAN, TRIPLE H OR GOD HIMSELF CAN DO ABOUT IT!”

“THAT’S what they want to hear,” Finn approved with a firm pat on the shoulder. “Now sorry to send you packing, but we’ve got to get ready for our part of the show.”

Seth hopped to his feet and turned to the door. He hesitated, one hand on the handle, turning back to two individuals who have helped him through the insanity. “Thanks. If I didn’t say it before, I’ll say it now. Thank you.”

“You’d have done the same for me,” Finn replied.

“Slay the Beast,” Balor half-ordered. Seth grinned and hurried out.

 

 

 

*Referring to the “Open your Eyes” moment in “What do Demons want with Justice”

----------------------------------------------------------

 

Under the guise of being “painted up” to show off Balor to the crowds, Finn usually enlisted a local spellcaster to help Balor with his visibility. The caster would arrive, introducing themselves as the “Artist” to work with Finn, which wasn’t a complete lie. The caster had to help undo all of the sigils he had placed on himself over the years so that he wouldn’t be seen by the wrong people. This one reminded Balor of “Kate” when they wrestled in Europe. They sat facing each other, and the caster carefully picked each sigil out to slowly lift the veil of his invisibility. A taxing process, both on him and his human. They fashioned a makeshift bed for Finn to lie still as she pulled sigils from Balor’s arms, his chest, his crown. She asked a lot of the same questions about all the sigils, and with what Words he had, told her that no one truly believes in demons anymore so he had to remain hidden. This one (Petra?) had Opened Eyes and a warm smile of reassurance as each sigil peeled off like a bandaid. Her voice almost musical in soothing him through the ritual, assurance after assurance that it could all be put back together.

Balor did take a moment to look to his human, who was not asleep but just watching. “All?”

“Just make him visible from the chest up,” Finn suggested. “No sense undoing all of them for such a short segment. Will you be our ‘artist’ on Sunday?”

“I can be there,” she replied. “I’ll likely need more than three hours for all of the sigils. This is a very thick veil.”

“Needed,” Balor explained.

“There are a lot of people in this company that’t don’t need to know that we are individuals. You’ll get all the time you’ll need,” Finn promised.

Petra smiled to them both as she finished taking sigils off Balor’s shoulders and chest. “There we are. They’ll reset in about two hours, so make sure you’re both someplace safe when it wears off.”

“Thank you,” Balor managed. Finn nodded in agreement, slowly getting to his feet to find his jacket. Petra gathered her “makeup gear” and settled in to watch the segment.

 

--------------------------------

 

Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Finn all night. That had made the Hype man nervous, but his boy was not even remotely ruffled, even with the suggestion of the Demon getting involved. Lashley scoffed at the supposition when Charly Caruso posed the question.

“Listen, I’ve been fighting for a loonnnng time,” Lashley bragged, “And if you think I’m gonna be scared of some Irish Fairy tale, you’re out of your mind! Finn Balor is the Demon, and the Demon is Finn Balor! And I’ve whupped Finn Balor every single time!”

Finn could hear it from the room they were in. “Didja hear that?” he whispered to Balor. “Not only did he call you ‘demon’, he called you ‘human’.”

Balor growled. “Names…”

“Don’t speak. Just your presence will scare em enough.”

“But….. Words!” Balor frowned. He’d been practicing.

“Shhhh… none needed for this. I got it covered.”

Finn stood up in the framing of the camera, which projected onto the Titantron. “Hey Bobby! Bobby Lashley!”

As one the crowd turned to the tron, where Finn’s proud face emerged. He tugged at his jacket with cool confidence. “Bobby, I would consider some caution.

“I’ve always been a guy whose had … demons,” Finn smirked as smoke began to pour into frame. “And at Wrestlemania, my Demon will be your Nightmare!”

The screen filled with the white smoke and white lights as screams erupted from the crowd. Bobby just continued to stare at the screen, inwardly convincing himself this was nothing but smoke and mirrors. But there in the smoke a figure rose, unnaturally black skin shimmering around a fiery maw, encircled in a tendril crown of red, black and silver. The eyes - almost glowing a brilliant blue- peered through cracked red hide that covered the rest of his face. Balor snarled into the camera, both tongues wagging in anticipation. Sadly, the camera was a little too zoomed in to see the one in his maw, drooling at the thought of biting Not Beast.

Lio’s jaw dropped. Bobby took a couple of defiant steps forward, still trying to convince himself that this was an illusion. That whoever that was in paint was someone else. That the images were edited together. That this was not a shouty little Irishman physically transforming into a monster.

Bobby refused to back down. But Bobby also couldn’t summon a single Word against what glowered at him from the giant monitor. Lio stood behind Bobby, visibly shaken.

Finn couldn’t smile broader if he tried. That’s exactly what they both wanted from the current champ and his yapping manager.

Silence.

 

Chapter Text

 

Balor marvelled at the size of the stadium, looking through his human’s eyes at the vast arena where the ring seemed so small, the stage so grand, so many people running around! His excitement only fed Finn’s, who held fast to his anticipation for his second Wrestlemania.

 

Last year, Finn didn’t succeed in his match against Seth Rollins and the Miz, but couldn’t be angry that his friend had achieved his Grand Slam. Tonight, Seth would be fighting for the Universal championship, something that brought a grumble from his demon.

 

I’d rather be fighting for it myself, with you or not, he mentally assured Balor. But if Seth wins, then we’ll know that the Red Belt will be easier to catch.

 

I wanted to fight the Beast, Balor declared in Finn’s mind. I would destroy him and the Thrall and worship would sate me.

 

Finn smiled and shook his head at that inner arrogance. Talk is simple in my head, now isn’t it?

 

Your Words are easier in here.

 

-----------------------------------------------

 

Seth Rollins settled into his locker room, knowing it would be a long afternoon and evening before he’d set foot on that stage. Keeping loose until then would be challenge enough, never mind once he got in the ring with Lesnar. Finn’s encouragement on Monday still resonated with him, and all the preparations in the last couple of years would be tested in that match.

 

He really couldn’t get much in on Monday. Didn’t need to, really. He glanced to the mirror, taking a brief moment to concentrate, bringing some of his own thrall forward. This time, maybe for the first time, he could actually See some of those bluish energies wisping on his arms, and a little over his eyes. His bushido tattoo tingled a little; a slight turn see it in the mirror, glinting a little in blue. In both cases, he noted it was the same blue that he’d seen on Roman’s arm, a reminder of their brotherhood.

 

A dark whisper filtered through his locker room and barely touched his ears. “Slay the Beast,”  a familiar voice growled. Seth jumped from the voice; it may as well have been a scream. He turned from the mirror and his thoughts to see Balor sitting on the bench, having let himself in through a shadow. “Slay the Beast,” he repeated aloud.

 

“That’s the plan,” Seth’s nervous reply as he hastily “shut off” his thrall. “I thought you and Finn would be ‘getting ready’.”

 

“Soon,” Balor nodded. “Trade? I fight Beast, you fight Not Beast?”

 

“No way,” Rollins replied with returning confidence. “That would mess a lot of stuff up. But I promised you, I promised Finn. I promised a lot of people. I can’t back out on that now.”

 

“Promised,” Balor agreed and nodded again. He once more offered his clawed hand. “I want to help,” he continued, his cadence still not natural but earnest. “Please.”

 

“What about Bobby Lashley? Don’t you need… ‘that’ for him? I mean, Roman kinda made the same mistake last year…*”

 

“Not Beast,” Balor dismissed. “We’ll both win. Please. I help you.”

 

“Not gonna let me say ‘no’, are you?” Seth closed his eyes and shook his head. “But you and Finn, Dean and Roman, so many others have helped me get here. Technically you already did, didn’t you?”

 

“Take my fucking help!” he snapped, hand still outstretched. “Please,” he added in afterthought.

 

The Architect held up his hands in surrender. “Fine, fine, I’ll - “

 

Balor lunged this time, hand snapped around a wrist. He leaned in to Seth’s face. “My help,” he ordered, “Slay the Beast. No more Words. Do.”

 

Seth froze in the ferocity of this offer, sweating a little as the red and black energies rushed into him like ice water in his veins. He could feel them trace up his arm and into his shoulders, wrapping around each kanji on his back. The Demon King’s glare lanced into Seth’s dark brown eyes, and that power and understanding locked into a focus Seth didn’t realize he still needed. He tried to smile as this jolt of power ran down his back and his other arm, dispersing through the rest of his body before Balor finally released him.

 

“MY promise,” Balor announced with a sinister grin. “You WILL Slay the Beast.”

 

Seth exhaled. “I will,” he repeated, satisfying the Demon King.



* Seth refers to events in “Sparked for Battle”, believing that Roman may have cost himself a win at WM34

--------------------------------------------

 

Ricochet’s wings itched. He was pretty sure Ali’s were, too.

 

Both Angels had arrived to their first Wrestlemania, excited for the spectacle and finally participating on the inside of the guardrail. He and Black had a tag title match that night, in front of the largest crowd either of them had ever performed. Ricochet could only hold the handle to his gear bags tighter as he and Aleister Black walked to their locker room.

 

He could sense Black being on pins and needles as well. His grim expression failed to hide the anticipation and maybe a touch of trepidation about their match. Black’s attentions still divided between the myriad title opportunities and the possibility of more demons roaming the audience at events, especially now that a dozen or more could easily mask themselves under the din of 80,000 humans and all of the other magic and thrall in the building generated by the mystique of this event known as Wrestlemania.

 

Aleister’s pace quickened when they spotted their locker room. He thrust the door open and hastily pushed his bags against a wall. “We need to start exploring the building right away. Who knows how many of them are here already,” he growled as he opened one bag and took some odds and ends out.

 

“You’re not going to Finn’s locker room,” Ricochet warned.

 

“I’ll go where I need to go,” Black snapped. “Balor is roaming the building as we speak. He’s NOT with Finn.”

 

“Maybe he’s looking for Ambrose? He’s still backstage, right?”

 

“Or he’s ‘looking’ in places so he can ‘look’ around the area to see who ELSE will be attending,” Aleister refused to back down on his convictions. “Too easy to sneak enough of his kind in here tonight.”

 

Ricochet sighed. “I can look as well.”

 

“The more ground covered the better.” Black continued to move quickly, nerves and already mounting frustration fueling him. Ricochet could only shake his head. “We’ll split up for now,” Black continued as he took a few things out of one bag, “but if we can get this done and settled, THEN we can start worrying about the match.”

 

The Gray Angel worried more about the Demon King. “Just… go easy on Balor tonight if you do find him.”

 

The Demon Hunter slammed the door behind him as his response.

--------------------------------------------------

 

“Can you continue, Seth? I need to know so I can ring the bell!”

 

Seth Rollins could hear Chad Patton’s request but his body and mind had trouble giving him the answer immediately. The last fifteen minutes had been a blurr.

 

One moment he and Roman were chatting backstage about their matches, the next he had to dead sprint across the arena to the ramp. Paul Heyman had hijacked Wrestlemania? The Universal Championship match was OPENING the show?? Seth couldn’t even pause to feel grateful that Balor had found him so early and insisted on the boost. That might be enough to get him to the ramp in time for his entrance!

 

He stepped through the curtain only to be run over by a united voice of nearly 80,000 people cheering his arrival. The rush of their cheers again flooding him with another rush of thrall that nearly made him weak at the knees. It felt like the rush he got four years ago; it was probably the real reason he shot down the ramp so fast. Now, he nearly staggered in front of the entire world, the one time he needed to look strong before the Beast.

 

He had one foot in the ring and was met with Lesnar’s knee thrust. The action spilled to the floor, Seth Rollins being tossed around by an angry Beast. When Seth wasn’t hurtling through the air involuntarily. Brock tried to beat the daylights out of him and keep him from even having the match. Three times over the German announce table. Suplexes and F-5’s to the Architect. Heyman shouting encouragement to Lesnar and stabbing Rollins with his own catchphrases and monikers.

 

Seth’s will and the crowd’s thrall kept him moving. Seth continued to get up. Lesnar continued to expend energy to keep a match from happening. Seth chose to keep getting up. No matter how much his back hurt. No matter how hard the world spun around him. He could hear the voices chanting and cheering for him. Seth heard Chad Patton asking him if he wanted to continue. He heard Lesnar’s demand that the bell ring. Seth forced himself to his hands and knees, eyes finally meeting the referee’s.

 

“Ring the bell,” he managed through ragged breaths. There would be a match. All he needed was time to stand and time to focus.

 

The bell finally rang. The Beastslayer grasped for the ropes and pulled himself as upright as his back would allow. The Beast charged again, ramming Rollins into the corner and burying the massive shoulder into Seth’s midsection. Brock spun Seth back around and threw him across the ring with the first of what was likely a few dozen suplexes.

 

Seth couldn’t get the rotation in to land on his feet, the sheer distance of the throw put him briefly in the ropes. He rolled clear, shaking out cobwebs as he heard the rare sound of Brock Lesnar’s voice instead of Heyman’s, probably what few words Lesnar still knew how to say.

 

“Suplex City, Bitches!!” He shouted to the annoyance of the crowd. And to Seth himself. His determination only grew as he reached for ropes to brace himself and get back on his feet, hoping to finally get in some offense before Lesnar had anything else to say. His hand slipped from the ropes, staggering him the split second Brock needed to slide in for a second release German suplex across the ring.

 

“Is that all you got, ‘beastslayer’?!” Heyman snarked from ringside. “Is that really all you’ve got??”

 

Seth tried to ignore the barbs and get back to his feet. His elbow stung, his back felt weird, the stadium spun. He had no time to regain his bearings as Lesnar descended on him and flung him back across the ring a third time, nearly out of the ring.  He rolled from the ropes onto his left side, not risking his back on the mat from the damage done when he was flung over the German announce table three times. The mat shook from Lesnar hopping from foot to foot, actually allowing Seth a chance to breathe.

 

He tried once more to pull himself up with the ropes. He had his forearm on the middle rope when Lesnar approached him once more, grabbing him by the throat and the hair to control him to the center of the ring. In a terrifyingly swift and simple motion, Seth once again found himself on Brock’s shoulders, a very final F-5 incoming. Lesnar roared at the audience in defiance of their demand for his demise.

 

Seth’s eyes suddenly snapped open, and the arena and everything around him felt like it slowed down. He pushed free of Lesnar and landed on his feet. On its own tacit request, Seth’s thrall flashed to life around him, showing Seth everything he needed to know in that split second. Lesnar had the ref in front of him and stood flat-footed. Chad was close to the ropes. Seth braced a shoulder and charged, shoving Brock forward. The Beast stumbled into the referee. Seth could see that it wasn’t a clean hit on the ref, but enough for Patton to lose his balance and fall to the floor. Nodding, Seth remained on his knees, knowing that Brock would need an extra second to register everything that just happened before he could react and look for Rollins.

 

Those couple of seconds felt like a full minute to Rollins. Everything around Rollins almost stopped completely to him, his thrall erupting mostly to his extremities and his right eye. A flicker of blue and gold appeared in his vision, a bizarre magical heads-up display outlining everything that needed to happen from this instant. He was already in position for the first move, and every move after would be set to one spot. The movements started again as Lesnar turned to face him and Chad Patton fell off the apron.  He just needed to land this one blow and the rest of the plan would not change.

 

Seth swung as hard as he could and split Brock Lesnar’s uprights to the delight of the crowd. The Beast crumpled. It hurts EVERYONE there, he thought to himself as he heard the arena explode in cheers of gratitude. That one was for the fans, you part-time hack!

 

He could hear Paul Heyman screaming for, then at, the referee when the ref returned to the ring. Seth kicked Lesnar in the face to see if Lesnar’s hands would move away from his groin; they did not. The crowd’s demands made him reach up from the mat to grab the top rope with both hands to pull himself to his feet.

 

If I can stand, I can fight!

 

Again his thrall surged, a target entering Rollins’ vision. It locked on the back of Lesnar’s head. THAT was the target all along.

 

And if I can fight...

 

Seth charged and Stomped Lesnar’s face into the mat, sprawling into a corner. His thrall ordered him to get up. That stomp was for Dean, for dead-assing him at Wrestlemania 32!

 

He pulled himself to his feet again as Lesnar writhed in pain and confusion. Seth’s vision once again locked on where the first Stomp landed.

 

I can still fight, so I can still…

 

Again Rollins charged, wild-eyed and locked in on Lesnar’s head, Stomping it even harder into the mat before collapsing in the opposite corner. That was for Roman and for last year’s ‘Mania, you unsafe sack of crap!

 

The crowd celebrated even louder for the second stomp than the first. Seth pulled himself up quicker this time, their energies only fueling him to move faster. Lesnar finally recovered from the nutshot. The entire stadium was on its feet. Seth was on his feet. He glanced down to Heyman, who peeked over his hands covering most of his face. The Advocate had been scared speechless, seeing his golden goose grounded and still unable to stand.

 

Seth could feel a comforting warmth on his back; he guessed his tattoos were glowing just like Roman’s arm does. A slow smile spread across his face, his eyes once again finding that sweet spot on the back of Brock Lesnar’s neck.

 

...and this one’s for all the other Universal Champions… including ME!  

 

This time Seth lunged forward, leaping a good length of the ring. The entire world slowed down again for him as he sailed toward Lesnar’s head and neck, the past 2 years playing through his mind. Reclaiming his soul from the Authority. Rejoining his brothers through trials and travails.  Having to deal with Dean getting hurt. Having to almost re-learn everything under Finn with this strange new secondary world that he had been introduced. Fighting tooth and nail through last year’s Mania for the Intercontinental title and defending it all over the planet. Dealing with Roman being away and Dean’s subsequent freakout.  Fighting through blood, sweat, and tears shed in that ring for a business he loves more than anything else in the world, now culminating in the single most important STOMP he’ll ever make.

 

The instant Seth’s foot connected, time snapped back to normal speed. Brock’s head rang off the mat and boards, the sound lost in a fresh explosion of cheers. This even larger rush of thrall finally overpowered Seth to the point he simply fell across Lesnar’s carcass. He instinctively hooked one leg, his other arm flopping over Lesnar’s right arm, both legs slumped over Brock’s left arm. He closed his eyes and ignored Heyman as the referee counted three. Seth barely heard the bell.

 

He could barely hear the announcer over the chaos. He could barely hear the ref, kneeling only a foot or two away. He could only hear the crowd that only grew louder as Seth rolled to a seated position, then to all fours. Even MORE energy flowed into his body from the victory. 80,000 united voices, all shouting for him. His body soaked it in like a sponge, a ridiculous mix of triumph, relief and jubilation. The sheer intoxication from it all put him into slow motion.  He turned his head, only seeing the red, gold and black of the Universal title hovering before him in a fever dream that could not be any more real. He pushed back to a kneel, fixated on the belt. His music barely audible over the fans. He saw the ref pulling it away from him, coaxing Rollins to his feet as he only followed the motion of the belt moving up, then slowly away. Seth snatched it from the referee, holding the Universal title to his chest like he’d hold tight to his brothers. It was finally his. He’d avenged Roman, validated Dean and put himself at the very top of the mountain where he’d always imagined he could be.

 

But his imagination and all the preparation that his Shieldmates and Finn had helped him with  didn’t prepare him for this rush of power. He thrust the title into the air for the world to see, his battlecry mixing with the elation of an entire Universe around him! The celebratory gesture only brought MORE of that power to him. The cycle of his celebration and celebrating with the fans took away every last ounce of pain he had endured in his match.  He embraced the belt once more as he rolled clear of the ring, savoring the match - even the pre-match assault - as it replayed on the giant screen above the ramp. He grinned as his low blow went completely undetected by the referee. He mimicked the stomp motion for each of the Stomps in the replay. He proudly marched to the top of the ramp and held up the title for the world to see once more, his visage appearing on the giant monitor above.

 

“WE DID IT~!!” He proudly screamed to the heavens in triumph, raising the belt again before bringing it back down to stare into it. It was indeed his. He earned it. A Universe had been saved. With that balance restored to the wrestling side of things, Seth Freakin Rollins treated the crowd to his tradition of helicoptering the belt over his head in a frenzy reserved for mosh pits. He faced the crowd as the title landed neatly on his shoulder, the center plate on his back. The same place the entire company would be going forward.

 

WE did it… Roman… Dean… Finn... WE did it.

 

-------------------------------------------

Chapter Text

Bobby Lashley paced, swinging his arms and lost in thought. He stood by his Words on Monday; Finn Balor the man and Finn Balor the “Demon King” were the same man, just with some fancy facepaint and costuming. Same strength, same speed, and most importantly, the same size. Not someone like him. He turned to the mirror in his locker room, admiring his own sculpted build. Years of training, through military, MMA and professional wrestling gave him the look of a champion. No extra bells and whistles for this man!

He heard Lio Rush slide into the locker room, clutching a box and grinning from ear to ear. “MY man!” he declared. “I brought you something that oughta spice up our match tonight against Finn!”

Bobby rolled his eyes as Lio opened the box like a birthday gift. “Demon or not, let’s mess with him a little bit. I picked up these custom contacts for you!” He held up the smaller container. “Stare down this ‘demon’ with a good pair of Demon Eyes!”

The Intercontinental champion gave his hype man a skeptical look. “Contacts? This late in the prep you’re bringing me a pair of contacts?”

“Check em out! They’re a really cool shade of green and might make you look like some sort of -” Lio waggled his fingers in mock-fear - “supernatural creature.”

Bobby could only roll his eyes again. “Seriously, where did you get these?”

“Aleister Black offered em to us!” Lio said proudly. “He hates the Demon as much as you do.”

“Did he say why? I don’t think they’ve ever fought each other.”

Lio shrugged. “He told me they might help you look more like a ‘Demon hunter’ wearing em. He certainly doesn’t need em to look any scarier.”

Bobby didn’t wear contacts often, and wasn’t too sure about wearing them when only the first few rows would notice the difference. He also didn’t know Aleister Black very well, either. “Can we trust him on this?”

“Bobby! Do you think I would have taken em at all if I didn’t think they’d help?”

Lashley shrugged and opened the container. He could see that the lenses were a brilliant light green, bright enough to even show color to his normally dark eyes. They floated in a thick, clear fluid that didn’t look like typical saline. “You really think I need this extra help?”

It was Lio’s turn to shrug. “Can’t hurt, can it?”

“Fine.” Bobby turned to the mirror to put them on. “But if this doesn’t work, you’re not gonna be anywhere near me come Monday.”

 

--------------------------------------------------

 

 

Finn could at least watch the Universal Title match while Petra prepared Balor for their bout. All three did stop to celebrate Seth’s victory, especially at Balor’s request. “Pride,” Balor bragged, pointing to the celebrating Beastslayer at the top of the ramp.

“He should be proud,” Finn agreed as wave upon wave of thrall washed through the entire stadium. “I think everyone’s happy that this whole nightmare with that title is over with. Now it’s our turn.”

Petra shook her head at both of them. “If that’s the most prestigious title in the entire company, why was that first? And I don’t think I’ve seen it since we worked together here about three years ago.”

“That’s because Lesnar hasn’t been defending it since he won it,” Finn explained with a hint of frustration in his voice. “We won it that summer, but in both our determination to do that we kinda forgot how much my body could take.”

“Sorry,” Balor drooped. “Win. Take Red Belt first.”

“And that they can’t take away from either of us,” Finn absently rotated the repaired shoulder. “The celebration and thrall after the match made up for the lack of it during the match. They hated that belt, and many think the belt’s cursed because of what happened to me.”

“Curse with Beast,” Balor corrected.

Petra gently shushed the demon so she could continue removing his sigils. “He doesn’t have it anymore, that’s punishment enough.”

Balor growled but said nothing else. Petra saw the frustration in the Demon King’s eyes, not being the one to slay the Beast as he felt was his right. “With Seth Rollins as champion, perhaps you two should face off?”

“Hm? Seth?” Balor fidgeted a bit at the question. Finn tried to sit up, intrigued.

Her smile calmed Balor as she continued removing sigils. “He’s a Kingslayer and a BeastSlayer, right? And Finn as the Demon King slayer….” Balor growled at her. “Means that this ‘Kingslayer’ needs to try again versus the Demon King.”

Finn glanced up at the demon, who now focused on Petra. Finn sighed. “I never really apologized for not letting you help me at the Rumble, did I?”

“No,” the demon snorted, pointing back at himself. “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” he droned, rolling his eyes at Finn before steeling again. “YOU sorry?”

Finn struggled to sit up to make sure he could look the Demon King in the eye. The Irishman was usually better than this for apologies, likely blinded by Balor acting out so much because of how hard it is for him to say it in Words his human could understand. Petra glanced back at Finn, a little astounded that he hadn’t apologized.

“I - “

Finn’s apology disappeared under the sudden slam of the locker room door despite being bolted shut. “BALOR!!!” Roared a familiar Demon Hunter’s voice.

The three froze as Aleister Black stood in the doorway, visibly seething. He already had his thorn devil vest on, eyes and tattoos shimmering with a yellowish-green energy. Both fists trembled in anticipation, especially the Left, which already oozed its own sinister glow.

“Black!” Balor snarled as he attempted to stand. “Not welcome here. Not now.”

Petra could only secure what sigils she’d removed from the Demon King. The ceremony wasn’t complete and this disruption would only make her work more difficult. They couldn’t afford to be late for the match!

Black didn’t bother with pleasantries. “I know they’re all here, aren’t they?” He focused mostly on Balor. “You brought ‘soldiers’, didn’t you? You’ve spent the last three months recruiting-”

“Friends here!” Balor stood, Petra backing away. “My friends welcome -”

“Your ‘friends’ are here to sabotage this event,” Black accused, then pointing at Petra. “Is she summoning them?” He looked at the sigils that were pulled free like so many band-aids, piled neatly in a silver box.

“That’s not why I’m here,” Petra responded coolly. “You had almost a full week’s notice, this isn’t the best time - “

“It’s hard to catch a demon in hiding.” His gaze fell on Finn. “Your ‘human’ does a good job of -”

“His name is Finn!” the Demon King snarled, closing slowly on Black. “King of Kings said no. Leave.”

Black focused again on the Demon King. “Triple H has bigger things on his mind than you,” he retorted.

“Triple H also told me to let him know if you even tried to come in here,” Finn interjected as he slowly reached for his phone. “We’ve still got a ways to go to prepare for this match.”

Black didn’t turn his head. “Finn, all you had to do was actually let someone put paint on you while I keep another Cerberus-level incident from happening.”

“You still think he’s a danger?” Finn carefully scrolled to Triple H’s number.

“I think -”

“Thanks Jimmy,” came a voice from the hallway. Black hesitated. Petra glanced to Finn, who nodded mostly in relief. Balor didn’t back down from the Demon hunter, hoping that Ricochet was bringing backup.

The Gray Angel knocked on the closed door first. “Am I interrupting anything?”

“Bad timing, Ricochet,” Black hissed.

“Enter,” Balor overruled. “Here for Black?”

Ricochet pushed the door fully open, revealing his guest to the room. Finn dropped his phone. Balor’s tongue twitched. Black wheeled, somehow feeling outnumbered. “Well, him too. I brought a friend. I think this is a perfect time for her to be here.”

A female demon stood with Ricochet, her dark green eyes catching the light in the room. Her tendriled crown glimmered in an ever shifting rainbow of colors, washing out her silvery white skin. Her eyes ringed with multicolored ridges, distracting from the maw that slowly slathered about, just above the collar of the black shirt she wore bearing Finn’s rainbow logo. The color motif repeated down her arms and legs, a tangle of spectrums that would occasionally shift with a gesture of her arm or a twitch of her leg. “Askelbi,” she introduced herself, a mock-curtsy to Aleister Black.

“Az-Kell-bee?” Balor slowly repeated. “More welcome than Black.”

Ricochet gestured to her to enter the room. Petra hurried over to Askelbi and hugged her. “You’re only proving my point,” Black accused the Gray Angel.

“At least I was actually looking for demons in the crowd,” Ricochet shot back. “You completely missed that Mawashi and Ekwensu are here, along with a couple of others. I brought her back here alone because she hadn’t met Balor yet.”

Black glared back and forth between Balor and Ricochet. “So when does the uprising start?” His Left hand started to glow again. He turned his gaze to Askelbi, who motioned Petra to safety.

“King of Kings said no,” Balor repeated. “No war. You start one?”

Black’s expression barely changed, a touch of bemusement in his voice. “At least I can claim it was your idea, now.”

Askelbi did not flinch under the Demon hunter’s gaze or even his implication. Her maw stretched slightly as the tongue tasted the air around her. “The Gray Angel did warn me,” she informed Black, “and I am here to tell my King that you do not carry Wrath or Anger into your vendetta.” Her tongue curled a little in curiosity. “And he was right. My King, you are not powerless to this Hunter.”

“But he is,” Aleister countered, “which is why he needed more demons for his army.” Aleister’s expression could barely darken further. “Triple H said I couldn’t do anything to Balor, perhaps you’d take a magic bullet for him?” He slowly raised his Left Hand. Askelbi did not flinch.

“Not Wrath?” Balor blinked at the she-demon. “Explain.”

Black tried to cut her off. “Nothing to explain.”

“Your crusade is not one of defending this company,” she raised her own hand. “It’s Hatred. Hatred of demons. You Hate me though you’ve only just seen me.”

Aleister paused as she began to glow. “How does a Demon Hunter’s Hatred taste?” She continued. “And should Balor supp on your Anger?”

The Demon King blinked, astounded that in all this, Black’s Anger was nowhere near as strong as he had let on. Black flat-out hated demons of all walks and what little Anger that was there barely stirred Balor’s senses.  Finn continued to watch, fascinated as he could see the Demon Hunter’s expression softening in the presence of Askelbi’s aura.

Her monstrous tongue sampled the air before her, quivering beneath her outstretched arm. “Hate. It’s definitely hate that motivates you, not the altruism you’ve proclaimed, even to your tag team partner.”

“You.. know… nothing,” Black stammered.

“Oh, SHE knows,” Ricochet corrected his tag team partner. And deep down, Ricochet knew as well.

Balor tilted his head as his own maw sampled the increasing Anger in the room. “Anger. Hate. You eat… hate?”

Askelbi squeezed her eyes at Balor in catlike glee. “His Hate is plentiful,” she sighed into her sampling. “And his energies should be put to better use.” She lowered her hand slightly, gesturing from Black to Balor. “Apologize.”

“Apologize for doing my job?” Black protested coldly. “I - “

“Hunt, not Hate,” Balor interrupted again. Now he could taste Aleister’s Anger. “Hate Eater Right. You knew of Others. Knew more demons.”

“Apologize,” Askelbi repeated a little more forcefully.

“I have nothing to apologize for,” Black insisted. “A Demon King possesses a man, and can use his power and influence to take over an entire dimension if he chose. Undertaker got pretty far - a half-demon who opened gateways for Cerberus himself to try to claim the living realm. What is YOUR plan, Balor?”

“Plan?” Balor repeated. “Plan…” The Demon King gathered himself and took a very deep breath. His maw calmed for a moment as all eyes in the room fell to him.

“Plan: To learn. I po-sess Finn, he said yes. We share. I learn. I ex-peer-ee-ance. Seek victory. Feed on Sin. Feed on Thrall. Serve King of Kings. I do not rule here. Demon Hunter is wrong. You serve King of Kings. WE serve King of Kings,” Balor pointed around the room. “Finn is my Brother, my ally,” he gestured to the Irishman. “We rely on each other.”

Finn sat up, transfixed at Balor’s assembling of Words. The Demon King indeed had listened, and had learned.

“Learn,” Balor continued, opening one hand. “Then trade,” he opened the other, cupping both of his clawed hands just over his maw. “Share. Power. Learn. Share.” He closed both hands. “Together.”

Only now did Finn speak up. “Balor and I are Twin Bonded, and you were aware of that. If we had wanted to take over the living world, don’t you think we would have done that by now?”

Ricochet agreed. “And while I’m sure he’s made a suggestion here and there about possessing others, he’s never abused that ability. All he’s done is trash locker rooms. He’s never hurt anyone at the level he COULD hurt someone.”

Balor’s stance shifted, a faint breeze stirring in the room. “Still want war? War of nothing?” He could taste the rising Anger of Black, though said Anger turned in on itself.

“Apologize,” Askelbi said a third time. Aleister finally lowered his head, hands to his hips and aura fading.

“And if I refuse…?” Black growled.

“Then King of Kings learn,” Balor tilted his head slightly to Finn, who had picked up his phone.

Black looked over the room as he weighed his options. Balor clearly had the upper hand here with Triple H’s edict in place and only a text away. Askelbi called out his vendetta and exposed why Balor couldn’t feed off him. Ricochet had no interest in fighting and with their own match coming up, it was energy that could not be wasted. He reluctantly raised his arms in surrender.

“Words!” Balor ordered.

“I apologize!” Aleister reflexively shot back.

Balor wasn’t placated. “Sorry?”

Black nodded, softening his tone and lowering his head. “I’m sorry.”

Ricochet finally approached his tag team partner, placing one hand carefully between the spines of the vest. “We need to get ready.”

Black’s absent nod enough for Balor to relax his stance. The tag team departed without another word, Ricochet offering the room a relieved look before closing the door behind him.

Petra slowly exhaled as the room overall relaxed. “So is it safe to continue…?”

Finn slowly sat up, phone still in his hands. “I still think Triple H should know -”

“No,” Balor stopped Finn. “Face to face. King to King of Kings.”

Askelbi offered Balor a satisfied grin from her maw. “So what of me, King?”

“Find others, bring here,” he told the she-demon. He opened the locker room door. “JIMMY!”

Finn continued to watch this in amazement. He almost forgot to hide when security came for Askelbi.

“Two others,” he explained to the guard. “Mawashi. Ekwensu. Bring here.”

“We’re going to walk Balor to the ramp,” she explained. Jimmy nodded and escorted her back through backstage. The Demon King carefully closed the door and turned back to Finn and Petra.

“Good Words?” Balor asked them both. A proud smile crossed his face as his maw twitched anew. He glanced down at Finn, his human’s infectious grin tinged with surprise and satisfaction. “Finn. Brother.” He offered a hand.

Petra cleared her throat. “There’s still some Ceremony to finish. There’s still plenty of time until the match.”

Finn still clasped Balor’s hand. “Brother. And yes, those were very good Words. Did you mean them?”

“Every. Fucking. Word.”

Finn laughed, bringing his other hand up. “So tonight isn’t just you, then?”

Balor replied with a slow nod of respect, eyes glinting in anticipation. “Together. We both win.”

“Together,” The Irishman agreed. Balor then settled back with Petra to finish the Ceremony.


---------------------------------------------------

 

Bobby Lashley’s eyes felt weird from the contacts that Lio had brought him. Maybe it was just a trick of all the lights, maybe it was the contacts themselves, but backstage didn’t feel as dark. The grand lights of Mania were blindingly bright, giving him trouble concentrating on just marching to the ring. Other lights, other sights on the edge of his vision bothered him as he marched.

He’d been told there were a lot of fans in costume, and knew of fans who would put LED kits in their signs. These lights seemed different tonight. Again, was it the contacts? The sheer overload of light and imagery twisted his focus, trying to draw him away from the task at hand. Lio’s cheering and encouragement lost in the din of the crowd. He barely relaxed as he climbed down from the corner turnbuckle to hand the belt over to the referee.

It was indeed a sharp contrast to the jubilant parade backstage as Lashley’s music echoed through backstage; for a Demon King had his “army” of subjects carrying him on their shoulders, cheering along and singing an infernal dirge with the energy of a sports song. Finn took in the ride, unable to understand the song that Balor, Askelbi, Mawashi and Ekwensu sang, but it felt more they celebrated a victory soon to come. They all felt that “Not Beast” (one of the few things they would say in human tongue as they sang) was not worthy of the time of the Demon King himself, and perhaps feel this entire match a folly for the poor human waiting in the ring for him. For once, Finn felt at a loss for Words and could only ride the emotions of the group.

 

 

Their King wrapped himself in a black and red drape, his crown blowing in the breeze of their brisk march. They settled him in the bucket of a cherry picker for his entrance, waving to him as he was raised in the near-darkness of the arena as all but some pulsing red lights had shut off for the moment. The dark chords, emulating the beating heart of Balor, signaled his arrival as the three others cheered once more and hurried back to their seats with Ekwensu’s help.

They could see the swirls of a weakening dimensional barrier in the skies, an illusion lost on most of the humans in attendance. Askelbi raised her hands to reach for the edges of the dimension as Mawashi fidgeted through the onslaught of magic and thrall rushing through the horde of humans and Others who chose this night to gather.

White laser lights and red spotlights flooded the stage, where Balor looked like stood on a cloud. He spread his arms, showing the cape that adorned him. The Demon King soaked in all the adulation, the Envy, the Lust and Idolatry of those assembled, charging him further with energies that only reinforced his status. Impatient of the machine that held him aloft, he jumped the last few feet to put himself in proper position for the first of many Thrall-gathering poses. He paused at the top of the ramp, otherworldly winds blowing the tendrils of his crown and his drape to only increase the spectacle.

He cast aside the finery as he strode down the long ramp, prowling a short distance and lock glances here and there with the fans on either side of the ramp. This a tacit order to them, reminding them he would once again rise to the crescendo of the music and the glowing white lights would banish all shadows, leaving him alone in the light. As he stood once more and the lights glared down, a shock of pyro erupted from the top of the stadium, startling them both briefly. A clumsy glance back told them both what had happened.

Not an attack, Balor commented in their joined minds. Finn found amusement in the observation, with no time to dwell. They turned once more to the ring, prowling by the stairs, across the apron, then to a corner with another triumphant pose, thrall raining down on the ring and on the physical body of a Man and a Demon. Together they prowled the ring and scared the referee before their ice-blue eyes locked on the glowing green contacts that Bobby wore.

Lashley slowed in his warm up, trying to process what stood across the ring from him. He could see Finn clear as day, but something around him- not just the elaborate paint - tinged his vision. A black and red aura. A golden Liberty crown turned into a spiked collar, somehow branded into ruptured skin around the human neck. The piercing gaze of the Demon King warned Lashley only once of what he truly faced. If from confusion or fear, Bobby Lashley started the match in slow motion as Balor began his onslaught.

Balor battered Lashley and flung him to the floor in quick succession. He cleared the top rope to keep Bobby down, the Demon King landing on his feet and chasing Lio Rush away from interfering.

“Try me, Tiny Dog!” he snarled in Infernal before turning his attentions back to Bobby.

Lashley recovered from the initial onslaught, finally getting his footing to pursue Balor. He flung Finn around a few times to slow the momentum and convince himself that there only was a human there. He hefted his opponent for a delay suplex but could not keep his balance. Something different about the weight of his opponent from previous encounters, enough to notice yet not enough time to steady himself, both falling to the mat once, twice to Balor’s surprise and Bobby’s frustration.

Lashley finally slowed the Demon King’s progress and put him to the floor, where Lio taunted incessantly. Finn himself was dazed from Bobby’s flurry of offense, Balor trying to pull his human back together to survive the next barrage. Lio’s distraction allowed Bobby to once again focus on his opponent, seeing the fallen body flickering back and forth from human to demon. Could Lio see that? He didn’t seem to react to it. Without the crown or cape Bobby could see the deepened muscle lines, the brilliant fresco of a demon’s face painted on their back. There’d be no time to admire or analyze; he had to stay on the offensive if he wanted to keep them down.

Scooping up the Demon from the ground, Bobby rammed his opponent into the guard wall, leaving him breathless. He nodded to Lio and backed up, giving himself a good running headstart on tackling Finn Balor through the barricade.

Both managed the few seconds to recover. Thrall-boosted reflexes caught Bobby off-guard with a swiftly executed Sling Blade, the Demon King landing on his feet and ready to further pursue Lio.

Tiny dog!! Balor demanded.

No, Bobby first, Finn argued. The body turned back to dropkick Bobby back into the guard wall.

Not Beast, Balor corrected. He has no Name, I take that and his white belt!

The statement confused Finn briefly - taking the title from Bobby, sure. Taking his name was a question for later. They hauled Lashley’s carcass back into the ring, ready to confirm the Demon King’s statement. Hesitating only a moment, they started the climb up, only to see Lio leaping onto the apron.

Tiny dog!!!! Balor lunged after Lio. The Hype man cut his losses and jumped clear, wanting nothing to do with the Demon King. Lio backpedaled and taunted to keep their attention long enough for Bobby to recover.

Lashley blinked groggily at the man standing on the apron. Still perplexed at the odd double image he continued to see, he stumbled forward, accelerating as he zeroed in between the two images and spearing them clear off the apron. Bobby landed awkwardly, shoulder and knee stinging from the hard landing. He locked on Finn Balor again, trying to get up before him.

Finn Balor still had fight in him. Bobby slung his opponent back in the ring and rolled in right after. Bobby knew he had to stay on Finn Balor to keep him down long enough for a pinfall. Pushing to a crouch, he left his opponent no time to breathe with a punishing Spear, leaving Finn Balor flat on the mat.

Not Roman! Balor growled. Finn didn’t answer as Lashley tried to cover them for a win. Again they powered out.

“What… ARE… you?” Bobby rasped in panic. His opponent refused to answer, simply heaving for air and trying to keep one shoulder off the mat. Bobby couldn’t wait for answers, gathering Finn Balor from the mat and hoisting him up for a powerbomb.

Corey Graves called from the main table. “This is that otherworldly inspiration, it’s somehow - Finn draws from the Demon. I don’t understand it, no one does but Finn Balor. But right now, the Demon is still in this fight!”

Once Bobby had Finn up on his shoulders, Finn staggered him with the point of his elbow. Lashley’s legs wobbled and his grip loosened. Once back to his feet, Balor imitated the powerbomb setup, growling as his hands locked around Bobby’s waist.

This won’t work, Finn thought as they struggled to lift Lashley.

Try! Balor thought back angrily.

With a snarl Balor tried to lift Lashley off the ground. The All Mighty resisted, hiding a smirk from the Demon King. Finn loosened the hold and drove his knees into Lashley’s massive chest. Again Balor took over, gripping around the waist and demanding Lashley to give in. The larger man shifted his footing and again refused to be lifted.

Again! the frustrated seething of Balor chilled his human.

Together, then, he responded as firmly as he could muster.

This time they loosened their grip and kicked Lashley in the face, staggering the larger man from the stronger blows smashing into his face and clouding his vision. Only then did Finn Balor brace once more.

Together.

Man and Demon, voices and hearts truly united for the first time in years, bracing to pull the Intercontinental Champion off the ground. The Demon King’s strength, boosted further with the thrall of 80,000 fans and perhaps a touch of magic from other Demons in the crowd, braced the entire body to lift a man 100 pounds heavier off his feet and over their heads. The awe and surprise from the crowd only bolstered their attempt, raising Lashley high enough to drive all of the wind out of his lungs with the landing. The crowd exploded with cheers, enough for Finn Balor to pause and soak in that moment. Gazes of all assembled to see such spectacle filled both their hearts with newfound Pride.  

The Demon’s distractions nearly cost them. Finn urged him to finish climbing the ropes.

Coudegrah, Finn coaxed. In a fluid motion they stood atop the corner turnbuckle, leaping deliberately to stab Bobby Lashley in the heart with the double stomp that reduced Lio Rush to only shouting his meal ticket’s name as the one the world knew as Finn Balor covered the unmoving carcass in victory.

Together.

They could share the celebration. They could share the belt. They could embrace the the crowd around them.


Together. As Seth Rollins had said of his victory, WE did it.

 

Chapter Text

The night after Wrestlemania ranked as one of the loudest shows of the year. Fans still riding the high of Sunday crowded into the Barclays Center to celebrate along with Seth Rollins, Becky Lynch and - as a surprise to all - Kofi Kingston, all new top champions of WWE. The celebrations shook the building to its foundations. Finn listened to the crowd from the comfort of his locker room, still a little worn out from the mania of Mania.

Balor was too restless for that. Even after spending time with his Demon kin after Finn fell asleep, he still needed to wander. He soaked in the Pride of all the new champions and the thrall of a hyperactive crowd. He’d normally be content sitting with Finn watching things unfold through that tiny window until he heard one of the humans at the table make an announcement regarding one of his closer friends in this bizarre human business.

“...and tonight, it is Dean Ambrose’s last match in WWE! But standing in front of the Lunatic Fringe - the certifiable badass and former Intercontinental Champion, Bobby Lashley, tonight!”

He’d teleported from the locker room to find Dean. This was not their deal. Dean promised him in Philadelphia that he would stay if he spotted Balor in the crowd. Balor KNEW Dean had seen Mawashi and thought it was him. That’s the ONLY way this would work. Would Dean know the difference now? Maybe the parade before his match last night was a bad idea.

Balor had heard many rumblings throughout the day. Something about some “shakeup” that Finn seemed excited for. Word that Aliester Black and Ricochet may be splitting up; he wondered if Ricochet reported what happened to the King of Kings. The news about Ambrose bothered him the most. Dean talked about it over the last couple of months but why would he leave now? His brothers are here. Roman is healthy. Seth is a champion. Dean must stay.

Slipping through the shadows and slowly climbing deeper and deeper into the arena, he finally found Dean in another dark, formerly locked office, taping his hands and talking to himself. The Cincy native didn’t even look up as Balor’s eyes opened in the shadows, watching him warm up, lost in his own thoughts.

“Dean.”

Ambrose took a few more swings before his arms dropped to his sides. “Just tell me you came by yourself.”

“Alone,” Balor replied as he slipped out of the shadow. “Why?”

“Why what?” Dean’s brusque retort. “Why am I leaving? Why am I way down here? There’s a lot to that question, buddy.”

“Why not stay?” Balor clarified. He took another step closer, wondering why Dean had suddenly become so cold.

“You lied to me," Dean accused. He took his own step forward, pointing at Balor in a mix of anger and pain. "You know that I’ve never lied to you- about anything! I’ve never blabbed on you! I’ve never outed you to anyone else on the roster - hell, I’d raise my fist to an angel* before I would to you! So tell me - what WAS that in Philadelphia? That wasn’t you!”

If Balor’s blackened skin could pale, it would have.

“I thought it was you right then,” Ambrose continued, “but something didn’t add up. All that one did was cheer on like any other fan. You would have done something, something else - something that would just confirmed all the noise in my head that night. But that WASN'T you, man. That was some other demon you talked into taking your place. I went back and looked. Once I knew it wasn’t you, I waited. Waited for you to apologize! Did you really think I wouldn’t notice?”

Internally Balor reeled from the hurt in Dean’s voice. “Thought,” Balor tried to explain, “Thought I’d trick you. Demons do this.” He offered a hand. “Sorry?”

“Are you?” Dean leered. “Are you really, really sorry?”

“I’m FUCKING sorry!” Balor insisted. “Now stay!”

Only then did Dean crack a smile. “After I heard about Aleister Black, I’m sorry I didn’t help you. So I guess we’re even. But I’m still not staying.”

“But -” Balor slunk closer, reaching for Dean’s arm.

“Nope,” Ambrose easily dodged the swing.

“But-”

Dean slipped up to Balor and ran both hands through the crown. “‘But’ nothing!” he mock-growled. The tendrils of the crown pulled at his fingers and the tape to no avail.

“But I am sorry,” Balor lowered his head, then lowered to a kneel. “Please. Stay. For Seth. For Roman. For Finn. For Ren-ae.” He didn’t look up, putting his hands to the ground and giving Dean the deepest ceremonial bow he could muster without falling through the floor. “Stay,” he repeated, “For me…?”

Silence. The room filled with a strange calm that had washed away Dean’s tension and Balor’s worry. Ambrose lowered his guard at the bow. He had seen that in Japan shows; that bow one given to a perceived superior or as a plea for mercy. Why would a Demon King bow to a scumbag like him? And did the Demon King understand what he meant in the gesture? Something in Dean melted, and he slowly knelt down to put a much gentler hand in the crown.

“Stop that,” he said gently. “I have to do this. This place is in good hands now. Roman’s healthy and wants more than just titles. Seth kept his promise to me despite all the distractions and got Lesnar back for the entire Shield. You didn’t owe me anything but an apology and you’re giving me way too much of one. Guess that means you’re actually sorry.” He felt Balor’s head nod but it did not raise. “I don’t know if I could explain it good enough for you man. But here- look at me.” Dean tugged at the crown with the order.

Balor’s head slowly rose, his blue eyes tinged with a moist, molten substance. “You’ll come back..?” Balor whispered.

Dean stood up so his eyes wouldn’t get tinged as well. “I’m gonna make you un-learn a Word. Get up man, seeing you on your knees is embarrassing. Especially since you’re not getting paid for it.”

The joke lost on the Demon King as he stood. Dean paced for a moment, fist smacking deep to palm. He stopped short, eye to eye. “The word you’ll stop using is ‘forever’. I don’t think you’ve ever used it before. Don’t start.”

“For...ever?” Balor knew Finn used a similar Word or Words. “For… everyone?”

“No, just ‘for-ever’. Because nothin is. Me being gone isn’t ‘forever’ and don’t make it out to be.”

Balor nodded in confirmation. “Not say it again.”

Only now did a faint smile appear on Dean’s face. “There. Everything here will be fine. Thanks for looking out for me. Keep looking out for Finn. Especially keep looking out for Seth.”

“Thank you,” Balor responded, “for you are friend. Always.” Again he reached out with an open hand.

Dean shook his head no, clasping his right fist and pulling it up close to his own face. Balor recognized the gesture immediately, freezing in place as Dean Ambrose snapped that right fist straight out in the Demon King's direction.

Balor’s eyes widened; Dean is allowing him THAT fist bump? Only Roman and Seth were allowed to do this. Not even the Queen of Queens had this permission. All others did it in mockery! Both of his hands came up in a genuine panic. “I - no, I cannot-”

“Don’t tell annie-one that we did this,” Dean said in a strong imitation of Balor’s cadence. “Our secret. But doing this means you’re making an Oath. Demons break promises.”

Balor closed his right fist, looking at Dean’s. “Oath,” he agreed.

"You can't break this one now," Dean warned, keeping the fist forward. "You break this, it's not just to me. It's to Seth and Roman. This Oath DOESN'T break. And if it does, brotha, you're gonna have more than one problem coming down on that fancy headdress."

Balor looked again to his own fist before looking once more at Dean's. They met eyes, and Dean could see the awe and fear in Balor's. This made him grin a little more; this Demon King, who could shower him with a thousand curses and steal his soul, balking at a simple fist bump? But Dean knew, that Balor knew, this wasn't just any fist bump.

"Oath," Balor confirmed as his fist tamped against Dean's. 

Ambrose nodded, satisfied. “Okay. Now just like I’ve told my brothers, I’m telling you - trust my actions, don’t ask any more questions. Got that?”

The Demon King nodded, still absently looking at his fist and the honor granted him. He looked up again to Dean, who had slipped to the door while Balor had pondered.

“See you down the road, compadre.” Dean gave a little wave of his hand before heading upstairs for his match.

Balor looked to his fist again. “Dean,” he addressed the clasped appendage. He stood alone, staring at his hand in silent awe.

 

*Dean assaulted Ali in “Demons and Justice”, but never had fought Finn or Balor.

-------------------------------------------------

Finn didn’t even encounter Balor until after a title defense against the returning Sami Zayn. He found the demon sitting in their locker room, staring at the monitor absently. Finn could feel an odd confusion and melancholy from him, seated with his shoulders slumped and crown wilting with his mood.

“Sad that you missed Dean?” Finn cautiously began. The demon’s head slowly shook in the negative.

“Saw before match. Did not see match. Dean lost?” the overall mood backstage had been quiet and sad, a much different tone from the start of the show. It had perked up a little bit with Sami’s return and his match with Finn, but still a gloomy undercurrent washed through backstage. Balor felt it and knew that Finn felt it. He finally turned his head a little to look over a shoulder to Finn. “Dean lost?” he asked again.

Finn pondered the question; even having seen what happened, there wasn’t a ready answer. “Bobby insulted Renee,” Finn began. “Dean climbed out of the ring and beat up Lashley and Lio. It wasn’t enough and Dean went through the announce table.” As he explained this, a flash of realization struck him. “But the bell never rang.”

“No bell? Then… no match?” Balor leapt for the door. “No match. Dean no last match. Stay? Dean stay??”

“Dunno if he’s here, I can ask-”

“Jimmy!” The Demon King ordered.

Finn flagged down a security guard, who found one of the Production Assistants. Both confirmed that Dean Ambrose had left the building. Balor overheard it all. He started to sulk, thinking he didn’t get to say goodbye.

“No match,” he said aloud. “No goodbye. No forever. No last match.” he looked to Finn.

“The bell never rang,” Finn repeated. “So no last match.”

A sudden smile appeared on Balor's face and maw. “Dean trick EVERYONE! Even Not Beast and Tiny Dog! A Trick!!” Balor suddenly began laughing and dancing. “Dean Trick Me! Dean trick Not Beast! Dean trick Tiny Dog! Dean Trick EVERYONE!!” He shouted again and again, laughing harder each time. He danced around Finn a few times, the Words coming easier and easier to him. Finn could only shake his head as the Demon danced, happier for this trick played on him that the shiny belt they’d won the previous evening.

“And?” Finn finally tried to interrupt the bizarre celebration. Balor paused in mid-dance, stare turning back to the human.

Balor comically composed himself, standing at near attention before Finn. “Dean will come back. Will have Words for him. My Words and my Oath.” He put a hand on Finn’s shoulder. “We work together. We help each other. We help Seth. We help Roman. For Dean. For Us.”

“Your Oath?” Finn found that Word choice curious.

“Dean is right. Demons break promises. Dean learned, too. Oaths, I cannot break. We,” gesturing to himself and Finn, “Know that Word a long, long time.”

“We do,” Finn agreed, putting a hand to Balor’s shoulder. “Together. An Oath.”

No other Words needed to be spoken.