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Unexpected Parenthood

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 “Is this your son?” Hunter barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the perfectly nice young girl behind the counter.

“No, I’m just watching him,” he sighed. He handed the money to her and picked up the shopping bags with his other hand. “C’mon squirt.” He got all the way to the exit door before he realised the kid wasn’t following him. Hunter turned on one heel, and raised an eyebrow at the kid still standing at the checkout.

“I’m ten,” Seth informed him. “I’m not a squirt.” Hunter merely pointed at the door, and with a sigh and a huff worthy of the teenager Hunter prayed he would never have to see, Seth stormed through the exit door. Hunter sighed and forced himself to relax his shoulders before heading out of the shop behind Seth.

“I bet Shawn Michaels wouldn’t say something like that,” Seth complained. Hunter hit the automatic locks on his keyring, and swung the door open.

“In,” he said. Seth crossed his arms and stayed put.

“IN!” Hunter barked, and to his relief, Seth clambered in. He engaged the child safety lock before he shut the door, taking a second to slump against the back of the car away from small eyes. He took a deep breath, before the thumping on the window beside him startled him. He leapt away from the van to spy the small child out of his seat and shooting him a cheeky grin.

“We ever gonna move this car old man?” Seth taunted, in response to which Hunter set his jaw and headed for the driver’s door.

“Buckle up,” he demanded as he slid behind the wheel. Seth didn’t move. “Get back in your seat and buckle up!” Seth flinched slightly at the tone but still didn’t move.

“The sooner you buckle up, the sooner we can move,” Hunter pointed out, making an effort to sound less intimidating. He didn’t want to scare the kid, just to make him do as he was told. It seemed the last ditch attempt had worked, as Seth climbed back into his seat and buckled himself in without another word.

 Hunter ushered Seth into the arena, one hand clamped firmly on his shoulder to stop him from running off. Using his grip to steer Seth through the crowds of techs milling around, he guided the two of them towards the back of the arena and towards his office. He opened the door and pushed Seth inside in front of him.

“Honey did you find out what…” Steph trailed off as she looked up from the piles of paperwork on their desk. Hunter shut the door behind him, and leant down to peck her lips gently.

“Don’t ask,” he sighed.

“You know I have to,” Steph said, the corner of her mouth twitching up as she restrained her grin.

“The security guard that called me couldn’t tell me,” Hunter told her, dropping into the chair opposite their desk. “All they figured out was that Seth touched something that he wasn’t meant to, and he turned up like this.” He motioned to the couch behind him without looking back.

“Like what honey?” Steph inquired, and motioned to the open office door. Hunter cursed and leapt up, rushing out the door. Stephanie finally gave into the urge to giggle and returned to her paperwork.

 Hunter jogged down the hallway, techs jumping out of his way at the look on his face.

“You looking for your kid?” one of them asked.

“He’s not my kid,” Hunter growled, pleased when the young man jumped and ran off, only to realise a moment later that he could have asked said tech where Seth had run off to. He slowed his pace, looking left and right for the kid, muttering creative insults and threats under his breath.

“Not my kid,” he called to one of the young women glaring at him. And then to the next. And the next. Eventually he gave up trying to justify himself as he became more frantic in his efforts to find the kid he was charged with. A sharp whistle drew his attention, and he spun on his heel to spy Nattie leaning in the doorway to the women’s locker room.

“Looking for something Hunter?” she asked, raising an eyebrow at him. “Maybe something that’s about 5 foot tall, dark hair, suspiciously same nose as you?” Hunter forced himself to take a deep breath before he walked towards her.

“He’s not mine Natalya,” he ground out from between clenched teeth.

“Oh I know,” she said, one shoulder rising in a shrug. “Seeing as how he’s about ten, and you would have had to cheat on Steph to have him. And well honestly, we all know how that would have turned out for you.” Hunter felt some of the tension in his shoulders leave his body at her words, not having realised how much people assuming he had cheated on his wife had actually bothered him.

“However, in the case that you are looking for him, he's in there,” she continued, hiking a thumb at the open doorway behind him. “Pretty sure the girls adopted him.” Hunter breathed a sigh of relief and stepped closer.

“Seth?” he called.

“Thank god,” came the muffled voice from inside the room. Seth appeared behind Natalya’s legs, looking the most disgruntled Hunter had ever seen him. “Can we go now?” Nattie laughed and moved out of the way, letting the kid out of the room. Hunter placed his hand back on Seth's shoulder, and with his grip much softer now that Seth was no longer actively resisting, began to lead the way back to his and Stephanie’s office.

“Girls are crazy,” Seth announced, disgust clear in his voice. Hunter grinned and nodded.

“Sure are kid,” he agreed.

 “How do you think he’s coping with this?” Stephanie asked, perching on the arm of the couch towards the end of the show. “Does he remember anything?” Hunter looked down at the pre-teen, sound asleep with his head pillowed on Hunters thigh.

“He remembers people,” he said gruffly. “Doesn’t seem to have a clue how he knows them. Or when he met them. He doesn’t seem to be upset that he’s ten and his parents aren’t here, so maybe a part of him knows that he's not really ten.”

“Or, maybe he would rather be with one of his wrestling idols than at home,” Steph suggested. Hunter nodded slowly and ran his fingers through his charges hair. As much as Seth was a pain in his ass sometimes – whether he was big or small – he was a sweet guy underneath, and even though he cause trouble constantly you couldn’t help but want to take care of him.

 After a few days of miniature Seth, Hunter decided that if they were going to be dealing with this situation much longer, then they needed extra supplies beyond the few changes of clothes that he had organised after picking Seth up from the museum. As a result, he and Seth headed out to the local shopping mall before they headed back to Connecticut. Stephanie had flown home the day before to prepare their spare room, and he and Seth were only hours away from reaching home. Since that first day, there had been a few more escape attempts, and many more battles over  food, bed and the blasted seat belt that had plagued their first day together. Hunter still couldn’t help but chuckle over the incident with Roman and Dean in the hallway of the arena the night before.

“Let’s go Seth!” he demanded, crossing his arms from where he leant against the wall. “I need to get into the ring in five, and you need to be well within arm’s reach where you can’t get into trouble.” Seth lay sprawled out on the floor, still refusing to move, and mumbling under his breath about how Shawn wouldn’t make him move and wouldn’t drag him around like Hunter insisted on doing. In reality Hunter just wanted him backstage with one of the Divas. Since that first night, whenever Seth made a run for it around the arena he would inevitably be found by one of the girls and Hunter could collect him from the Divas locker room at his leisure. As long as Hunter didn’t stick him with Summer or the Bella’s, who Seth complained all had an odd preoccupation with messing with his hair and trying to plaster makeup on his face, he seemed to bear it with grace. Except when Hunter really needed him to. Fed up with arguing with the pre-teen, Hunter hooked an arm around Seth's waist and the other under his armpits and strode towards the curtain. Halfway there, he encountered Roman and Dean leaning against the wall chatting.

“Hey guys, wanna babysit?” Hunter asked, grunting as Seth's squirming drove an elbow into his stomach. Both the guys looked straight at him and began backing away.

“C’mon, Roman you’ve got a kid! You gotta know how to deal with this!” Hunter called, chuckling in pleasure at the way the guys both took off running at his words.

“Alright brat, stay here,” Hunter commanded as he dropped Seth into a chair in between Nattie and Naomi. “Behave.” With those words, he had straightened his suit and headed out to do his job – blissfully unaware of the mischief that Seth had proceeded to get into backstage.

Hunter quickly ushered Seth into the mall, holding his hand tightly. With Seth resisting every step of the way, Hunter got him appropriately sized clothes and toiletries. He paid for his items and turned around to find Seth gone. He sighed and headed out into the mall, determined to find the runaway child. Hunter walked a few shops down, finally spotting the signature blonde streak in Seth's hair on the child standing in front of the toy store. Hunter walked up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Seth flinched away and turned to stare up at Hunter defiantly.

“You want something from in here?” Hunter asked, jerking his head towards the store. Seth clenched his teeth, something that Hunter knew from experience from his older self meant that he was too proud to admit to wanting something. Hunter started walking towards the store, trusting the sounds of footsteps following him to mean that Seth was joining him in the store. Seth shyly slid his hand into Hunters, and together they wandered around the store. For once, Seth was sticking close to Hunter, and Hunter was relieved enough that he didn’t mind nor resist when Seth dragged him over to the wall of stuffed toys. He reached out hesitantly for one of the dogs before pulling his hand back quickly.

“This one?” Hunter asked, gently picking up the stuffed Yorkie. Seth looked away, but the squeeze of his hand told Hunter that he was right. Holding the Yorkie in his hand, Hunter headed up to the till and paid without a fuss, refusing a bag when the young man behind the counter offered and handing it straight to Seth instead.

“Such a cutie your son is,” the cashier told him.

“He’s not my…oh forget it,” Hunter said, shaking his head and leading the way out of the store. Seth clung to the stuffed toy the whole way back to the car, and in contrast to the past few days, climbed in and buckled up without a fuss. Hunter got in the driver’s seat and pulled out of his parking spot, pointing the car towards home.

Hunter pulled into the driveway, and had just managed to get his car parked before Steph came out of the house to greet them. He climbed out of the car, and before he had shut his door he put his finger to his lips to signal her to stay quiet. Together they peeked in the back seat through the window, where Seth was sound asleep, head pillowed on the Yorkie. 

“Aww!” Steph cooed, smiling at the picture that the child made in the car. “Why the Yorkie?”

“He picked it,” Hunter said with a shrug. “I Think he's got a Yorkie at home, doesn’t he?”

“You're right, he dotes on that animal,” Stephanie agreed. As gently as and as quietly as possible Hunter got Seth out of the car, managing to do it with the minimum of fuss from Seth, and only disturbing him  a little. Seeing as how it was already late, he tucked Seth into the spare bed and made sure he was comfortable before collecting their bags out of the car, and heading to bed himself.

 After three days of the smaller, pre-teen Seth sleeping in his spare room Hunter blinked out of sleep around 2 am, wondering what had woken him. Unable to pinpoint what was keeping him awake, he gave into the niggling urge to check on Seth.

“Hon?” Steph mumbled, one sleep bleary eye cracking open. Hunter shushed her gently, and told her to go back to sleep, before he slid out of their bedroom and padded down the hall quietly.  He opened the door to the spare bedroom to see Seth back to his fully grown self, curled tightly around his stuffed dog.

“Back to normal?” Steph asked softly, running a hand up his back as she curled into his side.

“Yeah,” Hunter rumbled, wrapping an arm around her shoulders to pull her closer.

“Wonder if this experience will have an effect on him,” Steph mused. Hunter chuckled and pulled the door ajar behind them as they headed back to their own room.

“You wonder if being turned into a child by a mysterious object will have an effect on his ego?” Steph asked, raising an eyebrow at her husband. Hunter considered for a moment before he shook his head and guided them back into their bedroom, although he couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit wistful at losing the sweet child that he had become fond of.

Unseen to either of them was the way that one of Seth's eyes cracked open and a contented smile spread across his face before he snuggled back down with the toy in his arms and went back to sleep.