JBL wasn’t prepared for the sight that greeted him upon entering Hornswoggle’s hospital room. The boy was crying. He hadn’t even started on his diatribe to Finlay, and already the little blonde was in tears. JBL was taken aback, so he asked his camera man to wait out in the hall for a moment. Hornswoggle was watching RAW on tv. He was staring at Finlay, who had just admitted to being his father.
JBL had to clear his throat to get the little man’s attention. Hornswoggle glanced over at him briefly, then returned to staring at the tv.
“Hey!” JBL hit the power button on the tv, advancing on the blonde’s bed. “Time to take a lickin’ for your daddy, boy.”
Hornswoggle inhaled deeply, shuddering as he exhaled. “He’s my father,” he whispered brokenly. “All this time! He’s my daddy.” He shook his blonde head against the pillow, staring vacantly at the ceiling. “I thought he actually loved me.”
JBL wasn’t used to being ignored, but Hornswoggle didn’t seem to care one bit that he was there, ready to deliver another brutal beating. “Hey!” he exclaimed again, but Hornswoggle just continued to cry. John cleared his throat, sitting down next to the bed. It was hard not to be moved by the boy’s weeping. It wouldn’t have bothered his hard heart if Hornswoggle had been weeping in fear of him, but this was different.
“What the heck are you crying for?” he snapped. It was his best attempt at compassion.
Hornswoggle shook his head, his hands clenching on the sheet as he continued to weep. “He lied to me, all this time,” he gasped out around sobs. “I thought - maybe - we could - ” He choked, gasping in a breath before continuing, watery eyes staring off into space, “He’s the only man who ever even looked at me. And he - he was always hugging me, and cuddling me, and smiling at me. I thought he just held back because I’m too young, and - and too small!” His voice trembled as he spoke. He seemed barely away of JBL’s presence.
JBL was shocked. “You mean, you thought - fuck, that’s sick.”
Hornswoggle pressed his face into the pillow, taking deep shuddering breaths. John’s camera man poked his head in the door, quirking an eyebrow at the sight of John sitting by Hornswoggle’s bed. “Mr. Layfield, 1 minute to air.”
“Come back in 50 seconds,” John snapped, waving the man away.
Hornswoggle sniffled, raising his head to acknowledge John for the first time. “I want you to hit me,” he whispered pathetically. “You should hurt my brain so bad I don’t wake up this time!” He dropped back down onto the pillow, continuing to cry.
John just stared at him. He had never thought about this from Hornswoggle’s side of things. Hornswoggle hadn’t known. He truly thought Vince was his father, and had misinterpreted Finlay’s displays of fatherly affection, developing feelings that were expressly forbidden. In one night, he had lost both his father and the man he thought he loved. John felt his stomach in his throat. Hornswoggle wasn’t just hurt; he was humiliated and devastated.
The camera man came in the door, raising his camera and doing a 3-2-1 countdown for John. John quickly composed himself, delivering his rehearsed inflammatory speech. But at the last moment, as he was grabbing the still weeping boy, he switched off the light. He couldn’t bare to hit the miserable kid; instead, he leaned down to kiss him. It was a soft, gentle kiss, not forcing acceptance, but asking for permission.
He could feel the shock in Hornswoggle’s body, but the young blonde kissed him back. John drew away reluctantly, surprised by how nice Hornswoggle’s lips felt against his. He switched on the light, glaring at the camera man. “Thank you, you’re done!” he snapped at the man.
The man lowered his camera, giving John a baleful look as he retreated. John looked at Hornswoggle, and Hornswoggle stared up at him with wide eyes, finally having ceased his crying. “I - I’m sorry about all this shit, little man.” John caressed Hornie’s spiky blonde hair, smiling softly. “You know, you’re a good looking guy.”
Hornswoggle looked up at him for a moment, his eyes clouded with confusion. Then he yanked his head out of John’s grasp, staring away from him, his lip trembling.
John cleared his throat, standing and trying to get hold of himself. “Right, well I have to go.” He walked quickly to the door, pausing to gaze back at the young blonde for a moment. “Maybe - maybe I’ll come see you before I leave town.”
He left quickly, entirely shaken by what he had just experienced.