A/N: Okay, this is it, the final chapter. I want to thank each and every one of you that read and reviewed this story, especially Tess (your reviews are always my favorite), Kay, Shannon, Jen, and Nicole. But seriously, thanks to all of you for such a great response. You have no idea how inspiring your feedback is. Also, thanks to Rebecca, for sending me the challenge to write this fic in the first place. =) So thanks again to all of you, hope you enjoy the last chapter!
The Next Night
John pushed his way through the curtains, stumbling a bit as he headed away from the gorilla position. He reached up to hold the back of his head, his hand becoming soaked with sweat. He had to admit that his head was still ringing as a result of being dropped on it by Scott Steiner. John snorted at the thought of the overly muscular man's poor wrestling skills. He wouldn't know a German suplex from a Russian legsweep.
Despite his still bitter feelings toward his opponents, a satisfactory smirk curled John's lips. The odds had been stacked greatly against him tonight, that's for sure. They were even more so that way when General Manager Bischoff made an announcement barring all outside parties from ringside. He had put every ounce of strength and stamina into his match against Test and Steiner, and it paid off. He beat the living hell out of Test for what the bastard did to his sister, and he didn't leave much left of Steiner, either. Somewhat miraculously, he won the match. He had pulled through…
John couldn't help but smile as he rounded a corner to discover a small group of wrestlers that had gathered around to wait for him, all eyeing him admiringly. A slow, subtle round of applause was heard, and John shook his head at Chris Jericho, the source of the noise. He slowly approached the shorter man, extending his hand graciously.
"Thanks for everything, man," he said, gripping Chris's hand firmly. "You've been a real big help."
Had the crazy situation involving Test, Stacy, Chris, Trish and himself never happened, he would never have considered Chris a potential friend. In just a few short months, his perspective changed the completely, and he began to see the blonde man in a new light. That went for nearly all the people surrounding him. His eyes surveyed the area, and John grinned as he saw Stacy, Chris, Christian, Lilian, Victoria, and Rob Van Dam – who had, upon hearing of the match that would be taking place, insisted on flying out to watch… even if he did have to hide from Bischoff. Standing there, surrounded by his friends, John had the most overwhelming sensation of pride and accomplishment. Of all the things he had done in his career, this victory ranked among the top. He had done it.
Still, something was missing. He gazed around the room, frowning a bit as he couldn't find what – rather, who – he was searching for. Where was she?
"Guys…" he began, having to pause and clear his throat to catch their attention over the commotion, "guys… where's Trish?"Stacy almost smiled at the slightly fearful connotation in her brother's tone. Had she not already known where Trish was at the moment, she probably would have worried as well, though. She laughed softly, stepping past Chris and grabbing John by the arm.
"Calm down, John, she'll be here. She just ran off to get some ice," she explained with a reassuring nod.
John cocked his head at her, a puzzled look on his face.
"Ice? What for?" he questioned, looking around at everyone.
"I told her you were alright," Christian spoke up. Then, he gestured to John's head. "But she wouldn't have it. That nasty suplex Steiner gave you had her more than a little concerned."
Stacy smiled as she continued to eye John intently, her heart warming at his expression. Moments like this, seeing him like this made her feel remarkably blessed to be related to this man, even if she didn't know him for a good portion of her life.
From where he was positioned behind her, Chris gazed as Stacy wonderingly. She had been right about him all along. She stood by John when everyone – himself included – despised him, and she helped prove that, contrary to popular belief, John Cena was not an asshole. He was a good man…. A damn good one at that.
"There you are…"
Hearing her voice sent an uncontrollable shiver up his spine. John slowly turned to face behind him, his stomach tying in a nervous and happy knot as he locked eyes with Trish. The young Canadian woman held an ice pack in her hand, just as Stacy and Christian said she would. For a moment, they simply stared, as if seeing each other for the first time. Time seemed to stand still, and even though the people around them were moving quicker and conversing louder, it felt as though they were the only two people in the room.
Trish broke into a smile, and when John returned the grin, he opened his arms to her, sighing contentedly as she fell into his embrace. Her arms locked tightly around him as he held her, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. After a few moments, Trish pushed away from him and took his hand, leading him over to an equipment crate. He plopped down on it and she positioned herself between his legs, gently pressing the ice to the back of his head.
"Trish, you don't have to…"
"Shhh," Trish hushed, placing a finger of her free hand to his lips. "I'm so proud of you, John. What did you did out there tonight was amazing not only athletically, but it was just beautiful. You really stood up for Stacy out there, and regardless of whether or not she's family, that is terrific."
John smiled at her compliment, nodding graciously. He placed his hand over hers, gently rubbing the inside of his palm against her soft skin. Glancing up at her, he could feel his breath catching in his throat. He couldn't help it… her beauty alone was breathtaking. Just looking at her had him feeling as though he could spend the rest of his life just the way he was – with her. He gave her hand a small tug, and when she leaned toward him, his kissed her, their lips lingering over one another's just a second more than they had to. When they separated, John wrapped his arms around her, and the two observed the crowd surrounding them.
From the looks of things, that play date between Lilian and Christian didn't seem so fake anymore. The two stood off in a corner, their faces dangerously close to one another as the blonde man whispered something to her. Chris and Stacy were, as per usual, connected at the hip, the leggy blonde holding fast to his waist. Trish smiled… it was so nice to see everyone happy, for a change.
"Come on," John said, running his fingers down her back till his hand came to rest at her waist. "Let's get out of here and celebrate."
Trish nodded, entwining her fingers with his as he rose from his seat, tossing the ice pack to the side. As they disappeared hand in hand down the hall, Trish looked up at John and smiled. The serene, comfortable, loving feelings she was experiencing made all the angst and drama seem well worth it. After such a long period of uncertainty, she was finally sure of one thing: She had found love, and with that, nothing else mattered.