Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who has read and/or reviewed. Well, this is the final chapter of the story. It was very fun to write and I only hoped I captured the emotions well. Thank you to all!
"You know, I thought the company was paying you enough to pimp your shit. I guess we needed to add in another multimillion dollar deal so you can pimp somebody else's shit."
Dave looked up and saw the man before him. "You know, if it wasn't for the fact we're around other people, I would knock you on your ass."
Hunter chuckled. "I would like to see your old-ass try."
Making a rare public appearance during his injury, Hunter surprised everyone by showing up at the Arnold Classic without crutches or assistance. He wasn't able to move with supreme fluidity and agility but he was far from limping. Stopping by to see Dave at the Nutrabolics booth, Hunter couldn't help to get in some more ribbing.
"Now, pitch this to me." Hunter grabbed a bottle and looked at the ingredients. "What does this shit do?"
"Well, Paul…" Dave smiled. "It makes your body leaner." He then glanced at his friend's body. "Which is something you could use right about now. As a matter of fact, take about ten of these."
"You're funny, Dave. Real fuckin' funny."
"I thought so." Dave replied. "How's the quad?"
"It'll be another week before I can do jumping jacks and backflips." Hunter dryly replied.
"How's the mind?"
"I injured my quad not my brain, jackass."
"So, my assumptions were correct. You're still an asshole." Dave smiled.
Hunter laughed and pulled up a chair at Dave's booth. "I can't tell you how good it feels to finally walk on my own again. No crutches, no wheelchairs, nothing. I never thought I would be so damn happy walking on my own two feet." He slowly shook his head at what had transpired in the past two months. "It's amazing what we take for granted."
"I know that's right." Dave related. "But hey, you're walking now and your recovery is quick, which is a good thing."
"Yeah, it is."
"Hey Paul, can you stay here for a few minutes if you have time?"
"Sure, man. I would love to."
"Because you being there is making me look that much better."
Seven long and excruciating months from being away and now, Hunter was finally home.
When he arrived at the arena, Hunter was greeted by his co-workers and many of the WWE staff. During his recovery, he actually thought people would forget about it—out of sight, out of mind. Sure, he received the occasional phone call and 'Tell Paul I said hi' remarks. But now it was different. Hunter progressed from doing only house shows to now making his first TV appearance since his injury.
Hunter was home.
Joining his best friend at one of the ringside seats, Shawn stared ahead at the WWE workers setting up the ring. The men were making sure the ring posts were steady as they laid the ring mat down. "Should I even ask what you're thinking?" Shawn inquired.
"It's the little things." Hunter motioned towards the ring. "I never thought I would miss walking down the corridors of an arena. I mean, I just spent 20 minutes watching the guys set up the ring. Why? Because I miss watching them set up the ring. I must've seen them do that a thousand times but now? It's weird."
"You love wrestling. It's not weird if you love what you do."
Hunter did a slow head turn towards Shawn. "Are you trying to humor me?"
Hunter laughed. "At least you're honest."
"Well, somebody has to be."
Stephanie approached them. "Shawn, is it okay I talk to Paul for a moment?"
"Aren't you going to ask me if it's okay?" Hunter asked.
"Baby…" Stephanie cooed. "Of course not."
Shawn immediately got up. "You know, I think I hear Rebecca…" He quickly left.
Hunter shook his head as Stephanie sat beside him. "I knew by marrying you, you were going to get rid of anything manly left in me."
"Not everything." She caressed his face. "You still got that shit on your face."
"Respect the manstache, Steph." He pointed to his facial hair. "Respect the manstache."
"Whatever." She rolled her eyes. "How's my champ, doing?"
"Anxious. I'm ready for the show to start already."
"Well, it will." She looked at her watch. "In about five hours. You waited seven months, five more hours isn't going to kill you."
"I don't know about all that. I could explode spontaneously."
"You're a nerd."
"We still have the pre-nup, right?"
"Love you too, Steph."
"I'll leave you alone to gather your thoughts." She leaned over and kissed his cheek. She then got up and straightened out her clothing. "I just wanted to wish you well for tonight."
"Thanks, Baby." Hunter took another sip of his water. "Oh, and Steph?"
"Thank you for everything." He grinned.
Stephanie's heart melted. She almost wanted to cry but the moment was too important for any melodrama. "You're welcome. Now put on a good show!"
Hunter smiled back and did his best Forrest Gump impersonation. "Yes, Drill Sergeant."
After Stephanie left, Hunter watch the workers set up the ring for a bit longer. In just a few hours, thousands of people were going to be in the arena. Fans who have sent him 'Get Well' letters and those who kept him in their thoughts were going to be exactly where he was sitting. There was not going to be time to have 'do-overs' or make any excuse. Tonight was the night.
Hunter stood up and headed backstage. Out of all of the thoughts racing through his head, only one stood out. He only hoped he could put on a good show.
Hunter stood in front of the curtain, in the Gorilla position. He took in a heavy sigh, inhaling the moment and atmosphere around him. He trained long and hard. Months of intensive physical therapy. Months of training to get rid of the ring rust. Months of plotting and preparing his return. He missed potential feuds and pay-per-views. Moreover, it all came down to this final moment.
Pouring the cold water over his head, Hunter closed his eyes and waited for his cue. He felt the crowd chanting his name and the atmosphere was incredible. The moment his music hit, Hunter waited as he normally did. He felt the crowd rise to their feet, shouting and cheering. If there was a surreal moment in his life, this was definitely it.
Taking one last sip of water, Hunter quickly threw it in the corner. He then stepped out from behind the curtain and faced the crowd. He knew the first blow was going to be the hardest felt. He knew the first bump would knock him back into reality. But for now, Hunter was concentrated on putting on a good show and rejoining his DX partner in crime. Now was not the time to worry, it was time to play the game.