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Chapter 29 All's Well that Ends Well

-ε-Humpty-Dumpty

I hated the hospital, but once I got out, I almost wished I were back in. The city that awed me before now held me captive. The place looked a lot different as a prison.

I flipped through the TV stations absentmindedly, knowing there was no way I'd find anything of interest. It was all in Turkish anyway. I had a stack of books by the bed, but they were the ones Bella had left behind. I loved the woman to pieces, but her taste in reading material stunk.

Boredom was driving me mad.

I was trying to be grateful to be alive. It all could have been so much worse.

Blades shattering during competition was not rare, but puncturing the vest was. We just didn't realize that real damage was invisible. My lung was hit, and slowly as I kept competing, my body was deprived of oxygen. In retrospect, I had all the classic symptoms of a collapsed lung, but it seems so easy to brush it off at the time. The immediate scare was over before long, but then I had to have surgery to repair the damage. My dad tried to give me the medical details of a traumatic pneumothorax but I didn't really care. All I got out of it was that I was done for the season and I wouldn't be allowed to fly for weeks. Apparently any additional pressure like air travel put you at a greater risk for a repeat performance. I'd probably never take up scuba diving as a result, but other activities were still up in the air, things like competitive fencing. I didn't want to think about that yet.

I was pissed about a couple of things. There was the obvious. I lost the fucking World Championship. The press made me out to be some sort of hero finishing at all. It seemed to have no bearing whatsoever on the public perception of me. If anything, my stock had gone up. As far as my marketability, the injury was almost as good as a win would have been, maybe even better. The talk shows were lining up to get a crack at me the minute I stepped back on U.S. soil. None of that made me feel any better. I didn't get to hang my injury on a wall. In the fencing history books when they listed my stats, there wouldn't be an asterisk that said I might have won if it hadn't been for damned pneumo crap. I wouldn't get bonus points for trying.

I might have been more ticked off that I was stuck here. Alone. Except for Garrett. And he was on my shit list too.

It's not like anyone had the ability to take off a month from work. Except for Garrett. Based on his car and his schedule, it seems being a military historian is a really good gig if you can get it.

Anyway, I liked Garrett a lot, but hanging out in Turkey with him for a few weeks wasn't exactly how I'd intended to spend the rest of my fall. It wasn't that anyone wanted to leave. Bella had been a complete mess. They'd all stayed as long as they could. My dad had to practically drag her to the airport. It wasn't rational, but I felt guilty for making her worry so much. I knew what it felt like to be in that position, to wait. Not knowing if the person you loved was going to be okay. I made her wait longer, and I didn't even have the decency to be able to go home with her so she could take care of me. It made me feel useless.

A single knock at the door alerted me to his presence. He didn't bother waiting for me anymore; he knew I didn't lock the door. Garrett sauntered into the room and sat down in the only chair in the room.

"Chipper as usual there, Medal Man?"

"I don't see any medals in here do you?" I shot back.

"Ah, wound licking day is it?"

"Why do you keep coming back if you don't like it?" I countered.

"Because you'd miss me if I didn't show up."

"Why don't you try and we'll find out."

He laughed, a very loud boisterous laugh. "Oh Edward, you crack me up."

It had become our usual banter. It was part facetious, part a reflection of my piss poor attitude. But Garrett was unflappable these days. I knew he wanted to be with Kate, and he had no issue reminding me frequently that I was the worst honeymoon on record. In my bleakest moods he sometimes put me in my place, reminding me of everything I had to be grateful for and how little all the other shit mattered. From anyone else, it would have pissed me off, but the memory of his loss always made it harder for to dismiss his warnings.

"How long are you going to keep this up, Edward?"

"Until the plane takes off?"

"You don't have to skulk around this room all day."

"I've already toured the city. Twice. I've seen enough mosques to last a lifetime."

"Let's get out of here then," he suggested.

"Did you miss the doctor's orders?"

"You can't fly; that doesn't mean we have to stay in Turkey. We've got a week, and the rest of the continent at our disposal."

"Still holding out for that honeymoon are you?"

"You're an ugly bride, but if you get your head out of your ass, you're not half bad company," he teased.

I threw a pillow at him.

We managed to hit three countries before I was cleared to fly. He wasn't bad company either, not bad at all.

-β- Counting Down the Minutes

"Will you stop fidgeting?" Kate demanded.

"It's noon, Kate. They're late."

"No, it's 11:50; your watch is ten minutes fast, it always is. Now calm down."

It was easier said than done. A month had passed since that horrible day in Istanbul. We'd all been expected to go on living our lives, return to the States, and wait things out while Edward recovered.

Patience had never been one of my strong suits.

No one had stopped to think about the convalescence period. We'd all been so excited when he came around with no major damage, that we were ready to jump on a plane and fly home. Even Carlisle had gotten swept up in the joy of the moment. But the team doctor dashed cold water in our faces, first the surgery to repair the damage to Edward's lung, then the extended recovery time. I caught murmurs between the team doctor and Carlisle regarding potential heart concerns, but it was nothing that Edward ever brought up, so I let it be.

Esme, Kate and I had all been shuttled home while Carlisle and Garrett stayed behind. Carlisle returned to the states once the surgery was complete, and Garrett stayed on to 'keep Edward from climbing the walls.' It was hard on Kate and I both, but deep down I was relieved that someone could be with him who wouldn't coddle him.

Because I probably would have.

For 30 days, we stayed in contact via cell phones and chat. I could hear the frustration and anger when we spoke, although he tried valiantly to mask it with smart alec comments and sarcasm. He didn't do well with boredom, and I think the introspection got to him a bit. Garrett's road trip did seem to help, and Kate and I joked endlessly about the bromance that was developing between the two of them.

But four weeks and two days later, he was finally coming home. Life could begin again.

We stood in the waiting room of the private jet terminal, five sentinels whose patience had worn infinitely thin.

Kate and I, waiting for the loves of our lives to finally be home.

Carlisle and Esme, waiting for the son they'd almost lost, and hoping for the opportunity to be a family again.

And Irina, who through this whole ordeal, had gained a son in her own way, and a new perspective on what she wanted out of life.

We were a motley crew, united by love and loss, strange connections and twists of fate. Our lives had all changed radically in the last six months, but it hadn't ruined us. We might not quite know what came next, but that was okay, we'd figure it out.

A sleek white airplane slowly taxied onto the tarmac in front of the hangar. The brilliant red corporate logo on the tail was the only indication that the plane belonged to one of the largest corporations in America. They were actively courting Edward to participate in an ad campaign for their sports drink line. He was a golden boy and everyone seemed to want a piece, which meant the red carpet treatment. Gifts, phone calls, private planes. If there was one positive to be had out of this whole mess, Garrett and Edward got to fly directly home from Turkey. No layovers, no fighting with commercial lines or attention. Just a single stop in New York to clear customs, and then home.

Home.

A moment after the plane came to a stop, the door popped open, and the steps accordioned down. A familiar sandy head popped out, eyes obscured by a pair of tinted aviators.

"He was supposed to be keeping Edward company. Why the hell is he tan?" Kate murmured to herself.

"That road trip was in a jeep. Supposedly they both have wicked farmers tans," I replied.

I watched Garrett climb down the steps and saunter across the tarmac. Something seemed different about him, but I couldn't put my finger on what it could be. He'd always been cool and confident, but there was something different.

And then it didn't matter, because the one person I'd wanted to see for the last 736 hours climbed down the steps, his hair obscured by a baseball cap, sunglasses covering his face. While not as tan as Garrett, he looked healthy and relaxed.

"Remind me next time I need to get sick to have it happen in Turkey," Irina joked. She articulated the relief we all felt. He was home. He was going to be fine.

I hung back, watching as they entered the building. Edward's parents, all three of them, descended immediately, hugging him and welcoming him home. The accident seemed to have put any bad blood or bitter thoughts to rest amongst the three of them, for they interacted with a grace and dignity that gave away none of their personal history. Carlisle, Esme and Irina were all here because they loved and supported a little boy who had grown into an amazing man. That, above all else was what mattered.

When Edward finally broke free from them, he turned in my direction. He still wore his baseball hat, but he'd flipped his sunglasses backwards so that only the arms were visible as they hugged the side of his cap. His cheeks were rosy from sun exposure, and his face was a bit fuller.

"You've put on weight," I observed. It's not like it mattered. If anything, he looked better. Healthier. Maybe a little bit less perfect and a little more human like the rest of us.

"So are you still going to like me when I only have a six-pack?" he joked.

I didn't answer. Fighting the urge to launch myself at him, I stepped forward, hooking a finger in a belt loop and pulling him close. My head came to rest on his chest, just to the left of his new scar, and just over his heart.

"Welcome home."

-ε- A Little Help From a Friend

I'd gone from having no plan, to knowing exactly what I wanted, to having no idea again.

At first, that frustrated the hell out of me. After all, I'd seen it as a mark of becoming a man. Everyone complimented me on finally growing up and getting a clue. Because of that stupid shattered blade, I felt like I was right back to the beginning, in a way.

I was busy, but I just didn't feel focused. There were lots of balls in the air; it was hard to know which one to catch. I had a number of offers for endorsement deals. A part of me struggled with those. It felt weird since I still saw myself as a loser, but I also knew that those opportunities were important for two reasons: money, for one, and publicity too, which could lead to whatever was going to come next. Of course I needed money to subsist, but I wanted more than that. I just didn't know what.

For a while, I thought maybe it was all temporary. I assumed that after my recovery, I'd get back to gym, and I'd be ready for the next year, but for some reason that didn't happen.

A month came and went, and I began light work outs. Another month passed, and I stepped up my game, but when I tried to find my competitive drive, it just wouldn't come. I expected people to start getting on my case, but that never happened either. There wasn't any strong medical reason for me not to compete again, and I should have been able to get back on that horse. I figured everyone would push me to do it, but it was we all sort felt like an end had come. I wanted to believe that there was still a beginning in there somewhere too.

I loved my sport; I was proud of my accomplishments, but my head was in a different place.

Mostly, it was with Bella.

The second I saw her again, I wanted to whisk her off and beg someone to marry us immediately. That would have been irrational and impulsive and all of the things I'd been working for months to stop being.

It wasn't easy though, watching all our friends. Alice and Jasper had begun planning an early fall wedding. Rosalie was growing bigger. Kate and Garrett sealed the deal the week we returned. No fanfare. None needed. Garrett said he only signed the papers for the tax break. They'd had their real wedding in Greece.

That left us.

Well really, it was about me.

In the end, maybe it wasn't so surprising that the person who helped me put it all together was the one I never would have listened to a year before. I was still trying to make my training sessions mean something, but I was failing.

"Edward, I've been watching you for months, and I know your heart's not in it. You do know it's okay to admit you're done, don't you?" I still had my agent, but because she knew me so well and was such an expert on the sport, Irina had become more of an informal advisor on my career. Not only did she help me with the blog ideas, but she had good insight about which endorsements to consider.

"Why is everyone giving up on me?" I snapped back. It wasn't an accurate statement. No one had. Not really. But last week Laurent announced he'd accepted a position with a club out east somewhere. I couldn't say I'd miss him, but I still felt a little like he was leaving me. I'd wondered about him and Irina, but she laughed it off when I asked her. She insisted she was just fine on her own and dating was the least of her priorities at the moment.

She just tilted her head and gave me a look that told me she understood.

"I'm sorry. It's that obvious I'm washed up, huh?"

"Oh, Edward, no one thinks that. I don't believe for one second you couldn't get back in the game if you really wanted to."

"That's the problem, Irina. I don't understand why I don't want it anymore."

"I would think it's pretty obvious."

"Fear?"

"Maybe a little, but that wasn't what I was thinking. For a long time, you were chasing a boy's dream. Medals and trophies and big wins, but those things aren't the measure of a good man, are they, Edward?"

I didn't respond; I just fidgeted with the paper in front of me.

"You've come a long way in a very short period of time. A year ago I never would have dreamed any of this." She waved her hand between us and then up in the air. I saw tears creeping into her eyes, but she didn't let them break her. "Choosing a different path doesn't mean you're washed up; it just means you've grown up."

I let her words sink in. Logically, I knew she was right, my heart had yet to accept it.

My words came slowly, but eventually, they came. "Mom?" I paused to see if it was okay. I'd barely begun to use the term in reference to Esme, and while she'd accepted it readily, I didn't know how Irina would feel. I watched two tears slide down her cheeks, and she swallowed hard and nodded.

"Do you have any ideas what I should be now that I'm grown up?"

She let out a nervous laugh and smiled big at me, nodding more enthusiastically. "I thought you'd never ask."

-β- Let's Go Back to the Very Beginning

"Oh come on, you can do better than that!"

"Back off woman! I'm not as flexible as I used to be!"

"I'm not willing to accept that, Edward. All that time talking a big game, and now, when you can get it whenever and however you want it, your performance is sub par."

He huffed, giving me a wounded look.

"Fine, let's go again."

I watched as he tipped his head back, mouth open, waiting for me.

This time I went easy on him, tossing the little red ball high in the air. He caught it with no problem .

"Did I ever tell you I hate maraschino cherries?" I asked as he stated to chew.

"I guess it's a good thing you lost yours then."

All of this because of a stupid cherry. Who would have thunk it?

The backyard was littered with garbage, the streamers hanging limply in the late spring humidity. Rosalie's baby shower had been a huge success, right up until the point that her water broke.

"We can deliver the baby in the hot tub!" Emmett had insisted as he eyed the pool longingly.

"Somehow, when we bought my parents' house, I thought I might be the one to christen the pool, Emmett. Not your wife and child," Edward had corrected him. It was followed by a quick swat on the back of the head from Rosalie, who was already waddling down the driveway.

"I'll call the hospital!" Carlisle shouted as he ran for his car, Esme close on his heels. Alice and Jasper were already peeling out of the driveway, and I wouldn't be half surprised if my brother wasn't calling for a police escort. That poor kid was going to have the most overbearing, over-protective godparents ever.

"Do you want to follow?" Kate asked me as she fiddled with a small paper umbrella.

"Nah, who knows how long Rose's labor will take. Besides, I think she'll have her hands full with Emmett and Esme."

"True. That kid is going to have it made, all those looney people doting over him," Garrett mused.

"Her," I corrected.

"Bet?"

"Oh hell yes. Loser mows the winner's lawn all summer."

"Hey, I don't know if I like those terms!" Edward protested. "If we lose, I'll be stuck mowing pretty boy's lawn. If he loses, he'll hire a service."

"Chicken," Garrett taunted. I watched Edward and counted mentally.

Three.

Two.

One.

"You are so going down, Marrs."

"Bring it, Medal Man."

Kate stood, stretching her arms over her head. "While I am enjoying the witty banter and game of whose dick is bigger, I am really ready to get home." She raised her eyebrows at Garrett. He shot up out of his chair, digging his keys out of his pocket.

"I'll take that bet, Bella. Make sure Medal Man is over this weekend to mow."

With that, they were off down the driveway.

"You would think after six months of marriage, they would have gotten enough already," Edward joked as he started to stack discarded plates and cups. "You should have bet them clean up."

"Nah, there's a reason I chose paper plates, just push them in the trash. Besides, isn't that the joy of home ownership? Our first party, our first clean up?"

Edward glanced around the backyard, taking it all in. We'd signed the papers on the house a week ago. It had been Irina's idea, actually. The house had sat on the market for almost nine months with no takers. Carlisle was about to drop the price down when she'd pitched her idea. It was Edward's home, the only tie he had to his childhood. With real estate prices in the area starting to rebound, it would be a sound financial investment, plus a way to let them all keep some tie to what had been.

While it had been Irina's idea for Edward to buy his childhood home, it had been Carlisle's recommendation that my name to go on the paperwork too. Apparently when they'd first looked at the house, the real estate agent had called it a gem. For some reason, that had stuck with him, and he told Edward that a house was a million times better than an engagement ring.

"Look at it this way," he insisted. "You're being original. You are getting something that will only increase in financial and sentimental value. I can't think of a better way to start a life together."

Edward had expected me to protest. But I couldn't have agreed more.

"So who gets clean up? You or me?" he asked as he pushed a few more plates towards the center of the table.

I kicked off my flip flops and stood, glancing around the yard. It was twilight, and we'd not turned on any of the backyard lights. With the privacy fence, none of the neighbors would be any wiser. I walked backward slowly, pulling my t-shirt over my head and then quickly stepping out of my shorts.

"What are you waiting for Edward? Weren't you the one trying to get me in the pool in the first place? It is our house after all, and you were the one who wanted to christen the pool." I stepped backward off the ledge.

When I came up for air, he was already in the water, still fully clothed.

"Impatient much?"

Edward wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me close, as he leaned up against the wall.

"Why would I be? We have all the time in the world."

-τ-All's Well That Ends Well

I loved winning. I especially loved that my games were about human relationships. Let the boys fight with big sticks or guns. One boy in particular. My boy.

Felix never once stopped to question what he was doing; it was as if he knew this was his destiny. He fit in perfectly. With me, with this world, with his duties. It couldn't have gone better if I'd planned it myself, which sometimes made me wonder, of course. How had Felix slipped so easily into this mess of strings and cords? On our last meeting with the Fates, when they finally conceded, I swear I saw Marcus wink at me, but every time I tried to make eye contact with him after that, he looked away. Who knows? I might have been imagining things, but I liked to think there was someone else out there on my side. Was there a better side to be on than love?

I'd spent a lot of years and a lot of time on the lives of people involved in this challenge. The process of linking so many people had been painstaking and intricate, and I couldn't have been prouder. But it was time for me to move on, to shift my energy. It was easier said than done.

"Did you come to say goodbye?" Mars or Garrett, I guess, asked.

He sat on the park bench in his usual spot not far from the Y. As I approached I took in his appearance. Most people wouldn't have noticed any differences, but when his eyes met mine, I could see the hint of a wrinkle forming. If possible, it made him even more distinguished.

"Yes, but you know I'll drop in on you from time to time. I'll worry too much about you if I don't."

"We're going to be just fine, Love."

"I know," I answered.

"So what about you? What's next?"

"Oh, you know. Connections to make, lives to improve. All in a day's work."

"It's a tough job," he teased. "Anything in particular?"

"I've got ideas. I've had my eyes on a Native American kid in the Pacific Northwest for a while. I might have some fun there.

"I'll miss you though, old friend."

"Don't turn into a sap on me now, Garrett."

"Too late, I'm afraid. You won that battle a long time ago," he laughed.

"If you say so. You are the expert on war, after all."

"Not anymore, Love. No more games for me."

I smiled at him. "Well, I should probably go."

"Just one thing?" he asked.

"Anything," I answered.

"Rosalie and Emmett just had a baby."

"Yes, I know."

"And someday, I hope maybe Katie and I will have another shot, and I'm sure Edward and Bella will start a family someday."

"Don't worry, Garrett. I've already begun. I'll keep my eye on them too," I said looking up toward the sky. "Will you do me a favor in return?"

"Sure," he said skeptically.

"I noticed you were doing some writing, about ancient Greece."

"Yes, well, I figured I should use what I know."

"Will you be sure to mention the Fates a lot? Complete with illustrations?" I winked at him. "I'm particularly fond of anything that puts Caius in pink."

"I was thinking more along the lines of warts and flat-chested, but I can work in pink too."

We were both laughing when I left.

All's well that ends well, indeed.

And that's all she wrote.

A few quick clarifying points:

- Edward's Blogging activities were based on US fencer Tim Morehouse – who does a lot of charity work now. He provided much inspiration.

- The actual injury was based on a real incident that occurred between 2 US fencers in an exhibition match. To find out more google Peter Westbrook and David Mandell

- Thank you so much for taking this ride with us, and letting us tell the tale.

Hmonster4 is currently finishing up her AU I Know You, and profmom72 is working on a canon Carlisle themed Twilight 25. We're both taking a break from any full length fic for a while, but keep an eye on our profiles for anything that might come up (like fic exchanges). Also profmom72 is up for auction in the Support Stacie Vampire auctions beginning Jan. 15th. http://www (dot) supportstacie (dot)?f=16

Huge mega special thanks to MasterBeta Legna – without her this wouldn't have been possible.

And one last time…

1. Tanya – Love Life

- Edward and Bella DONE

- Alice and Jasper DONE

- Carlisle and Esme DONE

- Seth & his adopted parents DONE

2. Garrett – Get a Life

- Win Nationals DONE

- Edward grows up DONE

- Jasper grows up DONE

- Garrett atones for his actions DONE

3. The Fates – Save a Life

- SUV 'accident' DONE

- Attempt to get Seth DONE

- Attack at the Diner DONE

- Edward Injured in competition DONE