Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and characters. The rest here is mine.
Sarahsumbrella and silentnc stuck with me through another story - ladies, I give you my sincere appreciation for all of your time and expertise. Sarah, your comments and suggestions made this a better story - never worry about making them!
A lot of people have asked if there will be more - a sequel, outtakes, etc. There may be more to tell here...so the only answer I can give right now is possibly. I'm just not sure what form it will take, or when. I've got a lot of other ideas rolling around in my head and on my computer, so we'll see. You can keep track of what's going on through the Twilighted thread for the story or Twitter.
I can't tell you how much it means to me to know you love these two as much as I do. This has been an amazing experience - and thank you doesn't seem enough so say to everyone who read, alerted, reviewed, sent messages, recommended, and encouraged along the way. But...thank you.
CHAPTER 35: Game On
Edward had made arrangements to make up his finals a few weeks into the summer, after he had recuperated enough both physically and mentally and had a chance to review his last semester courses. It turned out I had done reasonably well on my finals despite everything that had happened. I figured part was due to the fact we had been so close to the end of the school year, and the rest – I was sure – was because my teachers took a kind view of my final essays and tests. We both had taken the ACT and SAT tests earlier in the year, so we didn't have to worry about making those up later. We spent many afternoons going over all of the information he had collected on Dartmouth and the surrounding area, and I discovered he had an entire file devoted to financial aid for me. There were quite a few intriguing possibilities, and I promised to look into them with him over the summer, before we had to get our applications in for an early decision in the fall. I wasn't going to argue with him about any of it – money, location, arrangements – as the last couple of months had taught me a valuable lesson. If there was any way for us to be together in Hanover, I was going to grab it with both hands.
Edward was…driven. He pushed himself right to the edge and balanced precariously along it, determined to recover his previous physical condition. He was careful not to cause a setback in his recovery, but he spent countless hours slowly building his strength and endurance. He had meticulous plans for regaining the weight and muscle mass he had lost, as well as cross-training exercises that he had researched that would help him. He wasn't able to do much at first, but as the weeks passed he grew more confident and it was evident that his body was responding. He had been in peak physical condition before the attack, his body honed to a point most people never saw in their lifetime, and that made it possible for him to recover at a phenomenal rate.
He had reluctantly accepted the fact he wouldn't be ready to play competitively with the high school team in the fall, but he was unwavering in his objective to skate and practice with them and be ready for league play next winter. I knew his intentions were to participate in the NHL Scouting Combine and then the Entry Draft next June, but his ultimate goal was to regain his physical conditioning so that he could play with the Dartmouth team next fall. He was really worried about them rescinding the offer they had been ready to make him before the attack. The scouts and other representatives from the university had been very supportive and assured him they were still very interested despite any physical setbacks he was currently experiencing, but he would probably have to try out for the team now, instead of automatically being offered a spot. I could tell this was yet another huge disappointment, but he reacted in typical Edward fashion. He became even more determined to make it happen.
He worked relentlessly and without complaint with Emmett, who had come home expressly for that purpose until he had to leave for training camp. I spent many, many hours surreptitiously watching the two of them in their workout clothes, sweaty and pumped and…Gah. I spent so many hours over the next few weeks watching them train, in fact, that Edward convinced me to give it a half-hearted try for the first time in my life. I was delighted to see that I was beginning to get the sleek, toned muscles to prove it. His dad hired a physical therapist, one that specialized in rehabilitating professional athletes, and Edward definitely benefitted from his expertise.
Edward's first excursion out onto the ice since the attack was an anxious mess. It was a couple of weeks after his eighteenth birthday, and a little more than two months after the attack. He didn't want anyone to go with him, mostly for fear of failure. His mom, dad, and Emmett wanted to be there to reassure themselves he really was well on his way to recovery. He finally agreed to let me come along, but adamantly refused the others. I didn't tell him they were going to come anyway.
He carried his giant bag, not quite as full or as heavy as it usually was, but it had the necessary equipment in it for a light practice. I left him outside the locker room with a lingering kiss, and went to sit on the home team bench. I debated about calling out to Emmett – I could see him, and his mom and dad, occasionally appearing in the corridor from the lobby. The ice rink wasn't as busy during the summer months, and there weren't enough people here today that they could hide in the stands. There were a few people out on the ice, men with light pads and sticks lazily slapping pucks around. I heard Edward clumping down the corridor connecting the locker room to the ice, and turned my head to see him striding toward me with the rocking, sure gait of someone who was comfortable walking on razor thin blades.
"It feels good to have them on again," he said with a smile, bending down to check his laces. He'd pulled on his own light pads and dark jersey, and had his helmet tucked under his arm. He thrust it on his head, over his wildly rumpled hair – it was in the in-between growth stage that made him look like a frantic hedgehog – fastening the chin-strap as he took a deep breath. He pushed open the door in the boards and stood there, staring out onto the ice, watching the other guys skate, scrap, and pass pucks.
"Here goes nothin'," he murmured, and jumped out onto the ice.
My heart leapt up into my throat as he wobbled and took a couple of double steps, listing ever-so-slightly to one side. He paused, shaking his head, and began pushing across the ice in slow, powerful glides. He circled the arena twice before skating back to where I stood, leaning over the rail and gesturing for me to hand him his stick. I did, watching his face closely, and he smiled one of his sweet, happy smiles. He skated backward to the center of the rink and scooped up a loose, abandoned puck. He flipped it on the blade of his stick, expertly tossing it around before dropping it back on the ice and looking toward the net. The other players stopped to watch him – everyone knew who he was and what was happening. Forks was a small town after all. He nodded briefly and took a deep breath that lifted his shoulders. He exhaled, bracing his feet apart and swinging his stick back before releasing a stinging slap-shot that rang the pipe in the back of the net.
Everyone cheered. Emmett, Carlisle, and Esme made no secret of their presence now as they clapped and whistled. Edward just grinned and shook his head as skated back to me, sending up a heavy plume of ice when he slid to a stop.
"How do you feel?" I asked. Anxiety, hope, and concern made me feel slightly ill.
His green eyes gleamed at me. "Good." He grimaced. "A little twinge, you know, twisting for the shot." He demonstrated by carefully rotating his torso one way and then the other. "But…good. Really good. Hopefully I can start some workouts on the ice." He shook his head. "I'm going to need it."
I exhaled a breath in relief. He slipped the guard back in his mouth, giving me a wink as he turned to skate back out onto the ice. He lifted his hand and ducked his head in acknowledgement of his family – Emmett was now leaning over the boards and pounding on them enthusiastically. I watched his tall, straight, strong form as he scrimmaged a little with the other guys out on the ice as I made my way over to his mom and dad. Esme smiled and wrapped her arm around my shoulders, hugging me tight as we watched him. Her eyes were suspiciously moist.
"Carlisle, don't let him overdo," she murmured worriedly.
He gave her shoulders a gentle squeeze and bent down to kiss her forehead. The three of us just stood there watching him skate and jostle good-naturedly with the other guys on the ice while Emmett shouted encouragement and insults.
"He's fine," Dr. Cullen responded softly. "He's fine."
It was obvious he was skating much slower and more deliberately than was normal for him, but he was skating nonetheless. After a while he began coughing a little, and Esme stiffened, worried about his lungs. We watched as Edward said something to the guys, and they all took a turn talking to him briefly and slapping him on the back. He skated back to the bench, giving them a desultory wave as he went. I smiled at his mom and squeezed her hands in happiness and reassurance before going back to where he waited. He removed his mouth guard and took off his helmet, running his hand through his wet shock of hair. It was almost long enough now to stand on end.
"So…" I began, examining his face carefully. He looked a little tired. He was breathing heavier than usual, but his cheeks were flushed with healthy exertion and his eyes were glowing.
"Felt great," he panted, leaning on his stick. "I'm a little sore and more out-of-breath than I want to be, but…it felt great." He grinned, a full-on, beaming Edward grin, and I wanted to take him back into the locker room and jump him.
"Good." I smiled a little tremulously, and he leaned down to give me a wet, smacking kiss.
"I'm gonna go change." He cast his eyes at his family standing across the rink. "You can tell them I'm fine."
"They were worried about you," I said by way of explanation.
"I know." The smile still lingered on his full lips, and for some reason my eyes were glued to them. "I was worried about me, too. But I think it's going to be okay."
"Good," I repeated, my gaze still locked on his mouth, and he deliberately licked his lips, the little shit. I jerked my eyes to his and saw that he was looking at me in amusement and desire.
"Stop it," he said softly. "Go. I'll be out as soon as I change."
I nodded, turning to walk back to his family. He was right behind me, and took my elbow when we reached the dark corridor leading to the locker room. He pushed me back against the wall where it was dark, cool, and private. I paused, looking at him quizzically, and he raised his hand to curl it around my neck. With his skates on, he towered over me even more than usual, and I tried to repress an excited little shiver as he gazed down at me. He was big, hot, sweaty, and male, and it made me feel delicate, hot, thrilled, and feminine.
"I love you," he said softly. "And everything we talked about it the meadow? It's going to happen, Bella. I'm going to make sure of it."
I felt happy tears fill my eyes as I gazed at the beautiful boy that was my future. We were young, and we'd learned the hard way that nothing in this life was certain, but there was no doubt in my mind we had something very special together. It was worth fighting for. I was just as determined as he was to make sure the promises we made to each other in the meadow came true. I realized he was renewing his declaration in the middle of a dim ice arena, the smell of sweat and exertion surrounding us, rancorous calls and shouts swirling through the air, but I wouldn't have it any other way. It was so different from our time in the meadow, but the two situations balanced what we were perfectly. My heart swelled with love, hope, and happiness.
"I love you," I told him, kissing him and putting my heart, my trust, and my future in his hands. "You can be sure of that."
-THE END -
And they live happily ever after. :)