A few minutes before the fight of her life. . . .
|Word count: Approx. 2,600
Summary: Written for the prompt(s):
You’re looking for acceptance to places,
You’re never gonna get it, accept it.
Our painted faces rejected
An abomination, infected.
With so much hatred collected
How can you say you didn't expect it to go this way?
Like bad directions,
They’re looking at me like a weapon.
We got the world at attention.
We’re like this great invention
They’re all too afraid to mention.
Shun me, like bad intentions.
But we'll see who really had agendas.
I don't wanna be in your fucked up life
“Jesus, you can’t go out there, tonight, Rena.”
I didn’t look away from Maurice taping my fists up good. They were of course still achy and swollen from last night, but that didn’t stop Maurice, so it wasn’t gonna stop me. “I have to go out there. Do you know how much we could make off this one fight alone if I win? The notoriety I’d get?”
“Yeah, if you win,” Diana replied grimly, probably crossing her arms over her chest. And looking at me so hard I could feel it even though I was watching Maurice work. “They don’t call that bitch The Beat-Down for nothing, you know?”
“I know.” I finally looked up at Diana as Maurice finished with my hands. Her arms were indeed crossed over her chest. I never told her this, but whenever she does that, my eyes practically fall out of their sockets, thanks to the gauzy peasant blouses she likes to wear. But now wasn’t the time and this definitely wasn’t the place. At least not with Maurice in the room, leaning on the wall across from me and lighting up a cancer-stick. “But she’s big and she’s relatively slow—”
“Relatively doesn’t mean actually, Reen.”
“—and I’m pretty sure that if I keep her dancing and land some quick blows, I can—”
“You can what? Babe, she’s never been defeated in her professional career! Never!” Diana uncrossed her arms and ran her hands up into the tangle-y thicket of her curly hair, tugging on it in frustration. I felt bad for putting her through this, but I was iron. I was steel. I wasn’t gonna be moved. Not even by my best girl.
“There’re some people out there that think I’m pretty damn good, myself,” I said—meant to say confidently, but it just came out small and hurt. Diana stopped tugging on her hair to search my eyes then sighed and crossed the room, sitting next to me. She took my taped up right hand. Hers was cool against my hot, puffed flesh.
“And I’m one of those people, baby. I’m your number one fan,” Diana said tenderly, leaning in to kiss me so gently, it barely stung my lacerated lip. “But The Beat-Down is a fucking mangler. She’s a psycho in the ring. And that gives her an edge that most fighters—sane fighters—just don’t have.”
“Is that your left-handed way of complimenting me?” I joked, smiling even though it hurt my face. Diana rolled her eyes and leaned into me. I put my arm around her and held her close. She smelled like coconut and kudzu.
“It’s my way of calling you sane. At least relatively. And no lefty jokes, Righty,” Diana added, sighing again. Her breath was cool on my shoulder, but followed by a warm, damp kiss. “I have so much faith in you and your speed and reflexes and sheer fucking talent. But I have no doubt that if The Beat-Down gets the upper hand for even a second, she’ll make it her personal fucking mission to destroy you, just like she said.”
I snorted, kissing Diana’s forehead. I could see a few strands of grey mixed in with her dark curls, and I winced, knowing I was responsible for most, if not every one of them. “That’s just bullshit smack-talk. She’s talking herself up and psyching me out. Or trying to. But I’m not letting her get to me. Not in this lifetime.”
“It was more than just talk, Reen,” Diana said softly, worriedly, turning her face into my neck and reaching out for my free hand. She traced the lines of the tape with feather-light fingertips and I shivered. “She’s really got it in for you. For some reason, she’s made this personal.”
“Ah, c’mon, don’t exaggerate—”
“I’m not exaggerating,” she said sharply, sitting up and looking me in the eye. When we’re standing, she’s a full four inches taller than me—an even six feet—and built like an Amazon. But she can’t even fight her way out of a tickle-fight, let alone a real one. She doesn’t understand what it’s like—what it is to be in the Zone. That place where anything is possible. Even winning against an animal like The Beat-Down.
Diana searched my eyes again then made another sound of frustration, looking away. “You don’t get it.”
“Get what? That you don’t think I can hold my own in a fair fight with her?” I said, clipped and angry-sounding, though I was more hurt and disappointed than angry.
Diana shook her head. “You don’t get that I’m afraid she’ll kill you,” she said quietly.
I blinked and sat back, surprised.
“Kine-ahora! Why the fuck would I let her do that?” I demanded, shuddering like someone walked over my grave. I had to bite back the traditional spitting three times, like my old Bubbe would’ve done.
“Oh, you think she’ll give you a choice in the matter?” Diana demanded right back, crossing her arms again and I very deliberately did not look down her blouse. Now really wasn’t the time. “She nearly killed Angie Blythe two years ago—Angie’s still not recovered from the brain injuries she sustained. The Beat-Down went completely fucking apeshit on her. That wasn’t personal, either, I suppose.”
“Di, babe, it was two years ago—”
“Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
“And I’m not Angie Blythe. I’m smaller, faster, and fucking meaner. I’ll put that bitch in her coffin before I let her put me in mine,” I promised, and Diana rolled her eyes once more.
“How about you just call the fight off, and no one goes in a coffin?”
“Not gonna happen.”
“End of discussion, Diana. The fight goes on,” I finally said in my best laying-down-the-law voice, and she drew back as if stung, her dark, dark eyes wide with surprise. Then offense. Then they got unreadable and I got uneasy, glancing at Maurice for help. He just shrugged and continued smoking and watching us like we were pay-per-view.
“Fine,” Diana said, softly, but coldly, like frozen smoke. “Have fun getting killed out there. Just don’t expect me to stick around and watch.”
“Shit—Di, come back!” I called after her when she slammed out of the room.
“Oh, nice job, kid,” Maurice said sarcastically, but I was already blowing past him and out the door. I didn’t catch up with Diana for two turned corners. But then she reached a dead-end hall that led to the janitor’s closet and turned around angrily, stopping when she saw me.
“Baby,” I began and she held up her hands.
“I don’t wanna hear it, Rena. You’ve obviously decided that my opinion and feelings don’t matter to you as much as the damn purse and the notoriety—whatever’s got you so gung-ho about this match. And that means we have nothing more to say to each other.” Diana stalked forward, meaning to shoulder past me, but I blocked her. Then again. Then for a third time.
“I can do this all night,” I said, and Diana’s left eyebrow quirked.
“Actually, you can’t. You have a fight to go die in.”
“Ouch!” I couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled out of me and Diana’s glare went from hot to arctic in the space of a second. If there was one thing Diana hated it was being laughed at. Especially when she’s upset.
She really tried to get past me, then. Nearly did—nearly knocked me on my ass, but I caught her and held on to her by the waist.
“Look at me—Di, look at me! Stop fighting me and just listen, okay?”
“Why? When you won’t listen to me?”
I heaved a sigh, myself, and pushed her down the dead-end hall, out of the main corridor. She didn’t put up a fuss about it, which made me hopeful that I wouldn’t lose the best thing that ever happened to me over the best fight I’d likely ever be in.
“Listen,” I said again, quietly, doing some eye-searching of my own. Hers were wary and angry. “Listen.”
“I am listening, against my better judgment. So say whatever you’re gonna—mmph!”
She kept trying to talk over my lips and around my tongue, but again, I didn’t let a little resistance stop me. Or the fact that kissing her, while amazing as always, hurt my face considerably, not to mention my busted lip.
Right around the time she started making that breathy little moan high in her throat—the one that meant she was seconds away from tearing items of clothing off of at least one of us—I broke the kiss and pulled her close against me, so we were sharing air.
“I was listening. And I heard you,” I whispered, blinking up into her eyes. This close, they were the darkest glitter—a night-sky full of stars. “I understand that you’re worried for me, and rightly so. The Beat-Down is a mangler. But she’s also slow and stupid and she favors her right side, lately. I’ve been watching her most recent fights over and over, and I know her weak-spots. I know her habits and I know her tricks. She won’t get the drop on me. And I will not end up like Angie Blythe.”
Diana let out a shuddering, unsteady breath. “But what if you do?” she asked, small and frightened. “What if you do?”
“I won’t.” I kissed her again, one hand sliding down from the small of her back, to her ass, the other coming up to cup her left breast through the thin fabric of her peasant’s blouse. Just a gentle tug on the material and I had free and easy access—she wasn’t wearing a bra—that I used shamelessly, never mind who might pass by in the corridor.
I walked her backwards toward the door to the janitor’s closet, pushing her up against it—but removing my battered hand from her ass, first—only to gather up her long skirt till my fingers were brushing her inner thigh.
“Really, Reen?” she murmured disbelievingly between kisses, and I laughed.
“But—fuck, isn’t screwing around before a match supposed to be bad luck or something?”
“Baby, you know I don’t believe in luck,” I said, though we both knew differently. Diana didn’t even call me on the obvious lie. Just pushed me firmly away.
“Well, I do believe in luck. And you’re gonna need all the luck you can get, tonight, going up against that beast.” Diana pulled her shirt back up and straightened out her skirt while I stood there in complete disbelief, myself. Then when I reached out for her again, she smacked my hand away.
“Aw, c’mon, baby . . . you never bought into the whole good luck/bad luck thing before now.” I pouted, though I knew it looked pretty gruesome on my beat-up, bandaged face. Diana shook her head and crossed her arms, not even bothering to acknowledge where my eyes went.
“Well, you never went up against The Beat-Down before now. I’m taking no chances.”
And I knew that look on her face. The resolve-look. The one that meant no sex-capades would be happening before this fight.
“What about after the fight?” I asked, still pouting, and Diana’s left eyebrow quirked up in question.
“Assuming you’re in any shape for it? Sure, why not?”
“That’s the kind of ringing endorsement of my sexual prowess I’ve come to expect from you, Diana, my love!”
Shrugging, Diana reached out and took my hand, holding it in both of hers before raising it to her lips for a kiss. I blinked and felt my entire world shift onto a different axis, and yet . . . nothing seemed to have changed. So I took a page from Diana’s book and shrugged.
“I love you,” Diana kissed onto my taped knuckles. “I love you. Please come back to me no worse for wear.”
“I—” I cupped her cheek in my palm, brushing soft, dark skin with my thumb. “I’ve got every reason and motivation in the world to win. I’ve got you waiting for me and rooting for me. What’s The Beat-Down got that could possibly top that?”
“A killer uppercut?” Diana leaned into my touch, closing her eyes on tears that fell anyway. I brushed away the ones that fell within reach of my thumb. “Just be careful. And fast. And if she really knocks you down bad . . . stay there. For God’s sake, don’t give her a chance to take her crazy rage out on you.”
“I won’t,” I further promised, thinking The Beat-Down wouldn’t get me on the mat for long enough to do more than register the fact that I was back on my feet and fucking her shit up royally. “C’mon, baby. Let’s head back. They’re probably looking for me to do the weigh-in.”
“Okay.” Diana took a deep breath, took my hand again, and together we walked out of the dead-end and into main corridor. Already, I could hear Maurice’s voice telling someone that he didn’t know where I ran off to, but that I’d be back soon if I knew what was good for me. I stifled a laugh.
“Kick. Her. Ass,” Diana whispered, leaning in to peck my cheek. “And I don’t care what the rules of fair-play say: if you think she’s gonna start waling on you, you cunt-punt that psychotic bitch till she can taste your shoe leather.”
Shocked, I gaped up at my passivist, peace-loving, Buddhist girlfriend. She gave me a totally fake innocent-look, but was blushing so hard it showed up even on her mocha complexion. “What?” she asked, really working that fake-innocence. I held up my hands in placation.
“Nothing, nothing. Just remind me never to get on your bad-side.”
She blushed even harder, looking away with a small smile. “Oh, shut up, Reen.”
Grinning, I swung her hand as we turned a corner and spotted an annoyed-looking Maurice, talking to none other than Sam Willis, the promoter. “I’m serious. I don’t even know what a cunt-punt is, but I’m scared.”
“You’re about to find out what it is, if you don’t shut up,” Diana hissed, but she was fighting a smile, her lips twitching minutely. Oh, yeah. I was on a roll—riding an adrenaline high that hadn’t even begun to peak, yet. Hopefully it’d carry me through to victory tonight against The Beat-Down.
“Hey, maybe we could fight as a tag team from now on: I’ll be The Lightning Lass, and you’ll be The Cunt-Punter. . . !” I shadow-boxed the wall to my right—bob and weave—then jumped in front of Diana, catching her by the waist as she bumped into me. I waltzed her down the hall, toward Maurice, who was already kvetching about chronically late boxers with no sense of responsibility. “Don’t you think that has a ring to it?”
“Actually, I think this is why no one should ever talk to you before a match, Rena.”
“Oh! A zinger from The Cunt-Punter!”
“I swear, it’s like you’re twelve. . . .”