Sequel: Faith
Status: Complete.


"From the ashes, I rise."

Everything was fuzzy when she opened her eyes. The light was dim, her stomach throbbing, her entire body sore. "Ow." She flexed her arms, testing them, marveling at the tubes that seemed to coming in and out of her everywhere. Jade closed her eyes as her head swam. "Fucking OW."

His chuckle was soft, but it rang through her head. He was here. "Doll," Tommy whispered, planting a kiss to her forehead before pressing his lips to her eyelids.

She opened her eyes to look at him, his smile sending warmth down to her toes. He looked like he hadn't slept for days. "Nanna?"

"Has a helluva headache, but she's fine."


His jaw clenched. "Dead."

Jade breathed a sigh. She was safe, she was finally safe. "You?"

"You scared the shit outta me, Jade. Never do that to me again."

"What, get shot? Wasn't planning on it."

"Good. I'm gonna get the doctor."

"Wait," she called out, trying to reach for him but held back by the tubes crisscrossing out of her body. "What happened to your fight?"

He shot her a look. "Everything that's happened, and that's what you're asking about? Not your gunshot wound, or how long you've been here, or the surgeries you've gone through? You want to know about my fight?"

"Well, yeah."

"Soon as I saw you were gone, I forfeited."

"You lost?"

"I guess you can say that. But I'd rather lose a fight than lose you. I'm getting the doctor now." He stopped to plant a kiss on her forehead before exiting the room. Minutes later he had returned with a man in a white coat that looked to be about twelve. Tommy caught on before she could say something, though. "Jade, this is Dr. Strauss. And he saved your life."

"You were very fortunate, Miss Paul."

Jade nodded slowly. "When can I get out of here?"

"What did I tell you?" Tommy asked as he and the doctor both chuckled.

"You have some healing to do first, Miss Paul. You were lucky enough that the bullet didn't enter your abdominal cavity, and you had no injuries to your liver, spleen, or kidney. Basically passed through the muscles. Excrutiating pain, bloody as-" the doctor paused.

"Fuck," Jade laughed. "Was definitely bloodier than fuck."

Dr. Strauss gave her a smile. "That's one way to put it."

"So when can I leave?"

"A couple of weeks."



Jade paced the floor, too nervous to meet either of the brothers' eyes.

An unfamiliar man leaned into the room. "Five minutes, Miss Paul." She stopped just long enough to nod before resuming her path around the room.

"Bren, can we have a minute?" Tommy asked, his brother disappearing a moment later. Once alone, he grabbed Jade's wrist and pulled her to the corner. "I got you something." He handed her a plain white box. "Now I know it's not traditional, it's usually for boxers, but ..."

"Oh, Tommy," she breathed, pulling out the fluid, hunter green silk robe from the box. She fingered the embroidery, the image of a phoenix. "From the ashes, I rise," she read the words surrounding the bird out loud. It brought tears to her eyes. After everything she had been through to get to this place, it was more than appropriate. "Thank you."

Brendan peeked his head in. "It's time."

Tommy helped her shrug on the robe, fixing the hood over her head before leaning in to give her a kiss. "You got this."

They walked the halls in silence, Jade's heart pounding at about twice the rate of their stride. But somehow, she felt invincible. She had the brothers by her side, the love of one and the friendship of another. And no one was taking that away from her.

Music swelled as they entered the arena, Brendan's choice of Beethoven ringing out. Snippets of conversation flowed around her: "shot two months ago" ... "was a battered woman" ... "Riordan's fiancé." She kept her eyes down, focusing on keeping her breathing even since she couldn't control the racing of her heart.

And then she was there, the official looking her over before she stepped into the cage. Riveting Rosie was already inside, staring her down. Jade had to bite down on her tongue to keep from laughing. She had been facing Tommy's stare for ages now, and no one had shit on Tommy when it came to a death glare. Hell, she had faced death itself down. Not much compared to that.

They met in the center to knock gloves and listen to the ref, each nodding in agreement. And then it started.

The horn sounded, the women exchanging blows. Rosie's punches seemed to just glance off of her, the worst hit coming from an uppercut that she was too slow to defend. But even that barely registered, Jade either too used to being hit now or too fueled with adrenaline to feel it.

Two minutes in, she saw her opportunity. Rosie was slack on her defenses, her right side wide open. A hook to the temple and a quick leg sweep, and she had her in a kimura hold on the canvas. Rosie had tapped out within seconds.

The brothers rushed the cage, Brendan meeting her first to pull her into a hug. As soon as she had been released, Tommy was lifting her until she had wrapped her legs around his waist, and he was kissing her, kissing her, and she didn't care, too wrapped up in joy and love and happiness to care where they were. She had won her first fight. Tommy refused to let her down, the official raising her arm in victory as Tommy held her in his embrace.
♠ ♠ ♠
I almost hate to hit the submit button, because that means its the end. I may do a sequel if I can think of a story arch I like, but no promises. I love Jade and Tommy, I love their relationship and their fire.

Thanks to everybody for reading and commenting and recommending and everything. You guys kept me going when I thought I had writers block and made me happier than you'll ever know.