Sequel: Faith
Status: Complete.


"You sure you ready for this?"

She arrived at the gym the next morning, a few minutes before their agreed upon 10am meeting time. Jade stood by the entrance awkwardly, uncomfortable. It was almost as if she could smell the testosterone from outside. She browsed the posters littering the building, everything from used equipment and fights to requests for sparring partners. Was she really doing this?

"Jade." Tommy's voice did nothing to soothe her nerves. If anything, it increased them. Maybe she was in over her head. But then she remembered what was coming in mere months, and she steeled herself, forcing herself to swallow down her fear and put up her walls. She would need her nerves, training surrounded by men like this. It'll only make her stronger in the end.

"Tommy," she acknowledged with a nod.

"You sure you ready for this?" He had already asked her once this morning, after their run, and she wasn't going to answer him this time either. Instead, she just stared him down until he got the point. He finally let out a chuckle and shook his head. "Just remember, you asked for this. After you." He motioned toward the inner door that led to the sign in desk. A few steps later, and she was inside.

"Tommy," the man behind the desk greeted him. "And who's this?"

"Jordan, this is Jade. We need to get her paid up and get her waivers signed."

"You know there ain't no girls' lockers here, miss?"

She just stared Jordan down, same as she had done Tommy minutes earlier. "Don't underestimate this one, man. She's a firecracker. She can handle herself," Tommy piped in.

Jordan shrugged his shoulders and slid her a clipboard. "It's your pretty face, doll."

Jade bristled. It was one thing for Tommy to call her that, but quite another for this stranger to. It felt like both a threat and a promise. She finally spoke. "Call me that again, and I'll smash that pretty nose in with the palm of my hand."

Jordan just laughed, taking her now-filled forms away from her. "You're right Tommy, she is a firecracker. Forty bucks, then, kid."

She dug the two hard-earned twenties from her duffel and handed them over, resisting the urge to throw them at the front desk man instead.

Jade hiked her bag over her shoulder as they rounded a corner and entered the gym proper. All sounds stopped as the men took in the unheard of: a woman in their midst. Tommy raised a hand in greeting to a few of the guys, but none went back to their work.

That's when the first wolf whistle cut through the air. "Who fucking did it?" he growled to their audience. "No one? The holy fucking ghost?" Someone snickered somewhere. "She's training with me, fellas. You touch her without her permission, or mine, and you're fucking dead." Tommy's eyes were harder, scarier than Jade had ever seen. Lord help any man that ever had to stare those down, in the ring or out. "Come on, we're doin' the bags first," he murmured to her, nodding toward the corner as he did. The noises of the gym soon returned to normal, Tommy eyeing everyone until they went back to their business.

"Sit." He motioned to a bench by the heavy bags and Jade obliged. The lone man that was still in their vicinity wisely kept his eyes on his work. Tommy dug in his bag and produced a couple of rolls of material. "Let me see your hands."

He knelt in front of her, silently and methodically placing gauze in a pattern across her knuckles, palm, and wrists. "It's to protect your hands," he mumbled as he continued his work. "And your wrists. I'll teach you how to tape up another day." He took her hand in his, moving it just so to check his work. "How's it feel?"

"Different. Weird. But powerful."

Tommy nodded and went to work on Jade's other hand. "Tell me what you know."

"Jab, cross, hook, upper-cut. That's about it. Some basic self-defense stuff."

"Know how to get out of a corner?" Jade shook her head. "Pressure points? Take downs? Targets?" She just continued to shake her head. "Shit, we got work to do. How's that one feel?" he queried, nodding to her other hand.

"Same as the other."

"Alright. Time to hit the bag. You know how to stand?" Jade planted her feet, right foot forward. Tommy shook his head and stepped closer to her, hands out in supplication. "May I?"

Jade nodded. She tensed as he placed his hands on her hips, trying to avoid her normal feeling of closing in on herself when anyone touched her. He adjusted her just so, and if he noticed her discomfort, he didn't say so. He slapped the back of her knees.

"Loosen up. And remember how that feels. That's home for you now. You standin' anywhere, even when you're not here, and thats how you stand, hear?" Jade nodded again. "I catch you standin' any other way, and you'll pay for it here. Start with some hooks. Switch to jabs and crosses when I say, then back again."

"How many?"

"Doll, we're going until you can't go no more."
♠ ♠ ♠
I apologize to any boxing/MMA fans that want to yell at me for getting details wrong. I have a few years of Kenpo under my belt and some kickboxing to draw on, and that's it. I'm open to any suggestions/information when it comes to the training.

I'll try to get another chapter up today before my semester starts. And comments are so welcome!