|If You Stop To Think, You're Gone
Author: imgayerthanyou PM
AU. Brittany is a hardened boxer and Santana is the arm candy of a wealthy politician who's involved in the boxing world.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Brittany P. & Santana L. - Chapters: 14 - Words: 50,577 - Reviews: 357 - Favs: 630 - Follows: 607 - Updated: 07-11-12 - Published: 01-14-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7740927
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Don't forget Pierce, you're taking Gonzaga tomorrow."
"How could I forget?" Brittany grunted, accentuating each word with a blow to the worn punching bag hanging in the corner of the gym. She could feel Jack watching her but she didn't look up. Wes grimaced as he held the bag steady, feeling Brittany's hits reverberating in his hands and arms. Her weighted gloves made every hit twice as hard.
"Save your sarcasm for the ring, 'kay?" Jack frowned and eyed the blonde before retreating to his office in the front of the small gym. Brittany ducked lower, pummeling the bag with a quick series of hits before pulling away with a final grunt, chest heaving as she breathed heavily. Her pale skin shone with sweat and the fabric of her sports bra was darkened with the perspiration it wicked from her body. Wes stood back, shaking his hands.
"Well, you sure seem ready," he commented, watching her pull off the gloves to grab her water bottle. His eyes flickered over her already bruised knuckles. Nothing she isn't used to, he thought idly.
"I was born ready," Brittany cracked a smile as she put the bottle back down and took a few playful swipes at her trainer. Wes had been training Brittany since she was 16, and even after 7 years of close contact, her cheerful demeanor still managed to surprise him. He dodged her jabs and grabbed her, pulling her into a light headlock.
"And he's got Pierce in a death grip! It doesn't look good for her folks! This could be the – oof!"
Brittany landed a half-hearted punch in Wes' toned yet vulnerable gut that forced the air from his lungs. She pulled back, holding her hands up in celebration.
"Damn it Pierce," Wes wheezed.
"Whoops," Brittany apologized, not sounding sorry at all.
"Get out of here before I polish you off and leave nothing for Gonzaga to face."
Brittany laughed and grabbed her water bottle before heading towards the door. She picked her hoodie up off the rack along the front wall.
"And try and get some sleep tonight!" He called after his retreating fighter.
Brittany only rolled her eyes and said she'd try. She pulled her hoodie on and stepped outside, knowing it was an empty answer. No matter how many matches she had under her belt, sleep was the last thing on her mind the night before a fight.
True to her thoughts, Brittany lay awake in bed that night, staring at the glow in the dark stars she had on the ceiling. They were dimming already, having been last exposed to light so many hours ago. Her body ached as she rolled onto her stomach and adjusted her pillow. After getting home from the gym she had done a few rounds of her own workout in hopes of tiring herself out enough to sleep. If anything the extra activity had only gotten her even more wired than before.
While her thighs and biceps shut down for the night, her brain got its own workout chasing memories so clear they could have happened yesterday. Brittany fell on the one she always did, the one that sat in the back of her mind daily but made its presence obnoxiously clear at night.
Her sister was six and old enough to handle herself in the park for 10 minutes, right? Right. Brittany jogged down the street to the grocery store after leaving Kait on the swings in the park. Their mom was working the late shift again and they needed dinner. Well, Kait needed dinner, Brittany could go without if it came down to it.
Once in the store Brittany scooped up some cheap pasta and cookies. She frowned at the price as the cashier rang her up, but the smile on Kait's face would be worth the extra few dollars for the cookies. She glanced at her watch nervously and placed a few wrinkled bills and the correct change on the counter before grabbing the bag and heading back towards the park.
As she came up to the playground she heard a faint yelp come from a group of stocky looking boys near the swings. Her heart in her throat, Brittany tore across the grass towards the group, hoping she had misheard the voice and that the absence of her sister only meant she went to the gross bathrooms set up in the corner of the park.
"C'mon kid, just give us your bracelet and we'll leave you alone," one of the boys growled.
When she neared them Brittany peered around the three boys and saw her sister sitting in the dirt, her face blotchy and red, clutching her wrist tightly to her chest.
"Hey!" She shouted, pushing past one of the boys and kneeling down in front of Kait. "Hey munchkin, are you okay? Did they hurt you?"
The small blonde broke into fresh sobs at the arrival of her sister but shook her head. "They tried to take the bracelet Daddy gave me. When I said 'no' they pushed me," she hiccupped.
Brittany's eyes narrowed and she stood up, turning to face the boys who were probably her age. She was taller than them, but they were probably twice her weight, at least. The one in the middle looked smugly from his friends to Brittany.
"Listen, we don't want any trouble, 'kay babe? Just the bracelet."
"You don't want any trouble, so that's why you were picking on a six year old?" Brittany nearly hissed through gritted teeth. "You feel good about yourself, trying to take a bracelet from a kid less than half your size?" She dropped the grocery bag next to her and clenched her fists.
The boy raised his eyebrows. "You think you're gonna fight us for this?"
Brittany hadn't even considered it; her actions had been reactive. But now there was a rage coursing through her, manifesting itself in the deep nail imprints in the palm of her hands, the tightly clenched jaw muscles, and the way her body twitched as the biggest boy stepped forward.
He reached a burly hand out towards her as if to push her away, as if to sweep her aside to get to Kait, and she snapped. With the blink of an eye Brittany felt a blinding pain in her right fist as it connected with the boy's jaw.
"Fuck!" he cursed, staggering backwards. His friends turned to him and Brittany pulled her hand towards her, balking at the pain.
"You bitch," the boy was already heading towards her again, rubbing his jaw and turning his head to spit blood to the ground.
"Kait, run home," Brittany said without looking back at her sister.
"No, Brit –"
"Damn it, Kait. Go home!"
Brittany ducked as the boy swung at her. He was so slow, she found herself thinking in awe as she moved back up. She heard Kait stand up behind her, stepping back slowly.
"Hey! Hey, stop!" An older voice called from the street. The boys froze and everyone turned to see who was shouting at them. A large man in a suit was crossing into the park towards them, and the boy still holding his jaw hit his friends in the shoulders with his free hand.
"Let's get out of here," he said hurriedly.
The group took off in the opposite direction to the street that ran along the other side of the park. Brittany watched them go, calling them cowards in her mind but relieved to see their backs. She felt Kait wrap her small arms around her legs and ran her left hand over her hair, pulling her closer.
"Are you okay?" The large man asked as he reached them. Brittany studied him, wondering what a man with a suit like that was doing in this part of town.
"Yeah, thank you." Brittany smiled appreciatively. The man looked down at her right hand.
"That was some punch you got in there…but you might wanna have that looked at."
Brittany nodded, knowing she could never afford a trip to the E.R. and just hoped her hand was badly bruised and nothing more. A thought crossed her mind and she frowned.
"How long were you watching that for?" She blurted out.
The man's lips twitched. "I just wanted to see you land one on him," he replied, not mentioning that he held himself back long enough to watch her duck the boy's punch as well. Brittany scowled but said nothing.
"Britt, I'm hungry" Kait chimed in.
"Okay girlie, let's get home and make some dinner. I got a special treat for you, too"
Kait beamed. The man watched the two blondes and reached into his pocket, pulling out a small business card.
"Have you ever fought before?" He asked Brittany, still holding the card in his hand. She shook her head, uncertain as to where this was going. "Well, maybe you should give me a call sometime. We're always looking for fresh talent, we pay well – real well," he emphasized when he caught interest flicker through Brittany's eyes. "And I think you'd be a great match for our company." He extended his card to Brittany, who took it hesitantly.
"Think about it," the man, who according to his business card was named Jack Donally, said as he watched Brittany scan the card. He waited for her to say something but when she didn't, he turned and walked back towards the street.
Brittany pocketed the card and watched him go, her mouth full of questions she decided not to ask. Instead she picked the bag up off the floor and took Kait's hand in hers.
"Let's go," she mumbled as she led her smaller girl through the park towards their apartment.
Brittany remembered how the card had burned in her pocket that night years ago, almost as painfully as her swollen hand. She remembered doing a web search on a computer in the public library of the name "Jack Donally" the next day. Countless pages of both the negative and positive variety made her eyes water late into the night until she realized her mom would be worrying about her and she hurried home.
For days, Brittany would sit through meals and classes, distracted by the card she kept on her at all times. Jack Donally seemed to be a saint, a thief, a monster, and a genius all at once. His company had produced some of the most successful boxers in the history of the sport. But his name was also attached to both business and personal scandals, one of them being the disappearance of a female boxer after a surprising loss to a famous international opponent.
Brittany had decided she didn't want anything to do with Donally. She was only 16, trying to get through school while helping her mom keep it together while taking care of her sister. Her dad had passed away a few years ago and they didn't have insurance; money had always been tight. Her mom had picked up extra shifts at the diner down the street, but they always only managed to break even, living from paycheck to paycheck. Brittany had enough on her plate to deal with already; there was no need to tangle with a sketchy businessman, no matter what he might have to offer.
But she still held on to the card. It sat on her small nightstand in the room she shared with Kait. Brittany never knew why she didn't throw it out. She shook her head at the nagging thought that she held on to it because she knew she would use it, but it kept coming back. Whatever it was, her resolve broke one night about a week after the incident in the park. She was picking out pajamas for Kait to wear (the little girl liked the surprise) as Kait stood shivering in her towel in the bathroom. When Brittany brought her sister her clothes, she noticed how skinny Kait was. She could literally see the little girl's ribs and it made her stomach twist. Kait was a trooper and never complained when meals were small or sparse, but Brittany beat herself up for it every day.
And that's how she found herself standing outside the small gym downtown after school, Donally's creased card clutched tightly in her right hand, which was sore but functioning. The large man in the front office had smiled like the Chesire cat when Brittany walked in. She felt he must have worked hard to keep his smug satisfaction to a minimum; even then she knew he was playing her like a harp, but she had felt like she had no choice. Jack had used keywords like "strength", "success", "loyalty", and maybe the nail in the coffin had been "financial stability", but that same evening Brittany returned home feeling as if she had been run over by a truck.
Donally had introduced her to Wes, a young trainer who apparently knew what he was talking about. They had trained, or more accurately, Wes had pummeled Brittany like a punching bag, for 3 hours straight. She was too young to legally sign up with the company just yet, but Brittany had a feeling a handshake with Donally was just as solid as any written document. Either way, he had given her a gift card to the grocery store before she left, ensuring her family food for the week and her return to the gym the next day.
Brittany rolled over in her bed again and groaned at the soreness in her muscles as she rested on her side. Her mind still churning with the memories from years ago, she managed to fall into a dreamless sleep.