The days at the gym were busier than ever. Potential talent from all over the city came and checked out Mikasa's gym after hearing the story of the blonde that she had picked up at the bar and turned into a star. It was Mikasa and Annie's little secret that Annie had had years of training beforehand, but neither of them seemed to mind. With all the success from Annie's career, the gym quickly gained money, paid off its debts, and was making a sizeable profit.
After the fight, Annie retired from the world of boxing, just as Mikasa had. She instead worked at the gym, and went on to train fighters. Eren took Jean to his own title match, but despite Jean's victory, the match was declared void due to some controversy surrounding the current title holder. Reiner and Bertholdt stuck around as well, helping with recruitment and the training of rookies.
Things were going extremely well with Annie. The blonde had been wary at first, but Mikasa was more than patient with her, and her patience definitely paid off. Slowly but surely, Annie opened up to her. She still was more of a physical presence, using words only when she had something to say, but there was so much meaning behind the contact. The way Annie sat too close when they were in public, pressing their shoulders together, or the way she would slip her arm around Mikasa's waist and pull herself close when they were walking down the street…it all drove Mikasa wild. She was even a little possessive at times. Mikasa fondly recalled one specific instance when she and Annie went to Armin's after one of Jean's matches to celebrate. The brunette had attempted to persuade Mikasa into going out to dinner with him, but Annie had stepped in, yanking Mikasa down by the collar and pulling her into an aggressive, overly passionate kiss right in front of him. She had felt Annie release her shirt with one hand to display a rather rude gesture towards the male fighter as well. She could remember the shocked look on his face, and could vaguely remember feeling a little sorry for him. But the sheer fact that Annie was acting like that was more than enough to make up for that. Being able to call Annie her own was the best thing that had happened to her. The first time Mikasa had woken up with Annie sleeping soundly beside her was one of the happiest moments of her life.
Sometimes, Mikasa would close the gym for a day, for "cleaning". She used these days to spend the entire day in her office, enjoying the peace. Sometimes Annie would tag along. Other days, the blonde left her to her own devices. Today, Annie stopped by around noon, despite telling her that she wouldn't be around.
The blonde slipped into the office, a plastic bag dangling from each of her hands.
"I hope you brought sweats." Annie said before dumping one of the bags on Mikasa's desk. A plastic headpiece fell out of the bag.
"Center ring in five, Mikasa." Annie called from outside the office, already heading there herself. Mikasa shook her head. Annie was in that kind of mood today. She usually loved the spirited blonde's attitude, but when it involved her getting in the ring, she wasn't so sure she liked it. She gathered up the bag and walked to the gym, seeing Annie already pulling on a glove.
"C'mon, I'm already warm. Get moving." The blonde called absently, clearly focused on the upcoming event.
"Annie, we need to talk about this first."
The blonde leaned up against the ropes, peering down at Mikasa. One eye as clear as a cloudless sky, the other impossibly pale, shrouded by a haze that had developed over the lens. A deep frown etched itself onto Annie's features.
"I know I did, but that was before…"
Annie sat down on the canvas and inched under the ropes, allowing her legs to dangle off the edge of the ring. She was now at eye level with Mikasa, and held her gaze steadily.
"What's past is past. And I mean that for you, not me. You've got nothing to fear here. It's just you and me."
"What if I hurt—"
"You can't hurt me." Annie said confidently. "You helped me face my fears. Let me help you face yours."
Mikasa could hardly bring herself to look at Annie, because she knew the second she looked at the blonde, the battle was lost. She peeked over at Annie, just to acknowledge that she had heard her, but that was all it took. Captivated all over again, Mikasa felt her resolve fading fast. And she saw Annie felt it too. The blonde popped back up in the ring, resuming her warm up, already sure that she had gotten her way.
Sighing, she pulled the headgear out of the plastic and slipped it onto her head. She really didn't want to fight. There was just enough risk behind it to make her feel uneasy. But it was Annie, after all. They had come a long ways. The blonde knew her like she knew herself. She knew what was good for her. Maybe she just had to go with it.
"Warm yet?" Annie asked, shaking out an arm. Mikasa jerked her head in a quick nod, raising her fists. With a dangerous smirk, Annie brought her own hands up and assumed the stance.
"Just a few rounds." Mikasa warned.
"Just a few." Annie agreed.
As if the bell had rang, both women approached each other, meeting in the center of the ring. Mikasa had the reach and the strength, but Annie was slightly quicker, more evasive. The blonde, compensating for her lack of vision, took a more aggressive route, trying not to allow Mikasa any chance to throw a punch that she wouldn't be able to see.
Mikasa covered up quickly, letting the blows land where they may. Annie certainly wasn't holding back; the punches were hard and fast, much like she had been expecting. But she took the damage like a pro, protecting her face as Annie continued her onslaught. Soon, the blonde bounced away, an angry look on her face.
"You're not even trying!" She called through the mouthpiece before tucking her elbows and putting up her hands once again, ready to resume the fight.
Mikasa stepped up off the ropes and crossed her arms defiantly. "This is dumb, Annie. I don't want to hit you." The second she had stepped out of her corner, she knew she wouldn't be able to swing at Annie. The blonde may have thought this was the best way to get her over her fears, but she was quickly realizing that this was not in fact the way to go about it.
"Aren't you even a little interested in seeing who's stronger?" Annie asked, flitting around the ring, throwing shadow punches as she went.
"Why does it matter?"
"I'm just curious." Annie stopped, and approached Mikasa. This wasn't going like she had wanted it. She had wanted a friendly match between herself and someone she considered a challenge. It didn't mean anything; Annie just missed being in the ring. She didn't understand how Mikasa couldn't miss it like she did.
"Well, I won't hit you."
"It's not fair. Why would I hit someone…" Mikasa trailed off, already wishing she could take back what had been said. She didn't want to bring Annie's handicap into this, but admittedly, it was a factor. Annie had adjusted surprisingly well to being visually impaired, but that didn't stop Mikasa from worrying about her. To take advantage of Annie's obvious disability, in the very sport that gave her that handicap, seemed wrong.
Annie looked at her, comprehending what Mikasa had just alluded to. A flash of hurt crossed her face, but it was soon replaced by one of seriousness. She simply walked up to Mikasa, staring her dead in the eye, forcing Mikasa to look back at her.
"Do you love me any less because of this?" Annie asked, motioning to her clouded eye.
In a heartbeat, Mikasa replied.
"Then don't act like you do." Annie said decisively. "We're equals. You've always treated me like one before. Don't stop now." She called as she walked away, throwing light jabs as she went. When she reached the corner, she turned back to Mikasa. "Now…are you ready?"
Annie's words resonated with Mikasa. She was right. There was no reason to go easy on Annie. There was no reason to be afraid that Annie would take anything she did personally. They were different, but so much alike. When all was accounted for, they were, in fact, equals. And Annie deserved to be treated as such. With a confident nod, Mikasa stepped up and got into her stance, a stern look on her face.
Annie relished the moment for a second. She had finally brought Mikasa the boxer out to play. And she more than excited to see what was in store for her.
A/N: Well, that's it, folks! As always, any form of review/constructive criticism is more than welcome. Feel free to share your thoughts on the story with me; I'd love to hear them! On that note, I have plans for some additional, OVA-esque chapters based on this story. If you'd like to see those published, please let me know so I can get to work on them. Huge thanks to my beta who helped me through the more technical parts of the story. Couldn't have done it without him. And of course, one final thanks to those who have reviewed. Your feedback means more than you know. Until next time!