A/N: This is going to be a long story. It's going to get...well, I hope, scary. This chapter is just to establish TJ and Spinelli's relationship, how they are with each other. Things aren't explained in this chapter, but bare with me, it will all become clearer in the next chapter.
Oh, a thanks to everyone who reviewed my One-shot fic, Always By My Side, I checked everyday and rejoiced whenever someone reviewed. 5 reviews was awesome! Everyone's opinion made me feel all warm inside.
I should put a disclaimer too...
THIS IS A DISCLAIMER.
Okay, that's taken care of. Now read, enjoy.
Chapter 1: Lovers' Spat Spinelli Style
TJ Dettwieler stood before the bathroom mirror in his small New York apartment staring unhappily at his bare chest. He was barefoot, still wearing the sweatpants he'd gone to bed in the night before. He'd always been somewhat unsatisfied with his appearance since his earliest youth, around the time when children started to notice every little flaw in their body. He was average height, about five foot ten inches, with a messy tangle of brown locks, and soft blue eyes. At twenty-five he'd already lost his baby fat, leaving him still slightly on the soft side, flabby in his opinion. He'd gotten a slight tan from a recent visit to the beach only accentuating, to his displeasure, the freckles powdered across his face and shoulders. It was safe to say, he didn't like what he saw in the mirror.
"Morn, Teej," greeted a groggy voice from behind him as thin, nicely tanned arms wrapped lazily about his waist and warm lips brushed against his shoulder blade.
"Morning, beautiful," he whispered in reply, eyeing in the mirror the messy mop of black hair that was his roommate, girlfriend, and best friend since childhood.
"What are you doing up so early?" she demanded half-heartedly, "The bed got cold and woke me up."
"Early?" TJ laughed, "It's twelve-thirty." He pulled gently from her grasp turning to face her with a grin. He pushed the hair from her face so he could see into her deep brown eyes. They were closed. "Spinelli, we have to wake up sooner or later."
"Great," was the reply as dark eyes snapped open and she grabbed TJ's arm attempting to drag him while saying determinedly, "I choose later."
TJ laughed, letting the strong young woman pull him into their shared bedroom. He stopped only to admire her. She'd grown beautifully from the cute brat with pigtails to the exquisite brat with knotted bed head before him.
Spinelli was on the short side, always had been, standing five foot seven. She was thin, but lined with well-trained muscles, due to the fact she worked out often. In fact, between school, work, and the gym TJ hardly saw her anymore. She was still as tough as nails too, never outgrowing the bully within her. Under TJ's encouragement she'd taken up kickboxing at the age of twelve and since then had taken home 5 titles, including Junior International Champion in the Female Lightweight Division at age 14. Even now she sported a bruise on her check from a sparring match a couple days ago. TJ loved her for it.
"We can't go back to bed. You have class in an hour, and I have to check in at work," TJ argued, smiling at her persistence.
"I'll e-mail my teach and you can just call them at work," Spinelli argued.
"You have training," TJ reminded her, his tone taking a serious tone now, "Have you forgotten you have a tournament in a week?"
"Damn, Teej," she growled, falling stubbornly on the bed in a sitting position, crossing her arms over her chest, "You don't want to snuggle with me," she accused, "I haven't even gotten a good morning kiss yet. You don't want to kiss me! My kisses aren't good enough for you anymore. I knew it! It's 'cause I refused to wear that dress to that formal dinner the other night, isn't it!"
"Calm down, Spinelli," TJ cried, throwing up his hands defensively.
"It's 'cause I'm not girly enough, huh?" she spat. TJ couldn't help but smile at her fit.
"You're adorable, you know," he stated simply. She stopped ranting at that, glaring up at him.
"Watch it, Teej. Even though I love you, I'm not objective to kicking your butt."
"Alright, alright, why don't you just plant one on my lips, doll face, and we call it even?" TJ replied, grinning boyishly.
"How's that make it even?" she asked incredulously.
"Just give me a kiss," TJ sighed, exasperated, slipping his hand behind Spinelli's neck and giving her a sweet peck to which she reluctantly returned at first, then relaxed softly into it. The phone rang and the two lovers broke apart.
"I'll get it," TJ sighed, racing to the phone and grabbing it on the third ring, "Hello?" TJ answered into the receiver.
"Hello, is Ashley there?" a deep male voice filled the phone.
Spinelli had started going by 'Ashley' in high school and TJ was the last one still calling her by her last name. People thought it was strange that he addressed her so impersonally considering their intimate relationship but he didn't see it that way. To him, he still saw the schoolyard terror that abhorred her first name. His good friend who he could joke with, play pranks with, shoot spitballs with, build paper airplane notes and exchange with, and play with in a shoddy tree house built by small hands fondly christened Fort Tender. To TJ, Spinelli was a special nickname for her that only he knew the true meaning behind, like an inside joke almost. It was a cherished memory only made better because they were the only ones who could recall it.
"Yeah, she's here, who's this?" TJ replied.
"This is Jocko. Who is this?"
"Who am I?" TJ retorted flabbergasted, enraged that this man didn't know who he was but was calling to speak with his girlfriend. "I'm...I am...I...never mind. I'll get - Ashley," he couldn't help spitting out the name with disgust. It tasted rotten on his tongue after this Jocko used it. He pressed the phone against his chest and called, "Spinelli, it's for you."
Spinelli stumbled out of their bedroom, yawning and rubbing the side of her head. She was still wearing her night attire, one of TJ's old shirts and her own pajama bottoms. Why did she always look better in his clothes than he ever did?
"Who's Jocko?" TJ asked politely, holding the phone away from her. "A guy from the gym?"
"He's my sparring partner," Spinelli answered, narrowing her eyes threateningly.
"I thought your coach had a policy against pairing men with women for sparring," TJ replied in a know-it-all manner.
"He does. Except none of the girls will spar with me anymore. Neither will most of the boys. Jocko's the only one left good enough to take me on and still willing to do it. He's probably calling about our practice today in preparation for the tournament. Besides, matches are mixed gender at the tourneys. Now give me the phone," Spinelli explained, obviously ticked off. They glared at each other for a moment, their eyes nothing more than angry slits, their noses inches away from one another, and TJ holding the phone possessively from Spinelli. Finally after moments of their dead standstill, he relented, handing over the phone. Spinelli cross punched his arm and walked away, pressing the phone to her ear and greeting the man on the other end ecstatically.
"Ow, that really hurt," TJ moaned, rubbing his arm dejectedly. It was going to leave a nasty bruise.
"That was TJ," Spinelli was saying, "Didn't I tell you about him? Huh? Yeah, that's right," she laughed slightly and TJ frowned, watching her pace, wrapping the cord about her finger as she spoke. Was she being flirtatious? "Yeah. I guess we could practice here." TJ perked up at that.
"No, you can't," he whispered to her roughly, shaking his head vigorously.
"No, it's no problem with him," Spinelli continued, glowering at TJ, "He doesn't mind at all. My home gym is a bit messy but I can clean it up." Her home gym wasn't messy. "Yup, I'll see ya' later. Yeah. Really?" she giggled a bit, a slight smile crossing her lips, "Thanks. Three, right? Okay, bye." Spinelli hung up the phone and met TJ's frowning face with an intimidating one of her own. Any other person would have backed down from the glare that Spinelli wore, but TJ had never backed down from her before and he wasn't going to then.
"I've got an article to write and I don't want one of your kickboxing buddies around making a lot of noise," TJ snapped, "And what kind of name is Jocko?"
"There are aerobics classes going on at the gym now and Jocko's house is undergoing a renovation. We need a place to work out. I don't want to lose this upcoming tournament," Spinelli replied, "Some of the toughest fighters in the league are going to be there. But you wouldn't know that, would you...nor that I nearly got my ass beat the last spar I was in seeing as how you never come to any of my matches." TJ winced, that stung. "And I think Jocko's a cool name for a tough guy like him. It sounds tough, at least, tougher than...ah." She trailed off, readying to turn and walk away.
"Than what?" TJ demanded, not ready to let it go.
"Nothing. Why you fighting with me so early in the morning?"
"I'm not fighting with you. I just want to know why some guy named Jocko is calling you. You don't think I'm tough? What's wrong with my name?"
"Nothing, Teej! Don't you have to check in at work," Spinelli sighed.
"No, I'm not done. Now you're in a rush to get rid of me?" TJ snapped.
"Only 'cause you're being a real pain," was the snappish reply. "Why you getting so jealous all of a sudden? Jocko's just a friend and a sparring partner. We beat the shit out of each other, Teej. And at least he's there for me when I..." Spinelli stopped screaming, catching her last words in her throat. TJ hated how she did that, just stopping in the middle of a sentence that way, leaving thoughts unfinished. He also hated how she kept throwing in his face that he had failed to attend even one of her matches yet. The truth was he couldn't stand to see her in the ring fighting like that. He was always afraid when someone swung at her, always afraid he'd leap into the ring and interfere with the whole match just to defend her. But would he tell her that? No.
"I have a lot of work to do, Ashley. That's why I haven't been to one of your matches. If you think Jocko is always there for you, than why don't you go live with him, and date him, and...and...and...he's probably better looking than me anyways, so you'll be scoring double there where you lost with me, right?" TJ shouted, "And if he's tough enough to take you on than he's tough enough to protect you. Something I could never do and he would probably be a better match for you..."
"Teej...what are you talking about?" Spinelli demanded, grabbing his face between her hands, "Better looking than you? Always there for me? Protect me? Explain now."
"Never mind..." TJ mumbled, his cheeks blazing red, realizing sheepishly the emotions that he usually kept so well bottled up but was now splaying all over the place. She stared at him intently, his eyes downcast, looking for something else to focus on besides those eyes; those eyes that he hated to lie to, those eyes that he loved so much. Finally, she let him go, bringing her fists up.
"What are you saying, you want to be my sparring partner?" she asked, grinning. TJ's eyes snapped up and he dodged just in time as a fist sailed by his face.
"No, Spin, I don't! I couldn't do that. What would I do? Hit the girl I...well...I...I mean, I don't hit girls as it is, but you?" Spinelli didn't back down though, advancing on him, swinging at TJ and letting him dodge just in time.
"Hit the girl you what?" she persisted, moving in on him as he backed up, hoping he didn't hit the wall.
"Spinelli don't," TJ protested, nearly tripping on an end table.
"Then say it," she told him, swinging again, this time TJ could feel her knuckles brush his skin.
"I don't want to...Please..." He hit the end of the line, his back slamming against the wall and Spinelli's fist coming in fast, "Alright! All right! The girl I love!" he yelled, eyes shut tight, just as her fist hit the wall behind him softly, the warmth of her skin permeating his ear. Spinelli let her arm fall to her side, straightening out of her fighting stance, leaning forward and pecking his nose. Turning, she made her way to their small kitchen off to the side.
"That's right. And don't you forget it," she called over her shoulder. "I'm making food. You hungry?" TJ glanced at his stomach unhappily, sucking it in.
"No," he replied miserably, returning to their bedroom to get dressed.
A/E/N: Alrighty...um...please don't hate Spinelli's personality, I'm trying to balance between who she is in this story and who she was in the series, same with TJ. And please, review, it'll encourage me to continue rather than to just give up on this story as I'm known to do.