A/N Copyright disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters or anything to do with Twilight, they belong to Stephenie Meyer. This is my first fic and as such welcome any and all feedback. If you like what you see (or don't) please review.
Sweet Science Chapter 1
The first thing I notice is her smell.
Not the square bank of thousand-watt fluorescent lights shining in my eyes as I strain to see; one eye starting to swell shut while the other fills with sweat.
Not the prickly irritation of the canvas scratching at me as I roll over onto my knees, only to collapse right back where I started. Not the sound of Marcus thumping the canvas, screaming unintelligibly from my corner. Not my muscles refusing to budge from their dormant state, as the fatigue overwhelms me. Not even the noise of the packed stadium shouting, hopefully feverish in my support. Those all run through my head like a child's flipbook, but not before I notice her smell.
I usually don't notice things like that. I'll obsess to an unhealthy level over all sorts of other details in life; championship reign lengths, training techniques, dieting tips, anything that gets me to my goals. But smells, faces, feelings; tangible sensations never seem to stick. At least, that was life until I met Bella Swan with her indefinable quality that refuses to be ignored. When it comes to her fragrance, it's more remarkable than anything I've ever experienced. I struggle to put it in to words as another waft of her scent overcomes me, but the closest thing I can link it to would be cinnamon and lavender. Well, more like cinnamon, lavender and coffee, which is a surprisingly intoxicating combination. The amount of coffee she drinks surely can't be fit for human consumption.
Where is that smell coming from?
It's a trick of the senses, some kind of phantom smell.
After the pounding I just took I'm lucky I'm conscious enough to smell anything at all. I honestly believed that I would be able to salvage it, but there's been no call, not even a message. Silence. She's gone and I thought I had started to accept the fact that I'd fucked it all up. Time. Just a little more time and I would have worked it all out. If there is any justice, she won't have contacted Jasper or Carlisle either. It's a small relief knowing that if she's not here, then she's not witnessing my systematic destruction.
Why am I even thinking about this?
I need to focus on a more immediate problem. One that will determine not only my own future, but also that of those who have chosen to support me despite some of my more stupid decisions. I just can't shake it, nothing else smells like that but after what happened why would she be here?
That's never been my thing; I'm fast, and hard to keep down, but focus? That's something else. Marcus always lectures that it doesn't matter how long you jump the rope, how hard you work the heavy bag, how many crunches, squat thrusts, pull-ups or push ups you can do, if you can't focus it's over. Go write a book, this isn't for you.
Occasionally in moments of total vanity I've read sports columns that described me as having a lot of 'heart'. Really that's a euphemism for not being up to the task; "good work, at least you gave it a go." Heart is the participation award of boxing. Even Marcus, the anally retentive, emotionally repressed bastard occasionally tells me I "gave it some heart." Well, my heart is doing fuck all for me at the moment. Hasn't for some time now.
If Bella were here now I wonder if she would want me to win. I know my family's thoughts on the matter, but with Bella I find I can't predict anything.
Come on focus. Focus on what you're good at. Remember the drills. Shut everything else out and stop thinking about Bella Swan!
If I can get up, use my speed, strategy and all those drills I'm forced through every day, I might be able to outwit him long enough to get in close and land some quick hits. Getting him to back off, even for a few seconds, could put me back in the fight. I know I can't beat him on strength. Every punch has felt like he's hidden knuckle-dusters in his gloves. If it weren't for his lofty sense of moral superiority I might wonder if he was actually doing that. His size and reach is clearly to his advantage he looks like he shouldn't even be in this weight class.
That's it, think of your footwork, focus on how to beat him. Nothing else matters. Focus on…
Fuck, how did it come to this?
I turn my head to the side and see his boots as he shuffles back and forth, keeping warm from his corner while he waits for me to get up.
I know he's certainly not struggling with focus. The one thing he excels at more than anything else is iron determination and concentration. People call him stoic. Distant. Cold. I don't think that's fair; it doesn't even enter into the equation with someone like him. Not that he doesn't worry about what people think. It's just when he's not thinking about training, and about how to win the next fight, he's sleeping. And even then I'm sure it's all he dreams about. He is a focus machine; his only fuel is the next opponent. With the way he's fighting tonight, I guess I gave him enough to work with.
There it is again. I can definitely smell cinnamon at least, I'm sure of it. Like a cinnamon blended coffee. I've never understood her fascination with coffee; I can't understand why something that smells so extraordinary tastes so sharp and bitter.
I must be delirious now.
Focus is irrelevant. I've already lost. I've been knocked out and this is an elaborate fantasy.
The thought of this not being real is terrifying, almost as much as the thought of it being the opposite. There doesn't seem any way that this could be reality, any of it. Everything is hazy and unreal; I can't make out full sounds. I feel like I'm in an avant-garde expressionist film. Colour seems wrong, proportions are askew and nothing sounds right. It feels like the time she left me. Alone in a hospital bed, it's a scene I dutifully play over and over in my head.
Come on pull yourself together! Focus on what's happening right now. What round am I in? How much time is left on the clock? The bell can't save me; I'm going to have to get up. My muscles are shattered, I can barely draw breath, it must be at least be the 8th or 9th round by now, at least I hope it's that late in the bout.
Why can I smell her?
It's both frightening and exciting. Dammit… Just forget it. The punishment I'm receiving now will pale in comparison to the stony silence I'll get from Marcus if I don't get back into this fight. Just focus. Picture the look in Carlisle's eyes when he sees you win. Imagine proving to him he's not always right. Come on, get on your feet and land the next punch! That's all that matters: the next punch, and then the next, and the next. Nothing else.
I manage to roll over onto my knees successfully this time. I rock back into a crouching position, tense my quads and stagger to my feet. The momentary exhilaration I feel is short lived as I drop back to the mat. Shit, if I can't even stand, this is over and I'll be damned if I let that happen.
I will win this fight; I refuse to let Carlisle have this over me. I know he still resents me for leaving his gym. He told me that I need another three or four years of 'seasoning,' for a match up like this, that I should focus my attention on endeavors more worthy of my talents. Bullshit. He won't be proven right. Not today.
This is it. Ready the muscles, push and get up!
I finally make it to my feet. If I hit the canvas again I'll be starting that novelist career Marcus taunts me with. I can just make out the ref's mouth moving up and down as he starts the standing eight count. The next eight seconds pass in a flash, my ears feel like I've done a hundred laps in the pool without earplugs.
I can't stand swimming. Wait, the ref says something I can't make out. I can only assume he's checking if I'm ok to continue, I give as definitive a nod as I can manage and hope that fools him while I try to prepare for the next onslaught. Going to the judge's decision or a TKO isn't going to cut it, there is no way I'm letting this fight get stopped by anything short of a complete knock out.
The ref grabs my gloves and yells, continue. I tentatively move to the center of the ring, my mind racing to decide what to do, hoping my opponent can't see my indecision. It takes less than a fraction of a second before I'm welcomed back with a jab that lands just below my left eye. The punch finishes the swelling and I know I won't be seeing anything else out of that eye for the remainder of the bout. My chin catches the second half of the combo and I barely make out the right side of his waist contracting slightly as he shifts back to deliver the next cross. I shift my weight to match and try to beat him to it with a quick right led double-jab cross.
Too slow, he moves with incredible speed landing three solid jabs of his own, my muscles can't respond quickly enough and he's already changed tactics. I feel the piercing pain of my ribs cracking as a solo uppercut lands above the waist. All the air rushes out of my lungs, I'm certain it's the same ribs that cracked eight months ago. I desperately move in for a clinch to give me a second to think, but as I try to wrap my arms around his, again I'm proven too slow. He steps back, effortlessly slides to the left, moves in and I feel the full force of a left jab and right hook. I stagger back, steady my legs and blindly lurch forward with a quick hook that gets deflected by his shoulder. I retreat back towards the ropes, a tactic Marcus won't praise me for, trying to catch my breath and think about what to do. My entire midsection screams every time I try to move, how can I hope to recover from this?
That smell, so distracting but almost welcome now.
Shit! Where has he gone?
He's on top of me again, unrelentingly moving forward, forcing me around the ring, and giving me no chance to strategize a way out of the situation. I deflect his next punch but catch a smaller blow just under the collarbone while still retreating back. I'm almost on the ropes as I try a sharp side step and dart in, miraculously landing two weak hits. The pain in my ribs has taken any substance out of my blows and he knows it, letting them land deliberately, returning the favor with two weightier hits of his own. He leans forward and lands an unusual uppercut combo; I don't have time to marvel at his sudden change into unorthodox boxing as I feel another strike out of nowhere.
As it connects I can barely form the words to describe the feeling that comes over me. I feebly attempt to raise my hands to stop any more of the onslaught. Before he gets the chance to finish the job my legs give out and I fall back, tangling myself in the ropes. Momentarily suspended there, I'm unsure if I'll be able raise my arms again to defend myself. If that's the case, the ref will have no choice but to stop the fight. White haze envelops what's left of my vision as I fall out of the ropes and am reunited with the canvas.
This is impossible.
I assume the count has started but I don't hear it, all I can think about is what led me to this moment and wonder how I could possibly not have seen it coming. I must have let my ego get out of control to think that I could compete with him. He's lightning swift on his feet, relentless on the attack and each punch is unforgiving. Then again, I should have expected nothing less from my brother.
Time becomes meaningless as I finally lose consciousness, letting my thoughts wander at will. The last thing I notice is the smell of cinnamon.
A/N Next chapter we jump back two years. In fact, all subsequent chapters until the last will be flashback and are a bit longer than this chapter too. Please review.