(ME)
Violence this brutal was an act of singular focus and ferocious will. At the core of boxing or any battle, that's what laid at the heart of it all. Something that called back to the very origins of man, when one hungry human took arms against another in competition for food, water, a mate, survival. Tapping into something that primitive in a man required devotion or just the right amount of inspiration. At his youthful peak, Mike certainly had that. His focus and drive always came from a place of passion, and not usually the best kind. Whether it was the burning resentment he harbored for Jack and the shadow he cast, to take the middling boxer's reputation and crush it under the foot of his own superior boxing prowess or simply to prove to those that doubted him because of his parentage that he could be a bonafide Olympian, Mike always fought best when he had something to drive him. He'd lost that drive after prison. A shell of a man, paralyzed with the fear of doing wrong again. Crippled by a guilt that made him cast everything he did in doubt. That wasn't the case anymore. Years of that had mounted. It'd pushed him to a breaking point, and combined with a personal betrayal he'd been dealt some time ago, getting back into the fight felt like the only thing left to keep his sanity. To keep his sense of self from slipping away and sating the appetites of that volatile anger that lurked within him. It was a dark place that Mike inhabited now. A state of mind where the only thing he'd ever felt any real skill with— his fists— drove him into the seedy underbelly of the city to throw his lot in with the dregs of Boston's fighting underground. Some were former fighters barred from professional fighting, almost all had a hitch of savagery to them that made them perfectly suited for this kind of unsavory blood sport. Now Mike could count himself among them, but he brought a restraint and discipline to it that few others did. Not many guys were on the cusp of reaching the Olympics like he had been in his youth. Most days, Mike just came here to put down his opposition as quickly and effectively as he could. Tonight was different. Few things can make a man feel as alive as bloody competition, but there was a masochistic side of the blond brawler that prized enduring punishment. To get hit, and prove to himself he could still get up. He chose tonight to lower his defenses and take a beating, less as a measure of his toughness, and more to bury the feeling of dread he'd begun to feel as of late. The fight became a brutal exchange of blows, tit-for-tat, the thrill of a fist busting Mike's lip and drawing blood punctuated with the bliss of hearing & feeling his own knuckles dig into the other man's sternum, a meeting of bone and sinew, the sickening thud of his fist against flesh. Like a meat tenderizer at work, and then the painful crack of his opponent's ribs. By the time the man hit the floor, unconscious, Mike could already feel the prick of a terrible feeling he'd become all too accustomed to these last few months. Loneliness. He tried to spit out the taste of it, but only ejected blood. One Hour Later This wasn't the first time he'd stood out in the darkness gazing up at Jane's building. He'd done it more times than he cared to admit, a picture of the creepy, introverted loner incapable reaching out to a friend. He hated it. It should have been easier to pick up the phone and call her or even just leave her a text, but there was a part of him that yearned for this self-imposed exile. Now he just felt a yearning for friendship again, a familiar face. Jane's. Now he had an excuse to seek her out, to justify it to that prideful shred of ego that tried to convince itself he didn't need anyone. A soft groan emitted when he pressed a hand against his ribs, feeling the bruised flesh beneath, and he started toward her door. He was a fucking mess. Clad in old jeans and a plain white t-shirt, splotches of blood blemished both as he stood there with a crimson stained bandage over his right brow and looking like a battered brawler. He'd rap bruised knuckles on her door, took a moment to steel himself mentally just like he might before a fight, and by the time she arrived at the door he'd have his game face on: a faint, confident smile worn gently. He wore it despite the fact it even hurt to grin. "Hey, good samaritan. Got a minute to donate to the salvation army?" A joke meant to melt the ice, though clearly by the look of him he needed a bit of help.

(THEM)
It was a muggy, lazy evening for Jane Forrester ... until it wasn't. Two, maybe even three years ago, she'd been accustomed to (hell, perhaps even half expectant of) a knock at her door in the early morning hours. It was simply the nature of the relationship with Mike; a sort of routine they'd fallen into when she'd banned him from the hospital on the grounds that there were simply too many questions. Questions that inevitably came from the police, curiosity among the staff growing into speculation as to the nature of her relationship with the man who came in at least once every week, covered in bruises and too close to battered beyond recognition to avoid suspicion for long. So, she'd given him her personal address and her pager number and that was that. The beginning of a beautiful friendship, if a friendship was what the arrangement could be called. He'd go out and do god knows what (Jane learned long ago to stop asking questions she didn't necessarily want the answers to) and she'd leave her medical bag by the door before bed, ready for any eventuality. They settled into an easy rapport, trading playful jabs and long pulls from a bottle of Jameson while she stitched and he breathed through the pain. But time passed as time is want to do and the visits became less frequent; fewer and far between until one day they simply ... stopped. He was gone, another missing piece of some warped but customary puzzle she had created for herself in Boston, the edges ill-fitting, sometimes even jammed into place but no less fashioned in such a way as to convey some sense of normalcy. So, on this particular night, a knock at the door at nearly 1 AM was the last thing Jane was prepared for or expecting. She was halfway through a bottle of wine when she heard the weak rap of knuckles to galvanized steel, focus pulled from the menial task of trashing half-empty carts of Chinese take-out and other long neglected items loitering about her fridge. Closing the door, she stepped around the corner to peer rather stupidly at her locked front door, weighing the options as her mind raced as to who might be calling on her at such an hour. Did she call out? Did she pretend she didn't hear it at all? Curiosity outweighed precaution after a time and bare feet crossed the short distance to her foyer, took her time with the slap lock and dead bolt, and finally threw open the door to clap eyes on the man that stood bleeding on her Welcome mat. Confusion gave way to recognition and when he spoke, Jane couldn't help but offer a rueful grin in return. She leaned against the doorframe, arms folding beneath her breasts as she examined him, noting that he looked very much the way she remembered him: a bloody, pulpy mess with swagger in spades. She paid little mind to her own state of dress (pajama shorts, a tank, her cropped honey brown hair still damp from the evenings shower) as she regarded him with a slow shake of her head. "I'd say no? But I think we both know all about my bleeding heart for devastatingly handsome boxer types." Stepping aside, Jane took hold of the door and pushed it open on its hinges, gesturing him inside with a tip of her chin. "C'mon in before you bleed out in the hallway."

(ME)
Friendship was something of a subjective descriptor for different people. He saw it used quite liberally by some people, pinning it on anyone in their lives they shared more than a few casual conversations with. Michael Everett wielded the term a bit more judiciously. Ironic, considering that some people might not qualify a few fun get-together and a series of patch jobs as grounds for a strong friendship, but for a man kept the number of people in his life to a bare minimum for a number of reasons, Jane absolutely fit that bill. He had no reason to trust her the first few encounters they'd shared outside of the fact that she'd done her job, but like almost everything else in his life, Mike took a leap of faith based mostly off a hunch. His instincts had always served him well in the ring, he thought, why not with her? It'd proven to be one of those increasingly rare sage decisions. He'd bled in front of her and in the process, exposed more than just his bruised frame and broken bones to her, but shown small pieces of who he was. Not much, but for a man who treated his emotions and the more intimate details of his life like Fort Knox, it was something. Michael knew not everyone thought like him though. For all the fondness he had for her, he'd still been a ghost in her life for a long time now. Sometimes he felt like he was a ghost in his own life. Would she greet him with skepticism? Would she even recognize him? For a fleeting moment, Mike felt gripped by fear at the possibility that she'd lay eyes on him and no form of recognition would surface in those warm eyes of hers. That's when it struck him just how isolated he was now. Fortunately, her grin served as a salve to the dread and ache in his soul, a warm reprieve that lowered the sharp edges to his sometimes enigmatic demeanor. "Devastatingly handsome?" He arched a brow, accentuating the bruised swelling along that otherwise strong jawline of his and scanned the hallway around him theatrically. "You going blind now? Maybe I need to donate to you," hints of that wolfish smile surfaced somewhere on damaged features, eagerly accepting her silent invitation. Once he set foot within, the casual air around him melted into something deeper, more appreciative. His words suggested a familiarity that wasn't quite honest considering the passage of time since their last meeting, but his eyes flashed an appreciation and understanding of this truth. "Hi.. Look— .. I'm not just—," his voice reflected as much, a struggle to find the right words. His tone carried something pained, not a desperation born from his physical need for her healing touch, but something else entirely. "It's good to see you again. Even if I wasn't bleeding and fucked up, I'm glad you were home and, well, that I came." He remembered now why he gravitated toward the company of violent opposition over friends, sometimes the right words just escaped him. It was only then he reached back and pulled out a gift tucked into the back of his jeans, a modest paper bag concealed bottle of whiskey and offered it out to her, perhaps like some more romantic suitors might offer up a bouquet of flowers. In this case, it was to his savior. "Jameson, just 'cause I know you're a sucker for us Irish." A timely, suggestive grin emerged in hopes of brushing aside the moment of emotional honesty he'd expressed only seconds prior.

(THEM)
2016-07-11 11:56 pm UTC (link) DeleteFreezeScreenTrack This Select For as nonchalant and even unphased as Jane appeared to be by his current state, her eyes followed him with a careful, long ago practiced gaze as he stepped past her and into the apartment. The rhythm and gate of his movement would determine if he suffered from any bruised or broken ribs, or any obvious contusions that would make the use of his legs particularly uncomfortable or difficult. Like before, this too was routine and satisfied that he could at least limp his way to her couch, Jane closed and bolted the door behind them. Whether he agreed to it or no, he was in for the night and once she tended to his wounds, she'd make up a bed for him on her fold-out couch. It was a studied dance and had the circumstances of his return been significantly, she would've made a quip on how taking care of him was a reflex; 'riding a bike'. What she was not prepared for was the sudden, almost alarming softness in his words, a clear sign of a struggle to fully express what he only ever usually conveyed behind so much conflict in his eyes. It was enough of a change in him to bring her to a halt in her trek towards a nearby closet, her kit stashed away on a high shelf. Even in the dim light of her small apartment and despite the swelling around his eye, the split and bloodied lip, the skin riddled by black and blueing bruises, Jane could read the effort there; to express, to reveal at least some iota of appreciation. Her smile softened only to widen once more when he retrieved the bottle of Jameson from his back pocket. She reached for it with a soft peal of laughter, hardly minding the few droplets of blood that had undoubtedly made their way into the fold of his back pocket. Was it his, or someone else's? The time to investigate would come soon enough. "It's good to see you, too," she offered softly, sincerely. Could she tell him that she'd worried about him? Watched the papers, the news for reports pertaining to underground fighting ring stings, fearful that his face would be one of many whose mugshot was splashed across the city? The degree and depth of feeling between the two of them had only ever been the most surface, the barebones of what could loosely be considered affection. But here with him now, flesh and blood in her apartment, alive but not entirely well and looking all the world like a man embattled but hardly emboldened by his demons, Jane felt a tinge of longing. It was a sensation to be unpacked and examined at a later time. For now and with an authoritative snap of her finger, Jane was all business. "Go. Sit. Shirt off." With his instructions clear, she turned and made for the closet, clearing away winter coats and other assorted clutter to find her med bag.

(ME)
It seemed to be a package deal with men of his ilk. The thrill of mystery and danger at the expense of having to deal with someone who had difficulty dealing with their own emotional turbulence. It was definitely something that had caused a lot of friction in the scant few relationships and friendships he'd somehow managed to forge over his thirty-four years walking the Earth. Not with her. His distant demeanor had yet to alienate her, he wondered how long that would be the case until her medical instincts seemingly took over and she directed him to her couch. He always liked that side of her, maybe it was because it was the first aspect of her he'd ever seen, and maybe he just thoroughly enjoyed taking directions from her since he rarely followed commands from anyone else in his life. He had to say, she was good at giving them. "Damn, not even dinner and a movie first, huh?" He cracked wise, an obligatory jab at her instructions that he lose some clothes. The telltale signs that Mike had lowered his guard and felt safe enough to lose any falsehoods came in the way he started to amble carefully down her hall, no longer putting up a front that the damage he took rolled off his sculpted frame like smoke and finally showing it did take a toll, particularly tonight as every muscle ached, every sore patch of flesh felt tender. On his way through, he surveyed his surroundings quietly. Always a man for observing the minute details, he assessed what might have changed. New pictures, new furnishings, but less aware was the fact he was also assessing if there were signs of another person in her life without even realizing he was doing it. By the time he reached the couch, his upper lip curled in anticipation of the pain that surged up his torso when he reached down and started to slowly peel his shirt up over his body. His whole body tensed like he were performing some rigorous chore, showcasing an impressive frame of taut muscle, but one that had been put through the wringer. His back was a canvas of bruises and scrapes— evidence that his competition didn't always believe in giving their opposition to stand back up before delivering more punishment. The main damage was allocated along his right side, a black and purplish discoloration of flesh along his ribs that hinted at the source of his pain, and if she looked closely along the back of his head, she'd find blond hair was slightly matted and wet with blood from where the back of his head had crashed against concrete on one of his trips to the floor. Nothing he couldn't endure with a bit of her help. "This is what you get for beating me at pool you know," he started, a hand pressed to his side instinctively as he sucked in a breath, the thin sheen of sweat on his body served as evidence just how fresh off a fight he was. "You wounded my ego so now I have to inconvenience your ass for the rest of your life. That'll teach you to let me win next time."

(THEM)
Her smirk would go unseen by him but was no less evident in the counter she tossed over her shoulder from the closet. "Oh, so now I'm feeding you and patching you up? You are well and truly hopeless now." It was far from the truth, she knew. Mike had never struck her as the sort of man who relied on anyone to care for or tend to his every whim. She often wondered if he'd ever even been in a relationship that didn't involve some degree of emotional warfare, so hardened had he always seemed to even the briefest moments of tenderness. Of course, that she considered his romantic history at all was yet another item to be packaged and sealed away, an inexplicable curiosity that would most assuredly only lead to an entirely self-sustained confusion. Rounding the corner into the living room some moments later, Jane paused in the doorway with a barely contained gasp. What stood before her was something between a man and a piece of tenderized meat and the stock she took of him with her eyes was less to do with admiration of his physique (though, yes, that too was worthy of some audible expression of disbelief) and more along the lines of deciding where to start first. His ribs appeared to have taken the brunt of the damage, likely badly bruised if not completely fractured. The discoloration was jarring even for a woman who'd spent nearly a decade in the field. "Jesus Christ," she breathed as she stepped closer, waiting patiently as he lowered himself to the couch at a speed that was manageable through the pain. She joined him and passed the bottle of Jameson his way before she began to riffle through her kit for ace bandages. "This will probably hurt like a son of a bitch," she warned as she shifted in her seat to face him, one leg tucked up and under the other. "So, swig plenty of that." Once he did as instructed, she began to probe gently along his right side, murmuring instructions to inhale and exhale as she went. Satisfied that she could at least set the bones, she reached for the wrap and stole the bottle from him, leveling him with a look. "Oh, sure, yeah. This is all my fault and has absolutely nothing to do with the fact you obviously have some sort of death wish. Right." Resting the bandages on her lap, she lifted the bottle of Jameson to her lips and braced herself against the smell, and the inevitable first sting of taste. "Arms up as far as you can take them," she ordered before kicking back her own shot of the stuff, immediately recoiling against the flavor of barley and peat. The bottle lowered, the entirety of her small frame shuddered rather comically with the after effect, loose brown locks shaken out against her cheeks.

(ME)
"What can I say? I like to be spoiled," he shot back at her lamenting having to potentially cater to his whims. From the modest style of dress to those rough, manual labor addled hands of his, he hardly looked like a man accustomed to pampering. much less comfortable with the notion. Yet here he was in the middle of the night, calling upon her to help him. Imagining a scenario where he opted to forego any treatment and simply suffered through his wounds himself before seeking to dress them alone stubbornly wouldn't have been to outlandish to believe. So why come to her? The answers were in those fleeting moments of vulnerability he flashed her through normally turbulent blue eyes. It was more about Jane's company than her healing accumen, though now the latter certainly was proving invaluable. "Do your worst, doc. I can take it." He dismissed her assertion that the pain was coming quite proudly, even though he'd just winced his way through removing his shirt as if it were some Herculean task. He put a strangle hold on the neck of that bottle, lifting his arms as high as he could, and struggling when he got them at about shoulder level. Sculpted limbs shook briefly from fatigue and the sudden ache he felt from trying to lift them even further, but he'd put a muzzle on any groaning by quickly taking a pull from the bottle of Jameson. It served to numb his nerves some as she laid hands on him and assessed the damage. He found her touch brought a degree of tranquility with it, maybe it was the fact he was so use to being punched rather than touched that eased him some. Maybe it was the degree of proximity they shared now, that he could smell her (and she smelled great) that soothed his volatile spirit. It was just nice to see her again. It made him realize just how withdrawn he'd become as of late. "Hey, I got this by accident. Slipped in the shower, honest." He gave her his best faux look of innocence, she knew damn well what he was about but it didn't mean he'd keep from playing the saint just so she could call him out on it. A faint chuckle managed to slip past his lips when she took her pull from the bottle, the sight of her trying to tough her way past the strong burn of the potent dosage of liquid courage was incredibly endearing, and so was the way she recoiled afterward. He couldn't help but smile at her, nor the sudden and instinctive response to reach out and gently brush those loose chestnut lockes of hers behind her ear as she shuddered, suddenly surprised by his own capacity for a softer touch, as if he thought he'd forgotten he was capable of anything but violence. He cleared his throat for a moment, and his body grew rigid, slipping back into the role of patient despite the telling flash of affection and longing he'd shown there and fell back on his ability to poke fun at her to bring things to an even keel. "Maybe next time I should bring you something non-alcoholic or fruit flavored," he smiled smugly, eager to toss a volley of playful verbal barbs.