The man quickly checked his sheet, "Yeah, he's here. Last booth on the left in the back. Wan’ me tuh take ya to him?"
She shook her head, "That's all right, I can find him."
Heading through a small maze of tables, Rachel made her way towards the end of the narrow space. Sweeping her gaze across the few guests, she was about to make another inquiry when a small, dapper looking man in a three piece suit stood up.
"Hello Ms. McAdams. I'm Gerald Olin. It's a pleasure to meet you."
Smiling, the redhead walked up, offered him her hand and said, "The pleasure is mine Mr. Ol..." her voice trailed off when she realized her host had another guest. Her smile vanishing, she addressed the other woman with, "What’re YOU doing here?"
Neve Campbell arched an eyebrow and smiled tightly, "I was asked to be here. And it's nice to see you too Rachel."
Olin, sensing the tension, cleared his throat. "My apologies if this is a surprise Ms. McAdams. Rest assured it’s NOT an ambush."
Flicking her eyes in the man's direction, Rachel replied, "I'm sorry Mr. Olin, but my management team has advised me to avoid Neve Campbell unless it happens to be in the middle of the FCBA ring. And, given what happened between us the last time we were close enough to punch, I think I'm going to take their advice. Sorry if this upsets your plan. Tell your employer I'll return his check in the morning."
Fixing the seated brunette with a final hard stare, Rachel whirled around and stalked back the way she had come. She'd made it less than half a dozen steps when Neve called out, "You know, I've thought you were a lot of things in the last several months Rachel, but up until tonight, 'corporate puppet' wasn't one of them."
The subdued derision in Campbell's voice froze Rachel in her tracks. Turning a slow 180, the former bantam champ walked back to the table where Neve was seated and growled, "I'm NO ONE'S puppet!"
Keeping her face neutral, the dark eyed brunette snapped, "Prove it."
Rachel wasn't impressed. "How? By doing what YOU want? Screw that!"
The redheaded star opened her mouth to lash out with another barb when Olin put a hand on Rachel’s shoulder and said softly, "Please Ms. McAdams, Ms. Campbell, I didn't bring you here to scream at one another. Just give me enough time to consume a short scotch. After you’ve heard my offer and you aren't interested, you can both leave - AND keep the advance. Does that sound fair?"
Clenching her jaw, Rachel glanced back and forth between Olin and Neve before slowly sitting down in a seat opposite the brunette. Still glaring at Neve, Rachel said, "Talk."
Offering up a relieved sigh, the mediator sat down at the end of the table and began, "I come to both of you tonight as a representative of a man named Roland Deschain; a long-time, albeit silent, supporter of the FCBA. He’s often helped secure venue rights, negotiated TV deals, consulted on international broadcasting strategy, that sort of thing. In exchange for his services, the organization allows him the privilege of making the sort of offer I'm about to put before you two now. Long story short, Mr. Deschain is a huge fan of the bantam division - and of you ladies in particular. He absolutely loved your first three encounters and has eagerly been anticipating the fourth. But it seems that conflicts of…shall we say...scheduling, have so far prevented that from taking place."
The polite little man paused to catch his breath and that's when Rachel turned to glare at him. Blue eyes tossing sparks, the cornerstone of the Mountees snarled, "I am NOT ducking her!"
From across the table, Neve said mildly, "What's the matter Rachel? A little defensive aren’t you? Guilty conscience?"
The redhead's pretty face twisted into a hateful grimace and spat, "Why don't you go fuc..."
Clearing his throat loudly, Olin cut her off. "Ladies, please. I’d never have the temerity to accuse anyone with eight successful title defenses of ducking someone. Be that as it may, what SHOULD be one of the marquee rivalries in the FCBA seems to have stalled out and I’ve been charged with getting it re-started."
Tearing her eyes away from Rachel, Neve asked, "Just what is it that you... or your boss... is proposing?"
Pleased to have regained at least a facsimile of stability, Olin answered, "Nothing the two of you aren't very good at. A standard ten round boxing match, fought in a regulation ring, to be contested and scored by off duty officials my employer trusts to keep quiet. The only difference between this fight and a typical FCBA outing is that it will take place in the ballroom of Roland Deschain's mansion, located just outside a the little town of Willow Maine. And because this match is NOT being conducted at an FCBA pay-per-view, the result, whatever it may be, will not affect your standing in the bantam division or your career record. The only witnesses to the fight will be yourselves, the officials Mr. Deschain and a few selected guests, all of whom know how to keep the end result to themselves. You'll be compensated for the time and effort of course, does this number seem adequate?"
He scribbled something on the back of a business card and slid it across the table to Rachel who picked up the card, looked at it and her eyes went wide. Modesty kept her from reacting any more openly, but suffice to say, Deschain's offer was VERY generous. She'd seen gates of whole PPV's that weren't this good. Nodding to Olin, she slid the card over to Neve and watched silently as the brunette's reaction mirrored hers.
A second later, Neve handed the card to their host and said, "I'm in. Rachel will never agree; but on the off chance she does, I'll be there."
Roland Deschain's emissary glanced at Rachel and asked, "And you Ms. McAdams?"
When Rachel spoke, it was to Neve and not to Gerald Olin that she addressed her reply. "Why do you hate me so much? Ever since I entered the FCBA I've done nothing but try to be the best, most professional fighter I could be. I'd heard the same was true of you, but you took one look at me and decided I was poison. Before I tell you anything, I want an answer."
Neve's brown eyes narrowed ever so slightly as the brunette replied, "I don't hate YOU Rachel, I hate..." she trailed off, apparently having trouble finding the right words.
Rachel wasn't taking silence for an answer though. "What? What do you hate?"
Neve took a deep breath and tried again. "Several years ago, when I was starting out, I joined the Mountees; the first stable I was ever invited to join. I was proud to be a part of it and while I didn't win all my matches, I ALWAYS went out there and made a fight of it. Win, lose or draw, I fought hard, and I fought clean, the same as I do now. Things were going well until one day I showed up at the gym to find the doors locked and the lights off. Management just up and disappeared without a word to anybody! When I realized they weren't coming back, I hired on with Sam..."
Rachel sniffed and muttered, "A stable notorious for humiliating and berating beaten opponents."
Now it was Neve's turn to snarl. "That WASN'T me! Go ask the ANS if you don't believe me, they'll tell you that during my time with Sam I was the ONLY member of the stable who DIDN’T go out of her way to embarrass foes. I let my work in the ring speak for itself. Then last year, history repeated itself. Sam disbanded the stable without warning. I was left on my own all over again; scraping around for fights; trying to find a place to train. You know what I heard, the Mountees were reforming! All right I think, surely they'll want one of their original members for the second go-round. I went down to their new facility and do you know what happened?"
Rachel shifted uneasily in her chair and mumbled, "I can guess."
Neve's brown eyes went from calm to furious in the blink of an eye. "They didn't let me past the front door!" She didn't scream it, but the words came out as a sibilant hiss and her rage was impossible to disguise. "Apparently all my hard work didn't amount to shit because I wasn't 'in line with the stable's goals for the bantam division'. A few weeks later they called a press conference to announce signing YOU, Rachel McAdams. Before the ink on your contract was DRY, everyone and their brother starts going on and on about how you're ‘the new and improved Neve Campbell’! I busted my ASS for that stable and THEY LEFT ME. Then when they finally come back, they say I’m not good enough anymore? I HATED them; wanted to hurt them! But since the suits never get in the ring, I had to settle for you!"
The brunette fell silent then, apparently she had said all she wanted to. Rachel didn't answer for several seconds. She hadn't heard Neve's side of the story before, and while she sure as hell didn't agree with her motives, she could at least understand them. But that didn't mean SHE was off the hook, not by a long shot.
Leveling her gaze on Neve, Rachel replied, "So you were pissed, I get that. That still didn't give you the right to slug me after I'd beaten you fair and square."
Neve's face went cold and hard as she said, "That was a receipt, pure and simple."
Rachel couldn't believe what she was hearing. "For what? Beating you twice in a row? Being the better fighter that night?"
Neve's face flooded with incredulity. "Better fighter? You BURIED a right in my trunks in the tenth!"
Rachel shook her head in vehement denial, "THE HELL I DID! I watched the tape of that match from every angle and NEVER saw it. I don't care what you think of me, I DON'T fight below the belt."
But despite the conviction of the redhead's words, Neve wasn't backing down, "I DON'T make excuses. You think because the camera didn't catch it, the foul didn't happen? Gimme a fucking break McAdams!"
Rachel's voice was quiet, but it took all her considerable will to keep from leaning across the table and strangling the brunette, "I didn't do anything."
Neve's voice was similarly quiet and angry. "You really believe I'd lie just to get your sympathy? That's bullshit and you know it! I've been hit low enough times to know what it feels like. You planted one in my trunks and it let you ride out the tenth for the decision."
Rachel wanted to ROAR at Neve; to FORCE her to recant, but she wouldn't lose her temper. She would never give the brunette the satisfaction of seeing her lose her cool. "IF I hit you in the trunks - and I'm not admitting I did - but IF it happened the way you say, it was an accident. We both know what it's like when we fight; mouth on shoulder with punches flying every which way. I'm sorry if I hit you below the belt, but that didn't cost you the fight."
Speaking in a voice just above a whisper, Neve said, "That rings pretty hollow coming from the woman who ate a Kelly Hu Diamond Cutter last Friday."
Rachel bristled at the mention of her ignominious loss, but she refused to allow Neve to distract her, "That doesn't excuse what you did. Punches are supposed to be thrown between the bells. You HIT me when I tried to shake your hand."
"I'm sorry." Neve said it so softly that Rachel thought she'd imagined it.
"What did you say?"
"It was a shitty, unprofessional thing to do and I'm sorry. My emotions got the better of me and I just... lost control for a second. I tried to talk to you later, but Dani and Elisha got involved and at that point your bosses had already made up their minds I was public enemy number one. So, I'm sorry. It won't stop me from beating you senseless if you accept this fight, but...."
Rachel honestly didn't know what to say. She'd been expecting a lot of things, but an apology wasn't one of them. Finally, she asked, "What do you want from me Neve? You want me to apologize for being a Mountee? I won't! They've been very good to me; I owe a lot to that organization."
Sighing heavily, Neve murmured, "What I want is to not be the villain of this piece. I want you and the rest of the Mountees to know they made a huge mistake turning their backs on me. I want the entire bantam division to know I'm not ready to go home yet." She paused for a moment, and when she continued, her tone was almost apologetic, as if she were confessing a dirty little secret. "What I really want is to drill you under the chin, to watch your knees unhinge and your eyes go from 'on' to 'off' as you take that drunken little half turn before you go crashing face down for that long ten count. I want that more than anything right now - and I know you want to do the same to me. BUT, if you can look me in the eye and tell me otherwise, I'll walk out of here and the next time we get in the ring we’ll let it be decided by fate or politics."
Rachel closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. When she let it out, she opened her eyes and whispered. "In my version you're out on your back. Seems classier, somehow."
Having held his tongue for the last several seconds, Olin broke the silence by asking, "Does that mean you accept the offer too Ms. McAdams?"
Rachel nodded. "Yes. On the condition that the Mountee management approves as well. I know you don't like them, but they've done a whole hell of a lot for me and they deserve a say in a fight this big. I'll let you know as soon as I get their answer."
Satisfied for the moment, Gerald Olin said, "Fair enough Ms. McAdams, I'll be awaiting your reply."
Believing the meeting was finally at a proper end, all three stood up and after shaking hands with Olin, Rachel turned to Neve and offered her hand. For a moment, Neve just looked at it - making Rachel feel nettled all over again. But then Neve took Rachel's hand and shook it. As she pulled away, the redhead added, "This doesn't make us friends."
"We make better enemies anyway," Neve agreed.
Rachel’s lips curled up in the faintest hint of a smile. "That we do."
Without another word, the redhead spun around on her heel and made her exit. As she headed out into the cold Toronto night, Rachel resisted the urge to call up her handlers right then and there. She knew the Mountee offices would reopen tomorrow morning, but she was still sorely tempted to call the brass after hours. She didn't know if she could wait a whole night to get her answer....
The next day...Gerald Olin was trying to finalize the details of the Mack-Fishel La Conquista bout when his phone trilled. Glad for any distraction, he grabbed the phone without checking the ID and said, "Hello?"
A familiar voice on the other end said, "Mr. Olin? Rachel McAdams."
He smiled. "Of course Ms. McAdams. I hope you're calling with good news?"
Even over the phone, he could hear the pleasure in her reply. "You may hope. Mountee management approved the fight. I was told, and this is a quote, to 'solve the Neve Campbell problem once and for all.' "
"I'm sure Ms. Campbell will be thrilled to have gotten your employers attention so totally."
The redhead's formerly pleasant tone suddenly went ice cold. "No offense Mr. Olin, but thrilled is the last thing Neve's going to be when I'm finished with her. See you in three weeks." She hung up the phone, leaving Olin to the task of letting his boss know the fight was on.
Three weeks later...in the center of the custom-built boxing ring which had been erected in the cavernous ballroom, Roland Deschain's announcer patiently waited for an old-time microphone to spool down on a long black cord. Taking the bulky instrument in one hand, he took a deep breath. "Ladies and Gentlemen, our Main Event is an unsanctioned, unauthorized, FCBA bout between two ferocious rivals! Introducing first in the red corner…she hails from London, Ontario Canada; weighing in tonight at 120 pounds she stands at 5’5” tall...the former Bantamweight Champion of the World and the undeniable cornerstone of the Mountee Stable…I give to you ‘The Red Death’, RAAAAAACHEL McAAAAAADAAAAMMMMS!"
A spotlight shown on the entryway as Rachel made her entrance; gliding into the ballroom in the midst of her entourage. The beautiful redhead’s attire was a mystery as her body from shoulders to mid-thigh was covered in a clingy red silk robe. Nodding appreciatively at the cheers directed her way, Rachel climbed the steel steps at the corner and stepped into the squared circle. Turning to all four corners, the blue-eyed fighter smiled mischievously as her hands rose to the knot at her waist. Undoing it with a quick tug, she shrugged the robe off to reveal a midnight-blue bikini with a small white maple leaf on her right breast. The look was completed by low white boots and matching gloves. Soaking in the applause, she raised her arms in appreciation before she strode purposefully to her corner to await Neve’s arrival.
Once Rachel had taken her place, the announcer continued, "And her opponent, fighting out of the blue corner and hailing from Guelph, Ontario, Canada; she weighs in tonight at 122 pounds and stands at 5’6” tall…a two time former Bantamweight Champion of the World who was recently voted the possessor of the most devastating hook in the division…honored guests, she is…‘The Brunette Buzzsaw’ NEVVVVVVVVVE CAAAAAAMPBELLLLLLL!"
The spotlight swung to the other side of the ballroom as Neve entered surrounded by her camp. Like Rachel, Neve’s sleek chassis was draped in a silk robe of deep forest green where Rachel’s had been red. Favoring the guests with an almost imperceptible nod, Neve strode toward the ring and climbed the steel steps. Slipping between the ropes, the brunette slipped past the announcer and took her place in the center of the squared circle. Making sure her back was to Rachel, Neve slowly undid the sash on her robe and slid it off her shouldres to expose her simple black bikini. Neve was showing a little more national pride tonight as her bottom sported a red maple leaf just above the left hip. The ensemble was completed with low black boots and red gloves. Studiously ignoring Rachel, Neve went to her corner to await the end of the beginning.
The bell chimed loudly and for the first time in several months, Rachel and Neve had what they wanted; thirty whole minutes all to themselves. For the scant few in attendance, the opening seconds of the bout were no surprise. They came out of their corners cautiously, but without hesitation. There were no taunts, no exaggerated mannerisms, no playing to the crowd (not that that would have been of much use anyway) just a brunette and a redhead stalking toward each other with one shared thought. Well before they were within striking distance, their guards came up.
Once they DID get to close enough to touch, it didn't take long for the first punch of the night to be thrown. After a second of silent contemplation, Rachel hammered a jab that spanked off Neve's gloves. Taking note of everything the brunette did, the redhead stepped to her left and fired a second jab, then a third! Neve blocked the first, slipped the second and Rachel found herself pulling back fast to avoid Neve’s counter aimed at her chin!
Neve took advantage of Rachel's back step to fire off a quick trifecta of jabs - all soaked up by the redhead's tight guard. Waiting patiently behind her gloves, Rachel waited for Neve to draw back and when she did, the Mountee star swiped her left forward and stepped in behind it THWAP catching Neve on the cheek with the first successful shot of the fight. Though her face remained neutral, inside Rachel was grinning. She couldn't explain it, but the leather felt better when she laid it on Neve.
Neve shook off the blow and reset her stance, setting hands a little lower than she should. The redhead took the bait, leaning forward to poke her with another jab and Neve turned into her punch, taking it on the shoulder - then fired off two jabs of her own! PAP PAP! Neve’s fist caught Rachel flush on the mouth. They weren't fight winning shots, but they were hard enough snap Rachel's head - and that warmed Neve's heart.
The next ninety seconds were spent in much the same way; Neve and Rachel standing center ring, picking their spots carefully to lay glove to opposing cheek, chin or forehead. It wasn't the fanciest work ever, but no one ever accused them of being fancy fighters. Rachel and Neve were testing each other, that was all. Neither expected her rival to make a stupid mistake, but if she did, you can bet her opponent would step in and punish her for it! And despite the air of sportsmanship they'd tried to set pre-fight, a round 1 knockout would definitely be something to crow about.
In the latter half of the round, Rachel stepped up the pressure of her assault, sending a near constant stream of lefts into Neve's gloves. Most of them didn't connect, but the ones that did were sturdy enough to let the brunette know she had had no intention of seeing this fight go the distance. On the other side of things, Neve answered with jabs of her own, and while she felt the satisfying sensation of Rachel's face under her knuckles several times, it was apparent both fighters and the few officials at ringside that the redhead's left was just a wee bit better at finding its mark.
Refusing to acknowledge the frustration she felt gnawing at her, Neve had just finished soaking up a tidy shot to her forehead when she heard Rachel say, "Don't you dare back away from me Neve. You hounded me for months to get this fight, so you damn well better get your hands up and fight." The former Bantam Champion punctuated her statement with a shot at Neve's face that the brunette slipped.
Even though part of her was screaming for it, Neve wasn't about to be baited into taking a dumb shot at the Mountee. Keeping it in check, Neve banged some jabs off Rachel's gloves as she replied, "Trust me Rachel, I'm only going to back off when you go crashing onto yours. There's no PR department to save you now babe. You belong to me!"
Neve saw an opening and drove one right through Rachel's gloves. SMACK! “Unnnn!” Rachel grunted and to Neve it was the prettiest sound she'd heard all year. WHAP! Grumbling quietly as the brunette's glove found her cheek again, Rachel returned the favor, brushing over Neve's guard to tap one off her forehead. BAP! When her Indy nemesis raised her hands to compensate, Rachel dipped low for the first time, ripping a hook into Neve's ribs.
SPLAT! “Ohhhh!” Neve brunette gasped and staggered back a half step which was all the encouragement Rachel needed.
Rachel went back to the jab, PEK! PEK! PEK! spanking Neve's face with three unanswered shots before the supposedly reeling brunette answered back with a hook of her own that caught Rachel across the jaw. Rachel took the blow solid, but it wasn't enough to stop her from seeking out Neve's face once more. And the redhead did find what she was looking for, but so did the brunette. Neve gave Rachel another opening to create one of her own and as the redhead swatted her in the chin, Neve swiveled her adversary's head with another solid hook. WHAP!
The second straight loss in the hook-for-jab exchange finally made Rachel sit up and take notice. Shaking off the shots, the redhead brought her hands up and brushed off the flurry of punches Neve tried to force through as the bell rang. Ceasing her assault as the ref stepped between them, Neve locked eyes with Rachel and said softly, "Three down, twenty-seven to go."
Her blue eyes hard and sparkling, Rachel tossed back, "You mean, three down, ten to go. Ten tops."
Neve just offered her a little smile before the official shooed them back to their waiting corners.
In Rachel's corner: "You're doing good out there honey. Just keep at her with the jab. If she's dumb enough to keep walking into that, she deserves whatever she gets."
In Neve's corner: "Solid three N; but watch her left. Get the timing on that down and then make her pay..."
Interestingly enough, the second round started off with even less preamble than the first. Apparently Rachel and Neve had liked the taste of the other and they were eager for more. Meeting at mid-ring, they picked up right where they left off, hammering jabs off gloves and forearms in an attempt to open up that first little crack in the other's defense. Amidst the steady THWAP THWAP THWAP, the occasional muttered grunt and the scuffle of soles on canvas, Rachel blocked another jab from the brunette and smiled just a bit.
Regarding the redhead warily through her gloves, Neve asked, "Care to share?"
Still smiling, Rachel dropped into a low stoop and kissed a taut left against Neve's paunch, sending her back a half-step. As Neve's guard instinctively went low, Rachel reset and sent that patented jab towards Neve's face, only to be thwarted when her foe dipped aside to avoid the shot. Not letting her eyes leave Neve, Rachel finally answered, "It's just funny is all. We've got a whole ring to settle this and we're not even using..."
PAK, PAK! Neve interrupted her with a pair of hooks that took Rachel in the biceps.
Grumbling, the redhead finished... "... and we're not even using a quarter of it."
Without giving the brunette a chance to respond, the Mountee stalwart feigned a retaliatory shot to Neve's pipes and when the brunette covered up, Rachel cuffed her in the ribs with a hook of her own. Wincing, Neve cursed the sloppy mistake and went back to work breaking down the redhead's guard. Drizzling a steady stream of jabs and the infrequent hook against Rachel's defenses.
"I don't need a lot of room to go at you Rachel,” Neve replied. “I'd fight you in an elevator if I didn't think Mountee PR would help you with the double team."
The dig at her management brought Rachel's gloves up just a little higher than was good for her and Neve capitalized by stepping in and branding her with a left handed blast that came dangerously close to JMD territory. Shaking her head in defiance, Rachel walked through the hurt and delivered some of her own, banging two jabs off Neve's jaw before she could get her dukes back up. The hole closed up after that pair went through, but that didn't stop Rachel from stepping in to increase the pace of her attack.
Still breathing easily despite the rapid pace, Rachel asked, "Ever think it was you Neve? That maybe that stupid hotheaded attitude of yours is what's made you a wanderer your entire career?"
Then she gave Neve something else to think about in the form of a grazing shot to the chin. Dark eyes narrowed to slits, Neve waited for Rachel to hit a lull and then she surged into the breach, battering Rachel's gloves with the hardest flurry seen yet.
Through gritted teeth, Neve sneered, "Ever think it's that complacent, corporate kiss ass attitude that let Kelly Hu punch you out in one?"
Rachel started to answer and Neve leaned in even closer, driving the shoulder through to slide a cross off the redhead's mouth. Rachel's knees shimmied just a little and Neve took that as a sign to press the attack. Unfortunately, it was the wrong sign, because Rachel recovered her balance almost instantly and drove the brunette back with a rebuking series of jabs to the tummy. WAP! WAP! SMACK!
Huffing through her nose as Neve backed off again, Rachel taunted, "That's exactly what I mean! You land a lucky shot and go in for the kill only to get slapped around! That's why I was the longest reigning Bantam Champ in recent memory and you've got a pair of runs that no one but you remembers."
Neve's pretty face twisted in a dark grimace. It was obvious the redhead had touched a nerve. And that wasn't all she touched! Dropping into a slight crouch, Rachel helped herself to a tasty serving of brunette midriff, then straightening up into a hook off Neve's cheek. Neve was rocked back on her heels - all Rachel needed to see! Working with what she knew, the redhead moved forward and found Neve's face over and over with her jab. POP! PEK! PAP! She figured they might not be enough to crack the steel in the brunette's chin, but an uppercut or two would correct that nicely.
On the other side of the leather, Neve was fully aware that letting Rachel tee off on her was not a great plan, but she was also convinced that Rachel's own confidence could be used against her. And sure enough, the next time Rachel sent the left towards her nose, Neve came over the top, catching the redhead full in the mouth with a chopping right hand that staggered Rachel! WHAM!
Almost purring with delight, Neve stormed after her, arcing a thunderous hook at those delicate porcelain features. All things considered, Neve did have the joy of seeing her punch connect, but that joy was obliterated a second later when Rachel's own unseen hook CRACK rocked her chin and put her up on her heels.
Rachel saw Neve stumble (through blurred eyes) and instantly the haze in her head burned away. With elbows set just above her hips, the redhead pistoned a solid dozen short, humming punches into Neve's belly. Each shot drove the stuttering brunette back a little further until finally the ropes halted her progress. Happy to have Neve all smeared up, Rachel set-up for something a little stronger only to get treated to another helping of that chopping right hand. Rachel's head snapped back in a cloud of auburn and ivory, and a bell went off in her head. For a moment, she thought the right had been much stronger and then she realized the bell was just signaling the end of the round.
Rubbing a forearm across her mouth, Rachel glared at Neve and said, "You can't beat me Neve. You haven't got the will or the heart."
Exhaling through her nose, Neve replied, "Funny. I was going to say the same thing to you."
As the ref started to pull her away, Rachel fired back, "Toughen up hon. We're not even close to done yet." She thought Neve might have something else to say, but Rachel just turned her back and went to her corner. There would be plenty of time to test the brunette's will (not to mention the rest of her) in the next round.
In Rachel's corner: "You see what you did just then, putting her up against the ropes? Do that more..."
In Neve's corner: "Stay on her babe, but be patient. No need to walk into a bomb. You've got all night to bust her up."
Following the advice of her corner, Rachel came off her stool with a new goal for the third round and that goal was simple: punch Neve in the face. A lot. While this may appear to be an obvious strategy in a boxing match, it wasn't merely pain the redhead intended to inflict. While pain would be a nice side effect, the real damage she wanted to do was to the brunette's psyche. Bringing her gloves up as Neve closed in, the Mountee star promised that when Neve looked in the mirror after the next bell, she'd be seeing those pretty little girl-next-door features marred by a bent nose, mashed lips and bruise-shined cheeks. Clinging to this thought like an heirloom, Rachel started her attack with a quick pair of jabs aimed at the brunette's chest.
Neve, having expected Rachel to try for her chin again, was caught flat footed by the strikes and she grimaced in pain as her terribly under-appreciated rack was PIK PAKKED! back against her chest. Regrouping fast, Neve crouched in anticipation of more body blows and THAT'S when Rachel dusted off the jab! Neve's face was completely open and Rachel thanked her for the opportunity with a bristling trifecta of lefts to the other Canuck's nose. As the last punch hit home, Rachel put her weight into the follow through and twisted her wrist clockwise, really grinding Neve's muzzle under the leather.
And when Rachel drew back to admire her handiwork, she couldn't help but grin at the two thin rivulets of crimson running onto Neve's upper lip. Smiling out at Neve from between her gloves, Rachel offered, "Red always looks good on you Neve. I can see why it burns you so much being a Mountee castoff."
Hating the sticky feel of blood on skin, Neve spat, "You pull off red very well too Rachel. Not to mention black and blue." The brunette attempted to pay back the redhead for her insolent shots to the face, but when Rachel covered up, she settled for licking a lone right hand off Rachel's flank.
Rolling her eyes, Rachel murmured "Cute." right before lunging forward for some more greedy swipes at her foe's face.
Fully aware that her chin was too inviting a target to pass up, Neve let Rachel come in and cordially welcomed her with a stiff brace of hooks to the redhead's belly. Neve's bombs connected with the meaty spank she had come to associate with a successful shot, but if Rachel felt it she didn't let on. The former champ just gritted her teeth, planted her feet and twisted into her adversary to plant an absolutely SCORCHING cross on Neve's mouth. The brunette's head snapped around 90 degrees and for the second time in as many minutes, Rachel had the supreme satisfaction of feeling Neve's face mash under knuckles.
Trying and failing to fight the bloodlust roaring up from her gut, Rachel came forward and swung for the fences, aiming a mouthpiece-shattering uppercut at Neve's jaw. Luckily for the brunette, she wasn't as out of it as Rachel believed, and the extra distance on the uppercut allowed her to dip aside. Feeling the wind of Rachel's fist brush past her face, the pain in Neve's skull instantly abated as she zeroed in on the delightfully undefended length of the redhead's torso. Twisting her hips away, Neve torqued back into Rachel and BURIED her right hand deep in the redhead's solar plexus!
“UNNNNNGH!” Rachel's mouth dropped open as she took the full force of Neve's hateful counter. The unobstructed hook to the gut would have dropped a lesser woman, but love her or hate her, Rachel was a world class fighter and she maintained her verticality even if her legs did shudder more than a little. But Rachel recovered faster than she had any right to and proved it by beating the oncoming brunette back with another pair of those pace-dictating jabs. POP! POP!
As soon as the second punch landed, it was Neve's turn to brush aside her opponent's offense. Baring her teeth in a feral little grin, Neve dropped the hammer from her shoulder to poke Rachel in the chin. Rachel should have been rocked back a few steps, but her legs wouldn't give way and Neve made her pay for it with another vicious hooking left that knocked her sideways a few steps.
Using the copper taste of her own blood as a motivation, Neve marched on her prey, fully expecting to deliver a few more uncontested potshots to Rachel's noggin before the redhead could fully recover. Much to Neve's chagrin, Rachel met her full bore and for the first time in the battle, the gathered spectators got a taste of what the Neve/Rachel rivalry was all about.
Angling in off their front feet, Rachel and Neve TORE into one another with a non-stop deluge of hooks. For the most part, the warring Canadians were able to hold their right hands at their cheeks, but even their sturdy form was shaken as the hated other found her ribs and chin time and again. This willful, mindless slugging had been going on for nearly thirty seconds when the bell sounded and in another first for the evening, the official had to forcibly interject himself between the warring pugilists.
Growling low in her throat as the official tried to pull her away, Rachel sneered, "That's just the beginning Neve! First I bust you up; then I break you down. It's that simple."
Burning a hole through the redhead, Neve taunted, "Ya got something on your chin Rachel!"
Surging forward over the referee, Neve planted her gloves against Rachel's shoulders and shoved hard, sending her rival sprawling onto her butt. Wiping a glove across her jaw, Rachel looked down and saw a smear of vermilion staining the leather.
Glaring up at Neve with murder in her eyes, Rachel scrambled to her feet and hissed, "I'm DROPPING you next round. That's a promise."
Neve jerked against the ref, still trying to get to Rachel, but by then he'd backed her into her corner and the brunette resigned herself to waiting through the break to get her hands on Rachel again.
In Rachel's corner: "Great round Rache, but don't let the taunts get to you. That jab of yours bloodied her face, the smack talk just motivates her."
In Neve's corner: "See that babe? You knocked all the sass right out of her! Keep bringing that pressure to her and she'll fold like Superman on laundry day!"
In the opening minute of the fourth round, it became apparent that Neve had done something that up until this point, very few women had been able to do. She'd taken Rachel's jab away. The first indication of this daring theft came in the opening exchange when Rachel waded into the brunette and spat off that trio of lefts that had been so effective in the first nine minutes. But that wasn't the case anymore. Setting up behind her gloves, Neve soaked up the first shot, and in the split-second it took Rachel to pull her fist back Neve smashed her lips with that meat cleaver right off her shoulder. Rachel grunted and swayed just a little bit but it was all Neve needed to hook a follow-up left off the former champ's chin. There was another breathy 'UNGH' from the redhead and Neve stormed forward, intent on teaching Rachel to respect the power of HER jab.
Rachel was no dummy though and those stumbling half steps backward gave her enough time to get her gloves up and absorb the worst of Neve's onslaught. Rachel had just begun to detect the lulls in Neve's rhythm when Neve switched everything up on her and slipped a short uppercut under the redhead's guard. It was a short, tidy shot, not a chin-killer by any means, but it did snap Rachel's head up and send her back another few paces.
When her eyes cleared a second later, she saw the brunette regarding her with open contempt and if ANYTHING in this world was guaranteed to infuriate Rachel, it was contempt from Neve! Not knowing and not caring what her nemesis was thinking, the redhead plowed forward with another brutal pair of lefts only to get sent packing once again, this time with a single crisp, spanking hook into her navel.
Slamming her gloves together (the only real sign of frustration you'd ever get from her) Rachel was plotting her next attack when Neve said, "My God, you really are a robot aren't you? I thought that was just a buzzword from some other Mountee haters, but it's true isn't it? Tell me, do you have a keyhole in your back? Or maybe a pull cord?"
Biting her lip to keep from giving into the brunette's taunting, Rachel came forward a third time and was soundly rejected compliments of that scathing pull-counter right. Neve couldn't decide what she liked better: the fact that she was finding Rachel's face seemingly at will, or that she could bring sanctimonious bitch to a boil with just her words!
Hoping to goad Rachel into a stupid mistake, Neve taunted, "Is that why the Mountees let Kristin and Elisha go? They wouldn't calm down and be prim and proper little red and white robots? You make me fucking sick, Rachel. Elisha may be an obnoxious bitch, but at least her will to fight is her own, and not some sanitized, corporate approved philosophy."
Rachel's jaw was clenched so tight she was afraid she might bite right through her mouthpiece. But she wouldn't rise to the bait, at least not really. Staring daggers at the smug brunette, Rachel roared, “FUCK YOU NEVE!"
She fired off another jab at that hateful face. Neve responded with the right again and that's when Rachel got her. As Neve committed to the right, the redhead pulled the left back and reset her gloves. In the heartbeat that Neve's head was exposed, Rachel WHIPPED a hook of her own into Neve's chin and Rachel couldn't help but crow a little bit when Neve sank to one knee.
Her shadow looming over the penitent brunette, Rachel snarled, "Get up you undisciplined bitch."
She watched Neve's shoulders rise in indignation and she knew she'd struck a nerve, but Neve waited until the ref reached EIGHT reclaim her feet. Smiling cheerfully through her gloves, Rachel remained silent as the official stepped back and restarted the round. The second she had the go-ahead, Rachel pounced on Neve, tearing into the woozy warrior with a furious barrage of rights and lefts that thudded home behind the brunette's elbows and just above the curve of her hips. SMECK!
Now it was Neve's turn to groan and guard, and when she covered up, Rachel straightened back up and pounded Neve's chin, forcing her to eat up all the jabs she'd been avoiding earlier in the round. Neve's head snapped back and then forward only to be greeted by another whipping hook delivered off Rachel's back foot. That one put a serious waver into the brunette's usually sturdy legs and she found herself reeling backwards with only the ropes to stop her. Busting out the mop, Rachel moved in and jostled Neve with her left shoulder, nicely setting up the brunette for a vile, strapping hook to the ribs.
Neve's face crumpled in pain and Rachel added to her misery by pounding her rack with sadistic little shoeshine bursts of rights and lefts. This shellacking continued into the closing moments of the round and just when it looked like the redhead had turned the tide for good, Neve bumped her back with a Chicken Wing elbow and followed that up with a straight right off the nose. A shoulder bump later and Neve had their positions reversed.
Suddenly it was Rachel's butt wobbling against the rope as Neve gave it all back in the form of several TUP-TUP body shots that had the redhead doubled up behind her gloves. This of course meant her chest was exposed and the brunette repaid that particular debt too, sloshing Rachel's jugs in their cups like the diamond studded bra and tiara were on the line. This vicious reprisal continued until the bell rang and then some.
The ref had to pull her away and even then Neve wouldn't be denied the last word. Shrugging the zebra aside, the brunette chested up into Rachel, forcing the wounded, but by no means crippled redhead to lock eyes with her. Panting just a little, Neve hissed, "For a robot, you sure are soft."
Rachel chested right back into her and spat, "Talk all you want bitch. I've felt you break before, and I'm already feeling it tonight. You're ending this fight on your back." She wanted to say more, but the ref was getting very insistent by that point, so she held her tongue as Neve was ushered back to her corner.
In Rachel's corner: "Way to go Red, you dropped that reject good. Just watch out for those hooks, she could still do a lot of damage with those things."
In Neve's corner: "Listen Neve, we know you can go toe-to-toe with her, you don't need to prove anything to us. If she's gonna hit you, you need to make her work for it."
As the first encounter of the fifth round got underway, those few privileged enough to see this war unfold all asked themselves the same question. Where had all the defense gone? Through four bitterly contested rounds, the redhead and the brunette had come out of their corners behind solid guards and waited for the other to make a mistake before tearing into her. But somewhere in the break, it was if some secret, silent agreement had been reached and Rachel and Neve were going to punch until they could punch no more, finesse and style be damned.
Meeting shoulder-to-shoulder in the center of the ring, the two rivals just planted their feet and ripped into one another, trading brisk, merciless hooks that ripped off belly, ribs, kidney and hips. After an especially hard blast to her paunch left Neve gasping for air, Rachel shoved the stooping brunette back into place with a patient nudge of her shoulder and then tore another thick slice off Neve's reddening flank. Resting mouth-on-shoulder with her victim, Rachel gasped, "You feel that sweetie? That's what it feels like when a real fighter starts to break you doWUNNNGGH!"
Neve took advantage of the momentary respite to piston a short right hand in just above the line of Rachel's midnight blue trunks. Scrubbing her brow across the redhead's sweat-shined face, Neve pounded another pair of hooks home against trembling Mountee hips. Intent on matching Rachel punch for punch and slight for slight, Neve clinched with the redhead, just to hold her in place while she whispered, "You feel THAT sweetie? That's your lame, mechanical game plan wearing out on you. I've solved you Rachel. Now it's just time to put you AWERRRRGGH!"
Rachel tore her way out of the clinch and stunned Neve with a cobra-strike left to the face. Neve gave up some ground and Rachel forced her to give up a little more thanks to some prodding from her left elbow. When she was satisfied with the distance, Rachel popped her hips and BURIED a left in Neve's belly, repaying the shot just north of her trunk line from last round.
Targeting Neve's navel, Rachel again bumped the brunette up and chugged away right, left, right to the brunette's trembling tummy. Grunting savagely as she scrubbed more leather across Neve's abs, Rachel leaned in, wrapped Neve up behind the elbows and squeezed her up tight in something that was more Bear Hug than clinch. Pressed in cheek-to-cheek, Rachel smiled serenely as she cooed, "You're not solid Neve. You're like pudding inside..." Rachel darted her tongue out and licked Neve's cheek just seconds before the ref pried them apart.
Coming on strong now, Rachel teased Neve with a few light jabs to the chest (no feinting necessary this time) before going back to work on Neve's underbelly. As much fun as lighting up her arch-rival's face had been, a quiet but insistent voice was telling her that if she REALLY wanted this thing with Neve to be over, she'd have to break her downstairs. More than willing to do just that, Rachel touched Neve up with the shoulder yet again and set her hips up to cripple the brunette with her own hook to the liver... WHAM!
Neve's cross came out of nowhere and with all of Rachel's attention devoted to Neve's torso, she couldn't very well see what the head and arms had been planning. Rachel was knocked sideways by the shot and the redhead staggered away, stepping in fencepost holes as she retreated. Breathing hard through her mouth, Neve suppressed the fire in belly long enough to stalk after Rachel and knock her back the other way with a crushing left to the chin.
The pair of powerful blows stunned Rachel badly, but not enough for her to drop her guard and unfortunately for her, that's exactly what Neve wanted! With Rachel's head neatly hidden away behind her gloves, the brunette stepped in close and taught Rachel a thing or two about working the body. First, it was a six-pack of machine gun bursts that pounded off the redhead's belly in an ominous, monotonous tattoo. Then as Rachel slumped forward, Neve gave her a shoulder to straighten her up, then clouted her in the ribs! Rachel sagged visibly and tried to tie her up in the clinch a second time, but Neve wouldn't have it and she turned away Rachel's advances with an 'oh no you don't' jab that busted her bottom lip open.
Only vaguely aware that she'd bloodied Rachel, Neve pinned her ears back and went to town on the redhead's right side. With Rachel reeling, Neve bounced the hook off the redhead's liver over and over again. None of them hit home with the force Neve needed to end the match, but she was fully aware that this drubbing would soften her up for the one that would send her onto her haunches to bawl like a baby while the ref ticked off the ten count.
Really pouring it on now as the last seconds of the round ticked away, the brunette kept tenderizing the body while keeping an eye on Rachel's face. When Rachel's head opened up for her, Neve leaned in and jolted Rachel's chin with a short right uppercut. Rachel was stood up on her toes and that's when Neve put all her strength into that dreaded left hook. There was a meaty THWACK! followed by a sob of anguish from Rachel as Neve's favorite shot finally dropped the redhead. But Rachel didn't slop onto her haunches, she went down on one knee and that told Neve she hadn't hit her hard enough.
As she glared down at the deliciously exposed curve of Rachel’s back, Neve remembered something Elisha had done to her when the Mountees had been making her jump through hoops to get a shot at Rachel. Unable to help herself, the brunette bent down and planted a light, smacking kiss on Rachel's lower back.
The feel of the brunette's lips on her skin, brought a groan from the redhead's lips, but it was also the jolt she needed to push to her feet. Galvanized by the brunette's taunt, Rachel was ready to fling murder at Neve right then and there, but the bell rang and the ref wisely stepped between them. Not letting her eyes leave Neve, Rachel pointed a gloved fist at the brunette and growled, "You're dead you grandstanding slut, you hear me?"
Neve just smiled, pursed her lips and blew Rachel a kiss. "I don't think so baby. If you even finish the next round, I'm sending you back to your corner in tears!"
In Rachel's corner: "Calm down Rachel, she got into your head for a second, but you shoved her out on her ass. Now, in the sixth, I want you to put her on her back, got it?"
In Neve's corner: "Be careful Neve, best not to tease her till she can't fight back. No need to give her a stronger motive to hit ya."
With the fight now officially past the halfway mark, Neve came out of her corner feeling good, and why shouldn't she? After all, her first two fights with Rachel had ended during the fifth and while the third one had gone to the tenth, she hadn't pasted Rachel nearly so hard then as she had now. No, the redhead wasn't going to make it thirty minutes. Even if it cost her the rest of her career, the brunette promised herself that Rachel was going to end this fight on her face or her back. Keeping that visual at the front of her mind, Neve snapped her gloves together and headed for her adversary.
On the opposite side of the ring, Rachel's thoughts were eerily similar to those of her foe. While Neve had lasted longer than she had expected, Rachel could recall several fights where Neve had wilted in the later rounds and ended up punched out and sobbing on the mat. Rachel had decided that this was going to be one of those times. Moving a bit more cautiously than they had in the last round, Neve and Rachel came together with the familiar SPANK of gloves-on-gloves as they settled in for another three minutes of pugilistic excellence.
Waiting patiently behind her gloves, Rachel allowed Neve to get off some jabs and a hook or two before she responded with some jabs of her own. Unlike the opening minutes of the fight, Rachel's lefts weren't hitting as rapidly now, not because she was tired, but because she wanted to get a better feel for how Neve timed out her counter punch. When Rachel figured that out, she was going to make the brunette pay in a big way.
For her part, Neve was happy to dig in and pound away at the redhead's defenses. She snapped rights and lefts off the redhead's arms and ribs and when Rachel went for the jab, Neve found her cheek with a looping hook or a stubby right hand. This continued for more than a minute and showed no signs of abating when Rachel suddenly pulled back only to stab a quick, stinging roundhouse towards Neve's liver.
Acting on instinct, the brunette tucked up to block the blow and that's when Rachel leaned in and tagged Neve's chin with a right uppercut of her own. Neve let out a stunned 'UNNGH!' as her knees buckled and while they didn't give out, it might have been better for her in the long run if they had, because Rachel was on her and on her HARD.
Taking full advantage of the opening, Rachel went right back to Neve's body, starting up the hooking game she had so unceremoniously lost in the fifth. Now the tables were turned and Neve had to swallow a bitter draught of her own medicine as Rachel teed off on her ribs and kidneys. After more than half a dozen of these shots hit home, Neve limped backward, arms criss-crossing her belly as she tried to fight off the nauseated vertigo in the pit of her stomach.
Shaking her head 'no' Rachel surged forward and SCORCHED Neve's jaw with a hook that sent her sprawling face-and-chest-first into the ropes. Roaring her triumph, a small part of Rachel reminded her that the organization wouldn't approve of such theatrics, but honestly, she didn't care. This was her fight and she was doing the damage, so she'd be the one to decide how it was treated.
Banging her gloves together, Rachel walked Neve down and shouted, "I'M COMIN FOR YA NEVIE!"
The woozy brunette was able to turn her back into the ropes just before Rachel closed in, but that was about all she could do. Having had her fill of histrionics, Rachel got in close and did what she did best. She beat her opponent like no one else could.
Squaring her shoulders, Rachel started high, battering the brunette's biceps with a brace of hooks that had all her weight behind them. When Neve slumped and tried to come forward for the clinch, Rachel stepped back just enough to hammer both fists into the independent fighter's chest, forcing her back against the ropes where she belonged. And in the brief moments that Neve's guard was up over her face, the redhead shifted her focus lower and worked her behind the elbows, licking hateful cat-o-nine-tails slashes in just above Neve's hips.
Again and again, Neve would try to shift her guard or come forward to halt Rachel's progress only to have the redhead tame her with that two handed blast and pick up right where she left off. Nostrils flaring as she started to put the screws to Neve, Rachel admonished her wilting foe, punctuating every word with another punch.
"THIS (PAK!) IS (PAK!) WHY (PAK!) I'LL (PAK!) ALWAYS (PAK!) BEAT (PAK!)YOU (PAK!) YOU (PAK!) DON'T (PAK!) HAVE (PAK!) THE(PAK!) HEART (PAK!) TO (PAK!) STAND(PAK!) AGAINST (PAK!) ME!" (PAK!)
The dozen or so folks gathered ringside didn't think it was possible, but the force and speed Rachel's pugilistic tempo actually increased as she berated the shell-shocked brunette and by the time she was finished, the redhead was swinging so hard that her back foot was coming off the canvas. Through it all, Neve kept her gloves up and fought gamely to escape the predicament, but Rachel's fusillade was so blistering she was forced to devote all her energy to defense for fear the redhead would beat her to her knees. Seconds after Rachel's last salvo, the bell sounded to end the round.
Neve dropped her gloves only to find Rachel leaning right into her punch-drunk face. Pouring salt on Neve's wounds, Rachel crowed, "Who's going back to their corner in tears now honey? You better get used to this, because this is how it should be. Me pounding away while you whimper and cover up."
Gasping into Rachel's face, Neve replied, "Enjoy it while you can Rachel. I can take everything you can dish out. Too bad you can't say the same."
Rachel wasn't impressed. Bumping the brunette roughly as she headed for her corner, Rachel glared over her shoulder and chided, "You haven't seen my worst yet Neve. But trust me, you will."
In Rachel's corner: "You hear that Rachel? That's the dam bursting. When you get off this stool, I want ya to go out there and wash her away."
In Neve's corner: "You're guard's holding up N, but I'd rather you not have to use it so much. You can't wait to find an opening, you'll have to force one."
The bell rang loud and hollow in the mostly empty confines of Roland Deschain's ballroom and thus began minute nineteen of Rachel and Neve's war. More than a little motivated by the steady, thumping beatdown she'd laid on Neve in the last round, Rachel came out of her corner like a bat out of hell. The redhead knew she had put Neve on notice in the sixth and in the next one hundred and eighty seconds, she was going to evict her from the FCBA with all the force she could muster.
But in spite of the thrashing Rachel had laid on her, Neve's spirit was broken, far from it in fact. True, she did come away from her corner a little slower than in previous engagements, but that's only because she wanted Rachel to come to her. Luckily, Rachel was more than happy to oblige her. They met with very little fanfare and no words, just mutual 'nice to see you again' jabs that PEK-PEK-PEKKED jugs and shoulder.
Wincing, Rachel ignored the blow and kept working the left. By now, she had figured Neve's timing out, and while she wasn't able to avoid ALL of the brunette's punches (as the blood on her upper lip would attest) she had found her rhythm against the chopping right and more often than not, when Neve set for it, Rachel beat her to the punch with a sharp right of her own.
After about thirty seconds of this back and forth slugging, Rachel's eyes narrowed as the realization hit home. Neve was retreating. Not a lot, in fact, a lesser fighter might not have noticed it at all, but the redhead had spent enough time in the ring with the brunette to know when she was on the defensive, and she could smell the hesitation rolling off Neve in waves. Smiling around her mouthguard, Rachel whispered, "Now I OWN you..."
When Neve's last string of punches were successfully absorbed, Rachel feigned the right and then went deep with the hook, going right back to the quickly developing bruise that had blossomed on the brunette's formerly flawless skin. Neve moaned, backed up and inch and Rachel took all of it, getting big on her nemesis with another murderous left to the ribs. For the first time in the fight, Neve lurched forward and cinched Rachel up behind the elbows, grappling with the redhead not to deliver some snide taunt, but because she needed a respite from the assault. Rachel wasn't having it though; after all the hell Neve had put her through, after all the verbal gauntlets and punk cards the pathetic, bitter shell of a fighter had hurled her way, Rachel wasn't going to show her any leniency.
Wrenching her way out of the brunette's clutches, Rachel growled, "I don't think so." and lit into the fading fighter with four straight hooks, all dropped off just behind Neve's right elbow. Neve's only response was to voice a breathy sob and go reeling back into the ropes where she quickly got her gloves up in front of her face, setting up peek-a-boo in hopes of better fighting off the coming storm of Hurricane Rachel.
Pretty face hard and merciless, Rachel came forward like a Tidal Wave, breaking over and around Neve to begin the second callous beatdown against the ropes in as many rounds. Getting as close to the crippled brunette as she possibly dared, Rachel went at Neve like an elevator, starting high with jabs and hooks to the face and chin, then moving down for a little heartless jug mugging before going even lower to claw at her hips, waist and lower back with more hooks and an occasional roundhouse. And when she got done with one sweep, she simply started back up, tilling up the same scorched earth she'd left behind only moments ago.
Neve didn't make it easy for her of course. The tenacious brunette's guard was still something to behold even under such heinous conditions, but the sheer volume of Rachel's output was overwhelming Neve's guard and for every punch of Rachel's she blocked, the redhead pounded three more through unopposed. As the seconds wore on by, Neve tried for the clinch again only to have Rachel rock back on her heels and drive a stiff, clipping uppercut between her gloves to crash off her chin. Neve groaned and stars exploded behind her eyes, but even then she wouldn't go down. Everyone watching thought she would, some even thought that she SHOULD; but Rachel had taken her to her knees once already and Neve would be damned before she let Rachel do that to her again.
A heartbeat after she connected with the uppercut, Rachel planted her feet and sent a chin-splitting right towards Neve's jaw only to watch in frustrated amazement as the brunette's guard reformed the instant before the strike could find its mark. Huffing from the exertion, Rachel settled for pounding Neve's belly and her eyes glittered with triumph as each SPANKING connection of leather on paunch stole more breath from her nemesis.
In one of the short gaps between bursts, Rachel bumped Neve back into place with her shoulder and muttered, "If you aren't going to fight back, at least do me the courtesy of taking a kneEERRRRRGGH!"
Neve cuffed the normally meticulous redhead with a desperate cross that gave Rachel a view of the fireworks Neve had been seeing earlier. Gasping more out of surprise than hurt, Rachel stamped back a few feet only to have Neve stalk after her and knock her head back and forth with two looping hooks. Rachel gasped again and this time the pain took precedence over the surprise.
But pain has a way of sharpening the senses in times of need and Rachel was no exception to this rule. As the brunette rolled towards her, Rachel dipped low and roared in to meet her, clanging Neve's face with a haymaker that looked more appropriate for a Saloon than a boxing ring. Neve was caught flush by the blow and Rachel set her feet to prep for the Knock Out when the bell rang sounded to end the round.
Stomping her feet in frustration, Rachel regained her composure and simply waited while Neve shook off the last punch. When the brunette's eyes had cleared, Rachel stepped forward and poked Neve in the chest. Savoring the 'how could you?' look in her foe's eyes, the redhead sneered, "The worst is still coming creampuff. You end the eighth on your face."
Neve opened her mouth to offer a reply but Rachel just whirled on her heel and walked to her corner, leaving the brunette to fume the break away in silence.
In Rachel's corner: "You almost got her babe, she's out on her feet. So just find her chin and send her back to the scrap heap where she belongs."
In Neve's corner: I'm not gonna sugarcoat this sweetie, that didn't look pleasant. But ya know what? You're still here. Go out there and show her who's got the heart."
After another lonely peel of bells, the eighth round was underway, and as far as Rachel was concerned, this fight had already gone seven rounds too far.
Looking to finish what she'd started in the last two rounds, the redhead came stalking out of her corner and made a beeline for Neve, who, to her credit, was coming at Rachel, albeit not nearly as fast. Bringing her gloves up around her ears, Rachel pulled within striking distance and pistoned a jab towards Neve's belly. Neve blocked the stinging missile, but was unable to dip aside for the cross that Rachel tagged to her left eye.
The brunette tried to shake off the blow, but one too many of the redhead's licks had connected and even her iron will wasn't enough to simply soak up the punishment anymore. The shot to her eye sent her reeling back on her heels but she was still on her feet and that meant Rachel wasn’t going to stop.
Wading in without fear, the Mountee stalwart POURED on the punishment, clanging, banging and generally cudgeling her rival with the most wicked shots she'd ever unleashed on anyone. Alternating between that lethal jab and the crippling hook, Rachel couldn't keep quiet as she shredded what little remained of Neve.
"IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED? (THUD!) TO BE BROKEN? (THUD!) HUMILIATED? (THUD!) DISPOSED OF? (THUD!) YOU CAN'T BEAT ME! (THUD!) MOUNTEE OR NOT, (THUD!) CHAMPION OR NOT, (THUD!) YOU CAN NOT BEAT ME!" (THUD!)
Rachel's tirade devolved into a stunned groan as Neve dug deep into her reserves and swiveled the redhead's skull with a surprise hook. Under normal conditions, Neve would have been all over the stutter-stepping vixen, but under most circumstances, she hadn't just taken a Beating of the Year candidate from arguably the best bantam in the industry. So as it was, Neve settled for a quick breather and a hateful glare as Rachel shook off the stupor.
Breath coming in great tearing gasps and starts, Neve replied, "From what I can see, you haven't beaten me yet. And you're looking a little winded Rache. You been hitting me pretty hard, but I don't think you've got enough to finish the job."
Unable to believe the brunette was still talking trash after the pasting she'd put on her, Rachel growled, "You won't be thinking much of anything when I'm done with you."
With that, Rachel stalked forward fully expecting to bull Neve into the ropes again, but Neve came out swinging and poked Rachel's chin, putting a temporary shimmy into those strong legs. For the first time in almost ten minutes, Neve came forward and put Rachel on the defensive, battering her with a flurry of lefts that found chin and chest, not to mention a pair of stubby uppercuts that caught the redhead on the undersides of her breasts. These blows Rachel back to mid-ring and Neve pushed forward to walk her down, but the redhead's wherewithal and killer instinct kicked in again and she just IMPALED Neve's tummy with a wild bolo right to the navel. Neve 'OOFF' for breath and stopped in her tracks - in hindsight probably the worst possible thing she could’ve done!
Infuriated that the brunette was still defying her, Rachel pinned her ears back and POUNDED away that anything she could hit. Arms, torso, chin or chest, it didn't matter, Rachel had a punch for every body part and she proved it by battering Neve back to the ropes. Red-cheeked and panting with exertion, Rachel kicked it into overdrive and for several seconds, her arms and shoulders were little more than a painful, body-demolishing blur. Finally, mercifully, Rachel's latest uppercut found Neve's chin and the brunette's sturdy legs collapsed, dropping her to her hands and knees.
Breathing hard, Rachel flipped hair out of her eyes and looked down at Neve's trembling form. Gloves on her hips, Rachel muttered, "You're finished Neve. Don't ever get in my face again."
Deciding it was time to let the ref do his job, Rachel spun around on her heel and strutted away. And while there wasn't a screaming, capacity crowd to acknowledge her newly confirmed superiority over the brunette, that didn't stop her from raising her hands high overhead as she flashed a winner's grin at the few lucky enough to see it. Behind her, the official ticked off the seconds that would make Rachel's dominance official. "ONE... TWO... THREE... FOUR... FIVE... SIX... SEVEN... EIGHT... NINE......"
Pausing in mid-strut, Rachel lowered her gloves and glanced over her shoulder. Instantly, the redhead's pretty face crumpled into a portrait of 'WHAT THE FUCK?' incredulity as she spied Neve leaning against the ropes.
And despite the terrible pain she felt, Neve gave Rachel a smile and asked, "That all you've got?"
Those five words did more damage to Rachel's confidence than any of Neve's earlier punches. The truth was, Rachel was punched out, she had drained the well to put Neve on her knees and to have her get up, well, that was just...unbearable. And she knew that Neve knew she was exhausted, but the day she walked away from Neve was the day she hung up her gloves for good. Shaking her head in disbelief, Rachel growled, "There's plenty more where that came from."
With less than fifteen seconds left in the round, Rachel and Neve limped into the fray. Hiding behind a weary guard, Rachel locked onto Neve's chin and put every ounce she had left behind the cross. Neve didn't block it, she didn't have the energy. But she did slip it, and with the wind of Rachel's fist blowing past her ear, Neve twisted her hips and paid Rachel back for the last three rounds with a pair of hooks over the liver that paralyzed Rachel from head to toe.
Rachel sobbed in agony and for one soul shattering instant, she watched Neve pull back for an uppercut she couldn't possibly defend against. But before Neve could toggle her chin, the bell rang and the brunette froze in her tracks. Forcing a cracked smile, Neve went forehead-to-forehead with Rachel and purred, "You checked my gut Rachel. Now it's my turn to check yours. Get ready sweetie, the ninth is mine." Before her words could even fade, Neve kissed the tip of Rachel's nose and then brushed past her on the way to her corner.
In Rachel's corner: "Those last two hooks were just lucky shots Rachel, nothing more. It just goes to show that you can't let up on her, not even for a second. Give her hell babe, we believe in you."
In Neve's corner: "You remember what I said about heart? You've got it, babe; she doesn't."
When the penultimate round started, it was clear that a role reversal had taken place during the break. Now it was Neve that came storming off her stool and Rachel playing it much more cautiously. As was their custom, the brunette and the redhead didn't shy away from one another and shortly after the bell sounded they were already close enough to kiss (there wasn't going to be any of that though).
Still feeling the effects of her withering barrage and Neve's retaliatory hooks, Rachel decided it was time to go back to Neve's face. If the brunette's body wasn't going to die, Rachel would damn sure make sure her head did. Aiming for Neve's swelled eyes, Rachel snapped off a jab and then a hook to Neve's face. Neve was rocked by the one-two combo so Rachel set for another only to see her second effort get sloughed aside by Neve's guard. In the blink of an eye, Neve answered back with blows of her own, banging Rachel's head back and forth with wide, arcing hooks.
Rachel groaned and staggered back, bringing her gloves up as she did so. Her head was telling her that she needed to cover up, to protect her face when Neve threw those shots, but her HEART was telling her to just soak it up and then swing for the fences. And in this case, heart trumped head. Digging her feet into the canvas Rachel, whipped a right at the brunette's chin and cringed when Neve covered up.
Momentarily exposed, Rachel pulled her fist back but Neve beat her to the punch (no pun intended) with a jackhammer left that went DEEP into the pit of Rachel's stomach. The redhead gaped and stumbled backwards holding her belly. In a silent testament to Rachel’s intestinal fortitude and sheer force of will, the former champ got her gloves back up as Neve closed in and brought the fight with her. Gutting it out like very few could, Rachel found Neve's chin with an uppercut and followed that up with a scintillating bomb just above the line of her trunks.
Neve roared in fury and hurt, but much like her opponent, she squared her shoulders and answered back with a cross that landed directly between the redhead's breasts. So it went; for several endless seconds Neve and Rachel torched each other's chins and chests with the most hateful, cringe-inducing shots seen in the FCBA in a very long time.
And that's when it happened!
Standing toe-to-toe, mouth on shoulder, Rachel blinked. It wasn't much, just a slight flinching from Neve's touch, but the brunette recognized it for what it was and it brought a smile to her face. Slowly but surely, Neve began backing Rachel up. It wasn't easy; both women fielded terrible, crushing, blows to their faces - but for every one Rachel landed, Neve landed two! Eventually, the redhead felt the ropes at her back, which certainly wasn't good because Neve was at her front and the brunette wasn't going away.
Jumping into the breach, Neve squared her shoulders and oh how she BANGED AWAY! Rachel’s guard held up much longer than anyone thought it could, and even more amazingly, she landed a few jabs to Neve's face but even the strongest of trees could be washed away in a flood and Neve just refused to stop pouring it on. Fixing her attention on Rachel's arms, Neve hammered at the redhead's biceps and forearms until she was sure that Rachel's arms were going numb and then she turned her ire on the Mountee icon's skull. Rachel's gloves were still up enough to cover her face, but it wasn't nearly enough to stop the torrent of blows that Neve was mashing against her ears and temples. Time and again, the brunette pounded redhead noggin, mercilessly buffeting her in the winds of her fists.
Some way, somehow, Rachel got her gloves up a little higher. It wasn't much, but it was enough to block most of Neve's advances and that meant the brunette was free to go elsewhere. Remembering the sadistic campaign Rachel had waged against her undercarriage, Neve hissed, "Gutcheck time sweetie..." Then she pinned the redhead against the ropes, rolled her shoulders, and proceeded to MURDER Rachel’s mid-section!
For almost ten seconds, the brunette had uncontrolled access to the redhead's paunch and as long as Rachel was giving, Neve took everything she could. Rachel was fighting a desperate battle, not against Neve, but against herself. Every instinct was telling her to take a knee, to go down on her haunches, something, ANYTHING, to buy a cessation to this hellacious beating. But that would be a confession of her weakness. If Neve could keep her feet, she could too! Besides, part of her was terrified that if she went to a knee, she couldn't get back up. Finally, the abuse to her midsection proved to be too much and she doubled over, using her arms to cover her torso and her gloves to cover her head. She could only hope this would be over soon.
Neve on the other hand, prayed the round would never end; but she knew the bell wasn't far away. She broke out the lead pipe and whaled away. Rachel's guard was still there, but Neve didn't care; anything cracked if you hit it hard enough, or often enough…and that's what she was doing. Running on adrenaline and pure hatred for the smoldering girl in the ropes, Neve bludgeoned Rachel until the bell sounded. And if the ref hadn't wrapped her up around the waist, she probably would have kept on going. But fear of disqualification when the redhead was already at her mercy, pulled her back from the brink.
Neve wriggled free of the official just long enough to let a decimated but still vertical Rachel slump forward into her arms. Baring her teeth, Neve leaned in close and whispered, "You know what I smell Rachel? I smell quit. It's seeping out of your every pore. I'm begging you to get off your stool when the tenth starts."
Amazingly, Rachel turned her head and whispered something back into the brunette's ear. Not quite able to understand her nemesis, Neve said, "Could you say that again? You're slurring a little."
There was a pause and when Rachel spoke again, it was with surprising force and venom. "I... AM... GOING... TO... WALK... YOU."
Neve pushed her away like the redhead was scalding hot. Shaking her head 'no' Neve panted for breath and then replied, "If that's the way you want it, go ahead and try. But when I beat you to your back in a few minutes, just remember that the bell won't save you."
Rachel spat out her mouthguard and offered Neve a vicious smile. "Won't save you either babe." Then they were both shuffling back to their corners, trying in any way possible to toughen up for the last three minutes of their battle.
In Rachel's corner: "I know you don't want to hear this Rache, but it's a little late for a slugfest. She's getting sloppy, so let HER make the mistake and then polish her off."
In Neve's corner: "You got her N; YOU GOT HER! Keep that lead pipe out and beat her into the canvas!"
Sometimes, things happen in the ring that seem downright inconceivable to the audience. In this fight, the fact that there was even a tenth round stunned and baffled those in attendance. They had really and truly expected Rachel or Neve would quit on her stool or barring that, to have the ref wave everything off. But neither of those things happen and after walking through hell for twenty-seven minutes, Rachel and Neve came out of their corners to walk just a little bit more.
Moving faster than they had any right to, brunette and redhead trudged towards one another. The guests were stunned. It wasn't every day that you got to see an honest to god battle of wills take place. When the first few punches were thrown, it became obvious that this was no longer a boxing match. Boxing implied strategy, movement and varying styles of offense or defense utilized in such a way to minimize getting hit while maximizing how often your opponent got hit. That wasn't happening anymore. Instead Rachel and Neve just got in close and slugged away.
Settling in mid-ring, they'd throw their best shot, watch it crash home and wait for the other girl to go down. When she didn't, she dug in her feet and let her opponent take her turn.
THUD! Rachel's hook smashed Neve's head to the side in a fine cloud of sweat and tears.
PAK! Neve buried a right in the redhead's tummy, standing her up on her toes and bugging her eyes.
TUP! The brunette sobbed pitifully as the redhead's cross mushroomed her breasts.
SMECK! Rachel's eyes welled with tears when Neve banged a frying pan-like roundhouse off the redhead's kidney.
There were no words anymore. No taunts, feints or psychological ploys either. The girls just didn't have it in them. By all rights, they should be on their way to the hospital at this very moment, but their damnable will kept them on standing and fighting. Eventually it would have to end. Will, even a strong one, can only take you so far, and Neve and Rachel were running on less than fumes.
As Deschain's guests started to squirm in their seats, the end finally came!
It started after Rachel connected with a hook to Neve's chin. The brunette's legs wavered, but she stayed on her feet, so Rachel prepared for the return blast. It didn't come. Focusing as best she could, Rachel saw Neve standing in front of her, saw that her gloves were up, but she wasn't swinging back. Rachel's hands curled even tighter inside her gloves. She knew quit when she saw it. Drawing in a ragged breath, she muttered, "This is where you fall Neve."
Burning the very last bit of her reserves, Rachel lashed out in a classic LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT combo that snapped Neve's head back and forth. Seeing the quaver develop in the brunette's knees, Rachel dipped down, lunged forward and brought her right hand soaring towards Neve's jaw with an uppercut that would stand her up on her toes before spilling her onto her back.
Problem was, Neve wasn't there. As Rachel roared in to finish her off, Neve did a little dipping of her own and she avoided the punch by the slimmest of margins. Tragically, the strike-out had completely exposed Rachel's right side and Neve didn't need a bulls-eye to tell her where to hit. Still coming off the swerve, Neve twisted her hips away and then into Rachel, sending out that patented left hook for what she thought was the last time. There was a sound like a sledgehammer smashing a pumpkin, followed immediately by a heart-rending shriek from Rachel.
The redhead SHOULD have gone down on her haunches then, but instead she slopped forward onto Neve in a loose clinch, barely saving herself from the canvas. Neve's arms weren't much of a safe haven though and the brunette proved it seconds later by planting her feet and bull rushing Rachel into a neutral corner.
As soon as the steel stopped their progress, Neve placed her forehead on Rachel's shoulder and UNLOADED on the Mountee star's formerly perfect chassis with a blur of lefts and rights that sounded like one steady noise PAKPAKPAKPAKPAKPAK PAKPAKPAKPAKPAKPAK! It echoed through the ballroom.
Seconds went by before Neve pulled back and changed her focus. With murder in her eyes, she screamed, "WHY WON'T YOU GO DOWN?" She proceeded to beat Rachel's face like the world's most violent metronome; tick-tocking her head back and forth with some roundhouses of her own.
Trapped against the buckles, Rachel knew she was losing this fight, but she refused to accept it. She had beaten Neve before and she could beat her again, all she needed to do was throw one good punch and the brunette would go down. Despite the fact that her tank was empty, that didn't stop her from getting her arms up just enough to shove Neve away from her.
In the few seconds that Neve was off balance, Rachel pushed out of the buckles and swung for the fences with one last hook. THUMP!
A hook connected all right, but it wasn't Rachel's. Neve hadn’t recovered her balance and she cut off Rachel's charge with a left of her own. Just like that, Rachel could take no more! The redhead's legs started to fail, she could feel herself starting to sink, and even though her mind screamed at her traitorous body to obey, it didn't listen.
Less than two feet away, Neve felt a familiar shiver go through Rachel and she knew the fight was over. But knowing and believing are two different things and she was going to make sure Rachel didn't get up. Bringing her hands up, Neve waited until Rachel’s legs started to buckle and then unloaded with a shotgun blast right that caught Rachel directly in the face. POW!
Rachel’s head swiveled around 90 degrees and then the fight was over. She hit her knees, held the position for just a moment before dropping face-first to the canvas. Cheek on the mat, gloves splayed uselessly at her hips, everyone knew Rachel was out, but that didn't mean the ref didn't have to do his job.
Shooing Neve to a neutral corner, the official took a place near the felled fighter and counted off, "ONE... TWO... THREE... FOUR... FIVE... SIX... SEVEN... EIGHT... NINE... TEN!"
The bell rang one more time and Neve burst into tears as the announcer proclaimed, "Ladies and gentlemen, your winner, via Knock Out in the tenth round, NEEEEVE CAMPBELLLLLLLL!"
In Rachel's corner: "Bring me the salts. Much as she'll hate me for it, I can’t leave her unconscious in Neve's hands.”
In Neve's corner: "Get the towels and water ready, she's gonna want to see clearly for this!"
The brunette only stays in her corner long enough to accept the congratulations of her crew and get the worst of the blood and sweat toweled off. As soon as that's done, she turns her attention across the ring and you even through the bruises and the bleeding, she's got something on her mind. Stalking across the ring, Neve shrugs off her gloves and marches right into Rachel territory. The redhead is awake; battered, abraded, cut and busted, but awake! And aware enough to see Neve coming.
Rachel lifts her head to face her conqueror and incredibly, there’s no fear in her eyes. Hurt, disappointment, rage, maybe even a little shame; but no fear. No surprise either when Neve reaches in, grabs her and pulls her roughly off the stool. Their faces close enough for both to realize that what's coming is probably going to guarantee that there will never be a friendship or even mutual understanding between them.
Neve starts to say something when someone from Rachel’s team pleads, "Please. Not in her own corner." She looks at them a few seconds, then nods once. The closest thing to mercy either has shown!.
Wrapping her arms around Rachel's tortured midsection, Neve drags her to a neutral corner and shoves the redhead’s chest into the buckles. Bending down, Neve lifts Rachel’s left leg under her thigh and drapes it over the middle rope. Halfway home, she repeats the process with the right leg, leaving Rachel strung up in a very unenviable spot with both legs draped over the middle ropes and her butt sticking out into the ring.
Catching her breath, Neve stepped in close, letting the redhead feel her weight. Reaching around with her right hand, Neve grabs Rachel's sweat-drenched hair and pulled her head back, exposing the beaten girl's throat. Finally breaking her silence, Neve snuggled her cheek against Rachel's and explained, "This isn't for beating me before Rachel. I've lost fights in the past and I'm sure I'll lose some in the future. This... this is for every time you or the other Mountees made me jump through hoops to get a fight. For every time you made me feel like I wasn't good enough, every time you denied me a chance to prove otherwise and every time you questioned my heart. I don't think you'll be doing that again."
Working hard to keep her lips from trembling, Rachel mutters, "I'm not…going to…let this go."
Forming her left hand into a fist, Neve pressed her thumb against the right side of Rachel's neck and bore down. Still addressing Rachel in a breathless whisper, Neve growled, "Good! I want you in a sold-out arena next time, so that the cover of the new FCBA magazine can be a shot like THIS."
Yanking Rachel's head back a little further, Neve sloooooowwly drew her thumb across Rachel's throat, the symbolic slashing gesture that would have gotten her a hefty fine in a sanctioned fight. Through it all, Neve kept her face pressed to Rachel's cheek. She could feel the quivering holding back tears and she wanted that last bit of control to snap. After all, she'd shed plenty of tears over Rachel in the last six months, it was time for the redhead to do the same.
Speaking in a tone so soft her lips barely moved, Neve whispered, "Cry for me."
A little of the old Rachel fire came back, "Never."
Smiling, Neve stepped back and released the redhead's hair only to reach down and snag the waist of Rachel's clingy midnight-blue togs. "Someone's needed to do this to your condescending, pompous, self-righteous ass for a long time now!"
Before Rachel could reply, Neve YAAAANNNKED up on the material, turning her foe's relatively modest bottom into the skimpiest of thongs. Sawing and jiggling her makeshift handle back and forth, the brunette commented, "Looks like your butt is the only part of you I didn't put some color on. I'll have to correct that oversight!"
Neve formed her free hand into a flat paddle and lifted it high overhead. Holding the pose just long enough for the audience to realize what was coming, she brought her hand sliding down onto Rachel's defenseless butt. Thus began one of the more brutal spankings in FCBA history!
Neve's hand rose and fell over and over again, blistering Rachel's rump with a monotonous SMACK, SMACK, SMACK that quickly reddened the pale flesh. After more than thirty spanks, Neve's hand began to tingle but she wouldn't stop, not as long as Rachel stayed silent. Determined to draw copious amounts of blood from this redheaded stone, Neve increased her pace and soon the echo from one clap to the next ran together, each new one exploding before the previous one faded away.
During the malicious tanning, Rachel never made a sound. It was a test for sure, but she REFUSED to allow Neve the satisfaction of hearing her sob or plead. She couldn't hold back the tears though and that bothered her. They weren't blubbery 'I'm a quitter' tears, but they were tears nonetheless and as they poured down her red cheeks they burned like acid.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the spanking stopped and Rachel slumped forward with her chin on the buckles. A few seconds later, Neve yanked her head back and glared down into her tear-streaked face.
The brunette said, "I changed my mind. I DO hate you Rachel."
Swallowing a lump in her throat, the redhead mumbled through trembling lips, "I hate you too Neve."
Neve smiled, "At last, some real emotion. I know you want to avenge this Rachel, and I don't blame you. If you did to me what I just did to you, I'd spend every waking second figuring out how I was going to get eve..."
Rachel interrupted, "What makes you think I'm not already doing that?"
"That's my point!” Neve chuckled. “If you face me again and win, you deserve whatever revenge you can devise. But consider this; the organization you love so much ... the organization you so cheerfully claim to be 'property' of... (the word 'property' dripped with a contempt so poisonous it could've burned holes in the canvas) just fired two world class fighters; one for talking trash after a clean, albeit fluky, victory and the other for simply not being YOU! If you want vengeance, it'll cost you your spot with the Mountees. But maybe they'll make an exception; you're a big star, after all. I wonder how Natasha, Cobie and Sarah would take that? Or Kristin and Elisha for that matter? Think about it while you're sleeping on your stomach tonight."
She let go of Rachel's hair and walked back to her corner. After accepting a few more kudos from her team, Neve slipped on her robe and limped out of the ring. Heading up the aisle to her locker room, she thought about what she’d accomplished. Aside from tying the score with Rachel, she’d proved the redhead wasn't impossible to humble and - perhaps more important - she'd shown Rachel what her association with the Mountees could cost. All in all she was very interested to see what might come of the work she'd done tonight.
Later that night...wincing, Rachel gripped the sides of the ice bath with white-knuckled hands as she lowered herself into the frigid water. Letting out a ragged, shuddering, sigh, she laid her head back on the edge of the tub and let the ice work. As the bath began to numb her bruises (and the humiliating sting in her butt) Rachel thought, 'This isn't over. Not by a long shot. She may have tied the score, but I'll die before I ever lose another one to Neve Campbell.'
She paused for a moment, recalling what the brunette had said about the Mountee's stance on post-match antics. ‘They won't stop me. If anyone ever deserved what she gets, it's Neve. Even if the office won't sanction a rematch, I'll get her. I don't care if it's on canvas, carpet, sand or cement; I'll track her down! She's going to know her place, and it's right on top of the scrap heap.’
Taking a deep breath, the redhead closed her eyes. Not too long afterward, she drifted off to sleep and - despite her aches and pains - she was smiling because, in spite of what Neve had whispered before she left the ring, Rachel wasn't sleeping on her stomach!