2007-09-11: The Audition

Starring:

Jack_icon.gif Mariska_icon.gif

Summary: An unusual audition takes place in the ring. Jack is quick and quippy, Mariska is really Russian.

Date It Happened: September 11th, 2007

The Audition


Brooklyn, NYC - Black and Bruised

Black and Bruised is a rarity. Odd to the point of being unique. A kickboxing gym in Brooklyn that never closes. The proprietor is a retired fighter, a rail-thin old man who never seems to sleep and always has his wary eyes out for fresh talent.

The gym is housed in an ancient, dilapidated warehouse. The floor and walls remain bare concrete, cold but scrubbed clean. The center of the room is dominated by a single ring that has seen decades of wear, tear, and repair. The ropes are bristly jute, the canvas is spotted with battle scars and bloodstains, and the turnbuckles have been double-padded. Weight machines and free weights line one long wall, punching bags of every size and description clutter a second portion of the room, and the remaining area has been left open, with mats rolled up in the corner should more sparring space be required.

It's late, and there are very few patrons. One enormous man whales away rhythmically at a heavy bag, and two that are considerably smaller seem to be wrapping up a fight. Jack is here, killing time than many would spend sleeping. He's already had his first turn of the evening. Stripped to the waist with a towel in one hand and a water bottle in the other, he's observing the last few moments of the fight critically.

Well. Isn't this… something. Whatever serves to notify a new arrival on the premises makes its tell-tale tinkling chime and there is the doorway stands some dark-haired woman who must obviously be lost if the slightly awkward expression on her face is anything to go by. Mariska takes slow, measured steps from the door to the ring and, if no one goes for the intercept before she gets there, she ends up standing two steps back from Jack's shoulder.

Hit by a final, slamming blow, one of the fighters raises his gloves to signal his surrender, then both combatants dismount the ring. With no show to distract him, Jack takes a swig from his water bottle, sets it on the edge of the ring, and towels his damp hair up into clumpy spike. The new arrival goes unnoticed at first. It's not until he's tossed his towel around his shoulders and retrieved his water that the woman flashes through his periphery. "Evening," he greets, and bobs his head briefly. "You look bit out of place. You lost?"

The first words to tumble from her lips come in the form of a blatant statement of the obvious: "You teach people to fight here?" Good God, that accent's thick. Slavic. Soviet, maybe. Mariska sounds like she just stepped out of a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon. She must be here hot on the tail of Moose and Squirrel.

Jack's chuckle is rich and low, but unmocking. "I don't teach people anything," he rumbles, amused. "Not officially, anyway. If you want real lessons, the owner can set you up with an audition." He drapes the towel around his neck to free an almost unnaturally long-fingered hand for shaking. "The moniker's Jack."

The man monikered Jack earns himself a not-so-subtle bit of eyeing up but… not in the 'hey, you're half naked, wanna go all the way?' sort of way. It's an appraisal of cleanliness, maybe, before she commits skin to skin. Her standards must be relatively low because, hey, there's the hand shake and name exchange, right on cue. She offers, "Misha." before asking, "Who is the owner? And what you mean… audition?"

Jack's grip is firm, but not uncomfortably so. He gives more of a squeeze than a shake before he withdraws. "He's the owner." Jack chucks a thumb in the direction of the skinny old man, who's currently sitting on a stool in the corner and reading the paper. "And by audition, I mean he watches you fight, then decides if he wants to teach you." Her appraising glance is returned with one of his own, less subtle and far more intense, like a cattle merchant sizing up a potential purchase. "Morning is usually the best time for that, but anyone can walk in and work out."

In so much as Mariska can be appraised in a glance, she appears relatively average in the height and weight ratio arena. A little tall for a woman but nothing approaching Amazonian in stature. Her fingers are thin but bear bold knuckles, as if her hands have already spent their fair share of time curled into fists. Her expression shifts to something between disappointed and horrified while her pale, green eyes dart to the geezer and then bounce back to Jack. "If I already knew how to fight… I would not be here," she insists a bit pleadingly.

"Audition's not to prove you already know how. It's to prove you're willing to learn." A comfortable, lopsided smile stretches across Jack's face. Despite his scars and ink marks, his posture and expression are friendly as he leans back against the rough ropes of the ring. "We don't train with gloves here," he explains, almost apologetically. "And there aren't many ladies who come through. You're not afraid of bruises, are you?"

Mariska may not be a fighter by trade or design but she's certainly no stranger to the tender sting of bruised skin. Missing the mount for the vault, missing the dismount from the uneven bars, tripping two steps up on to the balance beam — these things tend to be frequently rewarded with medallions of banana black and plum purple skin. "Nyet," she says firmly, unable to hide the hint of a smile hinged in the corners of her mouth. "I am not scared so easy."

"Good." Jack bobs an agreeable nod and crosses his arms over his chest. A thoughtful 'hmmmmmm' builds at the back of his throat. Then he shrugs his broad, sloping shoulders and reaches over his head to give one of the ropes a quick tug. "Alright then. Get in, and we'll see what you can do. If the spirit's willing, the rest is all muscle memory."

Without further ado, Jack tosses his towel and water bottle aside, then climbs nimbly into the ring.

Wait — what? Right now?! She has to fight him?! Is this some kind of joke? A mildly bewildered Mariska gives a look over her shoulder as if to verify with the empty air that Jack's serious about that. Huh. He must be. Things are about to get hilariously bad but, alright. Let's do this. The Russian shrugs out of her messenger bag and peels free of her bolero jacket, laying both articles aside on a convenient bench before inquiring, "Shoes?" On or off. Probably off, but…

"No shoes," Jack clarifies cheerfully. "And you can always wait until tomorrow if you're frightened." There's no emphasis on the 'f' word, but that crooked, boyish smile plays across his lips again. "I promise not to be offended."

He's lucky she's a lady and thus she doesn't end up taking off her pretty, half-heeled boots just to chuck them at him one at a time in retaliation for the taunt. Mariska's a thrower, dontcha know. Unholy terror and destroyer of fine bottles of vodka the whole world wide. Not that he knows any better. Not that she'd ever tell him. Socks and shoes set aside, she slides into the ring slowly, pulling herself up between the lower-most ropes and ambling barefoot across the ring to stand across from smilin' Jack. "Okay," she drawls. "What I do?"

"Oi. You are green." There's still no heat to Jack's words, only gentle amusement.

Still standing with his arms crossed over his chest, he paces a slow circle around Mariska. "Spread your feet a little." The instruction is punctuated by a nudge from his toe to the inside of her calf. "And hands in front of your face. Trust me, it's the least fun place to get punched. Then hit me." He back in front of her now and his smile is gone. All business.

Oh, hey. Lookit that. She wasn't bluffing. Mariska's first punch is… laughable. She's following Jack's instructions — all feet spread and hands up and even a little weight shifted but it's a swing and a miss!

Rather than parry or dodge, Jack steps forward and allows the punch to breeze over his shoulder. Now nearly nose to nose with Mariska, he shakes his head slowly and shrugs her arm away. "You don't want to be this close to somebody who's this much bigger than you. Watch." Turning to demonstrate, he flicks a short, sharp punch at the empty air without extending his body. "Like that. That way if you miss, you don't end up in a wrestling match."

Mariska puts her motherland to shame with her first lame attempt but as Jack switches sides and shows her the snap, she mimics his movement with an admirable adaptability. "But, I hear wrestling is big in your country," she jokes(?!) with a slightly lopsided smile. Where's Ivan Drago when you need him?

"I never wrestle on the first date," Jack quips dryly. He nods approvingly at the quick and accurate mimicry of his demonstration. With the casual, unselfconscious touch of a doctor or stylist, he moves alongside Mariska and adjusts the angle of first her wrist, then her shoulder. Finally, he gives her a disapproving hip-check. "Don't twist. It puts you off balance and makes you look like a sissy."

As much as the Russian would love to quibble over quips, her familiarity with Jack has only aged to a fine six and a half minutes and that's barely enough time to ask for directions to hell let alone insinuate that he should probably associate with fewer sissies, if that's the case. Instead, the hip-check is received with a little grunt and she tries to correct this impulse to twist but, clearly, for the former gymnast, old habits die hard. Everything in Mariska's world comes with a twist, after all.

"Better." Another approving nod and Jack is once again standing in front of his new student. "A fight can be broken into three elements. Base," he points to her feet. "Angle," this time to her hips. "And leverage. Whoever has the advantage in all three is the winner. Now try it again." He motions with both hands, giving the universal sign for 'come and get me.'

Apparently the 'it' that Mariska's hip to try again is not another punch as Jack might have anticipated but rather a kick — a rather impressively high kick — aimed for the man's head. Her bare foot sweeps in awful close to the man's ear before he manages to duck out of the way. Maybe if he hadn't just been point out an adjustment in her stance, he wouldn't have noticed the weight shift until it was too late, eh? Needless to say, it suggests some skill that the Russian might be holding back.

Now Jack's grin widens noticeably. "Oh-ho. Looks like you might not be as new as you let on. Shall we, then?" For the first time, he lifts his own hands to protect his face, though he doesn't ball them into fists. His counterattack is jab of his fingertips directed at the nerve bundle between Mariska's shoulder and collarbone. Apparently, punching a lady still isn't an idea he can fathom.

Tag. You're it. So declare Jack's fingertips as the poke into Mariska's shoulder. She attempts a deft dodge and makes with an impressively nimble back-bending escape but it comes a split second too late; she's already been struck. Thankfully, not hard. Jack's a gentleman. Ish. Kinda. Maybe if she could just latch onto his wrist and trick him into a throw… after all, God gave women hips strictly for tossing, checking, crashing and child-bearing, right?

Again, Jack rolls with Mariska's attack rather than moving against it. He lands hard on his back with both arms spread wide to absorb the brunt of the impact. One strong, spidery hand snakes out to catch her ankle and jerk her off balance, or better yet, all the way to the mat.

Oh, hey! That worked! Both ways. Mariska succeeds in planting Jack on his back and then promptly succumbs to overconfidence in her fleeting moment of victory long enough to have her ankle yanked right out from under her. And here's where it gets interesting — because, instead of joining the man similarly sprawled on the mat, she goes down into a very sudden full split, balance maintained. Any observers in the possession of a penis probably just winced because, dude, seriously — DAMN! The Russian woman places a hand on Jack's chest and then uses his ribcage as support to her full weight while she finds her feet again before she then extends a hand to help him up. "Well? What do you think?" she wonders aloud, breathing pitched at the same cadence to a jog.

Groooooan. Mariska might be a lady, but it's still interesting to have her leaning on his lungs. "What do I think?" The groan fades to a laugh as Jack accepts the hand up and staggers to his feet. "I think you just earned yourself a membership card. You're welcome to come back and spar with me anytime, lady." He makes a show of dusting himself off after his surprise trip to the mat.

In the same situation, someone else might be smug. Mariska, however, looks… concerned (or possibly confused). "So, you teach me how to fight, da?" She must not understand that's what the membership card comment probably meant. And, by God, if she isn't banging this 'teach me how to fight' drum to death. After the relatively adept level of skill she just managed to manifest, what could she possibly have to worry about from any given member of the everyday populous? She's clearly not a woman in search of some lightweight self-defense.

"I will teach you how to fight, da," Jack agrees. He smiles and gives her a comradely clap on the shoulder. "Though you seem to handle yourself well enough." After shaking off the last of his impact, he gestures around the room. "I usually pass through in the evenings, though there are plenty of good folk who can teach you things during the day, as well."

Alrighty there, comrade. That's enough close contact for now. Mariska gently shrugs her way free of the hand clasping her shoulder and makes a hasty retreat from the ring. She's been out of her shoes and socks and in the company of strange, quasi-American men for too long, perhaps; quota spent. Thank you, come again. "I will return in two days," she says, restoring her toes to the supple hold hosiery and boots. Lifting her head up as she returns her arms to the sleeves of her short jacket, Mariska regards the man left in the ring with another scrutinizing gaze. She can't escape the pull of the door, though, and as she hastily snatches up her discarded messenger bag and flies for the exit, she pauses long enough at the threshold to offer over her shoulder in a genuine tone: "Take care of yourself… Jack."

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