'Till I Collapse

The Cage 
#1

Julie had been uncertain whether she would survive the curfew.

She couldn't fault Alina for closing down the Cage until the curfew was called off, but it left Julie with far too much time on her hands. Her perfectly tuned schedule had been thrown into disarray, and the Spaniard tried desperately to fill the void left by her work with exercise and loitering about the Brewery to little avail. Without the Cage, Julie's beast grew dangerously restless.

The night was darkest before the dawn or some shit like that, right?

Before the Spaniard resigned herself to the possibility of the curfew becoming a long-term pain in her ass, she received news that it had been lifted! And the Cage was open once more!

She had taken to her home away from home as soon as night fell, and she was pleased to see that others had done the same. Leave it to the questionable clientele of the Cage to come crawling out of the woodwork the moment that the authorities put an end to that forsaken curfew.

Someone else could ref tonight; Julie was celebrating. With her name on the roster and whiskey in her veins, she was eager to blow off some steam as she waited anxiously at the bar, her body tense with pent up energy.
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#2
Liza did not belong in the cage. She was not particularly fond of the branding, the atmosphere seemed decidedly seedier than anything she was accustomed to, and as a relative pacifist the idea of a sanctioned underground fight club made her think of a Chuck Palahniuk novel before anything rooted in what apparently passed for reality these days.

Still, it was a wolf enterprise. And it was Julie's preferred method of letting off steam. So really, it was the least that Liza could do to come out and make at least an attempt at a showing.

So here she was, dressed in a clingy black top that showed off a fair bit more skin than she had really ever shown before outside the context of a shift, as well as the 'rattiest' pair of jeans that she owned (which really weren't any rattier than any of her other pairs). She thought she looked like Sandy from the end of Grease, but really she probably just looked like a poser.

Oh well. She leaned against the bar, flashing Julie a reassuring smile. "I haven't seen you this happy in a while!" she chimed.
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#3
It was admittedly a little strange having Liza around at the Cage; Liza and the Cage were two quite different aspects of Julie's life that seldom crossed paths with one another. Still, Julie appreciated having the brunette at her side, and it showed. What better way to celebrate than whiskey and good company before a fight?

"Staying in drives me crazy." Julie smiled before momentarily touching her forehead to Liza's. The Spaniard's wolf all but danced at the touch, and Julie herself didn't think twice about being so openly affectionate in public.

If anyone had a problem with it, they could take it up with her personally.

"I like your outfit."
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#4
Liza blushed, expression sheepish as she pressed her forehead back against Julie’s own. "Thanks," she murmured, "I don’t think I’ve ever worn this top before. It’s… A bit small." Or a lot small – but Liza wasn’t really in a position to split hairs.

It was clear that the short brunette was less inclined to publicly announce their mutual attraction, but she didn’t resist the gesture. "It’s nice to be able to come out with you, setting aside," she intoned. "It feels like we’re actually girlfriends, y’know? That I’m not just some sideshow freak that you took pity on." It was, perhaps, a more morbid statement than she meant it to be – but the intent behind it seemed genuinely pleased.

She gazed curiously back behind the bar at the various drinks available. Maybe she was feeling more adventurous than usual -- but then again, maybe not.
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#5
Liza's rosiness told Julie that she must have done something right. "Maybe you could wear it more often." Julie smiled, hardly opposed to the smallness of Liza's attire. When the brunette went on to discuss their relationship, however, the Spaniard ceased with her cheeky teasing for a moment.

Liza, chatty as ever, had brought up an excellent point that left Julie thinking; they didn't really go out together or do couple things often. Not that they had to, but Julie briefly wondered if her time away from the Cage could have been better spent doing those things with Liza.

Then Liza brought up being a freak that Julie had taken pity on.

"You're not," she said, her expression something between a pout and a frown at the notion. "We could do things like this more, if you want."

Catching Liza's glance toward the alcohol behind the bar, Julie's smile soon returned. "Want to try one?" It didn't seem like the Spaniard's turn on the roster was anytime soon.
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#6
Liza seemed to perk up at this. "I would like that," she said quietly, a hand reaching out to squeeze Julie’s own in a display of affection and affirmation alike. The thought of spending more time with the girl – of making things a little bit more serious – was a frightening one, but an enticing one all the same.

Her eyes turned towards the back of the bar, examining each of the strange, multifaceted bottles in turn. "I wouldn’t even know where to start," she giggled, giving Julie a little hip bump. "What do you think? Something that I’d be able to stomach? Something that – ugh, something that isn’t cheap beer." Liza had only had one or two encounters with the cheap stuff, but she was not a fan. Curse her expensive tastes.
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#7
Julie smiled a bit more at Liza's affectionate affirmation, gently squeezing her hand in kind. "Good." Then it was settled—they'd have to go out more often. While Julie usually wasn't so sentimental, she made an exception for the brunette beside her.

Then the subject turned to alcohol, which Julie was happy to enlighten Liza on.

"Two whiskeys," she said to the bartender, nudging her empty shot glass forward as the man behind the bar fetched a second for Liza. Returning her focus to Liza, the Spaniard's smile widened. "I introduce you to Jack Daniel."

Was Jack Daniel ever an actual person? Julie had no idea, but there wasn't any harm in a little humor—even humor as quirky and pitiful as Julie's.
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#8
"Wait, who is –" Liza blinked, looking around the bar wildly for the man named jack for a solid five seconds before realizing precisely who (or more accurately, what) Julie was referring to. "Oh. Jack Daniel," she repeated, sheepishly.

She reached out for the shot glass and carefully retrieved it with slightly trembling fingers. "L’chaim, I suppose!" she chirped nervously, raising her glass before bracing herself and slamming it back.

It went about as well as could be expected. The girl sputtered and coughed, but the drink went down, bringing with it the warmth and vigor characteristic of the drink that some referred to as the water of life.

"N-Not bad," she coughed, giving Julie a giggly little smile. "A bit rough, but not bad."
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#9
Sweet, innocent Liza. Never change.

Julie brimmed with amusement once the brunette realized what exactly the taller woman was referring to. Taking her own glass as Liza reached for hers, the Spaniard smiled in agreement to the toast that she didn't understand before knocking back the whiskey with far less struggle than her partner.

For a moment, Julie was concerned for Liza when the girl barely managed to choke the alcohol down. Fortunately, the giggly smile Liza gave a moment later assured Julie that nothing had gone terribly wrong.

"It's smoother the second time." At least it was for her. Granted, the Spaniard was a pretty hard drinker.

All the while, Julie kept close to Liza's side, seldom breaching the physical contact between them. The wolf inside her, as ready as it was for some action, was more than pleased to be so close to another of the Pack.

"Have you really not had anything besides cheap beer before?"

From what Julie could tell, cheap American beer was even more watery than cheap European beer. It was a travesty.
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#10
"I would hope so!" Liza protested with one more cute little sputter. A hand moved to wipe away any stray whiskey that hadn't quite made it into her mouth before self-consciously rubbing the moisture onto the side of her jeans. Not exactly the most dainty maneuver, but this wasn't exactly a dainty place.

The wolf did not care much for alcohol, but it cared a great deal for its companion. It pressed against Julie's own beast within their metaphysical space, reveling in their collective closeness. Even if Liza was having doubts about this entire evening (she wasn't), the wolf was thrilled with every new development.

"The first time I ever drank was -- with Katya," she conceded quietly. "At Red River. I was -- erm -- having my employment processed, and happened to run into her. I was a bit of a wreck, but the beers took the edge off. Still tasted pretty bad, though."
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#11
"Ah."

Unfortunately, that was all Julie could think of to say at first. The brunette's confession was a minefield of awkward subjects—Julie's estranged neighbor and Liza's transition to a wolfish lifestyle to name but a few—and the redhead frankly didn't how if she wanted to address any of it. Instead, she opted for another round of whiskey, beckoning for the bartender to refill Liza's glass as well.

"I'll teach you." A smile pulled at Julie's lips. "It isn't that hard."

At the very least, their bestial nature meant that Liza wasn't a total lightweight. "I don't like beer. If you want something that will give you a buzz, you'll need something stronger. Like whiskey."

Or rum. Rum was also good.
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#12
Liza furrowed her brow. "Honestly, I don't know if a buzz is a good idea," she half-joked. "Who knows what's bound to happen if I lose control of myself. I might do something super embarrassing." Or, you know, hulk out into a massive white-furred rage wolf. One of the two.

"Still... I suppose with our -- our tolerance, it's not that big of a deal, yeah?" Liza smiled; Julie seemed very happy about the prospect of showing her the ropes of hard liquor, and she didn't want to let her girlfriend down by being a poor sport.

"So I guess -- I'll try whatever you -- oh, another!" Liza stared in surprise as the bartender slid her a second glass of the amber liquor. She caught his eye and for a moment she could have sworn that he was judging her a bit. Was it that obvious that she was new to this?

Okay, it definitely was. Whatever. Time to prove the world wrong, Liza.

She managed to choke the second drink down with about half as many sputters as the first. Progress!
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#13
Maybe filling Liza up with enough alcohol to poison someone of human-level constitution wasn't the best idea, but Julie just couldn't help herself. The temptation was too great. Not to mention that she was there; if anything started to go sideways, the Spaniard would be right beside Liza to help however she needed to.

"I'll keep you grounded," Julie hummed, smiling a bit more openly with each passing glance at the brunette. When Liza asked about their innate tolerance, the more experienced she-wolf nodded.

And speak of the devil. Pleased to see Liza's face light up in surprise, Julie was blissfully unaware of the bartender's judgemental looks; otherwise, there might have been a brawl outside of the ring. The Spaniard wouldn't take any shit, nor would she stand by and watch anyone else give the brunette shit.

Julie tossed her second shot of whiskey back as Liza did the same, and she was pleased to see that the liquor went down a bit more easily for Liza this time. As with most things, it was all about practice.

"A drink or two helps before a fight," the ginger mentioned with a glance toward the ring. "Liable to hurt yourself going in tense and rigid."
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#14
"Gosh, I can't even imagine," Liza squeaked, the subtle burn of the liquor prompting a slightly higher register than her usual mid-ranged alto. She gazed across the way at the illuminated ring that sat at the center of the entire establishment. Ostensibly, it was meant to serve as a means of letting off steam for the more supernaturally inclined residents of Cordova. And indeed, it seemed to be good for that; Liza hadn't seen much just yet, but she'd heard conversations amongst the other wolves about the beneficial effects a few rounds could have on the psyche.

Sure, the entire thing seemed -- barbaric, and crude, and overindulgent with regard to their more bestial inclinations. But a not-insignificant voice in Liza's head growled in frustration at such reservations. She was a beast, after all -- an apex predator. Why couldn't she take the time to assert her dominance every once in a while?

Liza shook her head in an attempt to dismiss such thoughts. No, no, none of that. She was human, and a good and kind and peaceful person. She did not fault those who partook of the ring, but it certainly wasn't her thing.

Right?

The scent of sweat and blood was a little intoxicating.

"So when you fight... What is it like?" she asked quietly.
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#15
The noticeable squeak in Liza's voice brought a wolfish grin to Julie's lips; she was simply too precious. Following the brunette's gaze back toward the ring, Julie observed the combatants with no small degree of curiosity. One might be surprised how much could be learned from spectating these fights with a keen eye—from studying the tactics that yielded success and the noting mistakes which often led to failure.

Liza's quietly spoken question sparked a moment of serious contemplation for the Spaniard. "It's... thrilling," Julie began, hoping to keep her answer simple without sacrificing the gravity of it. "Especially if you win. It makes you feel powerful."

Did Julie enjoy fighting? Without a doubt. Granted, she was paired with human foes all too often; seldom did she have an opportunity to truly challenge herself.

"She enjoys it." The Spaniard dipped her head, lowering her voice a touch as she referred to that nameless beast residing within her—something Liza could relate to.
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#16
"I bet she does," Liza agreed with a voice of quiet confirmation. "I... I can feel it, honestly. The energy of the entire place. Mine wants to get in there and have a good time. Show how strong she is. But -- that's not me, you know?"

Liza shrugged and smiled, but a modicum of fear lurked in her eyes as she looked back towards her Spaniard. She did not want to admit how enticing that primal portion of her psyche found the entire endeavor. That would be admitting a degree of relinquished control that Liza was not prepared to talk about. At least not here. Not two shots in.

But maybe three shots in? She would see how the night went.
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#17
Listening intently, Julie nodded along to Liza's words. However, she couldn't help but tilt her head at the brunette's concluding remark, the glimpse of fear in her eyes.

Julie remembered what that was like, even though it had more often manifested as anger and annoyance for the Spaniard. Returning Liza's smile, Julie leaned in and bumped their heads together to console her fretful other in the best way she knew how. For better or worse, Julie's single-mindedness allowed everything else to fall away for a moment or two.

Then a wave of cheering rolled through the crowd, reminding her of their surroundings. An aggravated huff escaped the ginger-haired Spaniard.
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#18
The contact made everything better. Liza pressed her forehead intently against the force exerted by Julie, reveling in the gentle, reassuring pressure that resulted. After a moment, she slid her face downwards, kissing the Spaniard upon the lips.

"When do you get to go?" she asked quietly. "I -- I am looking forward to watching. I want to see you kick some ass." The girl took a step back, arching a wry eyebrow as she considered Julie in her entirety, taking in every inch of her lithe, taut, muscular body. "You are going to kick ass, right?"
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#19
The gentle force exerted between them had brought a smile to Julie's face before Liza surprised her with a kiss. Tasting the whiskey on her lips, the Spaniard refrained from taking Liza and embracing her; the last thing she wanted to do was attract the attention of others and garner the likes of wolf whistles or worse.

"Soon, I hope," Julie answered, a smirk pulling at her lips at the thought of kicking ass for Liza's entertainment.

Another huff was given in response to Liza's teasing question. "No te preocupes." Giving the brunette a playful nudge with her elbow, Julie glanced back to the ring, eager and exited in equal measure.
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#20
"Fine, fine," Liza giggled quietly. Her Spanish wasn't great, but she knew enough to catch the meaning behind Julie's chiding assurance.

The kiss had been a glorious, but agonizingly brief moment in time. Liza felt it tingle gently upon her lips even as the moment passed. She leaned gently against Julie, entwining her fingers with the other wolf's own as she let her mind and her eyes wander.

This was hardly the proper venue for daydreaming; it was grimy and dank and probably dangerous. But next to Julie, Liza felt content to let her mind wander.
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#21
Liza's giggling was really the most delightful thing.

The two wolves leaned into one another, and Julie gave the brunette's hand a gentle squeeze. Oh, how tempting it was to simply forget the fighting and focus entirely on Liza; the idea had certainly crossed Julie's mind more than once. Before the temptation became too great, however, the Spaniard soon heard her name be called in preparation for the next fight.

What awful timing.

"Wish me luck," she hummed in Liza's ear, placing a kiss on her cheek before moving away to approach the ring, a newfound energy pulsing through her veins.
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