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Outside The Ring

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She remembers growing up watching this woman. In awe every time she walked down the ramp, for every match featuring the Queen. She remembers the one house show she'd managed to go to, at 14, without her father's knowledge. Managed to get front row by the time the main event was underway. 

It was a four way match. And just as the match seemed to be going to hell on the outside. Josie watched in awe as Charlotte went to the top rope and did a moon sault, wiping out the other three women in the match. It was a thing of absolute beauty. That solidified her dream of wanting to fly just like that. 

That night Charlotte Flair stood tall grinning to a booing crowd, smug and unapologetic in victory. Josie unlike most of the crowd was utterly starstruck. That was her idol in all her glory. 

Now six years later she's watching said idol yet again. In place of a sold out Arena a crowded training room within the performance center. Gone was the iconic ring gear, she stood tall in active wear staring down everyone in the room. 

In the ring didn't stand her idol Charlotte Flair, in the ring stood Ashley Fliehr. A woman who had sweat, bled and cried in this very room - hell she probably still did to this day. A woman that helped usher in a new era into WWE, determined to usher a new era into the industry as a whole. This woman far more intimidating than her idol, but she was everything Josie wished she had the guts to be in her own life. 

"Welcome to the newest stage in the Evolution ladies."

Charlotte greeted the women in the room. She eyed them down. Some faces completely unknown, some faces she recruited personally and some were already her colleagues. Each one of them hanging on to her every word. 

"Each one of you here has at the very least one thing in common. You all bleed this business - atleast I hope you do, because if you don't you won't be here long. I want people- no I want women who love this business that will leave everything on the mat. Their sweat, tears and blood. Because it's time to change the game. We are no longer looking to carve a seat at the table and have a five to two match ratio on a card anymore. We are looking to make our own table where we all eat at all times." 

She paused. Letting everyone soak in what she was saying. She was essentially selling them a dream, her dream. This had to be one of the most compelling promos she'd ever cut, she needed these women to buy into her. It was just easier selling a character to the masses than it was to sell herself and her dreams. 

"These next two weeks are essential for all of us. You are all some of the best wrestlers in the world right now. The demand for female wrestlers has never been higher, take this time to see if you want to be apart of this vision and journey or as an opportunity to gain more exposure for your career. As you know this isn't a guaranteed contract, we're looking for people that will help shape us and be willing to be shaped by us. You all have your schedules we'll reconvene later." 

She dismissed them and stepped out the ring. She didn't stick around to chat with anyone. There would be enough time for that later, she needed to prepare for the activities that would follow. 

Josie watched as Charlotte left the ring. Her speech was short but conveyed everything it needed too. She watched as many of the other wrestlers seemed to hang on to every word. She could tell everyone was hungry for an opportunity, ready to be apart of the tagline 'the first ever'. She wasn't sure if she was right for this, but she had made the decision to see this through. And she would. 

She had stayed at the back near the doors, which was where Charlotte was headed for. She saw a look of surprise cross Charlotte's face, before it was replaced with a self satisfied smile. 

"You came." 

"I did." Josie shrugged. 

Charlotte motioned for her to follow her out. They walked in relative silence to Charlotte's office -rather soon to be office once she gets everything out of boxes and the way she liked them. 

Josie looked around the office impressed with the large glass window. From the office there was a bird's eye view of the training room floor. It was like a box seat, perfect really. 

"Why?" Charlotte questioned. 

"Why what?" 

"You were pretty adamant about not wanting to be here." And it was true, a part of Josie still didn't want to be here. 

"You asked me why I started this sport." 

"You told me it was complicated." Charlotte repeated back. 

"It still is, but a big part of it was because of you. I remember watching you do a moonsault off the top rope live, and the crowd went wild. I wanted to be like you in that moment. To feel seen like that. I had never felt seen, but watching you that night made me want to feel what it was like to be looked at as something larger than life." 

"Then why the mask?" Charlotte questioned slightly confused. 

"Complicated. But for awhile the mask was enough I'd do a move and leave the crowd in awe. A part of me gets seen and I get to stay undetected in every other aspect of my life." 

Josie had kept her eyes trained on what was going on outside as she spoke. Charlotte was struck with how young and unguarded she looked. Gone was the girl always wearing the mask, literally and figuratively. Unfiltered honesty and it was kind of sad to think that went unseen for so long. 

Josie turned to Charlotte, finally making eye contact with the blonde. 

"To answer your question, I started in part because of you and I came because of you. You strolled in to the gym looking for me. Not a gimmick or the newest flash in the pan. You saw me right away, that doesn't happen a lot. It helps that you knew exactly what to say. So I'm here to give this a shot, because you seem very willing to give me one." 

"That's a lot of trust. Thank you. Now let's talk about on what you want to do and get the process for to get you signed." Charlotte spoke, motioning for Josie to have a seat. 

"I thought contracts weren't guaranteed." 

"Yours always was. Welcome to Evolution Josie." Charlotte said with a smile. Offering a handshake. 

Chapter Text

Penelope Park never thought she would feel out of place in a wrestling ring. Yet here she was. 

The twenty by twenty squared circle, where was once her home, was daunting to her now. Far too big, far too wide. Far too much  space and she was no longer sure she could fill it with a compelling story. She felt too small. 

Her fingers grasped on to the ropes. She used to depend on them without a second thought. Now she couldn't fathom having her body being hurled into them, or using them to build momentum. She couldn't imagine jumping off them anymore either. 

Just sitting on the top turnbuckle and watching how far down the mat was, felt like an out of body experience. And not in the good way. Her brain would start assaulting her images of her body laying crumpled on the mat. Her leg snapped in a weird angle. She could almost feel the pain in her knee like it was happening right then and not almost a year and a half ago. 

"Knew I'd find you here lass." A voice spoke from across the room. The Irish accent wasn't hard to pin though. 

"Ever think I didn't want to be found, Quinn?" Penelope asked dryly.

"If ya didn't want to be found, ya would've gone somewhere no one would think to look for ya." Becky quipped taking a seat on the ring apron. 

"Didn't think that anyone would think to look for me in a ring." Penelope shrugged.

"Yet here we are. Why didn't you come Pen?" 

"I think my wrestling career is over. Saw no point to have it confirmed in front of everyone." Penelope said solemnly. 

"Just like that?" 

"Just like that." Penelope echoed.

"Then I guess you aren't who I always thought you were lass. Because Wonderkid Park would've never thrown the towel just like that." 

Penelope knew she was being goaded. She knew Becky was trying to get a rise out of her and yet it still worked. There was something about Becky's tone, the dismissive way she said it. Like Penelope was walking away by choice, like she hadn't been trying for months. It pissed her off. 

"You don't get to waltz in here and act like I'm choosing to throw it away." 

"Is that not what you're doing?" 

Becky continued to goad. She left her perch on the apron and climbed thru the ropes. She took a stand in the middle of the ring facing Penelope. She was seeing a lot of herself in the younger woman. She'd sat at the same fork in the road damn near a decade ago. She needed a push then just like Penelope needed one now. 

"Aren't you giving up your dreams, your home right now? You're the one deciding to end your career." Becky continued. Tone turning more accusatory with each word hurled at the brunette. 

"I'm not deciding shit. My body is done. I don't have a choice." Penelope's voice was rising that she was practically screaming the words at the Irish woman. 

"You're cleared to compete. So is it really your body? Or is your fear steering the boat? Never took the great Pen Park for a coward." Becky sneered. 

She knew she said the right thing. Penelope was off the turnbuckle and in her face in an instant. Predictable. 

"Fuck you, you don't know shit about me." Penelope spoke thru clenched teeth. She could feel her anger threatening to take over. And Becky had the audacity to to look smug. 

"I know you're chicken shit Park. There's nothing wrong with your knee or your ability to wrestle." Becky paused taking a step closer, making it so that there was no space left between them. She lifted her finger to Penelope temple and tapped her skull in a patronizing manner. 

"It. Is. All. Up. Here." She accentuated each word with a tap. Pushing Penelope's head back. 

Becky felt herself being roughly pushed backwards. Instinctually she grabbed and used her momentum to send Penelope into the ropes. 

Thus started a well choreographed dance between the pair. Both trying to one up the other. Becky got a few hip tosses in. Penelope took the bumps with instinctual ease. At one point she leap frogged over a spear attempt by the Irish woman. Becky reversed her own hip toss attempt into sending her hurtling into the ropes. 

Surprising both of them, Penelope jumped on to the second rope and springboarded into a spinning uppercut. It landed flush on Becky's jaw and sending her to the floor. They both landed on a heap on the floor. 

They were silent for a moment, just breathing hard and staring at the ceiling. Penelope could feel the adrenaline coursing through her. A feeling that was honestly foreign to her now. It buzzed in her ears like white noise playing a back drop for her labored breathing. 

Penelope felt alive, felt like she could fly again. And her knee...her knee was fine. Better than fine, it felt great. She moved her leg to be sure and stretched her leg out. There was no pain or stiffness. She was great and ready for more. 

"Cesaro should've never taught you that spring board uppercut." Becky groaned. She flexed her jaw to shake the stiffness of eating that blow head on. 

Penelope couldn't help but burst out laughing. The redhead sounded like a whiny child. 

"My BoDy Is DoNe." Becky mocked. "What a load of bullocks." 

"Mayhaps you've proven your point." 

Penelope spoke after a beat of silence. Her body still could go, her knee was healed. The high about being in a ring was still the best thing she'd ever felt. 

"That ya were taking the coward way out? Glad you're seeing the error of yer ways lass." 

Becky got up and dusted herself off. Her jaw was throbbing lightly, she was sure she'd develop a bruise. But her work was done, she was successful. 

"Uh is the opportunity still open to me?" Penelope asked looking up at her mentor. 

"Duh ya dolt. Now don't miss anymore of Charlie's speeches or she won't let me sign ya." Becky joked. The opportunity would've been there regardless of what happened. She was just glad it wouldn't require repeat visits or repeated punches to the face. 

"All right Park I'm off. Don't be late." Was the last warning Becky threw over her shoulder leaving the brunette in the ring. 

"I won't be." 

Penelope left the gym feeling alive and unstoppable. She sent one text on her way to her apartment to change into her gear.

'I think I'm back'

Becky strolled into Charlotte's office with a self satisfied smile and two cups of tea from their favorite cafe. And some donuts. Charlotte eyed her suspiciously. 

"What did you do?" 

"I come bearing tea and pastries, just to be accused as soon as I walk in. I can go." Becky huffed playfully. 

"It's not an accusation when you come in here practically whistling, with a bruise blooming on your jaw. But by all means leave the tea and pastries and go whistle elsewhere." Charlotte challenged and Becky just rolled her eyes taking a seat across from the blonde. 

"If you must know queenie, I was out securing a big star to our brand." Becky said rather smugly. 

"Happy to hear we've both had productive mornings." Charlotte said equally smug. 

They both stared the other down. Playing a game of who is going to break first. Either asking or blurting out their recruit first. Both trying to seem as impassive as possible, but failing to hide the excitement buzzing through them. 

"All right all right." Becky broke the tension first. "Your news can't be bigger than my news so on three I show you up." 


"On three. I signed: 1, 2, 3.

Penelope Park"

"The Harpy." 

"No way the bloody Harpy? How'd you manage that." Becky asked shocked. 

"How'd you manage Park? I thought she was out?" Charlotte asked equally shocked. 

"She thought she was too. I'll trade you the story on how I got this bruise for the one on how you got the elusive Harpy signed." 

Becky proposed, nothing like stories between friends over tea and some pastries.