Octavia recognised him as soon as he walked through the door into her studio: Eddie Kingston. He was dressed in roomy cargo pants and a large shirt that hid how big he really was. He wore a chain with a cross around his neck and one earring. She had seen enough wrestling on TV to know who this man was, and it was intriguing to see him here; he didn't seem the kinky type. She sat down across from him with a cup of coffee and gave him an encouraging smile. "Welcome. I'm Octavia. What can I do for you?"
"I'm Eddie." He shifted in his seat and adjusted his hat, thinking about his request and how to word it. He was a big man with large, expressive eyes. He was well-groomed and he smelled like he just came out of the shower. "So, the Brat Tamer recommended you. She said I should mention Blake? I dunno."
"Colour me intrigued." She put her cup of coffee down to focus on him. "Why would Tanya send you to me?"
"Because I couldn't do it with her." His voice sounded gruff like he had been a smoker his whole life and had a harsh New York accent, but it didn't make him any less charming. "How to explain this…" He mumbled, adjusting his hat again. "I want to roleplay a certain character and she said you could help."
Octavia beamed at him. "I probably can. Roleplay is one of my favourite things. Tell me about this character. Maybe I know him?"
"I doubt it." He grinned. "Tanya didn't. What would a fancy lady like you be doing watching wrestling?"
She gave him a meaningful look. "I'm actually a big fan of the local indie show and I watch AEW sometimes."
"Get out of here." He laughed raucously. "You're a fan?"
"I think I may have a shirt with your name on it at home." Octavia smiled.
"Well, that makes it easier, I guess." He took his hat off and laid it beside him on the table. "I want to be full on Eddie Kingston with a lady who can defeat him."
She nodded, leaning towards him. "Tell me what that means. Why didn't it work with Tanya? She can handle herself."
"Nothing but respect for Tanya. Professional. Beautiful. I mean it." His eyes stared off at the memory of that session. "I couldn't do it. I was too careful with her. I couldn't go all out. Too worried I'd freak her."
"So the problem was that you were holding back? Yes, I can help with that." Octavia let her eyes roam over his muscles for a moment, he was heavier than Blake and there was this vibrant energy about him. She sighed. "I'm so happy she sent you to me. I think I would enjoy facing off with Eddie Kingston. Does that mean you want verbal violence only?" She chose her words carefully because she knew that the line between the wrestler and the character was often blurry and she wanted to make sure he knew she understood.
"It can get a little physical if you want. I don't mind a slap or some rough-housing. I'll let you draw the line there." He smiled and then leaned in to ask: "Have you seen me face off with anyone?"
"Full Gear." She replied with a smile. "Both Mox and Punk."
He bashfully lowered his eyes. "Yeah… those are good ones…"
"So, in your fantasy…" Octavia gave him some space by leaning back and looking up at the ceiling as she talked. "Would I be tearing you down like they did? How does that end?"
"You can do that?" His big eyes were hopeful. "If you hit me where it hurts, metaphorically speaking… I'll break down."
"That's what you want?" She put her coffee cup down and rose from her seat. "I'm looking forward to this more and more."
"Time out." He gave her a serious look as she approached. "If you need me to back off, you can just say time out. Or, you know…" He gestured "time out" with his hands.
"And if you need me to back off?" She asked as she stood in front of him.
A dismissive gesture and he lowered his eyes. "Nah, that won't happen. Fuck… I'm already worried about bein' too much for you."
She stepped in closer, her legs touching his as she reached past his expressive hands to touch his chin. "I can fix that. Did Tanya tell you what I do?"
He looked up at her with his big eyes, his carefully groomed brow arched. "She said you do mind games."
Octavia smiled. Her experience with Blake and some of the others had taught her many things about what big men were like and how they struggled with holding back for the sake of others, but it was always magical to see them be this tender. And to help them let go.
"That's one way to put it." She decided that he didn't need a big explanation about hypnosis. "I know a mental exercise that will help you get into character without holding back. And I'm eager to do this with you, so tell me what you need before we start."
He gave her a dashing smile as he gently pushed her hand away and removed his shirt. He was wearing a flimsy, sleeveless top underneath. His skin was pale and marred with faded bruises on his chest and back. "Alright. Let's do this." He said with a grin.
She moved to stand behind his chair and stroked his shoulders. "I want you to just sit here and close your eyes for a moment." Her voice naturally slipped down into a softer, dreamy tone. "This is just to get ready. To get in the mood, so to speak. Just take a deep breath and sit here listening to me."
He had a vague smile as he sat there with his eyes closed, as if he enjoyed her touch on his skin and her pretty voice. Thoughtlessly, his hands folded in his lap and his legs spread apart more as he relaxed.
"I want you to imagine for a moment that we are in a big building. Like an arena or a stadium, and we are right now in one of the offices on the top floor. Just imagine me helping you get ready to go down to the show." She coaxed him to relax with her voice, slowly and with emphasis on the right words. "Take a deep breath for me and just let it out slowly. Clear your head. Soon, you'll walk out there and take the elevator down. You'll press the button and the doors will close and you'll go all the way down to the dark backstage area. All the way down."
With a sigh, his head sagged forward, his chin on his chest. As she stroked his shoulders, one of his hands slipped off his lap and hung limp beside the chair. It gave her happy heart flutters to see him like this.
"The backstage area is such a familiar space for you, isn't it?" Her voice was soft, almost a whisper, as she painted the scene. "It looks a little different every time, but it's always dark and there are all these things you know, these people you know. The show is already underway, you can just hear the crowd and it gives you this energy, doesn't it? People leave you alone, because they know you're getting ready to go up to the stage and face off. You're getting ready."
His lips curled into a grin and his fingers twitched. Octavia let go of him and moved to stand in the middle of the room to watch him.
"I want you to think of that time you faced off with Punk." She said after some careful thought. "You're facing off with someone you don't know very well, but you know that you can go all out. Your opponent has the experience, the skills, the charisma to stand across from you. You should go all out. Because you know what the point is. Like that time with Mox, you're going in all loud and angry and your opponent is the one that comes out looking strong. Your anger is there to mask that gaping black hole inside you. Your opponent has all the ammunition necessary to tear you down and expose it. That's the point. You're going in to be destroyed."
He rolled his shoulders and his hands moved to lean on his knees. It was miraculous to watch him change, as limp and deflated he looked a moment ago, now there was this pressure building up inside him, this power. It excited her to see him like this up close.
"And it's easy to reach inside you and find Eddie Kingston. To find that younger, bolder you, to find that rage. You suffered another embarrassing defeat. And you took it out on someone. And now they're demanding an apology. It's infuriating." She moved to the light switch beside the bed and turned it off. "Do what you need to do. Get up. Pace around. Whatever you need to get ready. Everyone is leaving you alone. And when the lights come on, that's when you can go."
The only light in the room now came from the small bedside lamp and from the laptop on the table. Octavia leaned against the wall, her hand close to the light switch so she could turn it back on again when it was time.
Eddie stretched for a moment before he rose to his feet. He cracked his knuckles and then his neck. He strode over to the counter and poured himself a glass of water. It was unbelievable how light-footed this big man was, his footsteps hardly made a sound despite the big boots he wore.
Excited, Octavia watched him for a little longer as he leaned on the counter, and then she turned the light on and stepped forward to stand next to the bed, across the room from him. She was glad she chose to wear a suit and jacket today, it gave her a little more confidence being dressed more formally and smarter than he was.
He turned around and his eyes took in the entire room before he came towards her, drawing himself up to his full height. "You aksed for an apology?"
She swallowed at how intimidating he really was with his loud voice and the way he glared at her. His intensity was exhilarating, she felt warm and sweaty as she crossed her arms and stepped in closer to look him in the eye. "Yes. You owe me an apology." She asserted, her voice hard and clear.
His lips curled into a vile grin and his eyes seemed to shoot fire as he said. "Oh, I owe you? Who the fuck do you think you are?" He gestured dramatically, and it made him look even bigger.
"Who I am is not really that important in this instance." She strung the words together quickly, as if it was her turn to speak and his turn to stand there and listen for a moment. She started to pace around him, moving helped her think. "I'm just a person who happened to be nearby when you blew your lid because you lost another match. Do you ever stop to think about how unprofessional it is to make such a ruckus every time you lose? One would think you'd know by now how to behave after a big loss. Seeing how often it happens to you, Eddie."
"You been keepin' score, have you?" He moved closer, invading her personal space to tower over her.
With her hands on her hips, her back and her shoulders straight to look as tall and unshakeable as she possibly could, she replied: "Yes, I've watched you. And I've noticed something."
He stepped back and with a big gesture he invited her to speak. "Do tell! I can't fucking wait to hear this." He shook his head and his eyes widened, as if he was getting mad.
It was hard to maintain eye-contact when he was like this, but she needed to show him how calm and composed she was. "In your promos, you often throw shade at the other guys for being younger and less experienced than you. And then you assert that you're a grown man, a real man. I think it's funny."
"It's true!" He interrupted her loudly. "It's true! Most of those kids are barely twenty. That's how long I've been doing this shit. Twenty years. It's true!"
She dismissively shook her head, refusing to raise her voice to match his volume. Calm and condescending. "I just think it's funny when you say that you're a grown man. You say it every time you do a promo. Every time. And it's funny because you're behaving like a petulant child. Not an ounce of mature sportsmanship. Every time you lose, you throw a tantrum. It's just so childish."
"Who are you calling childish?" He roared, getting in her face again. "You have no idea what I can do. You have no idea of the hell I've been through to get here." He rolled his shoulders and then grabbed the collar of his top to tear it open vertically, baring his chest for her. "I got the scars to prove it." He growled as he shed the torn shirt on the floor.
"Eddie, calm down." She reached out to place her hand flat on his naked chest. She wanted to touch his thick muscles, and she managed to make it look like she was pushing him away. "I know you're trying to look tough, but ripping your clothes off like that is not going to accomplish anything. Except maybe turn me on." She gave him a smouldering look.
He pushed her hand away and turned to face the wall, clenching his jaw in silence. She drew up close behind him, one hand on his shoulder and the front of her jacket brushing against his scarred, naked back.
With her lips dangerously close to his ear, she whispered: "It's a little dramatic, don't you think? It feels like you're compensating. You're so loud, but it's a mask. You're trying to cover something up. And I think I can see it. Underneath all your bravado, all that unscripted violence and all that posturing, I can see the real you."
His brow furrowed and his lips trembled as he growled, staring at the wall. "I'm a grown-ass man! It's the truth! I got the scars!" He moved away from her.
"Don't you dare ignore me like a child covering your ears." She intercepted him and grabbed him just under the chin, giving him a piercing look. "Don't you dare. Look at me when I speak. I see you."
His big, angry eyes blinked at her and he swallowed, she could feel it under her fingers.
"I see you." Holding his gaze, she moved her hand to his shoulder and pushed down. "On your knees."
His lips moved but he didn't speak as he slowly went down on his knees, his eyes scowling at her all the way. He was such a skilled performer, following her lead without missing a beat, it was such a pleasure to dance with him.
She grinned and inhaled deeply. "Now you're definitely turning me on." She said under her breath.
There was still defiance in his eyes. "Is that what you want?" His voice was hoarse.
She gave him another smouldering look. "It's nice, but it's not the point of this exercise."
He grumbled and looked down at the floor.
"Is it, Eddie?" She reached out to grab his chin again, but his hand suddenly clasped around her wrist. He held on for a second before she was able to pull free. And then she slapped him hard across the jaw. He sat there on his knees, his face averted, shuddering.
That hurt look, that vulnerability… Octavia took a moment to bask in his delicious emotion. Then she shook her head at him. "I told you to look at me."
As she reached out to touch him, he grabbed her wrist and glared at her. It was easier this time to pull her hand loose and she slapped him again. It made him livid and he swiped at her, but she casually stepped out of reach.
"Use your words, not your hands." She raised her eyebrows as she looked down on him. It was difficult to conceal her excitement, she felt like she had ensnared a wild beast and she was amazed at her own success.
Veins bulged on his temples and his face turned red as he opened his mouth wide and a stream of expletives came out, accompanied by a spray of angry spittle.
With a grin, she realised how much fun it was to poke the bear. She placed her hands on her hips and said: "Your impotent rage is showing."
He continued to roar at her, not only commenting on her character but now on her profession too. The things he shouted were getting ugly and misogynistic, it made her frown. Somehow, that piercing look of hers silenced him.
She shook her head at him. "Don't make me slap you again, Eddie."
"Try it, you fuckin' bitch! I'll destroy you!" He flexed his muscles, but he didn't get up.
She stepped forward and grabbed his throat. "You know deep inside that you deserve the way I'm treating you right now. That's why you can't lift a finger against me."
The murderous look in his eyes made her waver, she stared at that swollen vein on his head rather than directly into the fire. But he didn't move, he didn't touch her. When the moment passed and she sought out that eye-contact, she saw a glimmer of doubt. It gave her an idea.
"I'm right, aren't I?" Her touch became more tender as she cupped his jaw in her hand. "You believe this is what you deserve. That you deserve to be punished for your behaviour. But there's more to it..."
"Alright, I'm sorry." The aggression in his voice betrayed his insincerity. "I'm sorry your delicate sensitivities were offended when I spoke my mind."
"Oh, Eddie…" She stroked his cheek, feeling the warmth of the red mark she had left there. "It's your catholic guilt, isn't it? You believe you deserve to be punished. For everything you've done. And that's why you behave like this. It's self-sabotage. You believe you don't deserve to win."
His breath quickened as he averted his eyes, and he recoiled from her touch sinking down on the floor. His shocked silence was telling.
"Tell me I'm wrong." She said as she observed him carefully, trying to determine what he needed.
"Fuck you, bitch." He grumbled under his breath as he massaged his bad knee.
She crouched down in front of him and gently reached for his hand. "Tell me I'm wrong."
He swatted her hand away. "Finish me off!" His voice was raw and his eyes were shining with emotion.
Octavia bit her lip. In this moment, she wished she was more like Tanya, she wished she had the balls to crush Eddie the way he clearly wanted. But perhaps Tanya had referred him because, much like Blake, Eddie craved punishment because of his low self-esteem. It broke her heart to see him like this.
She took a deep breath and rose to her feet. "You are already defeated, Eddie. And I didn't need to lift a finger. You did this to yourself. You always do." She turned away and left him there on the floor, alone with his insecurities.