1. Ruben (Part I)
I leaned my head against the cold stone wall, watching the fire from one of the torches, which dimly lit the prison corridor. I sighed. I had been in that cell for a few hours already, and I couldn’t wait any longer. I had been captured that afternoon in the woods near one of the southern fortresses, and now I was waiting for someone to come and interrogate me. The most interesting event of the evening had been the soldier who had come by to bring me my dinner and to collect my empty tray, leaving me only the jug of water. It was now nighttime, but I still could not fall asleep. The prison was deserted, so I could not talk to anyone. I settled myself better against the wall, in one of the two corners farthest from the iron bars. I was sitting on the floor, on a thin straw bed. My wrists were immobilized by a rough rope and rested lazily on my belly, which moved with every breath I took. I was silent for a moment and closed my eyes. I strained my ears, but heard only the rapid footsteps of a rat. For the rest, nothing. No one would come. The interrogation would be the following day. “How inefficient,” I hissed in annoyance. After more time spent trying to get to sleep, I gave up. Meanwhile, the sexual frustration that had built up over the past few months had suddenly resurfaced in that moment of peace. I decided to indulge my craving and slowly moved my hands to my groin. I began to caress myself from above my pants. I grazed myself with my fingertips, then ran a hand over my entire length. On contact, little shivers of pleasure ran up my spine. I continued to touch myself slowly as I felt the sensations intensify. I exhaled slowly. I paused to massage the tip through the fabric. When I was fully hard, I lowered my pants to mid-thigh – with some difficulty – and began stroking again, skin to skin. My hand struggled to slide over my erection and the pleasure quickly diminished, leaving me frustrated and dissatisfied. I grimaced. I looked around. I grabbed the handle of the pitcher that had been left for me and tried to pour some water on my other hand, without spilling it on the floor. My patience was worn out in a flash, and I poured the water directly onto my erect member. I cringed at the unexpected cold sensation, instinctively letting go of my grip on the jug, which fell noisily. The water splashed on the floor of the cell, but I didn’t care. I kicked it away. I resumed stroking myself, first slowly and then more vigorously. I awkwardly brought my other hand to my testicles but, being tied together, I could not reach the area well and gave up. My breathing became irregular. I increased my speed again, partly hindered by my other hand. My pelvis snapped forward, beginning to respond to the hand’s movements. I squinted in pleasure and tilted my head back. I was close. I released a shuddering breath. Suddenly I heard footsteps. The sound of many boots rapidly descending the stone stairwell, accompanied by whispers, echoing in the empty prison.
I widened my eyes and froze, feeling my member throbbing almost painfully. I moaned in annoyance. People were approaching rapidly, so I hurried to cover myself with my pants, my breathing still quickening. I settled on the bed in the corner, bringing my knees to my chest, and silently cursed. I had not been able to satisfy myself that day either. I tried to think of something else, to distract myself. Only then did I notice the slight burning in my wrists, a consequence of rubbing against the rope. I winced. The voices in the hallway increased and I saw a light coming up the stairs. Before my eyes, a group of young men in uniform appeared. Soldiers from the South. Some held a lantern in their hands, others opened bottles of wine. They all looked drunk. I noticed that one was holding what appeared to be an iron key. I became more alert.
A young man of maybe twenty, who had been hiding from the others before, was pushed toward my cell. His uniform pants fit him slightly long, and he risked tripping. He regained his balance and shook a tuft of blond hair from his face with hasty gestures. He turned back to the group.
“Here is the cell,” said a soldier in a mocking tone pointing to my cell, the only one occupied. He took a sip of wine from the bottle, then continued, “If you spend the night here, we’ll turn a blind eye to you taking it up the ass. What do you say? You seemed so convinced you wanted to do it before and now look at you, shaking like a sissy.” The group snickered. The man puffed up his cheeks proudly and snatched the keys out of the other’s hand. In an offended tone he said, “I may like men, but that doesn’t make me a woman. And I’m not afraid.”
I stood up and silently approached the cell door, now oblivious to the sexual tension of just before. I wanted to get a better look at the situation and consider an escape plan, perhaps using that confusion to escape. The young man approached the cell door with his hand outstretched toward the lock, but was blocked before he could do anything.
“Are you crazy to open the cell without precautions? But do you know who that is? If he escapes, Captain Tris will kill us.”
Someone slapped him and he backed away, ending up with his back against the bars of the cell. The keys fell to the floor, out of my reach. I fixed my gaze on the man. At that moment he seemed to be more afraid of his comrades than of me. He looked terrified, despite trying not to show it. A companion handed him a bottle of wine, only half full. “Liquid courage,” he pointed. He took it with his hands, which were visibly shaking. The lantern he was carrying also cast a shaky light. The others exchanged a look of understanding and, abruptly, opened the cell and threw the man into it, immediately locking it again. I called myself an imbecile; that would have been a golden opportunity to get out. If only they hadn’t caught me off guard. Instead, I found myself not only imprisoned but also in the company of an incompetent, drunken soldier.
“Let’s come back tomorrow morning. See that you survive,” said the group leader with a cruel smile, swinging the keys on his index finger.
The soldiers walked away snickering. Both the young man and I heard the brief dialogue of the last in line. “How come we put him with the prisoner? We could have left him in another cell to starve. No one ever comes down here.” “The one in the cell is Ruben Svadnik, the notorious Northern Assassin. He will rid us of him once and for all.” “Good job! We finally got rid of him.”
The young man groaned in despair and slid down the wall, sitting down. He placed the lantern and bottle neatly on the cold floor. Despite how little light there was I noticed his hurt and lost expression. A sly smile instinctively appeared on my face. While he was there, I might as well have some fun playing with him to pass the time. I knelt in front of him, who winced and brought his hands in front of him to protect himself, bumping into the bottle. Some of the wine came out and slid between the cracks in the floor. I hurried to pick up the bottle and took a sip. A few drops landed on my white shirt, staining it. Not that it mattered, since I had been wearing it for at least two days. I settled the bottle between my legs to keep it stable. “Could be better, but I’m not complaining,” I said with a grimace. He remained silent. I grabbed him by the collar of his uniform, squeezing without hurting him. “Untie my wrists,” I hissed more seriously. He untied the knots with his skillful hands, without making a sound. I wanted to massage my wrists but kept my grip on his neck. He efficiently rolled the rope on itself and laid it beside him. He seemed to have no intention of running away. As if he had resigned himself and agreed to die that night. Which would have been ideal if I had intended to kill him. What I wanted to do, however, was to kill boredom – and killing the only source of entertainment I had at that moment was not so brilliant.
“Name,” I said peremptorily. “Miles,” he stammered, staring into my eyes for the first time. His annoying tuft of hair had returned to cover part of his face. I shook it away with one hand, settling it snugly behind his ear. I stared intently into his eyes.
“Age?” “Twenty-six.” ”Twenty-six?” I was dumbfounded. “You’re kidding, I hope. You barely look twenty.” “That must be because I can’t grow a beard,” he muttered offended. “You?” Instead of answering, I slowly approached him. When my mouth was level with his ear I whispered in a persuasive voice, “I want to make a deal with you.” I saw him shudder. I smiled to myself. He seemed interested. He tried to shift away but couldn’t because I strengthened my grip on his neck. “Don’t move and listen to me,” I said more harshly, but still seductively. He remained motionless, listening. “I know how to get us out of here, but I would like something in return.”