Condemned

Chapter 16: War

Chapter Sixteen: War

AN: thanks so much for the reviews and suchlike guys- i woke up to seven in one night the other day and nearly died of happiness :') As always, feel free to ask any questions, make any suggestions, etc, either in the reviews section, by email (passmeanotherbiscuit .uk) or, for the artsy folk amongst us, on Deviant Art ( .com)

The day of the fight comes swift and unstoppable; it's hard to ignore the hype of it all. I haven't seen the prison buzz like this with excitement before; everyone who passes or visits for laundry services appears to be going- Barsad and Firdos appear actually enthralled, the two twitting away rapidly outside the cell about, I manage to grasp, how Bane is sure to win, and how they'll be waiting early to get the best view possible of the make-do arena. The two are positively bubbling with praise for Bane, so much so that Bobby, sat quietly on his bunk, calls out for them to shut up. I'm quite proud that I've managed to deduce an entire conversation Bobby's been encouraging me the last couple of nights, along with the far more zealous Andri, who approaches the subject of me having a fluent grasp of the Arabic language as soon as possible with a sudden religious devotion. The forced-upon lessons, though I welcome all the help I can get, are daunting and tedious for all involved but, as proved so just, are already working somewhat.

Firdos and Barsad receive their clothes neatly folded and smelling as fresh as prison conditions allow, then excitedly zoom back to their own cell with a cry of thanks.

I shake my head with a smile, returning to my work. Bobby says something I don't quite understand, then gets up and leaves the cell for one of his morning walks. I wave him off like a poster-girl housewife then go back to washing clothes.

Someone clears their throat behind me and I turn, plastering on my business smile, ready to face my next customer. Instead, the smile falls ungraciously as I see the customer who has graced my humble presence. It's Nas.

"What are you doing here?" I spit, turning away from him again.

"How rude," he says, "I am only here to get my clothes, hmm?"

As quickly as possible, I rifle through the pile of to-be-washed clothes, find the ones I remember to be his and walk them over to the cell- impertinently, I thrust the unwashed garments into his hands and walk back to my work.

"Well I don't think much of your service," he says sarcastically, and I focus all my energy into wishing him to leave.

"Do it yourself," I say sharply, "your business isn't wanted here."

"Girl, what is your problem with me?"

"'Girl?!'" I say, offended, "I have a name, you know!"

"Well how am I to call you by it, if you refuse to tell me what it is, girl?"

I remember my words to him the other day and stand by my conviction to keep that information from him- the idea of the name on his tongue- my name- drives my stomach into slurring, unpleasant hoops.

It is just then that I hear that precious word which holds my identity spoken; but it comes from much friendlier lips than the ones I know to be behind me. I turn at the sound of my name, to find Bane approaching, shirtless and sullen- Nas senses his forthcoming without so much as turning his head, takes an angst-filled glance at me then drops the unwashed clothing back over the bars of the cell and looms away , as though he had never even paused at mine and the doctors' abode.

Bane's pace slows as he nears the cell, eyes sharply fixated on the back of Nas as he sweeps away into the shadows.

"Was he causing you any trouble?" He asks, and I can see him itching slightly to go after him.

"Not really," I say with a sigh, scooping up the clothes he left behind and dropping them to the floor outside the cell. As I stand my eyes catch the contours of his chest and hover there a moment- I quickly avert them as reason returns, flushing a light pink and hoping he hasn't noticed my lingering gaze.

"Can I come in?" He says, seemingly oblivious to my smouldered embarrassment.

I hesitate a moment, thinking of my lightly bruised neck- a result of yesterday's visit.

"No," I say, though it sounds almost like a question, and he smiles, reassured.

"That's it," he says proudly, glad I've 'learnt my lesson', as he put it.

"Looks like you've got yourself a little fan club," I muse, nodding to Barsad and Firdos, who are already waiting at the ring-side in their freshly laundered clothes.

Bane laughs dimly, shaking his head in bemusement.

"If only there were a few more on my side," he says, the comment obviously in mention of me.

"I am on your side," I say sadly. "But I won't support all of this, Bane. I can't."

"I know you won't," he says, head bowed through something other than annoyance, though his voice comes sharp. "You're stubborn."

"He's a dangerous man, Bane, you know that from experience. And I- you know I don't want you getting hurt."

"This time it'll be on equal terms," he mutters. "Face-to-face he'll have a lot more trouble beating me down. His dirty tricks will count for nothing."

"Even so," I say, letting him have his small victories, "don't let it go too far."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Don't get so defensive," I say gently, trying to ease the kindling fire in his tone. "I just mean, don't let it turn into a war."

"It's already a war," he says with an element of bitterness. I go to soothe him with words, but my mouth is put to a halt as I recognize a figure in the near distance- Andri is returning from whatever caper he's been indulged in.

My slight hesitation does not go unnoticed, and Bane turns to the side to see what's behind- he puffs a sigh and goes to move along without so much as a goodbye, but I crush my fist around the fabric of his support brace.

"Stay," I say almost pleadingly, "and let's sort this out; come on, Andri wants you back-" I'm not sure if this is the truth or not- "it's silly going on like this. All that needs to happen is to say sorry then-"

"Me apologize?!" He says flustered, and I hurry to keep the peace,

"Make it mutual, yeah? There's no need to loose a friend-"

As I carry on talking I can see Andri in the background- he has noticed Bane and now holds a firm expression as he finds excuses to linger where he stands until Bane has left. I continue to ramble in an attempt to keep him here, but I feel his hand clasp around my own, tucked into the strap of the brace, and he pushes it back through the cell bars and away from him. He glances silently towards the ring where the fight will take place then glances at me and starts walking away.

"Bane- Bane!" I say as he goes, desperate for some form of acknowledgement, then cry out with defeated urgency, "-be careful!"

He makes no sign of acknowledging my efforts as he slouches away.

Andri arrives soon afterwards, and makes no mention of Bane's predesessing presence as he moves back into the cell. He meanders around the piles of clothes littering his straw-laden floor then slumps down onto his bed. Unspoken words pass between us, then I slip, "what happened between the two of them, Andri?"

"Huh?" Andri prompts, one hand to his left temple, massaging it gently.

"This Dandachi and... Bane." It feels uncomfortable saying the name in light of the thick fog passing between the two of them. "I mean, I'm just guessing, but there's gonna be some history between the two of them, right? For them to hate each other so much? A story to be told?"

Andri exhales loudly, eyes closed and knees drawn up to his chest. He scratches a hand through his peppery hair, highlights of grey diminishing in the shadows of the prison cell. When his eyes open, they are dark and dismissive.

"The foundations for their dispute lie far back. Years ago, Bane used to make cigarettes. Not proper ones, you understand- well, unless by some miracle a swotch of nicotine got sent with the drop-off, and things like that are as rare as a two-headed lizard, you'll understand. That was his little buisness, much like your clothes-washing set up."

"Laundrette."

"Call it what you will, that's besides the point. Anyway, one week Bane was desperate for supplies to keep his business up and running, had filled the filter papers with alcohol-doused chips of wood and all manner of other things in an attempt to disguise the vile taste. Anyway, by Bane's own lack of expertise, that particular batch has turned out to be highly flammable and had set alight beside a lard candle in Dandachi's cell. They burnt out it's interior with him inside it- by the time he had found his key and escaped, the flames had licked all up his chest and neck, mutilating him. Bobby treated him, and sure enough, as soon as he was well enough, he tried to return the favor. Failed, of corse- but the two have held a bitter vengeance against each other ever since. The stabbing, this fight- it's all just part of their stupid war against the other's existence."

"Do you think they're ever going to stop?" I ask, doubtfully; I try to imagine what it would be like to hate someone as intensley as Bane and Dandachi hate each other.

"Not until one of them is dead, it seems," Andri says coldly, "and judging by the rumors swirling around, this fight may be their final confrontation."

I swallow, hard.

"You have to talk to him," I plead softly. "He won't listen to me. At least try- please."

Andri stares at me coldly. "He would not take my advice. I am, after all, some sort of hinderance to him."

"He respects you, you must realise that." Somewhere in that sentence Andri gives a guffaw of amusement, then directs my gaze to the deep bruising across his jaw line.

"Does this look like a mark of respect to you, my dear?"

I sigh, feet kicking at the straw on the floor as I stroke one of the garments in my hand- realising it belongs to Nas, I drop it immediately to the ground.

"Besides," Andri says, a strange clarity rising in his solemn voice, "I fear we may be too late for such interventions."

I follow his eyes to the centre of the pit, where a great, raucous crowd is beginning to assemble.

The fight has begun.

AN: hope you're enjoying the story so far, hit me up with any suggestions! have a great day readers and visitors, and spread the love!

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