Chapter 28: Erratic
Bane's drive to defeat any opponent who stands in his way increases greatly over the next fortnight. Reason bypasses him; not even Andri's tenacious demands that he slow down, or that he reject a single fight in favor of receiving medical attention for the swarm of cuts now all across his back, chest and forearms, seem to have any effect on him. He sleeps, he eats, he exercises relentlessly until he has to eat and sleep again, and then he fights.
The muscle in him has thickened noticeably since he began dedicating himself to his fights- beneath the cuts and deep bruising the strength in his upper arms and chest can be seen, the battered skin pulled tight over the flexing muscle. It makes him seem taller than he already was, and significantly more imposing; as Bane's mass expands, Andri's demands for him to stop the fights for the sake of his health and continued existence decrease. I try myself to cool him down, but he listens to no one.
"Open up!" Bane calls down the corridor, a laugh in his voice; I look out to him and here he comes, blood splashed across his lower chest, his arm wrapped around Carriveau's waist to hold him upright. Andri curses beneath his breath and unlocks the cell, beckoning the pair inside; he sits them on opposite cots and goes to Carriveau first, whose nose appears to have shuffled across his face.
"Bloody hell," I seethe, grasping hold of the back of Bane's shirt, "have you broke his nose?"
"I won," Bane says, ecstatic, "I told you I would, didn't I? It might have taken a few weeks, but look-"
"I can see," I scold him, "you've messed up Carriveau's face-!"
"Oh, he's fine- aren't you, my man?" Bane laughs, smacking Carriveau in a friendly manner across his knee- Carriveau looks at Bane over Andri's shoulder, who is currently whittling away at the congealed blood around the center of the man's face. The hulking man gives a weak, unintentional smile despite the injury to his face. Bane laughs rapaciously, slapping his friend's leg.
"Do you need any help?" I ask Andri as he works away at Carriveau's injury, muttering away under his breath in his own tongue. He dismisses me, ripping off a sheath of fabric with his teeth and holding it to the man's nose. "It's fractured," Andri explains, "blocking the nostril." Andri tells Carriveau in Arabic that whatever's coming next will not hurt- he takes hold of the cartilage down the slope of Carriveau's large nose and pulls down on it slightly, tugging it to the left; Carriveau screams out in pain, and Andri attempts to console him.
"I thought you said it wouldn't hurt?!" I question, sitting up a little and seeing if Carriveau is alright- the bleeding has started up again, but the positioning of his face is back to normal again.
"I lied," Andri says, beckoning for Bobby to hand him a pair of scissors.
I look over to Bane- his expression is a little pained now from seeing the damage he has done to his friend, but he still bears a radiant gleam of pride in his achievement of beating the man in their fight.
"Let's get this off you," I instruct, pulling at the loose threads of his hessian vest, which has been torn down the side at some point in one of his most recent battles. "What have you done to yourself this time-"
"It's just one of the old cuts," Bane tells me dismissively, "nothing to get your knickers in a twist about- look, it's just opened it up again."
I throw the shirt into the pile of clothes which need washing and kneel beside him to get a closer look, washing off the blood and pulling at either side of the split- Bane winces and I shush him. The wound looks clean, so I merely wash it over again and slap a makeshift bandage over it.
"Look at you," I tell him, observing the patchy, scratched surface which used to bare resemblance to a human chest, "you're smothered. Don't you think you should have a break from the fighting, let your body recover for a little while? We've got plenty of food-"
"I enjoy it," Bane refutes, "besides, I'm almost there- everyone bets on me now, even against Carriveau. I'm almost at the top, there aren't many men left who are stronger than Car-"
"I know that, but does it matter?" I challenge him, "isn't your body more important than the social status you're going after?"
"My body is fine," he says defensively. I scoff at him and gesture to his newest wound.
"Does that look 'alright' to you?"
"I'm fine," he tells me sternly. I shake my head at him, moving to borrow the scissors to trim the end off the bandage against his chest.
"I don't want you getting hurt," I tell him quietly, so that just he and I can hear it, over Carriveau's protests around his nose and Andri's annoyed babbling.
"I don't want you getting hurt," he tells me. "If... if I do this, if I can get to the top, I'll have respect. And then maybe you'll be safe. ...Safer," he corrects himself. "You have to be feared down here; fear is the only way to get what you want. Everyone has to fear me- all of them. Even Carriveau, Andri, Bobby, the boy."
I look over to where Barsad sits- he has made a little progress lately, has started walking about the cells and talking a little, he has even gained some weight. I look to Bane and stare him in the eyes.
"I don't fear you."
He looks away, eyes darker than usual in the shaded light of the cell.
"You ought to."
"Well, I don't," I say, sitting down beside him now and handing him a new shirt. He pulls it over his head, hiding away the scars and lacerations webbing his heavy frame. I try to lighten the mood, nudging him in the shoulder.
"Besides, I'll be beating you by the time you've taught me your arsenal of skills," I jest, and he laughs a little.
"I won't let you get that good," he replies, and I smack his side.
"You won't have a choice," I grin, "I'll take over this place, just you wait and see, I'll be kicking ass left right and center."
"Audana fatet," he laughs, and I ask him what it means.
"Muscle girl," he replies, and
"Muscle woman, I think you'll find," I correct him with a laugh, flexing my practically non-existent biceps. He flexes his own arm besides mine and I give a fake sigh.
"You win," I admit.
"Of course I do," he smirks, flicking the top of my arm. "Pathetic."
"Now you're pushing it," I tell him with a smirk, standing and moving through to the washing area. "Have you apologized for breaking Carriveau's nose yet?"
Bane falters a minute, realizing he has not, and I hear him apologize to his friend in his own tongue; Carriveau tries a pained laugh, dismissing the whole incident as though it were an every day occurance, nothing to loose any love over between friends. I can't help but smile at the way the two deal with the situation before them, though Andri doesn't seem impressed.
"I'm glad the two of you are so happy," he reels in Arabic, "bringing me more work, as though I don't have enough."
"You've done nothing for the past two days," Bane refutes, and Andri sucks his teeth.
"Looking after this comatose boy, that is nothing?" Andri quips as he points to Barsad, sat on the edge of the cot we've brought in for him and staring at the ceiling, "cleaning your wounds ten times a day so that you do not contract some terrible infection and die in the same way Dandachi did?"
"He doesn't mean it," I input in an attempt to keep the peace, knowing how riled Andri can get over Bane's dismissive attitude. "Just ignore him."
"He is difficult to ignore when he is so persistent in trying my patience," Andri galls, pulling tightly on the fabric plugging Carriveau's bleeding nostril.
"If you are sick of me, I'll leave," Bane says, surprisingly unphased by Andri's words and even smiling, "I have a perfectly good empty cell waiting upstairs."
"I doubt it," Andri laughs, "one of those who live down in the corridors will likely have taken it by now-"
"Then i'll take it back."
"I doubt it will be that simple-"
"I'll make it that simple."
Andri shakes his head with a roll of his eyes, clearly tired of us all. He vanishes out of the cell after giving Carriveau instructions on how to care for his fractured nose, and leaves the rest of us. I wash a few clothes, deal with a couple of customers with Bane at my side, before he too decides to go out; he returns not long after with an armful of goods, which he lays out on the cot beside me with a smile.
"What is it?" I ask excitedly, pulling back the fabric- a repugnant smell hits my nostrils and I realize that it's moldy fruit.
"Ugh," I gurn with a grimace, "that's... vile. Why on earth did you get this? We can't eat it, it'll finish us all off."
"It's not to eat," Bane tells me, taking hold of the washing bowl and throwing the clothes out of it, "It's to sell." I look at him inquisitively and he explains, "we'll turn it into alcohol. It won't taste nice, but we can sweeten it once it's fermented- it will be really strong, too."
"Will it work with moldy fruit?" I ask uncertainly, and he shrugs.
"Only one way to find out."
Bane tips the disintegrating produce into the water used to wash the clothes- I scold him quickly and he says,
"No body will care if the water is fresh or not- alcohol is alcohol, they would drink it if it were made from urine."
"Wonderful," I say sarcastically, watching as he covers the lid of the tub with taught fabric and hides the thing under Bobby's bed.
"I warn you," Bane declares, "It will stink- it takes around nine days to gestate normally."
"'Gestate?'" I mock, "It's not a baby."
"We have to treat it like one, if we want it to turn out right. Besides, the smell of it will not be so insufferable when we begin to yield the profits."
The two of us sit there then, not really communicating- eventually I cannot stand the stagnancy of the atmosphere and declare,
"You're always bored," he says, ignoring me with his eyes closed. "hush now. I'm concentrating."
"Concentrating?" I mock, "on what?"
"Meditating," Bane corrects himself, "trying to prepare myself for tomorrow."
"Why?" I ask, "what's so great about tomorrow?"
"I'm fighting Chakroun."
"...Chakroun, he is very good. But I think I might be better."
"Very full of our self suddenly, aren't we?" I tease, and he shrugs.
"I am good," he says, "I'm not bragging, it's just fact; I am far better than I was."
"Don't you get hurt," I tell him scoldingly, and he smiles.
"I'll try my best."
"I think Andri might kill you himself if he has to clean you up again, the way he's been acting the last couple of days," I joke. "Seriously, though- be careful, alright?"
"I'm always careful," he dismisses, batting an arm in my direction. In the opposite cell Barsad stands, wanders about a moment and finds his way back to the cot he's been sleeping on. Bane shakes his head at the boy, speaks a flurry of fast-paced Arabic at him and gestures for him to move around, to go outside- to do something, anything. Barsad stares coldly at him for a minute before lying back down on the bed.
"The boy is a lost cause," Bane says to me, affronted, "perhaps I should have just left him to bleed to death. He moves like a corpse already, he is a ghost."
"He'll get better," I remind him, though I hardly believe it myself anymore. The two of us watch Barsad's form for a moment longer, then I say, "come on. You're supposed to be teaching me how to fight, remember?"
"How to defend yourself," Bane corrects, and I shrug my shoulders, standing up and helping him to his feet.
"Go easy on me," I ask him, "My legs are still killing from yesterday."
"I always go easy on you," he teases.
We spend half an hour going through all the moves he's taught me so far, in which time he floors me three times after being unable to accurately kick him in the side. On the fourth time down, I find I simply can't get back up.
"You've killed me," I tell him, lying flat on the ground and breathing heavily.
"An attacker wouldn't let you have a rest," Bane says, "come on. Get up."
I oblige with a struggle, forcing my way through another ten minutes of hardy training before Bane grabs my wrist at a dodgy angle and the bone clicks so violently, the joint popping a little in it's socket, that I give in.
"Just... talk me through some stuff," I suggest to Bane, and he sits down beside me on the bed and starts talking me through the various pressure points on the human body.
"Plunge thumbs into eye sockets, smash temples, bite ears, kick groins and squeeze necks- it's a fail proof method."
"eyes, temples, ears, groins, necks," I recite clearly, nodding as I do so.
"Good," he commends me, and reaches into his back pocket. I watch his hand as he draws out a short knife, sharpened at the tip and with a worn wooden handle.
"I haggled this off the cook," he tells me, "I want you to have it. Always."
Carefully I take the sheath of silver and clasp it in my hand.
Carefully I take the sheath of silver and clasp it in my hand. I run my finger along the blade and across it's sharp tip, testing the prick against my finger. The blade presses hard there, but does not break the skin.
"Thanks," I say, rubbing the handle of the blade.
"You always have it, wherever you are," he tells me, "you keep it close and you use it whenever you need to. On whoever you need to."
I look up at him then asthough to protest, and he holds out a hand to stop me, grabbing my own in his other extremity. He holds tightly to my fist, squeezing the blade there.
"If anyone ever tries to do anything to you," he instructs, "you plunge this into their chest. No hesitation, no uncertainty. You stick it in them then you twist it hard, and you hold it there until the son of a bitch is dead. Do you understand me?"
I look up at him, his hard eyes set on my own. Slowly I nod, squeezing the handle of the knife in my fist, and grasping tightly to the hand he holds in his grip.
"Promise me," he says quietly, sweeping a fallen piece of hair away from my face.
I sigh, bring his hand up to my face and press my lips against the backs of his fingers.
AN: Hope you all enjoyed this chapter, guys- please let me know if you did! ;D And a special thanks to everyone who's reviewed, and an extra special thanks to lil' red riding hood for the help with the last chapter. See you next time, bros and h*es!