Chapter 29: Decent
I am awoken the following morning by a rasping sound at the door- I open my weary eyes to see a man I recognize there- the customer with the long black hair and perfected features, the beautiful young man who I still offer a shirt to. At first I think he has come to collect the item as penance for his lost material, but then realize he is grappling at the bars with wide eyes, his hand up at his throat.
"Oh my God, are you alright?!" I say with a gasp, running for the key and opening up the door quickly. he man, Hadi, falls inside, and I guide him quickly to the cot; I sit him down on the bed, where he gasps for air, barley conscious; he vomits against the straw-covered floor and lies quickly back on the bed, eyes half open. I call out for Andri, who is in the bathroom of the cell beside us; he asks me what is going on and I call out to him for help again; Andri moves through the room with lard soap lathered up his face, the razor in his hand, and stares where Hadi stirs on the bed. Andri blended the lather from his face quickly using a shirt from the floor and comes through to where the two of us are, checking the area around Hadi's neck.
"He has been strangled."
"You think?!" I shriek sarcastically, "how do we help him?!"
"I'm not sure-"
"-What do you mean, you're not sure-?!"
"I have only been taught by Bobby, I only know what I have had to deal with-"
"I'll get Bane up-"
"No, for the love of God just be quiet, woman!" Andri demands, hands flailing, "do not wake him, he will not like this- give me a second, how am I to think with you talking on and on-"
"What do you mean he won't like it-?"
Decisively Andri moves to wake Bobby, shaking the old man and muttering away to him in Arabic. Andri nods along with what he is saying and then says,
"Check his breathing."
I follow the instruction and diagnose in a whisper, "It's... irregular."
Andri comes through into my cell and orders me away, getting a better look at Hadi's neck.
"Why can't we wake Bane up?" I ask him in a hushed voice, curious as to what the issue is.
"I need to clear his airway," Andri decides, ignoring me and tilting back the man's head, "his trachea is swollen; get him a little water, take off his shirt... the bruising will come up soon, I imagine. Things like this are to be expected in his profession."
"What 'profession?'" I ask, and Andri gives me a condescending look.
"He is a whore," he tells me blankly, "a Sharmuta. Why else do you think he keeps his hair so well, his face so clean, so well-made?"
I take this in a moment- it makes sense, I suppose. None of the others keep themselves in such a presentable condition.
"Perhaps whoever did it didn't like what he chooses to do with his time," Andri offered, "perhaps they didn't want to pay for his services... perhaps asphyxiation is just their sadistic method of pleasure-seeking. Regardless, the boy is lucky to have got here when he did. Let us be quiet about this- let Bane sleep. He would not like it."
"What wouldn't I like?" Bane asks slowly, turning in his sheets; I glance over to him quickly, like a thief caught red-handed, and see Andri shares the same expression when he turns back to me.
"Nothing," I say quickly, "go back to sleep."
"It's morning," Bane scolds, sitting up and holding his head in his palm, "I have things to do, woman, you can't expect me to lie around all day-"
Bane sits up and looks over; Andri looks away as though that might somehow hide the situation, but Bane quickly notices Hadi, unconscious now, and gives Andri a solid glare.
Andri babbles something in Arabic, presumably explaining away the situation, but Bane is having none of it- he stands, angrily catcalling Andri with venomous words, gesturing in disgust at Hadi and demanding he leave this instant. Andri will not allow it, insisting Bane let the man be.
Bane spits on the ground beside Hadi's feet. "You would have this Sharmuta in our home-"
"-The boy is sick!"
"He is filth!" Bane roars sharply, smacking his hand off the side of the bars.
"He's hurt, Bane!" I shout quickly, "I let him in because someone's tried to strangle him-!"
"You let him in?!" Bane roars, and it's so ferocious, so full of rage that I step away from him, as though he might actually try to devour me for such an action. "You know the dangers of this place, have I not told you over and over?! Do you not remember me teaching you-?!"
"'Teaching'?!" I spit, "what, when you got your hands around around my throat and pinned me up the wall?! Is that what you call teaching?!
"You know why I did that," Bane scolds, "I imagined you would have learnt the lesson, and here you go against everything I tried to show you-!"
"What was I supposed to do, leave him out there to die?!"
"Yes," Bane says plainly,the rage suddenly gone from him, and I shake my head, disgusted by his response. He feebly tries to justify it, saying, "this is bringing shame on us, having him here!" I notice those outside the cell beginning to look in on the dispute, curious as to what could possibly be causing such uproar amongst our cells. "It brings shame on me," Bane continues, "all the hard work I have done to earn respect here, battling day after day so that I might look after you and the useless boy, these two old men-!"
"I do not need your help," Andri spits, "I have never asked for it, and I never will."
"You can't possibly want this scum in your cell-!"
"You are right," Andri answers, "but-"
"Then why would you allow-!"
"He is ill, and I am treating him!" Andri roars sharply, "just as I have done for you a thousand times, and the rest of these degenerates who think themselves immortal! I am a doctor, and he is a patient, and I will do my job regardless of your opinion- these are my cells, remember that boy, and if you do not like who I as a doctor choose to have in here, you are all to welcome to leave."
Bane glares at him for that, leaning over me and talking hold of his shirt from the bed, then disappears out of the cell, muttering under his breath; the short crowd about the cell quickly disperses, and I see the fight coordinator approaching Bane- he shouts something out and pushes the man away, sending him tumbling to the floor, spilling his bet records across the dusty ground. The prison watches quietly as Bane flings himself across the courtyard and down the thin corridor leading to the darker cells.
I look over at Hadi, his head held back in Andri's hands as he breathes heavily, the bruising on his neck beginning to show up now. He gives a short, hard breath, then opens his eyes, which are wet with the strain of returning to consciousness.
"Poor thing," I sigh, pitying the life Hadi has found himself fallen into. I sit beside the man, immaculate despite the harsh conditions and tainted only by the ring of bruising about his lean neck. I think of his work, of what brought him into this situation and I know that I, for one, would not be able to do what he does; death seems a kinder option rather than selling my body, selling my very being. Could anything be more degrading, more difficult to endure? I think of Molina, how she must have felt with her situation, and remember Andri's words;
It is amazing all the wonders a woman can receive if she is willing to open her legs.
The thought makes me squirm inside.
"We will need something cold to lessen the swelling," Andri says, interrupting my mangled thoughts as he moves for the door.
"What about Bane?" I say worridley- I haven't seen him that angry in a long time.
"He will be back, once his head had cooled," Andri defines. "If anything happens whilst I am gone, if his condition deteriorates- send the boy to come and find me."
I look over at Barsad, sat morosely on the end of his cot, staring at the opposite wall. He seems barely effected by the turbulent onslaught of Bane's rage he has just witnessed, and Bobby sits opposite him, head hidden in his hands as he shakes it slowly.
"He won't go," I tell Andri, and he shrugs his shoulders as he opens up the heavy iron door.
"He will have to go," Andri says blankly. "He cannot remain in this vegetative state forever, drifting like a ghost... life continues in spite of death. It is time for him to wake up."
It appears that Andri is right; Barsad's condition begins to improve. It takes another three or so weeks before he is talking and moving around, but he finally appears to be on the mend, eating normally and sleeping alot less; in the evenings he sits outside with Bobby or Bane, both of whom seem to have taken to mentoring the boy,and who have settled their differences over their dispute over Hadi; Hadi stayed only one night in our cells, a night which Bane did not make an appearance upon, then was quickly dismissed back to his own quarters with instructions from Andri on how to care for himself, what not to do and with the broad advice of 'be more careful.'
The dust also settles between Bane and myself- neither of us apologize, perhaps too proud or perhaps just too stubborn, but neither of us mention the argument we engaged in, either, which to me says that we don't need apologies-they have been said already without need for laments and brushed-off words.
It's nice to see Bane connecting with Barsad, teaching him things and encouraging him to voice his own opinions; he even teaches Barsad a little English so that we might properly communicate, but he seems to avoid me personally asthough I were the plague. I ask Bane why he thinks this is once, and he dismisses me, calling me paranoid and saying that the boy means nothing by it. As Barsad gets stronger, both physically and mentally, he starts to go with Bane to his fights, encouraging him from the side lines as he had once done with Firdos- I watch uneasily from within the cell, constantly worrying that this will be the one that does it, this will be the man who breaks his arm or snaps his leg, because they are all so huge, men I don't even recall seeing before; yet Bane grows to match his competitors, shoulders and thighs thickening and skin becoming more taught across the flexing muscles beneath his skin. As his skill improves, the amount of cuts and bruising he sustains appears to lessen- the patchwork of contusions and lacerations which have mapped his chest across the weeks begin to gradually fade, revealing a tight chest and leather abdominal area, beaten into shape through weeks and weeks of brutal physical training and competition.
He becomes more and more religious in his routine, so that there is room for little else- he wakes up early, exercises, fights, comes back to the cells and eats, reads, then fights again; most afternoons he sits with me for a while, listening as I talk away about things I'm sure he can't be interested in- but he listens all the same, and I'm grateful for it. We practice the self defense skills he's taught me, and I even convince him to teach me a few more offensive moves, and once I strike him so hard that he actually stumbles back; I feel bad for it, but he is proud of me, and I can't help but be proud of myself because of it.
That afternoon, as night draws in, the two of us sit facing each other on the floor, whilst Andri, Bobby and Barsad sit outside by the crackling fire, drinking the last of the fermented hooch alcohol Bane had cooked up and saved for the long nights. I sit with my legs crossed, doodling on a piece of starch paper in the moonlight as Bane lies against the cell wall, eyes closed. Eventually I can no longer stand the comatose nature of the situation. I place my pencil and paper down beside me and look up at him.
"I'm bored," I sigh. Bane keeps his eyes closed, and after a long time says,
"You are always bored."
I suck my teeth rhythmically out of lack of something to do, and eventually he asks me to stop, clearly starting to become annoyed.
"Let's go outside," I say to him, and he shrugs me off.
"No. I'm busy."
"You're not doing anything-"
"I' m thinking."
"...Meditating," he corrects himself, eyes remaining closed.
"How come?" I ask, flicking the back of his hand rythmically.
"I'm preparing for tomorrow," Bane tells me quietly; his eyebrows raise as though he is preparing to elaborate, and he says, "for the fight. I'm going up against Chakroun in the morning; I want to be prepared."
"Who's Chakroun?" I ask, the name not bringing about any faces; Bane describes the man, but I still cannot envision him.
"He's good," Bane tells me, then smiles; "but I think I might be better."
"Someone's full of themselves, aren't they?" I smirk, teasing him and flicking his head. He smiles, eyes still closed, and brushed my hand away.
"It's true," he said, "we all know i'm far better than I was before. I think i'll win."
"I hope you do," I say. "be careful, alright?"
"Alright," he consoles me. And then, after a moment, "Do you really want to go outside?"
"...Yes?" I try, uncertain of the reaction he wants to hear. He nods a little and says,
"Give me a little longer- we'll go and sit by the fire. But only if you are quiet now."
"Okay," I say with a smile, reaching over and squeezing his hand.
"Meditating," Bane scolds, moving his hand back to it's previous position and I smile.
"Quiet," he reminds me.
"Sorry," I whisper, and see him smile despite his proposed meditative state.
We sit outside in the moonlight, enjoying the last the day has to offer- Bane makes me sit almost upon him, so close that I can feel his breath on the left side of my neck, looming over me like a dark predator, ready to drag me back inside should any trouble occur, and kill any man who dare approach his inner circle. Only Bobby, Andri, Barsad and Carrieveau are permitted to sit near, listening to the crackling of the coals and breaking in the smoky firelight. As midnight approaches, the moon directly above the cold cells, hanging in the black sky, there is sudden movement from above; the group of us question what could be happening, until it becomes clear that someone is being enlisted to the prison in the black of night.
"Why would they bring them in so late?" I question, and Bane stands then, moving a little closer; the rope is moving incredibly fast, zooming the new inmate down the rough side of the cave, grazing their side so that they cry out in pain; Bane rushes for the end of the rope and grabs hold of it tightly, stopping the prisoner's decent; the rope goes taught and the figure smashes against the wall, letting out a small gasp as Bane carefully reels down the rest of the rope; the person't feet touch the ground and Bane stares at the short figure, looking down at the covered face; Bane reaches his hand up to the cloth over the head before him and pulls it carefully down-
revealing the tear-stained, bloodied face of a young woman.
AN: *cue dramatic music*
So, did you like it? I liked writing it- it's a pretty short chapter, but I think any more would have spoiled it. Please leave a review if you have the time, guys- they don't have to be long, of course, but the more in depth the better ;D Hope you've all had spantabulous weeks and continue to have a wonderful day/night.
Also guys, I've started a new Nolanverse Harley Quinn x Joker Fic, 'The Rose that Bleeds Purple'. Check it out if you fancy it!
All the best,