Josh stood tall but he was swaying slightly, still exhausted from his vicious battle against Tucker less than an hour ago. I could see Josh's eyes taking in the situation - my tear-streaked face looking at him with terror; the handcuffs restraining me to the very same drainpipe where I'd been cuffed on my first night here; the way Jacob panted as he approached, barely keeping his urge to attack in check.
"Josh!" I called out.
Jacob stepped right up to Josh until their faces were barely apart.
"You did well in the pit today," Jacob said. "I didn't think you had it in you to take Tucker down. You're a tenacious bastard, I'll give you that." He circled behind Josh, who stood silently, eyes fixed on me.
I shook my head subtly at Josh, trying to let him know there was trouble ahead and suddenly Josh reacted, spinning away just as Jacob swung up to grab him from behind.
Josh swung a leg up but Jacob caught the leg mid-flight and dropped an elbow onto his thigh. Josh cried out as he dropped. Jacob threw Josh's leg away, spinning Josh around in the process, then grabbed him in a reverse headlock from behind and pulled Josh back across his knee.
Josh arched over the bent knee and Jacob reach around to pound him in the gut with a quick succession of blows before throwing Josh off. Josh rolled on the floor, curling into a ball clutching his stomach. I couldn't imagine the pain he was feeling on top of the beating he'd already taken today.
Jacob waited for Josh to stagger to all fours before landing a kick in Josh's gut. Josh went over again with a grunt. He rolled away and tried to rise only to have Jacob kick him once more.
Josh rolled into the side of the desk. He reached up, clasping the woodwork to haul himself up. Jacob waited until he was almost on his feet, then stepped in and landed a blow to the kidneys.
Josh gagged, his legs giving way as he fell into Jacob's waiting arms. He was lifted off the ground and Jacob rammed Josh hard against the wall. Josh's legs gave away again and Jacob's lifted Josh into the air, face up, racking Josh across his broad shoulders, wrapping one arm around Josh's throat, the other at his legs, holding him in a back breaker.
All Josh to do was moan. Jacob carried him over to me and stood in front of me, chest proudly puffed out as he displayed his masculinity.
"You still think he's a champion?" Jacob said, bouncing Josh across his shoulders. He looked up at Josh and said, "Let me hear you submit!"
Josh gargled his refusal and Jacob smirked. "The sooner you submit, the less pain you'll feel, boy! Or do you like to suffer?!" He dropped to a knee giving Josh a final hard crack across the back before letting him tumble to the floor. Josh lay there groaning.
Jacob sat on Josh's waist. For a moment, he savoured the sight of Josh lying beneath him unable to fight back, then he grabbed Josh's pecs and squeezed.
Josh cried out again as his chest thrust upwards and his hands came up to claw hopelessly at Jacob's painful grip. Jacob held him like that for ages until Josh's face turned bright red from the strain. When he released the pec claw, Josh fell back gasping. He rubbed his pecs only to have Jacob knock his hands away and apply the hold again.
"Arrrggghhhh!!!" Josh cried as the muscles were crushed in Jacob's fingers. Josh shook his head frantically, refusing to give in. He punched out at Jacob's legs with the seeming strength of a child. Jacob sniggered and released the pec claw, sitting back to admire Josh's suffering.
Josh punched Jacob in the balls. Jacob had left himself exposed, not expecting a retaliation. He yelped and Josh shoved him off to the side then landed the sole of his foot in Jacob's chest, winding him. Josh pressed the flat of his foot into Jacob's ribs and grabbed and arm and a leg, pulling them towards him. Jacob roared as he arched sidways around the foot, his ribs taking the brunt of the pressure. Josh was too weak to hold him though and Jacob yanked his arm free with a tug.
Josh rolled away and crawled towards me but as he reached me, Jacob was there, lifting him to his feet.
"Josh!" I gasped, reaching out to him.
Catching Josh around the throat, Jacob spun around so they were standing back to back, then bent over forward. Josh's feet left the ground as he hung across Jacob's back in a hangman's hold. Josh's feet kicked out. I could hear him choking.
"Stop it, please!" I begged.
"I want to hear him submit!" Jacob roared.
"Josh, please! He's going to kill you!" My voice had risen to fever pitch, seeing Josh's face turning from red to purple. "Give him what he wants, please!" Josh somehow managed to shake his head.
"Josh! No!" I screamed. "You have to live to fight another day. You said yourself it's better to run sometimes! Please!" I fell back against the wall sobbing. "Please…"
Josh's arms had stopped flailing. His fingers, now clawing weakly at the hands around his neck, began to drop away And then the moment I thought would never happen, did.
"I give," croaked Josh and the words pierced me like a knife. Josh crumpled to the floor like a rag doll, wheezing and coughing. I'd begged him to submit but deep down, I never thought he would. He always found a way back from the edge. He was my champion, no matter how broken and spent.
Jacob cheered, punching his hand in the air victoriously. He wrapped an arm around my waist, pulling me into him and kissed me, barely noticing my lack of response as he turned and rolled Josh onto his back. He put his foot on Josh's chest and flexed.
I looked down at the pain and exhaustion on Josh's face. His eyes were half closed, his knees curling up to ease the aches that wracked his body. There was nothing left in him. Josh was a man who was completely and utterly defeated.
[ END OF PART 1 - STAY TUNED FOR MORE, COMING SOON!
Seconds after hitting the futon with the force of a car accident, the side of my face exploded with a sharp throbbing pain. Seconds after that, I realised I'd been hit.
Jacob knelt over me and pulled my hand from my aching face. His breath caressed the skin as he whispered, "You know why I did that."
I nodded with a whimper, frozen to the spot.
"Don't every pull away from me again. And don't ever interfere with a fight."
I nodded again, and Jacob kissed my cheek. After the deafening silence as he'd led me back to his room, away from prying eyes, I was almost relieved to hear his voice, even if it was scolding me in a soft, menacing tone.
"You think about Josh too much," he pursed his lips. "You belong to me now!"
He grabbed me under the chin, turning me over and kissed me roughly. I pulled back instinctively. Jacob squeezed me under the chin and pushed his face into mine.
"You belong to me!" he repeated, "not … Josh!" He spat out the name and pushed his lips onto mine again, force my mouth open. His tongue pressed in and I mumbled my protest, lashing out with my fists on his arms and chest.
"What is this?!" he yelled, sitting up and backhanding me across the face again. I saw stars as my whole body rolled to my side from the force of the blow. "You think I'm repulsive now that Josh is the new champion? You pull away from ME?! " Jacob turned me to look up at him.
I struck out blindly, connecting a random blow to his face. He turned slowly back at me and his eyes had turned ice cold. Any soul in those eyes had fled in fear.
With a animalistic roar, he lifted me from the bed and threw me across the room. I crashed against the far wall and Jacob struck me again, knocking me senseless to the floor. He was by my side in an instant, hauling me into a sitting position and backhanding me again. His hand held me upright by the throat and his fist raised, ready to break my nose.
"No-argh!" I screamed and covered my face with my hands, attempting to curl into the foetal position for protection. For the longest of seconds, nothing happened, then suddenly Jacob's grip on my throat softened.
"Oh, God! What have I done? Harry, I'm sorry! Don't be afraid of me!" He tried wrapping his arms around me but I scuttled back into the corner with a terrified cry.
"No! No! Harry, no! I wouldn't hurt you. I lost my temper but it's okay now. I won't hurt you." He slid over to me and wrapped his arms around me, pulling me into him.
I screamed and freaked, my mind racing at a hundred miles an hour. I pushed him over and scuttled away, stumbling to my feet and to the far side of the room.
"You're insane!" I cried, rubbing my throbbing jaw and backing away around furniture as he approached. I was facing the monster I kept hearing about. Here was the myth, not the man I had known.
"Don't run from me!" he snarled as I ducked behind the desk.
"First you try to wipe out Josh, now me, all because you can't have your way? What kind of a man are you?" I wept.
"Josh! Josh! Always Josh!" His fist came down on the table top. He stormed to the door and opened it. "Bring that bastard to me," he roared.
"Who?" the guard asked, baffled by the sudden eruption from the doorway.
"The fighter! Josh!" he slammed the door shut and whirled to face me. "You want to see what kind of champion your hero is? You want to know once and for all who can protect you?"
"No!" I yelled, "No! You leave him alone!" I raced out from behind the table and attacked him. Jacob deflected my blows and pinned me against him from behind.
He dragged me across the room, pulling a pair of his handcuffs from the drawer on the way.
I kicked out, managing to making him grunt once or twice, but I was little more than a twig against his solid trunk.
"You ungrateful little bastard," he snarled. He threw me onto the futon then grabbed my arm, dragging me off the side. One end of the handcuff snapped around my wrist.
"Let me go!" I screamed, trying to get to my feet.
"I'll show you who the real man is! I'll rip that prick apart limb by fucking limb! Then you'll see who the champion is!"
"Don't touch him!" I yelled as the other end of the handcuff clicked into place on the drainpipe.
"You'll watch every second of it; hear him every time he begs for mercy; and when he submits, I want you to hear his words, so you know he is nothing!"
"Oh, please!" I sobbed. "Please! Don't do this. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I was wrong. He's a friend, nothing more. I was worried for him, that's all. Please. Jacob, please, don't do this!"
"Too late," he said, and as if on cue, the door opened and Josh was thrown into the room by his escorts.
"Out!" Jacob ordered. The guards left the room, leaving Josh alone in the open space of the room, facing the one man even the Tucker feared…
Josh saw stars. I had no doubt about that. Tucker's fist must have knocked Josh into tomorrow, pinned as he was and taking the full force of the blow.
Tucker stood up and lifted Josh by the hair. Tucker began walking a victory lap around the pit, dragging Josh behind him. Josh's feet dragged along the ground as his face contorted with indescribable agony. He grasped fruitlessly at Tucker's hands.
I squirmed in Jacob's arms but remained unable to help.
Josh scrabbled for a foot hold, almost succeeding but Tucker paused to turn around and slam another fist into Josh's back, collapsing Josh back into hanging by his hair.
Tears streamed from Josh's eyes as Tucker resumed pulling him around the arena. As they completed the circle, Tucker paused in front of me, pushing Josh's agonised face into mine. I heard Jacob snort a laugh in my ear.
"Wanna kiss him?" Jacob growled and leaned forward, pushing my face into Josh's. I took up the offer and kissed Josh on the lips, knowing that he couldn't return my affection but knowing that it would let him know I was there for him.
Jacob yanked me away and squeezed me harder in his bear hug. I don't think he had expected me actually kiss my fallen hero. I heard him growl at me, a deep guttural rumble, before he barked "Finish him!" at Tucker.
"Gladly!" Tucker smirked and and lifted Josh up from me but coming to a halt had been his mistake. Now with a foothold, Josh swung a punch into Tucker's ribs, doubling him over as Josh rose to full height, ripping Tucker's had from his head and twisting it out to the side. Josh kneed Tucker in the gut then swung his other foot up with a little hop, kicking Tucker in the face. Tucker's feet flew out from under him as he crashed to the ground, and Josh twisted the champ's arm even harder.
Josh stomped on Tucker's thigh a few times then pressed his foot into Tucker's neck. He pulled the twisted arm higher into the air, all the while holding Tucker down. Tucker screamed, his cry jumbled with a string of abuse that only encouraged Josh to torture him harder. Tucker kicked up withbhis legs, his whole lower half swinging upwards to kick Josh off balance. Instead Josh caught one of Tucker's legs and dropped low, forcing the shin to hit Tucker on his own forehead.
Tucker howled and cried out his submission. I was stunned. The whole crowd went silent momentarily as though unable to believe their eyes. Josh stood and raised a victory fist in the air, and the crowd erupted. Josh staggered a few steps and dropped to his knees, panting. He looked over at me with a weak smile then looked over my shoulder at Jacob. His face darkened.
Forcing himself up, Josh grabbed Tucker by the hair and dragged the yelping muscleman over to us.
"Wanna kiss?" Josh spat and head butted Tucker at Jacob. Jacob fell off me with a startled cry and Josh grabbed me, pulling me to my feet and into a long, hard hug. I could feel him swaying against me; his deep hard breaths coming fast. He gave a little laugh.
"We did it!" he said, kissing my neck.
"You did it!" I corrected him.
He pulled away to look me in the face and stumbled a step. I caught him and wrapped my arm around his waist, leading him out of the arena. Jacob fumed.
"Get up!" he bellowed at Tucker and kicked the fallen champ as we passed. There would be hell to pay later, I knew, but right now I just wanted Josh to exit with dignity. He leaned into me and let me support his weight, raising another victory arm to the deafening crowd before we disappeared through the doorway.
Out of sight from the punters, Josh dropped to his knees and his fellow fighters raced to his aid in an excited babble of disbelief and hero worship. He was ripped from my arms and carried into the adjoining room. An hand fell on my shoulder and I looked up at Miguel.
"That has to be the most amazing thing I've ever seen," he said.
"It's been an amazing day. You're a champ too!" I said. "I knew you could do it!"
"I wasn't talking about the fight," Miguel corrected me, squeezing my shoulder gently, "although that was incredible too. I meant you, the way you jumped into the ring; the way you believed in him right to the end; the way you gave me strength to win my fight..."
I looked up at him and frowned.
"I didn't do anything," I said. "And I just lost my head when I jumped in like that. It was stupid."
Miguel laughed. "It wasn't stupid. It was heroic. If it wasn't for you on the sidelines, I don't think either of us would have won today. You give us strength - more than you realise."
"I should check on him," I said sheepishly. "He's pretty beat up."
Miguel nodded and we crossed the room, but the door behind us exploded open. Tucker stumbled into the room, Jacob standing behind him, looking outraged. I gulped as Jacob's eyes fell on me. He said nothing but I knew I'd been beckoned.
Miguel tightened his grip on my shoulder to hold me back.
"It's okay," I lied, prying myself free.
I crossed slowly to Jacob. It was time to face the music. Jacob's legendary wrath was about to be let lose on me.
Miguel took a step towards us as I took my place beside Jacob, but I gave a little shake of my head, warning him off. Miguel looked from to Jacob and back again.
"Go," I mouthed silently. Miguel hesitated, then backed out of the room. On the ground, Tucker rose to his feet, took one look at us, and backed out of the room too. Jacob and I were alone.