Josh and Mercury stepped towards each other and locked, Mercury immediately grabbing Josh in a headlock. Josh twisted out of it reversing the hold but Mercury used the momentum to land a solid punch in Josh's gut.
Josh doubled over and Mercury pulled himself free, twisting Josh's into an armbar. Josh dropped to one knee, unable to reach out with his opposite arm to grab at his opponent.
Mercury spun 180 degrees landing his shin across Josh's chest. Josh slammed backwards into the ground and as Mercury loomed over him, he kicked up, sending the older man staggering.
Rolling away, Josh leapt to his feet just as Mercury charged him. He ducked beneath the arms that sought to grab at him and caught Mercury from behind around the waist. He dropped back, pulling Mercury with him and slamming the guy's shoulders hard to the ground.
Mercury somersaulted backwards and lay there winded. Josh reached for his legs, lifting one off the ground when the other kicked out, hitting Josh square in the shoulder. Josh cried out as he reeled backwards and barely kept his balance. He stood hunched, his other arm clutching his hurt shoulder.
Mercury rose and smiled as they circled. He stepped forward and Josh backed away. I suddenly realised that his injured arm wasn't rising. While he kept his distance from Mercury, Josh's arm was hanging limply by his side.
A thick sweat broken out across Josh's brow, caught under the lights like a sheen of oil on his face. He wiped it away from his eyes and Mercury used that moment to attack, kicking Josh in the stomach, then halting his backward stagger by locking him in a reverse headlock.
I cringed as Mercury leaned over and grabbed the back of Josh's shorts. With a bend of the knees, he flipped Josh over his shoulder. The two crashed to the ground and Josh screamed as his injured shoulder hit the ground below his full body weight. He jerked and convulsed, writhing like a cut snake until Mercury dropped an elbow to his chest and wrapped him in a headlock, pinning Josh's good arm under his body.
I heard Josh cry out in pain again, his gasps reaching me over the roar of the throng. Or was the sound of his misery just my imagination?
Mercury held Josh down, firmly keeping him pinned. Josh's writhing stopped and suddenly I couldn't see Josh moving at all. He was laying still under the pin. The only thing giving me hope was that Mercury hadn't released the hold. That had to mean Josh was still conscious and breathing.
So why wasn't he moving?!
I looked beseechingly at Jacob, who was leaning forward in his seat, showing more interest in the fight than I'd seen since I got there.
"Do something!" I cried, but Jacob either ignored me or didn't hear me, fixated with Josh's plight.
"Josh!" I cried out, even though I knew he would never hear me. The crowd was pounding a beat now, stomping and clapping in rhythm like a tribal drum. Were they showing their support for Josh, or were they counting the seconds until the fight was over?
Still Josh didn't move. The tension was causing me to hyperventilate. If he was as badly injured as he seemed, there was every likelihood that he couldn't move. Any movement would blind him with excruciating pain, rendering him more and more helpless.
I felt a tear trickle down my cheek. I had worshiped Josh since we met. He was my hero; an unstoppable protector who would always beat the odds. And now he lay there, the victim of a lucky shot, sinking him to the plight of an ordinary man.
I jumped as Mercury did, a knee kicked into his back! Josh was alive! It had little effect, but just that simplest of motioned made me laugh with relief. I wiped my face dry and cheered Josh on silently.
A second knee to the Mercury's back still couldn't dislodge the daddy bear but it was enough for Josh to pull his pinned arm free. He pushed up against Mercury but the older man forced it to the ground with barely an effort, all the while tightening the headlock.
Josh raised his hips and flipped, somersaulting over Mercury's back, taking the man by surprise. The twist freed him from the pin, and as Josh landed on his knees on the other side of Mercury, he dropped his elbow across Mercury's back. Mercury hit the floor and Josh knelt across the shocked man's neck, pinning his head to the ground.
Mercury flailed like a starfish, unable to lift himself up with the weight of Josh's body pressing down on his neck. Josh clasped at his hurt shoulder, his breathing heavier than I'd ever seen it. He was glistening all over from the sweat now and swaying slightly. Suddenly, he lurched forward and dry wretched. I could see his body trembling. He was going into shock.
When the heaving stopped, Mercury grabbed at the uninjured arm Josh had fallen on. Josh twisted away from the grip and caught Mercury's wrist instead, twisting it hard behind his back. Looking like he was about to pass out, Josh twisted Mercury's arm harder than he ever would have in any other circumstance, causing the maximum pain to end the fight fast. Mercury bellowed his submission and Josh immediately collapsed on his side.
I was on my feet, holding the barrier for support. Mercury rose; Josh passed out by his feet, and I rattled the barrier, screaming as Mercury lifted Josh into his arms, but instead of revenge, he carried Josh from the pit with all the care of a father holding a child.