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.
"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.
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.