What do you say?

The rich, sweet, rolling tones of a low Arabic-accented English combine with a language of hate, brutal and thick with fury, whispered softly in a thin veneer of calm. The cold-eyed man with a streak of iron gray in his otherwise jetblack hair delivers a solid blow, and the muffled crunch of bones cracking can be heard within the empty warehouse. The form cuffed between the two posts sags, his knees buckling, and he collapses to them–they hit the ground and he hisses through his teeth, gasping, and blood patters to the dusty, oilstained floor, breathed from lungs too choked to do anything else but cough.

The two men are not alone — with them stands another form, shackled but not to posts, no posts that anyone can see, at any rate. This form has dark ringlets as well, dark eyes, and milkpale skin, his Romanesque features a startling recollection of David, if only with thinner lips, and his body similar, but thinner, nearly to the point of emaciation. He watches keenly, sometimes the older man, sometimes the younger.

The silence of the place is enormous, swallowing the bright jingling of heavy chain, and the hoarse rasp of bleeding breath.

“You’ve disobeyed,” the man whispers. “Shamed me. Disgusting. What have you to say, hmm?” He pauses in his beating, to reach out and touch the chin of the man who is getting back to his feet. Tilts his head up. Makes dark eyes meet darker ones. “What do you say?”

The young man, beautiful and unbroken, looks at his father in fear and love and misery, blood running from his lips, and then looks away, to meet the eyes of the other man who watches. The pale man looks away, even his unblinking stare unable to overcome the raw grief in the
young man’s eyes.

The older gentleman delivers a sharp, swift kick to the front of the chained man’s left shin, and the younger man drops then, nearly fainting from the pain, as the jagged white ends of his bones tear through muscle, skin, and fabric, to gleam wetly in the dim warehouse light, visible through the tear in the pantleg.

“What do you SAY?” the older man says, his anger betrayed as the shout burns his throat.

It is then that the younger man looks up, a strange expression on his face, something akin to hope, but in fact, something almost, almost like amusement. Blood has run over his skin, painting him savage. His hair hangs in sweat-tangled ringlets, and his body is covered in bruise after bruise, bronze flesh darkened cruelly with blood spreading under the skin. His once-fine suit hangs from him in tatters, and it is obvious that he is in worlds of pain… and yet, his lips curve in the faintest of smiles.

In that smile comes the undoing of the older man’s patience. The sudden flurry of blows comes down, rocking the body on the chains, for that’s all it is; that’s all it is, a body, now, the torn lung and brain haemorrhage combined with the shaking of this last and brutal beating doing for all the world what numerous previous beatings and assassination attempts could never do.

When the older man is finished, has spent himself, he steps back and stares at the piece of meat hanging from the posts, and spits on it, cursing under his breath. He looks over his shoulder at the one who watched, and growls lowly, “I’m not finished with him, yet. Wake him. Send him home. Let him think he’s lucky.”

The older man strides out, and it’s a full beat before the pale man moves at all, save for those dark eyes. And then he peels free of his coat, and shirt — sigils and symbols blaze against his skin in darkly iridescent scarlet, and black-tipped, scarlet wings flare from his shoulders as though torn free, feathered and glistening. When he goes to the body, his hands are fists, but then one flexes, reaches open, and plunges into the chest of the dead man, causing the corpse to convulse, to tip its head back and draw in a long, anguished breath. The scream is unholy, and dark eyes widen in terror and agony while crushed bones knit, the battered heart stutters into new rhythm, the brain reawakens, and the lungs shriek blood to free themselves.

The winged thing withdraws its hand, now that the man stands, trembling, bloodied but remade, his voice dying away as he is no longer penetrated in that fashion. The pale one takes hold of the chained man’s chin, and tilts it up, as the older man had done only a little while before, mimicking that authority, and says, his voice silver and corroded all at once, “There’s only so many times I can do that. I would cease provoking the man, if I were you, Amir.”

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