Crandall punched. And punched. And punched. He shuffled forward. Light on his feet. Just like Ash showed him. And he missed every fucking time.
With a growl of frustration, Crandall launched himself at Ash, intent on taking him to the ground the old fashion way. Dirty.
Dirty didn’t work either. One moment Ash stood in his sights, and the next, Crandall sprawled face down on the mats. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuckfuckfuck.” Crandall punched the mat to emphasis every word.
Ash hovered nearby, a hand extended. Crandall ignored the offer and pushed himself to his feet, still spouting curses. He flexed his fingers and then formed fists, digging his fingernails into his palms.
“Let’s take a break,” Ash said.
“No.” Crandall turned around and raised his fists. “Again.”
“No,” Ash said drawing out the word. “We’re taking a–”
Crandall leapt forward, swinging a wide right hook. Ash ducked to the side and then stepped into Crandall’s attack, wrapping an arm around his waist as he grabbed his wrist and twisted. Crandall found himself propelled forward until his face pressed against the wall of the Pit and Ash’s weight pinned him in place. Crandall, breathing hard, squirmed and swore like a wild animal. He arched his body, trying to throw Ash off.
Ash leaned closer, his lips near Crandall’s ear. “Let’s revisit the rules.”
Crandall sagged momentarily and then threw his whole body into one more attempt to break free of Ash’s restraint. He slammed his head into Ash’s and then sunk down to squirm away, stumbling into the center of the Pit. Crandall fell to his knees. He looked back over his shoulder before slumping down on his stomach, gasping for breath.
Ash slumped against the wall of the Pit, holding his nose as blood dribbled between his fingers. Even with his hand over his face, Crandall recognized the look of no return. He’d fucked up. Again. And Ash was pissed.
“The rule is,” Crandall said, and then gasped. “When you say it’s time for a fucking break, we take a fucking break.” He took a deep breath, wheezed it out quickly, and then flopped to his back to stare at the ceiling. He rolled his head to the side, watching Ash glare at him. “I’m sorry.”
One black eyebrow arched. Crandall scowled back, and then turned his glare at the ceiling again.
“You don’t apologize,” Ash said.
When Crandall said nothing, Ash sighed and rose to his feet. He crossed to the door where they’d left their towels. After wiping his face, he returned to the spot where their altercation occurred to wipe a spot of blood off the mat. He sat down and leaned against the wall with his knees drawn up. “Want to talk about it?” Ash asked.
“Nothing to talk about.”
“So this bout of uncontrolled aggression is just for me?”
“No,” Crandall said with a huff. “Mike wants to go over everything after his stupid class.”
“Do you want me to act surprised when he joins us?”
Crandall snorted, but a small smile crept over his face. “He knows I don’t know how to keep secrets. It wouldn’t surprise him.”
He rolled his head to the side, looking in Ash’s general direction, but not meeting his gaze. He wasn’t sure if Ash was being sarcastic. “I don’t censor myself,” Crandall said. “I can’t be bothered.”
“What about Mike?”
“What about him?” Crandall shrugged and rolled to his side. He slid his hands under his ribs and pushed himself into a sitting position. “That fucking hurt, you fuckwit. Is it really a part of training to hit so fucking hard?”
“I have to do something to get it through your thick head.”
Crandall snorted and rolled his eyes. “They don’t hit hard,” he said. “Fucking Fangs use Jedi mind tricks instead.”
When Ash didn’t respond, Crandall glanced over at him. “I don’t joke either,” Crandall said.
“So what happened?”
Crandall crawled across the mat and sat beside Ash, mirroring his posture, his legs pulled against his chest. “Judas,” Crandall said. He lowered his chin to his knees and stared hard at the mat under his feet. “I couldn’t move. Mike couldn’t either. He comes swooping in, and fucking freeze frame, we can’t do a damn fucking thing until he leaves. How the fuck are we supposed to kill that?”
“He wants to die,” Ash said quietly, not bothering to muster false confidence. They both knew Judas would fight for the life he no longer wanted.
They fell silent for several minutes.
“I don’t want to keep Mike a secret,” Crandall said.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, I didn’t expect you’d have an answer for that one.”
“I will. I don’t have to like it, but I will.” Crandall sat up and stretched his legs out in front of him. “Don’t you ever get tired of hiding who you are?”
Ash took a long time to answer. By the time he did, Crandall’s mind had wandered down a different path that led to carnal thoughts of Mike and their secret.
“It’s different,” Ash said.