Title: On the Hook
Character/s: Arthur, Cenred, Merlin
Summary: Arthur couldn’t feel the tips of his fingers anymore, but the burn in his wrists was worse than ever and starting to spread down his arms and chests. Hanging by a pair of handcuffs from a dangling hook in a meat freezer was as cliche as it got for an undercover cop who got caught by the mob, but he had to admit it was effective.
Warnings: Slight violence, homophobic language
Word Count: 1,000
Prompt: #322: Pity, cope, bleed
Arthur couldn’t feel the tips of his fingers anymore, but the burn in his wrists was worse than ever and starting to spread down his arms and chests. Hanging by a pair of handcuffs from a dangling hook in a meat freezer was as cliche as it got for an undercover cop who got caught by the mob, but he had to admit it was effective. He’d been there for maybe an hour, at a guess, and already the combination of cold and stress position had him struggling to breathe.
The worst part was, there was nothing for him to do but wait and see what they decided to do to him. He couldn’t get himself free and shouting for help would bring either nothing or the exact opposite.
He was still debating if he’d rather be beaten to death, freeze, suffocate, or bleed out from the sluggishly clotting cuts on his side when the door thunked and swung open. They’d suspended him with his back to the door, he assumed just for the extra drama of it, so he heard a single set of footsteps approach but couldn’t see who it was. They sounded less solidly built than Cenred’s usual heavyweight enforcers, at least.
“Of course you’d turn out to be a cop.” It was Cenred Star himself; not a better option than his thugs after all. “I liked you, Arthur. I trusted you. So you had to be too good to be true somehow. But see, I thought I’d figured out what it was. Do you want to know?”
Arthur didn’t waste his breath answering, but Cenred carried on regardless. “See, my brother has a thing for you. That’s not a surprise, he’s always been a meek little disappointment. But I had good money going that you’re just as queer as he is.”
Cenred circled, leisurely, until he was standing in front of Arthur. He his necktie was loose, collar and sleeves unbuttoned, looking so comfortable and unaffected by the cold that Arthur hated him more than ever. Smirking in the face of Arthur’s glare, he went on, “Just between the two of us, is it true? Because if it is, Arthur, we might be able to work something out that doesn’t end in chunks of your corpse turning up in the river every few months.”
“Yeah? And what would that be?”
“I’m a businessman, Arthur. Killing Bureau boys can be bad for business, gets more of you sniffing around. Dirtying you up, though? Turning you around so you’re mine instead of theirs? That’s very, very good for business. So you can die today, or you can stay alive and work for me. You’ll have money, power, and I’ll even give you the little cocksucker.”
“I won’t be bought,” Arthur forced out through his tightly clenched teeth. “And I won’t buy anyone.”
Cenred sighed dramatically. “That’s a pity. But you think about it, I’ll be back in an hour or two. If you survive that long, maybe you’ll have a change of heart.”
The solid clang of the freezer door closing might as well have been the lid of Arthur’s coffin dropping down over him.
“Well, that was stupid.”
If Arthur could have jumped, he would’ve; instead, he jerked in surprise and gasped at the pain. Then he intentionally turned his head, ignoring how it pulled at his aching shoulders, to see Cenred’s younger brother leaning on a stack of crates with a disapproving expression.
“If you’d just gone along with it, you could’ve split as soon as you got a clear chance. He’s not going to watch you forever, he’s not that patient or that smart. Or are you too noble for that particular lie, even when it would save your life?”
“What are you talking about, Merlin?” he asked around a groan. “What are you doing here?”
Pushing off the crates, Merlin grabbed the handles of the top one and carried it over as he crossed around to Arthur’s front. “Thought I might rescue you, if your pride can take it.”
When he set the wooden box down at Arthur’s feet, Arthur didn’t understand the purpose until Merlin rolled his eyes and shoved it forward into his shins. “Stand on it, you moron.”
Arthur did, with some help to get his feet firmly planted after his first try kicked the crate away, and the relief from hanging by his wrists was immediate - if shortly followed by renewed pain when he managed to lift the cuffs away from the hook and drop his arms down. Returning blood flow sent fire racing up his nerves, and his shivers did nothing to help.
Merlin offered a hand to help him off the crate, but Arthur stepped down backward instead, watching him closely. “Why help me?”
“Because I like you,” Merlin said with a shrug and an easy smile, “or because I hate him. I’ve been looking for a way to get out for a long time, but Cenred’s not just going to let me leave. I know too much. But I figure your friends want that information enough to protect me, especially if I bring you back to them mostly unharmed.”
Giving Arthur a critically assessing look, he asked, “Can you walk?”
“I’ll cope.” His legs were doing better than his arms, at least. “You know he’ll kill you if we’re caught.”
“He’s eventually going to kill me if I stick around. At least like this it would be on my terms.”
That was a mindset Arthur could admire and share. Death was certain if he stayed, so he might as well give it a shot. “All right, I’m in. Do you have a plan?”
“Yeah. But first I have to know, was he right about you being queer?”
Arthur stared, taken aback and wary. “What does it matter?”
“Because.” Merlin stepped closer. “We’re stuck in here for twenty more minutes, we may be about to die, and he was definitely right about me wanting to suck your cock.”