He turned the key in the lock and opened the door. To his horror, he saw. . . .
|Word Count: Approx. 1,400
Notes/Warnings: Allusions to a severe physical assault.
Summary: Written for the prompt(s): He turned the key in the lock and opened the door. To his horror, he saw. . . . Also inspired by Shams-e Tabrizi.
Whistling, he turned the key in the lock and opened the door. To his horror, he saw Rav sitting—tied to a chair and apparently barely conscious—in the center of their studio apartment looking beat to Hell and back.
Still horrified beyond rational thought, Jahan al-Mohammed dropped his toolkit at the threshold, keys forgotten in the door, and hurried down the hall. With each step closer to Rav, the extent of his lover’s injuries grew worse:
Rav’s beautiful, dark, Bollywood-starlet eyes were black and mostly swollen shut. His nose was crooked, swollen, and bleeding, as was his formerly perfect mouth. His lower lip was split badly enough that it would probably require stitches.
And his left shoulder appeared to have been pulled out of its socket.
“Beloved?” Jahan said when he was close enough to kneel in front of Rav and look up into the battered face he loved. He reached out and cupped Rav’s fever-hot, lacerated right cheek in his hand and tilted the other man’s face up a little. “My love, what happened?”
Starting suddenly out of a daze of pain and probably shock, Rav began to thrash in his bindings, making little mewls of agony as he did so.
“No—no!” he kept slurring, more blood droozling from his mouth as he shied away from Jahan’s touch. “Please, I dunno an’thin’—dunno who Shamsi Tabrizi is or where he is—please—”
“Calm down, beloved, it’s me,” Jahan said softly, as soothingly as he could, despite the new shock of hearing that name after so many years. “It’s . . . it’s Jahan.”
Nearly swollen shut eyes squinted even further, till all Jahan could make out was a dark, panicked shine. Then tears rolled down Rav’s bruised cheeks. “J-Jahan?”
“Yes, my love.”
“Oh . . . oh, J-Jahan,” Rav stuttered out on a sob, bursting into tears in earnest. He sagged forward in his bonds, a study in wounded relief. “I th-thought they were g-gonna kill me!”
Heart hurting, Jahan leaned his forehead against Rav’s and caressed his lover’s face gently. “I know, beloved . . . I know. I’m sorry.”
“Th-they kept d-demanding I tell them where s-someone called Shamsi Tabrizi was.” Rav’s chest hitched and he looked up when Jahan stood slowly, heavily. “They w-wouldn’t believe me when I t-told them I d-didn’t know!”
“I know they didn’t, love,” Jahan soothed, stepping behind Rav to undo the bonds. Kneeling once more, he noted the cruel, haphazard knots, cutting into Rav’s wrists, and winced. Then winced again when he noticed the damage done to Rav’s graceful, poet’s hands. At least two of the fingers of his left hand were broken, and three were missing their nails. The right hand, while scraped was, to all appearances, relatively alright.
Rage, as sudden and wide as the world, stirred within and was upon Jahan. And at the heart of that rage, a flicker of fear awoke within him for the first time in an age. Not for himself, but for that which he loved beyond all commonplace meaning of the word.
After all these long years, he thought as the ropes securing Rav fell away from slender, abraded wrists at his outwardly calm and efficient urging. After all this time, they’ve found me. How? And why now?
Then Jahan was catching Rav as he fell forward, moaning, into a swoon.
Jahan paced back and forth in front of the door to Rav’s private hospital room. As he had been doing for what seemed like an eternity.
In one hand was his cellphone, squeezed tight as he fought, with every passing moment, not to dial the number he told himself he would never call unless the need was great.
Jahan stopped in front of Rav’s door, staring yearningly into the grain of the wood, remembering the sight of his lover, clothes torn and bloodied, tied to a chair, half-fainting from the pain he’d been put through. . . .
The need was great.
He’d just tapped out a number and was about to hit SEND when Rav’s doctor finally emerged, looking both grim and disapproving. And wary, as if he expected Jahan to swing on him.
“How—how is he, Dr. Torrance?” Jahan asked, absently shoving the phone back into the pocket of his work pants. Dr. Torrance’s lips pursed in further disapproval.
“Mr. Rao is . . . in stable condition,” the doctor said reluctantly, sniffing. “He’s in pretty bad shape, however. Whoever worked him over did a . . . hell of a thorough job.”
With that, Torrance’s gaze went from disapproving to outright hostile. And suddenly Jahan understood: Dr. Torrance thought he, Jahan, was responsible for Rav’s injuries.
Well, I am, Jahan thought wearily, guiltily. Just not in the way you think.
“I didn’t do this to Ravindra, Dr. Torrance,” Jahan said quietly, fiercely. Dr. Torrance’s eyebrows quirked up toward his receding, sandy hairline.
“That’s not for me to untangle, Mr. al-Mohammed. That’s for the police—who have been notified—to straighten out,” he said with great satisfaction. But Jahan’s blood suddenly ran cold.
“You called the authorities?” he demanded angrily, his fists clenching at his sides. Torrance took a step back, glancing down the hall, first to his right, then to his left. It was then that Jahan noticed the security guards—two of them—one at each end of the hall and moving closer.
“Yes, I did, Mr. al-Mohammed,” Torrance said flatly, sneering, now. “Until the police have established who injured Mr. Rao, I’m afraid he’s to have no other visitors but family.”
Glaring, Jahan unclenched his fists and took a deep but not very calming breath. “But I am his family, Dr. Torrance.”
“Not in the eyes of the state, Mr. al-Mohammed.”
And with that smug rejoinder, Torrance sniffed again, and strode off, white coat flapping around his scarecrow frame. And as if given his cue, one of the security guards moved in to take up a post at Rav’s door.
Once more, rage as bright as sunlight raced through Jahan’s very blood, and his fists clenched again . . . then slowly released as his shoulders sagged and he sighed. The security guard, who had at least half a foot and one hundred pounds on Jahan, seemed fantastically unimpressed, either way.
“Guard him with your life. Please,” Jahan said softly, turning and walking away, heart-sore, but not before seeing a flicker of surprise in the stoic guard’s eyes.
When he reached an intersection, he turned left and let himself into an empty stairwell. Once the door shut behind him, he leaned on it and closed his eyes on the tears that sprang to them as he thought of his Ravindra—his beautiful, sensitive poet—being subjected to the clumsy torture techniques of those whose only purpose was to see evil and chaos flourish.
My fault, he thought, trying desperately to catch his suddenly short breath. It’s all my fault this happened. I should never have. . . .
But he cut off that train of thought. To never have fallen in love with Rav would have been to live these past few years of his life in wretched, aimless loneliness, as he had all the many years before them.
Though even that might have been better than what had happened to Rav. The wounding of such a gentle soul was no small thing—better that Ravindra be spared that, at the cost of Jahan’s happiness, than suffer such an awful and undeserved fate.
What’s done is done, a soft, yet mercenary voice within Jahan whispered. This voice was as ancient as it was pragmatic. The past cannot be changed, but the present and the future . . . contact Omid now, before this becomes something even he cannot handle.
Nodding to himself—ever was that pragmatic voice correct—Jahan dug into his pocket for his phone.
Sniffling, he woke it and let his finger hover for a moment over the SEND button.
Once Omid was involved, for good or ill, there was no turning back. There would be rivers of blood before it was all over. What Jahan would see set in motion might spell ruin for everyone involved.
And yet. . . .
Thinking once more of Rav, scared and hurting and alone while his assailants badgered and tortured him, Jahan’s finger descended.
He waited exactly three rings before receiving an answer. “Hello?”
“It’s been a long time, Omid,” Jahan said hushed, perfect Persian. “It’s Shams of Tabriz, and . . . I need your help. . . .”