The decayed, termite-infested wood of the staircase leading into the overcrowded basement creaked treacherously beneath Devlin’s boots, each step a reminder of exactly how crude the quality of zone one housing really was. If he stepped down just a little too heavily, there was a very real possibility his foot could go straight through the splintered boards. He ducked his head down a bit to avoid the exposed rafters lining the ceiling and descended the rickety staircase gingerly, slipping around the crowd of bodies already gathering along the walls. There were at least twenty spectators leaned up against the ruddy, unfinished brick and Dev maneuvered around them quickly, taking his spot in the far corner of the basement as he waited for his name to be called.
There weren’t many rules involved in underground time fighting - it was unregulated, uncontrolled, so it was nearly impossible for anyone to develop a universal list of guidelines. It was generally run by house rules, and though there was an understandable margin of variation, there were a few regulations that seemed to be the standard in almost every circle he’d been to: all shirts and shoes were to be removed prior to the initiation of any fight; no weapons or objects were to be used in the fight unless agreed upon before initiation of the fight; the maximum number of fights any participant could engage in on any given night was at most three. Of course, there were various discrepancies and limitations from house to house, fluctuations in the number of fights allowed, but for all intents and purposes, there were few rules and Dev knew them by heart.
Dev arched his back, pressing against his jaw with one hand and turning his head roughly until his neck snapped into place with a loud crack. He was on the roster to fight next, and he stretched his arms, extending them over his head to loosen his muscles as his eyes followed the two figures thrashing violently around on the dusty, unfinished floor. From the looks of it, the fight wouldn’t last long, maybe another two or three minutes. One of the men, an experienced opponent from what Dev had seen of him around in various fight rings, had an obvious advantage, his knee pressed against the amateur’s sternum, pinning him to the floor. The younger man struggled, writhing beneath his weight, but he couldn’t dodge the blows currently pounding the cartilage of his nose deeper into his head. Thick rivulets of blood stained the dirt floor a dark, muddy brown and clung, sticky, to the bare skin of both fighters. It was a brutal sport, but Devlin didn’t flinch.
Licking his lips and rolling his neck languidly, Dev wrapped his fingers around the hem of his ratty shirt and pulled it over his head. He tossed it over the back of one of the few chairs littering the corners of the basement before taking a seat on its edge, leaning over and digging his fingers into the knots of his bootlaces. He hadn’t the slightest clue who he’d be fighting but that knowledge - or lack thereof, really - didn’t phase him. He had been gambling with his life for well over a decade and he’d not lost a fight yet. He trained for these fights, lived for them. One more than one occasion, his winnings in a single fight had given his mother and each of his siblings nearly a month’s time. Sometimes, it was all he could count on to make sure a meal got on the table to feed them all at night. He needed these fights.
Before he had even realized the last fight had ended, one limp corpse was being dragged out of the center of the room and toward a dimly lit hallway. Devlin wasn’t sure he wanted to know what waited at its end. Tugging off his boots and letting them fall to the ground with an unceremonious thump, Dev stood and started toward the center of the circle. His ears were greeted with a few rowdy hollers from onlookers who had seen him before, watched him scramble the brains of his past opponents and crack their skulls against the wooden support beams holding up the roof. He swallowed hard, shifting his weight from foot to foot and clenching his fists as he waited for his competitor to step up and take the other vacant spot in the ring. His clock read a little under five days and he didn’t get paid for another week - he was ready to fight. He had to be.
Reese loved fight clubs.
For one, they were a great place to steal time. While a lot of the people there could crack your skull open with a single blow, many of the spectators were waif-like things sitting there wishing they had a tenth of the muscle the people they were watching did. Not only that, but the distraction of the fight made most people off-guard and therefore easier to steal from. Reese couldn’t count the number of hours he’d stolen from fight clubs, although surely the number was upwards of a hundred.
This particular night he’d had a good run. He’d been testing out his new gadget, seeking to find its limits. So far the most he had managed to steal at once was two days, which was still way easier than scaring time out of someone. All he had to do was grab their wrist, hold on, and bam—their time was his. Well, as much of it as he could get, anyway.
He told himself he’d come to this particular club for predatory reasons exclusively, but that wasn’t true. The last few times he’d been here a particularly intriguing individual had also been, a tattooed guy with absurd musculature and an ever-precarious reading on his wrist. There was finesse to the way he fought, as if everything hung in the balance with each swing. His fighting was an art, a way of life, Reese could see that much: he had fine-tuned it, nurtured it, perfected it. Part of him hoped that talking with this man, figuring him out, would cure his insatiable boredom for a time. Part of him knew it wouldn’t, but he dared to dream anyway.
He watched idly as the corpse was dragged past him, leaving a bloody trail behind. It was refreshing sometimes to be in a room full of people who would kill without batting an eyelash. Perhaps not in cold blood, but still. They could take a life. He often grew tired of the endless sheep he saw every day, people with their morals and values. Who even had those, anyway?
A shirt landing on a chair near him drew his focus back outward. He looked up and saw the man he had been thinking about, one part tall and three parts dark and handsome. He stood in the center of the ring, pectorals gloriously bared, and Reese smiled.
Devlin McCoy, Reese thought in unison with the spokesman announcing the fight. He picked up the shirt and folded it neatly, keeping it in his lap. It would give him a reason to talk to the guy, finally. He’d gotten tired of mentally undressing him anyway.
Well, Mr. McCoy, he thought, folding his hands over the shirt and sitting back in his chair. It’s your time to shine.