Varian's cot groaned as he slowly lowered himself on it, his groan echoing the cot's; every muscle seemed to ache, crying out for help, his arms and legs simultaneously felt like jelly and stiff as boards, his lungs encased in flames.
Overall, a standard day in the horrible hell that he was forced to call home- or at least the days when the guards remembered there was more than one person in cell 284.
"Bet you wish they'd forgotten about you again. Right Hairstripe?"
He attempted a half-smile for the woman in the cell next to him- though it looked more like he was constipated than anything else. She'd have to be happy with that though. It had been years since any of them had seen a genuine smile.
"Yeah. I'd rather starved than beaten." He slowly wiggled his big toe, sending surges of pain through his body. He couldn't remember what they had done to his feet that caused it to happen. To be honest, he didn't remember much of what happened during his four years of prison. He'd been thrown in, he'd been alone, then he got some neighbors, and then finally a roommate. Everything from that point on was a hazy mess of pain.
His neighbor offered him a small smile, though it was clear that it was only one of many fake smiles. "If it helps any… I was gifted something while you were gone…" She reached for a napkin from somewhere outside of his very limited point of view. Slowly, she unwrapped it, revealing…
Instantly, Varian's eyes lit up; his head snapping to attention as if his neck was properly working. How long had it been since his last meal? He wasn't sure. One of the disadvantages of being invisible was that they forgot to feed him sometimes. Though it wasn't much help when they did feed him either… he rarely got to eat it.
Food… its bread… it's beautiful…
"Caine…" He breathed, "How… How did you get that?" His brain told him to look at her face, but no matter how many times his eyes fluttered to his friend's face, he found his eyes on the bread.
It was all he could see. It wasn't more than a dinner roll, but to Varian, it might as well have been the sundrop, the crown jewels of the royal family, fine delectables from Galcrest or Pittsford.
"I," She paused, pressing her lips together before continuing, "convinced one of the new guards to let me have it." She scooted to the bars separating the two of them, slipping the napkin through.
"I… I couldn't," he whispered, attempting to pry his eyes from the bread. She had earned it. It was her food. Who knows what she had to go through to get just a simple roll. He couldn't possibly…
But food... I must have it…
He could trick his brain to think he wasn't hungry, but the moment he saw the bread, he couldn't deny it. He was starving. He was so hungry he felt sick. If he didn't get the bread in his stomach right this very instant, he simply would die on the spot.
That's not a bad idea actually.
"I couldn't…" He repeated.
Varian wasn't sure how, but he blinked, and suddenly his shaking hands were clasped around the bread.
How did I?
It's so soft! I haven't held bread this soft in years!
He wanted to cry, opening his mouth to savor the food. He lifted to his mouth, hesitating to take a bite.
I need to eat it slowly… carefully… This might be my only meal for a while… I need to make it last.
He took the tiniest nibble. A single warm tear rolling down his cheek. It was so good. He craved so much more.
"I figured you'd need it… since…" Caine's voice trailed off as the jingle of keys was heard just outside the prison.
In an instant, the bread was gone, sitting in his stomach. He was so scared that he'd be in trouble for having the bread that he shoved it all down, only getting to savor the taste for a second.
He only barely managed to swallow it before the guards walk in.
"Mealtime you dirty rats," said the first soldier, holding a single basket of old bread. The other three held another prisoner coming back from whatever torture they had decided upon that day.
Varian leaned against the prison bars, staring numbly at the prisoner.
The cell door swung open with a long creak. Andrew and two rolls- both equally as dirty and rotten- were tossed into the cell, making equally loud thuds as they hit the floor.
He looked more roughed up than usual. Which was good… hopefully. He could only hope that Andrew was too tired to do anything physical.
"Girl!" Varian turned his head to the sound, the other guard, some new guy whom he did not know, was standing just outside of Caine's cell. "Come get your food." He quickly looked away, knowing what would probably be done if she wanted food that night.
In front of him, he watched his cellmate greedily scarfing down their rolls. He looked away from that sight as well.
When the guards were finally gone, he sat back against Caine's cell bars, hoping to be of some comfort to her, but also to put as much distance between himself and Andrew. There was no telling what he'd do if he was angry enough, or happy enough.
"Hey, kid…" Andrew said weakly, finally pulling himself off the ground. "Where do you think you're going? You should know by now there's no place to run."
Here it comes…
Varian sat silently, wishing he could do something. Anything. He knew he ought to be able to. He had only been a kid when he was first thrown in with the older man, he had been powerless and weak. And now, four years later? No matter the fact he had grown taller, theoretically gotten stronger, he was still powerless and weak. All he could do was let Andrew walk all over him.
Behind him, he could hear Caine sniffling, though it was clear she was trying to hide it. Still, there wasn't much they could hide from each other. Being in prison this long had broken them all in some way.
They were all tired, shells of what they used to be. Caine's eyes were always sad. It was hard to believe that she had led a rebellion against the kingdom- and almost won. She spent most of her nights crying softly.
Andrew was broken differently. He snapped. Any charm the man had when he had led a coup was gone. He was an angry beast, yelling, hitting, and making life difficult for the other two. But sometimes… There were rare nights when he could be heard crying too, and Varian wondered if he could be saved.
He doubted it. It was only the three in the prison. The three who committed treason. They had led an attack against Corona. They'd never be freed. They'd be stuck in this hell hole till their bodies gave out.
Not like it would do any of them much good to be set free. Andrew would never make it back to Saporia before being murdered or murdering someone. Caine had nowhere to go, no one to go to. Varian… he wasn't sure he wanted to go home. There wasn't home. All he had was a building torn apart by the black rocks with his father's corpse in it.
Varian squeezed his eyes shut, unsure as to why that had popped into his head. He was about to deal with Andrew. He didn't need yet another depressing thought weighing him down. He just needed to stare at the floor.
It was how he coped. Caine cried. Andrew hurt. Varian stared at the floor and hoped to blackout or at least blank out.
That is a disgusting-looking slate… He thought weakly, his eyes slowly glazing over, his shadow fusing with Andrews.
The floor has a blood stain on it. Was it his? Andrews? The poor person held captive in the cell before him?
There was a noise. Noise was rare in the prison. It traveled fast. Perhaps the soldier was back to finish his business with Caine.
He moved. Andrew probably picked him up. Probably to smash him on the ground. Maybe to bang his head against the ceiling.
There was a strong grip on his arms. It hurt. He had no fat to cushion.
There was a splash of liquid. Pee? Who knows. He didn't.
There was a voice. It sounded familiar. It was Caine. Maybe telling Andrew to stop. Though… it was his name being called… right? Was it not Caine? But then who else would it be?
"-ian. Varian! Varian!"
The voice was sweet. Gentle.
There was a hand on his shoulder. It rested gently there. It was smooth and soft.
"Mom?" He whispered, his eyes slowly focusing. Was he dying? Had he finally escaped?
He blinked, his eyes stinging from light flooding into his eyes. He should have been ready. They had always said the afterlife was bright.
"Thank goodness! He's coming to!"
The voice brought him crashing down to reality… if this was the afterlife, he must have somehow ended up in an even worse hell.
Standing in front of him was the very girl who once called him her friend. The very girl who watched idly as he was condemned to prison. The very same princess who had ruined his entire life.
Standing before him was Rapunzel.