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Of all the stupid things he had done in his life, Magnus thought this might be the most asinine. Oh, he could try his best to reassure Lanie, but the truth was he was about to get pulverized. He had absolutely no illusions on that front.

The man looked like an ox. It would have been amusing if it wasn’t going to be so painful. Magnus was in excellent shape, and worked hard to maintain his stamina and flexibility (both came in handy in certain extracurricular activities, he had noticed) but his opponent was a trained boxer. The best Magnus could hope for was to keep out of his reach and run out the clock with as little damage as possible.

He allowed himself to grin at the encouragement from his cheering section - the ladies he had charmed yesterday on the tour were definitely on his side. He tried to give his girl the most optimistic smile possible and stepped onto the roped off square mat that would act as the ring. The site of his sacrificial offering, he thought with hilarity he was self aware enough to recognize as blind panic in disguise.

He didn’t really hear the instructions drones out. It was highly unlikely in his view that the other man had any intention of following the rules. They tapped their gloves together in a mockery of a handshake, and it was on.

From the beginning his strategy was clear: stay as far out of the other man’s reach as possible. Let people call him a coward, he didn’t have any other edge that he could think of. It worked well at first. He could here his for cursing under his breath as Magnus danced away from his heavy fists. Maybe he could tire him out and take advantage of that. The strategy bore fruit as he pulled one punch and then followed up by popping the man in his nose. The blood that gushed forth was tremendously satisfying, and he allowed a grin to flash at the site.

It was a short lived victory though, as with a growl the man launched himself across the ring and landed a punishing blow to Magnus’ jaw, sending him reeling. 

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Lanie turn away. He couldn’t really blame her, he wished he could look somewhere else himself. 

It seemed to go on forever. Magnus got a few good hits in, but he didn’t think he was doing much damage really. He, on the other hand, was having a hard time drawing breath due to an ache in his right side, and he would definitely be sporting a black eye and a swollen jaw for the foreseeable future.

”Not so pretty now, are you?” Leland called from outside the ring.

Magnus growled at the taunt. That was the man he wanted to be fighting. He had no real issue with the man faced now beyond his appalling taste in friends. Plus he was arrogantly confident he would have already sent Leland to the mat by this point.

”You shut your filthy mouth!” Heidi yelled back at Leland. “That boy would be prettier than you with his full face in a cast. Now come on, Martinsson, I’ve got a hefty sum riding on you!”

Magnus laughed, wincing from the pain it caused as he did so, and nodded in the general direction of Heidi. He was growing more and more fond of the brassy old broad. If she was not already acquainted with his mother, he would have to introduce them. Oh, Mother would gasp and wince at some of the woman’s remarks, but Magnus knew that secretly she would love them. 

As he dances away again from his giant of an opponent, Magnus’ eyes did a sweep of the ring. It was something that came naturally to him; part of his detective training. As he did so, a splash of red caught his eye. There, behind the grunting beast, was a bright pool of blood. It must have been from the initial blow to the nose, he thought. Maybe... it was just possible...

Increasing his sped, Magnus began a rapid fire of quick jabs. The energy it took was staggering, and he was going to have very little breath left in him if he failed. On the other hand, if he didn’t do something soon it wouldn’t matter how much breath he had. He would be laid out on the ground unconscious.

As he bobbed and weaved, he led his hulking foe backwards to just the spot he wanted him, then zagged to the left. Following him with a ferocious snarl, the man’s foot landed in the pool of blood and he went skidding to his side, arms flailing. It was just the opening Magnus needed. Summoning all the power he had left, he drew back his arm and aimed a massive blow at the teetering man’s head.

It was with an air of disbelief that he watched the ogre sink to the mat, eyes rolling back in his head as he crumpled. He had done it! He had felled the beast!

After a prolonged, silent pause, the seated spectators leapt to their feet, roaring in approval. Magnus smiled, just before falling down himself.

 

See the source image ***

 

She didn’t think she could bring herself to watch. A part of Lanie told her that she needed to try, to bear witness and perhaps that way share in and alleviate the pain that Magnus was surely about to go through, but the larger part of her shuddered in horror at what her lover, her love, was about to face.

The other man was a monster, there was no getting around it. As they both stripped down to track shorts and trainers, Lanie felt her heart plummet to her toes. Magnus, of course, looked like a carved statue of a God. The appreciative murmur that rose as he peeled off his tee brought a cocky smirk to his face, and he looked over to wink at Lanie as though he had not a care in the world. Then his opponent, not remotely handsome, stripped down to reveal a physique of hulking muscles. It was like looking a sleek cat and then seeing the Rottweiler it was about to do battle with. 

She had joked about him keeping his angelic face protected when she thought he was to face off with the loathed Leland. While she did indeed find his looks divine, she was much more worried about serious injuries now. Surely they would not be allowed to truly harm each other? But then, who was to stop them? Magnus and Haas had humiliated their foes in the tug-of-war, sending them sprawling into the mud. The snarling bruiser did not look like he was one to forgive and forget.

She smiled tremulously at Magnus, and stood on her tiptoes to give him a long, lingering kiss. He gave her one of his cocksure grins as he finally let her up for air.

”Don’t worry, lovely,” he whispered to her. “It’s not all weight that matters. I’ve got half a foot reach on the gorilla, and can no doubt move faster as well. I promise to survive to torture you some more. After all, I believe I promised you a punishment, and what sort of man would I be if I didn’t keep my word.”

She tried to laugh, but it came out more like a sob to her own ears. With one last kiss to the top of her head, Magnus stepped in to the ring that had been specially erected for this event. 

An older gentleman stepped forward excitedly to announce the rules of the bout, but she was too anxious to really listen. Who, after all, was their to enforce them?

As Magnus and the other man circled each other, throwing out testing swings, she was able to spare a moment to admire the way the muscles moved under his bare skin. Lord, buy he was beautiful! All grace and poise opposite the human equivalent of a steamroller facing off with him.

He managed to draw first blood, feinting left then jabbing the big man’s nose with a quick right. The crowd cheered, Magnus obviously had most of them eating of his hand, and his answering grin was blinding. It made it all the worse when the larger managed to move in quicker than she had thought one of his bullish size could and knocked Mags square in his perfect jaw.

Lanie turned away. She couldn’t. She simply could not watch this. She had never enjoyed any sort of violence as entertainment. The fact that the person most dear to her was likely to be the recipient made it just that much worse. 

Hearing the gasp and cheers of the crowd only proved that much worse, and she began drifting away from the match. Trying to block out the ringing in her ears, Lanie concentrated on her breathing. There was a looming panic attack, she knew, that she was just barely holding at bay. This was how it always seemed to be for her. When the danger was to herself, she could blithely shrug it off, but let something threaten a person she cared about and the panic became a bit overwhelming. 

Looking up, Lanie realized she had walked further than she intended, entering into the tree line. The shade felt good against her overheated skin, and she leaned against a thick tree trunk as she sighed in relief. She would just stay here for a few minutes, she told herself. Just long enough to get her emotions under control, and then she return and give Magnus all the support she could. 

A noise from a short distance off caught her attention. Curious at who else would be out here missing all the excitement, she turned and saw a two bodies, one slim one not, approaching through the trees from the opposite direction. 

“You are sure?” Asked a voice she recognized in shock. “He’s police?”

”Undoubtedly,” another familiar voice responded. “No doubt working with the Detective and that meddlesome girl. Don’t worry, though. He’s all tied up and hidden away in the charcoal shed.”

”I’d rather have the tall handsome one tied up in the shed,” the first one laughed. “I do hope we don’t have to do anything unpleasant to him. It would be such a waste!”

Lanie’s blood ran cold as she realized what she was hearing. These two? They were the culprits? It was not possible! Making herself as still as possible she pressed against the tree, hoping they would pass by without noticing her. 

She should have known better. Should have known that nothing ever escapes the eagle like gaze that turned unerringly to stare at her. 

“Well,” said a cold, soft voice. “Look who’s out snooping. I fear you have about outlived your usefulness.”

”Sorry, love,” the second said, raising an arm to shocking aim a gun at Lanie’s head. “I’m afraid you’ll have to come with us. Can’t have you spilling our secrets. If you are a very good girl, I might be able to keep you alive. You go on, I’ll take her back and tie her up with the other.”

Lanie, hands raised and eyes wide, nodded quickly. Gun pressed to her side, she allowed herself to be led away. 

***