|The City Missing Scene: Euphony
Author: Guede Mazaka
It was loud and pounding and ferocious in Sands' ears, in his teeth that were this close to chattering, in his bones that threatened to shake themselves right out of his body. It was so fucking there that it might as well have been another fuckmook swaggering his fat-assed self around the world, setting off earthquakes with every cheery step.
It was music. Or so they'd told him.
They didn't know what it'd been like to spend a month locked inside themselves, drugged up and down and in and out of surgery rooms, screaming whenever the doctors were sadistic enough to remove the breathing tube. And the anesthesia the hard, tasteless plastic carried. But at least it'd been quiet in there, nothing but cotton-muffled whirrs and beeps and whispers. Sands could deal with whispers. He used to traffic in them, after all.
And El's bedroom, chained to unyielding wood, stuck in tangles of sheets sodden in his sweat and blood and God knows what else. Jelly dripping down his cheeks-that had been one fluid he hadn't realized his body had. But there was Fred to dig nails into and curse at when the painkillers wore off and Sands woke up blind, there was the man's soft voice and comforting hands. Carolina's brisker ones, moving with the speed of the disgusted, but efficiently cleaning him off nonetheless. Her quiet sarcasm, lashing Sands back to sanity when he got too lost in stench of rot and pus, and faint aromas of long-departed leather and steel.
The legend himself, nothing more than a big black jag in everyone's life. A few remnants left behind in his home. Clothing. Scent. Spoken memory, intangible and fading even as it was pulled from minds and hearts. Then in Mexico, staccato gunfire. But that was a sound like mother's milk, father's blood. It would never leave Sands.
Never aurally smack him around like this shit, either. Like these brassy trumpet wails driving straight through his ruined eyes and mashing his brains. He curled his nails into his palms and ate the scream rising in his throat.
Then-dulling dark as rough-tipped fingers skated over his face, touching temples and nose and jaw. El was like a huge dampener. Literally. He fucked up the party, sent things sideways and backwards and twisting into the black.
"And where the fuck have you been?" Still the drums and the cymbals clashing deep slices into Sands' brain. He felt for El's lapels, wrenched the fabric between his fingers so the fibers strained into his flesh. Cut out the noise, cut out the background. "Goddamn it. Why won't it shut-up. Shut up."
Suddenly it did. Large palms cradling his head, covering his ears. Unholy silence, and Sands nearly cried.
"Better?" El's lips were pressed against Sands' cheek so his voice could get past the insulating hands.
Unable to speak for fear of showing something, Sands nodded and pushed in closer. Deeper. Shifted until he was surrounded by quiet, and that put him flush to heat. Muscle. Strength and verve and then…small, very small, but still detectable. A sound. He put his fingers over it, trying to find the source, but El caught his hand. Blistering howls immediately surged to the chink in the armor and a whimper croaked from Sands' throat. He ducked his head into El's arm so its bend would cover his unprotected ear.
El let him, simply standing there. Chunk of weathered rock, shaped by wind and dust and water, but still having that quality of solidness. //That was my heartbeat.//
"Yeah?" Sands searched around until he found that tiny piece of rhythm again, and El was right. It was the fucker's motivating muscle, squeeze-pump faint but clearly audible through its cage of rib and skin.
//You don't like this kind of music?// Strangely enough, the tone of voice didn't strike Sands as condescending or irritating or…anything except comprehending, really. Maybe because El did get it. Most of it. The rolling beat of a good fight, bullets zinging by in high whine, and fists meeting flesh in low thump. The seductiveness of violence, and victory.
"Hurts," he managed. "I fucking hate dance clubs. Did I mention that?"
"Gatito." Rich with amusement, and apparently El's new way of saying yes. The gunfucking bastard. Probably had a fretboard for a dick.
"Don't call me that." Sands wriggled away and whacked El a good one, which was a satisfying way to occupy a second of time. Even if his rational side was whispering that El probably had let Sands hit him. To hell with reason, anyway-hey. Hey, now. "Weird. It's not as bad."
El wasn't blocking out the screeching of the band anymore, but nevertheless, it seemed softer. Less obnoxious and less grating on Sands' nerves. That wasn't to say that it was all good, but it was considerably closer to that than it had been. "What the hell did you do?" he demanded, poking El in the chest.
His hand got snagged again, and before he knew enough to tear pretty S-curves in El's sides, he was being backed onto the crowded dancefloor. People with their limbs coming out of nowhere were sliding and hitting and brushing against him, and their goddamned chirpy voices were raking over his eardrums. Jerking him around, never letting him get a fix on his position, drowning him in the same chaos he used to fucking ride.
Then hands seized his hips, pulled him out of the sucking muck of confusion. And Sands knew where he was, who he was.
"Better?" El asked again, laugh coiling through his careful tone. He relentlessly hauled on Sands' wrists till Sands was holding onto broad flexing shoulders, then dropped his grip back to Sands' hips. Oh, now. Possessive Mexican shitwit.
But damn it all to hell-it did help. It pushed some little loose bit back into place in Sands' mind, and pressed down till the pain blotted out his uncertainty. He could actually relax now. Looking like a skinny declawed gringo-pet in a stupid baggy suit, probably, but he knew he still could draw blood, and El knew he could. That, he could work with.
Dancing was another story. "What are we doing? The Montana Boot Clomp?"
"No." El leaned down into Sands' throat once more, breath stirring sparks in the curl of Sands' ear. The other man stroked fingers up and down Sands' sides, making him sway in time to the beat, and pushed at his feet until, breath dragging out of his mouth in long pants, Sands finally started to get the hang of the movements.
Christ-fucking Judas. Sands clamped down on El's shoulders and shoved his face into that stupid goddamn undying heartbeat so El wouldn't see the flush scorching its way up Sands' cheeks. Lost and found. Ignorance and knowledge. Silence and sound.
It was the difference between noise and music-real music, the kind that blasted down lungs and slithered into marrow. Melodies that etched themselves into tongues long after their maker had met his end. It was the space between the self and the rest. It was the feel. The sense of where things were coming and how to shift them around.
It was hearing a single pure note in a cacophony of shrieking, and following it.
It was El.
Sands had gotten to keep his eyelids. Small mercies, chips off the old shit-block. He closed them, minute rasp over scar tissue, and listened.