|Restraint IV: Three Visions
Author: Guede Mazaka
There's an instant of panic when Sands wakes, and then the smells of sizzling meat and fresh coffee, and the sound of a low ballad being sung, stroke relief back into him. It hasn't been that long, after all, and he's still not used to the…the lack of effort that's needed, now. He's not come across smooth and easy in a long, long time.
His hands are still bound; the ties are only cheap cotton bandages, loosened by the night's rest, and Sands knows he could have them puddled on the floor in a heartbeat. But he decides to leave them on for a little while, feel their restriction as he feels the soft ache deep within him and the bruises dotting his body. They're proof, just as the guitar case into which he bumps when he sits up is irrevocable confirmation of El's presence. The mariachi's left the two things he can't live without on the same bed, and the realization slackens Sands' nerves. Even sparks a little curiosity; the American has heard the guitar, has seen it once, but has never touched it. El hadn't trusted the two parts to coexist peacefully before.
Sliding his ten fingers along the edge of the case, Sands undoes the latches and reverently lifts the lid, palms stroking over the velvet lining as his fingertips explore the instrument. Silky and cool, the wood quickly warms to touch. Surprisingly quickly: it's as if the guitar itself lives-no. It's as if it's an echo of its owner, sharp strings and elegant curves, hollow to the ordinary tapping, but resonant and rich to the initiated.
A plate clatters in the nearby kitchen, and Sands hastily moves on to the secret dips and recesses of the case. He finds a gun, a few ammunition cartridges, a few blades; most of the weapons nestle down in the other case, the one that always reposes on the floor, by El's side of the bed. And then his fingers slip into another pocket and graze thin, delicate metal and arcing plastic. He pulls them out just as footsteps enter.
Sands instantly freezes, head snapping up, the necklace that he knows instinctively was Carolina's dangling from his hands, and the sunglasses that he realizes were his hanging from two fingers.
"You want them back?" El's voice asks, mellow and honeyed gravel. Rough calluses lift the jewelry from the American's hands and tucks it securely away, and the mattress dips under the other man's weight. Breakfast has never smelt so good.
"I can't believe you kept these," Sands answers, turning the plastic over. Uncertainly, he slips them on, slowly recalling the feel, the weight of them. There's something that, in time, might develop into a full-blown chuckle, and El's fingers are suddenly following the line of the shades, brushing against Sands' hair and skin as they drift from earpiece to neck. "You almost look like before," the mariachi says, half-ironic and half-content. His hand falls to the binding on Sands' wrists. "Almost."
It's the work of a moment to lean forward and press against the thin, hard lips, dipping briefly into their simmering electricity. And it's not different at all from last night, despite the dig of the sunglasses' frames into the soft flesh of Sands' face.
The food is set to one side, and a second later, so are the shades. Both within easy reach, for when the morning ends and the day begins.
Sounding the Call
Lorenzo doesn't get it.
He doesn't really want to understand, anyway, but he's got a feeling that he should, and it irritates him. He's not even sure if he likes it or dislikes, or gives a damn about it, but he thinks, somehow, that he should have an opinion. And he's not drunk enough often enough to just share Fideo's.
It can wait, though. First things first, which means they need to get out of this slaughterhouse and on the road before the next cartel outpost calls and gets a dead line. Fideo's scavenging ammunition and guns and useful other things, so it falls to Lorenzo to track the other two men down and call them back. El was forever racing ahead, with Sands like a lethal shadow just behind him, and the other two mariachis had long since learned that it was best to just let things be, to sweep up the remainder from the wings and track down their friend afterward by blood and cordite.
As Lorenzo is doing now, retracing the pattern of catastrophe. Teeth here, bodily fluids there, stepping over a limb in the middle. Perhaps it's due to the staining gutter of his childhood, but all these things disturb him far less than the vivid re-enactment that filters into his mind: El blazing over the ground, scorching the earth, and Sands stalking nearby, pulverizing whatever remains dared not immediately fall to dust.
It's the American who makes him uneasy, Lorenzo knows. How one man can be so cold and still fight, shoot and whirl and snarl a chilling wind in the midst of the firestorm, Lorenzo can't begin to comprehend. And then the mariachi rounds the corner, head automatically turning to check the side, and the air almost melts the flesh from him.
Sands against the wall. Hands up, palms outstretched and outward as the wrists are clasped within one unbreakable grip. Mouth lipping air, seeding soundless whimpers in the suddenly heat-wavering space.
El swallowing the other man up with his bulk, pressing leanness into leanness. One shockingly gold-skinned hand emerging from the black rustle of clothing to splay across a glass-carved hip, fingers tracing the bunch and move of the muscles beneath as the dark head rhythmically nudges into the creamy throat, still curving pale despite the fierce Mexican sun.
Both men are bloody, and sweat-sodden, and as Lorenzo watches, his friend slides a thigh seamlessly into the two legs that part for it, and writhes gracefully forward, face finally unshading itself as El licks clean Sands' left cheek. The gesture is, impossibly, caring and brutal and final at all once. It's a statement in rock, words engraving themselves into the walls of life and death, disturbing and meaningful and never forgotten. It's a charcoal look, darted sideways while the violently pink tongue continues to map shivers. It's still blank flesh instead of rolling moist white and black and brown, half-hidden in trembling long fringes.
Slowly, silently, Lorenzo withdraws from the room. When he returns alone, Fideo merely nods and offers a hip flask. //Want any?//
Knocking aside the container, Lorenzo instead drops to his knee and drinks it straight from Fideo's mouth. //Later, when we find some girls.//
Girls are touchstones, reminders of the lands of milk and honey that lay behind them. Lorenzo can't live wholly in this stretch of ashes and desolate earth; he and Fideo aren't made of the same undying flame as their other two companions. And sometimes he wonders why he stays. But then, the sheer lightning in that look…
…he knows that after this, after taking his respite in the intoxicating humanity of his one friend, he'll come back to his other. He'll re-enter the desert, seek out the eyes of the storm. And he'll fight. For El. Because how could he not?
Fideo's never seen the point in celibacy. Or in monogamy, or in anything else that says, "Do not." In this haze of red and gray and scorching yellow, he simply fails to see the advantage in all of the wasted moments. So he takes his pleasure where he finds it, and if it always happens to lie below a shot of alcohol, then so be it. If its shade flutters over both the girls sashaying along the streets and the man slouching lank-loose beside him in the car, then he'll track his staggering steps after both. A bird in hand is worth nothing if the other man holds two pairs of beating wings.
As is typical, there are a few things-not one-that Fideo holds holy. His guitar. His guns. Those that he allows to call him a friend. And El.
He and the mariachi dozing in the backseat have something Fideo doesn't care to define as friendship, mainly because the word sings of peace and solidarity. Two illusions, shimmering up from the hard-baked ground in the fierce daylight. Peace is a moment of truth, no more. And solidarity? Even more fleeting. Maybe Fideo wasn't around to watch, but he can trace the scars as well as any other man, and he can find them in everything. Even in El, that supposed rock. The scars are why Fideo drinks to the third mariachi, and why he teases the second: Lorenzo, leaves twisting careless in the whirlwind.
Fideo glances into the rearview mirror, as if to confirm his thoughts. And time stops, letting him look.
El's not asleep, after all. His eyes are downturned, but open still, and full of flame and water. One hand wraps the slight form in his lap close to his chest, fingers playing up under the edges of the borrowed shirt as if the mariachi had turned the American into a guitar. And he has, in a way, Fideo recognizes. Lured the wild howl in and tuned its raw blades, shaped its curves to fit the new sunrise. El's other hand, his maimed one half-hidden in leather, rests easy in the grip of skinny ivory fingers, which rim the brace till it relaxes and slips down, letting Sands lift the hand and trace its brutal scar with a flickering tongue.
Something must have happened. Lorenzo shifting the seat springs, the engine coughing. Fideo doesn't think he's still capable of startling, but around El, only one thing stays certain: the man really knew how to play it. Guitar, gun, or, now, gringo.
Quickly lowering his gaze, Fideo catches only the sharp side of El's glance. He turns the wheel, directing his watch out onto the dusty town.
He's never seen the point. But that doesn't mean that he never wants to.