|Mozo de Espada
Author: Guede Mazaka
“I can’t, I can’t…I’m so sorry, Danny, but I just…”
“Yes, you can. You can do this, Julian. I’m right here next to you…” Watching him tilt the rifle on its rack, his fingers settling around it with disturbing familiarity. Graceful? Yeah, about as graceful as a guy pouring his goddamn coffee into the same goddamn coffee mug he uses every goddamn day of his life.
Danny isn’t freaked out so much as seriously annoyed at this point. It’s like working his ass off for three years, watching his old colleagues go from fancy car to fancier car, only to have his whole life depend on a couple of guys in Mexico who all have the same stupid mustache and tailor, apparently. He likes his life to be organized, to be planned out and to go well. To be efficient. Which Julian’s not being.
“But you don’t know what I’m seeing! I’m—” Julian starts to straighten up again and Danny doesn’t even know what he’s doing anymore, except that he can’t get out of this stupid tower and back home to Bean, to his beautiful wife so they can say hi to their beautiful, dead son until Julian shoots…whoever the hell it is.
“It’s not real, Julian. It’s not real. You just have to remember that.” Frankly, Danny doesn’t even care anymore, it’s so weird. There’s just something otherworldly about Julian, something where what they do and say doesn’t have any impact on the real world, and then it does. It does and it echoes way down through time so now Danny’s talking a fucking hitman through a nervous collapse. This hadn’t been what he’d had in mind when he’d told himself he was going to be great at pitching, at selling people on ideas and dreams.
Julian bends down. His hands are shaking. His neck’s shaking, and he’s starting to jiggle his foot so his shoe rings against the metal wall, and oh, God, what if somebody hears them? “But it’s…what I’m seeing…look, you just have to—”
Danny stares at the shoe, at the scuffed-up dark leather and then he just can’t deal and he stomps down on it. And Julian, he jerks up with a hiss and Danny’s there, using his hand on the back of Julian’s neck to shove the other man back down. “It doesn’t matter, Julian.”
There’s this horrendous little sniffle: Julian’s crying again. He’s just so goddamned hopeless at this, at doing the tiniest little things so God, how the hell did he survive so long? “Danny…” he moans, one hand flapping convulsively behind himself. “But…”
“But you’re going—” Danny catches himself. He’s starting to yell again and he can’t do that. Somebody around here’s got to keep his goddamn cool and it looks like it’ll have to be him. He wishes it wasn’t, he wishes he could be having the nervous breakdown, but Julian’s counting on him and so he guesses that’s just goddamn it, isn’t it. He needs to talk lower, softer, like Julian’s a child. Which is more true than not. “But you’re going to do this, Julian. All you have to do. One last time.”
He grabs Julian’s hand, which has been batting at his pant-leg, and gently but firmly yanks it back to the rifle. He doesn’t know where it’s supposed to goddamn go so he lets go then, but Julian tries to reach for him again and he pushes the other man’s hand back down. Julian’s stopped sniffling, mostly, but occasionally his breath hitches.
Danny’s practically lying on top of the other man now, feeling Julian tremble, and it’s endearing and needy and so fucked-up Danny knows this one crosses the line for cocktail stories. He’s got to get Julian to do this, to put the seal on that strange, strange trip and its strange, strange nightcap where Julian did the oddest, best thing for Danny and now Danny owes the man. Not that that makes this any better.
“I can’t get a clear shot. The wind’s wrong; if I shoot, it’ll whip around and we’ll just have pissed all over ourselves,” Julian whimpers.
“Bullshit. You can get a clear shot. You have a clear shot. You just need to look, Julian. You’ve done this a million times—what difference does one more little itty-bitty time mean?” And also Danny needs to let go of Julian’s hand, but he’s not sure if Julian can take it. Jesus. The one time he doesn’t have to worry if he’s the one who’s gonna crumple and it’s up to this.
Jesus Christ, just let it be over with, he prays. Then he shakes his head, accidentally bumps into Julian’s hip so the other man sucks in his breath. He needs to concentrate on concrete things. Concrete things, small steps, rebuilding. He did it, for God’s sake, so Julian can do it. He’s pressing Julian’s hand, therefore Julian’s hand can’t move—all right, he loosens up a little and Julian’s all right. Loosens up a little more and Julian starts to pull away, so back with the pressure. Then loosens up again, maybe try sliding it a little and slowly, very slowly, Julian moves their hands down the rifle.
“All right,” Danny coos to Julian’s ear. He’s not telling Bean about this either. God, he loves that woman, and it’s not that he doesn’t trust her, but that some things just aren’t understandable unless you’re really there. “All right, just look in the—the scope. Look in there, and find him.”
Julian shakily bends over and does so, his ass suddenly in the cradle of Danny’s hips, and like that Danny’s thinking about a stark fluorescent lounge, like something out of a hazy college acid trip, and ‘cock’ floating out of Julian’s mouth. Offhandedly offensive, not really sexual, definitely bitter and kind of hurt at the same time. Something about it that Danny felt in his chest, and God knows what that might mean—
--it’s the anniversary of his son’s death, and God, the hole that’s still left in him—
--but not now, they’re trying to shoot someone here. Concrete things. Julian making those helpless little noises now, trembling so much he can’t keep his eye to the scope, and Danny leaning in closer, trying to brace the other man with his body. “See him, Julian? You see him? Him.”
Danny’s hand is curling around Julian’s neck, over stiff needling short hairs, and he stretches his thumb to rub over the uneven sandpaper of Julian’s stubble. The other man puts his eye to the scope again, at least trying to look, and Danny hugs his elbows around Julian, clamping them awkwardly about Julian’s ribs. But it seems to do Julian some good since now he’s not shaking so much except to nod. “See him.”
“Good…now just wait for the shot. It’s gonna come. It’ll come, so just be patient, just relax, just look at him. Him, Julian. It’s him.” The unpretty crooking of Julian’s fingers, the smooth warm steel of the rifle. The hairs on Julian’s arm catching on Danny’s nails. It’s a nice day, a lovely sky, and Julian’s shirt is pulling away beneath Danny’s hand. “Just get ready, because when you see the shot, you’re going to take it. You’re going to take the shot. You’ll get the shot, Julian. You understand?”
The smooth edge of the button, the indifferent bite of Julian’s zipper as Danny gets it open without looking. He can’t look, can he—doesn’t even know what he’s doing since it’s Julian and Julian never makes things straightforward. The warmth of Julian’s skin, the tangle of hair and the sluggish low throb of heat in what Danny puts his hand around once he’s slipped it into Julian’s pants. He’s too busy to think; he’s squinting into the crowd and picking out that blue coat, trying to will his focus into Julian’s mind. “All right, all right. It’s all going to be all right. Just one shot.”
Julian lets out another ragged, small noise and presses himself back into Danny, leaning hard but Danny’s got himself braced. They’re walking out of this, damn it, or Danny might just kill Julian himself.
“All right, see him? Is it him?”
“Yes…yes, it’s him,” Julian groans. He shifts, his arms and shoulders and head going down and tensing with a sureness that he’d been missing before. He knows what he’s seeing. His breath might be unsteady, but his arms aren’t and he’s waiting, coiled up against Danny instead of crumpled, but just in case Danny’s still got him. “All right, all right, all—”
Down below, the bell for the next race goes off. And beneath that, so soft Danny only can hear because he’s crammed up against Julian, is a relieved gasp from Julian. All the tension jerks out of the other man, and suddenly he’s slumped against Danny, sweaty and quivering, his damp nape beneath Danny’s mouth.
“There we go,” Danny mumbles, pushing back so Julian stays up. His hand when he pulls it out of Julian’s pants is wet and he absently rubs it against the wall. It’s all over, thank God. It’s done, and they’re out of here. “There. That wasn’t so bad, was it?”