Chapter 1: Prologue: Recuerdos Y Resurreccion
|Current music:||white noise|
FIC: Recuerdos Y Resurreccion
Disclaimers: Rodriguez is the shit. I owe nada
Rating: Nc-17 It's Sands, after all.
Paring: leads up to El/Sands, no slash yet
Warning: HIGHLY DISTURBING content in places.
Summary: As the movie ends, Sands has to find his own way back. Introspection and the celebrations of Dia de los Muertos.
"See you around" Ramirez was walking away.
"Fuck off" he muttered, more to himself than Ramirez. He ached from head to toe.
He sagged against the wall, panting, dizzy and limp. His arm and leg throbbed and his head, well it was splitting open with pain.
"Esta bien?" the boy chirped from in front of him.
Am I okay? Asshole kid, do I look okay? I have a couple of bullets in me and I have no fucking eyes. Not to mention a perfectly good plan gone straight to hell in a handcart, thank you very much. No, I'm NOT fucking okay.
But he only gasped, "No se."
"You will be. Vamanos. A la casa." The kid's voice was unbearably cheerful.
He reached out and felt for the bike, the boy's hand warm against his on the rubber ends of the handlebars. He was limping and the pain was beginning to seep into his brain, paralysing coherent thought. He head was aching horribly and he knew he was going into shock. Next stop, convulsions and coma.
"Slow down. Please. Por favor." He struggled to choke out the words, his tongue strangling on itself. He forced himself to continue, one foot after another; one step, two steps, stumble. How much longer could this take?
He was starting to shake, biting down on it and swearing viciously under his breath, only half the words spilling out of his mouth.
"Aqui." The bike stopped and Chiclet took hold of his hand and he stumbled up a step, felt the cooler interior of a house and leaned against the doorframe, suddenly unsure if his legs would carry him further.
"Abuela?" The kid called out, releasing his hand and disappearing somewhere to his left. He turned his head in that direction tiredly. Christ, he was exhausted. The adrenaline that had been surging through him like a double-dose of crystal meth had faded to nothing. Nothing but the nagging suspicion that, back there, in the mess of the square, there were still a whole bunch of folks who would be very happy to pump another few bullets into him. Preferably between his eyes, or rather, he corrected himself sourly, where his eyes used to be.
Sands could hear a patter of rapid-fire Spanish as the kid sputtered out his story, the old woman's voice asking questions. He understood it all perfectly, but for some reason the words made no sense anymore. He slid down the smooth painted wood of the doorframe raggedly, his legs dropping out from under him as if they had disappeared along with his eyes.
"Oh Dios mio," The rough voice was just above him and he tilted his head up wearily. "Pobrecito." Equally rough hands hauled him to his feet and pulled him further into the coolness of the house. Adobe, he thought, has to be. Nothing else stays cools in this fucking Jiffy Bake oven of a country.
He leaned heavily on the broad, fleshy shoulder, one arm stretched out instinctively to feel his way and dropped into a hard chair, jarring his wounded leg badly, His face twisted.
She was muttering to herself, strong fingers poking at his arm, then turned and called out for the kid to fetch a doctor.
He couldn't help flinching at the thought. He'd had quite enough of doctors this day.
He could feel his lips quivering as she lifted the shades off his face, then almost laughed at the stream of curses she whispered. Her thick fingers were gentle against his cheek, then went away. They returned with a slosh of water in a bowl, a swipe of coolness on the heat of his face.
She worked the caked blood off his cheeks gently, and the water was chilly and his face was tipped up to hers, a bleeding santo like the ones prayed to in dusty niches in the church, tortured and transcendent.
"We heard about you." her voice was close, harsh as the Mexican sun and about as dry. "They said you were a tiger, un angel oscura. Cabrones!" She barked out a laugh. "Do they think this is Columbia?"
His smile was like the rictus of death. Yeah, Mamacita, you got that one right. Columbia, Argentina, Paraguay, any one of those Latin American shitholes that change governments like hookers change panties. Fucking skank whore of a country, fucking Mexico. I change the plans, change the rules, change...I change... he drifted in his darkness.
The pull of the dried blood on his face stung but it was nothing compared to the burn in his arm and his leg. His skin felt like fire and the water seemed to sizzle against it. He could smell the ever-present olla, bubbling away on the stove close by. They must be in the kitchen.
She was sitting close beside him. He could feel the press of ample hips against his, the warmth of her, a strange combination of smells; slightly dirty laundry, beans and flour, cordite. He sagged in the chair and she pulled his head down onto her shoulder, running the wet cloth over the back of his neck.
His cheek was pressed against something hard, lumpy. Cold. Her hands were petting his lank hair and he sighed softly. He thought of Ajedrez and nearly laughed. Mothers and whores, how fucking typical. Mexican fucking women. She was murmuring something, low in his ear and he reached up, fingers feeling their way to realise the hard lumps were bullets. Goddamn, the woman had bandeleros strapped across her chest. Ah, fucking Mexico. Damn fucking Mexico. Only here would he find a place to rest on a load of ammo that breathed prayers into his ears.
He must have drifted off, because she pulled him upright and said, "You must lie down."
There was another voice, a man, who said, "Get him onto the table. How many bullets? And, aiiee! What happened to his eyes?"
He slung off the shoulder holster, his left arm sending shockwaves to his brain. He shook his head. "No puedo." No, I fucking can't, I can do it. Nope, sweetheart, I can't.
Her fingers worked at the buttons of his vest, his shirt and he stood, swaying slightly, unable to bear the weight of his body on his leg. Another pair of hands was swiftly pulling away the gunbelt, pulling at his fly. He pitched forward and she held him up until the doctor had gotten his pants to his knees, then tipped him back onto something flat and hard. A table?
A layer of softness was thrown over his hips and his mouth twitched into a crooked grin. Christ, what I must look like. His left leg was covered in blood, he had felt it seeping down into his boots, squishing as he walked with Chiclet. His arm wasn't much better. So much for a good shirt.
Another round of quick talk, he couldn't follow it, his brain turning tired circles in his head. The crook of his right arm was being swabbed down.
"I'm putting him out. He won't be able to take it awake. I've got to check those eyes. "
He could hear the shudder in the man's voice. Ugly? Well, of course they're gonna be ugly, you stupid fuckmook. They got shredded out of the sockets while I fucking watched. At least as long as I could watch. He remembered the reverberation of his own scream in his ears as that fucking drill had bored down into his right eye, sending viscous fluid and blood flying all over his face. The repeat function was alive and well and the drill had been the last thing he ever saw or would see.
The stab of a needle in his arm made him hiss, then his stomach lurched and a wave belted him into the middle of next week. It was a high unlike anything he had ever felt, soothing away all the pain and sending him into orbit, better than an orgasm, better than the rush of killing, better than living. Morphine? It must have been. He faded into a rose-pink haze, lying naked on a kitchen table in a Mexican hovel, covered by a rough towel and a whole world of euphoria.
He opened his eyes and saw a blurred form above him. It backed away, clearing and focusing and he was watching himself, sitting beside him, elbows on the table, shaking his head under that fucking ridiculous hat and smirking.
"I leave you alone for a minute and look what happens. You're a fuckin' mess, man."
"Yeah, well, you weren't much help, were you? Aren't you the man with the plan? The big fucking kahuna?"
"Me, nah, baby. I just set the pieces in action and watch the dominoes fall. I told you she was trouble. Nice trouble. Really nice. Big tits, sharp nails, vicious. Just the way you like it."
"You're the one who wanted to fuck her."
"And you're the idiot who decided she was 'useful'. You should have just screwed her and left it at that."
It occurred to Sands that he was seeing himself. He was seeing and that should not be happening, but, at the moment, it didn't matter very much.
His other self lit a cigarette and shook his head. "You know, that 'I'm with Stupid' T-shirt says it all. You started thinking with me, that's your problem."
"Go fuck yourself."
"I don't think you're capable at the moment. Right now, the good doctor is digging some lead out of your arm."
"You know, I don't need this. I'm enjoying the high and however you may look at it, I don't find it amusing to be half-dead and talking to my dick!"
"It's your hallucination, sweetcheeks. You conjured it up, you put it back in its box."
"I don't think you'll be getting much action, asshole. I mean, who's gonna want an eyeless ex-spook except for a Halloween party?"
"Sweetie, I don't think it's possible for you to get a hard on right now. If it were, I wouldn't be here, wasting my time talking to you."
"Fuck off. Besides," he murmured dreamily, "I think I'm off women for the moment."
"Oh good. Something different, perhaps? Maybe that fucking Mariachi?" A grin, through a haze of smoke. "Those big hands all over you, a couple of fingers up your ass?"
Sands groaned. "Just shut the fuck up."
"Don't bet on that happening, amigo. You've got a hell of a set of cojones. And between the three of us, we're not gonna be very happy if you decide to deprive us. And, Angelface?"
He moaned again, something was happening to his face. "What? Get lost, I'm busy."
"Hell, I'm trying to keep your mind off it. What I was trying to say before you so rudely interrupted me, is that we're still here. And you are gonna have to make us happy."
"I am not hearing you."
The voice came at him from the other ear, his vision beginning to shade darker and darker until it disappeared entirely.
"Just think of all the new kinds of fun you can have."
He sank back into the blackness and was quiet as the grave.
Sands surfaced through a blue wave of drug-induced fog to the feel of wet. His hair was pulled back from his scalp, dripping into itself, plop, plop, plop. and hands were working their way through it, rough hands. Oh yeah, must be Mamacita, and what in hell was she doing? Washing it free of blood and sweat and dust? He was still lying on the table, still blind, still hurting in all sorts of ways but the pain was far away and he was floating in a morphine haze. Yup, they all were right. Best high in the world, better than sex.
She was singing softly as her hands moved in his thick mane, fingers gentle against his temples, wringing the long strands out into a basin, then rinsing it once again. The melody made him drowse and sigh, his senses on overload. She towelled it off and he heard her, as if in dream, murmuring prayers to saints never known to English ears. Smoke rose from the bowl she placed on the floor, through the drying mass of his hair: copal, the incense of the dead, rising around him like the breath of a thousand candles.
Whatever the fuck the crazy broad was doing, it felt good, and that was about all that mattered at the moment. Her hands were intimately familiar by now, lifting one arm, warm water, sluicing off the sweat of the day. He wanted to speak to her, but it was far too much trouble to open his mouth. It occurred to him dimly that she was washing his body as though preparing it for burial and that made him want to laugh. He was dead. He was dead and about to go down to hell in the ashes of Dia de los Muertos, along with all his contacts and information and schemes. And the funniest part was he didn't give a fuck about it at all. He would go to hell and shoot the shit outta Satan and love every second of the carnage.
The water left a shiver in its wake, raising gooseflesh on every exposed inch of him. He thought about Rachel, two years his junior and so alike they might have been twins, and wondered how many demons Hell assigns for pounding your little sister into the mattress, and why they all looked like fucking Mexicans. He wanted to laugh over that because goddamn it had always been the best with her nails tearing into his back, as vicious and twisted as he was, egging him on with her teeth and a mouth as filthy as a Times Square Saturday night, until they both were screaming. Not even Ajedrez could compare, and a Miss America parade of all the women he'd ever fucked moved in slow motion through his brain, yeah, and a few of the men, too.
A laugh bubbled up from somewhere deep inside his gut and he tumbled back into his cocoon of darkness.
He roused and it was night. The air was cooler and she was shaking him gently.
"It's time to go."
"Okay." Sure, whatever. She helped him sit up and he found he could, and didn't feel like laying down and dying of the pain. She handed him his pants, cleaned by the smell of them and mended--he could feel little lumps of stitches. She helped him get the bad leg through and he discovered that, yes, he could stand. Well, wasn't that just a whole barrelfull of monkeylove?
She slipped a shirt over his head, careful to guide his left arm and his fingers slid up the unfamiliar cotton. He grinned momentarily.
He could hear the smile in her voice. "Negro. Siempre negro para ti."
That made sense. Oh sure, lady. I'm gonna swelter in black in this fucking desert? Jesus H. Christ on a Criscraft. Mexicans. Then he remembered that it had been his idea. He reached out.
"Guns. My guns." She wrapped the gunbelt around his waist and helped him slip on the shoulder holster.
"Bonito." Her palm was rough against his cheek. Jesus, you are all out of your fucking minds, aren't you? And thank you very much because I am not going outside without at least one of these hand-cannons and you have a twisted idea of what's pretty, Mamacita.
Putting one foot after the other felt like walking on a carpet of clouds, especially since they were stuck into a pair of huaraches that were too big.
The rough hand squeezed his. "The cemetery, of course."
Of course. Find a nice open grave and toss me in it. Why not? My name is Sheldon Jeffrey Sands. I work for the C.I.A. My position here has been compromised. No doy! I work for the C.I.A., but I have the teensiest little suspicion I've been hung out to dry. Wonder how this one's gonna read in the files? Operative out of action due to thorough and completely unnecessary eye gouging. Fuck.
The boy's small hand slipped into his and between them, he limped on a path that felt like cotton candy, strewn with marigold petals. He couldn't for the life of him figure out why they were taking him to the cemetery when all he really wanted to do was lay back and float but they were Mexican. And that, gentle folks, is the name of a whole 'nother tune.
The ground was suddenly uneven and he half-heartedly tried to remember if he'd ever really seen the cemetery. There were two, the big one behind the church, all baroque monuments amid curling architecture. This must be the little one outside of town. He vaguely recalled it as a shabby plot of crabgrass pocked with wooden crosses. Oh yeah, there was one monument, a grotesque gothic angel, some nineteenth century horror stuck there to honour some long-forgotten bigshot.
He didn't need to see to know that the place was ablaze with candles. He could feel their heat around him. A breeze lifted his hair and he could smell the copal in it, a thick reminder that his Day of the Dead had not gone as planned. He could not wrap his brain around tomorrow. There was only tonight.
Bubblegum boy was tugging his hand and he allowed himself to be led, could feel, could smell the press of people around him. Mamacita had let go of his other hand and was chattering off to his left, then pulled him forward a few steps. His leg was starting to ache again.
"Mira," he heard her say, startlingly loud amid the whispers. "See, what they have done. And he still fought them."
Oh fucking hell, what am I some kinda mascot now? Culiacan's pet gringo? Why don't you run a big fucking flag up and advertise: here he is boys, come and get it?
Her voice went on, hard as nails, spitting out the kid's story. Oh, babycakes, you don't know the half of it.
If he hadn't been drifting on the lazy remains of the morphine, the dozens of hands touching him would have been completely disorienting, but the touches were feather light and almost comforting in a strange way, even the ones that strayed so close to his ruined eyes. He stood still, lost in his haze and wondered just how freakshow this gig was going to get, reminded that he didn't have his shades on and well, they weren't running screaming, so maybe what was left of his face wasn't that bad.
His arm gave a nasty twinge and he grimaced, and was led to one of those rounded adobe crypts that were always painted the most insane day-glow colours. He wondered whether this one was screaming yellow or petticoat pink.
"Por favor, sit. Rest." A girl's voice, her hand warm and dry against his as she pushed a glass into it. He raised it and sniffed. Tequila. Good, that he could definitely get behind. He drained it and reached out to hand it back, but she was gone.
He settled down, stretching out his aching leg, the other crooked, his good arm thrown round it, listening to the murmur of prayers ringed round with the copal smoke, the acrid smoke of torches, the smoke of soft waxy candles laid out around the graves. He felt in his pocket and was pleased to find his cigarettes. Good, I'll add a little smoke of my own, and maybe your God can choke on that.
El Mariachi had been more than a mile down the dusty road when he turned and headed back the way he had come. Some nagging instinct was pulling at him, making him need to see for himself la Noche after the carnage.
He rested for a while, hidden outside of Culiacan in a shadowy bar, waiting for darkness to fall, then headed back into the wartorn mess of the city. Just on the outskirts, he saw the blaze of candles in the cemetery that would hold so many more in the coming days. It was full of people, his people; the labourers and farmers, butchers and barkeeps who had risen like a sleeping dragon to erase the threat and had now retreated back to their world: the world of la Noche de los Muertos, where they gathered to anoint freshly decorated graves with tears and tales, with marigolds and the backlashed mourning that laughed at Death and made it a friend.
He strode down the little path, around huddled groups, praying and talking, acknowledged by many and ignoring them all.
He stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes transfixed and crossed himself rapidly.
Lounging on one of the adobe crypts, a cigarette drooping from one hand was Sands. By some trick of perspective, the stone angel's wings, flickering into ember glow by the light of so many hundreds of candles, stretched out on either side of him, and he turned his face, staring with uncanny accuracy through great empty holes where his eyes should have been, like Satan himself, watching the fun with eyeless amusement.
El Mariachi took a jangling step forward, his breath hitching in his chest. The agent had a gun idle in his right hand, lips parted and breathing smoke. He smelled of copal, his dark hair haloed in the orange light.
He stared into the blank holes, his stomach skipping, then his eye traveled down to those rose-petal lips, the colour of a blonde woman's nipples, senuous and soft. He fought back an insane urge to kiss them, to seal the bargain, break the vow and surrender his soul to the Devil once and for all.
The tempting mouth curved into a smile.
"Are you still standing?"
Chapter 2: FIC: El Aquila Y La Serpiente
Sequel to Recuerdos Y Resurreccion. El has a problem
The piece Sands plays is Chopin's Ballade #l in G Minor
|Current music:||Helene Grimaud|
FIC: El Aquila Y La Serpiente
PART ONE: El Que No Puede Llorar
DISCLAIMER: Rodriguez is god. I own dirty socks and a cat.
RATING: R for language
SUMMARY: Sequel to Recuerdos Y Resurreccion. El has a problem
This is a different take on the Sands/El relationship just after Dia de los Muertos...be patient with me. It may seem soft, but there will be fireworks later.
Hugs to all
El águila y la serpiente
Él que no puede llorar part l
El Mariachi was convinced he was going mad. Poison, leeching out of the twisted mind he coveted, was coating him inside with a thick film of black ooze that made his skin crawl with self-loathing.
There would be no more dead lovers in his arms.
It was nearly December, and he watched patiently as the doctor changed the bandages on Sands' ruined eyes and loaded him up with another dose of morphine. For the better part of the three weeks since Dia de los Muertos, the agent had been completely out of it, floating in his own world of opiated dreams.
El wondered what those dreams could possibly be and if Sands could see in them.
Sands was rarely lucid for very long, and when he was, he was vitriolic as ever, spitting caustic comments out with a sneering smile and a laugh that bordered on hysteria.
El thought he was never more beautiful than when he was spewing his poison, tearing the heart out of a world that had so cruelly maimed him. The image of Sands lolling on that tomb, his face like a brand, glowing between stone wings of flame was fixed in his memory. It haunted him, taunted him, dared him to dive into insanity with a single, tempting smile.
He could not shake the thought that he was falling, caught in those deceptively slender arms, being carried down to hell by a disfigured Lucifer who dared heaven with smiles and sneers and a diamond-hard soul of ice.
El Rey del Hielo. The king of ice.
El dropped his head into his hands and sighed. He was no longer empty inside, longing for Carolina, for his lost child, for revenge.
He was in love.
El strummed the guitar softly, watching the bed and its occupant from beneath his lashes.
The boy, Chiclet Sands called him, was holding one outstretched hand in both his small ones, petting the long fingers gently. One of them moved, twitched, then reached around to clasp the small wrist, tapped it softly, then fell away again.
A white fire started somewhere within the watching musician and he ducked under his hair to hide his burning face.
He was jealous of an adoring child who somehow had gained the right to caress where he himself could not.
The shame was choking him. He put the guitar down and walked swiftly out of the room, unable to watch anymore.
He walked fast, stomping down the dust in the little path that ran between parched fields.
It had been too dangerous for both he and Sands to remain in Culiacan. Chiclet's abuela had smuggled them both out of town in a truckful of half-dead produce to her sister's farm, far out in the countryside. It was quiet and peaceful to the point of comatose, but safe.
The doctor visited once a day on the excuse that Marta was old and had a heart condition and no other relatives closeby. He left disposable syringes, filled with the drugs that kept Sands from losing whatever mind he had left with the pain. He provided ointments and bandages and showed El how to clean out those torn sockets, how to find a non-collapsed vein and send him back to dreamland.
Those were the only times he dared to touch the wounded man, but they were
the highlights of his day, when he could trace his fingers over the expressive brows, run calloused pads whisper-soft into the miserable mess of his eyes, brush back the dark hair that still smelled of copal.
His tenderness was generally rewarded with another round of vicious abuse, but he didn't care. He told himself it was the pain as he swabbed up the thin arm but he knew it was not.
He was in love with a monster.
And the monster, most definitely, did not love him back.
When had he started to love?
He remembered the walk back from the graveyard on La Noche, when Sands had finally collapsed as the morphine wore off and pain and blood loss took their toll on him. He remembered how he had gathered up the slight body and carried him back to Chiclet's abuela's house, how they had been accompanied in solemn procession.
Damn it all to hell, they thought Sands was a hero, a martyr for Mexico. They touched him like some chingado santo, lit candles for him, prayed for him.
The one who set the entire sorry mess in motion and had looked to fly away, a bird of paradise on stolen wings. Well, he would look no more and the wings had fluttered off into a blood-stained street, a guitar case and Fideo's pants.
It still made El's blood boil.
But something happened when he had lifted Sands, the dark head drooping over his arm, bloody bandages pressed tight into ruined sockets.
Such a curious feeling of protectiveness, no, of possessiveness had crashed over him like a black wave so hard he had stumbled into the house, clutching his burden to him until they pulled him away. He had almost snarled with fury as they took Sands to the back room and he followed, dizzy with the venomous infection just touching the man had inflicted. Contagious. His poison was contagion itself and El would never be free of it.
He turned around and trudged back to the farmhouse.
The boy was out in the back, throwing rocks at the hens. El shook his head and wondered if he, too, was infected, striding into the house to treasure moments alone, watching.
Sands was still on the nod, pale and limp beneath the sheet. El sat down on the bed beside him and reached out a trembling hand, fingers wavering timid over the still face. Maimed, too-thin from weeks of drugs and pain, he was undeniably the most beautiful man El had ever seen. Perhaps, El thought, he was more beautiful now, without the pitiless depths of the dark eyes that had watched him with sardonic amusement across the table of a wretched cafe in Culiacan.
He touched one cheekbone gently, curving his hand to travel down the hollow, around the chin, then up to circle the exquisite mouth, pouting, even in slumber. The lips were soft, softer than he would have imagined and he held his breath, daring to bend in close, to brush his own in a quivering touch against them.
"Are you having a good time, you fucking miserable cocksucker?"
El jumped back so fast he overturned the chair Chiclet kept near the bed.
"What? Couldn't you tell? And just exactly what the fuck were you doing?"
El stammered but did not answer. He could still taste the lips that were now twisted into a cruel smile.
"If you're planning on giving me the kiss of life, jingle-pants, you'll have to do better than that."
Sands' laughter followed him down the hallway.
Another three weeks and the doctor was weaning him off the morphine. It made him even more bad-tempered and foul-mouthed, if that could be at all possible. Only Chiclet seemed to be exempted from Sands' sulphuric commentary. El was hard-pressed to understand how he could bear the tirades of invective hurled at him at least once a day. Yet, to his ears, each insult, each vicious slur was a note, a note of crystal clarity, pure and whiter than snow in its purity.
He knew he was too far gone to ever turn back when a thrill of jubilation shot straight up his spine the day Chiclet reluctantly left to go home. They were alone, except for Marta, who was fairly deaf and the doctor, who dropped by less and less.
Sands was on the mend.
He was able to stand, to walk around and feeling his way, had managed, in only a day, to memorise the layout of the house. El wondered about his memory, if it was as razor sharp as the remarks that spilled from those beautiful lips. He wondered if Sands remembered everything since Day of the Dead, if he remembered Day of the Dead at all. He didn't dare to ask.
He was treading cautiously around the object of his affection, biding his time. He could be patient.
That was remarkable because El had never been a patient man. He was a man of action, reduced to stillness. He played his guitar, listened to Sands' venomous bile and Marta's snores and waited.
Sometime after Christmas, El knew they would have to leave. It was not fair to squat in this place, using old Marta as a shield. Sands' acidly agreed with him.
"Hiding in plain sight? Hmmm?" he laughed. "And just where are we going, fuckhead? Since when is this a 'we' situation?"
"You cannot travel alone." El was busy with the bandages over the healing sockets. The ugliness and horror of them was sickening, but his hands were gentle, craving the slightest excuse to touch. "Stop laughing. I don't want to hurt you."
He smiled crookedly and was silent as El finished replacing the gauze that hid the horror from sight but never from mind. Sands leaned forward, dark hair swinging close to his cheeks and whispered, "Don't you just love doing that? Is that what made you come shooting out of the closet?"
The low laugh in his ear haunted El for days after.
They picked up a ride south, heading out of Sinaloa towards Mexico City. Sands was still limping, more fragile than he would ever admit, and each day exhausted him to silence. El found he missed the nasty comments but enjoyed the chance to simply watch and be while Sands slept. His face slack, lips parted, curled on one side, he looked like a tortured angel, cast down from heaven.
El wanted to pull off the bandages and weep healing tears into those ruined holes. He contented himself with playing the guitar and tried to make himself think about Carolina, of all he had lost. He was trying to find the empty holes in himself, but they had been filled and he was helpless to drain them again. They were full of dreams in which he could wrench a single kind word or gesture from one who was completely devoid of compassion for himself or anyone else. The icicle walls around Sands were a fortress and he was determined to melt them, no matter what it took.
They stayed in a string of wretched hotel rooms until they reached Mexico City.
Sands absolutely balked at another ratshit hovel.
"Fucking no! I won't. I'm not going to creep around with my tail between my legs, even if that's all you've got between yours, asshole. Now find me a phone."
El guided him to a phonebooth, and watched the long, delicate fingers play over the keypad the way his own plucked at the guitar strings. There were an awful lot of numbers being punched in and Sands was smirking when he hit the pound key and punched in another series of numbers.
"What? What are you doing?"
"Shut the fuck up, " he snapped and continued with another round of digits. Finally, he hung up the phone and smiled brightly.
"Where is the Banco Nacional?"
El shrugged. "I don't know. I've only been here once."
"Well, find it. We're going to make a withdrawal."
"Jesus, can't you stop being such a fucking nuisance for just one moment and find the goddamn fucking bank?"
El held his peace and quietly asked a passerby.
Sands calmly walked into the lobby and let El's whispered directions guide him to the manager's desk.
He cooly sat down and smiled and proceeded to converse with the small, nervous man behind the desk in absolutely perfect Spanish. El felt as though a hole had opened up under his feet. He had known that Sands could understand the language, had imagined that he could probably speak some, but this was more than perfect. It was the voice of a native, without flaw or lapse anywhere.
It took about an hour, but they walked out of the bank with ten-thousand American dollars converted to pesos.
El was out of his depth entirely. He could not even begin to imagine what dark magic Sands had used to get so much money, or what ID he had used. He had been too profoundly shocked by the agent's linguistic acrobatics to pay attention to the signature or how he had known exactly where to sign the documents.
Once outside, El realised he had been holding his breath for what felt like the entire hour.
"Now we find a decent hotel. Nothing fancy. And nothing touristy. Savvy?"
Sands stretched out on the sofa of their hotel room, still smirking in that amused, irritating manner. It didn't hide the fact that he was exhausted. He had taken off the sunglasses with a sigh of relief. The bandages over his eyes were damp with sweat.
"I should change those." El's fingers itched for just a touch, just a moment to get close enough to breathe in the scent of him.
"You should go down to the fucking bar and get a bottle of tequila and about half-a-dozen limes." Sands retorted, pushing his hair back with one hand and digging in his shirt pocket for a cigarette.
El lit it and picked up the money Sands had tossed onto the table, his chains jingling as he walked across the carpet.
"Fucking Jesus Christ, you sound like one of Santa's reindeer." Sands called after him, chuckling.
When El came back, the cigarette had burned itself down to the filter in the ashtray perched on Sands' chest. He was asleep, his face taut and drawn with pain.
El gently pulled the ashtray away and smoothed back the dark hair. It was lank and needed a wash, and that would mean another battle. Sands always fought him but he could not do it himself, not while those wounds were still healing.
El sighed, opened the bottle and took a long swallow. He knew he should wake Sands to change those bandages and make him take the pills the doctor had given him. He was too tired and he dozed off in the chair next to the sofa, his fingertips just brushing the strands of Sands' hair.
He got his fight the next morning.
Sands had risen and got himself into the bathroom, tried to shower himself and slipped, taking the curtain down with him, moaning as the water spilled over him, naked and shaking with pain and rage, his fingers tearing holes in the thin plastic. El had hoped the jar of the fall would make him docile, hurting too much to fight, but fight, he did, like an animal, the fury breaking through his careful facade like a wave. El held the slender wrists in a bruising grip and wondered if the same wave would come crashing over his own head and drown them both.
Of course, along with the tantrum came a tsunami of curses, couched in poetic gutter slang in a range of languages that would have made him freeze except he was trying hard not to let the flailing blows get too close.
It took an hour to calm the man down enough to refill the tub and settle him in it. Sands sullenly allowed him to take care of his eyes, and check on the pink puckered scars left by the bullets in his arm and leg.
Somewhere in El's mind, he knew that it was not rational, but it had been a glorious morning. He had more than two hour's worth of touch, some of it harsh, but at least his fingers had the satisfaction of skin on skin, of running through the long hair and caressing, ever so gently, the warm back of Sands' neck. He had leaned in, his whole body aching and longing, pressed just a little too close, his lips drinking the droplets from the wet hair.
Sands' shoulders shook slightly and for one terrible moment, El thought he was crying. Trying to cry.
The snicker reached his ears dimly, along with a murmured "Maricon."
But he didn't pull away.
At lunch, El finally dug around in his psyche and found enough courage to ask, "You speak Spanish like a native. How is that?"
Sands laughed softly, spearing a strawberry with his fork and bringing it to his lips. They curved around the fruit provocatively, a flash of white teeth as they sank into the ruby flesh. El's eyes followed the movement of his throat as he swallowed.
"Hmmm...how is that? Well, you didn't think the Agency fuckheads would send me down here if I couldn't, did you? Jesus, El."
"Why did you want to come here?"
"Gee, you're just all kinds of talkative today. Because, beaner-boy, the cartels don't make waves in big cities. Too conspicuous. And I need to find out what the Cleavage Inspectors mean to do about me."
The thought struck El like a blow. What would the Agency do about Sands? Did they know the extent of his dirty dealing? Would they just want to talk? Or was he a big black blot on their Latin American records? His lips thinned.
"I won't let them take you."
Sands laughed again. "Que es mas macho!"
El watched him delicately pick at the fruit on his plate. He wasn't eating much and that was worrisome. Worse, every tourist around them had become a potential enemy and his eyes darted around the cafe restlessly.
"Oh for fuck's sake, calm down. No one's going to stick a gun in my face and drag me off into the sunset. Not here. Might ruin the tourist business." Sands slid a slice of peach between his lips. He swallowed and grinned. "You're clenching your fists."
El fought to keep his voice steady. "How do you know that?"
"Because, my big Mexican hero, you're shaking the table."
El watched him lick the peach juice off his lips and his entire insides turned upside-down and ached.
Sands leaned his elbows on the table and the reflection of the sun off his shades was black blindness.
"And listen, sweetie-pie. I want my goddamn guns back."
El shook his head.
"No? Well, then I'll have to use one of yours."
There was a poke at his leg under the table. Sands had the silenced .45 pressed against his thigh.
"I generally don't like borrowing, but lately I've been in the market, so beggars can't be choosers."
Cursing himself for forgetting just how dangerous this man could be, El sighed and nodded.
"Si, si...alright. They're in the case with mine."
Sands sat back. "I know. I wondered how long you were gonna keep teasing me. Now, we have a late dinner date tonight at a place called El Gato Azul."
They never made that date. After lunch, Sands had been content to sit and smoke quietly in the lobby. El watched him with worried eyes. He was pale and it was all too clear when a wave of pain made his face twitch and his breath shudder. It was, of course, better that he stay down here than be up in the room, rummaging through that case of guns, so El left him in peace.
Sands got restless after an hour or so and cautiously prowled the empty lobby, slowly working his way around it, fingers trailing over chairbacks, knees resting momentarily against a table to gauge its location. El watched him, fascinated at how carefully he managed to maintain the illusion of sight and still feel his way. He walked towards the far corner and stopped.
"El?" Sands voice was soft.
El was at his side in two strides. "What? What is it?"
"What is this?"
El breathed out his relief. "A piano."
"Really." Sands' brow knit into a frown for a moment, then he slid himself onto the bench and opened it, rubbing the dust between his fingers, then splaying them over the keyboard, hitting a few soft notes.
El leaned into the graceful curve of the instrument. "Do you play?"
Sands smirked and flexed his hands, then ran a long arpeggio, his fingers light on the keys.
Another arpeggio, then a glissando and then, suddenly, a crashing chord followed by a soft passage, another chord and El held his breath. The music abruptly stopped.
Then it began again, a low chord, then a soft run of notes that melded into a dark, aching melody that grabbed at his heart, the bass taking up the tune and delivering it back to the treble in a cadenza that coalesced into an ever-increasing frenzy of notes that crashed out of the old instrument like waves.
The song turned from minor to major like sunlight breaking through a bank of clouds, the sounds so soft, so tender and Sands' fingers danced over the keys effortlessly as the first theme repeated and grew, back to the minor key, building to a heart-wrenching climax. His hands moved on the keyboard like magic, so fast, one over another, up and down in a rainshower of sound that melted back to the main theme, then built once more as the single notes became chords, his left hand rolling the bass lines like an undertow.
The theme again, that sweet, sad song pushed into a frenetic cascade of notes more manic and tortured with every passage as his fingers flew over the keys.
A wild, dissonant run from bass to treble, treble to bass and the piece ended in a series of dark chords, like the tolling of a funeral bell.
This was music unlike anything the Mariachi had ever heard. He knew it was some classic, but never had he heard such sounds that poured from the instrument like an ocean, reaching under his ribs and tearing at his heart with elusive fingers as fine and delicate as the ones that rested now idle on the keyboard.
"What was that?" El whispered.
Sands' face was hidden by his hair. "Chopin."
His hands wandered over the keyboard now, picking out a few bars of a melody, then another. His face was white and he suddenly pulled his hands away as if they had been burnt and closed the keyboard.
He stood up quickly, then sat down again even faster. His face had gone a deathly grey.
El reached out cautiously. "Let's go back upstairs. You need to rest."
Sands seemed so shaken he only nodded and let El take his arm to guide him up the stairs. He forestalled any possible conversation by throwing himself on the bed and rolling over.
El spent the rest of the afternoon mulling over the agony in Sands' face as his body moved with his hands on the piano, the terrible, concentrated anguish that had poured out through the music.
It overshadowed everything, even the tormenting memory of his nudity in the bath. Those eight or nine minutes of musical revelation had been pure passion; searing, brilliant, and aching with despair. It was a glimpse, a way to look into his soul, even now that the windows had been shut forever.
El watched him sleep long into the night and knew then, that he had finally found a crack in the ice.
FIN PART ONE
NOTE: The piece Sands plays is Chopin's Ballade #l in G Minor
Chapter 3: FIC: El Aquila Y La Serpiente Ch. 2: El Rey del Hielo
The classical pieces Sands plays are: piano trans. of Sibelius' Valse Triste, Chopin's Nocturne #13 in C minor, Ernesto Lecuona's Malaguena from the Suite Espagnole "Andalucia" and Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# Minor. The ragtime is snippets of Scott Joplin, various pieces. The song he's singing as he loads his guns is "I'd Be Surprisingly Good for You", from "Evita" by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber. And, of course, his twisted revision of Rogers and Hammerstein's "Some Enchanted Evening" from "South Pacific".
|Current music:||Ed Wood on the tv behind me|
FIC: El Aquila Y La Serpiente Ch. 2: El Rey del Hielo
DISCLAIMER: Rodgriguez is God. I own a piano with broken strings.
RATING: NC-17 muy
WARNINGS: foul language, angst, lethal force, drag queens, violent sex
El is in over his head.
El Aquila Y La Serpiente
ch. 2 El Rey del Hielo
The next morning, El noticed that the piano in the lobby was dusted and a lamp had been set closeby. Sands never mentioned it, if he was indeed aware at all. For the next three days, he disappeared into his music for hours at a time and refused to even talk. The crack in the ice had become a gaping hole under El's feet and he was falling into bitter waters with no hope of rescue.
El watched the maids cluster in the doorway of the lobby, listening; the desk clerk, pausing mid-stroke in his accounts and, for the first time in his life, he hated music. It had always been his retreat and his friend. Now it was an enemy, a rival. He could not compete with the hands of a master and he felt as though his own fingers had betrayed him.
El was dying inside. He was furious, with Sands, with himself, with the whole world that seemed to go completely insane every time he looked at that marred, beautiful face.
He determined he would leave. He would go back to his little village and forget the dark angel tangled in his thoughts. Silently, he packed his case and silently, Sands sat, smoking. El stalked to the door and turned.
"So I heard. You'd better have left me my guns, fuckmook."
"On the chair."
Sands breathed out another plume of smoke that curled around him like the candle smoke on La Noche and El paused, remembering the flaming wings, Sands collapsed helplessly in the tub, the bullet wounds in that thin arm, the thrashing pain and hopelessness of the music.
Sands' lips curved into a smile.
"Have a good trip. Don't forget to write."
El slammed the door behind him and stomped down the stairs, but he lingered in the lobby, silent, waiting.
Sure enough, Sands did appear some twenty minutes later, feeling his way across the floor in a careful manner that said he did not trust housekeeping not to move the furniture. He found the piano and sat down.
The music was tragic, so sad and full of such longing that El nearly bolted from the room. A waltz, yes, but so miserable a waltz, never meant for dancing. Then it went blacker still, a song of endless night and darkness so bleak that he could not bring himself to move. He was enveloped in a tenebrae of timbre and theme.
He thought of the pile of fresh bandages, the ointment still needed to keep the scar tissue supple, the pain that still reflected across Sands' face as he played.
He got up to leave, heading towards the back door as quietly as he could when the music changed. It became a soft melody, one he recognised instantly.
He felt his chest constrict, listening to the familiar slow crescendo that exploded into a hailstorm of crystalline sound that pierced through him like a thousand tiny bullets. He sank into a shadowed corner and gnawed on his lip, his fingers itching.
He didn't know if he wanted to kill Sands or himself. It simply was impossible to walk away with that song in his ears, a betrayal of all he held dear being played by this tormenting demon who had corked up the holes in his heart and worked some evil spell that kept him rooted to the spot with his pain and his brilliance.
The biting, sharp chords of the end of the piece echoed softly and El was startled to hear one pair of hands applauding.
Ramirez walked across the carpet and stood in the curve of the instrument, watching the light that reflected black off Sands' shades.
"If Barillo had known you could play like that, he would have cut off your fingers."
Sands did not start and El marveled at the man's self composure.
"Why, Jorge. How nice of you to drop by." He smirked, fingers toying with the keys.
"Or deafened you."
Sands struck the first sonorous chords of Beethoven's fifth. "Didn't stop old Ludwig, did it?" He laughed mirthlessly.
"You have been followed."
"So it would seem." Sands' hands seemed to move on their own, apart from him and his conversation, striking up a bit of ragtime.
"I followed them."
"That was you? Oh, now that's just peachy."
"It's not you they want. The cartel is in a shambles, but no one blames you for Ajedrez."
"Senorita Barillo? Well, that's white of them." He played a few bars of 'The Lady in Red'.
"They wouldn't have worked under her anyway. And if a woman does what she did to you..."
Sands barked out a laugh. "Oh yes, us guys have to stick together."
Ramirez leaned over the piano. "It's the mariachi they want."
Sands started to play again, 'Home on the Range'. "He's gone home to mother."
"Gee, Jorge. Don't I get to join the popularity club?"
The ragtime resumed.
"I'm serious, Sands. There is a war brewing between at least three factions in the cartel, but it will be over soon. They don't want the Colombians coming in and taking over."
Sands just smirked and started 'Give My Regards to Broadway'.
"If you know where the mariachi is, tell him to get out of Mexico. I am, tonight."
"Aww, and I was so looking forward to a nice long visit. Why are you telling me this?"
"Because you will get yourself killed. Call it interagency cooperation."
Sands just laughed. "I'll get you my pretty. And your little dog too!"
He launched into the Wicked Witch of the West's theme, stopped, then started the ragtime again.
Dimly, El realised that Sands had kept playing to mask the conversation. It was only because he was sitting against the wall behind them that he could hear it at all.
"El, honey. Why don't you come out of your corner? You've been punished enough." Sands' mocking voice was silky.
His face burned. He should have known that there was no way he could hide from Sands, blind or not. He came around the corner and into the light.
Sands laughed and started 'Three Little Maids from School'. "Now, isn't this fun? A reunion? Do I get to talk to all those old classmates I wanted to kill in 8th grade?"
"You are not safe anywhere. And I don't want to be anywhere near either of you." Ramirez sounded disgusted, though his face did not change.
Sands launched into 'Baby Bye-bye'. "Then why don't you fuck off, Jorge. You know as well as I do that Mexico City has a shiny big sign over it that says No Man's Land. Or is that Sanctuary? Maybe if I had a hump..." his low laughter throbbed in time to the chirpy tune.
"I just wanted to warn you."
"You're both so protective! I feel loved." Sands face went very still. "How many?"
"At least four. Two teams."
Suddenly, Sands pounded a chord. It was the end of the conversation. He kept playing, deep dark chords that warned of loss and anguish.
"Go on, Jorge. Get out of here."
El watched Ramirez shake his head and stride out of the lobby. The piano sang its black song as he tiredly collected his guitar case and trudged back up the stairs to the room.
He sat on the bed, his aching head in his hands and wanted to cry.
He wanted to scream, to break something, to shoot someone. To shoot Sands, still sitting at the piano with fingers that wove dark magic and stole away his every resolve.
He felt no fear for himself. He had been hunted for so long that the predator-prey seesaw was a way of life. But he was putting Sands in danger and that made his belly clench ice-cold. His imagination was running riot with gruesome images as it had never done in the past, even in the bleak days after Carolina's death.
His eyes searched the carpet as if it might have the answers to his tumbled thoughts and he saw something half under the bed. Idly, he bent down and picked it up: Sands' belt, black, supple leather. He twisted it in his hands, lost in the chasm of his own mind.
His fingers brushed against something flexible and white, poking out of a hidden pocket on the inside and he drew out a strip of photos, the kind spewed out of curtained carnival booths. Curious, he dug into the small slit and found a piece of yellowing newspaper. It was a grainy photograph of a much younger Sands seated at a grand piano, beside a young woman whose face was indistinct behind a violin bow. They were both in evening dress. There was no date and only half an advertisement for a play on the back.
He picked up the strip and again, saw a young Sands. The first photo was of him with a dark-haired girl in a silly hat perched on his lap, her face hidden in his neck, fists clenched in the air, his fingers wrapped around her wrists, eyes fixed on the lens over her shoulder.
The next made El gasp. She was still on his lap, but had turned to make a face at the camera and it was Sands in duplicate: the same lips, the dark eyes. Her face was softer, the chin rounder, but the likeness was uncanny, their heads cocked together, dark hair intermingling.
The next shot, his chin rested atop her sleek hair, the hat pulled low on his forehead and they were both laughing. It made El smile and ache. He had never seen Sands laugh as he must have been laughing in that far-away place, all open-mouthed and dancing eyes.
The last one made his fingers begin to tremble. The two were forehead to forehead in profile, lips parted, just barely touching, staring deep into one another's eyes as though unaware of the camera. The mirroring image of them was profoundly disturbing.
El turned over the strip to read the faded scrawl on the back. "with Rachel, Santa Cruz, l988."
He had never imagined Sands having a family at all. It seemed to El that he must have been spewed straight out of hell fully grown. How strange to think of him as a young man, making faces in a booth with his sibling.
He stared again at the brittle newsprint and realised that the girl with the violin, again, was this sister. The picture was too small to see any expression on Sands' face as he looked up at her, hands poised on the keyboard.
El tucked them both back into the hidden pocket, pausing to look at that last strip photo again.
He sat still, trying to sort out why the pictures made him feel so unsettled, and nearly jumped when he heard Sands say, "Done running away from home?"
He hadn't heard Sands come in at all and guilt rose up in him like a flame. He put the belt down on the bed.
Sands head moved with the sound and his face took on that grim stillness he had seen earlier with Ramirez.
"What are you doing?"
"Nothing. Picking up." El sounded lame, even to his own ears and he cursed Sands to a thousand hells for making him feel such a fool.
Sands strode over to the sofa and threw himself down, laughing as he lit a cigarette, careful to gauge the end and not burn his fingers.
The laugh did not hide the steel set of his jaw.
El watched him smoke in silence, then light another cigarette from the spent one.
"I think I need a night out."
El Gato Azul was certainly blue enough, a dark, mysterious blue that can only be found on theatrical lighting boards and smokey clubs of questionable repute. This place was more than questionable, it was downright shady, for all its elegant Art Deco trappings, tucked away on a side street in a not-so-fashionable neighborhood.
Sands had evidently arranged for a cab at the front desk, because it was waiting for them at precisely ten out front, nor was he taking any chances.
El had watched Sands in the room from under his lashes, a million questions stilled in his mind, as Sands quickly and efficiently loaded the .22 and the .45, humming to himself.
Softly, almost under his breath, he began to sing.
"I'm not talking of a hurried night, a frantic tumble and a shy goodbye."
click-click-click as the bullets slipped into the cartridge.
"Creeping home before it gets too light. That's not the reason that I caught your eye."
Snap. The cartridge slammed into the .45
"Which has to imply, I'd be good for you."
Sands grinned. "I'd be surprisingly good for you."
He slipped the .45 in his inside jacket pocket, making sure the silencer was screwed on tight, and El blushed to watch him stash the .22 in his fly. His movements were as fluid and mechanically perfect as his fingers on the keys.
In the cab, Sands had leaned close to El, making his pulse begin to race as he breathed in the scent of his hair and skin, and whispered, "Rear view mirror."
El checked and shook his head. "No. Nothing."
Sands' mouth quirked into that crooked half-smile.
Sands told the driver to drop them off a few blocks away from the address he had given. El, still pressed too close for comfort, could feel the electricity pouring off the slender body and it jangled his nerves. He reached one hand around his own forearm, making sure his guns were in place.
Once on the street, Sands paused momentarily. "There should be an alley to your right, " he murmured.
"Good. Turn there."
El's heartbeat was beginning to race but they walked steadily.
Sands' face was eerie in the shadow-bisected light that reflected a golden glow off the black shades. He slowed a little, then continued walking, quickening his pace and El followed his lead.
Quick as a striking snake, Sands whirled around, dropped to a crouch and fired. There was a grunt, then a low cry, a shuffle in the gravel.
The guns slid down into El's hands, but they were not necessary. Sands had fired once more, a mournful little puff of a sound, and the second man shadowing them collapsed.
Sands straightened up. "Two for one. Aisle three." he muttered, then turned to El. "Dumpster?"
El looked around. "Yes. About 20 yards to your left."
Sands prowled his way back up the alley to where the two men lay sprawled. "Um. A little help, Sancho."
Together they dumped the bodies into the dumpster and El eased the lid down. "I thought you said..."
Sands' lip curled. "It would have been except for Ramirez' little visit. They were somewhere in the back of the lobby."
"How do you know that?"
Sands grinned. "Too much aftershave."
He started back down the alley. "Are you coming?"
El followed, feeling rather foolish and unnecessary. He had never seen Sands in action that messy day back in Culiacan. The man's reflexes were like lightening and his hearing was so acute he had picked out the footfalls with ease. Then again, El mused, Sands' hearing would have improved since being blinded. He remembered an old guitarrista in his village who had gone blind with age, and as his sight had failed, his hearing had become amazingly keen. El's lips twitched as he fought back a smile. The viejo's temper had grown as sharp as his ears, too.
Sands paused for him to catch up. "It should be about two blocks west, down a flight of stairs."
"You've been here before."
"No doy." Sands' face looked white and strained in the streetlight as the adrenaline rush subsided. "I need a drink."
Settled at a back table, El was feeling more uncomfortable by the moment. A small ensemble was droning out some sleepy jazz. The club was not empty, neither was it crowded. There were some men of flamboyant gesture and voice around the stage and El realised, his face darkening and flushing, that the place was a gay bar.
Sands bolted down three shots in succession and just smiled, slumped in his chair languidly, so unlike the fiercely straight posture El remembered too clearly from their first meeting.
"Just relax, lover boy. Besides, this should be right up your alley, as it were."
El straightened angrily when his path was blocked by a flurry of lavender, or maybe pink, who could tell in that dim blue haze, feathers. He sank back into his chair, staring up at six foot worth of blonde in silver lame.
"Dahling! I thought you'd never get here."
They greeted one another with a quick peck on either cheek. Sands smirked.
"Lovely as ever, Sergei. Sit down, please."
Sergei flounced into the chair, ruby-painted lips pursed. "Dahling, you look terrible. So thin!...." the rest of the sentence was completely incomprehensible to El, who was too dumbfounded to do anything but look from one to the other to the table and back again.
Sands answered back in the same slightly guttural, oddly sibilant language and it dawned on El that they were speaking rapid-fire Russian. He lounged back in his chair, fingers playing with the rim of his glass and wondered how many others the damned man spoke.
Sands had stretched out one hand to indicate El. He said, in English, "And this, my dear, is Sancho. Mexico's greatest lover."
Sergei batted opera-length false lashes at him. "Lucky you." His English was thickly accented and they resumed a swift conversation in Russian.
The drinks kept coming and they kept talking and El relinquished enough of his outraged pride to relax and watch, always watching Sands; his face, his hands. He permitted himself a small smile. Sands used his hands more when talking in a foreign tongue. It was clear that he knew Sergei well. They laughed and drank and El found the unfamiliar cadence of the language soothing after the jarring, adrenalised rush of the alley.
The evening was blurring into rounds and talk and louder music meant for dancing. The club was beginning to fill and suddenly Sands turned to El with a devilish grin.
"Why don't you take a turn on the dance floor?"
El blinked. "You want me to dance?"
Sands arched an eyebrow. "Yes, sugar. I'll watch."
There was a note in his voice that was dark, serious under the bantering tone and El bit his lip, torn between a desire to simply shoot his way out of the ridiculous mess or follow Sands' lead. He had been pushed into another corner by this monster and, loathe to make a scene, he led Sergei off, his face dark.
Fortunately, Sergei danced well and El kept watching over the feathered shoulder to catch sight of Sands, in a whirl as they spun. For a moment, two full turns around the floor, he almost bolted and panicked when he thought Sands was not there, but no, he was sitting at the table, talking to the waiter.
The song ended and El marched Sergei back to the table, ignoring his fluttering babble. Sergei slipped into the chair gracefully, then pouted.
"I dropped my bag, dahling. Would you be a love and get it."
Sands leaned under the table to retrieve it.
"We need to get going, Sergei."
The painted mouth sulked. "Oh, but you must come back on Friday for my show. I'll get Jose to call you a cab." The rest of their goodbyes reverted to Russian.
Tearing Sands away from the silver-gloved arms with a little more force than necessary, El stuffed him into the cab, glowering. For the second time in one day, Sands had utterly humiliated him and he was seething.
Sands, however, seemed very pleased with himself. He hummed, sometimes sang snippets of songs back to the hotel, in a rare display of good humour.
El had had more to drink than was good for him. His temper was beginning to fire on all pistons, like a supercharged V8 and he stalked up to the room, pushing Sands in before him.
"God, you're so forceful!" Sands snickered, making his way easily to the table, fingers lightly searching for the glasses to pour another round of drinks. He took off his jacket and reached into his waistband to lay the .22 down on the table.
"What was that all about?" El's voice was dark and tight with fury.
"Jesus, El. Just chill, will you. I've known Sergei a damned long time. One of the best in the business. Ex-Interpol. If there's a rumour somewhere in Outer Mongolia, he'll hear about it yesterday." He turned lazily, holding out a glass. "The good news is that my sugar daddies back home think I'm dead. A goner. All boo-hoo and bye-bye, lost in a mass grave somewhere in Sinaloa." His smile was triumphant.
El took the drink and fumed. While this was good news, it didn't do a thing to slake his anger.
"And those two in the alley."
Sands shook his dark head and downed his drink, pouring another immediately. "I already told you. Ramirez was---is an idiot. He might as well have dropped bread crumbs."
El gulped down the tequila, his face screwed against the sweet taste followed by the acid burn. It only added to the burning of his blood.
"Ramirez? Who is he? He killed one of Barillo's men. I saw him."
"Ex-FBI. And goody for him." Sands did a little turn in the middle of the floor, jubilant. "Some enchanted evening. You may meet a stranger...across a plate of pork." He laughed drunkenly.
Sands kept laughing. "Oh yes, very borracho."
El's anger was growing like a dank weed in a swamp. He lapsed into Spanish without thinking. "Me hiciste parecer un tonto."
"What? Because you had a dance with the best drag queen in Mexico City? Get over yourself..."
Sands never had a chance to finish the sentence. El had grabbed hold of his hair and threw him against the wall, pinning him there, one hand still tangled in the dark mass.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Sands hissed, fighting hard, his hands locked around the mariachi's wrist. There was surprising strength in those delicate fingers but he spanned them easily and brutally wrenched both back behind Sands' back. Crushing them against the wall with one hand, El took hold of his hair again and banged his head against the wall, then slammed his fist into Sands' ribs. His brain was imploding, all the accumulated pain and humiliation of the past weeks rising up like some volatile fuel igniting to send him into a frenzy. He punched Sands again, twisted his arm and pitched him headlong across the room.
Sands landed on the end of the bed, and slid to the floor, growling a curse as the shades flew off his face. El dove onto him and they struggled for a moment until the mariachi pinned his arms still with his knees, straddling him, hands around the slender throat, tightening until Sands whole body was shuddering, mouth open and gasping for breath.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, where he still watched with some vestige of reason, El knew that he never could have overpowered Sands this easily had it not been for the booze that was diesel-fuelling his fury. He grabbed hold of Sands' right hand trapped beneath his knee and yanked the fingers back.
"I'll break them, I swear I will."
Sands face contorted, still struggling to breathe and he went limp.
El eased his grip on Sands' neck, then, suddenly, dove down and kissed him hard, teeth cracking against each other's, lips bruising. Caution burned away, his tongue thrust into Sands' mouth, plundering the wet warmth that was gasoline to his fire.
Sands was completely still, his lips quivering beneath the assault, chest heaving with sobbing breaths.
El tore himself out of the kiss, dizzy for air.
Sands was gasping, his voice rough. "Doesn't take much to turn you into a Barillo, does it?"
El stuck him hard in the face, then dove back down for another kiss. Sands' tongue curled around his, hop-scotched over his upper palate, snaking along his teeth. El's knees slipped off his trapped arms and they wound up around the mariachi's neck to pull him closer. Lost in the furnace of that scalding heat, El never felt him trail one hand down to grab hold of his wrist, and, with a deft twist, flipped him over to reverse their positions.
He never broke the kiss, mouth still locked to El's, the long fingers wandering through the mariachi's hair, along his neck, like liquid fire.
Sands sat up, bruised face tipped down to El's and his lips twisted into a smile. He swayed, still smiling and leaned back down, teeth clamping hard onto El 's lower lip, then burning down to the hollow of his throat. El tasted blood, penny-copper and metallic on his tongue, felt it cooling along his neck. Sands' mouth was smeared with it and he slithered down El's body, hand reaching up under the shirt to scorch along his lean sides, then down again to pull at the button of his fly while white teeth caught at the zipper, pulling it down by slow degrees.
El's head swam as the clever fingers lifted him from the confines of his pants then he was engulfed in the burning chasm of Sands' mouth, the long fingers pulling at his balls, reaching beneath them. He wanted to sit up, to watch the curve of the cupid's-bow upper lip around his aching hardness, but he couldn't move, could only lay there, being sucked into a heady vacuum. He was spiraling out of control, his whole body tensing, when Sands wrapped his fingers around the base of his cock, squeezing hard, even as his tongue still worked, lips wet and warm and teasing.
There was a muffled laugh.
Another wave of rocket-fuel fury prodded by vicious need and El dragged Sands to his knees by the hair, kissing the laughter away and tasting the blood between them. He pushed Sands against the bed, forcing him over the edge of it, one arm like iron against the back of his neck. His other hand yanked at Sands' jeans, pulling them down, then he arched over him.
A voice in the back of his head was screaming, not like this, no, you'll hurt him. He licked his lips, then spat. Spit and blood were good enough for his monster, now writhing beneath him, trapped on his knees against the bedside.
El thrust home, hard and Sands' cry was muffled in the mattress. His body was in control, forcing its way deep into resistant heat that clenched around him like a vise. Another thrust and Sands was still, the muscles in his thighs shaking. El had one hand gripping Sands' hair, keeping his face down, the other bruising against his narrow hip as he pushed in again, finding a rhythm. He reached around to find Sands cock and began to pull on it in counterpoint.
Then they were moving together and El thought his brain would fly apart into a shattered mass inside his skull. His cry as he came was an eagle's scream and Sands tensed beneath him, hissing in response, his hips bucking as he shuddered and went limp.
El remained, arched over him, both panting heavily, until Sands stirred weakly. He fell back, sitting on the floor, dazed.
Slowly, Sands rose up on his knees, then sagged to sit, leaning back against the bed. His face was flushed, sweat beginning to trickle down his temples, lips parted as he breathed. He gasped out a short laugh and wriggled out of his pants, pulled the shirt over his head and rolled to his feet in one sinuous move.
El tensed, remembered he was still wearing his jacket and poised to drop his guns into his hands, but Sands only grabbed the bottle and took a long swallow. He lit a cigarette and collapsed onto the bed.
The silence stretched taut between them, punctuated only by the dry flick of ashes into the ashtray on his chest.
Slowly, El got up and pulled his clothes off with shaking fingers. His eyes danced over Sands' body, drinking in the lean lines, the sharp curve of hips and the hollows under them, mirror-images of his cheeks under their high bones. His ribs were too sharply defined, a bruise already purpling his left side, his lips and chin streaked with blood. El tore his eyes away and went into the bathroom.
He stared at himself in the mirror, fingers to his split lip, watching the blood well up almost black in the flicker of fluorescent light. His mind was a white buzzing blank, incapable of thought. He splashed water on his face, soaked a washcloth and turned off the light.
Sands was still smoking, the cigarette down nearly to the filter. El pushed the wet cloth into his free hand.
He'd washed down that slender body so often, so tenderly when Sands had been lying helpless in a drugged haze, but he could not do it now. El couldn't think, couldn't feel anything but the screaming triumph that had blasted through him like cannon fire.
Sands stubbed out the cigarette and ran the cloth over his jaw, rolled himself off the bed and stretched like a cat. Laughing softly, he disappeared behind the bathroom door.
He had mastered himself a little by the time Sands' came back, grabbing the bottle and his cigarettes. He lay down again beside El, handing him the bottle in silence.
El drank methodically. He had no words, there was nothing to say, nothing he could say. The rational part of him told him he was lucky Sands hadn't emerged from the bathroom shooting, but he shooed the thought away brusquely.
Sands took another swallow, hissing at the burn and laughed softly.
"Tomorrow you are going to the goddamn drug store."
El started with a jerk. "What?"
Sands grinned at him. "Spit's not exactly the optimum lube. That fucking hurt, asshole."
El was profoundly thankful that Sands could not see his blush.
Sands let another mouthful of tequila pour down his throat and handed the bottle over to El.
"I should change those bandages." El couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Manana." Sands rolled his shoulders, then slid under the covers. "Too sleepy." He rolled over and was silent.
El sat, drinking for a long time. He thought about his only other experience of this, fumbling in the dark with Quino one drunken night. He tried to think of Carolina, tried to will himself to shame, but he was filled to the brim with dizzy elation that consumed all other emotions.
His. Finally his.
He dozed off and the empty bottle clinked to the floor and rolled under the bed. He woke abruptly as Sands stirred beside him, then relaxed and smiled.
Sands must have been very drunk indeed because he was murmuring in his sleep, something he had never done, not even when whacked out of his head on morphine. El felt the smile coming from the very depths of his being and reached out to smooth the dark hair back, tracing the fine plane of Sands' cheek.
He turned, cresting his head against El's fingers, lips moving indistinctly.
And El heard something that turned his blood to ice.
NOTES: The classical pieces Sands plays are: piano trans. of Sibelius' Valse Triste, Chopin's Nocturne #13 in C minor, Ernesto Lecuona's Malaguena from the Suite Espagnole "Andalucia" and Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# Minor. The ragtime is snippets of Scott Joplin, various pieces. The song he's singing as he loads his guns is "I'd Be Surprisingly Good for You", from "Evita" by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber. And, of course, his twisted revision of Rogers and Hammerstein's "Some Enchanted Evening" from "South Pacific".
Chapter 4: FIC: El Aquila Y La Serpiente, ch. 3 La Cancion del Mariachi Pt. 1: Verse
This continues immediately after ch. 2. Guilt, fear, temptation, black brujeria, God and the Devil, witchcraft and desire.
Sands' pieces in this part are Chopin's Prelude in C and Lizst's La Campenella. His drunken singing is again "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You" from "Evita".
|Current music:||Deafening silence|
FIC: El Aquila Y La Serpiente, ch. 3 La Cancion del Mariachi Pt. 1: Verse
DISCLAIMER: Rodriguez is God. I own nada
RATING: PG for this part, more to come
WARNING/SUMMARY: This continues immediately after ch. 2. Guilt, fear, temptation, black brujeria, God and the Devil, witchcraft and desire.
Sorry to be so long. I was on vacation in Vegas. Thanks to all for patience. This chapter is particularly for Loner. This is the continuation of what I started with Recuerdos Y Resurreccion. All parts can be found as follows:
Thank you to all for the lovely fb and all the patience.
La Cancion del Mariachi: pt. 1 Verse
El woke the next morning with a raging headache and too many memories of a pale body like a flame, plum-ripe bruises against ribs that he had played like a harp with his fists. There was no warmth beside him and he bolted out of bed. Sands was nowhere in the room.
El hurriedly dressed and raced down the stairs to the lobby. His mind was a restless jumble of fear and recollection and he breathed a sigh of relief to see Sands, sitting at one of the cafe tables with a cup of coffee, nibbling on a bolillo with an obvious lack of appetite.
El sank into the chair opposite him.
"Morning, Merry Sunshine." Sands grinned. "Here, check out the editorial columns for me, would you?" He pushed a newspaper at his elbow across the table.
El shoved it aside. "Last night." he said slowly.
Sands cocked his head to one side with a slight smile. "Yes?"
El picked up the newspaper and opened it. "I -- I need some aspirin."
Sands laughed softly. "Bet you do. Anything interesting?"
El scanned the columns and his eye lit on a commentary about the President's recent resolve to limit 'foreign interference' in domestic affairs.
He read it to Sands who simply nodded, taking a sip of his coffee.
"That figures. Well, it means things will be a bit quieter for a while."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that Big Brother won't come looking for me so fast."
El was startled. "I thought you said that they think you're dead."
Sands smirked. "And do you really think that Ramirez hadn't corrected that little mistake before we ever left Culiacan? Christ, don't be naive. That's all just spin-doctoring. Why do you think I have Sergei's ear to the ground?"
He shrugged expressively. "No matter. I know how they play their games. It's not the first time they hung me out to dry, but it will definitely be the last." His voice was cool.
El shuddered a little to think of the web in which Sands had been working all those years. "No loyalty among you?"
Sands laughed, "None at all. But I'm not very high on the hit parade at the moment. And, " he tapped one long finger on the paper, "since El Presidente is going to make life a little tougher for them, they've got other fish to fry. I'm safe enough for now. You, on the other hand..."
"Don't worry about me."
"I'm not. I just don't want to get caught in the crossfire." Sands laughed airily.
El was silent, nursing the throb of his head against the tumult of his thoughts. Sands was a glacier of smirks and low laughter, unreachable behind his walls. Last night's triumphant elation burned away to ashes in his mouth. El couldn't stifle a bitter snort of a laugh.
"What?" Sands wrapped his hands around the cup. El touched one finger surruptitiously across the table. It was like ice. He drew his hand back.
"Your face is bruised." he murmured.
"Is it." It was not a question and there was a world unspoken in those two small words.
Sands' face was impassive, but there was a shadow of a smile lingering on his lips.
"Go get yourself some aspirin. The desk clerk said the pharmacy's around the corner." Sands laughed again, a quirking of those lips into a grin. El had a momentary flash of last night, that mouth around him, skilled beyond his wildest dreams.
El would have fled the innuendo in that simple statement, but his head was hurting too much for such theatrics. He rose tiredly and left Sands sipping his coffee with that damned unreadable smile, evidently no worse the wear for the previous night's indulgence.
Maybe, he thought, maybe his possession wasn't that far from his grasp. He had become patient. Now he could become cunning. There had to be a way to break his monster and make him surrender. Oh, not that he hadn't surrendered last night. But it had not been the surrender El craved. Somehow, Sands had yanked a victory out of submission and still maintained the cool distance that was driving El mad.
He trudged around the corner filled with dark musing. How could he break through that easy facade and make the ice melt? Music was no answer. He knew that now. Sands could disappear behind a wall of sound and still remain untouchable. The wall was transparent, yes, and El could so clearly see the pain and passion written in bold letters across that beautiful face, but, like something out of a fairy tale, Sands remained alone with his anguish, uncaring and unsharing. He was as cooly indifferent to love as to fear. No hunter could perturb him, no lover could move him.
El cursed himself and Sands, his blood still burning for what he knew was not impossible. Heedless of arch looks from the pharmacist, he made his purchases and returned to the hotel.
There had to be a chink somewhere, a crack in the ice. If burning heat could not melt it, he would break it down somehow. He had only possessed Sands' body; there had to be a way to get to his soul.
He would seach, pick, listen, coax, do anything to find that one thing that would break the wall. Sands had been teaching more than he realised about the business of gathering information. El permitted himself a grim smile. If his monster would not respond to one kind of love, he might well respond to another, more dark. Sands was just contrary enough for that.
El found him still sitting at the table, with a refill of coffee. There was a cup and a glass of water waiting for him. He gulped down a few of the aspirins and tried the coffee. It was good, strong and hot and warmed his belly. His thoughts were already warmer.
"Better?" Sands was picking apart the bread and tossing it over the canvas railing to the birds.
"You should be eating that."
Sands' mouth twitched a little. The bruise on his face was faint, just a lavender stain against his pale skin. El brushed his hand lightly.
Sands gave him one of those fleeting smiles that disappeared as soon as it had shown itself, like a sliver of moonlight knifing through a cloudy sky.
El eyed him warily, then plunged ahead. Information he needed and he would take at least one risk today since Sands seemed to be in a fairly good temper.
"How long have you spoken Spanish?"
"Hmm?" Sands sounded a little surprised. "All my life."
"Really? How is that?" El felt like he was treading on a carpet of egg crates, his heart beating very fast.
"Housekeepers. They're usually Mexican."
El ignored the implied slur. "Are they?"
Sands stretched and finished his second cup. "In San Diego they are."
"California? You grew up there?"
"Yeah, so what?"
El let a moment pass in silence as Sands lit a cigarette, dragging on it deeply. He took a mirroring breath and tried to still his heart's racing.
"Who is Rachel?"
"What?" Sands' voice was a sharp crackle.
"You were talking in your sleep."
The tension was electric. Sands' face had gone stark white and he seemed to stare at El fiercely through the black shroud of his shades.
"My sister," he snarled and stood up, his face strained, and stalked into the lobby. Distantly, El could hear the sounds of the piano drifting through the door and smiled.
He went back up to the room and sat on the bed with the door open, the guitar cradled in his arms and picked out a counterpoint to the music in the lobby, a lonely melody to accompany the lonely chords that echoed in the stairwell.
It seemed hours later that the music downstairs finally stopped. El had been so absorbed in playing he never noticed the time and realised it was rather late in the afternoon. He put the guitar aside and listened at the open doorway, then grabbed his key and went down the stairs.
Sands was still at the piano, a tray full of empty shot glasses on its closed lid. His head was resting on one arm, slumped over the keyboard.
El shook him gently. "You need to go upstairs."
Sands roused groggily. If he had had his eyes, El could have almost seen them through the black lenses, blinking sleepily. The thought sent a shockwave of pain through him. All this time, he had grown so used to Sands' blindness that he had decieved himself. He had told himself he would never miss the dark eyes lit with cruel amusement, but he did. He missed them, because he would never have the chance to change that sardonic glance into something warmer, never see them dance with laughter or drown in tears or light up with passion.
Sands sat up unsteadily. "Y'were playing. I heard you." he muttered, almost to himself.
"Come on. Upstairs."
Together, they stumbled back up to the room.
El pulled Sands into the bathroom immediately. Those bandages needed attention and Sands sat quietly, swaying a little.
"You should have let me do this last night."
His answer was an indistinct mumble.
"Tell me, why did you never play professionally? You are gifted."
Sands' laughter was harsh. "Oh yeah, tha's me. Gifted." He was slurring.
El's fingers were gentle. "You won't be needing these too much longer."
"And tha'ill make a difference how?" There was no mistaking the bitterness in Sands' voice.
"I meant that. You have a great talent. I don't understand."
"S'easier t' pull the strings than pound 'em...easier...trigger..." Sands was leaning against him heavily. El almost froze, remembering his own words so very long ago, before Carolina, before facing down Cesar. He stifled a shudder.
El hauled him up and walked him towards the bed when Sands started to hum and El recognised that tune he'd been singing as he loaded his guns last evening. Sands pulled him around in a turn, a swaying, drunken kind of dance and El moved with him, arms locked around the narrow waist, breathless with the closeness of him, the scent of his hair, the warmth of the cheek pressed to his shoulder.
Gently, he eased Sands down on the bed, pushing his guitar aside to safety.
"Get some sleep. You need to eat something later."
Sands shook the dark hair out of his face, tried to sit and fell back into the pillow.
"Play f'me. I miss it."
El raised an eyebrow and settled himself on the chair where he could watch, strumming softly until the man's breathing was slow and even and he knew Sands was asleep. He continued to play, long into the evening, always softly, thinking of how the mere mention of his home, his family had produced such an appalling result. And he smiled as he played because he finally knew exactly how to break his monster.
The next week passed very quietly. They made another trip to El Gato Azul and El listened with ears sharpened by jealous love to the Russian babble between Sands and Sergei. Sergei was busily toying with a small dog on his red-sequined lap, playing with the matching red bow around its idiotic neck. This time, thankfully, Sands did not ask him to dance, nor did he get so blindingly drunk. There were no alley confrontations, no trailing cartel members and they moved on after an hour or so to a small bar near the hotel to have a few drinks in peace.
Sands still spent hours at the piano and El was amazed at the extent of his repetoire. He seemed to have reams of music memorised; classical, show tunes, popular songs. His playing flowed from one piece to the next in no discernible order, clearly at the whim of his personal fancy.
Sunday morning came, grey and cloudy, one of Mexico's winter storms looming overhead. El unwound his arms from around the still body and pressed a kiss on Sands' forehead. His sleeping demon was dead to the world with a bellyful of tequila and lips swollen from violent kisses. To El's watching eyes, he was beautiful beyond measure. To anyone else, he looked like a crushed and mangled flower.
"I know you don't care, but I'm going to church. To pray for you. For us."
He left with one last, longing look at his monstrous angel, face soft with sleep, nestled in their two-star hotel bed as though heaven itself could not have offered sweeter sanctuary.
El entered the cool darkness of the church, his fingers wavering over the holy water stoop. He wondered idly if it would simmer at his touch. All week he had been hugging his new-found knowledge to himself, trembling with the very thought that had fallen into his lap.
He slipped into a back pew and buried his head in his hands. There was no question in his mind that he knew, without a shadow of doubt, how he could tear Sands away from everything that had gone before, how he could ultimately break him and make him his own entirely. The power of it was dizzying, the terror immense. It would destroy Sands, should he choose to act, leave him emptied and ready to be refilled, as Sands himself had filled him.
Ah, but so cruel a measure? Could he really bear to watch Sands fall to pieces at his hand and not lose himself in the process?
El had spent the precious few moments when he was not watching Sands with avid eyes, listening to him as though his voice and his singing hands were the very core of creation, frantically searching. He scanned phonebooks, sliding coin after coin in the hotel's payphone until he finally found his object.
One phone call to a Beverly Hills address would be the fatal blow. That was his weapon: the one person that he knew Sands would rather die than see him, blinded, his beauty ruined, his careful control of his world world torn to ribbons. It had taken a woman to do that to him. It could take another to send him staggering into El's arms, desperate and shattered.
El had found Rachel.
He sank to his knees in an agony of prayer. Don't, dear God, don't let me do this. Banish the thought, drive it away. Help me find something else, some other way.
God was silent.
His pulse raced like an electric current was tearing through him, scorching his heart. When had love ever grown so cruel to consider such a course of action? What madness had infected him with such a dark need to force Sands' heart by any means? He knew the answer as the thoughts tumbled through his mind. Sands himself was the infection, from the moment he had seen him, wounded Satan on a grave amid the ashes of his own making, opening the gates to Avernus.
The congregation was singing a hymn but all El could hear was that first piece, that rhapsody of dark pain that had poured out of Sands as black and thick as the answering darkness within himself.
"Easier to pull the trigger than to play." How alike were they to say almost the same words?
He left quickly. God had no answers, no comfort at all.
He passed a botanica on the way back to the hotel and paused, breathing in the musty perfume of herbs and incense that filtered out into the street. He felt as though he was being torn apart and entered the place, discarding any kind of faith behind him as the gloom enveloped him.
The old woman watched him from a dusty counter with sharp eyes and he didn't care. His heart was throbbing on his sleeve and desperation made him reckless. He asked for what he needed. His eyes stung at the objects she laid out before him, the tiny hummingbird, its glistening wings stilled, the bitter herbs that filled his mouth with their scent and taste, the silver cross of tiny skulls, steeping in a vial of liquid the colour of black blood. He bought them all, listened to her instructions. The gloom outside was bright compared to that dim storefront and when he stepped out into it, he felt as though he had left his own past behind. Now he needed to make sure Sands did the same.
The desk clerk smiled as he came in, a little too friendly and El felt his face burning. He was transparent now, his love too clear. Everyone could read it and he still could not bring himself to care.
Sands was sitting at the piano, drinking his coffee and scowling as the church bells began to chime.
"Fucking bells," he muttered, setting down the cup.
He began to play, a tinkling campanology of notes that started high in the treble and continued, mimicking the bells and besting them in a virtuoso explosion of sharp brilliance like the summer sunshine that beat down roofs and burned black shadows into the street.
El listened to him, transfixed in the doorway. Sands, it seemed, always had another surprise in his musical arsenal. He smiled darkly to himself and went up to the room, laying his booty out on the bureau. Once Sands started playing, he would go on for at least an hour. He had plenty of time, and perhaps, just perhaps, he would never have to make that phone call.
Carefully, he wrapped the tiny feathered corpse with a bit of viciously spined vine that cut through his callouses and left dark spots on the bright feathers. Muttering prayers he was sure just bordered on blasphemy, he laid the gruesome bundle into the square of red silk, lighting the herbs in the ashtray.
He went to the bathroom and turned on the light, seaching until he found what he wanted in the comb he used on Sands' hair: three long, dark strands touched with chestnut, the ends curling. He wound them, too, around the crucified bird and fetched the tiny cross out of its vial, letting the oil drip down onto the places where his own blood had spattered. He tied the whole thing up with the thin red silk ribbon, holding it over the bitter smoke.
For a long time after the herbs had burned out, he just sat there, staring at the pathetic little bundle in his hand, oil beginning to seep through the silk. It reminded him of blood staining shirts in storms of dust and bullets.
He took the small, silver pin and awkwardly, reached around the side of the bed Sands preferred and pinned it to the underside of the mattress, just beneath where his head would lay on the pillow.
He felt sick and exhausted.
When Sands came back to the room later, he sniffed and laughed.
"Jesus, El. If you're gonna come up here to smoke pot, try finding a dealer who isn't gonna sell you oregano."
El ignored the comment, his stomach twitching nervously. Three days to wait and he felt like a fool.
Notes: Sands' pieces in this part are Chopin's Prelude in C and Lizst's La Campenella. His drunken singing is again "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You" from "Evita".
Chapter 5: FIC: El Aquila Y La Serpiente Ch. 3: La Cancion del Mariachi Pt 2: Chorus
when black brujeria does not work, what will?
The piece El remembers Sands playing is Lizst's "Mephisto Waltz"
FIC: El Aquila Y La Serpiente Ch. 3: La Cancion del Mariachi Pt 2: Chorus
DISCLAIMER: Rodriguez is God, I own nada
WARNINGS: the pot boils over
SUMMARY: when black brujeria does not work, what will?
Again, I apologise for the long delay and thank one and all for the patience. This is for Sonny, mi amor.
La Cancion del Mariachi, Pt. 2: Chorus
El stared up, not at the ceiling but at the drifting fragments in his mind, watching the smooth column of Sands' throat, the blue river of the jugular pulsing in time to his hips' thrust. Sands' head was thrown back, fresh-washed hair tumbling around his shoulders, filtering into dreamlike images that only El could see: the flicker of flames, the stretch of stone wings in their glow, shading to iridescence, so real he could almost feel the beat of them and the whisper of shimmering feathers against his hands.
His fingers locked on Sands' arms, bruising, nails digging into the flesh to leave moon-shaped marks livid against the delicate skin. Anger washed through him, tangling with passion and Sands' head dropped forward, laughter low in El's ears. He pushed up violently, watched Sands' smile contort to pain, white teeth clamping down hard on that lush lower lip, the dark brows drawn together to etch two deep lines between them.
El was made of stone, an Olmec totem reclining, granite hardness forced deep into overheated flesh. He was that painted tomb, impaling a pale Lucifer perched above his need on a furnace cushion of air that eddied with the slow flutter of flaming wings. His pulse beat to the rhythm Sands had played not two hours earlier, the throb of it pounding in his brain, waltzing to mad completion, burying thought, sight and sound in a pale haze.
Sands remained perfectly still, thigh muscles quivering against El's hips, his hands cool, palms flat against the heaving chest. His breath was a tobacco breeze, tanged with tequila, sweetened by lust against El's face.
"Vicious," he murmured, teeth flashing in the flame-thrown shadows. El raked both hands down his arms, fingers clamping around the bird-boned wrists.
"Tu eres un diablo."
"Chinga tu madre, asshole," Sands replied cheerfully as he slid down to stretch out long legs over El, dark head resting comfortably on the broad shoulder, lips feather-soft against his collarbone.
The unheard music still filled El's ears like water bubbling within them, suffocating all other sounds, and he pushed Sands off, throwing himself atop the slender body, pinning him down with sheer weight.
"You monster." El's voice was a growl and sounded strange to his own ears, distorted and distant. Sands only grinned up at him. The candle fluttered in the breeze from the open window, dancing orange streaks of light across the shadowed holes of his sockets, cushioned by the bandages.
El's hands tangled in the dark hair. "No puedo. No puedo hacer esto."
"Oh, but you can and you did. What's the matter, sweetie? Looking for pillow-talk?"
El's hair fell over Sands' face, throwing it into darkness. His eyes stung and he swore under his breath, glad that Sands could never see the liquid shine of them.
"Get off me, dammit!" Sands laughed softly and was stifled by a brutal kiss. He sighed low in his throat, wrapping one leg around El's, his fingers snaking into the black hair.
El pulled away and rolled to one side, strangling on desperate desire and fury. His heart screamed for tenderness while his fingers itched to wound and tear the same way his guts were ripping him apart from the inside.
Nothing had worked; no god, no magic, no words or act could melt the ice protecting Sands. Days of waiting had stretched into weeks and El was being consumed by his need until all other thought had deserted him. He was desiccating, drying out like a corpse in the dust-choked sun, even as the rains came to drench Mexico's arid earth, blowing through the casements to nourish and revive every living thing but himself. Even Sands looked refreshed by the near-daily deluges, while the mirror told El he was being mummified by love.
Three days after his futile attempt to catch his prey with blood and oil and a long-dead bird, he had opened the stained silk, taken out the tiny silver cross and, threading it on the red silk ribbon, tied it round Sands' neck. The long fingers had traced the minute skulls delicately, a half-smile quirking on petal soft lips. He had made no comment, only laughed softly and lit another cigarette, a tormenting Satan immune to any kind of spellcraft.
El buried his face in the crook of his arm, choking back a moan. Lust was never enough. He got plenty of that, but not a shred of gentleness.
"For Christ's sake, El! What in hell do you want? ¿Te gusta un beso negro?" Sands' voice was a silken purr. "If you want to bottom, you only have to ask."
The acid words propelled El up and around like a pistol shot. He grabbed hold of the long hair and pulled Sands up with him, slapping him hard a half-dozen times until his own shaking stopped. His fingers tore at Sands' scalp before throwing him back against the headboard with a loud crack.
"¡Hijo de puta! One of these days I will kill you." The words whistled through his teeth.
Sands rolled away to face the window, leaning on one arm, the other hand pressed to his cheek. "The shapes I throw are shadows." he said slowly. "Yours are made of blood."
El threw on his clothes and stalked out of the room as Sands sank down and buried his face in the pillow, his back golden marble in the dim glow of the candlelight. He didn't move as the door slammed shut.
El's head was ringing with the hollow sound of his own footsteps on the stairs. He nearly stumbled and stood shaking in the stairwell, blinded and miserable and still thrilling with the aftershock of anger and passion. He wasn't sure which hurt worse. For a long time, he sagged, face to the wall, trying to choke back the despair and longing that threatened to consume him.
A tiny flame awoke, deep in the recesses of his tired mind, born of fury and pain and desire so starved that it had become a ravenous wraith. It caught quickly, his misery dry timber to feed the burn, until he was grasping at the wall with desperate fingers, nails clawing at the gaudy paper.
The old-fashioned booth enclosed him like a glass-topped coffin and his hands shook as he slid coins into the phone. For just a moment, he thought a shadow passed by, blocking the dim lights of the lobby, then fading away to nothing. He started violently, opened the booth and his eyes raked through the still room. His breath came in harsh gasps as he shook his head and continued to dial, his gaze fixed on the stairwell door. His voice was a rasp, the rattle of a snake sidewinding through the desert of his heart.
It was the dead blackness of long past midnight when El stumbled up the stairs, his eyes heavy with lack of sleep, weary with watching from his dark corner of the bar. Sands never had emerged and he had spent the night drinking away his terror and his shame. Everything of the evening was a blur; there was only this moment, as he opened the door and stepped back into his smoke-choked prison.
Sands was sitting at the small table in front of the window, the coverlet wound around him like a shroud. The candle guttering on the bureau had burned down low and threw his face into chiseled shadow that ebbed and flowed with every passing breeze. A cigarette was smouldering in the ashtray, its filter acrid and harsh.
Sands' shoulders were slumped, his fingers pressed against the bandages. Someone from housekeeping had put a vase on the table earlier in the day and filled it with a pink cloud of jasmine. The hot, sweet scent floated in the room, mingling with smoke and sex and stale shots evaporating on the nightstands. He didn't move as El walked with a soft jingle of chains to stand over him, watching faint spasms tremble through the long fingers.
Gently, El pulled his hands away, enclosing them in his own to warm them.
A shudder ran through Sands down to his fingertips, making his teeth chatter.
"Shhhhh." El's whisper broke through the silence like a sonic boom. He pulled Sands into his arms, painfully aware of the tremors tearing through the slight body. All anger melting like snow in a warm rain, he tipped Sands' face up to his, running a calloused thumb over the soft lower lip, then bent forward and kissed him.
Everything inside him poured out in that kiss; all the tenderness, yearning, the pity and love merged into jasmine, smoke and fluttering candlelight, as soft as a bird's wing, trembling like a butterfly's touch. For a moment, Sands simply quivered against him, then he pulled away sharply, one hand pressed to his lips, his face twisting in pain.
"Don't!" His voice strangled and he staggered into the table, leaned heavily on it, hiding beneath the curtain of his hair.
El watched the shivers run down his spine where the coverlet had slipped away, raising gooseflesh on the thin arms and setting the dark hair swinging close to the flowers, making them quake. His own eyes stung as the shudders made Sands' breath catch in choked sob.
Sands was shattering like fine crystal hit at exactly the right spot; el Rey del Hielo was melting before El's eyes, undone by a kiss and dissolving into trembling, terrified humanity. He clung to the edge of the table, his knuckles white, struggling to keep himself under control, until El reached out, gently turned him around and folded him close.
"God, please, don't!" Sands gasped against his shoulder. El let his hands answer, gentling the tumbled hair.
"Querido," El whispered and slowly, Sands' reached one hand up to touch his cheek, the fingertips trembling against his skin, moving up to trace his brows, his eyelids, across his lips.
"I---I never saw you smile."
El's brows drew together sharply at the simple sorrow in those barely whispered words. For a fleeting moment, he remembered Carolina's smile and her laugh echoed in his mind as he bent his head down to Sands' once more.
"Hush, mi amor. Don't talk, " he sighed and lost himself to the flames and the shadows.
Nothing mattered but the moment when Sands' arms wound around his neck and he clung,desperate as the the ivy outside the window for support, no longer unreachable ice but warm and real and vulnerable. The coverlet slid to the floor unheeded.
El's fingers played idly across the strings as he watched the night begin its slow fade to light; that curious, still whiteness that split the sky open and lensed the world in monotones. Sands had curled up beside him, his hair spilled across the pillow like a wave, face half-buried in the shadow of El's arm. The notes drifted in the chill air, quivering echoes of memory. El's mind floated away with them, to Carolina lying beside him above a bookstore in Coahuila, back to the warmth of the body beside him now. He struck a soft chord and listened to it fade away into the dawn.
"Do you know Asturias?" Sands' voice was very soft, muffled against his side. The candle had long since burned out and his face was hidden in the shadows.
El smiled and began to play, the dark notes swirling around their shared bed, circular rhythm punctuated by sharp chords, echoes of their limbs twisting and entwined in a passion untouched by violence, deep and soft as the night's dying. His fingers in constant motion, the notes grew warm as the lips moving against his own, pulling them both into a single melody, bodies singing as one, dancing round and round in a gentle whirlpool that sucked them down to drown in one another.
The last note died away, floating out the casement with the faint scent of jasmine. El put the guitar down and turned on his side.
Sands smiled briefly. "Beautiful, " he murmured, shifting a little closer to nestle against El's side.
El ran one hand down along his cheek. "Te quiero," he began. Sands' fingers moved to still him.
"No words. Please."
El thought that Sands' smile had been moonlight, but as the sun began to peek through the blue quiet, he saw light, pure and golden in the upturn of those lips.
He curled up, his prison transformed to sanctuary and abandoned himself to sleep, while the dawn crept through the casement, burning away the smell of rain.
The world crashed into a splintering blaze of sunlight and terror by mid-morning when El woke to the realisation that he had overplayed his hand. Frantically, he rewound his memory, gnawing on his lip and struggling to remember how he had stumbled into that phonebooth. All he could recall was Sands, yielding and warm, limbs twisted together and the soft sounds of their lovemaking.
Cautiously, he pulled the covers back and slid out of bed. Sands was fast asleep, cocooned in a nest of white linen, his breathing slow and regular. El fled to the bathroom and stared at his own reflection, terrorised by the guilt and fear in his own eyes. Painfully, he dragged his gaze away, his own words to his brother reverberating in his head.
'What do you see in my eyes?'
'Defeat, brother. Defeat.'
He had seen fear in his own. Not yet defeat, but fear and that was too close by far.
His lips tightened grimly. He had not come so far to lose Sands because he had been too foolish to be patient. He stalked down to the cafe and returned with coffee and breakfast, his brain a whirl of schemes to pry Sands away from this place to safety; somewhere, anywhere they could lose themselves and he could rest certain that no one would ever find them.
Sands rolled over as the door opened and grinned at him.
"Now you're bringing me breakfast? Un que romantico."
El breathed a sigh of relief as Sands leaned up into his kiss and thanked God the agent could not see the guilt, the fear stamped on his face.
"I didn't know what you would like. Coffee?"
"God, yes!" Sands sat up, pulling the covers around his shoulders. He turned his face to the window for a moment. "Sun's out. Warm."
El watched him warily before plowing ahead. "We have been here too long, I think."
Sands arched one eyebrow but did not answer.
"I think we should move on."
"Ow, this is hot. You think so?"
"I think so."
The long fingers wound around the cup tapped at it. He cocked his head to one side, considering El's words. "Hmm. Maybe. You know something I don't?"
"No," El replied slowly. "Just a feeling." His heart was racing double-time, eyes fixed sharply on Sands' face, but he sipped at his coffee, clearly unaware of any agitation.
"And where, pray tell, are we going to go?"
El slid beside him, taking the cup away and letting Sands melt against him.
"Does it matter?" he murmured into the dark hair.
Sands laughed softly. "Well, considering you, it might. Do you have a passport?"
Sands' fingers ran along his cheek. "I can handle that, but it will take a day or so. Christ, you need a shave! Sandpaper!"
El fought back a grimace. "Then arrange it and we'll change hotels. Just to be safe."
Sands sat up abruptly. "What put the wind up your tail?"
"Does it matter?"
Sands let the question ride on the sunlight slanting into the room for a minute. He rolled over to grab a cigarette and let El light it for him. "Ok, " he smiled. "But I need a shower and more coffee before I'm going anywhere."
Despite his nerves and his fear, El knew he would never enjoy the feeling of a shower quite so much again. This was a Sands he did not know; playful, teasing, passionate and gentle at the same time. The water drenched him with tenderness, feeding him like a thirsty plant and he felt alive again. He packed up their things as Sands dried off and dressed, almost breathless with relief.
Sands pulled on his pants and paused for a cigarette. "I need to make a call."
"What! Why?" El's voice was sharp.
"That passport, mi loco. I won't be long."
El left the door open, hovering near it, his nerves like stretched catgut. Sands was back in the room within five minutes.
"Ok. No problemo. We can pick it up tomorrow evening. Oh yeah, we'll need a picture, but that's easy enough."
"How much will this cost?"
Sands smirked. "Don't worry so much, loverboy. Here, " he tossed a wad of cash out onto the bed. "You count it."
El sat down, leafing through the bills, then suddenly started up, stashed the wad in his pocket and raced to the door.
"So?" Sands drawled, breathing out a rush of smoke. "We're not the only ones on this floor."
The footsteps faded down the hallway. Sands just shook his head.
"Boy, you really are jumpy today." A frown drew the dark brows together.
El tried to still his breath and pulled out the money. "There's over 80,000 pesos here."
Sands shrugged. "Cheap hotel. Anyway, it's more than enough. Did you pack your guns?" There was more than a hint of the old Sands in that comment, the sing-song tone of an exasperated mother coaxing a dimwitted child. El watched him carefully for a long moment.
Sands lit another cigarette. "Good. Wouldn't want to be wandering around out there unprotected now, would we?"
El walked over to him, looking down with narrowed eyes. "Just what are you playing at?"
"Oh for God's sake, El! You're the one jonesin' to move on. I'm just playing follow-the-leader, leader." He grinned up at El, then the grin melted into a smile. "Come down here."
El knelt down and let his mouth be claimed.
"Better?" Sands' fingers were soft against his hair. He smelled of soap and clean water and that undefinable something that was his alone. El kissed him again, harder this time and was pushed away with a laugh.
"I thought you were in a hurry!"
"I am," El sighed, stealing foward for one last kiss.
He broke away violently at a soft knock at the door.
"It's only housekeeping." Sands complained mildly.
El's heart was thudding against his chest as the knock was repeated. He whirled around and half-stumbled to the door. His fingers shook on the knob as he opened it a crack.
A low voice said quietly, "Where is he?" and El's world shattered.
He opened the door helplessly.
She was nearly as tall as her brother, hair hidden under an expensive scarf. Her face was softer than his, more like it had been in those pictures when Sands had been younger, before age had carved his cheeks of marble, but the likeness was almost frightening. Dark eyes too much like the ones he remembered glared up at him.
"Where is he?" She put up a hand to push her way into the room before El could collect himself enough to stand aside. "Sheldon?"
Sands' ashtray hit the floor with a thud.
He blanched, lips parted, his features engraved with shock and pain. El could only take long, shuddering breaths, and close his eyes against the betrayal in Sands' face.
"Shel! Oh my God!" She flew across the room like a slight, dark shadow. Sands turned his head away towards the window, his shoulders sagging. Within seconds, she had both her arms around him and his head drooped, resigned and unresisting.
El slipped out into the hall and closed the door behind him. He could not bear to watch another moment of this hell he had created. He sank down to the floor, head buried in his hands. Too late, it was all too late. He couldn't think, didn't dare feel but knew he was falling through ice into a black nothingness, where all emotion was choked into pain and he had made it himself. He had done it, no one else. No Moco, no Marquez, no one could have done this but he himself.
His tears were acid, burning away his sight, sobs too deep for sound stifling him. All his patience, love, desire; all were draining away in a vortex of guilt and the singular agony of knowing that the pain Sands suffered was of his making. He had killed it, that tremulous surrender, offered freely only hours earlier. He deserved neither pity nor forgiveness; not from Sands, not from himself, not even from God. He was beyond redemption or reclamation and he could only huddle there in the hall, drowning in his guilt and pain, while his own, just beyond that door, was dying inside, betrayed, abandoned and lost.
'Doesn't take much to turn you into a Barillo." The words, forced through a strangling throat, echoed again and again in El's head and they were true. Dear God, they were more than true. Even a Barillo would have let Sands die like a man, not grind him beneath a boot heel of possessive desire, the same desire that still was eating El alive.
When he had lost Carolina and his daughter, he had never wished to die, not really. The instinct to survive and avenge them was too strong. Now, he truly wished he could simply disappear but not alone. Never alone.
His thoughts fizzed out like static and he was left with only his guilty pain.
El had no idea how long he had been sitting there in a choking haze when he finally raised his head. The low murmurs behind the door had ceased and, wearily, he pushed himself up to lean against the wall. He was numb as he slowly pushed open the door and stepped inside, willing each foot forward.
His mouth dropped open and he staggered back towards the bureau, a tidal wave of shock, revulsion, a million emotions at once sweeping over him. At their core was stark, violent jealousy.
Rachel was lying on her side on the bed, her back to him, cradled against her brother. Sands' face was hidden by the mane of her hair, locked with her in a kiss surely never meant to be shared by brother and sister. Barely moving, his hand still against her neck, they were an icon of passion, lost deep within one another.
Time slowed to a crawl, and El watched, breathless, almost unaware of his hand sliding over the smooth wood surface until his fingers found Sands' .45. In dreamlike slow motion, his arm moved out and his finger began to squeeze the trigger, a little pressure, then a little more.
She jerked once and slumped forward against her brother in silence. Sands' hand spasmed in her hair, his head pulled back, blood running down his face, a scarlet river. There were no eyes to register shock, only the stained bandages, as he pulled her forward, then let her slip down through the blood covering his shirt.
El's arm fell limp as he watched with wide eyes, dilated black. Sands staggered to his feet, his right arm wound round his own chest, took a few stumbling steps forward and collapsed against El. His face tipped up, lips trembling blood-tears down his chin and he raised his left hand to El's cheek. The fingers were so gentle, the tenderest of caresses and El stared down at him, his grip tense on the gun at his side. Sands stretched upwards, lips pressing wet against El's, his right hand falling between them.
The shot was a whispering crackle, jasmine and cordite drifting through the streams of sunlight, dust motes dancing in the golden glow.
NOTES: The piece El remembers Sands playing is Lizst's "Mephisto Waltz"
Un beso negro: 'black kiss', a rimjob
El plays' Isaac Albeniz' "Asturias" from the Suite Suite Espanola, guitar transcription.
Chapter 6: FIC: El Aquila Y La Serpiente Ch 4 FINAL: Viva la Vida
The final piece Rachel and Sheldon play is Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 47, #9, first movement 'Adagio sostenuto, Presto'.
FIC: El Aquila Y La Serpiente Ch 4 FINAL: Viva la Vida
DISCLAIMER: Rodriguez owns all, I have nada
PAIRING: Sands/El etc.
RATING: R for language, imagry
WARNING: **g** enjoy!
Thank you one and all for your patience in waiting for me to finish this piece and for reading it. I know it was a long, strange ride. Here is the finale.
Viva la Vida
He disentangled his limbs from the sleeper at his side and padded over the the window. It was icy cold beneath his hands and he shivered a little. His breath made little rounds of frost on the pane and he drew one finger through the dampness, then turned to retrieve his robe with a low curse.
Cautiously, he eased himself out of the bedroom, trailing one hand along the wall to the winding staircase, down into the room below where the fire still burned. He reached out for another log and tossed it atop the embers along with a handful of fatwood that caught quickly.
Sighing a little with pleasure, he sat down, knees drawn up, to enjoy the warmth, stretching out his hands to let it sink into the chilled bones of his fingers, flexing them.
Goddamn freezing weather. He hated the cold and it was always fucking cold here. He couldn't seem to get warm for any length of time.
But there was always the view, he reminded himself acidly. Not that that made much difference to him now. Mountains, deserts, oceans, who the fuck gave a shit since the only thing he 'saw' anymore was black? Another language to add to his arsenal: dark. Muchas gracias, mis amigos Barillos. Definitely a liability, but certainly not insurrmountable. It hadn't stopped him from surviving. Besides, the only thing he really missed seeing was Rachel's face when she came.
What a fucking ride! He grinned to himself and got up to pour a drink. Dear Rachel, always so thoughtful, left the bottles out on the sideboard in careful order, not that he couldn't tell which was which just by their shapes: round and corrugated, that was that sticky sweet Chambord; oval and hollowed, the Pinch and Pinch scotch; rectangular and embossed with an agave plant, that was his Hornitos. He grabbed the bottle and brought it back to the fire.
Well, hot damn, ten months gone and he was fucking freezing because she just had to be seen in Cortina. Must have spent a small fortune on apres-ski ensembles and for what? To tease the fuck out of everything in pants. It wasn't like they would get more than a flutter of eyelashes and a raging, unsatisfied hard-on. He swallowed another few ounces and let the familiar burn warm him from the inside.
However you looked at it----if I could look at it, he smirked----life was pretty good.
Switzerland in the spring and fall, the Costa del Sol or the Canarys in the summer and winter trips to every fucking fancy ski resort in the Alps to feed Rachel's twin obsessions: good powder and gawking admiration.
Yup. Viva la vida, folks. I'm still standing and I intend to be for a good long time.
He took another swallow and let his brain rewind with pleasure, lulling in the warmth of the fire and the burn of the tequila.
Goddamn, it had been too fucking easy. Child's play, really, especially when the poor dumb fucker of a musico tumbled right into his hands by falling in love. Gravy.
That indefinable sixth sense that had kept him alive through a dozen years of close calls and agency fuckups had served him well, intensified by disability and determination.
Shit, I'm a classic Americano, he grinned. Give me lemons and I'll figure out a way to make lemonade. Take my eyes and I'll use the ultimate son of Mexico to screw the cartels, the agency and the dim motherfucker who was more blind than I'll ever be.
The plan had emerged as soon as he had been able to think clearly, off the morphine---although there were times he almost craved that luscious, dreamy buzz---and in control once more. He had sensed that they were followed out of Culiacan. It was nothing he ever could have pinpointed, just a gnawing in his gut, but he had learned long ago to never question that sensation. It had been only a matter of time to wait for Ramirez to stumble into that hotel and confirm what he had already known.
Well, goody for dear old Jorge, the two-timing fucker. He'd gotten his own in the back room of El Gato Azul, along with the idiots the cartel had sent. Sergei and Jose had been more than effective, detaining Ramirez and spiriting him off to the club. The other morons had poked their stupid heads up as soon as El Mariachi stepped out onto the dance floor with Sergei. Jose had lined them all up like ducks in a row and it had taken him exactly three seconds to blow a hole in each skull. And retrieve the cartel pendejo's phone. Yee haa, a direct line to the bosses.
Ramirez' price had been nice and high, a full ten million pesos, which he split with Sergei and Jose. Sergei had taken that fucking dog too, the little piece of puke left by Chambers and oh-so-kindly adopted by Idiot-boy Ramirez. By now Sergei, Jose and the pooch were probably off on some beach in Rio de Janiero, fucking lifeguards or each other. A chacun son gout.
Then there had been dear old El. Music hath charms, just don't it? He swallowed another mouthful, swirling it around his palate and letting it eat its way down his throat.
Damn, if he didn't miss the sex, though. At least at first, when it had been all fire and fury. That last fuck had been a snooze and a half, and damn, but didn't I just deserve an Academy nom for that "oh-my-God-I'm breaking" performance? Dumbass Mexican. A total romantic and Silly Putty in my paws. Too bad I couldn't have wrangled up a few tears. Now that would have been icing on the cake.
Sergei had already provided their fake French passports and had made it so easy to lift them from his purse under the table. He'd called the cartel, when El thought he was so heartbreakingly drunk at the piano and discovered that they were willing to pay a full 5 million US dollars to get the Mariachi dead. So sad, too bad, off with his head. Such a shame a good fuck was worth more dead than alive.
He smiled at the flames crackling in the fireplace. Sergei didn't give a shit as long as he got some cash and a half-million was cheap to get Rachel into the mix, fit her out with body armour, because he didn't trust El as far as he could fuck him. That, two theatrical blood paks and a silenced .22 equaled one dead Mariachi.
Okay, he really had wished he could have watched it go down. It would have been such a kick to see the look on El's face when that bullet tore through him, his lips sticky with fake blood and lies.
Ah well, such are the vicissitudes of life. Can't see, still can shoot. Outlast, outwit, outplay. 'Survivor' has nada on me, baby.
He heard her, scuffing down the stairs in her slippers. There was a cool 4 million in his new Swiss account, transferred by phone from the Cayman Islands account on the way to the airport. One stop in Havana, then on to Paris, then Lucerne and they were free and clear. Of course, there had been Rachel, bitching and moaning about her cracked rib from El's bullet. He was just glad the fucker hadn't aimed for her head and shot a hole through his hand. That would have been simply too much serendipity for one day.
But he'd always been a little more than lucky.
Even if the agency knew he was alive, all the ruckus in Iraq was keeping them busy and it would look very bad if they suddenly offed a poor, disabled French national. Nothing like international politics to ease things up, was there? Besides, he had them by the balls. He grinned again. Only he and Rachel knew the whereabouts of the safe deposit box with all his notes on the dirty dealings from his stints in Paraguay to Mexico. They wouldn't try, at least not anytime soon. So handy to have an international 'incident' at one's fingertips.
She laid one hand on his shoulder. "Sheldon, what's wrong? Can't sleep?"
"Nah, just need to get warm. I'm fucking freezing."
She took the bottle from him gently. "Come on. Let's practise for a bit."
He let her help him up and opened the piano, the sounds of her pulling the violin out of its velvet cocoon whispering soft.
"What? The Kreutzer?"
"Sure, baby," she leaned over to kiss him, lips soft and pliant.
He turned back to the keys and splayed his fingers over them, the first sounds shades of piano as her strings began their song, the long sustained notes dragging at the dawn.
The music poured out into the blackness, his dark chords answered the sweetness of her bow as they climbed together towards the rush of melody, racing towards a completion they only otherwise achieved in bed.
His hands poured over the keys; they danced, chiming in harmony to her arm, lulling down to sweet melody then rushing back, echoes of his lips on her body, her hands on his flesh, passion lighting the music from deep within both, his whole body swaying with it, her's stiff in place except for her white arms moving in violent emotion.
As one, the sounds were a torrent, tangled together the way their hair and hands twisted, violent, and desperate, then pausing to breathe in one another, soft and tender notes bleeding into each other. On and on, the frenzy of answering cadences ran, crashing together in passionate harmony, then discord, swimming in a void with only one object in sight, until the last coda. His hands pounded out both melody and percussion, her fingers plucking at the echoes until they melded into the final fiorituri, like hands tangled in one another's hair, breath shared between open lips, bodies clenched in one breathless explosion.
For a long moment, he sat still, his head bowed, dark hair covering his face.
"Sheldon?" her voice was soft. "With me....you know. You wouldn't ever, would you?"
From under the tangle of his hair, he smiled softly and ran a little arpeggio over the keys.
And mouthed, silently, "Oh yes I would."
NOTES: The final piece Rachel and Sheldon play is Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 47, #9, first movement 'Adagio sostenuto, Presto'.
Chapter 7: FIC: Coda
Some 3 years after the events of El Aquila Y La Serpiente, Sands has a new career and unfinished business
|Current music:||Boccherini---Fandango in D|
DISCLAIMER: Rodriguez own them, I'm toying with them.
PAIRING: Sands and.....
WARNING: This is set in the world and backstory created in El Aquila (link below). Sands is a VERY disturbed individual.
SUMMARY: Some 3 years after the events of El Aquila Y La Serpiente, Sands has a new career and unfinished business
He did not turn around, focused on the feel of his fingers dancing on the old Steinway; up and down, scales, arpeggios, inventions of his own making, punctuated with trills.
He could feel the weight of the audience out there. Their weight and waiting, while he warmed his hands and took a moment to adjust his right shoelace. He did hate fucking Oxfords, but they didn't interfere with his pedaling. And flip flops just looked tacky with tails.
It had been Rachel's idea to start performing. He'd been perfectly happy to lounge by the pool after his daily 100 laps and soak up the sun, but duels in notes could be just as satisfying as duels in the street. Clearly, he thought, the female ego outweighs the male.
She simply had to be noticed. Not that she didn't deserve it. She was a beautiful woman with a breathtaking technique, especially with old Ludwig. And one of the best fucks he'd ever had.
So what if she was his sister? He'd been through more than a few hells and he'd never heard God complain, not even from the Amati violin he'd bought her, pulling a few strings and digging into a few private dealers' pockets. What he couldn't hear now did not exist. God was a myth and salvation was a joke. Even sex was generally overrated.
There was always mayhem and his aim was preternaturally good for a blind fuck, but one just couldn't go spraying one's paying audience with automatic weaponfire, could one? Carnegie Hall in chaos? Bayreuth bloodbath?
It had rattled her no end when he was pressed for solo concerts and, finally, her bellyaching was just too much of a bother.
That and the insane amounts of money she started spending on her latest Italian lover. He got really bored of reminding her that their millions were not infinite, even if the bulk of it was returning more than 40% in clandestine investments; so bored he stopped mentioning it.
The world of classical performance was as much of a snake pit as any political mission and he was well-prepared when she had that accident. By then, dear Esteban was firmly esconced as his secretary and part-time fucktoy and the clever Spaniard had condensed it all into one, brief press release, prior to the tour supporting his first solo album. Well, who in hell wouldn't use a little additional publicity? She had hated lingering in Vienna the entire time he'd been recording. Baroque was not her thing.
Then again, she wasn't around anymore, and he was free to explore the depths of polyphony to his heart's content.
Skiing was such a dangerous hobby. So many things could go wrong.
He ran through another gruelling five minutes of scales and fiorituri, then let his hands wander where they would; snatches of a Chopin waltz dissolving into a Bach partita, up a third and into minor key for a tantalising echo of Lizst then crashing into Tschaikovsky. He snarled. He hated the Russian fag but it was good practise.
He played a snippet of the Kreutzer.
"Just for you, honey," His voice was soft, the smile dangerous.
He smelled something and whirled up from the keyboard, stumbling and just barely catching himself. Familiar scent. Something in the back of his brain clicked on and he scared the hell out of the stagehands, forgetting that the .9mm was in his hand as he stalked to the wings; his face a mask as they took it away, and the applause filled his ears.
The lights caught at his face, tanned to honey-gold, and glinted off the black shades. He knew exactly how many steps it was to the grand and paused to face the audience, focused on the dying murmuring and rustles.
First target, a little number by Johann Sebastian. Crowdpleaser. His hands flew over the keys and, despite gut nerves, he got lost in the intricacies of the fugue, each voice clear in his belfry.
Time for something sparkly, something with a bit of heart. Mozart was always up for it.
Lit from the froth of that Viennese pastry, he dove into the Rachmaninoff, pushing that smell away. Tequila.
He didn't drink it anymore.
He never ate them anymore.
Weighty Mother Russia gave way to Chopin, then Schumann. His hands were cold.
Backstage, during the interval, Esteban rubbed them, muttering, while he sniffed the air like a wolf.
The stagehands whispered and the stage rattled as they wheeled out the harpsichord, built expressly for this concert tour and fated to travel to two dozen cities before settling in his Mallorcan home. Esteban said it was 'muy hermoso' but what the fuck did Esteban know, except how to suck dick and obsess over travel plans? The lights were hot and he was on fire, the blood flush along the slice of his cheekbones.
More Bach. Mathematical, precise. He bent over the keys, feeling the instrument quivering at every touch. Like dismantling and reassembling his favourite Glock.
Scarlatti. More passion. His hands had their own life, and he let them go, making it up as he played. This is what they came to hear: improvisation, shots in the dark. He knew they were sitting bolt upright, breathless as he indulged in invention. He rose to take a bow, the applause washing over him like waves of arid air above baked pavements.
He sat back down and listened for that gypsy fuck with the long hair and longer tongue, Djani, to tap out a few soft beats on the castenets.
The Boccherini fandango. Once transposed for two keyboards, he'd combined them and reworked it. It had become his signature, an ocean of sound erupting from only two hands on an antique instrument, by a man to whom sound was a universe.
The back of his neck was crawling.
The frantic mating dance left no time to dwell on it. The keys responded to every jab, dancing against one another, answering and pushing.
The castenets clattered, the music mad. whirling; his ten fingers taking the place of violins, viola, cello, guitar.
Why did he hear a guitar? The sound stuck against his eardrums, quivering.
Of course, that's what it was written for. He was a variation upon a variation, with a few missing parts.
The cloying perfume of agave tasted sweet.
The castenets clacked and he launched into the second part, all improvised; different every time he performed it, leaving fans arguing whether New York or Berlin or Madrid has been more brilliant.
He was so hot, the formal collar stifling, the tailcoat riding on a layer of sweat.
Faster and faster it raced, his hands blurred, fingers flying over the keys. His nerves were plucked like the action of the instrument plucked the strings. His hands resumed their pace, accelerating until the final measures pounded out completion. The faint reverberation echoed in his head with a flash of heat and memory; dusty and parched and drowning in Mexican sunlight.
His head was spinning with guitar strings.
He heard the explosion of applause; shouts and yelling, something new in the staid concerthall. He could smell the flowers.
Something else. Heady, almost sickening.
Time to regroup. Get your shit together.
He played three encores and couldn't remember what he played.
Sweet, hot scent mingling with spice and acid.
Pink yellow smell, burning to neon hues behind the hollow sockets.
He slammed the dressing room door and reached out, stumbling his way to one wall and feeling for the arm of the sofa.
Gunpowder. Green chiles. Jasmine and agave.
A soft arpeggio of strings.
His hand slipped beneath his tailcoat. The holster was empty and he stopped still, his face quivering.
"Tu estas un diablo."
He took a breath and turned, smiling.
"What took you so long?"
"I was listening."
The guitar thudded a complaint as it hit the cushions.
His face was angelic. "Go on and pull it."
A shuffle, then fingers against his cheek, the pads warm and roughened.
He was still vibrating with the echo of the fandango, the dance of his hands filling every void. He was swiss cheese; his slight body hiding any number of holes. They were made whole in sound.
"Porque yo lo comprendo. Baile con me."
When the sun gilded his face, he rolled over and nestled against the solid warmth of green chiles and agave, following the elusive jasmine into the nape, saltsweet beneath heavy hair.
It was on the tip of his tongue to say any number of sulphuric comments but he only grinned at the sunlight.
His thoughts fractured and he laughed.
"Memories....are made of this."
El threw a pillow at him. "Don't you ever stop?"
Sands picked up the pillow and his .22. He smiled too sweetly.