THE St. Louis Speakeasy
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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 8:39 pm GMT 
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"<Such a latent entrepreneur, you bad socialist you.>" An insolent grin split across his face and just for a moment, he leaned forward and pressed his face against the side of Raphael's neck. His stubble scratched against smooth brown skin. "<Anytime you want to slap on some dirty berets and play 'Sierra Maestra' just say the word.>"

Raphael's hand moved across his body. He shifted into the touch, catlike. From the instant Raphael's weight settled onto the mattress, Sascha had been attuned to his presence: heat, scent, proximity. It was a keen, animal awareness; like some electroreceptive creature reading the pulses and currents that crackled soundlessly across the thick air between them. A moment later, his fingers closed around Raphael's forearm, stalling the progress of that hand. He kissed the curve of Raphael's shoulder, just below the outer edge of his collarbone.

Then, without warning, he plucked the book from Raphael's hands and flopped back onto the pillows. Raphael would receive one lingering, suggestive look from over the top of the pages before Sascha dropped his gaze to the text. The rest of the invitation was spelled out in the provocative splay of his body across the mattress, in the angle of his limbs. One of his legs was draped casually across the Cuban's lap. Sascha stretched, arching his back, and settled back against the bed.

Cracking open the book, he saw at once that a good two-thirds of the preface were missing. Then came some kind of Biblical quote. With a mercenary instinct, he skipped over that, too, and began with the first line of the prologue: "El Alquimista agarró un libro que alguien de la caravana había traido."

His German was bad, worse than he remembered. He'd always thought of this as a simple story, simple to the point of stupidity, not to mention the philosophical-spiritual angle, which he considered drivel. Still, he found himself struggling over vocabulary. Rather than admit to ignorance, he merely skipped over or summarized, rephrasing on the fly based on his best guess derived from context and memory. "El libro no tenía cubierta pero pudo identificar a su autor, Oscar Wilde," pronouncing the name like a native Chicagoan.

The first time this book had crossed his path was nearly twenty years earlier. He'd been in third grade then and he, too, had heard it read aloud. His parents had briefly employed a Chilean au pair in the hope of teaching Sascha to read and write, as well as speak, in Spanish. He still remembered the floral scent of her hair as she leaned over him to correct a spelling mistake, one he'd manufactured on purpose in the hope of luring her closer. Rocío, that was her name. A sweet girl. She'd lasted nearly three months before Ignaz Dautzenberg's connections apprised him of her situation. It seemed she'd fled Chile as a university student, escaping the dictatorship, had mixed with a leftist crowd while studying in the Faculty of Letters; that in fact, most of her circle had wound up in clandestine detention centers to face interrogation and torture, to join the faceless ranks of the desaparecidos. Ignaz had come home from work that day and fired her, and by the next morning she was gone.

She'd taken her copy of The Alchemist with her.

Sascha's translation, meanwhile, was not, strictly speaking, a good one. It was slapdash, full of regionalisms: Argentinian, slangy. Still, despite it all he managed to keep his voice even and the pace steady. The same cigarette-roughness still hung about the edges of his words, as through his throat were lined with scorched paper. It was a bit flatter than his normal tone, and not particularly expressive. It made him sound just the slightest bit bored of his own performance. He reached the end of the prologue--one page, a scant two paragraphs. Then, leaving the book open and flat against his chest, he sprawled out on the bed and exhaled as though he'd just run a dead sprint.

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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2016 3:07 am GMT 
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When Alesandro snatched his prize from him, his victim raised his hands in a joking surrender- you got me, you seduced me-- and laughed as he watched him fall back and effortlessly make use of his body. A footrest, a partial pillow. In answer to that final kiss, or more likely the sultry look, he punished him with a single lingering kiss, high on his inner thigh- though distinctly nothing more- and then settled back on his elbows to listen to the sound of his voice. After a moment he began to idly move a hand across his leg where it rested insolently over him; massaging his foot and calf with leisurely hands. In time he let his eyes close and sank back into the warm embrace of the sunlight across the bed.

That deadpan drawl, with the occasional interruption of distinctly American pronounciation cracked a smile out of him, and now and then he had to bite his lip to stop himself laughing. Some of the phrases were lost on him in that musical, almost Italian accent. He found himself furrowing his brow more than once to try to tweak meaning from his dialect. Rather than any irritation he might have felt at being lost he felt a kind of faint, fond urgency, a need that whispered something like- I want to untangle his words before I die. Unlock those little secrets in his accent.

It was also a novelty to listen to passages written by Alesandro Dautzenburg, since in places they clearly weren't the words of the original author. Dautzenburg was right, there were certainly sentences of sentimentality, but then, it was in his own terms. And it made him want to laugh and listen, and lie there trying to put meaning to the blurred memory of the foreign German words he'd stared glassily at during the long coach trip. He'd unlocked a lot for him, this man. The secrets of borders, of his own body, of the faded typeface in an old damaged book.

When his words came to a close, he found himself a little disappointed. Still, it gave him a chance to glance over and enquire, in quiet, sincere reverence whether he had ever been scouted to release audio-tape readings. If he hadn't, it was a travesty.

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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2016 6:35 pm GMT 
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Sascha snorted, convinced Raphael was making fun of him. Rather than defend himself, he merely nudged Raphael in the ribs with his foot. Truth was, ages had passed since he'd read anything beyond poems or news articles--usually online, occasionally in print. World news, the business section. Though he'd come to believe major league sports were a means by which capitalist-imperialist world governments kept their citizens complacent and stupid--"bread and circuses," as it were--on very, very rare occasions he found himself unwillingly seduced by football news about this championship or that.

So it was strange to be immersed in fiction once again for the first time since-- Well, a long time. There'd been assigned reading all through high school, but he'd never really cared enough to actually do the work. More often than not, he'd wrangled a summary from some female classmate during passing period, and from there had deduced enough to scrape through exams with passing grades.

Just for a moment, he'd managed to shut out the turmoil--the fear, the helpless anger--of his informant's report. Having set down the book, it came creeping back into the periphery of his mind. Malik dead. Shen missing. No word from Kip.

But Raphael was alive, and he was here. Sascha closed the book and reached down to set it on the floor beside the bed. His searching hand found the warmth of Raphael's arm and slipped down it to lace fingers through his. Their joined hands linked them together even as each drifted in the silence of his own thoughts.

I'm in love with you, he'd told him, and had meant it.

Sitting up, he raised Raphael's hand to his mouth and kissed it--and then, leaning over him, smoothed hair back from his forehead and kissed him there, too. Kissed the side of his mouth.

"<Sunset's in about an hour. What do you say--d'you wanna grab beer and something to eat and walk down to the beach?>"

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"Because studies have shown that dvorak's a genius" - Dass
"On a side note, dvorak, looks like the Pope is recognising your authority in Sainting people. Can only be one person representing God on earth at a time" -TFP


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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2016 3:12 am GMT 
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"<I'd say yes.>"

Something about the fluctuating dexterity in those hands gave Raphael a reason to slip a hand over the back of Dautzenburg neck to stop him drawing away early. Because, for all his driven need to survive and to look ahead into hell, the laptop still rested on the desk. The phantoms it had conjured would still be lingering in the room and in his mind.

Perhaps before the ship it might have been a question of fixing him as one might tend to a machine threatening to break. He had already seen the devastation Dautzenburg could unleash on himself when given just the right amount of isolation. Before the ship... No, before whatever had happened in a car stranded in the rain, he might have even wanted it, cruel with some sort of sadistic vengeance. Perhaps he would have found it satisfying, not just pitiable. Before.

The tips of his fingers curled into his hair, and he turned his head enough to kiss the whorl of his ear. Before, when this would have seemed like some ugly, seductive nightmare, with the shadow that now fell over him a simple threat. Before he had cared little for the state of that blackened heart.

"<There's a condition though.>" Raphael's voice was warm and light against his ear. He'd shed his sarcasm. "<Read to me again, later.>"

...

He was still unaccustomed to this. In the streets of Chennai his steps had been fast and precise- or rather they'd had to be to avoid been utterly swallowed in the pace of the crowds around him and the veering mopeds and taxis. In Hong Kong, drunk and bitter he'd tried to keep to the shadows, but everything had been lit in a maze of halogen and neon light. A writhing, glaring mass of life and death and everything between had shuddered for him that night. In his memories it was only that. A nightmarish, dazzling decadence he'd almost loved. Or at least it had served to numb.

It was strange to be walking by someone's side, slow and unhurried, and feel the cold dewy glass of a beer bottle cold in his palm and on his lips. It was strange to not be lost in a crowd, or looking for one. It was strange to not feel in pain, or hungry, or dirty or tried. It was strange to taste normality.

They passed the last building desperation them, and the sea- now on fire with its low-hanging sun. The salt scent that had been building on the air rushed over them with the breeze, and Raphael found himself inhaling deep- almost overcome with a rush of memories from another city, another sea.

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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2016 7:33 pm GMT 
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It didn't take long before the dusty waterfront avenues gave way to an open stretch of ocean. The beach itself was flat, the sand hard-packed and dirty. At this hour, it was sparsely occupied. Most of the tourists were safely packed away in oceanfront resort hotels, or had wandered off in search of dinner; most of the ambulant vendors had followed. The sun had begun to dip low, and the huge, billowing clouds blazed with its light. A gentle salt-breeze blew intermittently in from the ocean, though the surface of the water was calm. The glow of sunset rolled across its gentle, glassy surface.

He liked west-facing beaches for just this reason, liked to see the sun sinking down into the sea. This time he'd come prepared, wearing sandals he'd bought in Chennai. They were cheap plastic trash, really, and barely large enough to accommodate his feet, but he'd felt the need to put something between his soles and the floor of the hostel shower. On impulse, he'd picked up a second pair, thinking at the time--I may never see him again, but... what the hell. Now he kicked off the sandals to walk barefoot, not minding the prickle of plastic bottle caps or the occasional bit of shell beneath his feet. He was glad, too, for the hard sand. He'd just begun to regain a normal gait, and soft drifts would have exacerbated his limp, even with the knee brace strapped tight beneath his jeans.

It would be strange to leave all this for Germany. Up until now, the ocean had been a constant. That first hungover morning, Raphael stripping down on an urban beach in Hong Kong. Drifting through black waters on a moonless night. The slap of the sea against the hull of a rusty dhow, when all else had gone quiet. Those currents which had chewed them up and spat them out on unfamiliar shores. Dreams of a solitary figure, sun-bleached canvas, bleeding ink. And now here they were.

Sascha abandoned the sandals just above the tide line. Rolling up his jeans, he walked down to the water's edge and let the waves wash over his feet. After the first shock of contact, the water was warm, as warm as the evening air around them. Condensation beaded on the glass bottle held loosely between his fingers. On the shore behind them, the sounds of the city faded away into a muted rumble of traffic, the occasional blare of a car horn, the rustle of palm leaves that sounded almost like falling rain. He glanced back over his shoulder, looking for Raphael. The dying sun painted the sharp lines of his face, set his gray eyes glowing like coals. This could be their last peace for a long time. The memory of whatever solace they found now would have to last, perhaps for a lifetime.

He stood at the edge of the sea with foam swirling around his feet, and as each wave receded, his own shadowy form was momentarily reflected in the glassy mirror of damp sand beneath his feet. Sascha looked back and reached out a hand to Raphael: upturned palm, fingers outstretched. In the last light of day, he was smiling.

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"Because studies have shown that dvorak's a genius" - Dass
"On a side note, dvorak, looks like the Pope is recognising your authority in Sainting people. Can only be one person representing God on earth at a time" -TFP


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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 2:56 pm GMT 
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Raphael watched him walk away towards the ocean with a strange sense of unease, or fondness, or whatever it was that made his heart twist so uncomfortably in his chest and give him a strange feeling of sickness. Hypnotised, his steps halted and he could only look at him go. He tended to forget his dreams, like most. This image still seemed to haunt him; some strange premonition that bled in and out of living and nightmare. As before, he found himself unable to call out and stop him. Only look. Watch the light soften the lines of his silouhette. Colour his irses in flame.

It was only after a delayed moment that he noticed the hand reached out towards him. His eyes were forced to glance once more to the sand and the sea, and the blanched colour of his shirt just to make sure... Ah, make sure of what? If he were living in any sort of a dream, it was now. His nightmares are the moments that reek of reality. He grinned, stepped forward and after a brief hesitation, let his fingers interlace with his. An unthinkable transgression. He stood shoulder to shoulder with him, and tilted his face up towards the sky. The rush of the ocean felt so good. It tugged him rhythmically, gently, coaxing him deeper into inescapable currents and riptides. Perhaps it was only the strength of the other man's hand preventing him from seeking them out.

That twisting pain again, and then more localised in his arm, deep to that little scar. He kept the connection between them a moment longer- his fingertips traced the tendons that ridged over the back of his hand- and then drew away to his pocket so he would not see him clench those same fingers into a fist. He drew himself up and looked out into the horizon. Foreign birds wheeled over a foreign sky, the first glimmer of unknown stats. One could practically see those elements of armour being drawn on; they pulled his shoulders back, set his jaw, strengthened his back. The breeze broke over him. And he was still.

"<Never would have seen any of this, you know. I've been strangely lucky.>"

Soldier, student, cynic, artist, still with wonder of a child in his eyes.

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