THE St. Louis Speakeasy
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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 6:08 pm GMT 
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"Mmm." Raphael's voice was cynical and hard-cut. "<To translate menus, and books you hate.>" The Alchemist was still in his bag, no that he'd made any sense of it since Dautzenburg had left. Rather, it had held a promise instead.

And to do what, exactly? To read a few paragraphs together before a hail of inevitable bullets? What painful sentimentality it was, to speak of time together as if the air had not run red moments ago with words of murder. The threat of Dautzenburg's own hung in the air before him like a guillotine blade and he stepped towards it-- towards airports and CCTV networks, brandishing himself like a target and expecting Raphael to crawl, protected in his shadow.

The blue sky became the never-ending ocean of his dreams, towards which stepped that ever-elusive figure, forever walking towards the sea.

"<You don't have to come.>"

His words had been sharp. He half-regretted them as soon as he said them. Time was slipping through their fingers like sand, but the sound of Dautzenburg's scream still haunted him

He murmured a curse between gritted teeth and pushed himself up onto a forearm. As he glanced over his shoulder at him, he caught a glimpse of the brace and that hint of faint weariness in his eyes.

Dautzenburg had said it better than he had. Their time together was limited. Their shared hours in the past were so often littered with sharp words and even the simmering threat of violence; their relationship, whatever you could call it, so new and yet so bruised.

"<... Forget it.>"

With a shift of his body Raphael turned to face him. He lay outstretched, his head damp against the pillow. For a moment he traced the lines of shadow cast in from the encroaching branches by their window over the orange linen. Then, with concealed indecision he levered himself up on an elbow and reached out a hand to cup his jaw and guide his face to his; not in any invitation of lust but just to touch his forehead with his own, and feel the faint warmth of his breath. He knew, or even half-expected him to draw back. He had his own selfish reasons. That precious moment gave him the sight of the faint creases in that white collar; of a bead of water running down the side of his neck and the faint discolouration left by a healed cut over his lower lip. It hasn't quite scarred. Hopefully, if they played their cards right none of them would, and Dautzenburg skin would return marked only by an accident from years ago and a maze of ink across his back, and Raphael a memory.

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:51 am GMT 
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"Right," he agreed.

Sascha had once voiced the thought, in a rare moment of candor amidst the earliest days of their acquaintance, that he lived under the assumption he'd never see thirty-five. Now, answering Raphael's sudden outburst in dry, even tones, he left the words themselves unsaid. Raphael knew by now, or should know in any case, that Sascha had spent the better part of his time up to now anticipating a life full of pain and an early death. The truth was, it still bewildered Sascha that Raphael would question why he'd left his old life behind. After all, Raphael had seen him in the hotel room, lost in a fog of narcotics and smoke. That, or some variation on it, was what awaited him. They both knew it. Raphael made for an unlikely guardian angel; Sascha, in turn, did his best to return the favor.

You don't have to come.

As though there was anywhere else he would even want to be.

He'd promised this, a lifetime ago--a week ago, give or day a few days. They'd been two lonely young men holding each other in the dark sanctuary of a car that smelled like new leather. The rain had poured down around them, drowning out their words. Alone in the midst of that pluvial night, with the words of long-dead poets still ringing in their ears, they'd taken solace in laced fingers, thumbs tracing the rise and fall of hard knuckles, the ridges of tendons and veins. They'd taken some small comfort in that intimate topography.

Huddled together in rain and darkness. Two orphans facing the storm.

They'd come a long way from I hope you die in pain.

Raphael leaned over him, then, resting his forehead against Sascha's. He didn't draw back, nor did he close his eyes, not yet. For whatever reason, it all came back to him now: the car, the night, the rain. Now as the afternoon sun edged across the sky, it sent drowsy sunbeams crawling across the orange bedspread, the sheets. Raphael's mess of curls was damp against his face.

"<There's no place else I'd rather be. You know that, right? You have to.>"

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2016 1:05 pm GMT 
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Raphael's lips parted in a rueful, sarcastic smile. "<So you tell me.>" How could he forget that his skin burned against that of a willing martyr. He doubted that Dautzenburg remembered his promise from those twilight days; to bargain for Raphael's rucksack rather than his life if the need ever arose and leave him to his captors. The younger man didn't didn't bother to mention it again. What would be the use...? At most he would receive a thin lie, if Dautzenburg felt charitable enough to bestow it. Today, here, it didn't seem likely.

His thumb ghosted across the scratch of stubble over Dautzenburg's jaw, mapping out its curve in a lazy arc. Circumstances had meant that he was more used to him like this than clean-shaven. Whilst his lips were soft there was a faint roughness that came with each kiss. It as true that he suited this more than the groomed, panther-like figure he had cut in a Hong Kong ballroom. And yet for a man of such intelligence, Raphael had to wonder- with a note of bitter mirth- that he only saw the present and the past as his two options. He had had no prospect of return to that spotless and soulless office the moment he had stepped into that grotty room in a St Louis hostel, said 'come with me'. For all his vision he couldn't chart some other course that wasn't stained with the prospect of needles.

In that moment he wanted to speak out and convince him that some other life lay beyond this, with more beauty and worth than was found in killing himself alone or by the side of a stranger. Not that he had the words to do so. His own dreams were paper thin and caught aflame too quickly; they cast a bleak light over his path.

"<I wish I was home. I wish I had essays to hand in, and errands to run.>"

He closed his eyes then. His hand found its way to the curve of Dautzenburg's shoulderblade; his fingertips tracing its angle and cutting across those lines of black. His voice was quiet; as if soft enough to not interrupt the faint hiss and sigh of Caribbean waves, phantoms laughing outside their window in Cuban voices.

"<I wish you'd come to Havana. I could have seen you standing by the window of your hotel room from the street.>" He paused, laughed, his head shifted so that his profile rested against the side of Dautzenburg's neck. Faint warm touches, his nose, his lips as he spoke. "<... That's if you deigned to stay near my quarter, which is unlikely.>"

His eyes were downcast to watch the shifting pattern below his hand glimpsed through the collar of his shirt. The rest of the words were there, unspoken but for the faint inflections in his voice. Then you'd invite me up with a look, and see me without a scar, without the lost years. And you? I couldn't say what you were like then, when I was still that young. More, or less lost?

Also hidden there, the quiet answer to Dautzenburg's question; I know. I know.

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2016 7:08 pm GMT 
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He'd seen movies, of course, had skimmed through the occasional issue of National Geographic glancing at photos with muted disinterest. Now he drew upon that visual repository as he worked to make sense of what Raphael had just said. There were the old cars in bold reds and blues and pinks, hallmarks of a decade the rest of the world had long since buried. And like most he'd seen snapshots of picturesque ruins, crumbling balustrades that spoke to the faded glory of another time. He knew almost nothing of the life that persisted amidst the decay. The rest was pieced together from his fragmented knowledge of the Caribbean more generally. He'd spent some time in the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico--and above all, the Dominican Republic. From those memories sprung images of gray skies, the clouds heavy and low, the pressing humidity lifted by an occasional sea breeze. There were palm trees on spindly, swaying trunks, colonial architecture, dust and trash and poverty. Did Havana have a beach? He couldn't say.

Even those memories were stale now. He'd mostly traveled there in the late 90s, right after leaving school. Despite the appeal of flouting the law when possible, he'd never felt particularly tempted to sneak into Cuba. At that time, the lingering scars of the Special Period were fresh enough to drown out the lure of forbidden fruit which might otherwise have attracted him there. Even so... Thinking about who he'd been then, and how he'd spent his time, brought a bad taste to his mouth. He'd sprung for spacious suites at exclusive beachfront resorts: everything saturated in luxury, and access so tightly controlled that the only locals who'd ever so much as glimpse the lobby were hotel employees. And despite it all, he'd wandered away from those fine sanctuaries his money had carved out for him, taking long nocturnal walks through bad parts of town, drinking in local dives, picking up dark-skinned girls--or occasionally boys--who smelled the affluence on him, his foreignness, and half-hoped something more would come of it than an emotionless fuck in the back alley. Then he'd come sauntering back to the hotel at four, five, six in the morning, collar askew, sometimes with split knuckles, dripping blood onto the polished floors.

He smiled up at the ceiling, his eyes open, seeing someplace else. "<I don't think you would've liked me in Havana.>"

Truth was, he was glad Raphael had not known him then. If Raphael thought him reckless now, too willing to burn, he should've seen him before the accident... back when the only scars littering his skin were the ones he'd invited himself. The crash, the hospital, the long recovery: all had tempered him, had cooled the furious fire in him just enough to clear his head and give him some kind of direction. Shortly after re-learning to walk, he'd set about building his empire.

There was something compelling in it, though, an enchantment woven through the idle speculation of what might have been. That other life, which neither would see. "<All that aside, I can see us drinking rum on a balcony someplace, wandering side-streets at sunset. Waiting at the edge of the sea as a storm rolls in.>" Raphael's breath was a faint, even warmth against his throat. In his mind's eye, this drowsy Goan afternoon had already given way to thick, tropical darkness and the crackle of palm fronds in the rising wind outside.

"<And hell, why not. If you behaved yourself and didn't punch me too often, I might've snuck you up past reception.>" A lazy smirk spread across his face. There was no doubt in his mind as to whether he could've managed such a feat. "<Imagine, your first time in a hotel room without having to drag my ass five kilometers through the jungle first. Could've been nice.>"

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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Fri Apr 22, 2016 10:00 am GMT 
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"<And take away my sense of victory? Not a chance.>"

The smooth draw of his palm saw them recline back against the soft security of the sheets. Raphael's forearms rested on either side of the other man's chest. His lips idly searched out the shadows his shirt collar cast over his neck. Faint and passing, the kisses were almost felt akin to the listless, relaxed way someone might skim the page of a book, or play with the petals of a flower. In this time of running and chasing, there was an unexpected luxury in lazy moments.

He grinned against the warmth of the tanned skin, and add in a mutter- "<Who's saying I like you here?>"

Still, Dautzenburg wasn't the only one to think suddenly of thick, storm-heavy clouds circling overhead and erasing India's sky. He imagined some stranger with Dautzenburg's face, and a scarless body taking the hand of another stranger, that boy from Raphael's past with a body still perfect and mind unclouded. Their ages didn't match, he knew, he'd only still be a child when Dautzenburg's photograph had been taken in those leathers. Still, to picture this; the kid who had just been accepted into University, and the reckless son of a tycoon smuggling him through gilded corridors, past uniformed bellboys and the stern gaze of the night manager. He remembered the odd glimpses of the hotels he had seen. Black marble, mirrors in the elevators and pot-plants tumbling from their confines populated the fantasy. Beds with sheets tucked so tight you had to tug them loose, towels folded in the shape of swans.

Those half-formed visions faded. He ran his lips over the curve of Dautzenburg's throat, and imagined another scene. It came more like a memory; the heavy press of books' spines against his own, digging in with every step and overhead the night's sky, littered with a few stars, a few whisps of cloud and naked wiring. The humidity on the air mingling with his sweat, and all quiet and still save for a dog barking,and the cough and splutter of an old car engine. Then, a tune, hummed into the night. Only this time, when he looks up to the dilapidated balcony and his step falls to a halt, it is to the tune of Gardel's "Mi Noche Triste", and the eyes that gaze down at him are the colour of steel.

"<... But you're right. Could've been nice.>"

The bitterness in Dautzenburg's smile could wait; he'd never met the phantom in the photograph. Perhaps he might had made him pine, back then; the embarrassing tale of a foreigner who steals the local's heart and then leaves in the morning. Could have been nice, to be heartbroken.

"<Got my audience with you years too late, huh.>"His smile widened, and he let his jaw on a scarred palm to look down at him. "<I'm bringing back your difficult questions. Your first kiss, since you asked me mine.>"

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 8:53 pm GMT 
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Havana under dark skies. A place out of time. Two young men. One is bowed beneath the weight of textbooks, his eyes on the pavement; its sidewalks uneven and pocked with holes of varying diameter and depth, Havana is a hazard for daydreamers. The other's forearms are specked with grit from the crumbling balcony. Drink in hand, he hums tango into the night, and a rising wind carries the sound to the street below. One looks up, one down. Their eyes meet in the gloom. Tilted chin, arched brow. They meet in the apartment's darkened doorway, the first a little breathless, having stumbled up two flights of stairs. The second helps him off with his tattered rucksack, like a gentleman helping a lady remove her coat. It thuds to the cracked tile, and the two of them are left together in silence. As they look each other over in the deepening dusk, their eyes catch the gleam of light from the street below. They kiss before they speak. Even when the words do come, they are snatched murmurs of instructions, requests--quieres--te gustaría--no pare--until well after they've settled into each others' arms with bruised throats and damp hair, scratches all up and down their backs. Otherwise, they are unmarked: no scars, tattoos. The bed is too small, the room humid and still, though the wind outside continues to rise. When a loose shutter bangs against the window frame, both start and glance up with vaguely guilty expressions. Only then, in the aftermath of their quiet laughter, does he ask. Che, y cómo te llamas. An hour or so later, they part. The next night as the student trudges home, he chances to look up. There he is again, leaning on the balcony, watching night fall with a drink in his hand. This time, a second drink rests at his elbow.

.....

Afternoon in Goa. Raphael's palms were rough and warm along his side where his shirt had ridden up. Sascha stretched beneath him, groaning a little.

"<Oh Christ. Of all the-->"He bit back the rest of the protest and contented himself with merely rolling his eyes. He was reticent, of course, as always. Today, though, it seemed he could scarcely be bothered to put up a fight. "<Fine, but then it's your turn.>"

He settled deeper into the mattress. His hands had fallen back against the pillows above his head. Now, he ran one through Raphael's hair, letting it slip down to the nape of his neck. "<Fifth grade. I got caught kissing a boy behind the bleachers after football practice. Thank God my father never found out; the divorce was underway by then, so he was scarcely at home. I was suspended for a week, might even have been expelled. Except then my mother killed herself, and they felt sorry for me, so I got to stay. Lucky me,>" he added, with an expression that suggested he would probably have fared better with the expulsion.

"<Dad packed me off to Hong Kong not long after that, and the culture was different enough that I didn't have much to do with my classmates for at least another couple years.>" He shrugged, indifferent. "<By now you've got to have figured out that most of my stories are boring as hell. Yours?>"

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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2016 1:26 am GMT 
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As Dautzenburg spoke, the words weren't quite enough to slip away from the clutches of that fantasy. Or rather, a prayer to what might have been. It tested his imagination, the thought of running his hand down that chest and not being met with ridges of old pain and fault lines. Without them, he didn't know whether this would have ever happened between them. It had been a long night spent in darkness as his head rested on that cut stomach; in the rich, gagging haze of nightmares the feel of them against his cheek and hand had lured him back to some sort of reality. Or at least, whatever it was in the hot, timelessness of the cargo bunker. He couldn't say why. Perhaps it had been the quiet realisation that he was something more than a man simply to be despised and lusted after in equal measure. He had a past- no, he had known that before. Rather, it was the same hypnotic effect as the tattoo. There was another time in an age lost to memory and their reality forever etched into his skin; the moment he lay dying, utterly alone, on a deserted street with his blood rushing with the rain into the gutters. Dautzenburg lied. That was what he suspected, and even expected of him. But his body was eloquent.

Dautzenburg spoke, and he listened. Raphael had known the question would irritate him-- he'd half-posed it for that reason, a trade and punishment for when he had asked him last. Yet there was the familiar frame; a moment of quick confession with a reference to his father- always his father and mother. His head shifted on his palm as he looked down at him and moved subtley by the strength in his hand drawing through his hair. As ever it felt good. It in parted distracted from the faint, bitter realisation that the man's life before him was a tragedy; and moments in it something to be commented on and sacrificed to the wider theme. The boy, whoever he was, was nameless and faceless; a mere prelude to grief.

For a moment he wondered how Dautzrnburg would speak five years from now.

I knew a boy. In the end they killed him and for the next three years I skulked around the Euro-Asian border dodging Interpol. Course, my business had already been fucked and maybe that satisfied them in the end, who knows. Maybe they got bored and I got lucky.

... Figured out that most of my stories are boring as...

Raphael smiled, faintly, involuntarily. He drew back from his words for a moment just to relish the feeling of the heat of his bodies, and the faint stir of breath against his wrist. The bruises would fade, the little cut on his lip would heal- Dautzenburg's already had. Dautzenburg was too gentle, ironically, to leave scars, and Raphael had already made him bleed with the rope burn, the little cuts from branches he couldn't avoid. They were already gone in a week. Without them, maybe even with them, he would become a footnote. A boy. A man, maybe. A stranger. A reason to lament.

"<I was sixteen.>" I'd been avoiding it up till then. "<This music scholar had come in from the University to give us one-off tuition for the day. It was meant to be a cultural enrichment day or something. I think she thought I was older.>" His thumb traced circles over his collarbone. "<'Coro'. She had green eyes, and a little tattoo right here. I think it was a bird. I was told to stay behind and help her pack up- stacking rusty old violin cases. She cut herself on a latch and I went over to help, and she kissed me. I sort of knew she would. We stayed there for a few minutes, and then I went to get a first aid kit. When I came back she was gone. She'd left everything.>" He grinned. "<Probably had her wrists slapped by the faculty.>"

He laughed then, soft and rich, and sat up with his hands resting on the curve of his chest, his fingers bridging those old scars. His shirt was damp, translucent where he pressed it against his skin.

"<Satisfy you?>"

Forget me, rather than add me to your wretched life. Don't make me the poet that walked into the sea, like your mother; don't make me a tyrant like your father. Don't make me a martyr on the tapestry of your life.

He caught his hand before it fell from his neck, and kept it there; on the curve of his throat, just over the faint pulse of his life's blood. He fell quiet then, looking down at him, the sunlight breaking over his shoulders. His thumb traced the tendons in his wrist.

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2016 8:05 pm GMT 
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His free hand trailed slowly up and down Raphael's thigh. They touched each other so carefully in the moments like these, committing to memory the small details of their bodies. He tilted his head back, watching Raphael through half-closed eyes. In the golden light of afternoon, his skin shine like burnished mahogany. He looked so powerful in that moment, young and invincible. Sometimes it was easy to forget how easily bullets could shred through the human body, how easily that vitality could bleed away into silence. One of Sascha's wrists was still cradled between Raphael's fingers. He slipped his hand free, just far enough to run his thumb across the full arc of Raphael's mouth, lingering on the fullness of his lower lip. Raphael's eyes were the color of the sea, shifting and sunlit, beautiful.

In a way, it seemed those two sparse anecdotes had set the tone for their lives and what came after. Sascha, too precocious, had started too young, had relentlessly transgressed the boundaries of acceptability and had nonetheless somehow managed to dodge the consequences, though it hadn't done him much good in the end. Raphael, on the other hand, was cautious, avoidant, shying away until the moment when at last he'd found himself cornered. He was too beautiful for his own good, drawing too much attention, most of it unwanted. And so here they were.

"<You know me. Am I ever satisfied?>" He punctuated his words with a friendly slap to Raphael's haunch--not too hard, just wanting to see him startle. It was a perverse, rambunctious, proprietary sort of impulse. He flashed Raphael his most winning smirk, though it quickly softened into something marginally more genuine, less aggravating. "<I never expected to hear that story. Glad I did, though. Call me crazy, but your life is interesting to me. Even the parts that aren't classified.>"

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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2016 2:35 pm GMT 
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He got his response- probably more promptly than he even anticipated-- as Raphael flinched back a little, eyes widening and, had his complexion been a little lighter, Sascha would have been able to see rather than simply feel the flare of heat in his face. Then momentary and slightly disarming look of surprise gave way to a roguish smirk, and he caught that straying thumb with a gentle, warning bite- the warm touch of his tongue- and then his hands pinned him down by his shoulders as he gazed imperiously down at him.

"<Well damn, most of it is. I can probably let you into some good old-fashioned Havana University hazing rituals if I feel in the mood for it though.>" His admittance was warm and his voice rough and lazy in that characteristic drawl; it stalked the edge of a laugh. In moments like this, especially relaxed and hot, his voice seemed to deepen a touch. "<Though I'd need more props. And some terrible rum.>"

His grin widened for a second and then he pushed himself back with a yawn, falling back to rest on his elbows, head tilting back to look at the ceiling, the piece of blue sky through the window.

"<Y'know,>" he added, in the passing moment after the wind chime sang, "<You're so different to how I imagined. Then again, I never thought a low life off the street like me would ever meet the man himself.>" He glanced back at him with an antagonistic smirk. Even now he couldn't but but needle him. "<Coming from a member of 'that humanity', that is.>"

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2016 2:53 pm GMT 
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He tried to think back to those days. Saint Louis summers had been hot at times--blazing August days meant for baseball games and bike rides, kids chasing after the tinny jingle of an ice cream truck, throwing rocks at the park fence. Not for Sascha, who had spent his days far above the streets in air conditioned offices. He'd needed to keep his guys on a short leash in those sweltering Augusts and Julys. Temperatures rose and tempers flared. Things could get ugly if they weren't careful.

They'd been careful.

He'd done what he could, of course, while staying somewhat above the fray, to disseminate his reputation as someone who was not to be fucked with. For the most part it had worked. Once he'd carved out his territory, he'd had little difficulty hanging onto it. Most of his competitors needed second identities, or help getting citizenship for this relative or that. He'd kept his enemies close with a tightly knit series of favors done and repaid. A few sparse yet highly memorable acts of violence had cemented his name and the fear behind it.

Still, he had to wonder. Glancing over at Raphael, he let his fingers trail up and down his stomach, the gentle ridges of his muscles. He'd given him a cool stare as his past words were tossed in his face. It faded soon after, though; now was hardly the time for sullenness. "<Dare I ask? I can't help but be curious. Something tells me I might be happier not knowing.>"

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2016 3:41 pm GMT 
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"<Well.>" He folded his arms and dropped his head back into their pillow with a thoughtful sigh. "<I kind of imagined a Corleone. Full Brando; cigar, rosebud.>"

He opened an eye to look down at him, where he lay across from him, his mouth still laced with that teasing, defiant grin. It faded just a little then, as he thought back- a month ago, a lifetime ago, to the cold streets and that desperate meeting. What was it he had felt, other than that mounting sense of anxiety as he had climbed those steps, and come toe to toe with thugs twice his size. Beneath the fear and desperation, what image had he painted.

"<You were so much younger than I imagined. I never thought that anyone your age could have so much power. And so many rumours.>" The rhythmic stroke and gentle press of those hands coaxed his eyes closed again, and he settled back.

"<At first it you hear snatches of the line- Yeah, I know this guy who can make documents. And then when you deep a little deeper, this shifty recluse turns into a middle-man who knows a guy, who knows a guy, who knows the password to this organisation. This terrifying well-oiled machine. The way it was spoken about, it was almost like a living creature. You could almost forget there was meant to be a man at its heart.>"

He remembered the alleyways that led to small rooms filled with cigarette and cannabis smoke, and the short, fast, peppered way people spoke there. He'd learned to get some sort of a tick or animation fast; the clean lines of his soldier's stance, the way he carried his shoulders invited unease. They shivered, they smoked and wrung their cracking hands. To make them feel at ease enough to trust him, he'd learnt the art of trembling and licking boots. It had taken all his pride. And yet, had their positions been reversed Dautzenburg might have died in those rooms; his spine too laced with steel to bend. But then, he was too clever to find himself there in the first place; that took idiocy, Raphael's own distinct brand of self-destruction.

His voice had grown soft and low, as if he were daydreaming more than recounting. "<And then one day I heard the name ''Dautzenburg'; and whenever that name came up, those who obviously knew it got suddenly... careful.>"

Raphael cracked open his eyes and gave him a wry smirk. Remembering the office, the dark silouhette in the hostel doorway, his rogue recklessness on the open sea, the dark pain and pleasure of his embrace, the power in his fingertips.

"<And that's where I really got the mistaken belief you were a dangerous man.>"

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2016 4:19 pm GMT 
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He'd fallen silent as he listened, the smile fading from his face. Raphael--or Raphael's sources, whoever they'd been--had been right about one thing. He was powerful. He was dangerous. Or he had been, then. Now he was not so sure. All that had been ripped away and left behind. In fairness, he'd as good as taken a hammer to the whole thing himself. Still, it was a fresh wound. Every now and then it would bleed.

In hearing those days retold, he felt himself coming back to life. His reign was resurrected in the words that spilled from Raphael's beautiful lips. Those had been days of glory and danger, though he only saw it now in retrospect. As with most things in his life, he'd grown tired of it, fed up with the routine. Even a criminal empire needed its fair share of bureaucracy to run smoothly. He'd derived pleasure from the rewards of his chosen occupation, even as he'd wearied of the day-to-day business of it. There had been power, then, and prestige, in a limited shadowy way. In certain smoky rooms and rain soaked alleys, the mere mention of his name could make men fall silent with fear. That was good to know.

He felt like the dead man hearing his own eulogy. It had been a long time since he'd lived at street level, too long. Hearing it from Raphael, now, he was seeing a side of himself which had previously eluded him. And God help him, it felt good.

This time it was Sascha's turn to prop himself up on one elbow. "<I know you hate what I did. You're within your rights, of course. But damn. I fucking built that with my own hands. That... power, that fear. That was mine, you understand? For the first time in my life I carved out a place for myself, and it fit. Now...>" He shrugged and flopped down to lie on his back. Drawing away from Raphael, he laced his fingers behind his head where it lay on the pillow. "<Now I could be anyone. It's just a question of who I want to be. Which, fuck if I know.>"

Tearing his gaze from the ceiling, he cast a sidelong glance at Raphael. When he spoke, something in his voice had gone quiet, pensive. "<Who would you want me to be?>"

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 3:02 am GMT 
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His eyes had flickered wider at the words, and he responded at first with nothing more than a quizzical look.

Dautzenburg was right. He hated the previous life of his; one stepped in greed and blood. Whatever other principles he held, 'hate the sin, love the sinne'r was not one high on his list. When they came back to this topic, for him there always stirred a feeling of revulsion and disturbance. All those kilos of cocaine. Deny it or not, the weeks in which it had been in his possession stained him irrevocably. How many girls had died for it? How many kids shot in the street in Columbia?

There was the man from the office. He had spoken of La Migra, smiled with a sharp-toothed precision, and taken him by his collar in a stranglehold.

I don't give a shit if you want to call it blackmail. I'm doing you a favor. And I don't care if you hate me. I don't think it would kill you to show a little gratitude.

A sudden flashback to those words made his insides twist and he threw his glance towards him dismissively away. Then, forced by a sudden and sharp pain in his pride, he rolled off the bed and stretched, running his hands along his arms, the side of his neck. He remembered the attempted kiss there, followed by the numb burn of his knuckles, and blood spilling over Dautzenburg's lips. It hadn't felt good; just a vain show of defiance coming from an empty and horrified place in his heart.

That power, that fear. That was mine, you understand?

It would only take a look at the suddenly stiff lines of that back for Dautzenburg to realise just how much he understood.

"<Who I want you to be?>" His voice was distant, for a moment almost mocking. He made his way to the balcony, and leant himself against the frame of the French windows. The light dappled and fell on his skin, and he watched the weight of the chime drifting to and fro with the playful breeze.

He stood there in silence for a long moment.

"<If you'd just fucked me back in your office and let me go with the documents, I would have hated you. I still do, parts of me. But then I would have forgotten you. And I don't mean what you did, or your words, but your face and your voice would've been inconsequential. Just some pathetic ghost.>"

A few birds flew overhead; the air snapping and breaking with the strength of their wings.

"<And if you returned back to that, it's all you'd ever be. There's nothing beautiful or awe-inspiring about a name making kids afraid to play in the street.>" He threw a glance at him over his shoulder. "<The way I see it, you're intelligent, resilient. You know every flaw and crack in the system. And you think your only option is to sit back and laugh at the corruption and think that people don't deserve protecting-? You could be so loved, Alesandro.>"

The city was surprisingly still in the mid-afternoon heat. But there, a street away, walked a couple of schoolchildren, two boys throwing a tennis ball to eachother. Discussing homework maybe, or crushes, or their cricket team. Raphael glanced back to their laughter with a look of quiet fondness. One messed up their catch, and despite himself he found he'd grinned compulsively in empathy, watching his scrambled attempts to chase after it.

"<Ah. What do I know.>"

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2016 11:49 pm GMT 
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The reply set him instantly to bristling. No, you're right. What do you know? Rather than lashing out as was his instinct, however, he clamped his jaw shut and looked away. His gaze fell instead on the hard lines of the desk, the stack of passports resting there. Raphael was odiously self-righteous given that, whatever else you might say about Sascha, he'd never landed himself on a CIA kill list. He wanted--needed--the passports, too, yet he remained ignorant of what had gone into them. There was the agony which had wracked Sascha's hands and neck as he'd bent over his work, the amphetamines he'd taken to keep laboring for almost two days straight. Trace their components farther back and these too were stained with blood money. Those security chips hadn't come cheap, even for a man with Sascha's connections. Some had been bought, others paid in blood. Ugly stories lay hidden between the tidy covers of those beautifully rendered passports.

The things I've done for you, he would have hissed. Wanted to, but did not. After all, at the time he was doing it for himself. So he'd thought.

Gradually, though, the rest of Raphael's words seeped in. The anger ebbed away, and was replaced with dry incredulity. You could be so loved. Who the hell did Raphael think he was? Kids in his neighborhood, on his streets, didn't worship the Robin Hoods--or, for that matter, the heroes of the revolution. They were too busy tagging after the local dealers, imitating their swagger. Or, if not, some asshole on TV, some athlete or musician. Someone who'd made a name for themself and then gotten out, gotten the hell away and never looked back. Sascha's past had stained him. Even if he'd wanted to recast himself as some kind of folk hero, he'd left a trail of too many bodies. There was no way back, only forward into the waiting arms of anonymous apathy. With Raphael at his side, it wouldn't be so bad. Not bad at all. Alone though--well. If he kept on like this, some day sooner or later he'd end up in a pit too deep to claw his way out of.

He shifted on the bed and sat up, hair mussed and collar askew. His shirt was damp with sweat. Unfastening the first few buttons, he pulled it off over his head and lobbed it carelessly in the direction of the desk. It landed over the chair, one sleeve trailing on the floor. Then, leaning back on both hands, he let his gaze drift to Raphael. The mere sight of him was still enough to twist knots in Sascha's gut.

The previous incredulity remained, though upon reflection he found it tempered by a sudden rush of warmth. Raphael's outlook, though naive, was endearing. How badly he wanted Sascha to be redeemed! It was all idle speculation, in any case. Chances were they'd both be dead long before Sascha would have the opportunity to make any real contributions to society. Or rather, to 'that humanity,' as Raphael had put it.

"<Are you suggesting,>" he asked, rolling his head back in a languid stretch, "<that I drop everything and carry the torch of socialism to the United States? One Argentinian martyr to the Revolution is more than enough.>"

He watched Raphael from the corner of his eye, his iris dark storm-gray and gleaming. "<Be honest: Are you attracted to me because my accent reminds you of Che?>"

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2016 3:19 am GMT 
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"Yeah." He smirked into the sunshine. "<That and the wheezing.>"

Ah, he knew it sounded sentimental. But then again, he'd been asked for what he'd like; and that didn't have to fall under the realms of possibility, no. When he spoke about the future, his thoughts now had a habit of falling into the abstract. The canvas was wet; he could place a single droplet of black paint on its surface and only watch as the pigment unfurled and eddied here and there across the surface. You could be strong. Diluted, random, beautiful. He hadn't meant to speak those last few words; they were almost disconnected, he realised. What was it he had meant? Hard to know. The ink ran, the pattern lost. Maybe- I want you as you are now, not the man from St Louis. Stay that man and you'd have boys and girls begging for you to love them long after you've forgotten the taste of my name. Though for what ever reason, that trace hope of Alesandro's happiness after his death was edged by the rancid. The thought of those hands gripping any other wrists, the thought of his leaving marks on another's skin in the way they could not do now because once again he had to be careful. Unbidden, the memory of that beautiful woman's eyes, his Hong Kong motif, materialised in his mind.

How strange. Jealousy from a ghost- still just alive. Dautzenburg would laugh.

"<As for the torches of a welfare system, I'll let you off the hook. Maybe you could start a travel business instead.>" He tossed a wry smile over his shoulder. "<'Get a real taste of the exotic East by a five star smuggling ship. Buy now and you get two oil lamps for the price of one'.>"

His eye was caught by him- it was hard not to be. The long lines of his legs, interrupted by the sleek confines of a brace and then to disappear under the towel draped over his thighs. As he arched his back to stretch, Raphael watched the muscles of his chest and stomach grow taut, relaxed, those strong arms coming to rest behind his head. He turned and slouched back against the wall- Dautzenburg knew him too well for him to even bother disguising the way he watched him. He wanted to paint him, photograph him, capture him on film or in his hands. Find some way to immortalise that heat and movement, that momentary perfection- as if he wouldn't be there forever. As if he couldn't watch him forever.

He stayed there for a moment, and then meandered back to his rucksack- pulling out that cracked-spine book that had met such derision from both of them. A promise to translate it, if they had the time. He flicked through it idly with a hand, and with his other let the very tips of his fingers ghost over Alesandro's shin, stray across his inner thigh, the damp softness of the towel and come to rest on his stomach. Broad, dangerous, strong hands, that turned the pages of a book so gently. Even now, Alesandro's skin carried that same sweet, acidic scent. Citrus, tantalising.

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