Tangible Schizophrenia


Crossing IV: Hourglass

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: NC-17. Bondage.
Pairing: Fred Abberline/Dean Corso/Ahmed, G/Peter Godley.
Feedback: What you liked, what you didn't.
Disclaimer: None of this is mine, dammit.
Note: Crossover of From Hell, The Thirteenth Warrior, and The Ninth Gate; parallel-universe 1880s London where bisexuality was the norm. ::words:: in Arabic. G is the girl who protects Dean in Ninth Gate.
Summary: Ahmed finally gives in, but it's not graceful.


Ahmed looked from one man to the other: Dean's hair kept flopping into his face, and his glasses were askew, while Fred's shirt was rumpled up to his ears. "Are you awake?"

"What-oh. Oh." Fred glanced up, then down and left, self-consciously pulling at his clothes. "Yes. Did anything happen?"

"Nothing that will show up in the newspapers. And nothing that affects the current balance of things. Breakfast is on the table." Carefully hiding his smile, Ahmed walked back out in the main room, where G was fiddling with the scrying bowl. He stopped beside her and glanced at the nebulous shapes weaving through the still water.

She flicked her eyes up at him, then shook her head and poured out the bowl in a nearby plant. "I don't think they're moving, or planning on it any time today. So I'll try to settle the Illuminati."

One pair of normal footsteps, and one of hobbling. Fred seemed more relaxed, but his injuries still were paining him. Which was of course perfectly normal, but they simply didn't have the time; if a resolution was to be found soon, Ahmed and G would both have to be out and about, handling matters.

::All right. I'll stay here and see if I can make anything for their bruises.:: He made an underhanded rude gesture at her smirk, then adjusted the set of her hat so the bun on the back of her head wasn't visible. ::And don't play with Godley. We can't fit any more people in this place.::

::As you say.:: She picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder, then headed for the door. "Back for dinner," she called as her coat swirled out the door.

"God, I hope so. She cooks much better than Fred." Dean ignored the veiled glare the other man sent his way and carried a plate of the steaming food over to Ahmed. "Do you want any?"

Ahmed eyed the offer, then shook his head and grabbed the carry-case and headed for the kitchen. "I already ate, thank you."

"Right. Work on the books. Compare till my eyes bleed." The other man dropped the plate on the nearest table, then stalked off toward the study. On the way, he had to brush past Ahmed, thrusting the smell of him and Fred and sex up Ahmed's nose. "Even though I don't really understand why this is so important, aside from the usual collector's insanity."

Piece by piece, Ahmed's patience was shredding away, which probably proved G's point that these men would do more than appeal to him. He wondered just who he'd offended to get this kind of tigertrap assignment, then pushed away those thoughts and set the case down on the counter by the sink.

"Are we allowed to know anything?" Dean had turned around and come back to stand at Ahmed's elbow. He poked a hand inside the case and fingered a bottle. "What do you use-ow!"

Plate and fork clattered to the table as Fred stood up immediately after Ahmed had seized Dean's wrist. He started forward, but froze when Ahmed glared his way. "He has a point," Fred said, wounded-animal eyes boring into Ahmed. "We've promised to tell you everything we know, but we still don't know anything substantial."

"If you knew, you wouldn't believe me." A reddish-brown shadow beneath Dean's sleeve caught Ahmed's attention, and he loosened his grip so he could turn the arm over and push up the cuff. New bruising, and a reopened cut that had smeared a little blood so a thin layer of crusting overlaid the pale skin.

Guilt highlighted Fred's face as he came up to them. "Oh, damn. I'm sorry about that."

"I don't remember telling you it was a terrible experience," Dean replied, tone dry as bone chips. He tugged at his arm. "Anyway, I think I left my share of marks on you."

This was ridiculous and disturbingly…adorable. And Ahmed couldn't believe he was using that word in connection with these two. "Sit down, both of you, and eat. I'll make up some dressings for those. They'll heal faster that way."

He dropped Dean's wrist, but the other man's earlier struggling notwithstanding, it was a few moments before Dean backed off. What was Ahmed doing? Honestly?

Being a complete and utter idiot by ignoring all the good reasoning he'd fed to G last night. And wanting to ignore it. Perhaps he needed his mental state evaluated.

Then again, in two months he would be yet another year into his second millennium, celebrating that in some far-off land by slaughtering another pack of monsters. And he was currently employed in battling secret, unscrupulous mystical societies and recovering books on summoning Lucifer. There most likely wasn't any kind of measuring stick by which he could define a normal state of mind for himself.

He was rationalizing his attraction, and moreover, his pursuit of it. Ahmed didn't want to pollute the language of Mohammed, so instead, he ran through every Latin and Germanic curse he'd ever learned.

* * *

Fred wiped his mouth off on a napkin, covertly watching Ahmed as the other man passed back and forth behind the doorway to the kitchen. "Can you tell what he's saying?"

Dean had eaten about half his food before grouchily poking at the remainders. "I don't know about the rest, but the Latin words are all curses. He's not happy."

"I noticed." For that matter, Fred wasn't particularly joyous, either, but he had no idea what to do about it. He dropped his head into his hands, fingers sliding into his hair and knotting there like the knots in his stomach. Somehow, somewhere, he'd gone and gotten attached. To some Arab who felt like the wind and moved like it, too-unpredictable, always traveling. And to an amoral book expert who tasted of old words and new blood, equally undependable.

All right, think about what he could apply reason to. "Murders, all surrounding three copies of that book. One formerly belonging to the Masons, one to the Illuminati, one to Enrique Taillefer. Only one is real."

"Do you always talk to yourself?" Amused, Dean tapped at Fred's arm with the handle of his fork. When Fred irritably withdrew, the other man's expression gradually cooled, smoothing into fine glass. "Well, excuse me."

He got up to go, but Fred grabbed his arm and yanked him back down. Except Dean hit the chair at an odd angle, and the next minute, they were on the floor again. Before Fred could catch his breath, Dean had flipped him over and straddled his waist, holding down his hands. The other man leaned down till their faces were less than a page's thickness away, bumping noses. "What? Are you always like this the morning after?"

"As I said last night, what do you-care?" On the last word, Fred heaved up and rolled them over, trying to pin Dean with body weight. Fabric ripped somewhere, letting cold air hit Fred's back. He shivered, curling in on himself, and felt the freeze seep down to meet the ice growing inside his gut.

Beneath him, Dean rolled his eyes. "Oh, for God's sake-"

Fingers twisted around to close on Fred's, and then he was yanked down into a punishing kiss. They tumbled over again, then went part-way back so they ended up on their sides; Fred wriggled his hurt ankle out and flung that leg over Dean, who apparently took that as encouragement. Mouth on his neck, probing into his collar, and the hands untwined from his to stroke fire down Fred's back. In return, he splayed his fingers over the grooves of the other man's ribs, seeking and soothing the sore spots.

That made Dean shove even closer to him, nibbling down his breastbone. "Satisfied now? I never wake up with…let alone eat breakfast…or…damn it, would you…Christ…"

Lack of air forced them to stop a few seconds later, panting and staring at each other. Then Dean looked away, bitter smile jerking at his lips. "Just so you know, I can't really remember the last time I tried something like this."

It went without asking that he wasn't referring to their actions, but to their…whatever they had. Fred licked his lips, preparing himself to reply, but he couldn't think of one. Instead, he lifted a hand and grazed fingertips over Dean's temple, watching the other man's eyes drift shut, then curved his fingers around Dean's neck, simply letting them rest there.

"Are you two done?" Shadow hanging off the doorframe, Ahmed steadily regarded them as they startled, then uncertainly untangled themselves and sat up.

"You could…except you won't, so never mind." Dean's cynicism was firmly in place, and his insouciant stance was almost believable as he stood. "Are you done?" he retorted, voice sharp to the point of breaking. "I'm going back to those books. Let me know when you'd like to see me."

Because Fred was looking worriedly after Dean's tense shoulders, he missed Ahmed's approach. Consequently, he nearly leaped back into the wall when the hand fell on his arm. "Could you stop that?"

"I have more enemies than you can imagine. Stay in your own life, and stop wishing you were in mine. Then you won't suffer any more surprises." Sage advice delivered, Ahmed led Fred into the kitchen and proceeded to bandage his injured ankle with some awful-smelling salve, which helped distract him from the fact that Ahmed was actually touching him.

Clinical, efficient movements shouldn't be that graceful, and simple brushes of fingertips shouldn't be that evocative of cool water and warm sand. Fred curled his nails into his palms, trying to ground himself amid the clouds of images stirring up. "It's a bit difficult to do that when I already am in your life," he muttered through gritted teeth. "Does this have something to do with Liana Taillefer? And what you said about her burning your family?"

Ahmed didn't answer, and silently finished treating the rest of Fred's injuries. Then he grasped Fred's chin between two fingers and tipped it up into a soul-eating mouth that seemed to be all over Fred's body in the same moment, ghostly caresses skimming over every nerve ending.

Desperate to keep the other man there, Fred wrapped his arms around Ahmed and sank his nails into the broad shoulders. He went up on his toes, trying to dive down the other man's throat, nestle as deep within as Ahmed was in him.

Too short, too fast-he was ruthlessly pried off and restrained. Bound-up fire in Ahmed's eyes, threatening to incinerate him. "When I am here, with you and him," the other man said in deliberate tones, "I don't miss my family. That is the problem."

"Tell me what's going on," Fred breathed. He strained his wrists until he could just skate his fingertips over the hands holding him back. "Tell me."

For a moment, it looked like Ahmed was going to. But then the eyes slid away, staring at the teapot on the counter.

Fred yanked his hands free and used them to chafe some warmth back into his arms. "Well, you could at least be less curt with Dean. He's lost the most people out of this.

"He doesn't know what loss is, yet. You're-you'll have to stay in London for the next few months, or things will go terribly wrong. You're going to hate it, and you'll hate me, but you'll have to. And after we make sure Liana won't take advantage of what's going to happen, I will have to leave." Ahmed picked up mortar and pestle from the shelf, and began grinding something, like he was smashing heads. "I can't tell you much more without altering what shouldn't be altered. That's the curse of my profession."


"I clean up mistakes in time. By whatever means necessary. I am Ahmed Ibn Fadhlan Ibn Al Abbas Ibn Rashid Ibn Hamad, and I have been walking this earth for over a thousand years. Now please leave and send in Dean." And Fred believed him, because no normal man could have the echoes of that much sorrow and grief and anger in his voice.

* * *

Just outside the kitchen, Dean squatted against the wall and gazed at the two identical books he held. "Are you really worth this much trouble?"

"So you heard." Fred was standing in the doorway, looking down at him.

"Yes. Makes me curious as to what deep dark secret he's going to reveal to me." When Dean's ironic smile wasn't returned, he shrugged and handed the volumes to Fred. "At least you have something to remember him by. I don't believe he likes me that much, even if he does feel…whatever a thousand-year-old man feels."

Fred started off for the study, then paused. "Good luck."

"Right." Dean raked a hand through his hair and fatalistically strolled into the kitchen. No disappointment if the worst was already expected, after all.

* * *

G put her foot on the corpse and yanked out her daggers, then ducked. Metal whined overhead, just missing her scalp. She twisted backwards, throwing the blades as she went, and scrambled up into a run. Two bodies thumped down behind her, but more footsteps were coming up the next street.

"Wait!" shouted someone behind her. "We just want to know who's helping us!"

Goddamned Masons. She was doing their work for them, and if she stopped, they'd probably still try to strap her to the dissecting tables. "Go home and stay there!" she snapped back. "This is beyond you!"

And fuck, that roundhouse nearly took off her head. She jumped onto a barrel of crates and then to the roof. Whipped low and knocked that scar-lipped bastard back onto the ground. At least, the loud thud indicated that he hit the alley; G didn't stay to check. She looped wide of the Masons and the pile of Illuminati bodies, not daring to descend until she was well within the finer districts of London.

A quick trip through a nearby house, and G was stepping out from a side-door, dressed in one of its mistress' finest. Which was to say that she could hardly breathe, and the next person that got fresh with her was going to get gloves shoved down their throat out of sheer annoyance.

"Gabrielle, darling," cooed a familiar voice. "I haven't seen you in ages! Come, let me treat you to lunch."

Too crowded here to make a scene, so G smiled nicely at Liana and took the other woman's offered arm. They made strained small chat, the tips of Liana's fan glinting silver as she conducted them to the nearest respectable restaurant. As soon as they sat, G slid her hands demurely beneath the tablecloth and hiked up her skirts, feeling for her long knives.

"That's not necessary." Liana had dropped the friendly pose, and now her chin was as hard as any man's.

"Still, I like to know where things are." The well-worn hilts fit smoothly into G's palms, and she carefully eased them free of the sheathes strapped to her thighs. One went beneath her, hidden by the many folds and flounces of her skirt, while she held onto the other. "What is this? It can't possibly be a negotiation; you're far too busy unsettling the city for that."

"Watch your mouth, youngling." Then Liana leaned back, fluttering her handful of prettily disguised razors. She trailed a hand down the middle of her breasts and drew out a slim, black-bound volume.

G incredulously snorted, and didn't reach out for the proffered book. "I'm not that young."

"Then take it." Liana put the volume down by G's hand and gracefully picked up a cup of tea. She cast a considering glance at G while she sipped at it. "It's the third one. See for yourself."

Well…aside from the huge presence of the book itself-which was oddly muted-G didn't feel any threatening emanations. She waved her fingers over it, then laid one against the spine. Nothing happened, so she carefully pulled half out of its paper wrapping. A bit of red rag fell to the floor, and suddenly she was sitting in a thunderstorm, lightning crackling through her. G cursed and quickly muttered an incantation to hide the book's presence. "Bitch," she hissed.

But it was indeed the third copy, she discovered as she flipped through the pages. Then G understood, and she smirked at the other woman. "Tried it out and failed, did you? So what good is your giving me a fake?"

"Ask Ahmed, the next time you see him." Liana put down her cup and swiftly left. Puzzled, G nevertheless grabbed the book and did the same, heading for Fred's rooms.

She must have been still preoccupied with the strange encounter, because the next thing she knew, both the Masons and the Illuminati were almost on top of her. G tucked the book away in her purse and cast about for a quick exit, hoping it wouldn't come to her knives. This street was too public, coaches rolling in and out and-she spotted a familiar face in one, and ran for the door just before the hack would've pulled away. "Peter! What a surprise!"

"You!" Godley's eyes widened, giving G plenty of time to hop in and order the coachman to turn about. "Now, wait a minute. I was going to the station-"

"Well, now you're paying a visit to Fred. How's the dog?" She beamed charm at him and tried not to smile as he tugged at his collar. Really a very nice man, and since both Fred and Dean appeared to be off-limits…might as well brighten both her and Peter's days.

* * *

Dean pushed up his glasses and rubbed at his sore eyes, then squinted at the two books once more. "Nothing in the damned references. Well, fine. We'll do this the hard way."

He started to slap the pages aside, then caught himself before he tore anything. With forced calm, he turned to the first engraving in both of them. Stared at the woodcuts till his vision blurred out-

doors of Christchurch sticky feet in pools of scarlet from the doors

--in, and Dean jerked back, chest heaving. Then air shocked down his throat and up his head, and the world slammed into him. He tossed the books onto the desk, palms prickling scorched as if he'd just held hot irons, and stared wildly at the pages. Which gradually settled to display the second engravings. And then he saw.

Blinked, but that didn't change a damn thing. The keys were still in different hands. Dean narrowed his eyes, daring the books to do their worst, and they were quiescent. Still mistrustful, he wiggled around until he was kneeling on the chair, thereby able to lean very close to the woodcuts without actually having to touch the paper. His eyes floated from the mismatched pictures down to the engraver's signatures. Different initials for each book as well: one was 'AT' and the other was 'LCF.' "I'll be damned."

"You figured it out?" Dean froze, then slowly turned to Ahmed, who was standing in the doorway. As usual. Wasn't there some folklore about things that couldn't cross the threshold unless invited in? "You're pale as milk…"

The other man easily walked in and put a hand under Dean's chin, turning his face from side to side. He wrenched himself away and defiantly scribbled down his new findings in his notes, then took up the books and started comparing the other engravings. "Well, go mix up your awful-smelling medicine and feed it to me. Without saying a single word, never mind that I've been babbling to you about every goddamned detail about these things that I can remember."

"You're angry because I'm not responding to your flirting." Wonderful monotone, Ahmed had. Really. It was a marvel how the man's voice could be flat as a board and still sexier than-

Dean slammed the books down, then threw his pen at the wall. "My store has been completely wrecked, but never mind that. G managed to bring me my essentials from there, so I can hide in this place because apparently, everyone in the damned city is after my head. But that's perfectly all right. I was almost sold as a whore, and did get seriously beaten, but that doesn't matter, either. Because most of the people I know are somehow permanently indisposed, except who cares?"

He kicked off the side of the desk and spun a sharp quarter-turn, his knees bringing the chair to a stop when they rammed into the side of Ahmed's leg. "I'm upset because you aren't paying attention to me. Of course that's it."

Actually, it probably was. But that was an excellent bit of sarcasm Dean had just produced, and he wasn't going to spoil it.

Then Ahmed leaned down and ran his tongue along Dean's bottom lip, and suddenly Dean realized that none of it did matter. Because he was in far, far greater trouble.

It was like driving a hook into his belly, then ripping out his own entrails, but he managed to push Ahmed away. "Oh, Christ. It's worse than I thought."


"Oh, stop looking offended," Dean growled as he went after the other man and wound his arms around Ahmed's neck. "I'm in love. I'm the one with the right to be angry."

He tried to kiss Ahmed then, forcefeed the other man all his helpless fury, but things didn't quite go as he wanted-surprise. Somehow Ahmed ended up sitting in the chair, Dean straddling his lap and yanking at bound wrists. "You bastard, you're going to-" no, his wrists weren't coming back around to his front "-you just ruined my last cravat-"

Mouth. Hands. And Dean suddenly forgot about being angry, because he was moaning and melting, liquefying in the passing of fingers over his shoulderblades, the feathering of them across the small of his back.

Ahmed ripped away and pressed their foreheads together, for once as out of breath as Dean was. "This was not-I need you to listen. You heard. I'm old. I have enemies."

"In other words, you don't want to watch us die. I can understand that. But you know, I don't really think that's anything that's controllable, whether it's you or us or-" Another fierce kiss stopped Dean's mouth, and blood washed over the back of his mouth.

"It is. I…could change that. You could live, like I do. But you would have to give up everything here." The words were lead lumps, pelting Dean's face as they shot from Ahmed's lips. "Do you understand that? Your life would never be the same."

"Well, you've helped make it so my current life isn't worth anything right now." Dean moved in, but found himself blocked by a hand. He snarled, shoving harder. "That's a yes, you idiot."

And back into the fire. His fists slowly clenched, as did the rest of his body as they shared air and tastes. Sure hands quickly undid his shirt buttons, then spread out fingers over his chest and pressed down to his waistband, leaving wide bands of burning skin in their wake. He tilted his head up into the kissing and let it loll sideways so Ahmed had to hold it in place with a hand tangled in his hair. The other hand was taking advantage of his slump to strip off his trousers, and then it curved over one hip, slipped fingers up and rubbed circles across the thin, sensitive skin just behind his balls.

"Dean, have you seen…oh."

He looked over at the door just in time to catch the flickers of hurt and envy and arousal fight over Fred's face. And a tiny knife decided to probe the open lacerations in Dean's gut right then. It almost made him remember why he'd decided he could do without certain emotions. "Ah…Fred, listen…"

Except Ahmed had flipped out his cane and knocked Fred's knee out from under him. Very small room, Dean absently observed. Not that he could do much else, being tossed onto the bed in the corner and all. Although sprawling there gave him a good view of Ahmed pinning Fred to the wall and savaging down the other man's neck. Fred's hands clutched at Ahmed's shoulders, then raked down, hard, and circled around to push at their front. "Wait. You said…"

Rumbling stone, fracturing and flinging down the mountainside. "I changed my mind."

Then Fred was down by Dean, hands flailing because his cravat was securely fastened around his wrists. Ahmed's hands stripped him, molded around his hips and waist, then slid over to stroke Dean in gasping near-oblivion.

Mumbling in Arabic, harsh with simmering rage, and a tangle of limbs, lips, swirling heat. Dean was rolling his tongue around the inside of Fred's mouth, the other man's fingers frantically petting his ribs and rubbing at his nipples, and Ahmed had his mouth fixed to the point of Fred's shoulder. He disappeared from sight and Fred was suddenly shoved down so his lips smashed into Dean's throat.

Whining, writhing, Fred was screaming into the blankets, low and hoarse as if someone had taken a file to his voice. Then Dean was ripping at the sheets underneath him, knees knocking against Fred's sides as they went sideways and up to make room for the fingers tormenting him from inside out.

"I can't-damn you," Ahmed was growling. "Damn you for being here and damn you for being part of this and…"

Long string of some foreign tongue. Dean's glasses were knocked off, and then Fred was running sweaty fingertips over his browbone and cheeks, trying to choke out something. Didn't make a difference; Dean's vision was going black anyway, and he was seeing stars loop across the ceiling. They gathered into a tight spiral, fell into his mouth as Fred's knees slipped on the sheets. Cock rasped down cock, rubbed in time with the stab of fingers and then Fred arched, whipped up and down. Went limp as Dean's back stiffened and imploded from neck all the way down his spine.

Ah, God…if he could just have that moment. Surrounded and safe and parts of him flaring up that he'd forgotten had existed. He would do more than kill for it, Dean muzzily thought. He'd die for it. Live for it. Whatever was needed.

* * *

Ahmed pulled out his fingers and mechanically wiped them off on the sheets. His head was filled with dust-the dust of too many roads, of too many graves-and it spun into a brown whirlwind that suffocated him, tied off his air.

He stumbled back against the wall and stared, bottom of the glass over each eye. Vision wavering in and out, but always fixed on the two men on the bed. Dappled blue-black, brittleness along each line and bend. And time was so very cruel…

In Allah's name. What had he done?

Fred struggled up, curling around Dean, and lifted his hands toward Ahmed. "Come back."

::You'll die. You'll die and I'll have to mourn you again and again…:: Wetness was stinging his eyes, but the liquid was too thin to be blood. He swiped a hand over his eyes, and it was shaking.

"I said yes." Dean looked from him to Fred, then wrestled himself up and whispered urgently in the other man's ear while Ahmed swiftly straightened all his clothes. "I said yes."

"And so do I," Fred said, too steadily for his own good. As Ahmed passed by the bed to collect his cane, Fred lunged for his sleeve. He threw the other man off, but it had no effect on the pleading affection in Fred's face. "Ahmed, damn it, yes."

"You-there's no choice. You can't agree to something that you-damn you!" Before he could make things any worse, Ahmed left the room and ripped the hallway door open. G and Godley stared. "What are you-to hell with it. Just keep them alive. And away from me."

He pounded down the stairs and swung himself into the street, telling himself to concentrate on business. To stop crying, because he damn well couldn't kill Liana if his eyesight was too blurry. To stop missing them, because he would lose them anyway if he tried to keep them.


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