Author: Guede Mazaka
Somewhere in Morocco
Ahmed snapped awake, though he didn't move from his position, stretched out on the couch. Very carefully so as not to disturb Mort, who was snuggled on top of him, he pulled out a gun from beneath the cushions and aimed it at the door.
"Put the damn thing down, Ahmed," called Seth's tired voice from behind the wood. "It's just us, fucking melting in this goddamn furnace."
"Wha…what?" Mort lifted his head from Ahmed's chest and blearily blinked through tousled locks.
::Nothing.:: Ahmed put down the gun, kissed the sleep-slack mouth and laid back. ::They're back from the assassination.::
In reply, Mort let out a little puff of air into Ahmed's neck and melted into a soft human-shaped blanket. Snorting, Seth leaned over the couch and shook his head while shoving Miguel more firmly under his arm. "Christ, I don't get you. Hotter than hell, and you're-hey, no glaring. I was just making an observation. And that reminds me…" he pulled out a slightly crumpled wire "…you got something from Los Lobos."
As soon as Ahmed saw the message, his eyebrows shot up. He sat up, then grabbed at Mort and apologetically nuzzled the other man for almost knocking him off. "Sorry. But I haven't seen this code in ages."
"What's that?" Mort twisted about to grab his glasses from the table and popped them on to peer at the wire. "I…what language is this?"
"You don't want to know," Miguel muttered, desperately wiggling. Above him, Seth rolled his eyes and did something to Miguel's backside that made the other man whimper and plaster himself to Gecko. "Just know that it's a dinner invitation. For the whole family."
"We're conferencing with Nouvelle Lune, I believe." Ahmed ruthlessly suppressed his urge to toss crockery around, and instead picked up a pen to compose the return message. "In order to get there on time, we need to leave tonight. Sorry, Mort. I know you wanted to-"
The other man pressed his lips against Ahmed's throat and shook his head. "It's fine. Your family, anyway." He played with Ahmed's shirt cuffs, rolling the thin linen between his fingers. Then his brow furrowed as he glanced at Miguel. "But how are we supposed to keep the two of them straight? Nametags?"
A snicker broke out from Seth at the same time Miguel's struggles ratcheted up a notch. Gecko recommenced hauling Miguel toward the bathtub, pausing only to snag a pair of manacles from a shelf. "Fucker, I just don't get how you calm down enough for fucking sharpshooting, but then-oh, yeah. Mig's got a family nickname. Perrito."
//Motherfucking son of a whore!// Miguel's irate face disappeared under Seth's for a moment, and when it re-emerged, it had been transformed to pure longing. //Please…//
"Puppy?" Mort stifled a chuckle in Ahmed's shoulder as his fingers innocently began to wander over Ahmed's back, tracing the spots where the sweat had soaked through. He smiled into the nip and parted his lips for a slow, sweeping kiss, while his bathrobe cord mysteriously became tangled around his wrists.
There were arrangements and precautions and ramifications Ahmed needed to see to before they left. But they could wait for a few minutes.
James drifted into the room, occasionally glancing behind him with a bemused expression. "What on earth is the matter with Anamaria and Jacques? I know it's a shame they can't go, but someone has to stay and mind the city. And I thought they went last time…?"
"Oui, they did." Will eased in the last shirt, then closed the suitcase lid and threw his weight against it until the lock clicked. He straightened with a satisfied sigh and brushed himself off. "That was a few years before you, when Jacques and Elizabeth had just come into the household. Miguel came down, along with Dean Corso, to negotiate some trade agreements, we followed up with a visit to him, and…well, Miguel's a very intelligent, interesting man. Ended up taking a French Quarter girl back with him-G. But it's Jacques that's worried about him and Corso getting the better of Jack; Anamaria's annoyed because she knows El will be there."
"El? So you've met him before?" Curiosity piqued, James lifted off some of the furballs from the mattress so he could sit down. The cats hissed and derisively flicked their tails at him, but soon padded off in search of the ever-present mice that were constantly trying to invade the old mansion.
Will halted in his packing, laughing. "Yes. In Veracruz once, when Jack needed to see the man about something. Listen to me, James-try not to stare. Especially now that I hear El's gotten three consorts to replace the ones he lost in the Lent massacres."
"Rest assured, I won't," James drawled, a little ruffled that Will would think so ill of him. Since Barbossa had been defeated for the last time, James hadn't done a single thing that could be construed as flighty, and he very much resented the implication that he was.
Will's eyebrow arched the sharp tone, but the smirk didn't leave the other man's face. "No offense meant, James. I'm in no position to criticize-only to offer advice from my own experience."
Well, now. At least the trip wouldn't be uninteresting.
"No. You can't make me." Sands retreated further into the gigantic clump of blankets and pillows, only his scowl and his fingers showing. Every tense muscle spoke of his determination not to give in. "If that fucking mutt even comes in the same room, I'll take his balls. He-he-you know what he tried to do to me. To Fred!" Voice softening, wheedling. "Come on, El. You were pissed off at him then."
El sighed and drew out the package Carolina had handed him, reluctantly preparing himself to use the last resort. "He's family, gatito. And anyway, he didn't try to kill you."
"No, he just tried to spike our drinks so we'd go home with Lorenzo, that skinny polefuck." At the memory, Sands' face twisted even more, and he burrowed back another inch.
Though El tried to keep it from making a sound, his fingers slipped and a tiny tinkle rang through the air. Sands instantly froze and cocked his head, comprehension slowly seeping into his face. Followed closely by suspicious outrage. "El," the other man said, very precise and studied, "That better not be what I think it is."
"If you're not going to behave, then I'll need some way to keep track of you. I actually asked Carolina to buy some stronger handcuffs, but she insisted these would work better. She said she'd put the other one on Fred for me." While El spoke, he covertly shifted around to the other side of the bed.
Just as predicted, Sands immediately flung himself through the blanket hump and tried to escape out the opposite side. As he emerged, El grabbed his arm and spun him back into the sheets, wrapping them around Sands' snarling, kicking form. El scrambled on top before the other man could wriggle free and lunged down to fix his teeth in Sands' neck, just over the pulse. Didn't quite break the skin, but Sands nevertheless stilled, breath gusting in hot puffs over El's hand.
"Motherfuckmook." Sands writhed and the blankets slid off from waist to knees so his bare skin rubbed over El's thighs. He twisted again, almost getting free, but El was already knotting and tucking the sheets until they firmly encased the other man's upper body. Which made Sands look something like a fluffy white sausage, except for the flailing feet, one of which connected rather painfully with El's leg. Cursing, El ripped off his tie and swiftly bound Sands' ankles, then straddled the other man again. One hand held Sands down while the other buckled the collar and bell around Sands' neck, over the bite mark. "Oh-you fucking fretlicking son of a-you did not."
With a feeling of deep satisfaction, El sat back and regarded the sight before him: helpless and angry, ass up and delicate nape banded by rich brown leather. When Sands jerked himself about now, a constant low jingle accompanied his movements. //Now you can't make fun of my clothes.//
"Jangle-dick, I can make fun of whatever I want…oh, fuck it. All right. I promise not to disembowel any of your relatives." Sands abruptly slumped into the bed, pushing his round buttocks even higher in the air. "Please take it off."
El briefly considered the consequences of his actions, found them favorable, and promptly licked at the small of Sands' back. Grazed his teeth over the thin, sensitive skin there, then did it again because Sands shuddered so nicely the first time. He curved his hands around the other man's hips and wasn't surprised to find Sands' cock rising to meet his touches. //It looks good on you.//
Lick. Trailed his tongue further down and probed. The taste grew earthier, fuller than the usual citric and tequila sharpness that was cut into the rest of Sands' skin. And Sands was suddenly mewing, struggling to spread his knees as wide as he could, shoving back to meet El's dives inward.
"Oh, God, you're such a bastard. El equals bastard. But please…oh, fucking please…" Quick flickers of tonguetip, interspersed with nips and nibbles. Sands whined and moved himself in and out of El's grip, his flesh stiffening. Scorching El's palms until its blistering heat splashed out onto the mattress.
El took a last mouthful of Sands' backside, then withdrew to kiss the circle of red marks he'd left. He lazily untangled the other man's unresisting limbs from the blankets and undid the tie from Sands' ankles. Completely ruined, it was, but then Sands nuzzled his way up El's chest to languidly nest in the crook of El's arm.
Jingling all the way. Not being able to help himself, El poked at the small golden bell, then smacked down Sands' half-hearted attempt to scratch at him. He reknotted the tie around Sands' wrists, then petted and caressed the other man until Sands stopped grumbling.
Of course, then the door burst open. A whirlwind of arms and curly hair and legs fell into the room, but quickly settled to display a triumphant Carolina sitting on a feebly struggling Fred, who was face-down in the carpet. But wearing the other collar-and-bell, El noted.
"Carolina, this is-" Fred wrenched his head up to snap at her, but spotted El and changed his direction of attack. "El, please tell her that you're not part of this idiotic idea."
"Sorry, Freddie." Still boneless, Sands flopped off El's lap so his bell rang as loud as it could. "It's just like the hats."
"What?" Amusingly, Fred was so upset he didn't seem to notice that Carolina was industriously binding his hands behind his back. And thoroughly groping him as she did. If El had ever doubted that Carolina was his cousin, albeit a somewhat distant one, he didn't now.
El ambled over to the two and helped Carolina haul the other man up, taking advantage of the moment to suck the complaint from Fred's mouth. He didn't really plan to make Fred and Sands wear the collars outside of the bedroom-too ridiculous-but while the cute little bells were on, he wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to play.
G's waist was slick with sweat, and her writhing was making it even harder for Miguel to keep his hold on her. But his nerves were singing at fever-pitch, and his muscles were just hairs shy of whipping loose from their tight coils-
--"Miguel, the-oh." Dean stopped halfway into the room, rapidly blinking behind his glasses.
"You'd think he'd learn good timing by no-ahh!" Like a climbing crescent, G bowed till her head smacked the wall, furiously climaxing. A beat later, Miguel followed, muffling his cry in her soft breasts.
He waited until Dean had nervously shuffled near enough, then pulled out of G and slammed the other man up next to her. Pinned Dean's hands above his head as Miguel stole all the breath from Dean, then skated a palm down the other man's heaving chest. Miguel mercilessly teased Dean's cock through his pants until Dean was almost fainting, shamelessly writhing and whimpering, then ceased his massaging.
"Christ…" Dean hung slackly from Miguel's grip, wide eyes silently pleading. "Heard from Sparrow…they'll be here with-within the hour. And Ahmed's already…please, Miguel…"
And Dean's hips thrust forward as he tried to find some source of friction. Smirking, Miguel held back another minute before he took pity on Dean and undid the other man's trousers, then worked Dean's erection until the other man came.
"Try not to upset Jack's companions," Miguel muttered as he straightened his two consorts' clothing. "I don't want a debacle like last time."
At least Lorenzo had agreed to keep Fideo out of the house, so they wouldn't use up a week's supply of spirits before the salad course. God, the details Miguel had to bother with just for one dinner. Worse than running alcohol past the border patrols.
"Hey, perrito." Perched on El's lap, Carolina smiled sweetly and waved.
Seth tugged one last time at his stupid fancy collar, then reached out and clamped his hand on Miguel's arm. His Miguel's, not the other-ah, fuck. Twenty minutes in and he was already getting confused. And he was fucking the little barking nutcase. Who had, thank God, aborted his growl at Carolina in favor of trying to grope Seth into sneaking out.
That was definitely an appealing option, but not a viable one. Plus, he hadn't spent two fucking hours sprucing up for this party, only to ditch it before all the guests had shown up. So he grudgingly grabbed Mig's wandering hands before they started to mess up his clothes.
It was times like these that Seth sort of envied Ahmed; Mort not only cleaned up very nicely, but he also was quietly tucked into Ahmed's side, without showing the slightest inclination toward imminent massacre. Even though Seth knew perfectly well that Rainey-at least, parts of him-could fuck up a guy good if he thought he needed to.
"Well, somebody finally house-trained the fucker," Sands muttered from his strategic cuddle against El's side.
Seth couldn't get to the annoying little fuckhead without upsetting El, but he damn well wasn't going to take the sarcasm lying down. Mig was his frustrating freak-pet whatever now, and if anyone got to take potshots, it was him. God knew he got rid of enough bodies to have earned that right. "So what'd they do to keep you under control before El got you? Put a little bell on?"
And lo, Sands blushed redder than a well-spanked ass. Then he snarled and shoved his face into El's shoulder, while Fred did the same on the other side. El and Carolina just snickered.
Shit. More than Seth ever, ever wanted to know about the Los Lobos internal affairs. On the other hand…Mig would look kind of…
Footsteps sounded in the hall, and Miguel the Elder breezed into the room, trailing a slightly mauled Dean and G. "Hello, Ahmed, Seth. Sorry I'm late."
"That's…fine." Ahmed's face had that fixed air to it that meant he was dying of laughter, but was too polite to show it. "So, what is this meeting about?"
Miguel took a seat before he answered, Dean and G dropping into the next chair over. He gestured for them to do the same, so Seth shrugged and dragged Mig into a convenient armchair, then threw a leg over Mig's feet so they wouldn't do the irritating fidget-thing. Worse than Richie sometimes. At least this round, Seth got really fucking great sex out of it.
In the chair between them and the couch El and posse had claimed, Ahmed sat down and settled Mort behind him, absently running fingers through the twitchy writer's hair. Seth felt a little sorry for Rainey, who seemed to freak out whenever they got near a big magic center-whatever-the-fuck like Los Diablos. Because of Mig, Seth got a bit of the feedback, but obviously not nearly as bad as Mort, who was still learning the ropes of the whole deal. Unlike Los Lobos, who'd all probably been messing around with ghosts and shit since they were old enough to toddle.
"Sparrow and I have been conferring, and we both agree that Prohibition can't last. Each of our organizations have been quietly setting up alternative lines of business, but we've reached the point where neither of us can go any further without coordinating our actions." Miguel paused for a moment to light up, while over at the sofa, El patiently pried the cigarillo butt from Abberline's hand. Fred had spaced out like usual, and was just staring at the ceiling, occasionally whispering to El. "That is why we're having the meeting."
"And we hauled ass all the way from Morocco because…" Seth interjected. He determinedly ignored the fingers creeping into his trouser pocket and made a note to screw Mig till the shithead couldn't walk.
"Because Sparrow controls half of the American end of the Atlantic trade, we have all of America's Pacific shipping, and if we join forces, it'd undoubtedly make the European organizations stop and think. Which may or may not be in your favor," Miguel dryly answered. He swept his gaze around the room. "Any other questions? Concerns?"
Well, no. Most likely because they'd already hashed everything out-Ahmed had been chatting for El for a pretty good chunk of time, when they'd first arrived. Great. This was his specialty, anyway; Seth was really just along for the food. And the free room and board. So he'd just concentrate on keeping Mig from trying to strangle his relatives. Yeah, that sounded like a good plan.
First Course: Apéritif
Jaime was eying him oddly, but Jack had good reason to lock onto the other man's arm, and he tightened his hold as the servant ushered them into the parlor. Just behind, he could hear Will and Elizabeth's conversation grow increasingly snappish, then abruptly cut off, neatly sliced as bread.
G rose to meet them first, and Jack grinned at her with genuine good humor. "Y're lookin' fine, Mam'selle G. West Coast suits y'down to th'bone, I see."
"So it does." She made a little curtsy and smiled, just as smooth and knowing as his. And no, Jack didn't regret losing this talent to Miguel, even though he would've appreciated having a pair of eyes and ears in the Los Lobos stronghold. Then again, if that had been possible, he wouldn't respect Miguel enough to do business with the man.
Then Corso came forward, flicking a veiled glance at Will, whose expression didn't change, and Jack manfully suppressed his urge to slap them both upside the head. Honestly, all that over one lousy Renaissance Italian text that Will just happened to need for a day…
Dean nodded and murmured his introductions, then withdrew slightly to let Miguel come to the forefront. A servant quickly popped in to hand Jack a glass of rum, proving that the new family head hadn't let the old hospitality traditions fall into disrepair.
"Jack." Outstretched hand that Jack was damn well happy to take, albeit with a good dose of wariness. But that was as it was; he had his, Miguel had his own, and they'd both fight to the death to keep them. A man with which he had a mutually fruitful understanding. As opposed to Barillo, say. Or Barbossa.
"Miguel." Oh, now. Tingles. City meeting city, gulf and ocean, bridging the continent with waves of power. Yes, Los Lobos had definitely won their war. "Good t'see so many of y'r family again."
"It's been a while since you've seen so many of us at once, I think." El glided in from the side, wash of knotted-down lightning, and beside Jack, James suddenly stiffened. Stared, and damn it, that always happened. Logically speaking, Jack couldn't blame El for being what he'd been born as, but it was still annoying as hell.
Elizabeth didn't look too happy, either, what with the way Will was suddenly fidgeting with his cane. But the three that circled behind El had their own possessive glowers, and Jack suddenly felt a lot better, since right now he only had the one to deal with. "El," he said warmly, because he did admire and respect the man, "Glad t'see y've crossed th'border. An' I'd like t'introduce y'to James Norrington. He's Agwe's."
"I was very happy to hear about your victory over Barbossa," was the other man's reply as they shook hands. Then El turned to James, who still seemed a bit dazed, and smiled so his teeth showed. "Pleased to meet you. This is Sands-" walking dagger, slyness coiled around his cane "-Fred Abberline-" deceptive drowsy calm over double sight "-and Carolina-" prettiest blade ever "-over here is a distant cousin of ours."
At that, the man in the far corner set down his glass and came over. He was visibly older than the rest, but in the way that connoted patient crouching strength, and not at all decrepitude. Fascinatingly, he was trailed by one of the most adorable pairs of glasses Jack had ever seen. "Ahmed Ibn Fadhlan. Which is about all anyone here can pronounce, so I'll spare you the rest. This is Morton Rainey."
"The murderous writer that 'died,'" Will commented, clearly amused. Ahmed leveled a glance of concentrated fierceness at him, tinged with traces of a power Jack didn't quite recognize, and Will made an apologetic gesture. Whereupon Mr. Rainey beamed up at Ahmed-clear-cut case of besotted there. Jack idly wondered what the catch was.
The last stranger wandered up, aroma of Jack Daniels breezing before him, accompanied by the family perrito. "And this is Seth Gecko, my working partner. I believe you already know my cousin?"
Hell and damnation, did Jack know. One of the longest-running odds in Vegas had been whether Bain would make it to twenty-five. Had cost Jack a couple grand, damn it, and had gotten Will a rather lovely pay-off. "Honored t'meet all of you. An' for those of y'who haven' met them before, this is William an' Elizabeth Turner, m'seconds, an' James Norrington, m'consort."
And, Jack was tickled to note, that statement still made James blush.
"We're all introduced, then," Sands remarked in an acerbic tone. "I suppose that should facilitate the exchange of ideas as to-"
"-Ladies and gentleman, if you'll follow me," Miguel smoothly cut in, "Dinner is this way."
Second Course: Hors d'Oeuvres
Ahmed felt much more relaxed, now that he knew he was only here to observe and note names because Miguel didn't want any accidental deaths among their allies. There was an implicit request to see to some of the family's European and African enemies as well, but he didn't have to plan on that until later on, when he'd wrapped up the last of his personal business.
Jack Sparrow. Very impressive. His rainbow patchwork-rag façade was even more impressive, and probably fooled the great majority of people walking on the earth. Ahmed wouldn't be surprised to learn that dimestore fools still tried to mug the man.
But he was on the other side of the table, far down by Miguel and Dean, and all three were busily reworking the balance of power in the trading world. Beside Sparrow, his consort appeared to be intently focused on the discussion, but every so often a faint confusion would enter Norrington's eyes and they would turn toward El, seated across from Miguel at the other end.
"I don't suppose you would know why this always happens?" asked Ahmed's left-hand neighbor. Elizabeth Turner's voice was delicately impregnated with exasperation, which source became quickly apparent: though involved in a sparkling conversation with G, William Turner also stole the occasional glance at El. Less than Norrington, but more than he did at his wife, seated across from him.
El, thankfully, appeared absorbed in a light-hearted argument with Sands and Fred, while Carolina chatted with Mort.
Ahmed thought for a moment as he forked up his salad, trying to remember what he knew of voudoun. "Your husband's patron is Ghede?"
"Yes. Baron Samedi, to be specific. And James' is Agwe Tawoyo." Elizabeth shot an aggravated look at William, who was laughing at something G had said, and thus didn't see it. Her ire visibly grew, though she did a fine job of controlling herself.
"Then that would be it. My cousin has a strong association with…death and independence. Very strong. It's something like a beacon, to supernatural senses," Ahmed said slowly, trying to phrase his explanation in the least offensive manner possible. "There's no lasting effect attached to it. Mostly, it simply gets him noticed, unless he's deliberately shielding. Which is difficult to do when he's in Los Diablos."
"I see." To his great relief, Elizabeth seemed to calm, her hackles lowering. She flashed a charming smile at him, and offered to fill his glass with wine, which Ahmed had to refuse. "Oh, I'm sorry. Mr. Gecko-" they both turned to see Seth surreptitiously smacking Miguel's hands away from a gun "-ah…mentioned you were Muslim. And I think…you can't touch alcohol?"
Answering that led to a refreshing, thoughtful conversation on religious differences, and then to a rather intriguing discussion on magical traditions. Elizabeth, Ahmed was delighted to find, proved quite knowledgeable on some of the more obscure ones, and so he contentedly settled back to an enjoyable exchange of information.
Third Course: Soup
For the fifth time in five minutes, Mort mentally reminded himself that drowning Mrs. Turner in her broth would be a bad idea. Doing that would definitely start a gang war, which Ahmed would not appreciate.
But really, did she have to smile and flutter her eyelashes so much? And why couldn't she talk to her so-called husband, instead of monopolizing Ahmed? "Blondes…"
"Never any good," Carolina agreed from beside him, nearly startling Mort into flipping his spoon at the opposite wall. She hid her smile behind perfect red-enameled nails. "Are you always this nervous?"
"No." He peeked at El, but luckily, the other man was too busy talking to Fred and William Turner to notice his girl was…um…
Across the table, Sands snorted and stabbed at his empty bowl. "Christ," he muttered. "I'm blind and I can tell you're blushing. Do you ever get out, or do you play little homemaker and write while the laundry dries?"
Torn between indignation and embarrassment, Mort ducked his head a little more in hopes that the heat in his cheeks would disappear. Carolina looked at him with something like pity and patted the side of his face, then glared at Sands. "Oh, shut up, gatito. Be nice. He's new."
"I'm a writer, which is an activity best done at home and not when shooting my way through Main Street." As he spooned up the last of the soup, Mort wondered why his fingers hurt so much. Then he realized he was clenching the spoon so hard it was bending. Antique silverware…oops. Shit.
He quickly straightened it, then caught Carolina's knowing smirk. "He bent the spoon," she whispered to Sands, who snickered.
"Bit of a temper?" The other man shook his head in mock-dismay and waggled his own at Mort. Then he laid back, somehow managing a lounge that didn't look out-of-place at the fancy dinner. At least, the top half of it didn't; Mort suddenly realized that he hadn't seen El's hand in quite some time. The one that wasn't holding Carolina's, anyway. "Can't say I blame you, living with perrito and all. How you keep from taking a hatchet to him, I don't know."
"Seth mostly deals with him. And Miguel's actually pretty sane once he picks up his rifle and has a target. It's just when he's done with business that he gets…twitchy." Just wiping his brow could send him from cool killer to wild little maniac, and Mort had actually seen that happen. Bizarre, but Seth seemed to like it, and Gecko was all right. Definitely sane, but talkative and sort of odd in his bedroom preferences. Then again, that went without saying for most of the people Ahmed did business with.
Miguel stayed pretty shy of Ahmed, even without Seth to tell him so. Mort had asked about that once, but Ahmed had just shrugged and said something about unfamiliar magic making people cautious.
A hand floated onto Mort's wrist, tugging him out of his thoughts. Surprised, he glanced up to find a sympathetic Carolina staring back at him. "You are family now, you know. This place is your home, too. So stop twitching so much."
"It's a nice house, really." Sands propped up his elbows and rested his chin on his hands, coyly smiling. "You should come back more. Then I can fuck with perrito, and get to know you better."
Er. Were they flirting? Warning chimes were sounding in Mort's head, but it'd been way too long since he'd bothered with that.
Carolina and Sands suddenly flinched back, and a warm arm settled across Mort's shoulders, then bent to curl fingers over the back of his neck. "I plan to come back more than I have in the past," Ahmed said, very low and polite. He used the same tone he did for calmly listing his demands to enemy pulps. "This branch of the family seems to be unfamiliar with current European-African methods of magic, and I'm looking forward to changing that."
"Ah…good to know." Not only was Sands surprised, he was doing the backpaddle of the caught-out. Oh. They were trying to figure out Ahmed by buttering up…Mort abruptly felt very annoyed. Approaching murderous, even.
Then the fingers stroked down his neck, dipped briefly into his collar before dropping to curve about his waist. Caution, protection-they reinforced the structure of Mort's mind and ensured he would never fragment again. He suppressed the pleased noises trying to trickle out of his mouth, but did take the opportunity to shift his chair closer and lean into Ahmed's reassuring bulk.
And the hand slipping down to cup his buttock? That was all possession. As he smelled the spicy smoke rising from Ahmed's coat, he absently wondered why he had ever been worried Ahmed would throw him over for some giggling blonde that they'd just met.
Fourth Course: Entrée
"Come on." Will put on his most winning smile, even when G flourished her knife dangerously close to his face. She enjoyed cutting up things a little too much, but Will had seen much odder habits, so he didn't mention it. "You and I were both born in the French Quarter. Just two streets apart. You owe it to the neighborhood."
"I owe no such thing." G beamed back, innocent and endearing as himself, as she applied herself to her salmon. "My house was destroyed, so the neighborhood is in debt to me, in fact. Would you like to pay?"
"Salope," Will grumbled, though it was good-natured. He knew and she knew that neither of them would ever reveal private details about their respective household heads…but it was still fun to try. And it distracted him from El.
Damnation. He would have to apologize to Elizabeth about that later, possibly with diamonds. Good thing he'd a bit of extra cash, because this was going to be expensive.
G regarded him for a moment, green eyes clear with humor, then patted him on the shoulder. "You can't help it."
"Still…this was much easier when he was hiding himself. Now, it's like trying not to notice the sun. Samedi and his liking for efficient death…" Will moodily forked up some of his fish, barely registering the wonderful taste and texture. "How do you manage, anyway? You and Corso-you don't even seem to feel it."
She lifted and dropped a shoulder, then put down her silverware and re-secured a lock of hair that had come loose. As usual, her eyes wandered over to Miguel's end of the table, brightening ever-so-slightly when his gaze briefly crossed hers. He nodded, then went back to his alternating scold of Bain and his negotiations with Jack.
"Miguel's like the sky," she murmured. "You wouldn't be able to see the sun if it weren't there as well. I'm actually surprised that you don't have something similar with Jack."
"Hey, hey. You and your way, me and mine. But I'm glad you found a good place. Vraiment, la dame des fées." When he grinned at her, G lowered her face and primly returned to eating. Although a tiny upturn in the corners of her mouth bespoke her sincere thanks. "We were worried for a while, when Nouvelle Lune wouldn't take to you. Figures. You seem like a West Coast girl, now that I think about it."
"And I'm happy that you risked marriage-any kind-after all. She's a fine one-either of them are." G picked up the salt shaker, then playfully sprinkled a little into Will's lap. "A blessing on you," she said.
"My trousers say 'Merci,'" Will chuckled, brushing off the salt.
Fifth Course: Main
Perhaps he should've listened to Will, after all. Not only was this absurd and unexplainable, but it was also frustrating both him and Jack. Although Jack was kind enough to apply himself to the discussion with Miguel and Mr. Corso, with only a few darkly promising glances to inform James that he knew.
The drive back was going to be quite awkward, and later in the bedroom, James suspected that Jack was not going to be terribly gentle.
At that thought, James uneasily shifted in his chair for entirely different reasons than before. He did manage to prevent the resulting blush from getting past his collar, which was a small victory.
"You all right?" Gecko asked, pausing in his massacre of his filet mignon.
"I'm perfectly fine, thank you." Taking a cue from the other man, James belatedly started cutting into his own steak. Well, the food was certainly excellent; balanced, savory, with a splash of vibrancy from the herbed butter.
"You're sure." This time…Seth, that was his name…sounded a little more amused. He swallowed a chunk of meat, offhandedly pried Bain's hand from his chest, and tapped a passing servant for more whiskey. "Because personally, I'm thinking there's a reason why they say East will never meet West."
Damn, if his glances were that noticeable…yes, he owed Jack quite a bit for this ridiculousness. "The present company would seem to contradict your claim, sir."
"Sir? Fuck, don't call me that. Reminds me of my jackass dad." Having polished off the last chunk of beef, Seth turned his attention to some of the side dishes. "And Mig, you toss your knife at Carolina and I will hang you out to dry. And it won't be pleasant."
Bain snapped something long and offensive-sounding in Spanish, gesturing almost as wildly as Jack did. At the other end of the table, Carolina was making equally rude motions.
When Miguel looked up from the numbers Dean was scribbling to see the goings-on, he glared at her. Whereupon she flapped her fingers, which drew El's attention. One whisper and she instantly ceased, though her expression was by no means pleased.
A match for Bain's, in fact, after Seth had done something literally under-the-table to him. El looked from cousin to cousin, half-amused and half-irked, then brought his attention back to his interrupted talk with Abberline and Ahmed. As he did, his gaze touched James in passing, and it was like a scorching veil had been drawn over the air.
Did the man even realize-yes, he did. And he seemed slightly regretful about it, but it was a bit difficult to tell, given how far away he was seated.
"Land and sea. Opposites and complements," came unexpectedly from his left. G had a slight smile on her face, only a little tinged with mockery. "It'll pass, once you're more used to things."
"Yeah. Believe it or not, it does," Seth seconded. "Just remember that nothing's normal, and you're good."
Hopefully, they were right.
Sixth Course: Cheese "And I believe that was the last outstanding topic of discussion. Has everything been settled to your satisfaction, Jack?" Miguel inquired as he topped off the other man's glass.
"Believe it has," Jack replied, though that wasn't strictly the truth. On the other hand, the little matter of James' wandering eyes could be handled later, without the involvement of Los Lobos.
Formality over, Corso promptly slipped into Miguel's chair and allowed himself to be tidbitted some fine Gouda. Odd one, there. From reputation, Dean wasn't any less formidable than the rest of the Los Diablos household. Just much more discreet about his doings, as opposed to Bain.
Who winked across the table at Jack before leaning way over and digging his nails into Gecko's sleeve. Collar went down, revealing some very interesting tattoos at which Jack couldn't help squinting. He prided himself on knowing a bit about such things, after all.
Bain ducked under Seth's smack and came up to drag a very pink tongue over the exposed black flames. Seth's jaw clenched, and he fisted a hand in Bain's hair, which was rapidly frizzing out from whatever the man had used to slick it down. "Ah…Miguel, you mind if we excuse ourselves? I think I'll have to pass on dessert."
Miguel had his trace of embarrassed irritation half-hidden in Dean's neck while Corso glowered at Bain. "No. Go right on ahead. And thank you, Seth."
"My pleasure." Gecko's sardonic words were more directed at the young psychotic thing he was hauling away from the table. Who had quite the well-shaped behind, Jack did have to admit. "Can't take you fucking anywhere, you jackass," Seth continued in an annoyed hiss. "Next time I'll just leash you to the goddamn bed."
An elbow poked into Jack's side. "You're staring," James muttered, sounding a bit prickly about that.
Oh, now. He was one to talk-and La Sirène was in complete agreement with Jack about that. Agwe Tawoyo might be curious about the get the Mexican badlands and Los Diablos had thrown up, but he could damn well do his wondering at the spirits themselves and not the man. "Incidentally, Miguel, would y'be mindin' if I took a moment t'confer wi' m'mates? We'll be back for th'dessert course."
"Of course not. You remember your way back to the parlor?" Miguel began to rise, but Jack waved him down, nodding.
Quickstepping James through the tangle of hallways was rather fun, as it kept the man too dizzy to complain. The moment they emerged in the parlor, however, James immediately opened his mouth.
Well, Jack knew an invitation when he saw one. Slammed the other man up against the nearest clear wall space and ate out the aftertaste from James' lips, slack with shock and then with pleasure. He pulled at James' shirt until he could slip his hands up beneath, then traced every single claim-tattoo he could reach, their lines heating and glowing in his mind. James' breath staggered, then vanished in a gasp. "God, Jack-have mercy-"
"Oh, I am." Jack stepped back and helpfully retucked and buttoned and whatnot till James was as shiny handsome as ever. Except for the dazed wideness of the eyes, and the tremble that kept James pinned to the wall. "Now, Jaime, d'you think we've an accord wi' Los Lobos?"
"You're…you're asking me that. Now." James' chin firmed, and his gaze shaded to frustrated aggravation. "Jack…"
"By th'by, y'd be mine. An' not El's, no matter how much respect I've for th'man," Jack casually continued as he folded his hands into each other. "Savvy?"
He watched from under lowered eyes as James' skin went a little redder, and the other man swallowed hard. "Yes," James whispered as he dropped to his knees. He swayed a little even then, so Jack considerately moved up so James could get a handhold on Jack's hips. "And I think we've both come out of this rather well-off," the other man added, a little more composed. "I believe that we do have…an accord."
"Wonderful." Jack threaded his fingers through James' thick hair and mussed the neat ponytail, his eyes reflexively scanning the room for dangers. Or interruptions. Or… "That's curious. Where'd Will an' Liza get to?"
"I'm certain they're fine. And as I'm here and they're not, I suggest you mind me." Well, James had made a quick recovery of his wits, and-
Between Courses: Dancing
Elizabeth crossed her arms over her chest and refused to go another inch. Not until she had straightened out some matters with her husband. "William Turner."
Will winced and froze, then slowly turned around, a ridiculously appealing hangdog expression on his face. It was almost enough to make her give in, but she held firm.
"I did tell you this might happen," Will essayed, then flinched back. He looked a little scared. Well, good.
"That's not an excuse. Neither is whatever magical-Will!" When he grabbed her about the waist, she had expected an attempt to kiss her into forgiveness, not a sudden bout of the waltz. In consequence, Elizabeth fumbled the first steps, and would have toppled over if not for Will's sure grip on her. "Will…damn it, you are the most-"
"-infuriating man ever?" he finished, pecking at her nose. Then his face smoothed into seriousness. "I know, Elizabeth. And I'm sorry. I wish I could help it."
She sighed, leaning her head against his shoulder. "But you can't. But I can't really understand it, since I don't have a loa patron, and so I just have to sit and watch.
"No. Never," Will told her with surprising fierceness. He pulled them together until she could feel his heart beating against her ribs. "I probably don't tell you enough, but I love you. You as you are, without the supernatural extras."
Very slowly, the smile edged up into her mouth, then wriggled into her lips. She giggled and whirled about with Will through patches of light and dark. "I love you so much it's frightening, sometimes. But it doesn't matter."
He chucked up her chin and kissed her, gentle and light, then nuzzled her hair. "A trip to the jewelry store says you've forgotten about this by tomorrow's dinner."
"Gold and pearls? Oh, but we should get to Jack and…Will? What?" She frowned at the laughter bubbling about his lips.
"They're…occupied. And we should probably go back now, if we want any dessert." He waited until comprehension put a matching smirk on her face, then grabbed her hand so they snicker their way back to the table, like little children.
Seventh Course: Dessert
//So we've got an agreement?// El called down the table.
//Yes, we've got one. Despite the absurdity that is our family.// Miguel had a rather harassed expression as he played with G's hair; when the Nouvelle Lune group had left, she had immediately gotten up and reseated herself in Dean's chair. //Between perrito and you-//
//Me?// El raised his eyebrows and promptly got smacked by all three of his bedmates. Fred even stood up so he could reach over Sands.
Who poked his cane at El's leg, a pout firmly affixed to his face. "Yes, you. Motherfucking big hunk of magic magnet. I can't see and fucking God, I knew."
A slight clatter of dishes caused them all to look at Mort, who had just put his napkin on the table. He stared back. "What? I didn't flirt with anyone. I got flirted with."
And he sounded miffed about that, for some reason. Which reminded El…"What are you talking about? I didn't flirt with anyone, and I didn't get upset when you and Carolina were teasing Mort," he told Sands, who merely flipped a hand at him.
"I'm actually not in the mood for dessert, so if you don't mind, Mort and I will just take our coffee in the library," Ahmed politely interjected. Ignoring Dean's half-garbled objection, he helped Mort from the table, his fingers lingering a little longer than was really necessary. They swiftly escaped before anyone else could say anything-a trick that El clearly needed pick up.
"They. Were. Staring." With every word, Carolina stabbed her finger at El's chest.
//And was I staring back?// When they reluctantly gave a unanimous negative, El spread out his hands. //There. If we're going to get mad over stupid things like this, then I should be furious at Carolina for Seth and Perrito and Mort, Sands for Mort again. In fact, the only one that wouldn't be in trouble would be Fred. Besides, am I going after them? Any of them? Or am I sitting right here, trying to argue with you?//
"Good point," Fred reluctantly muttered. He stubbed out his cigarillo and glanced at the other two for their reactions.
At the other end of the table, Miguel threw up his hands. "All right, I give up. As long as you're making sense to each other, and not messing up the business, I don't care."
"So does this mean we can skip dessert as well?" Dean innocently asked. He adjusted his glasses and loosened his tie-
--footsteps in the hallway.
The Turners emerged a moment later, looking quizzically about at the changes in seating. "Are we interrupting anything?" William asked.
"Oh, no. Will we be hearing back from Jack any time soon?" Miguel blandly inquired.
Just as mildly, William answered, "In a half-hour, I should think. I apologize, but it appears he might miss your dessert. It was a truly wonderful dinner, and my compliments to your cook."
Two portions of which Elizabeth was stealing with expert finesse and stealth. When she noticed El watching, she shrugged and smiled, edging back into the hall and taking William with her.
"I suppose we might as well adjourn until tomorrow morning," Miguel observed as he got up and started to usher Dean and G out of the room. "A pleasant night to you."
Coffee: Two Creams and a Sugar
The servants had just finished clearing Miguel's half of the table when El waved them out of the room and locked the doors. Mentally rolling his eyes, Fred slumped back in his chair and waited for the verbal battle to go on.
To his great surprise, it didn't. Instead, Sands and Carolina looked extremely thoughtful for a few minutes, then nodded. "Okay. You might be right," she acknowledged to El. "Anyway, gatito and I are sore. Whereas…"
Before he knew quite what he was doing, Fred was scrambling out of his chair. Before he knew quite what was happening, he was being manhandled onto the table, wrists already bound in front of him. El's tongue whipped down the side of his neck, seeming to slash straight through the flesh and cut the groans out of him.
"This…this…" Fred twisted beneath El, scrabbling at the tablecloth. Hands raked down his trousers, and ripped at his coat and shirt until their remnants were hiked up around his shoulderblades. Hot kisses scorched holes all through his back, and then-
--cold icy dribbling down him, into him, and Carolina shouldn't look that gleeful about a spoonful of chocolate mousse. He wrenched himself up and tumbled her underneath, smashing his mouth against hers till she was whimpering, pressing back into him. And El and Sands were still busy, two tongues swiping up the mousse. Fingers, spreading the chilly froth into Fred so his back shuddered and his legs jerked themselves apart. Sands' voice abruptly cut off, just when Fred had worked up Carolina's skirts far enough to plunge his fingers in, and the other man broke into an endless stream of keens.
El's fingers were still inside, hooking the moans out of Fred, but his mouth was busy somewhere below the table top. Sands clawed behind himself, climbed up and then stiffened as he fell back. Then fingers were gone and Fred was being split in two, fragments of screams breaking off to muffle themselves in Carolina's breasts, her stomach. She ripped nails down his sticky sides and came with a soft coo, then cradled him as he writhed and tore himself into coming.
"Well?" El panted from behind him. "Do you still think I'd leave you?"
"No." Fred let himself loll, licking at Carolina and at Sands, who'd crawled over so El could rub fingers over his backbone. Purring filled the world, along with breathless laughter, and he grinned back at it. "All right. I'm convinced."
"Good. Or else I'll get out the collars again." El kissed him before he could snap back a threat, and Fred couldn't help but melt into it.
Then Sands tapped speculatively at the coffeepot, and they were all busy trying to distract him from whatever idea he'd had.
Seth tiredly grunted and smacked Miguel's ass, whereupon he wriggled it again and lazily nipped at the other man's tattoos, not really intending to start anything. In all honesty, another round would probably put him out for the night. And anyway, this was…comfortable. Nice. Something Miguel hadn't exactly had before, but now that he did, he wanted very much to keep it.
"Christ, your family." Fingertips rasped along the new bruises on Miguel's side, then detoured to rub at the sore circles around his wrists. "At least none of them can yell at us for not making it to the bedroom."
"You wouldn't believe how many times I've caught El on these stairs. Usually with Carolina. So trust me, they won't mind. They're just happy someone's finally around to fuck me sane." Miguel grinned down at the other man, then nuzzled at Seth's neck again. "As long as you don't break anything."
Seth snorted and stared at the ceiling, shifting on the steps until he got settled. "No chance of that."
Below them, the locks on the front door started to click. Miguel did a quick check, then snuggled back. "Just Fideo and Lorenzo."
"Should still probably get up." Which Seth did, with a bit of a groan. He snagged their scattered clothing, then shoved at Miguel until he reluctantly followed the other man to their bedroom. "You know, tomorrow morning's going to be interesting as hell. And I feel very sorry for whoever does your cleaning."
"Don't be." Ow. Damn, Miguel's ass ached. And his knees weren't very steady either. Good. "They get to watch."
For some reason, Seth winced. Then he grabbed Miguel's hair and dragged Miguel into a wonderfully nasty kiss. "I'd rather not think about that, thank you. Come on. Bed."