Tangible Schizophrenia


The Tree

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: NC-17. Slight bondage.
Pairing: Miguel/Dean/G/Ichabod, El/Sands/Carolina/Fred
Feedback: The good, the bad and the ugly. Lay it all on me.
Disclaimer: None of this is mine, dammit.
Notes: Set in a parallel Prohibition-era Los Angeles called Los Diablos, where history didn't quite go as ours did. G is the girl who protects Corso in 'Ninth Gate,' and Miguel is an OMC who looks like this. //words// in Spanish. Supernatural overtones.
Summary: Miguel gets a trinity. Ichabod wakes up in interesting places.


Roots in the earth, and twigs knotted in the sky. Rings marking every year, dry or wet, good or bad. They survive. In great primeval forests, small clumps, or alone, but they go on.

Living memory.


Ichabod's head hurt abominably, and he had the sneaking suspicion that, at the moment, keeping his eyes shut was the best course of action.

//So where did you find him?// a voice somewhere above him asked. Male. Tenor. Young.

//Behind the front door. He walked in while they were shooting, sort of seized up, then passed out. Damnedest thing.// The second person was also male, but sounded a good deal older. And much drunker. //His wallet says Ichabod Crane.//

//Like your coffee said?// Scufflekick. Thump of shoe on wood. //Fuck, Fideo. Is he important, or anything?//

Guzzling noises, and the strong reek of tequila. //Well, looks like he worked for the same agency as Sands and Fred.//

//Great. Then they can deal with him.//

Upon opening his eyes, Ichabod saw a blindfold of some dark cloth. It came down and fastened about his head before he could jerk away, and when he opened his mouth to protest, cotton forced his lips even farther apart. The two men grabbed him by the arms and hauled him…somewhere…before binding his wrists and ankles, then throwing him into what seemed to be a car trunk. A hypothesis subsequently borne out by the bark of an engine roaring to life.

The next quarter-hour or so proved to be one of the most uncomfortable experiences he'd ever had: cloth parching his tongue, rope biting into his flesh, and the blindfold squeezing his face as if they'd fitted him with an iron band. Whenever he managed to achieve the slightest bit of balance, a sharp turn promptly threw him into the walls of the trunk, covering him with bruises. In the end, he resorted to bracing himself in a corner so as to minimize the blows.

Finally, thank the blessed Lord, they stopped and someone opened the trunk lid, thus allowing a fresh breeze in to sweep out the stale, gasoline-laced air in which he'd been suffocating.

"My God, it is him." Vaguely familiar voice that Ichabod knew he should recognize. "I remember…from that seminar they made him give, once. You should have been in D. C. for that."

"Yeah, I was. The stuttering, fainting one." Extremely familiar snicker. "Crane?"

Ichabod tried to answer Sands, but forgot about the gag and choked. He painfully crawled out from the corner, limbs filled to the brim with cramps, and felt before him for the edge of the trunk.

Then he remembered that Sands and the other-wait…Frederick Abberline-weren't supposed to be in Los Diablos. In fact, they shouldn't even be alive. A fact that he tried to point out, but again, only managed to suck a wad of cotton cloth down his throat. It scratched and clogged, and he fell into a fit of coughing.

//What's going on--// Arms caught Ichabod just before he toppled over, and someone took out the gag before he choked into unconsciousness. //Fred? Fideo?//

"Old colleague of ours," Sands drawled. "Though he resigned…what, last year? Something about a serial killer and a girl. And local corruption, like usual."

Whoever was holding Ichabod was dressed in fine linen, and smelled of a faint spicy cologne, very expensive. And beneath all that, the stranger burned, blue incandescence, in Ichabod's mind. "What are you?" he blurted, trying to free himself from the other man's grip.

"I never noticed…I can't believe I…" Abberline was saying, startled and amazed. "He's clairvoyant."

//Very//, came the dry agreement. //Where's El?//

//Here//, called yet another voice. Red flame, hot and blistering. Not quite aware, Ichabod burrowed away from it and into the cool azure fire. Searing, but more like ice. And it trickled down his throat, making him gasp. //Oh…you've gotten another, Miguel?//

//What? I wasn't looking for one. I thought Dean and G balanced-what the hell?//

Tree growing from stone, gnarled and twisted by the wind as Ichabod had never seen, up north. Ocean crashing below-he was up in the branches, staring down at the multitude of glowing eyes that had brought him to bay. Silver fur, slinking over sleek muscle, and there was the one-the one-

--wood cracked, and he fell into the water, onto the ground, among the wolves.


Dagger in his nose, and Ichabod slungshot to wakefulness, his eyes flying open and his body jerking away.

Abberline's calm face greeted his as the other man put down the bottle of sal volatile and handed him a glass of water. Which brought up the fact that Ichabod's wrists and ankles were still tied-with rag padding under the leather strips, but still restrained, nonetheless. "What's going on?"

"You were picked up by Los Lobos. I'm very sorry, but until we figure out whether you're dangerous or not, the ropes stay on." The other man moved off the couch on which Ichabod was lying and turned his attention to a small pile of things on the table before them. Ichabod's things.

"Until 'we' figure out?" Suddenly wary, Ichabod clutched the glass and pressed back into the cushions, as far away from Abberline as he could get. He didn't recall hearing anything untoward about the other man. Quite the opposite, in fact; Abberline had had a remarkable reputation for straightforwardness and honesty, right up until… "I heard you and Sands were conspiring in some kind of…of…scheme, and you were both murdered by the gangs here."

A wry smile flickered over Abberline's face as he finished searching through Ichabod's belongings. "Not exactly. But for all intents and purposes, Agents Sands and Abberline are dead. We're part of Los Lobos now."

He took up Ichabod's wallet and started to lean forward, then stopped. "I'm just trying to give it back. You don't need to cringe."

"Considering my current situation, I think I have every reason to cringe." When Abberline began to move again, Ichabod gathered up his courage and threw the glass at the other man while scrambling to get over the back of the sofa.

Something big and dark blurred into a handsome Hispanic man who yanked Abberline out of the way. At the same time, someone else seized Ichabod and pinned him up against-blue sparks behind, scarlet wind before.

His vision abruptly cleared to reveal a fierce glare: the man holding Abberline looked somewhat less than pleased, and protective as a mother cat, hands splayed over Abberline's chest and stomach. "If you ever try that again, I'll cut off your head and stick it on the front gate," the man said, thunder rumbling on the horizon.

"El, I'm fine," Abberline muttered, a little reproving, though he didn't make any attempt to break free. His cheeks were flushed, and his unnaturally steady gaze was fixed to Ichabod's face. "You…why are you here? In the city, I mean. And why do I keep seeing blood?"

//Forest…that's where he's from…// came a thoughtful voice from behind Ichabod. He craned around to finally get a decent look at who was holding him, but only saw a pillar of sky, streaked with brilliant comets. Blinked, and then it was a man's face, very like El's except for the curly hair. And the eyes. Black and blacker, like dead wood in winter, and sheened with the blue of the deep ocean. "Are…you going to pass out again?"

It took a moment for the question to register, during which Ichabod realized that he was, in fact, drifting off again. Not a faint, precisely; the feeling was more like a trance, or like dreaming. Come to think of it, he was beginning to think he'd dreamed this before…

He shook his head and forcibly reminded himself of the precariousness of his present circumstances. Ichabod did his best to gather together his scattered wits, and in consequence, reluctantly admitted to himself that he would have to cooperate with them to some degree if he was to have a hope of surviving. "No. I'm fine. So…you can-please let go of me."

Shrugging, the other man-Miguel, that was it-did, leaving Ichabod to hobble over to the couch for support. "I resigned, like Sands mentioned," he told Abberline. "But D. C. called me a few weeks ago, asking if I could come down here and assess the situation, as a consultant. What that was, they failed to specify. I was supposed to meet someone in that bar, whereupon I would get further information."

"They must think this post's cursed, between me and Sands," Abberline snorted, amused. He curled back into El and allowed the other man to light him a strange-looking cigarette.

"Or a convenient method of disposal." All the nervous glances and odd comments thrown his way by his former superiors over the past weeks flashed before Ichabod, and he groaned at the obvious conclusion. His body still ached from the time in the trunk, and now that he thought about it, his head was pounding hurt. "D. C. was not happy about that report I filed on Sleepy Hollow. They wanted to send me to Italy instead of letting me resign."

Abberline's eyebrows went up. "Every agent that's gone there has been blown up or dismembered within the month of their arrival. They gave up on keeping it posted six months ago."

"Quite." Bile was creeping up Ichabod's throat, despite his repeated attempts to swallow it. It was causing his voice to quiver and stretch very thin, almost to squeaking. And something smelled rather rank.

That something proved to be a soaked bundle, gingerly poked into the room to the accompaniment of an embarrassed cough. It was immediately followed by an apologetic head. //Hey, I--//

//Lorenzo, I told you, no disturbances//, Miguel snapped. He was about to say more, but the other man cut him off.

//I know, I know. But it's one of those. See?// Lorenzo grimaced as he unwrapped the small package.

And everything went to black again.


"He shouldn't be passing out this much, even if he is delicate. And you didn't have this hard of a time adjusting, Fred. Even Rainey didn't."

"Corso, shut up. Be human for once."

"Are you feeling sorry for him? Is that it? Well, fine. Do so. But I'd just like to remind you that we're not in the habit of coddling strays. Either they earn their keep, or they turn into a drain on resources. And you should know by now how we deal with those."

The voices slowly filtered into Ichabod's mind, slotting between the fragments of memory that were gradually dropping into place. This time, he decided to let consciousness return at its own pace. Rushing the matter hadn't helped much in the past few hours, and inured as he was to his weaknesses, the increasingly frequent faints were beginning to annoy and worry even him.

"And I'd like to remind you that this man apparently fought down a wild spirit, and stabilized an entire county in the process. Which would make for a rather formidable problem if he chose to make it so."


"Dean. He's right," broke in a female voice, just as a cool, slender hand felt Ichabod's brow. It drifted away, then came back holding a damp cloth, which did wonders for his migraine.

Bed. He was on a…bed. With a silk quilt. And someone had stripped him down to his shirt and boxers, then treated his injuries. Ichabod vaguely wondered if a person could die from blushing, then was distracted from that by the observation that he was still tied up. And very, very thirsty. He really should have drunk some of the water before he'd thrown it at Abberline. That being an action that he more or less regretted, now; of all people, he should understand Abberline's position. He'd resigned when the machinations of his superiors had become too much, had taken too many lives, and afterwards, he'd felt as if he'd lost his last particle of stuffing. Nowhere to go, no one to turn to, nothing to comfort him except the knowledge that he'd done the right thing. Even if no one else believed him.

From the rumors he'd overheard and the behavior he'd seen, Abberline must have undergone a similar experience, though the other man appeared to have come out of it better than he'd gone in. The way El had grabbed onto him, and then continued to hold him…

…it hurt, somewhere deep in Ichabod's chest. He wished he'd had something like that. He'd almost had. But a second too late, Katrina dead, and Ichabod had abruptly been separated from everything.

"Damn it, G, I know he's right. But as it looks like Crane showed up at the same time these murders started, I think I'm also right to be suspicious."

"So this is really because you're worried about Miguel." Abberline sounded like he was biting back a laugh. "That's very…sweet of you, Dean."

"I thought you and El and his other two were supposed to be packing," G delicately interjected. "To take care of the Mexican connection to this?"

"All right, I'll stop teasing and go. But be a little careful with him, would you? He was a good agent, from what I remember. Right up until D. C. threw him to the wolves." Footsteps, but oddly enough, they didn't sound like they were retreating. Then Ichabod realized the truth: someone was coming in just as Abberline was leaving. Someone that made the hairs on the back of Ichabod's neck rise and stiffen. That chilled his blood and laid fire into his bones.

//Is he awake yet?// Miguel asked. His palm, brilliantly outlined against the backs of Ichabod's eyelids, came to rest on Ichabod's forehead.

//What are you?// Ichabod hissed. Unable to play dead any longer, he threw himself back against the headboard and stared wildly about the room.

//You know Spanish.// There was a measuring quality to Miguel's eyes that somehow terrified Ichabod more than a gun aimed at his heart would have. Fortunately, the other man made no effort to move, which gave Ichabod a chance to calm down and orient himself.

Dean Corso turned out to be a lean twentysomething, wirerims masking a very interesting face that changed from harmless to feral in the flick of a shadow. Dark brown hair, as meticulously cared for as his neat moustache and perfect clothing. Only a few random inkstains on his fingers ruined the picture. G, on the other hand, was a gorgeous blonde, attractively tousled as only the supremely confident could be. And the owner of a mesmerizing pair of large green eyes.

And climbing onto the bed. Ichabod tried and failed to melt into the wall as she smiled at him, apparently in an attempt to seem friendly. "He's kind of cute," she murmured. "Reminds me of when we first got Dean. Remember how twitchy he was?"

While Corso quietly seethed, Miguel tipped his head to the side and swept a searing gaze over Ichabod's body. "So he does…"

"I…uh…we were required to learn a second language as-as part of our training," Ichabod muttered, trying to talk himself into serenity. It'd never worked before, and he didn't truly expect it to now, but it did help him forget that he was very, very embarrassed. "So I ch-chose Spanish, and…my God."

The world shifted from normal to surreal in less than a breath. The tree again, only he was standing at the base and looking up. Faces swirled into the bark-hundreds, only a few of which he recognized. Lorenzo. El, surrounded by three others…Sands, Abberline, and a woman.

As if drawn by strings, Ichabod's gaze traveled down the trunk to halt at a particularly wrinkled patch, which shaped itself as he watched. Miguel. Tree sap dripping from his eyes…no…tree sap wasn't red. Didn't clot. Didn't-

"-wake up!" Miguel's face overspread the field of Ichabod's vision.

"Your eyes! Where are your-" Ichabod blinked, dragging in a painful gasp, and grabbed at one of the arms shaking him. "Oh. You still have them."

"Yes…" Miguel's expression was carefully blank as he propped Ichabod up against the headboard, in contrast to the curiosity and apprehension coloring the faces of Dean and G, peering over Miguel's shoulders. The other man turned to a decanter on the side table and poured out a generous amount of some liquor, to which he added a splash of water and a pinch of dried powder before putting it to Ichabod's lips. "This'll help with the headache. And it should keep you from having any other visions until tomorrow."

From the looks of him, Ichabod wasn't getting any more information than that. From the jangling of Ichabod's nerves, it didn't matter what was in the glass, as long as it worked.

He leaned forward and sipped at the concoction, which was…tequila. Only bitter-smoky, with a strange aftertaste of almond. And yes, it did dull the headache. Extremely quickly.

"Slow do-" the glass jerked away, and when Ichabod tried to follow it, Miguel shoved him back. "Either you slow down and don't choke yourself, or I spoonfeed you like a baby."

"Sorry." The liquor was returned to him, and he forced himself to drink it at a relatively normal pace. "What murders?"

G snorted and flopped down beside him, then curled to lay her head on his shoulder. She didn't seem to mind how he stiffened up, and in a few moments, he had to relax before the muscles there started to cramp. "Not murders. Sacrifices, really. You know who Cucuy was?"


"Okay, you don't. He was a very good shaman whose best spells involved cutting out eyes. But El killed him, a few months ago. Now some idiot's trying to copy Cucuy's style, and since they don't know too much about what they're doing, they're messing up the city." When he finished drinking, she took the glass away and handed it to Dean, who grudgingly put it on the tray.

"There've been six, so far, all Los Lobos members," Miguel added. His hand clasped around Ichabod's jaw and turned it so he could look more closely at the butterfly bandages over one temple. Ichabod tried not to flinch or make any idiotic noises, but then the other man's fingers started feeling his ribs, and a small whimper escaped. Not that Miguel seemed to take any notice. "Counting the one you saw. Dean's checked in with some people we know in D. C., and from that-"

"Wait. Wait. What time is it?" If they'd already heard back from across the country…and Ichabod's shirt was almost completely unbuttoned. He hurriedly clutched it to his chest, fidgeting with the bindings on his wrists.

"Almost noon, the next day. Anyway, I believe your superiors never sent anyone to meet you. The locations of the killings follow a pattern that any reasonably knowledgeable person could see. I think they were hoping that you and the killer would meet, and take each other out." Having finished his explanation and examination, Miguel leaned back and put his hands on his knees. Ichabod felt strangely cold, aside from where G was leaning against him.

Then his other side received a generous application of warmth as Dean laid down, shuffling through papers that had appeared from nowhere. "Incompetent idiots. Sometimes I wonder why we bother bribing them."

"Because killing them is somewhat illegal, and we don't have the room to adopt every single one," Miguel dryly replied. He leaned forward, and before Ichabod knew enough to freeze, he was being kissed into pliancy.

Hot. Wet. Contradiction, but it was such a sweet, roughsilk one. Not like the few timid pecks he'd shared with Katrina, or that bizarre almost-touch with the Horseman, just before that spirit had ruined everything. Miguel was lazily overpowering, his tongue pushing aside Ichabod's without the slightest hesitation, and though weird sparks flew up at the edges of sight and of sight, there was a grounded humanity to the other man to which Ichabod could cleave. Not wiping away his entire existence, forcing him into a new one. Instead, fitting to his jags, pinching together his rips and just…adjusting the old self into a better one.

Or he could just be dreaming again. Making up nonsense. He still didn't know anything about the other man, whereas Miguel seemed to know a great deal about him.

As that thought crossed Ichabod's mind, Miguel backed off, a speculative expression on his face. He gently pried Ichabod's fingers from their white-knuckled grip on his coat, then got off the bed. "Well, lunch is almost over. I need to go back into the city. Unless you'd like to share any information with me…"

Which Ichabod didn't, mostly because he still didn't know who to trust, but also because he genuinely didn't have any. "You seem to know much more than I do."

"All right. G, Dean?" Miguel pecked each on the temple before he started for the door.

"We'll watch. And listen," G answered, snuggling into Ichabod's side. And for once, he barely noticed.


Ichabod kept trying to look at the figures Dean was writing down on his notepad, but the other man refused to just outright stare. Instead, he ducked and bobbed and generally looked like a complete moron. Though he was cute, all eggshell skin and dark hair.

Oh, God. Dean was going to agree to this, wasn't he? Never mind all the problems inherent in integrating yet another agent, former or not. Let alone the mess with the psychic issues, and-"For God's sake, if you want to see, then look! Here-" held it up for the other man "-that good enough?"

"He's just nervous because shamanic rituals aren't his area of expertise," G told the cringing Ichabod. She glared at Dean, as if he'd done something wrong.

Women. Flash a pretty face, toss in a dash of endearing shyness, and they were cuddling and cooing like they'd personally given birth to the big-eyed twit.

All right, that was a little unfair. But so was G's refusal to get into details about whatever was going on with the eyeless bodies. It may not fall under Dean's job description, but he wanted to know what was happening, and frankly, he had more at stake than she did. If anything happened to Miguel, she at least had her spirit connections to fall back on. And her New Moon roots. Dean didn't have squat that Miguel hadn't given him, he had to admit.

One business deal gone wrong, over a lousy second edition Milton. One late payment to Barillo, may the Devil fuck him bleeding for all eternity, and Dean had ended up spitting his guts onto a bookstore floor strewn with glass. He probably would've died there, if Miguel hadn't taken him in, doctored him up and given him employment. Taught him a few things about number manipulation.

Speaking of, Ichabod had gotten over enough of his reticence to creep up and frown over Dean's figures. "What are you doing? This doesn't look like any kind of mathematics with which I'm familiar."

"The top half's Roman geomancy, and the bottom is straight numerology." When the other man continued to look confused, Dean sighed and resigned himself to a little elaboration. "I'm the family accountant. Only Los Lobos has interests in many different things, and so I have to keep them from being held accountable for all of those. I take care of the books. All of the books."

"Books…not normal ones, I take it." Some inner thought twisted Ichabod's mouth into a wry smile. It made him look somewhat more intimidating than before: from baby bird to fumbling kitten.

Dean blinked, then took off his glasses and cleaned them. Absurd comparison…where was his head? At any rate, they already had plenty of those. Annoying bastards. He didn't know how El managed to stand his consorts, let alone care for them as much as the man obviously did.

A low grumbling noise interrupted his internal complaining, and he twisted around to find that it'd been Ichabod's stomach. Whereupon G's chimed in. Rolling his eyes, he buzzed for a servant and ordered up lunch. "Lazy, are you?"

She opened her eyes wide in feigned innocence. "I'm tired. Between him showing up-" pat to Ichabod "-and the backlash from last night's death, I'm worn out from holding things together. And since El's concentrating on tracking down whoever's paying for this, it's even harder."

"What…what do you do, G?" Ichabod tentatively interjected from between them.

Oh, to hell with the numbers. If they didn't work out two hours ago, they weren't going to do it now. Dean irritably organized his papers and shoved them into their folders, then locked them up in the briefcase on the floor by the bed. "The heavy lifting. The bloody stuff. And before you ask again, Miguel's the family head. He runs Los Diablos. For all intents and purposes, he is Los Diablos. Now, what are you?"

"I…" The other man alternated between fiddling with his shirt cuffs and batting at G's wandering hands until the food showed up, after which he and G attacked the delicacies with a ridiculous amount of gusto. Sometimes Dean could completely sympathize with the strained look Lorenzo habitually wore. "I'm…they used to only be dreams. Of…of memories. My memories. I didn't start seeing them when I was awake until I came here, a few days ago."

"I read a summary of your report on Sleepy Hollow." Dean leaned over Ichabod to reach for a piece of fruit, but as he did, the other man went rigid as a board. Or a professional virgin. For God's sake, if he was going to stay here-

--and Miguel seemed to like him enough for that to be a distinct possibility. Well, between their other duties, Dean and G couldn't stay with Miguel all of the time, so if bringing in a third would assist with that, then it might be worth it. And Ichabod seemed too docile to pose much danger; Dean certainly couldn't picture the other man gouging out eyes, no matter what he'd implied to Abberline earlier.

He caught G's eye, nodded, and together they rolled Ichabod onto his back.


"Wait…wait…what are you-"

Dean was a little quicker and beat G to shutting up Ichabod, so she regretfully shifted back to watch. Pulled down Ichabod's hands when they started to come up, then jabbed Dean, who had developed a surprising enthusiasm for ravaging Ichabod's mouth. He grunted and moved to straddle the other man as he continued to lick and nibble Ichabod into incoherency, which thus freed her to slide down and investigate other areas of interest. After getting rid of all unnecessary clothing on all of them.

Crane was squirming like spaghetti falling off a fork, his knees bumping and jerking around, but he did seem to be getting the hang of enjoying this. After a few moments of Dean-kissing and her fingers trailing over extremely pale thighs, Ichabod's wrists came up to encircle Dean's neck. And when Dean backed off, the other man tried to follow, with eyes half-shut and bruised lips dropping wordless murmurs. G's mouth was suddenly dry, and she took a second to drink some juice.

"I'm just taking off my glasses," Dean muttered as he held Ichabod back. "Give me a second."

"What am I doing?" was Ichabod's befuddled response. Which was G's cue to go back to what she'd been doing: namely, nuzzling her way up to the one part of his body that wasn't showing any hesitation. She heard a gasp and whine when she took him into her mouth, gently sucking, and then the mattress rippled as Dean returned to his business.

It took barely any time before she was swallowing, and Dean was crawling down to share in the taste. He draped over Ichabod's heaving chest and kissed down her neck, then tumbled them over and nudged in, languid and sweet. Ichabod was staring, mouth in a little circle, and she playfully craned across to fill that space with her tongue. And then she knew why Dean had abruptly gone from reluctant to fervent: there was white lightning nestling beneath Ichabod's tongue, just waiting to shock some visitor into spiraling bliss.

She took a long, ragged breath, and then she let go, grinning up at the strained face Dean always made when he came. He broke his fall on his elbows, then kissed her brow one last time before pulling out and puddling himself on a pillow.

"Are you two…" Poor man didn't seem to know how to phrase anything. G gave Ichabod a reassuring bite on the neck, then shoved him to the side so she could get to the rest of the lunch. "You and Miguel," he tried again. "All three of you are together?"

"Yes." Apples went very well with Ichabod-aftertaste. She helped herself to a few more slices, then passed them to Dean. "You didn't pass out."

"No. I didn't." Ichabod sounded even more surprised than she was. He edged out of the blankets, shirt hanging in wrinkled ruin about his shoulders, and took a glass of orange juice from the tray.

There was a grumbling from the pillow behind them, and Dean slipped by Ichabod's other side to retrieve his glasses. "I suppose you could just be supersensitive to any changes in the power balance. It's been a very weird year, all over the country. Here, New Moon…New York City as well, according to Ahmed. Who's a relative you haven't met yet, so don't worry about it."

"All right." Instead of drinking, Ichabod appeared to be just staring into his juice. "What kind of man is Miguel?"

A snicker desperately wriggled in G's throat, but she ruthlessly suppressed it. No point in shocking the man right after they'd gotten him to relax a little.

She wasn't quite sure what Miguel was thinking, but personally, she'd been wondering whether she should be poking him in this direction. El had made it clear, repeatedly, that he had no interest in actually ruling, but the fact remained that he had the power to do it if he wanted to. And one more consort than Miguel did. Unequal…and Los Diablos had a history of paying less attention to someone's preferences than to his or her resources.

Moreover, Miguel could use a consort that was a little more in tune with humanity; Dean could be too mercenary for his own good sometimes, and while G was intelligent enough to spot the flaw, she wasn't terribly inclined to counterbalance it. Her personality just wasn't weighted in that direction. Plus, Ichabod was…different. Snow, soft and fluffy but just as burning as fire. Deadly, under the right circumstances. Not anything like the usual West Coast psychic.

"Miguel's the only one that can say I'm his. I'd kill anyone else that tried." Which was cryptic and not a very good answer to Ichabod's question, but then again, this whole issue wasn't one of learn-by-example. He would either understand, or he wouldn't. Just as the city would either accept him, or it wouldn't. Given G's experience with Nouvelle Lune's rejection of herself, she felt sympathetic toward Ichabod's current situation, but any more than that was a waste of energy. With this sort of issue, there weren't any gray areas.

Ichabod stared from her to Dean, silently pleading for more information, and G suddenly remembered why she didn't like puppies. Demons in little fur suits, the way they got people to forgive piss and drool and gnaw-marks just by having very round, liquid eyes. She didn't like competition.

"Stop that," Dean finally snapped as he redressed himself. "Look, Crane. Miguel's a crimelord. He kills people. He orders people killed. And he does a lot besides that. Now, if your morality can't take that, then speak now or forever hold your peace. But-" deep breath, quieter voice "-but. If you can handle that, and he takes you in for good, then he'll harrow hell for you. And you'll want to do the same for him."

Ichabod didn't answer.


Appealing man stashed in his bedroom aside, Miguel's day was getting progressively worse. Weather-delayed shipping, grumbles from his Canadian allies, and the incessant warning hiss of Los Diablos under his feet. She'd just started to stabilize after the Barillo war, and now some crackpot was trying to turn things upside-down again. Well, not while he was still around. He hadn't gone through all the trouble of wiping out Barillo only to lose the city to an amateur. Determined as hell, but still an amateur.

Maybe the backlash would kill the bastard. God knew it was giving Miguel a headache. And after all the joking was done, he had to admit that Crane's appearance was probably exacerbating the problem.

Apparently set up and abandoned by his former employers…well, not much difficulty in handling that. Though Miguel was beginning to be annoyed by their assumption that Los Diablos was their personal dumping ground for troublesome agents. He was going to have to do something about that.

He needed to do something about Crane, for that matter. The man was a walking chaos magnet, the way he was; at least Rainey hadn't started expressing his supernatural abilities until after he'd found an anchor. And the violence of Crane's visions, whatever they were, boded rather ill if the man wasn't settled, and settled soon.

The easiest thing to do would be to simply kill Crane, but Miguel found himself strangely loathe to do so. Even after he'd gone over the details of the man's background, which indicated that the second-best option, integrating Crane into Los Lobos, wasn't very likely to succeed.

On the other hand, Abberline had been the same way, and yet upon meeting the man, Miguel had had a feeling. //Damn it. So, Diablito? What do you think?//


Miguel lifted an eyebrow and lit himself a cigar. So the city liked Crane. She had a very interesting manner of showing her affection. //You're not being very gentle with him.//

The curtains rustled, like graveyard whispers, and a shadow without a parent form flicked across the window. //Still hasn't decided?//

Now that was surprising, if Crane was even hesitating at refusing whatever offers Dean and G had made in Miguel's name. Possibly auspicious…and there went his mind again, circling around and around. All right. //Yes, I think I like him. But it's been less than a day. And I wasn't even thinking about taking another one.//

A leaf fluttered coquettishly up against the windowpane, just as a breeze inside the room drew cool tendrils over the back of his neck. Coy little reminder that half of what he did was according to intuition and emotion instead of any real logic. But still, he hadn't gotten to where he was without learning caution. Miguel suddenly wished El had delayed his departure a day, so he could talk things over with his cousin, who'd done this twice. Moreover, who'd done it because he wanted to, and not because he needed to.

He wondered sometimes if Dean and G knew that Miguel had taken them both because only he needed the extra power they brought. And yes, the affectionate and possessive feelings had come, but only after he'd had them. He believed he would die for them now, but it hadn't always been so.

At the moment, Miguel was fairly secure in his position, and needed no extra boosts. If he were to take another consort, it would be more for personal reasons than any desire to strengthen the family.

Ichabod had tasted very, very good.

//Hell. I can't think.// Miguel covered his eyes with a hand and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to rediscover his rational side.

And Crane felt even better, all white and black fragments of frozen fire, just begging to be melted.

//Los Diablos, I love you, but would you shut up? Or at least tell me something useful, that I don't already know.// He leaned his forehead against the window frame, but resisted the urge to start thumping. That was unproductive, and moreover, it looked stupid.

Then the city screamed.

In an instant, Miguel had dropped his hand and was scanning the alley below the window, searching for the disturbance. It took less than a second to find the intruder, and when he recognized the disfigured face, he swore. //Goddamn it. I knew I'd missed someone.//

Below, Moco grinned a broken-teethed smile, then ran towards the back door. Miguel slapped the buzzer under his desk, but he already knew no one was coming. Too late; everyone had gone home except for a few of his bodyguards, and he wasn't too confident that they were still alive.

//Damn it, don't I ever get a break?// He checked his pistols, then tucked them away and snatched up some extra ammunition before striding out the door.


Dean was somewhere else in the room, undoubtedly working, and after she'd untied his wrists, G had also wandered off. But not without first informing Ichabod that he wasn't to leave the room. He had a strong suspicion that, alone as he was now, his every move was being closely watched.

Therefore, the first thing he'd done was wash his face and get decently garbed. Fortunately, Dean and he were the same size, even if their preferred styles of clothing diverged quite a bit. Then Ichabod had slumped into the nearest chair and tried to organize his thoughts.

Hours later, he was still in the chair, and not anywhere closer to figuring out a resolution to his current dilemma. Which was not whether he was developing…feelings…for Miguel and the other two. He needed to get out of this house. He needed…

…it'd been very warm, that kiss, whispered a perverse little voice in the back of his mind. And he'd liked it very much. He'd liked what Dean and G-

--distraction, distraction, distraction. The complexities of this matter required objectivity, and what did he do? Dwell on a pair of encounters that, no matter how pleasant, most likely didn't mean a single thing to the others involved.

Perhaps he was going insane. That would explain his absurd behavior very nicely.

That would be a pitiful excuse that no scientific mind should accept as its primary theory. "This is just…" Ichabod cut himself off before he say anything foolish and pressed his palms to his temples.

First of all, the criminal nature of his captors. Los Lobos was nothing but a particularly well-organized group of unrepentant…but at least they were honest about it, insisted the voice. Not like the people that put you into their hands.

Secondly, he doggedly continued, the various bizarre manifestations that he'd confronted since Sleepy Hollow defied rational explanation. Any explanation, in fact, except the supernatural one. And yes, he was willing to believe in that. But his visions had gotten noticeably worse since his arrival in Los Diablos, which made it obvious that prolonging his stay would only result in degraded health.

Thirdly, he was actually considering a longer stay. If Ichabod was in the habit of cursing, he'd be indulging it right now.

"Fine. My problem does center around Miguel. Are you happy?" he demanded to himself.

Oddly enough, he got an answer. A low thrumming murmur that rippled through his bones and skated words along his trembling feet. He yanked them off the floor and curled up in the chair, but that didn't accomplish anything. "Who…what are you?"

A soothing sensation spread down one side of his face, as if someone had lightly stroked it, and a high chanting slowly became audible. "Los…Los Diablos? But-but you're a city! You're a-a collection of buildings and people and-and plumbing! Pipes don't talk!"

The irritation was palpable, jabbing at his hands until he hastily put them on the floor so the vibrations could directly touch him. "Er…I'm sorry? You surprised me…um…ma'am?"

Feeling of amused forgiveness, and then-colors and shades and shapes blasting into his brain, hooking him out of himself and shooting him along the long branches of history. Deep dark sap, blood that had been spilled into the soil, and then the millions of lives carved into the bark, going back and back and back. One brilliant silver streak, ever-present, winding itself through every era. Part of the tree. Strong, independent, proud-but native, as the Horseman hadn't been. He came too close to it and strands whipped round him, jerked him into cradling heat.

A moment later, they tossed him back out into cold, lonely reality, with only the comfort of a few insights into his illogical heart. Ichabod stared at the ceiling and wondered when Miguel would come home.

Home, the last drifting bits of melody told him. Because Los Diablos had taken to him, and somewhere inside, Ichabod had found something of the security he hadn't even known he'd been looking for.

not ours not ours cast out returned but never welcome

More words, shocking Ichabod into falling off the seat. And yes, he was still bruised, but the city was howling in his head, a caged thunderstorm. Everything seemed to slow and stretch, and he didn't know what he was doing. His eyes were microscopes, stuck on the highest magnification, and he saw only parts: a doorknob, a rug fringe, edge of a stair step.

Then the world snapped out into its proper perspective, and he was sitting in a car. Key in hand. With no idea where to go, but his nerves were screaming that something horrible was about to happen. Insane, insane-science said-

--"To hell with-" Ichabod stopped and rolled the swear words on his tongue. They felt surprisingly fitting there. "To hell with that," he said very carefully, inserting the key into the ignition.

He didn't really know what he was doing, but Los Diablos did. Hopefully. Ichabod took a deep breath, prayed that he wouldn't faint until afterward, and did his best to let her in.


Moco was a better shot than Miguel remembered. Which posed a slight problem, as Miguel had two bullets left, was trapped behind a garbage can in the alley by his offices, and couldn't get to his car because Moco had blown holes in the tires.

Miguel had found out what had happened to his bodyguards, not that that was any help: most of them decoyed off by a faked phone call, and the one who'd stayed behind had gotten his throat cut. This would happen the one day Miguel decided to come into work without either consort, or a relative nearby.

He'd called for Dean and G, and felt them respond, but that hadn't been soon enough and they wouldn't get into the city before the fight ended, one way or another.

//Seventh pair of eyes!// yelled Moco. //Last one I need, and it's going to be yours!//

//You idiot, you didn't do it right!// Miguel snapped back, cautiously peering around the can. A bullet ricocheted an inch from his head, and he instantly pulled back. //Doesn't matter how many eyes you take. If the working's wrong, all you're going to do is get Los Diablos upset.//

//Liar! You don't know anything! You didn't know I survived your purge, did you?// Laughter fringed with mania. However Moco had done it, he hadn't come out whole. //Traded into Barillo's group, and when you're dead, I'll gather up what's left of them and go after the rest of you fucking snobs.//

No point in reacting to nonsense like that. Miguel reined in the adrenaline lashing his muscles and forced himself to wait until the other man made a mistake. And Moco would.

The next shot proved, however, that fate was going to make Miguel work for his victory: Moco's bullets rattled the can into falling over, leaving Miguel exposed. Two choices, duck further into the dead-end alley or charge past Moco, to the street.

Fuck. Well, he wasn't El's cousin for nothing. As he snapped off his last bullets, Miguel leaped onto a stack of crates, gunfire spraying splinters hair behind his ankles, and jumped from there over Moco, crouched behind more trash. He hit the ground running, fucked up his ankle so it protested like a drunk whore, but thankfully didn't sprain it. Kept going-

--nearly got rammed by a car. It squealed to a stop just as its front grazed his coat, and what the hell was Ichabod doing with his-

//Miguel!// came the furious cry from the alley. More bullets, making him dive behind the car and crawl up to the driver's door, which nearly took off his head as it swung open. Wide eyes, fear working the lips too much for words to come.

Mother of God, the day just kept getting stranger and stranger. Miguel shoved Ichabod off the seat into the foot-space and climbed into the seat, careful to stay too low for the gunshots to hit. "Don't move!"

"Wha-what's going on? Where am I?" The other man had enough sense to not kneel up while spouting inane questions, thank all saints, so Miguel was able to lean across to the glove compartment and grab the pistol that he kept in every car. He whacked the passenger door open just as Moco emerged from the alley. Fire scorched the top of his shoulder-goddamn it, he liked this suit-but he'd locked onto the other man. Three shots to put him down, and then a last one to the head, to make sure this time. Come to think of it, he should probably make that Los Lobos policy. Too many people were walking away from machine-gun fire, as impossible as that was supposed to be.

A shaky hand came to rest on the back of his knee. When Miguel turned around, Ichabod flinched and bit his lip. Then the other man visibly gathered up his courage and muttered, "I have no idea what I just did. But I think I did it because I wanted to help you. And this is all very illogical, but for some reason, I don't care."

And Miguel wanted very badly to put away the gun, toss Ichabod into the back, and show his appreciation for that. So he did.

There was a reason the glove compartments also all had a small tin of salve, anyway.


One minute, Ichabod was sitting on the floor of the front seat, verbally reaffirming his complete ineptitude at interacting with other people. The next, he was lying across the backseat, squirming and gasping as Miguel latched onto his neck and-and-

"You are not fainting now," he was told, and then tongue in mouth, effectively shocking him back to consciousness. Hands were expertly skinning him out of his clothes, running heat and sparks all over his skin, and his bones had apparently vanished. He couldn't move, except to hiss and moan and weakly clutch at Miguel's shoulders. Lips on his throat again, hair tickling his jaw, and fingers firmly stroking down and down and down. His legs abruptly regained their mobility, only to wrap around Miguel's waist and lock like that.

"Wait…what…" The wonderful, wonderful caressing and licking ceased, causing Ichabod to discover that he could, in fact, glare. "Why did you stop?"

Miguel shrugged as he swirled his fingers in some kind of ointment, then tossed the tin into the front seat. "You said to. Something you want to discuss?"

There was, actually, but Ichabod was thinking that it could wait. Because he'd wanted what Abberline had, and now he was getting it, and now he could understand that it was what he wanted. A structure, rational and supernatural. A city, land that welcomed him and didn't throw up phantoms to ruin his life. And a tree of connections and blood and encompassing warmth that would shelter every part of him, wouldn't try to deny any bit that didn't fit in. Because it was growing. Because it could change to fit him…and that was something he didn't think he'd ever had.

"Not really," he replied, somehow finding enough strength to reach up for Miguel. Skin, spice and sugar cut through with sweat-salt and the faint sting of cordite. Yes, Ichabod knew about death, knew about the kind of servants it had, in Los Diablos. But that was nothing to the rest of it. To the way Miguel's shoulder curved against his tongue, the turn of the bone and the pulse of blood. Fingers trailing over his back, floating between his legs. It hurt-tears burnt his eyes-but kisses to his ear and cheek, and long elliptical massages over his spine.

Then he was lying back on the seat, and suspended somewhere between seeing and seeing, face before him flickering from human to essence, blue as the sky and sea and dream. Fire driving into him, arching up his body so its offspring cinders could sear behind his ribs and brand his mind. But still-sense of ground. Earth tangled about his fingers, curls dark and silky as moss.

His heart was trying to force itself up his throat. Ichabod twisted, choked. Had to open his mouth for it even as he tried to drag it back-

--and then Miguel's mouth came down, trapping it just as the traitorous thing slipped out. Held it there until the lights returned and the world settled into three dimensions, until Ichabod was ready to swallow it again.

Lassitude, content and full at last. He found himself smiling into the other man's throat, and for once, he didn't feel self-conscious about it. Because it was simply sincere.

"I don't think you'll have any more problems with visions," Miguel remarked, a humorous tilt to his head. "Now that you've stopped fighting Los Diablos. She's very good at intensifying gifts, but not too careful about the way she does it."

"I still don't actually know you." Minor observation. Not that it had made a difference; Ichabod knew enough to know he wasn't going to regret this choice.

"True." Miguel made a thoughtful face, then grinned down at Ichabod. "Would you like to go out to dinner tomorrow?"

It was certainly nice to not be passing out so much, but the perpetual confusion was almost as annoying. "Excuse me?"

"Well, I would invite you for tonight, but Dean and G will be here soon, and I should probably clean up that body." The other man laughed and kissed the wrinkles on Ichabod's brow. "Don't worry about it. It'll make more sense in a little while."


The last three men in the house that she would expect to see sitting peacefully together, let alone sharing a laugh. Nevertheless, that was what G found when she peeked into the far corner of the library: Sands, Fred and Ichabod, clustered around a handful of papers. "What's so funny?"

"Hmmm? Oh, morning." Ichabod scooted over so she could snuggle into his chair and handed her the first sheet. "It's a transcript of a wiretap done in the D. C. office, but they were discussing the Los Diablos post."

"…mysterious disappearances…rumors of a curse…possible conspiracy and massive corruption of agents…prostitution ring…" G snorted. "What kind of theorists do they have there, anyway?"

"Lousy ones," Sands replied. "Didn't you notice? They gift-wrap all the good ones for the gangster organizations."

Fred tapped the ash from his cigarillo, then laid back against Sands. "But prostitution? Where did that come from?"

"Well, you all are very pretty," Dean commented as he stepped out from a nearby aisle. Sands smirked, Fred coughed rather uncomfortably, and Ichabod tried desperately to hide in G's hair. She rolled her eyes and nudged him out.

"And you're not in any position to talk." Miguel casually pinned Dean up against a shelf and ravaged his mouth, while Ichabod timidly peeked over the chair back to watch, his cheeks scarlet. "All right, back to work. Smoking break's over."

"Says who-oh, El!" Sands' tone did a hairpin turn into falsely cheery. "You're back early."

Said man sauntered out and didn't bother to reply as he hauled Sands and Fred off the couch. Snickering, G caught Ichabod's eye and got a small smile in response. She ruffled his hair, then heaved him off the chair and hauled him over to Miguel to get their kisses.


Roots, trunk, branches. All connected, growing down and up. Ladders to heaven and hell.

It's a tree, of course. But what kind?


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