Author: Guede Mazaka
Abberline languidly towed himself to wakefulness, paddling through the warmth to surface in a reassuring net of limbs. He wriggled about till he found the tangled mop that constituted El's morning hair and nuzzled in to be snatched close and slowly devoured.
Sands woke up somewhere around Abberline's second moan and draped himself over the other two to bite at El's ear. Which got him swatted and then yanked down for a punishing kiss while Abberline dazedly tried to make sense of it all. He had dreamed, and had meant to ask something-"There are…I think your friends are coming."
"Fucking dipshits." Sands flopped back onto Abberline and irritably began to nip at Abberline's neck, which touched off cascading ripples of sparks. "I forgot that Fideo and Lorenzo were with us."
"We don't keep phones. How else did you think we stayed in touch?" El splayed out a hand on Sands' shoulder, then stroked down to curve beneath and onto Abberline's hip.
"Oh, good, they already remembered. Then I don't have to explain to the pole-whore how to do this-" And Sands flicked a flame onto his finger, then rolled his hand so it danced across the back. He caught Abberline watching and grinned behind the fire so his teeth wavered in the heat and seemed to detach from the rest of his face. Not quite Cheshire as much as summoned demon.
At that, memories of cracked-leather bindings and dust-scented ink swirled past the edges of Abberline's mind. He raised his head and stared at the red and gold playing about Sands' palm, then smiled slightly when it turned blue, which surprised Sands into jerking. Not much, but Abberline had managed to teach himself a few tricks.
A hand snuffed out the flame, then wrapped around his and pulled him back into a lean chest. "Not in bed," El muttered at him and Sands. "Burning down the building would bring up too many questions."
"What are you two doing?" Not melting wasn't even a choice anymore, but Abberline did force his chin to stay up and his vision to stay clear and steady. "I thought you two were supposed to have been reincarnated as humans, but you're…more like how I remember you. Is something wrong? I haven't heard of anyone like the Ripper operating down here."
"Except for us, but we topped his body count so long ago that it's not even a comparison. It's a bar joke." Fingers feathering over his face, then tracing a nail along his shiver. Sands ducked in to suck at Abberline's lower lip before ambling off the bed and over to the nearest chair, which he'd claimed last night for his clothes. He put on his sunglasses before tossing on a plain black t-shirt, then straightened the skewed shades while El hid his amusement in the side of Abberline's throat. "Therein lies the cut, you see. We prevent things from getting out of hand. Under Rule Victoria, that meant making sure you didn't decide to revenge yourself on the Masons by copying Gull. Here, it means purging the blood."
El tipped up Abberline's chin with two fingers, thumb circling down to outline trembling vocal cords, and directed an intense stare at Abberline. The prickling beneath Abberline's skin started to clump into glowing cinders that were fanned to hot life beneath El's breath. Abberline found himself leaning up into it, scenting out the traces of incense. "Killing men. A lot of them. And we aren't going to stop yet."
Abberline didn't bother to ask whether they were guilty or not, and if there were mitigating circumstances. They had warned him that it would be a century before their reappearance, but he hadn't been able to wait in peace, and so had gone after every rumor and half-baked tale that sounded even remotely possible. He had learned more from those travels than from his dreams. He had learned that when walking the boundaries, morality and ethics often ceased to apply. Or even exist, for that matter. It wasn't like the art of the painter, where the skillful combination of basic hues resulted in the whole spectrum. Systems of beliefs like morality were intrinsically dependent on delineations. Rub out the separating lines, and the whole shape collapsed.
Walking on the border demanded intuition. Feeling, because only that suited the constant shift of the penstrokes on the maps. Only that could even keep up with the changes.
And when Abberline was around El and Sands, it felt right. He'd almost, almost forgotten what that sensation was like.
"So I've been told." He fingered the chain that still wrapped about his wrist, then laid his head against El's palm. "Then it's a good thing I brought a gun?"
"Better than shotgunning the sheriff," Sands smirked as he came back over to twine himself around Abberline. At the same time, El let go so Sands and Abberline tumbled back into the bed. The mariachi trailed his fingers over their sides as he got up to get dressed himself. "Hey, you know how to shoot, right?"
Abberline glared, then recollected and scored his teeth over Sands' shoulder, which provoked a startled huff and then a retaliatory pounce that made sure the shirt El threw hit Abberline in the face instead of the hand. He dragged it off and wrestled it on while the blind man lying across his stomach did everything possible to stall the process. "I did survive till I found you again."
"Yeah, we know. We watched." Sands' face sobered as he settled down into a decadently indolent sprawl. It was becoming very difficult for Abberline to remember how buttons fastened shirts. Especially when fingers were walking up his arm, tapping around the metal links of the bracelet to stir undercurrents of lightning into his already attentive body. His cheeks warmed as he surrendered into a squirm, which brought another diamond smile to Sands' face. "And we were very, very proud. Like parents. Except for the whole incest thing. Bad for the gene pool, and humans already are good enough at making fuckmooks out of themselves that they really don't need to concentrate that ability. Not that we can or will have kids, but still. It's the principle of the thing that really makes the sarcasm."
As he sat down on the bed to tug on his boots, El shook his head and affectionately rumpled Sands' hair. "I used to think he'd grow out of it. But so long and still crazy."
"I used to think he'd get rid of the musician deal," Sands muttered back. At El's repeated prodding, he reluctantly got up to allow Abberline the chance to put on pants and socks. "Nope. Still moody twanging chick magnet wannabe."
Growl, sneer, and then they were wrapped into each other, savaging mouths locked together in reality-bending intensity. The air seemed to shimmer as it passed over them, and for a moment, Abberline wasn't seeing a hotel room in Mexico, but a small dank cellar somewhere else. Somewhen else. He felt foul wetness seep into his skin, and nearly choked on the fetid stench that rose up from the stones.
But then he was being jerked over, into the whirlwind, and everything blasted to stinging freshness. One tongue wrote tingling words into his flesh, while the other lapped teasingly at his lips as El whispered into Abberline's mouth. "What did you see?"
"You…how you and Sands…" Abberline gritted his teeth and slipped away from the enveloping, mind-drugging comfort. As much as he'd dreamed of this, the situation couldn't be this simple and easy. Not when the other two seemed to have welded themselves together, when they only had to breathe in order to understand each other from bone to brain. Where did he fit into all of this? In that kind of closeness, where could there possibly be room for him?
But still, he didn't regret waiting. He would still wait, if they asked him to, because the fact of the matter was that he had had a taste of the wonder it could be and that small crumb might as well as have an eternally-renewing cake. He could subsist on that, if he had to. But he needed to know whether that was a necessity or not. What Abberline couldn't stand was indecisiveness. Was being trapped in the middle of the river and not knowing on which shore he was to land, not knowing if the water splashing up to swamp his mouth and sting his nose was always going to be there. He needed to know if he was a drowning man, or a thirsting one who had finally found the fountain.
As if they knew-they did know, and that was something else he needed to accustom himself to-El and Sands sat back, patience smoothing their faces. The one folded into the other, knife to sheath and bullet to gun. They were precise and perfect in the morning shadows as if they had simply flowed into place and as if they'd been there forever.
"Is there a reason behind everything that you two do?" Cold trickled down Abberline's spine and started to hook into him, inch by inch. He crossed his arms over his chest, but that only tugged at the soreness laid into his shoulders. So he laced his hands together to keep them from trembling and pretended to watch the creep of light across the floor. "Everything? Did you two have to leave me-"
"Yes, we did," El said in measured tones as he slid off his jacket and handed it over. //We're still human here-not so much now, because we've remembered, but still enough to stay here without altering too much. As we were when you met us, we couldn't remain on this side for very long. It wasn't our world. And there was something else…//
"Like why he keeps going to Spanish." Sands nuzzled into El's throat as he talked so his words folded their sharp edges inward and glided roundabout to Abberline's ear. It both softened and delayed their impact. "We're different, you know. And so were you. Even if we'd had time, there's no way you could've made it with us. Then."
Abberline kept his eyes fixed to the blind man as he fingered the mariachi's jacket, its chains jingling quiet counterpoint to the one on his wrist. He knew that chime by heart now, low and slightly higher because he had worn the links a little thinner. "You don't act or speak the same. I noticed that. But it's not…changed so much as turned down. Muffled."
Sands rippled a shrug, then allowed a small growl to escape as he tapped along the scarred blank ovals, which had filled sometime in the night. And yes, seeing those empty and aching had twisted Abberline's gut for a brief, shocking moment. Even after all the other horrors he had lived through-because he had been suddenly whole and had stayed whole while the world had devoured its own tail. He hadn't cared too much, as he'd expected no different. The other two had filtered into him, though, and a wound to one of them was like a wound to himself.
"Focus, Freddie." Abberline's hand was suddenly snatched and slapped over one sliver of white.
dizzy dizzy fucking god what did they shoot me up with
man and woman know them hate them i'll kill them fuck their shit up and-
christ no my eyes my eyes my mine mine don't ever fucking stick that oh please go--
Gasp and scream, except that died before it was ever more than a wish. Abberline found himself slammed back against the headboard, clutching his prickling palm and trying frantically to convince himself that the air rushing into his mouth and inflating his heaving chest did actually exist. That he hadn't swallowed acid, and that he hadn't had suns explode daggers of fire in his own eye sockets.
"Sands…" El didn't appear to be very pleased as he pushed the other man aside to gingerly touch Abberline's temples.
"Don't even. Yeah, you get your hand shot up every time and you end up with fucking huge family plots, but I get them taken out. Over and goddamn over," came the biting, raw reply. Sands curled up on the other side of Abberline, around the knee so his head butted into Abberline's stomach. His lips had briefly whitened, and now were slowly returning to their normal color. "You did think about why we get resurrected, right? Because you'll have to. You'll marry and lose your wife and then go through hell before you find us. Or we find you, or however it decides to play out that time."
The fingertips were rough like fine sand under bare feet, and warm and soothing as they rubbed small circles over and around Abberline's temples. He thought that El was doing something else, too, because the very fringes of his senses were sparkling and the bottom of his backbone was slowly melting, but he didn't have the energy to think about it. He was having enough difficulty trying to keep up with the hyperkinetic leaps that composed a conversation with Sands. "Reminders. You need to remember how it was to be human…so you know how to judge us?"
"We don't judge." El's massaging transmuted into short rolls of his thumbpads down Abberline's cheekbones, long swooping strokes of his fingers along Abberline's hairline. "You can't judge someone that's already chosen for themselves. We decide how to dispose of them."
"Crossroads, the first time. You remember?" Delicate brushes over Abberline's drooping eyelids while warming breath snickered into his belly. Sands picked up Abberline's hands and began tracing the lines of the palms, almost in illustration of El's words. //Them and borders and the in-between places. They aren't really of either world, so they make a world of their own. With rules of their own, guardians of their own. We're that. We open and close the gates to let people in or out as they're suited. As they've made themselves suit.//
Tiny nips up and down the length of Abberline's fingers so a hiss caught in his throat and became an embarrassing hiccup. But his heating cheeks were cupped and caressed, and his hands were stealthily assaulted by a provocative tongue. "Of course, some people don't like their decision, and they're just stupid enough to believe they can skullfuck themselves to a higher level. Fanatical belief in their pathetic scum-birthed egos is enough to get them to us, but then…well, yeah. Violence is fun." Wet, slurping swirl over frozen knuckles. "Playing with them is fun. Not as much as the genuine adepts, but hey. Exploit what you get."
"And what do you do with the adepts?" Abberline asked, voice about as faint as his reason seemed to have become. Good God, if he ever, ever was capable of tiring of this…
El nudged Abberline's head aside so he could lean in and rest his head in the crook of Abberline's neck. The slight movement of his lips to shape words and sentences dusted crackles into already excited nerves. Abberline could feel El's eyebrow lift, its hairs scratching lightly across his pulse as Sands' teeth were rasping over the insides of his wrists. "It depends. Sometimes they want to die. Sometimes they want to cross while still alive, and join that side. And sometimes they stay at the gates."
"Fall in love with them…" Abberline murmured, the almost-inaudible confession tearing out a great chunk behind it. But the flash of pain was clean and sharp and left behind fierce sizzling scrapes that told him better than any mirror that he was alive. Even if his wits still weren't very nimble at the moment. "No, that's not quite it."
"Never the right words. Fucking language restraints." Which apparently was a pet peeve of Sands. Still grumbling, the other man slinked up Abberline's front and poked in to kiss El over Abberline's throat. Two pairs of lips slipping over each other, sometimes fighting and sometimes flowing, their sideswipes stirring up heat that threatened to wash out Abberline's rational mind.
But then he would have to start all over again, and now was bad enough, trying not to simply live day-to-day. He'd done that for far too long, however, and so he struggled to free himself from the enticing undertow. Maneuvered one arm and part of his leg loose only to go limp when El dropped back to lightly mouth the small of his back through the thin shirt fabric. Abberline's bones suddenly seemed to vanish, and he slumped onto his side, legs still twisted under Sands. Who was busily addressing himself to Abberline's shoulderblade. Pressing a nail down to cut lightning into the malleable dough of surrendering flesh.
"God, wait-wait." Abberline wound his fingers into the sheets and bit down hard on his lip, resolutely ignoring the rising memory of absinthe and blood. "I…I need to know…"
"It's really more of a hands-on teaching thing, and fuck the Socratic method. He got himself executed-lousy recommendation, if you ask me." Sands sliced a fanciful curlicue down the diagonal of Abberline's back, ending it with a flourish that just halted before the ring of lassitude spreading outward from El's lips. "Anyway, once we get things set, that's how they stay. You can't change anything right now, so regrets would be…slightly less than a shitty idea."
"I don't have any," Abberline hissed, arching up as El wandered further down. "Though putting on clothing is beginning…to seem a little pointless to me."
"Oh, hey. He's got snap to him, after all. Very good." Like an oversized feline, Sands sensuously rubbed himself against El and Abberline. He took a pinch at Abberline's buttock, then patted the newly-sore spot. "Because you really, really can't choose anymore. But we still can, if you can't settle in."
"What?" Abberline writhed himself out of El's grip and nearly toppled to the floor before he was snatched back.
El flicked somber eyes over Abberline as he dug his jacket out from the mess of blankets and tossed it on, then helped straighten Abberline's clothes. "There's a problem. Not with you, but…we have to stop being human."
With an aggravated air, Sands raked his hair back into a loose ponytail and tumbled past Abberline for his cane. "For the sake of little cockroaches, El. You make it sound like we're infomercial junk. Clap once for mortality, clap twice for wacky supernatural shit. Look, Fred-darling. One of our colleagues screwed up, so we have to go fix things."
Abberline hastily beat down his frustrated confusion and wrenched his reason back into the present. He could wait a few minutes and sort out everything. He could-damn it. This was a very uncomfortable reminder of how unpleasant celibacy could be when there was no grief or danger to act as a distraction. "All right. So we have to leave?"
Sands pivoted to direct an eyeless glare at El, who reluctantly offered further explication. "No. We have to die."
Blink. Blink. And every flutter of Abberline's eyelashes abruptly seemed to take on the importance of a hurricane. The sunbeam now dancing over the far wall was a gigantic incinerating laser, and the shadow an all-encompassing void.
Soft smack to his cheek, and El was suddenly filling up the world. //We can't do it as mortals-we have to change back. But you're coming, too. When you die, you'll come to us.//
"So we're getting recalled from the vacation. It's a pain, and I'm going to blow a few rounds up some asses, but it all works out." Sands was walking rapidly about the room-so fast that he was smacking into furniture even with the cane-as he spoke, gathering things and twitching weapons into place. "And yeah, it seems like we're screwing you over again. But there's a reason-"
He passed by the bed, and Abberline leaped. Tackled the other man to the floor, tossed away the cane and pinned down those deft hands so they couldn't muster any kind of diversion, however agreeable. Fury reared up his throat in an acid column, eating away at his voice so it came out shaking and ragged. "You're expecting me to wait. A second time. Is this part of the rules? Did you set the pattern so every time, I'd be left behind?"
"No, you fucking idiot-"
But Abberline halted that snarl with a jerk and slam of the wrists in his hands. "Why did you leave me the first time?"
"Honestly?" And the smile was like the smiles of memory, bright and honed and perilous like a crescent moon leering from the overbearing night sky. "To see if you were strong enough, Abberline. Because you know human life is painful-and we told you that you're not getting out of it. This isn't a free pass; it's just a step to the side. We still cycle through the mortal world, and we still suffer and cry and rip our revenge through our dying bodies. But we get to remember, and we get to see, and we get to know that everything comes back together."
The statement hung like black fire in the air, and sulfur burned through Abberline's nose to make him choke. His grip loosened, and then Sands was whipping loose with terrifying speed to fling Abberline back into an implacable grip. El yanked Abberline's hands up against his breast and locked him to one side, two wrists in one fist, while the mariachi casually dragged them into the bathroom. Behind them, a rich laugh full of dark winds rattled about the room as Sands got up and followed.
Abberline thrashed and squirmed, but all his efforts were useless. He was forced into a bend over the bathtub, El's presence hanging like a burgeoning storm-cloud above him, and steel iced his cheek, then the corner of his mouth.
"I thought that you…" Even as the words trickled out of Abberline's mouth, they were already shriveling, brutally desiccated by the fierceness of despair and fear and thwarted craving that promised to strip him bare. He'd also forgotten how this first high crest of loss had felt, and that was a lesson he shouldn't have put out of sight. But he had relearned pride, and courage had never really left him. Abberline lifted his chin into the gun muzzle and finished his sentence. "I thought that you wanted me."
"We do." Now Sands' tone was deadly serious. "We do."
//Many people have passed me//, El whispered. Crooned, almost, and his hand was unexpectedly back to the ache-inducing gentleness as it tucked the loose hair behind Abberline's ears. //But I've only looked at three. Sands, another that didn't understand in time, and you. We want you to stay. We needed to know if you could. And now we need to make sure that you do.//
There was a question weaving its way through El's voice, like silver thread winking from a tapestry Abberline had once seen. A unicorn dipping itself into a maiden's lap while in the trees behind, jealous hunters waited to slake their thirsty blades in the beast's flesh. Willing sacrifice to beauty.
"We aren't beauty," Sands snorted, humor staining his sarcasm. "Beautiful, so I've been told. But beauty? Hell, no. We're what we are, and that's everything. Beauty's only a single quality, and it's pretty pathetic all by its lonesome."
"If something hadn't gone wrong…" Abberline's legs were starting to totter under the strain, and the muscles in his arms were slowly incinerating, the fire catching along the nerves.
"This would've been a lot easier, because we wouldn't be forcing the issue any more than we have to. But fuck the rules, really-and on the borderlands, they're more like general directives, anyway." Sands molded himself onto Abberline's side and skated a hand over El's to touch the metal links that were digging into Abberline's wrist. "You're ours, no matter what. But we can take you, or reject you. We want to do the first choice, but not if you're going to be-"
They all lurched as El did something to Sands over Abberline's head. Wet groaning, and soft savaging noises. Stop the mouth with a kiss, lest it poison the moment. Stop the mind, lest it cloud the air with useless ponderings.
//I'm not taking you if you can't do this. If you don't want to do this//, El told him a moment later, slightly breathless. //There wasn't any point in talking about this back then, because--//
"-I could barely understand that you weren't simply demons." Deprecation curved Abberline's mouth, and he nodded. "I see."
And he did. His blood congealed into thin red strings at the recollection of that lonely century, and it melted again at the sudden blazing realization that this way, he would always have a place with them. No matter what happened, how they changed-he would be bound to them, and them to him.
Pain he also knew, and he could survive that. Oddly enough, he felt something within him relax at the idea that he wouldn't have to give up all his humanity. That he could still keep touchstones to this world. After all, even without them, he had had a few bright moments during his long exile.
Exile. It had been, hadn't it? That weekend in his apartment, he had irrevocably given up his allegiance to this world even if he still enjoyed parts of it. His home lay elsewhere now.
"So you do," Sands said, glee liberally laced through his dry declaration. He slid off Abberline, leaving cold behind. But only for a moment.
Abberline lifted his head and took the gun into his mouth, then closed his eyes.
* * *
Split-second of excruciating pain.
Red and blinding white.
Drifting, and drifting, and then his head was through the surface and his lungs were recollecting the need for air. He gasped, threw out his arms and fought against the dragging of the thick, crushingly-heavy liquid. It cast ropes about his head, stifled his breath and forced foulness between his lips that he spat out in a burst of hacking.
Something else was swirling about his fingers. It was growing to spread over the backs of his hands. Gathering as he swirled himself in the middle of the river, and then racing up and down and around to scorch away the putrid waters. The way suddenly turned easy and clear, almost like a road laying down into the currents, and he scrambled onto it, exhausted. He wanted to lie down and rest.
But there was a single coal burning in his gut, calling him to the bonfire. To the end and the beginning, and he wanted that far, far more. So he pushed himself up and clawed over water and stone and wood and a million other things while shadows flickered over him and danced soft tendrils along his trembling limbs.
He followed the trail until he could go no further, no matter how hard he willed himself, and then wonderful welcoming hands broke his fall. Bundled him into the flames and remade him.
* * *
"That was messy."
El's voice. Abberline's head hurt abominably, but the throbbing was fast receding in the wake of a pervasive feeling of secure bliss, which loosened his muscles and vibrated through his mind.
"Of course it was. It's always fucking messy. Especially since you never have normal-sized guns. Why fucking guns, anyway? Why not drugs, or knives-oh, right, the Ripper. And trauma-boy."
Which Abberline took to mean him, given that Sands was tapping fingers over his ribs. He opened his eyes and propped himself up-when had he ended up back in the bedroom?-on elbows, then surveyed the floor. On the left, El was leaning against a bedpost and casually wiping blood off his hands. When he was finished, he tossed the rag into the air, where it incinerated itself and came down as fluffy gray ashes on an already sizable little heap.
On the right, Sands was snapping his fingers by the end of a cigarette, which promptly lit. He took a long drag, then disgustedly wrestled off his clothing. "Damn it, El. You couldn't have done it any cleaner? I liked this shirt."
"I didn't." El didn't bother looking as the air around them rippled from two directions, then shattered-and smoothed over. "Stop that. I'm trying to talk to Lorenzo and Fideo."
Abberline took advantage of the following curse-word spewing to steal Sands' cigarette and suck in the prickle of nicotine. Then he narrowed his eyes at the smoke curling from his nostrils and held up the cigarette. Watched with interest as it went up in a white flare.
"Look, honey, baby's learned his first offensive trick." When Abberline gave in to his reflexive annoyance and pounced, Sands rolled him under with ridiculous ease, then pulled up his wrists and slapped them into El's palm. "Come on. Work still doesn't start for another what, half-day?"
Dark eyes slanted over and eventually down, like a handful of silk pressed against wet skin. And for a few more dizzying moments, Abberline still did feel the sludge dripping from his hair and the invasive cling of sopping clothes to his body. But then fingers closed about his wrists, their heat seeping unevenly into the bones there, and atop him, Sands settled into an indolent loll. "Stop that," the other man murmured as he lazily nibbled down Abberline's jaw. "Okay. One problem that I don't have. Not knowing when to stop seeing."
"But you're-" bow himself into the softness, feel it harden and flex as Sands pushed himself up and rode the writhing "-not completely-"
"Oh, no, I'm not." Whisper turning ever darker, lower, richer. Drizzling like molasses, and as if to demonstrate again the thinness between realities, Sands took a long, long lick up Abberline's throat as Abberline dropped his head back. "You think I'd go this long without figuring some way around the blindness? But it's different, and you notice yet?" Covert nudge of knee between thighs, which slumped apart and rose to clamp to lean twisting sides. "Like this?"
Fluttering of fingertips down Abberline's face, birds' wings that landed on his lips and curled in sharp claws. The thumbnail sliced across his lower lip, molten copper welling up behind it to slip into his mouth and sear through his own tongue, which came out to lap at the remaining blood. Sands bent down, softly sucking the wound as if to soothe it, but then sank his teeth deeper into it and held Abberline still like that. The hand continued on to encircle neck, play over shirt buttons. Pop them off, one-by-one, like children decapitating dandelion heads. "I liked that shirt," Abberline hissed as a smile pulled at the tear in his lip.
"I didn't." The teeth let go to fasten over the veins in his neck, menacing and arousing and-
Nail flicked over his nipple. He twisted into the biting, groaning, and tugged uselessly at his trapped hands. It made El look down, though, and refocused the other man's pupils. Abberline scooted up as much as Sands would allow and traced out the edges of El's gauntlet with his lips. Leather and skin, and now he could taste all the lives that had soaked into it. Flash and tingle, and the lightning danced over the inside of his mouth. He followed it, ignoring the nips at his chest and shoulders as best he could, to wrap his lips around knuckles, wrist bones. Let his tongue shape itself to the knob, then graze teeth over it to release the sparks.
"You're welcome." Amusement slightly frayed now, and then the chain around his wrist shivered. Snaked about the other, then coiled tighter to bind them. The silver abruptly cooled in stark contrast to the heat wriggling over his bottom half. To the flame in his mouth, which curved into a finger while the thumb along his chin bent as if to meet it. El urged him up that way, other palm sliding beneath Abberline's shirt to skim along one side and then tuck under his waistband. Frustratingly, it halted there to simply cup his hip.
Sands chuckled into Abberline's stomach, then roughly kissed the quivering muscles. "He's always like that. Always the fucking tease."
But Abberline wasn't presently capable of answering, given that he'd been transfixed in a sweeping, fierce, glittering gaze. El tilted his head, thoughtful and pleased, as he used his finger to toy with Abberline's tongue. Scratched a nail behind the teeth, carved in a claim even there, back where it could be felt at every meal, and then drifted out to support the chin as he quietly reduced words to pitiful fragments that trembled even as they retreated. Abberline rested his hands on the other's chest and pressed as close as he could, silently begging for more. And it was given to him: ferocious and not gentle, but oh God, it was wonderful. Kissing the storm, and feeling it blast lightning down to the roots.
He swayed back at the end of it, eyes so wide he could feel the strain, sight fading in and out. One sight, anyway. Gold and red and purple streaked themselves into everything around him, painting a surreally vibrant landscape in place of the mundane one that he knew should be there.
"Still can't keep his head in one place."
Sands' grin floated into view only to be yanked back, black hair tangling into black as El pinned him where Abberline had been and snapped down into the bent neck. Gasp, and rapid flurry of eyelashes. The cleverness vanished into pleading and surrender as Sands abruptly unfolded into El's hands. Origami, its creases sharp enough to cut, suddenly pulled out into wrinkled flatness.
No, not flat. Abberline skated his palms over the shaking and the curving, memorizing. He felt himself yanked back in and went, lips meeting lips and then yielding to the ravaging.
"Neither could you, in the beginning." El was stripping Sands as he spoke, guiding limp limbs out of restraining clothing, flaying off layers of shielding so Abberline could see the start, the original raw howling power. The mariachi tossed them all back onto the bed, then kicked off his boots. Laughed when he saw that Sands had swarmed back onto Abberline, who was entirely too preoccupied to care.
Hands and mouth and brush of knee up leg, grind of rising flesh against flesh. Rasp and score of fabric-why was he still dressed at all? Why had they gotten dressed?
Pants and other garments being ripped off as he helpfully lifted his hips. "Because we figured you wouldn't wake up enough to ask questions till we were driving. Which would've meant less splatter, since we would've done everything in the desert. But hey, here with bed is good, and you're getting this all much quicker-"
Shadow rearing up behind Sands to swallow the rest of chattiness, drown it in moaning. "In other words, you impressed him," El translated, tying off the end of the leather strip that had appeared around Sands' wrists.
He dropped the other man beside Abberline, then leisurely removed the rest of his clothes while Sands impatiently cursed, but didn't move. Just crouched, tense and baleful, as El crawled up his legs, as red spots were swirled onto his pale skin and red lines were raked down his legs. "Bastard."
"Nice to meet you, too," and then El had his mouth locked over the protests, forcing Sands back into the mattress. The mariachi raised his head from the panting body beneath him, idly licking faint pink from his lips, and nonchalantly turned to look at Abberline-
great cat over prey
--tumbling Abberline into the sheets, knowing hands molding him into an uncontrollably trembling mess, whining and reaching back as best he could, given the chains. He licked and nipped at everything until a finger brushed fire down his inner thigh and then up, back. In, and more, and-"Fuck…"
"He curses." Sands' smirk rubbing itself along Abberline's hip, which had been seized and stilled. "That sounds so cute in his accent."
More and they were spreading, twisting. Splaying themselves over the mass of nerve endings that Abberline's insides had become. Skillfully pulling the strings so he gasped here, wiggled there, ripped blankets to shreds now and collapsed then. "Please…"
"Yes?" Sands asked, very politely, as if he were taking tea instead of suckling at Abberline's nipple. So he was grabbed and hauled up so Abberline could snap into his mouth, make him feel something of the sensory overload that was systematically blowing out the lights in Abberline's mind. "Oh-Jesusfuck-" sucking on tongue "-damn it, El-"
And then there was no mind. No border, because Abberline was feeling two sets of fingers teasing strained flesh, and he knew how he tasted, and that there, that brilliant cracked crystal-that was Sands. Beautiful and hard and transparent, but the light never refracted as predicted, going its own way through the fractures.
Shades. Solid and enveloping darkness, with its endless loops of pleasure and soft velvet caresses hiding the iron impenetrability of it. Except Abberline could see, somehow. Black against black, and at the edges of sight, the momentary white and silver of blanched foxfire. No green-not in the desert, the borderlands. But there was life yet, and power and depth and-
Back to present. A thousand bubbles burst against his eyes to produce the ceiling, and El's smile slashed across the wavering world before fingers wrenched out the last of Abberline's soul into private keeping. His rasping breath was pounding through his head as stickiness splattered over his belly, and it seemed like everything was going to fall. But before it could, he was filled again, nearly to the point of rupture, and his already crazed perception was assaulted by Sands, unashamedly moaning and jerking above him.
Bound hands came down, slapping leather over Abberline's cheek. Quick swipe in apology before Sands was eating at his voice again. Chased down and tore out the last bit just as El's face unexpectedly bobbed up over Sands' shoulder-crying out and spasming and glorious, glorious last breaking, but Abberline couldn't make a single sound to welcome it.
"Well…you're in." And Sands was slowly pulled out, then carefully arranged on his side. Still grinning.
"'One may smile and smile…'" Abberline let himself be picked up and flopped over, then snuggled into the hands cupping and massaging his buttocks. His lip had healed, and he had no doubt that his current soreness would prove to be quite fleeting.
"You think you're a villain?" El asked, leaning over to kiss Sands as the other man crawled closer.
"No. I think I'm happy. No, that's not-I am happy." Abberline smiled, rueful and tired and ironic. "In a very bizarre way."
"You'll get used to that." Sands used his teeth to undo his wrist bindings, then snagged Abberline's still-chained hands and began to lick at the fingertips again. "Just wait. We'll show you."