Author: Guede Mazaka
All in all, Lorenzo thought he was taking the changes pretty well. Considering that yeah, the flamethrower was sort of unnecessary, now. At least he only had to carry one case.
But he really could have done without the eternal snarking appendage to El's hip; Sands was exactly as annoying, and as unkillable, as Lorenzo remembered. Goddamn-what the hell had El been doing that century, and why hadn't Fideo bothered to stop him?
//Because I knew enough not to.// His friend slouched into a chair across from the other three, and toasted the drowsy-looking new guy, who was neatly packaged between Sands' frenetic restlessness and El's eerie stillness. //Hey. Nice to meet you, and here's to your grave.//
"I don't have a grave." Perplexed purse of lips, and Lorenzo had to admit that El's visual taste wasn't lacking, even if his choice in personalities generally left something to be desired. Christ, even his mortal picks were weird; if Lorenzo didn't have an inside connection to the Underworld that told him differently, he would have sworn that Carolina was a gate-dweller herself. Well, maybe the next time around. "What do you call yourselves?"
Intelligent, anyway. Hopefully, not of the Sands whacked-out mania type. Lorenzo swung his case up onto a side table and dropped himself into a broken-springed armchair that did a great job of cradling his sore ass. Goddamn Fideo would have to be too drunk to drive-for three straight days. Wasn't he supposed to process alcohol faster now? "I'm Lorenzo. That's Fideo. Might as well just call us that, since we don't use names when we're on the other side."
"Abberline." Pause. "My first name was Fred, but you don't seem to use those." The eyes hazed over and pupils smudged, then snapped back into place. "Hermes and Bacchus?"
Lorenzo winced and rocked his hand in the air. "Yeah, and nah. We aren't them, but on the border everything gets weird, so we end up doing some of their shit. Fideo and I don't really have assigned duties so much as do clean-up after El and Mr. Blind Freak finish rearranging the landscape."
"You're too, too kind, flat-ass." Sands stopped playing with Abberline's shirt-tails to pull a gun from thin air and start polishing it. While aiming at Lorenzo. Fucker. That wouldn't hurt for more than a minute, and-world tilt. Lorenzo flicked at his temple till the sudden dizziness screwed off and silently cursed lengthy adjustment times. "So, Freddie, here I was a CIA Agent who dry-fucked the political arena, and they're mariachis who have every single cartel in Mexico leering after them. Being the coy nonvirgins that we all are, this gives us the perfect justification for using explosions to make the world right again."
El had his gauntleted arm wrapped firmly around Abberline's waist, and his other one was busy keeping Sands from actually shooting anything. As Lorenzo struggled not to laugh too hard, the other mariachi elbowed Sands in the head and stole the gun during the ensuing tussle, then apologetically smoothed down Abberline's hair. Man, that poor Brit. Did he have any idea what the El-Sands bizarre-couple was really like when he decided to join up?
Then again, that was a really, really deep kiss. Lorenzo thought he even glimpsed the psychic's tonsils at one point, and then Sands gave up clawing at El in favor of attacking Abberline's open side.
Snuffle. Fideo drained the last of his tequila, then kicked the end of the couch. //Stop that. You're going to make me throw up.//
"You don't get hangovers, you teetering lush," Sands muttered as he reluctantly eased off the moaning Abberline and twisted into El's lap. "Anyway-" smack at El's head "-hello, no molesting the pretty till after business is taken care of. Wouldn't want to offend Fideo's work ethic or anything, and where was…oh, yeah. So we were thinning out the gangsters. Not anymore, since we've got to go after seeing to a Dean Corso, who was supposed to have been taken up by a female colleague of ours, but didn't, because she's a finicky bitch. He's currently somewhere in Mexico, walking around like this skinny four-eyed key that's capable of stabbing open all kinds of canned shit."
"We found him," Fideo managed to muddle out just before determinedly flopping into unconsciousness. Every single fucking time. Lorenzo dropped his head into his hands and resigned himself to, once again, answering all the questions.
But what came was the sound of multiple hand cannons cocking. "That's a nice welcome," remarked a contemptuous female voice.
"And meet G, Abberline." Without looking up, Lorenzo waved vaguely in the direction of the newcomer. "She's why we stopped playing mortal early this time and jumped back into the business."
"Stupid hellwhore. Literally, figuratively, and absolutely." Sands sounded really, really pissed, which figured. He hated chaos unless he'd created it himself-hypocrite. God, Lorenzo needed a break. Or a lay. "You decide to fuck with reality, you finish the job. You do not go halfway through and then say, 'Oh, he's not enough of a doormat. I'm going to toss him through the gate and then leave him without a keeper.' And now you want us to fix things."
Of course, she kept up the idiocy and didn't pay a bit of attention as she eased past Lorenzo, who kept his head down and slipped his hand onto his gun. "I see you finally picked up yours. He's very pre-"
Smack of flesh against flesh. Low hiss. Lorenzo looked up just in time to see El, holding a grimacing G by her wrist, silently flay their colleague with eyes alone while Abberline and Sands closely watched the battle.
She glared back, but that only lasted a few seconds before her cheeks went rosy and her gaze dropped. El kept up the visual assault a little longer before he negligently tossed her aside into Lorenzo's legs and got up. //Where?//
On Lorenzo's other side, Fideo slowly grunted back to life. //In the car trunk. He'll be up soon.//
Sands kicked back his heels, nearly hitting Abberline in the head, and spun his pistol from finger to finger. The corners of his mouth went up in sideways derision. "Not for you, girly. You did know that you forfeited all rights to him?"
G flowed off Lorenzo's feet just before he would have kicked her and finger-combed her hair, like a ruffled cat grooming itself. "Of course. I never wanted him in the first place. But Miguel was busy, and he asked for a favor. Which I wasn't in a position to refuse."
"Oh, great. He can't do his own goddamn cherrypicking?" Abberline started to ask, but Sands was already explaining as he irritably jerked his gun back into hiding and snagged his cane from the table. "You'd call him Michael. Another colleague, who's smarter and stronger and basically a great improvement on G here. Except for never being around when the shit splats."
"Can I leave now?" G asked indifferently as she dusted off her jacket and retied her sneakers. "You've got him, you know you need to get Miguel. I don't think I have anything to do."
Green and blue flames raced down the end of Sands' cane, which he twirled and slapped to a stop so it pointed at her. "Bang," he said in a dry voice. "Go ahead; less of us there, the less stress on reality. And we'll even let you deal with the Underworld bigwigs."
El grabbed the stick, vibrantly-colored fire spilling over his hand and vanishing, and pinned Sands' arms to his sides. Then he bundled Sands' coat around to keep them that way and casually tucked the cursing man under an arm. Held Sands by the waist, and high enough so that the kicking feet didn't quite touch the ground.
//Everyone can tell you're laughing//, Fideo muttered at Lorenzo. //Just let it out. Otherwise you sound like an idiot.//
//I think you need to go with her//, El told them, voice slightly raised to be heard over the violent swearing. He shifted Sands up to drape over one shoulder and seized the man's ankles. //We'll see you as soon as Corso is settled.//
Well, it wasn't as if Lorenzo had anything important that had to be done over here. And thing were much more fun on the borders, anyway. "Come on." He grabbed G's elbow, then kicked at Fideo. "Been dying for a shot of decent shit."
She lounged into his side and stroked fingers down his case. Pretty eyes, come to think of it. And anyway, he wasn't looking for anything as complicated as El had. "Buy you a round?" G purred.
Yeah. Definitely time to go.
* * *
Whiteness suddenly blotted out the black and brilliance ate out Dean's eyes. Then his eyelids snapped down, and sight slowly returned. Vague shadows moved across the shocking red that lined the inside of his eyelid like demonic shadow-puppets.
His head ached. In fact, his entire body was slightly beyond bruised from being slammed around the cramped trunk for the past few hours. Dean wasn't sure what was supposed to show up on the other side of the gate, but he was fairly certain that two musicians and a broken table weren't included. Or getting whacked in the head with a guitar case and being driven somewhere in what definitely appeared to be Mexico.
"Older than I figured," remarked one voice. Already defensive and feeling annoyed about it, Dean pushed himself back. Promptly rammed himself into the far edge of the trunk so pain lanced up his spine and rattled his still dazed mind. Hands grabbed his arms, his shoulders, and yanked him out to stumble over dust. There was an awful taste in his mouth, and his skin prickled as if it wanted to shrug off him.
Fingers took his chin in a merciless grip and wrenched upwards so his first clear view was of a-"You're not a man."
"Halfway there." The voice drew shivers along Dean's legs. Mexican. Dark everything: eyes, hair, skin. And then things shifted to slanted, jagged words of scarlet and brown, hazy as the heat-back to a knowing face. "He looks fine so far."
"He'd better. This is going to take for-fucking-ever, and we can't stay that much longer." First voice, which attached itself to sunglasses and a smirk. Block letters with the occasional wild curlicue.
"It'll be long enough," murmured a third voice. Freshly-written in the air, ink still blowing dry. Dean fiercely shook away the bizarre images and concentrated on trying to-well, figure out what the hell was going on. "There's a storm shaking the boundaries from the other side-Miguel? That'll buy us time."
"Who…" was as far as Dean got before he was sucking on his tie, and his toes were screaming from being banged into dirt and wood. He twisted, searching for a weakness, an opening, but the grip only winched tighter around his arms. And then soft cotton as he skidded onto a bed. He used the momentum to sit up and flung out a hand into a strap that hissed round his wrist.
"Sands, and you won't need those." Glasses plucked off and tossed into fire-where the fuck did they go? But Dean's pondering was interrupted by the bite of leather into his other wrist, and then his hands were whipped behind him. He spit out his tie, then tried to kick away the other man, but that only earned him a laugh and a final sharp yank. Gag lashed into his mouth, and then the musician was forcing him to lie flat and straight on his back. This time, his struggling got him a gun to the temple.
"El, and this-" Sands sat on the edge of the bed and pulled the third man half onto his lap "-is Abberline, Mr. Corso. Hi. We're going to be fucking with your reality for the next few hours, so please relax and enjoy yourself."
Dean muffled a curse, then froze as a knife replaced the pistol in El's hand. Steel flicked off Dean's shirt buttons and sliced through his sleeves, blade skimming a hair above his skin, so close that the iciness nearly fooled him into thinking that he had been cut.
"Note to make, Fred," Sands was muttering to his companion, who watched Dean with attentive eyes. "You can pull off a lot once you know the borders, but do it the whole way. Half-ass jobs just fill the Rolodex with death threats. And fuck with your free time."
"So you can't just shoot him and send him over?"
And all the breath jammed into Dean's nose as a palm compressed his chest. Smile just shy of emerging, El shook his head. "Don't. You'll only make it harder."
"God, I wish we could blow off his head and be done with this shit." Sands let go of Fred-Abberline-whoever the hell-and somehow produced an old-fashioned inkwell, complete with lofty quill that never settled on one particular color. Its shifts from white to beige to light gray didn't help Dean's wooziness at all, but he couldn't seem to turn away. "No. We permanently marked you before we started bringing you across. Corso hasn't been, and it's a fucking pain to work that during a transition. It's even more of a fucking pain to do it for someone else. We actually have to write out the…um, contract and get signature-type things, and other crappy paperwork imitations. Which completely defeats the purpose of fuzzy zones like borders."
"Miguel's not reincarnating for another few centuries. He couldn't do it himself." Hand finally off Dean's chest, and he desperately inhaled till his lungs burned and his head tingled. Meanwhile, El straddled his waist and leaned over to take the quill and position the tip just above Dean's right shoulder. //Though he's still an idiot for asking G to do it. She doesn't have enough years. I should go and slam his head through the ledgers.//
The area beneath the feather was beginning to heat up. Alternating spirals of sparks and water were circling outward from that spot, turning Dean's vision feverish and his skin sweaty. He struggled to keep breathing through the stretching anticipation, to keep himself grounded. Capable of thinking.
"Who else could have done it?" Abberline asked as he carefully curled up beside Dean's head.
"Well, us. But we were busy with you. And a few others." Sands' sunglasses slipped down his nose as he settled next to Abberline to reveal fuzzy white. Without his glasses, Dean lacked most details, but he was fairly sure that eyes shouldn't look like that. "Yeah. Blind. Get over it, and El? Mind starting?"
"In a moment." But the tip was already scratching over Dean's shoulder, scrawl searing itself into his flesh and engraving a copy onto his mind. He wanted to arch, press the needle deeper into him and feel it slide between the layers. Flip them up and out-
* * *
He's always liked books. They're weighty. They have substance locked into their gold-edged pages and smooth covers. They're here to hold knowledge in service to man. They can be bought and sold like so many pieces of trash. They're paradoxes that he enjoys.
And besides, book-appraisal is a quietly profitable enterprise that keeps his wits sharp, his feet on the move and his body safe from harm. His field of expertise has its share of violently crazed obsessives, but people who spend their entire lives bent over books in darkened rooms-mustn't hurry the degradation process-are gnarled and pasty and soft. All qualities which he has taken great care to avoid.
He opens the volume, eyes mentally checking off paper, ink, cover and binding. The touch and sight and smell drift serenely to their little categories in his mind, breaking the impressive-looking book into its component parts. And the clients before him anxiously shuffle, their strained smiles betraying their classifications. All the world's a library to Dean, and he has the key to every tome.
Flashing bright at the corner of his eye. Ice rolls down his back as he looks up, but nothing out-of-the-ordinary meets his gaze. Just someone walking past the window, shrouded in black and graced with a light dusting of snow.
* * *
--raw. Christ, his shoulder felt like it'd been stripped to the bone, bloody white screaming up to the sky. Dean had been pushing up, apparently, and now too tired to hold the pose against restraining hands, he collapsed back.
Off to the side, there was a small tinkle as the pen was dipped again. And then ozone stinging his nose and eyes, vivid agony making him choke on the gag. Saliva washed into the fabric, then squeezed back out as he shouted curses into the cloth. In counterpoint, a wave of dreamy lethargy rose to lap around the blazing spot, setting blades of bliss into the fractures opening in him. He had vague thoughts of acupuncture and lines of chi, but then one collection of bold strokes branded itself into his retinas, and reason began to stagger.
"The writing disappeared." Abberline was a fucking bastard for sounding so calm. So goddamn indifferent when Dean was dying, dying, for God's sake. "You're not dying."
He glared at the placid face, which paid no attention as it continued to gaze at his shoulder. Which had no black scrawls over it…
…gold and coiling under his skin, and beneath the reddened translucency, he could see the letters twist deeper, like so many worms eating him alive-oh, God, oh God, what the hell had he done?
Stabbing into his gasp, and El pinned Dean's other shoulder to the bed as he put pen to skin. Starting at the point of the joint, and working backwards like Da Vinci's mirror writing. "Nothing you didn't want."
"Believe me, you signed off your right to rejection a long, long time ago," Sands chimed in. He was draped over Abberline's hip, one hand a brooch on the other man's shoulder, and the other petting fingers over the back of Abberline's hand, which was stretched out so it just grazed Dean's upper arm. No heat there, though. No strange mix of pain and pleasure. That was all under the moving quill, all gathering in the backs of his eyes and flooding forward into the world-
* * *
The back stacks of any library are usually musty with abandonment, but the ones in the great old establishments have extra shadings of eerie distance. Walking through them is akin to walking into a detached piece of the world, ready to cut the lines and float into the mists.
Or so Dean had been told, once when he'd had to get a particularly determined bibliophile dead drunk to sell him an early edition of Milton. Personally, he's never experienced anything like that himself. Books are objects. Words are shapes of ink. Writers and readers are, respectively, impoverished nutcases and gullible marks. The only motivating force behind anything is money, and the only motivator he particularly cares about is himself.
The numbers for which he'd been searching leap out at him from a peeling label, and he halts to pull out the book. Then freezes as the ripped cloth cover abruptly rips backwards into the shelf as soon as his fingertips alight on it. Mocking eyes and a wink of a grin replace the faded green fabric.
"I believe that's my book," Dean says, strangling his annoyance. "I called in a reservation two hours ago."
"Really. I called one in three hours ago." Mellow hiss of a voice. Eden's snake after a few glasses of warm amber whiskey. A long tapered finger skates over the cover in a possessive caress. "Sorry," in a blithely unapologetic tone.
Something about the man rakes fierce nails down Dean's pride-also twinges his sense of caution, but the aggravation wins out in an overwhelming rush. He lunges through the small space and snatches at the book. Just brushes over its spine when his wrist is yanked away by hot metal. "Jesus!"
He jerks back through the hole, putting as much distance as possible between him and the-the-it was a man. Just one with very hot palms. Dean clutches at his wrist and rubs at the burn that isn't there, isn't harsh pink abuse staining his skin. He's shaken and furious, and he suddenly remembers how much he hates that feeling.
Mischievous smile and playfully cocked head. Wild curls briefly bounce into view before being quickly swept out of the way. "Ah…no. Though he would certainly be worse for you."
"What?" Dean skids down to the end of the aisle and flings himself around only to find an empty row. Typical ghost story nonsense…
"Really?" Phantom fingertips slicing over the back of his head, then cutting a violent tremble into his back. He spins around again, but no one is behind him. And when he checks at the front desk, his reserved book apparently no longer exists. Not listed in the catalogs, the databases-even the client who asked for it is clueless. Only Dean keeps the knowledge of its creation.
* * *
Scribbling down his breastbone, with quick burning side dashes along each rib. El wasn't being quite so careful now, but even his sloppiness rang of deliberateness. The feather occasionally flipped to sweep sweat off Dean's forehead. Its rasp was much too loud, threatening to scrape out his eardrums, and its stroke carved a moan from his spasming throat.
"Now he's liking it." Sands passed a hand over Dean's face, then nuzzled into Abberline's neck. "Did you see? That was Miguel."
Rippling slash over Dean's stomach that left sloping font and frenetic arabesques sinking into his mind. His back arched up into the now-constant burning, and this time, they allowed him to bend. To try desperately, futilely to find something in the air against which he could rub at the growing itch and ache in his erection-yes, goddamn it, he'd gotten one. El sat back to regard Dean with half-lidded, smoky eyes, pen dangling from two fingers. Then he leaned sideways to thread fingers through first Sands', then Abberline's hair and pull up their heads for slow, deep kisses. Each of them jerked in El's hand during the nipping, then melted back into the mattress.
When the musician raised the quill afterwards, its end was tinged with glowing red. The nick of it was a thin scalpel gently excising bits of Dean, starting with the superfluous-
* * *
Pages and faces and checks.
Hanged Man gaining no wisdom from imitation of his predecessors. Sorry, Bernie, but you're no Odin. You took the wrong bet in this game. Should've folded when I showed up, but you knew me. You should've guessed.
Empress dethroned and flush-faced with death. Great lay, Telfair, though your guard dog couldn't used a bit more than a good muzzle. I'll climb the rocks sometime and watch you drown in the burning lake.
Pyre of the Emperor. Balkan, Balkan, Balkan. So many, many years and you lost your head on the home stretch. It only goes to show that the prize always goes to youth and hunger. You had the determination, old man, but you lost control of that drive, and it ate you into ashes.
Moon girl, twirling me around the dance floor for your own reasons-
My. Reasons. Not hers.
* * *
Sleepy voice shocking Dean back to the small room, back to the fiery whisper of writing into the clay of man. Abberline again, helping to turn over Dean's limp body. "He's like El. Miguel-they don't just look alike. They feel…"
Leather undone and redone, stretching Dean's wrists to the headboard and stuffing his face into the roughness of soaked cotton sheets. He breathed in his own sweat and oils, and they slivered the insides of his throat. But the gag was taken out-they didn't think he was capable of talking anymore.
They were right.
"Miguel and I are…we're something like being related." Delicate skritch curving around Dean's shoulderblade. Long trailing burn down his backbone, with an abrupt jab into the base so he thrust his hips up and forced a scream through his parched lungs and mouth. Someone slapped his buttocks back down, the sting plucking mercilessly at the lightning already squirming inside his skin. //It's hard to explain. We're not brothers. But still close enough for me to do this for him.//
"So you're not keeping him?" And jealousy was a lemon streak through Abberline's voice, running alongside the jade of relief.
Two amused laughs, and soft moist noises. "No," Sands chuckled through a mouthful of something. "We've got ours. About time Miguel picked up someone; his flirting's fun but irritating as hell when all you want to do is look up your research and then get back to the mass slaughter."
"Research?" Breathless, but still more air than Dean had. The pen temporarily stopped, its half-traced draft lashing the incomplete ends through his guts, and a hand smacked against his wriggling ass again. And again, until he had shuddered himself into nonresistance. "Is he…you're putting a good deal of stress on him."
"Among other duties, Miguel does…librarian and record-keeper things, but with liberal doses of homicide and large-scale destruction, and just general history-fucking. And this is the only way to make Corso fit, so stop worrying. You saw for yourself-he's a prime specimen of rat bastard. He can take it."
Motherfucking son of a bitch Sands didn't know what he was talk-
* * *
I don't get to go over very much. Even in between mortal incarnations, El can slip through ripples in reality for short trips, but I usually have to wait for the big disturbances.
Why the hell should I care?
I went twice, and you saw me. That's another thing. No one's supposed to be able to see me. Not even psychics like Abberline, when they're still all mortal.
I'm not a psychic. I don't have anything to do with that bullshit.
But you had the book, and you saw through its illusions. Or do you think that centuries of devotees could've missed the initials on the engravings? You found the lost illustration, so easily-another serendipity. And you just walked through that gate-
--as if you owned it. Fool. But a pretty, knowledgeable one, nonetheless. And so wanting. I like that.
* * *
Liars. He was going to die. Pressure was blowing out his nerves, seizing up his brain and building up under his skin. His cock was so stiff it was long past painful, and his wrists were numb even though they were bleeding from the cut of the leather strips.
Every scribble only added another block of wood to the blaze, another drop to the dammed-up flood, and the flames were licking past the barrier trenches, the water cracking the dam. Dean opened his mouth as wide as he could and bit down on the blankets in an unsuccessful effort to distract himself.
"Considering what kind of man he is, you think it's still a good idea to let him in?" Questions and questions. Abberline's specialty, it seemed.
"Well, does he still feel like the same guy?" Sands murmured, sarcasm somewhat softened. It sounded like it pained the other man to talk like that.
"No…he feels like he's falling apart…"
* * *
Did you write it? Did you write that goddamned book? You sketch out those engravings?
No. They're just words and pictures, Dean. You knew that a long time ago.
It's what has been bound into them. What people manage to take out of them. That's what I control. I make sure that the books are where they're required, and not there when they're not required.
That can't be the only thing you do.
No, it's not. But that's the part that matters to you, since it got you here.
Get me out.
Wrong thing to say.
* * *
Money brought comfort and safety. He hadn't wanted a life in the charring sun. He had been perfectly happy to skulk about the shadows, playing the jackal who was guaranteed to see another day.
"Then you shouldn't have taken up Balkan's request." Sands and Abberline tangled up in each other, clothes rumpled partially off. The blind man lounging on top, languidly fondling moans out of the other man, whose eyes were closed and face uplifted. "You chose, Corso. You wanted to know."
What was the book, what was behind the book. It'd called to him, he had thought, and he had grown protective of it. Butter-silk black leather of its covers become his skin, crisp pages furled into his bones, printed lines chained into muscle and tendon and the remaining parts.
"Not it," El muttered, impatience just flickering into his voice.
But no, it hadn't been the book. It'd been the power behind that slim volume, calling it back. Calling him back to a place he'd never gone, but nevertheless had come to feel as if he'd been birthed there, as if he had always carried the grit and cinders of its soil under his tongue.
Last flourishes inscribed into the small of his back. A seal, Dean hazily thought. Some kind of seal, and-
* * *
Well? I don't give second guesses to everyone, so you'd best use it wisely.
Take me in. Open the door and take me in, damn it, before I choke and die right on your goddamned doorstep-
* * *
Bindings gone. Falling through space and time, from hell to heaven and then catching himself somewhere in the middle. Vision-his vision had been getting sharper and sharper, but only now did Dean notice.
On his back again, on smooth cool paper with slightly-raised black marks. Words. Words that twisted up and sank back like a bed of snakes, and some of them softly hooked around him to pull him flat against the gigantic page. His head went back and back, fixing his gaze on thousands of shimmering shelves that rolled into the horizon.
Mouth fastened just below his chin. Hands wafting across his over-sensitized body, and legs shoving under his. Then hardness and heat filling him as the air swam with red phrases and fragments of literature smoldered through the thin tissues of his mind. Tongue diving into his mouth, lapping at the raspy groans that finally straggled from his worn-out throat.
Leaning back, tousled curls and laugh-snapping eyes. The man from the library. "Miguel."
"Hello," whispered along Dean's lip. Rough nipping brought the letters that had been carved into him surging up from inside till they threatened to rip out of his skin. He wrenched his legs wider, yanking them free of the twining ink tendrils, and locked them about the other's body. "You took your time, after that. I ended up having to send a book out, and-" taking the volume that had suddenly appeared in Dean's hand "-thank you for bringing it back."
"Michael." Fierce drive into Dean, and he could feel himself begin to finally give into the tugs from all directions.
Wry smile on the beautiful face that floated in and out of the thick vapors that surrounded them. Rich stinging scents, coating the insides of Dean's nose with every inhale-his nose, because his mouth was much too busy tasting solidified honey and anise. Slicing itself open on the undernote of ginger. "Sometimes. Names are confusing, here…you probably mean the other one. I stay in the borders, and he flits around the blessed side of the underworld."
Who cared? That one wasn't here, wasn't going to be here. He wasn't the one finally gorging Dean with facts and impressions and sensations. He wasn't the one finally satisfying the cravings that had hibernated for so long and then unexpectedly woken into ferocious awareness. But Dean needed-more-a last slam of hammer into wedges, a last ripping dash of words into-- "Please…please…"
"Take it your answer is yes." And clauses and regulations scrolled blink-fast through Dean's mind, but he somehow already knew them all and he didn't care. He only wanted the last type set into place, the last printing so he could wrap himself into this torrent and finish drowning out of the old world. The one with no challenges, with idiots aplenty and never any answers. Because that's what he longed for-knowledge. Enough to outsmart the opponent, to make things go how he wanted them. "Oh, you'll get that. When I let you."
Chains and locks and ropes slipping around him, tying him into place. Language, taking over by reducing things to arbitrary arrangements of letters, restricting expression. He forced himself into it, making the tangles even tighter. And yes, he wanted this too. Couldn't have the one without the other, because without boundaries the mind slid off into insanity. Witness Telfair, Balkan.
He needed someone to push and twist and pull him, to fight him and compel him into this web of fire and black water. Shape him like so much putty. He hadn't found anyone capable of it in the normal world, but this effortless manipulation-admirable, from the standpoint of a fellow practitioner.
Addicting, from the standpoint of the screaming core to which Dean had been condensed. Essential.
"No need to actually say it." Warm, warm chuckle wafting down his throat in between licks. "I'm not sure you could, anyway."
And a thousand cuts to open him up, and a brutal thrust to ram out light and dark and black on white, white on black-shredding him into countless scraps that floated high and fell lightly into cupped hands.
* * *
El relaxed and let himself sink into the vast softness, idly running his fingers through the black and brown locks spilling over his stomach. Abberline murmured, pushed into the caress and snuggled back down, while Sands drowsily nipped at El's wrist.
Above his head and lying perpendicular to him, Miguel rolled onto Dean, stifled the indignant yelp with his hand, and glanced over the various ledgers spread around them. "There's another judgment coming up."
"Then you can handle it. You still owe me for Corso." El looked up with narrowed eyes, making very sure that Miguel understood he still wasn't happy at having his incarnation interrupted. Even if matters had turned out well for all.
"I know, I know." As he spoke, Miguel dipped his fountain pen into a pool of ink, then wiped off the steel nib on Dean's bare shoulder. Swiped his tongue over the black-laced spot of red that appeared and considered the resulting mewl, then kissed Dean till the other had abandoned the book that he had been reading and was actively wriggling against Miguel. "But it's…weird."
Scratching of pen on parchment, which, El was amused to note, made Dean twitch. "It's a writer, stuck in some cabin. And…he has issues."
"Everyone has fucking issues," Sands mumbled. "Just hand him a mirror and make him deal with it himself. And don't even think of dragging El into another messy transition; if you bring the little scribbling prick over--"
"-I'm not going to." Miguel finished writing and tossed his pen somewhere before turning his attention to Dean. "I don't want another one, and anyway, it'll be funnier if he stays with himself."
El considered that comment for a moment, then decided against asking for clarification. He didn't need to get involved with whatever Miguel was up to. Not when Sands was sucking on El's fingers, and Abberline was fiddling with the sleeve chains.
This was what he cared about, and nothing else mattered.