Tangible Schizophrenia


Archetype: Immortality

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: NC-17. Violence and sex. Gunkink and BDSM. Death.
Pairing: Sands/El
Feedback: Much beloved.
Disclaimer: Mine? I wish.
Summary: The journey of the American and The Mariachi reaches its logical conclusion. Major character deaths. Please stick around for the end, though. And read the notes before you start panicking.
Notes: //words// in Spanish. Cockroach info from linaelyn via permetaform. From A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature: "2. Immortality: another fundamental archetype, generally taking one of two basic narrative forms:
a. Escape from time: "return to paradise," the state of perfect, timeless bliss enjoyed by man and woman before their tragic Fall into corruption and mortality
b. Mystical submersion into cyclical time: the theme of endless death and regeneration-human beings achieve a kind of immortality by submitting to the vast, mysterious rhythm of Nature's eternal cycle, particularly the cycle of seasons."


"They've stopped shooting," El groans.

"Noticed," Sands manages to reply, clumping the remains of his shirt and shoving it harder against his side.

"They think they can wait us out," the mariachi mutters, shifting jerkily onto shaking elbow and knee. Tapping his last well of strength, he crawls halfway from the locked door and collapses in the middle of the shed, head bumping against the front right tire of the DeSoto.

"They can wait us out," the American answers, rolling himself painfully towards the other man. He tries to grab hold of one outflung arm, but his blood and El's blood and the blood of their pursuers all combine to send Sands' fingers slicking off to the side. "We're dying, you know."

"Yeah." Curling around himself, El ignores the ripping pain long enough to pull Sands the rest of the way over, nestling the other man under one limp, immobile arm, as if parodying last night's embrace. "Noticed."

"Goddamn it," Sands says, tired and past anger and just wishing he could cut out Irony's left nut right now. "You finally get a sense of humor, and she has to send us on a fucking kamikaze crapshoot."

"Can you drive?" El asks, breathing heavy in the other man's hair. Something clutches in Sands' chest, and he searches desperately with his free hand over El's body for a dry spot. But there are none, and in the end he can only let his hand rest lightly on the small of El's back, fingers splayed awkwardly so he doesn't touch the rags surrounding each exit wound. "I'm blind, you fuckmook," he laughs, almost sincerely. "And the second sight only works on people living and dead, remember?"

"Doesn't matter…out there…they're all trying…to kill us," El replies, fluid beginning to bubble up in his voice. Darkness is seeping out of the corners of the mariachi's mouth, and Sands wishes fervently that he was completely sightless. "Can't…leg…can't work pedal."

"Fine," Sands rasps back. "But it's your fault if we crash."

"Want you to crash," El growls, the flame leaping up briefly. Long enough to lever both of them into the car, long enough to slap sticky keys into Sands' hands before he falls over onto the seat, burning eyes the only indicator of life.

It takes five minutes for Sands to fit key to ignition; apparently, even psychic sight is susceptible to massive shock and blood loss. It takes another two minutes to persuade his foot to stay on the acceleration pedal, and three after that to work past the stabbing fire that erupts whenever he jostles his side. But when that's all been taken care off, they're ready to launch, Houston.

And Sands does, gritting his teeth against the slam as he smashes through the piled debris where the door was, and fuck but only sheer goddamn spite could keep him conscious after that. He's vaguely aware of El clawing up his lap to grab onto the wheel and help steer, of the gunfire and the explosions. He very distantly remembers they're near the waterfront in Veracruz, and tries to head in that direction. But it's all like shitting outdoors in winter, when everything is flash-frozen and triple-focused on the smallest echoing details: snowflake falling, sky icing over in the night, balls chilled on the surface and blood blazing hot beneath, roiling and surging till you wanted to break through to the air above and find the hidden spring.

And they are breaking. Something's breaking. Splashing. And Sands is tumbling backward and forward and over till he lands twined about El's blood-soaked form. "Sea," the other man is chuckling, liquid bubbling horrifically in his voice. "Off the dock, and now we're going to drown."

"Fuck you," Sands snaps back, forgetting his wounds and dizziness in favor of seizing that mocking mouth and sucking one last kiss from it. El returns the gesture, fierce and tender all at once, tasting of the earth and air as he cradles Sands closer, eating the American alive as if he could cheat death that way. The ocean laps against the windows, and neither El nor Sands can tell now whether the wet swirling over them is blood or water.



El felt the sun drifting over the bed, lazy and soft, and he instinctively leant into it, rustling up against the other occupant of the bed as he did. Feeling a familiar nose and mouth bump into the tender stretch beneath his chin, El instantly stilled; he'd gotten quite a few injuries that way.

But it was a good morning, it seemed. Sands didn't object, and in fact, drowsily rolled closer, nudging his rising erection along El's own beneath the blankets. They were both still sore from last night-all right, the last few weeks-and healing from various fights, and so at the moment, neither man felt particularly up to anything strenuous. Slowly rocking and rubbing, they nipped half-heartedly at each other for a long, languid time of creeping warmth before El finally snaked a hand down to stroke calluses over their cocks, finally bringing them both off with breathy gasps.

"Mmph," Sands told the pillow. "'s why I told you we should get one on the east side. Always have the sun hitting the people coming at you."

"I knew that," El replied, still sleepy enough to be merely amused instead of irked at Sands' condescension. "But the last time someone wanted a certain room, it ended badly."

"What? Maid forgot to replace the towels?" Grudgingly, Sands began to pull himself upright, rumpling his hair out of his face. "Shouldn't you be getting breakfast ready?"

That earned him a pinch on the ass as El nevertheless got off the bed. Ignoring the other man's obscenities, the mariachi moved over to the one-burner kitchen, content and almost happy as he threw foodstuffs together. It still amazed El, the lack of pain and hollowness whenever Carolina was mentioned. So long he'd been living with the leadenness of grief, only to find its passing lighter than dust blowing in the wind.

Shuffling and tapping behind him. "Can't you go any faster? I could bang a couple whores, kill their pimps, and still be back before you even have the coffee done," came the expected sarcasm.

"It is not wise to be too good at something," El answered, dividing the food between two plates. Handing one to Sands, he took the other back to the bedroom, sitting down on the mattress to eat. "You might try to kill me."

"When I haven't figured out where you stashed the 15 million pesos? Don't be ridiculous; I'd torture you first," cracked the American, following.

On the other hand, El would dare the most serene saint of the Church to spend an hour with Sands and not be completely distracted. Though he would also have to warn them against laying a finger on the other man, well-meant or…badly-intentioned. El'd fought too much, gone through too much, to consider giving up any part of the man. "So. How many left?" the mariachi asked, once he'd downed breakfast.

"One," Sands replied, carefully forking up beans into his mouth. Smearing a little on his lip, he stopped to lick it off. "Last one."


"And it'll pretty much finish off the cartels here, so we could probably go out for coffee afterwards," Sands continued, setting the empty plate on the side and draining the rest of his java. "After that, we can take a break. Or whatever."

"A break?" El had a little trouble remembering the concept. "That…would be nice."

"Any idea what'd we be doing on vacation?" For once, Sands sounded serious.

Grunting a negative, El picked up Sands' dishes and deposited them, along with his own, in the sink before returning. He pulled up a chair and opened up the guitar case, taking out the first gun and commencing to clean it. They sat in meditative silence for some time before Sands spoke up again. "If you take me back to that little shithole Cucuy found you in, first thing I'm doing is hunting down the priest, whether or not he's a ghost. Second thing is dousing the local cemetery with holy water."

"I won't," El reassured the other man, trading one pistol for another. Blowing out air, Sands flopped sideways across the bed and held out a hand. El, lips quirking, passed the American one of the hand cannons and a soft rag. "It's odd…" the mariachi murmured, taking a break to look over at the window, sniffing salt and freshness. "I've never seen the sea. And I never would have, if we hadn't-"

"-signed up for repeated first-degree homicide?" Sands finished cheerfully, making short work of the gun. "El, my man, we need to broaden your horizons. Maybe even change the kind of pants you wear-what the fuck?"

Also glancing down at the scratching, El froze.

"Fuckwit?" Sands shifted uneasily on the bed. "El? Mind sparing me a word, here? Like what we're staring at?"

"There's a cockroach."

The other man blinked in disbelief. "That's it? A bug?"

"It's bigger than my gun. My gun that you're holding. And it's…walking in a circle."

"Shit!" Sands yelped, immediately swinging his feet onto the mattress and scrambling closer to El. "Well, kill it already! Does everything have to be supersized around you?"

Cautiously, quietly, El leant down and grabbed the insect in a piece of cloth, which he then slung out the window. He remained there a few minutes, hands on the sill as he watched the rag fall and unravel, letting the cockroach out to roam freely. A boy on a bike rode by, then turned back and picked up the bug curiously, examining it before tossing it carelessly over one shoulder.

"Hey, am I missing something here?" Twisting back, El retook his seat and resumed seeing to his weapons with redoubled care. "When cockroachs behave oddly indoors," the mariachi explained somberly, "It is a warning of danger. And their size shows the size of the danger."

"Oh, great." Sands flipped onto his belly, propping chin up on one hand. "El. We've ransacked entire cartels. We've gotten possessed by a hellbitch and we mess around with the dead. Hell, we even saw the reality behind 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.' And now, we're going on folklore based on a cockroach? Don't you find that just a little insulting?"

//No. You believe in ghosts. How hard is it to believe in omens?// El asked in reply.

"Didn't say I don't believe in it, dumb as it is," the other man commented. "It's just that-well, come on. Like we need a parasite to tell us we're gonna have a shitty day."

Hand paused over the pistol barrel, El opened his mouth, closed it, and then, finally, said, "When we left Culiacan, that was the first time I didn't think about dying. And yesterday was the first day I wanted to live."

"Yeah. Timing sounds about right for a major shitfest," the American muttered, returning the hand cannon and slipping on his sunglasses. "Well, fuck all of them, and their little dogs, too. Last time the world went psychedelic, I fell into a well and ended up with you."

But now I'm content with this world, was on the tip of El's tongue, but he held the unspoken words close in his throat.

"And if anyone's stupid enough to try stealing from me," Sands suddenly added, tone oddly grim, "I'll skullfuck them to pieces."

The chill in his belly dissipating in spite of itself, El put down the case and all the weapons but one, moving swiftly to straddle Sands' back before the other man could wriggle away. He clamped down on the American's wrists, stroking the gun along Sands' cheek as he bent to whisper, "See anything?"

"Just one limpdicked Mexican twit," the other man snorted, pretending to ignore the growing hardness pressing against his ass. And his own corresponding erection. "You hear anything?"

"Only the church bells," the mariachi answered, nibbling delicately at the thin curl of an ear, sweeping the cold gun in a slow curve across Sands' throat. "They say we have two hours."

At last deigning to respond, Sands pressed back against gun and cock, arching up teasingly. "So hurry up." He craned awkwardly around to graze teeth on the edges of El's jaw. "Get moving 'fore it gets cold. Like your cooking."

Instead, El deliberately slackened his pace, temporarily dropping the gun in order to dig up a spare strap from their bags on the floor, and then pulling the swearing American's arms behind Sands' back to bind them there. Not that Sands was resisting very much. El scooped up a tin of salve as well before he picked up the pistol again, tracing its icy barrel around the angles of Sands' shoulderblades, now thrown into sharp relief by straining arms. The other man gasped, momentarily speechless.

Lifting up on his knees, the mariachi nudged the other man into rolling over, which revealed the fact that, apparently, Sands didn't button up anything before noon. Unable to choose between mockery and resignation, El ended up leaning down to lick that lovely open stretch of skin, from collarbone to bellybutton, and then even lower. A snarl brought him slithering back up to find Sands' sunglasses slipping off backward. El poked them with the gun. "You want these back on?"

"What I want," Sands gritted out, very slowly and ominously, "Is for you to stop teasing and fuck me into the floor before breakfast freezes over." Suddenly whipping sideways, he sucked the tip of the gun into his mouth, rose tongue peeking out as it twirled over the dark metal. El had to fight to remember how to breathe properly. "Or the next time," the other man continued, "I'll fuck you on the pool table right after we're done."

"What if they don't have a pool table?" El queried, putting the gun away while he surreptitiously smeared salve on his fingers. Dropping the tin, he one-handedly worked both men's pants down.

As he couldn't roll his eyes, Sands settled for a disgusted look, trapped arms tugging impatiently at their bindings. "Then I'll settle for the goddamn whirlpool, like last time. Now hurry up, before I decide fighting with a sore ass isn't worth-fucking God."

A rare smirk tingeing his face, El braced himself against Sands and pushed down a little farther, rocking around till he had a suitably mind-spasming angle. The American lolled back into the blankets for a moment, and then snapped his body upwards, sending El forwards onto tremoring elbows that narrowly missed Sands' face. //Christ Jesus, more--// the mariachi groaned, shoving himself up.

"You motherfucking fathersucking bastard," Sands grunted, raising up as best he could and ramming El into a much quicker pace. "You-cheated."

"You fight better…if I fuck you afterwards…not before," El gasped, plunging himself down and losing himself in the roaring. Distantly, he felt his body shuddering and Sands' ejaculation splashing up inside him.

When his rate of breath had slowed back to a languid wheeze, El absently tugged the strap from the other man's wrists. Air whistled through the cracks in the windowsill, and he cocked his head in momentary attention, then sagged onto his side. "Seventy minutes."

"'kay," Sands mumbled, crawling over the mariachi's back towards the side-table. "Where'd you put the leftovers?"


Jabbing distastefully at the lump by his feet, Sands glanced down, sighed, and used his shoe to turn over another body. "Damn it. None of them are him."

You checked all of them?

"No, I've been stuck here for a quarter-hour with fifteen corpses, and I haven't looked at a single one," Sands growled back at the empty room. "Of course I did. We've got cash, cigarettes, enough bullets and guns for a couple dozen coups. Even some decent booze. But no fat fucker."

Irately smacking the bodies with his cane, Sands grabbed his duffel bag and began to make his way towards the glowing dot in his head. "I told you to save the machine guns. But no, you had to spray 'em all, and so instead of staying in one nice clump, they scattered and ran."

They had snipers. With rifles.

"And this was different from all the other times how?" the American demanded, not actually wanting an answer. And judging from the silence in his head, El didn't want to give one. But the mariachi could be goddamned masochistic when it came to honesty, and of course, El eventually said, They were aiming at you, not me.

"Well, thank you very much for making me feel protected, you big, strong man, you," Sands bit back, stride faster and more jarring. His cane whipped back and forth in front of him as he stepped into the garage where they'd made their initial entrance: tailgating a returning cartel limo and slipping in before their opponents could close the door. "Now we've got to spend all afternoon trying to find that one last jackass-"

Flinging himself backwards, Sands dropped the bag and snapped a gun into his hand just as fire seared past his shoulder. The corner of his vision caught the grayish blur, and he whirled, shooting till the shape abruptly focused into another dead body. An overweight one, done up pretty in sepia and crimson as color suffused the form's grayness, making it stand out vividly in the surrounding blackness. The accountant.

Sands? Sands?

"Never mind, I found the bast-" as he came forward to verify the identity, Sands' foot struck something small and skittery. His cane-tip smashed it to a stop, and Sands scraped it across the floor back to him, picking it up just as El's clink came in behind him.

A cell phone. Beeping.


"What's wrong?" the mariachi asked, carefully avoiding Sands' grazed shoulder as he bent over the other man to look. The breeze suddenly gusted into low mechanical grumblings, and when Sands lifted his head, he saw the dead were laughing. "We need to get out," he hissed at El, who was already tossing things into the DeSoto.

And that was when the explosion slammed into the walls, shaking the gate till it crashed down. Black burst around them, accompanied by the rattle of gunfire.


It was flat land all about, El remembered. Nothing behind which the cartel men could hide, and now, nothing to block the bullets that were drenching the shed.

He couldn't stand. He could barely muster enough strength to raise a gun, let alone shoot. If he had been able to aim. The ghosts here weren't disposed to be cooperative, and even second sight couldn't pierce adobe and steel.

"So, any ideas?" came a grating voice.

"Are you hurt?" El asked, trying unsuccessfully to keep the gurgling out of his words.

"Yeah." For once, even Sands couldn't master the effort to be flippant. No point in cursing, El reluctantly admitted. Not now. Wet fingers twitching, he clumsily counted the number of bullets he had left, minutely relaxing once he'd assured himself they were more than two. "I won't die here," the mariachi replied, digging deep for enough energy to get himself to the car. "Not with them."

"That's just peachy for you, isn't it? If you let those dickless sombrero-toting whores get my body," Sands retorted, "I'll fuck every saint till they open the pearly gates so I can kick your ass." The American sounded faint, despite the undiluted acid of his words.

A burning chuckle somehow blooming forth from his wrecked chest, El shook his head. "I won't leave you."

As if a curtain had dropped, the gunfire outside suddenly ceased. "They've stopped shooting," El muttered.


The last words he remembered hearing were, "Fucker. You go without me and-"

The last words he remembered saying were, "Won't. I'll come, and I'll find…"

After that, it was lapping dark and sinking chill. No up, no down, no direction or time. No limbs to move, no light to see, no air to breath. Only shadows and water and a sensation of spreading, as if he were melting into the water, rising and ebbing with the tides.

Only shades and a memory. Fire eyes and candle voice, marking the way.


He's been playing guitar for a long time. Longer, he sometimes thinks, than even his life has spanned. He looks in the mirror and sees wisdom he doesn't recall learning, he looks at his fingers and watches them draw songs he doesn't recall composing. And he looks in others, too, searching for something he can't sense except by dream-feel.

He's been wandering over the land for a long time. Long enough to learn more than floating music; long enough to learn the solidity of guns. He's lived long enough to become more than good with either wood or steel, though deep in his gut, he knows that that too is not wholly his own.

Whatever it is that lies coiled within him, it's marked him inside and out, keeping him drifting, always drifting. Even if he hadn't been bound to seek out the wind, he would have never been able to settle in one place. But having the search does help him make temporary peace with his loneliness, and for that, he dismisses any resentment he might have held toward it.

Instead, he puts it all in his guitar, which is how he earns his livelihood. Modernity has not yet twisted its hooks into the entire stretch of this country, and there still remain towns where the mariachi is respected. He's playing in one tonight, allowing his eyes to wander the crowd as he sings. He sees the usual mix of hard-stamped peasants and poor, old and young. He notes the clump of local beauties, who giggle and flutter long lashes when they catch his gaze. But he does not find what he is seeking-is that--

--no. Those eyes, deepset pebbles in a village elder, are not it. Disappointed, he nearly glares at the innocent old man, and it is then that he glimpses something. Not much, but enough to provoke a trace of eternity into the strands of song weaving through the air.

And the eyes respond.

Later, when the sun has set and the inn is emptying, he takes the elder aside. And gets his answer before he's asked his question. //The cemetery//, the sagging mouth tells him, crinkled sticks of fingers patting the guitar reverently. //Go play for the dead, but don't ask for a gift. You don't need it.//


He's on vacation. God knows, he could have afforded some place far more luxurious than this flea-ridden heap of huts in deep Mexico, but he's tired of the usual. He's tired of the normal tourist-trap junket, of bringing back the same goddamn stories as everyone else. He's been planning a few career changes, anyway, and he figures the best way to shift his mindset is to completely overhaul his habits. Find a nice, inconspicuous hole, make it his, and work from there.

Which, if anyone asks, is the explanation for why he's currently wandering in the town graveyard, silently mocking the gaudiness of the brightly-painted, exuberant tombstones. What he's doing now is getting the real flavor of life. Is finding everything that the travel agencies don't want people to see. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the odd tug in his belly, or the weird spiderweb dreams that he cannot, no matter how hard he tries, preserve till after the cock crows. He's just walking along, scoping the neighborhood like a cop on his beat.

And if he chooses to turn his steps toward the music that has sprung up, that's just because he wants to soak in all this southern bizarreness, to store it up against the soul-drudging blandness back in the States. It most definitely is not because he suddenly feels laid-back and comfortable, like he already has come home.

He tracks the shimmering sound to one large mausoleum, from which a tall splotch of coal detaches itself. Strangely nervous, he nevertheless forces his chin to stay up as he meets the other's eyes-


--and feels everything click.

"You're late," he's told.

"Fuck you, Bojangles," Sands replies, flicking a cigarette between his lips. "Quality takes time, money, and a good brace of pistols." He lights up, sauntering closer as he does, and then glances about. "Speaking of, where's the other one?"

Casually snatching the other man's cancerstick as he turns, El takes a deep drag off of it while he bumps the tomb's gates open to display a second guitar case. And a large pallet, big enough for two. "Inside."

The American grins nostalgically as he shakes out another cigarette. "Least you found an exorcised one."

"You still have it?" the mariachi queries, startled.

"Don't you?" is Sands' reply, and he's not at all surprised when the other man nods. "And this time around, I've got my real eyes, my bank accounts, and my sources. This should be interesting."

"Yes," El agrees, stealing Sands' second cigarette, and then stealing the American's protest in a deep kiss. "It should be."


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