Tangible Schizophrenia


Reformatting: Dream.exe

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: NC-17. Real and metaphysical sex. Some d/s and noncon issues.
Pairing: Good God, how am I supposed to keep track? Physically, Sands/El. Mentally, permutations of Sands/Neo/Smith/El/Trinity/Merovingian.
Feedback: Please? Have no idea what I'm doing.
Disclaimer: Belongs to many other people who I've never met but still worship.
Summary: Third installment in The Mexico series.
Notes: Mexico/Matrix crossover. Any add-ons to Matrix canon are my own; I have no knowledge of Matrix fanon. Sands is physically blind in this one, and he has had eye reconstruction surgery. //words// in Spanish.


El abruptly snapped out of sleep, gasping as he jerked upright on the bed. Slowly bringing his breath back to his normal rate, he distractedly raked hands through the loose hair hanging about his face.

He had been dreaming in code again.

Beside him, the blankets rumpled and murmured, then resettled into tense uneasiness. Sands hadn't been sleeping well, either, though the one time El had commented on it, the American had torn the weak joke into mincemeat. It didn't matter. El knew without asking what was wrong. After all, he had been having the same problem ever since he and Sands had driven away from the hospital.

Afterwards, they had holed up in a little dust clump of a town, almost the twin of the one in which Sands had found El, and had rested. Waiting for Sands to regain lost weight, to rebuild muscle, waiting for both men to readjust. Waiting for the voices to die away into white static. Except that hadn't happened. If anything, the extra presences El and Sands carried were becoming more pronounced, were bleeding into the flesh and soul of the two men. Trinity was apologetic, the Merovingian was snide, but neither one could tell El what was going on. And none of them could figure out how to stop it.

When El reached out for them now, Trinity felt less like the edge of the sword, spare and graceful, and more like the razor of the dagger, pointed and direct. The Merovingian's elegant slurs were becoming less clipped, more liquid, as if the heat of Mexico had begun to melt the steel of his tongue. And every so often, when El spoke, French phrases would bob to the surface of his curtness. When he moved, he was still himself, but sometimes El would look at a wall, or the roof of a tall building, and he would remember the slice of air as he ripped its fabric, as he twisted it to whirl wildly through the air. And it would ache, that absence, for that brief moment between the recollection and the realization.

Because they weren't his memories.

El searched the vastness of the Merovingian's knowledge for hours and for hours, but he still had no answer. He could guess, but he had no faith in his predictions, for they arose from the foundation of another world, a horrifying nightmare and a lovely garden of poison. He could draw upon himself, but when he looked there, all he found were the dark gaps of missing pieces. He could fill them in with his guests, but El instinctively shied away from even the thought of letting anyone else have a fraction of himself. He could look for the absent parts, but something deep within him warned that he would not like where he would find them.

Having no other option, El waited. Blood-tinged eyes shooting out their bleary gaze from beneath tangled hair, knees drawn up to his chest, one hand stroking across the gun beneath his pillow. Curled up in the bed, checking and rechecking the contents of the tiny rented room, he watched patiently in the darkness.


When Sands sat up in the wasteland this time, it was to find a displeased Agent Smith glaring back at him. Ignoring the other man's scowl, Sands snatched off the twinkling sunglasses and slipped them over his own-replacement balls of flesh-noting in passing that the shades did nothing to dim his new sight. "Hey, nice," he admired. "At least I got freaks with good fashion sense."

"To make up for your own deficiency, of course," Smith remarked dryly. "Your memories are most edifying, Mr. Sands. I particularly enjoyed the decorative pointlessness of the third arm."

"I particularly hope that Neo gets back and kicks your ass again," Sands replied, tossing the sunglasses back. Catching them with one precise movement, the other man carefully unfolded the eyepieces, but did not slip them back on. "Neo is currently occupied with his lover," Smith said, archly puritanical. "Or rather, he is preoccupied with the attempt at his lover. There seems to be a difficulty with the connection."

"If you're expecting me-" Sands began, but his companion cut him off brusquely.

"I never expect you to do anything," Smith said, stamping the outline of his words into the air. "You expect certain things and actions from yourself, and I merely…anticipate."

"Is that a fact?" Wriggling his fingers in front of him, Sands watched as they left shimmering trails behind them. "Because I distinctly recall you predicting your own gloating, and then Neo coming back to deconstruct your fucking operators, AI."

"I am not a mere AI," the other man snapped heatedly, before he could help himself. Visibly reining in his anger, Smith continued, "And would your visit here have a purpose, Mr. Sands?"

Sands laughed, stretching out his legs. "You sound like you're not happy to see me. Even though you were the one who decided to hang your tie in here."

Turning away, his companion nearly shuffled his feet. Jaw muscle twitching, Smith replied, "I didn't. Choose. You did, and Mr. Anderson accepted."

"Oh, yeah. That's right. You and him are like yin-yang," Sands mused. "Besides the fact that he always fucks you right in the ass." He saw the punch coming and backflipped away. Dropping back down, Sands stared at his hands and feet in wonder. "Damn. If I could do this outside-" answering growl with lopsided smirk "-sorry, did I strike a nerve? You didn't like my phrasing of the situation? Or maybe you liked it too much-"

Smith took a step forward, and Sands shut up, though he continued to keep close observation on the flickering mess of emotions crossing the other man's face. Agent Smith took a breath, infinitesimally deeper than his regular intake, and said lowly, "I cannot understand why, of all people, I or Mr. Anderson would end up in you."

That pricked up the antennae. "So you know why you're here?" Sands asked. Too quickly. Grinning cruelly, his companion was clearly reveling in his silent smugness. "Oh, for-" Sands irritably chopped his hands through the air "-not telling me doesn't do a damn thing for anyone. Actually, it probably hurts you, because the less I know, the less I can do about the melding. Yeah, now you're paying attention. It's more than just space-share, fuckmook. I could probably hack Langley now, if I felt like digging up a Net hook-up in this whoring shit of a country. And you're spewing repressed horniness like I haven't seen since grade school."

"Mr. Sands, I believe you and I have reached an irreconcilable misunderstanding," Smith seethed, the tendons bulging out of the backs of his curling hands. Snorting, the other man shook his head. "Don't even think of trying that karate shit on me, in here," he retorted. "You know it won't work. This isn't your playground anymore; you've got to watch your back like everyone else."

"Do I appear to be a child?"

"When I look at how you were before, hell yeah," Sands shrugged. "Now that you've grown up a bit, allow me to welcome you to the real world. Don't step in the dog shit, and remember to point your guns at someone else when you're cleaning them, so you don't blow something important off. 'Less, of course, you lean that way-"

"In commonplace slang, the proper description for you would be 'full of shit'," Smith interrupted. "You don't know anything at all."

"Wrong again, corporate slut," Sands crowed. Tone shading to serious, he said, "I know this. You got yourself a soul." He held up an implacable hand to forestall the protest. "Programs are just a billion switches flipping off other switches. Like people in an L. A. traffic jam. And somehow, I don't think computer signals can be sent across dimensions very well. God knows my cell was always on goddamn 'roam' when it wasn't spitting in my ear."

Smith did a very accurate imitation of a goldfish gulping food flakes. "Doesn't matter whether it's your own, or if you're just mooching off Neo's like you do with everything else of his," Sands went on. "You've still got one."

The other man's mouth clicked shut and clenched. And then, barely moving his lips, Smith gritted, "Get out."

"I just got here!" Sands objected.

"Get. Out." Smith gestured once, like he was crushing someone's throat. "Now."

"Before you forget and hurt us?" Sands replied, amused. "My, what a sense of humanity you're developing."

He blinked out just in time for Smith's outstretched hands to wring space instead of flesh.


Sands thrashed himself awake, nearly jumping at the hands that suddenly came down to restrain him. "Christ, El," he said hoarsely. "You're gonna break my arms."

The mariachi pushed himself off the American. "You were going to break the bed." He turned away to retrieve something from the floor-his guitar. So El had been up for awhile. Good. If Sands had someone bugging him, then he was damned well going to share the wealth.

"Hate to say this," Sands muttered, lying on his back, "But we've got to straighten this shit out."

El nodded, idly plucking at the strings. "They're helping you?" he queried carelessly.

"No," the other man returned shortly. "And I take it that yours aren't, either."

"The woman wants her lover," El replied, strumming a few chords. His music modulated from wild to bohemian to…almost debauched. And then El slapped one palm over the strings, breaking the melody. Frustration tingeing his face, the mariachi replaced the guitar in its case, and then leaned back moodily against the headboard. "And the man is angry, and angry because he didn't think he could be angry."

"Your nonsense added to their nonsense equals jack shit," Sands sighed, rubbing his temples.

"His wife was here, but she already died," El explained. "You killed her, in the square."

"Ajedrez?" Slanting a startled look over at the other man, Sands pulled himself up so he could see all of El's shadowed face. "She was-" he concentrated "-Persephone?"

"Yes. Although she never knew. The two of them were together from the beginning, I think." El gazed back steadily at Sands. //And my wife carried a man named Morpheus within her. They both lived out their lives, without having quarrels within themselves.//

"And your two told you this?" Sands asked skeptically. In response, El absentmindedly nodded, apparently preoccupied with something.

"So what's going on?" the American demanded.

El lifted and dropped one shoulder. "I only know their pasts. They have to tell me anything else," the mariachi answered. Trinity saw Morpheus in my memories of Carolina, and the Merovingian said he could smell his wife's blood on you." He paused, and then added quietly, //I think Carolina and Ajedrez didn't notice who they had, because Morpheus and Persephone were content with who they became, and didn't speak up.//

"Great," Sands mumbled through his disgusted breath. "And what, ours are too messed up to calm down and enjoy the ride? We have to make them happy first?"

A hand suddenly clamped down, hard enough to bruise, on Sands' arm. Bending over, El whispered, voice stormy and warning, "I. Am. Not. A. Woman."

"Well, fuck, I never noticed," Sands snapped back. "Even if I did like you, you think I'd sleep with someone who's tried to suffocate me? Just so some pretty can get it on with his girlfriend?"

"No," El acknowledged, a smile briefly tugging at his lips as he released the other man and leant back. "Altruism does not suit you."

"Back at you," Sands said warily, darting a keen glance at the mariachi. "You're being awfully nice, all things considered."

"Marquez is dead." El tilted his head to rest it on the wall. "The President lives, and he works for Mexico. However you had meant it to happen no longer matters to me."

"Due to the huge fucking stack of my pesos you and your bandies stole from me," the American grumbled. "But you're being practical for once."

"I dream of rules and numbers," the other man murmured, more to himself than to Sands. "How couldn't I?"

Obscurely irked by that, Sands snapped back before he could think, "Yeah? Figures you'd get angst lite. I have fucking visions of flying." El shot him a probing look, and Sands inwardly winced, flopping backwards. It didn't help; he could still feel that darkened gaze scoring over his flesh. "I-he-they miss it," he finally disclosed, feeling as if he'd just shoved a pistol down his throat. "Have fun glaring at the moon, Mariachi Man. I'm getting some sleep."

The American flipped over and huddled under the blankets, but it was a long length of night that unrolled before Sands truly found slumber. And when he did, they were waiting for him once again.


In all honesty, El wasn't sure who didn't want to kill who. The problem was, seeing Sands like this in the moonlight, dressed in silver and barred over in shadow, the mariachi had a hard time remembering what he had felt for the man before. And he had an even more difficult time determining whose fault that was.

Trinity was in love with Neo. That needed no words, though the pair of them spent endless amounts of time talking to each other. Talking at each other, more like. Sometimes it seemed like El was trapped in a radio, immersed in the constant babble of other people's lives. The Merovingian, on the other hand…from that corner, El caught echoes of hate and aggravation and, if Neo had risen close to the surface in Sands, fury and desire. Want of death, want of life, want of love, want of everything. The man was jealous of humanity, jealous of seeing his future reborn and upset at his failure. He sought to conquer his desires by gaining ownership over all that went into men and women, and thus could not keep hold of anything, much less himself.

But once, when El had been riffling through the contents of his case and had turned up Carolina's necklace, he had heard the sound of sobbing, twice over. Trinity for Morpheus, the Merovingian for his wife Persephone-the only link to his past that he had never destroyed.

To be truthful, however, El had only a passing interest in the private sorrows of the spirits in his head. What was more disturbing-he involuntarily glanced over at Sands, and-

Love you, love you, love you…

Gasps and grunting and slick-sliding heat, always too quick but there was never any time, never enough of this wonder. Only hurried kisses, quick loving caresses to remove the barriers between skin and skin, and then God-so filling. Deeper, deeper, arching back to clutch and pull and watch him plunging above--

Spitting out an oath, El shoved himself away and off the bed, stomping his feet into his boots and tucking a gun into his waistband. And then, even more angrily, he yanked the gun out and strapped it to his wrist, where it should have gone. He stalked out of the room and blindly made his way to the roof, crimson clouding over his eyes.

Red. Red leather, blooming around her luscious form like the petals on a newly-unfurled flower. Red blood beneath her nails, red haze over her white form as it teased and danced away and back.

Red like her lips as she kissed him, red like his soul when she deceived. Bloody like his heart, when he thought she had left. Scarlet like the apple she was eating, when he stumbled in to find her returned.

El seized the railings and squeezed till the color of his knuckles went to bone, till the metal grooved into his palms and started to hurt. That wasn't his sorrow. No matter how much it tore like his grief for Carolina and their daughter tore. It wasn't him, it wasn't-

Wasn't him, and yet like him. Funeral clothing sheathing the brilliant viridescence. Wife no longer so bright and flaming, time fading her to burgundy black dullness. But under those eyes, she flickered to life, and it wasn't because of him. It was-someone not him, but perhaps in the future…no. Someone he could have been, instead of someone that could become him. Worse than a rival. Far worse.

"Shut up," El growled, twisting his hands around the iron, trying to wring its straightness crooked. "Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!" he bellowed, ripping himself away. Pain flared across his palms, and El looked down to see crimson well up in the hollows of his hands. Looked-

--and fell.


Fingers were patting over his face. Thin, long. Calloused from guns. Grunting, El slowly opened his eyes and sat up.

Kneeling beside him, Trinity was staring worriedly at the mariachi. And surprisingly, the Merovingian also stood near, though as usual, the man's expression was inscrutably haughty. "Are you all right?" she asked tentatively, raising a hand towards El's brow.

He flinched away, and she dropped it. Face set in simmering irritation, El glared balefully at the other two. "No. I'm not." He spat out his next words as if dashing acid in their faces. "You lied. You're stealing me from myself."


"Why on earth would you cling to such painful stimuli?" the Merovingian interrupted.

"You know why," El retorted bitterly, getting to his feet. "The sorrow, the anger--it's mine, and no one else's." Shooting a sidelong glance at the other man, he let his lips curve into a broken crescent. "You know, or you wouldn't be so mad when I remember your wife."

"Persephone was my wife because-" Growling, El snapped a zigzag through the air with one hand. "She was your wife," the mariachi said. "That's all that you really care about. Anything else you say is just bullshit."

"El, we're not trying to do this to you," Trinity whispered, eyes large and regretful.

"I know, I know." El stared off over the plain of badlands in which he had found himself. "But I still-damn it. Sands isn't Neo. I'm not you. And I don't like the other one he has with him-Smith, I think?"

"We can't make you do anything you don't wish to do." The words were in the wrong voice. Startled, El turned back to arch an eyebrow at the abruptly somber Merovingian. "When you feel us," the other man continued, obviously straining to speak simply, "you feel us, and we feel you. No more, no less. If you act on anything, it would be because you desired to."

"Go to hell," El began, and then his rising annoyance sputtered his English to nothing. He switched to Spanish and continued, voice rich vitriol, //You want what you can't have, and so you settle for trash. You collect shit off the street, and think you're rich. And when you finally have what you've always dreamed of, you break it. When you come across it again, you try to smash it before it can touch you.// He spun on one heel and strode off a few jarring paces, and then stopped. "Tu sais tout, et tu comprends rien!" he yelled, and then froze.

Trinity rose hastily, fear flooding her body. "El, wait-don't-"

"Fuck you!" the mariachi screamed, whirling away. A thick pall fell over El's sight, and-

--the ground rippled violently, sending all three to their knees. Eyes widening, El instinctively let himself go limp, rolling with the waves of dirt, action blanking out his mind.

The earthquake instantly stopped.

Reminding himself to suck in air, the mariachi gazed intensely at the grains of dust between his fingers, recalling the last few seconds. He thought…and the wasteland shook, ever so slightly.

Two hands grabbed his arms. "Cease…please," the Merovingian panted. Lying half next to him and half on him, Trinity nodded. There was warm wetness spreading between El's skin and sleeve. Reluctantly grunting an affirmation, El shook off their hands, and only then did he see the bloody cuts that split the other two's palms.

Trinity caught his gaze and held her left hand up, smiling a little ruefully. "Sometimes it carries over, sometimes it doesn't. We don't know why."

"That's all I ever get from you," El replied. The woman regarded him steadily, and then asked cautiously, holding herself ready to bolt, "Why are you so frightened?"

"You've seen what Sands is like, yes?" reminded El, tossing her an incredulous look. "And I would let that into my bed because…"

"Love and lust are almost indistinguishable, and neither is known for its logic," the Merovingian offered carelessly. Too carelessly; he must have still been shaken.

"Anyone who says that is a fool," the mariachi snapped. "Stop pretending to have all the answers; you've only begun to live."

"From the man who has deliberately forgotten how," the other man answered, voice gritty and jagged with sarcasm. "What do you fear?"

"You want a list?" El laughed hollowly. "Myself. Feeling and loss. Surrender." Rage tainting his smile, he cocked his head. "Why? Are you trying to persuade me differently?"

"I thought you were trying to convince me," the Merovingian said, low and pulsing.

"I miss Morpheus," Trinity confessed suddenly. "El-none of us that are here never really had a life. We came out of a lie into a…a quest. It ate us whole, except for a few. Like Morpheus. I-damned if I know how, but he was happy. It was like he was born to it. The only thing he ever missed, I think, was someone to wake up to."

The Merovingian's hair, once perfectly styled, was falling loose over the front of his face. He murmured absently, "Persephone always wanted two things: an upper hand and a family."

El drew in a slow breath. "So. You died. And now you want to try again. That's why you came here."

Face suddenly blooming with understanding, Trinity gave him a small nod; the Merovingian blinked. "I…didn't realize soulless constructs could cross dimensions," the other man muttered to himself.

The mariachi heard him anyway. "You wish you were," El replied, tone well-steeped in irony. "Then you wouldn't hurt. I know. I don't want to be injured any more than I already am."

"You've never been fucked," the other man blurted, badly disconcerted and stumbling.

Snorting, El stood up once more. "I know you have. I know you've tried everything," he told the Merovingian. "But that is not my fear. What comes after it-I don't trust anyone with anything anymore." Without waiting for an answer, he walked swiftly away into the night-shrouded desert.



Someone was slapping his face, and none-too-gently. Reflexively, El reared up off the ground and backhanded whoever it was off of him. Or tried to. The mariachi felt his hand glance past, and then he recognized the voluble curses. "Sands?" he queried.

"Skullfucking jackass."

"What are you doing here?" El demanded, taking in his surroundings. He was still on the balcony, and the sky was still black. His hands ached, but the cuts had already scabbed over. And the American had exchanged his share of the bed for a seat against the railing.

"You passed out, you great fucking girl's blouse," Sands snapped, rubbing at his reddening cheek. "Made this thud, which woke me up." He kicked at El, who, aggravated beyond belief, kicked back. And a moment after that, they were thrashing across the narrow space, clawing and yanking and swearing heavily as they bumped and bruised themselves against the walls and metal balustrade. El's hands cracked open and left bloody prints all over; bits of Sands' clothing and hair fluttered over the side, bleak confetti returning to the earth.

The ending remained in doubt far longer than either man expected. Sands had been trained in various methods of underhand fighting, but he'd refrained from actually using it himself for quite some time, preferring to send others out as cannon fodder. El was heavier and taller, and his skills were kept honed by constant battle, but he was also having a more difficult time dealing with the people in his head. And Sands, being no idiot, had removed all the weapons from El to one side before trying to wake him up.

Punching the mariachi with one hand, Sands let the other drift back till it touched chilly metal. Of course, that also meant he couldn't block the return headbanging, but a moment later, when he'd shoved forward and seen El's pupils swallow up the white-no, gold glitter--the American decided the bleeding lips were worth it. Nudging the gun a little deeper into the soft flesh, just under El's chin, Sands smirked and said, "Okay. Let's try this again."

El went limp under him, and fearing it was a trap, Sands immediately clamped his legs tighter around the other man. But the mariachi only huffed, turning his face away. "So do it," he muttered resignedly. "But make sure you kill me afterwards. Or I will hunt you to your grave."

"Oh, for…" Sands slurred. He took a moment to lick his lips clean, and then continued, "Will you stop assuming I want to have sex with you? It's Neo and Trinity that are the fucking lovebirds here. I just would like a civil conversation, figure this out and be on my way, but no, you have to get all high and butch all the time. Hence-" rubbing the gun along the clenched jaw "-use of direct force. Savvy?"

"Get off of me," El growled, still not meeting Sands' eyes. The American pretended to consider it, and then shook his head. "Ah…no," he replied. "A couple more nights like this and even Starbucks coffee won't do shit for me. And believe me, El, you do not want to see me sleep-deprived."

"I don't want to see you at all." Sands slid the gun up to nestle just under the mariachi's right eye. "That can be remedied, you know," he hissed. "If thine eye offend you, pluck it out."

El suddenly came to life, twisting and bucking till Sands smacked him, none-too-lightly, with the butt of the pistol. "Ow!" yelped the other man, still making a grab for the gun. They wrestled it back and forth, and the steel was slipping, slowly but surely, away from Sands. In desperation, he tried to knee El, but couldn't get down far enough, hitting El's stomach instead of his balls. Bojangles the Terminator just wheezed and snapped an elbow into Sands' chest, the pain doubling him over--

And then, the dust floated back down to sprinkle lightly over them. Breathing deep and quick, Sands blinked in surprise. He could have sworn that El had been on top of him…

The wrists he was pressing to the cold floor wrenched uselessly, while below him, one furious mariachi swore and snarled around the pistol Sands had thrust into El's mouth, gold glow rippling in the blackness. Shifting so his body weight would hold down El's legs, the American cautiously removed the gun. And instantly thereafter received spittle to the face. //Doglicker. Bastard son of shit and the Devil//, El gritted out, //Who the fuck am I talking to? Who, goddamn it?//

"Me-" Sands began, irked and breathless, but the other man whipped his head from side-to-side till his whole body shook in Sands' grip. //Bullshit. Bullshit! That wasn't Sands moving. Who is it? Neo? Smith? You assholes. You motherfucking-get off of me!//

Don't hurt him. Multiple voices.

Sands stilled. "Both of you?"

"Four," El corrected bitterly. "I can hear them all, when they're talking to the outside."

"And I can see them-you know something? Fuck off. Everyone just fuck off," Sands snapped. "Except you," he amended, staring at El. Pointedly setting the gun down to one side, Sands wiped the spit off his face and waited. El abruptly relaxed, expression ferociously hopeless. "Good. Now maybe you'll stop being such a stupid fucker," the American muttered.

"I am not stupid. I'm-"

"Freaking right out?" Sands finished. "Well, there's a really, really easy way to figure this all out." Deliberately not thinking of anything, he crouched down and sealed his lips over El's lips, tongue tasting the tequila and spices and faint metallic traces from the pistol. And then he quickly moved back, before El's mouth could respond. With lust or with violence. "So," Sands said, startled to find himself gasping again, "They weren't in that. You want to kill me or what?"

"Go to hell," El muttered painfully, twisting his head up to glare half-heartedly at the other man. "What about you? Want to sell me to death again? Mexico has plenty of other generals dying for power. And they'd all like my head on the wall."

"I…" Before he could answer, the mariachi craned up even farther and kissed Sands viciously, biting till he could lick up the resulting blood. "You think you can fuck me without help?" the other man jeered.

"Fuck you…" Dizzy at the lust soaking his body, intoxicating his mind, Sands almost went with it. He swayed forward, watching El's eyes grow large and cloud over. And remembered something. Halting just above the other man's face, so close the taste of El's breath rolled over his tongue, he asked quietly, "Was this predicted?"

"What?-" El got it, and replied sardonically, "-no. This isn't their world. This is ours. Everything's a possibility."

"So this really is just us," Sands muttered. Throwing himself off of the mariachi, he staggered inside, knocking into walls and furniture as he went. Not that he cared. Cared. "Oh, fuck." His nerves strung out, and then recoiled; Sands slammed his fist into the wall, feeling his knuckles gash. "No way. People are things; I set them up, I watch them fall, I pick their pockets when they're dead. No-okay. Okay. I'm going-"

"To freak right out?" El rasped from behind him. "Why? You've already lost your eyes. You shouldn't miss your mind." Heat briefly blasted one side of Sands into ash as the other man pushed by him in the narrow hallway. Bedsprings whined loudly as El flopped onto the bed they shared, visible arm replacing invisible gun under the pillow.

"You trust me enough to fall asleep, but you don't trust me enough to screw," Sands stated unsteadily, massaging his temples.

"I trust Neo to watch over Trinity," El replied, irony seeping out of his voice. "I don't trust you. I don't like you."

Sighing, Sands grudgingly crossed the room and joined the mariachi on the mattress. "Fucking hypocrite," he muttered. "You want 'em and you don't."

"Who do you want?" El shot back.

No words.


"This isn't working at all."

"I noticed. Odd. Neither of them seems to be known for their restraint."

"Merv. Shut up or help. We're in, and now we can't back out. And I don't know about you, but I don't want to die."

"Oh, yes. Now that you have the chance to opt out of tragically motivating self-sacrifice, you'll settle happily for suburban domesticity with your reborn hero."

"Do you want to die? Before you-Jesus. El was right. You and Persephone, you both came for what you couldn't get back in the Matrix. She wanted to be free of love, to have it come to her instead of her being trapped in it. And you…you pathetic bastard. You just want love, don't you?"

"You speak as if I'm a putain like yourself. 'I would fall in love with the One,' indeed. A proud justification for letting your idealism devour you. Surprised? Of course I heard. I heard about everything, there."

"Yeah? Well, you don't hear much now, do you? And-no, don't you-don't you fucking turn away from me. Look at-stare me in the eyes, you coward, and tell me you don't want to be them. To be in them, to just understand without having to boil everything down into code. Without dissecting the hell out of it so you miss the entire point and have no left but tatters."

"I…damn you. Damn you."

"You and your wife, you really were a match made in heaven."

"Then what would our relationship be, Trinity? I don't believe either of us asked to be placed together, and I somehow doubt that it was mere chance. Fate here may deal a fair hand, but from whence we came-"

Stumbling back, the Merovingian touched his lips. Feeling the lingering impress, and then feeling its silkiness feather down his insides, stroking light as the hair brushing over his eyes. "What-what are you…"

"Neo and I, we just want to know. That's what we want."

And space folded around them, preventing any other possible outcome except their inexorable gravity toward the middle, their pulling flow in and through and around. Smoothing edges, wearing rock to dust and watering saplings to maturity. Grinding and whirling and falling through openness, piercing where there were no entrances. Spinning up and crashing down, waterfalls of glimmering sheets falling to tranquil ripples.

"Oh. That's…that…"

"Neo showed Persephone, and I trusted him then. He trusts me now."

"That…I think I knew that, once."

"Wouldn't surprise me. Do you have a name?"

"My title."

"Idiot-fine. Did you have a name?"

"Did you?"

"Of course. But I answer to only Trinity now."

"It…does suit you." Overlapping waves. "If a mind is strong enough, it can reconstruct itself in code, and continue in that way long after the body has died. If a program rewrites the right lines, it can survive in the neural patterns of its host human after the person has disconnected."


"Lucifer. They called me Lucifer."


El's eyes snapped open to see the tousled back of Sands' head. Twisting his fingers in the bedsheets, he dragged himself away from the pool of serenity in his mind, seeking comfort in the familiar half-freezing, half-scorching numbness he knew was his own.

But it was draining empty. Gritting his teeth against the tremors, El curled in on himself, desperately holding himself back.


"I despise you."


"I don't want to be human. Humans are--"


"I fail to see why superiority comes equipped with a soul."

"I was told that the two of us are sides of the same coin. To keep everything in balance. I can make mistakes. I have made mistakes. So I'm not perfect. And neither are you."

"Sands could escape, but you cannot. I suggest you display a modicum of your pitiful survival instinct and-"

"Anger isn't very logical, you know. Neither is disgust, or self-delusion. You could actually consider processing that, instead of yelling at me."

"I do apologize for interrupting your precious time with her. It's always especially heartrending when two people aren't permitted to exchange fluids and hormones. And why aren't you trying to reach over to her?"

"I don't think Sands or El could take it, right now. And anyway, Trinity's busy finding out something." Pause while footsteps shuffled nearer. "Even if you hate me, we have to work on this. You do have self-preservation commands, right?"


"One of them's going to break, and then we're dead. We can die here. Persephone and-and Morpheus proved that."

"So it would seem. Are you suggesting an alliance, Neo?"

"No. I think that would break you. I just want a few answers."

"Very well. It should be amusing to see what interests your sadly inefficient mind holds."

"What were you planning to do after you won?"

"You saw the world I created-"

"No. That was just a battleground. Just a bunch of goddamned bragging, for show. What were you planning? How were you going to survive, once you'd destroyed all the people? What would've been your power source?"

"I was assimilating them."

"It's the same thing, in the long run. Their minds don't last very long with Agents in them; even if there hadn't been rebels, you would have still had to jump hosts."

"Other sources besides human beings exist, Mr. Anderson."

Fingers twining in hair, and yanking back hard. Useless struggling.

"My name is Neo."

"A pseudonym for fantastical roleplaying-"

"Not anymore. Do you have a first name, or are you just Agent Smith?"

"Your presumption-wait. Why isn't it working-why can't I-I can't--"

"Hey, hey. Calm down. Just…damn it, stop! You can hurt yourself here, too."

"If you have no more ridiculous questions, I would like to end this interview."

"Mad at me again. And you haven't given me one real answer, but of course you're ignoring that. But I do have a last question. If you hated humans so much, then why take them over? Why not just corrupt the operating programs?"

"Why are you asking?"

"I don't know, actually. At least, not yet."


Filling. Moistening. Tumbling. Everything antithetical, somehow become enjoyable. Mere pressure and nerve signaling transmuted to energy, to shattering fragments of numbers. To beyond the symbols.

"Huh. Think that went better than El and Sands'."



Taste. Salt and vanilla. Touch. Caressing loops of searing silk. Smell. Ozone and musk. Hearing. Crackling rain. Sight. Emerald and gold streaming beneath pale and black.


Fire and light, overloading synapses and blazing away layers and layers to leave bare bones behind, gleaming white and pearly.


Earth rising up, reclaiming the skeleton. Muscle and skin melting on, wrapping around in furious growth.


Words in flame, thoughts in stone. Flesh to flesh, spirit in spirit, one crack fitting against another crag, sealing together.




Recoil blasting him out of his edgy doze, Sands swiftly twisted up and over, mouth raking down El's neck and one hand pinning El's hands together on the side before the other man could fully realize what was going on.

//Bastard!// the mariachi roared, struggling violently once his mind had snapped to attention-and that took almost no time at all. Ignoring El's protests, noting the rising hardness against his leg, Sands ravaged down the skin of El's throat as his free hand dropped down the side of the bed, fumbling open the guitar case by touch and unhooking the instrument's strap. He rode up with the mariachi's buck, then bit down hard in retaliation for the knee that had just bruised his ribcage. Slurping up the blood, Sands wrenched the wrists up to the bars of the headboard.

At the feel of the guitar strap grazing over his hands, El abruptly ceased thrashing, sinking into a taut rictus of silent fury.

"You only get to answer once, so listen carefully," Sands grated, already lacking air. "Neo won't let anyone hurt Trinity. Trinity won't let anyone hurt Neo. And we can't fucking sleep-we have to fucking deal. Now. Or blow our brains out. You dig?"

"Your coffin, yes," El seethed. In response, the American headbutted him. //Goddamn you!// the mariachi snarled helplessly. //Goddamn all of it. Why the fuck did I say yes?//

//'Cause you felt like it, you fucker.// Shifting deliberately against El's erection, Sands turned his head from the liquid gold form across which he was spanning to the encompassing dark, cooling his…eyeball substitutes in the icy blackness. "The question is, would you be calmer if you did have a choice, or if you didn't?"

"Who are you doing this for?" El demanded, writhing a little. But Sands knew he would probably never get the upper hand again-El was one damn fast learner-and so he bore down as hard as he could.

Who? Himself, obviously. On the other hand, equally obvious was that El was really asking 'Why.'

Neo hadn't persuaded Sands. The American had had no idea about all the perks that came with his two spirits until after they had entered. Actually, he hadn't known his choice included possession, period. Which meant he didn't decide because he wanted to keep Neo and Smith, but because-

"You still don't know."

"Shut the fuck up and listen," Sands replied harshly, turning back to the mariachi. "I don't like you. I'm never going be another Carolina for you. But I'm not planning to leave now. Ever. Because I want you, you goddamn clinking piece of Mexican gutter shit. Because you've gotten into my blood and I don't think I can get you out, short of ripping my wrists open."

El stared up at the other man for a long, long moment, barely breathing as the world flickered across his eyes. When he spoke, it was like hearing the night wind rushing past the locked window. "Put the strap down."

With a dramatic flourish, Sands tossed it into a corner.

Instantly grabbing the opportunity, El jerked his hands free and surged up, smearing blood over both men's chins as he brutally clamped his lips over Sands'. Tearing himself free a second later, he said lowly, "You think I've gotten into you? I can taste you in my bones."

"So we're both fucked," Sands hissed, fingers now ripping at El's shirt as he took in great mouthfuls of tanned skin along El's collarbone and shoulder. "Except you're about to be fucked thrice over. Mind, soul and ass." And he shoved the other man back down, hand slipping down to distract El with a firm grip around the cock when the mariachi would have protested.

El threw back his head, his own hands flying out on either side of him to scratch at the bed. Sands shoved the hem of the other man's shirt up and over El's head, briefly trapping El's arms in the fabric. While the mariachi was entangled in the clothing, Sands swooped down and left his teeth imprints scattered across that broad chest, almost drowning in his desire to know every single inch. To have its feel and taste bound forever into his memories.

Licking up a long stripe on El's stomach, Sands nibbled the length of every rib, thoroughly tonguing their intersection with the breastbone. His right hand gradually worked the tight pants off of the other man, while his left alternately kneaded El's cock and thigh. One of the mariachi's legs bent up to grind against Sands' own erection, and, having finally freed himself, El skated sharp nails agitatedly over Sands' back. Something caught and ripped, and Sands felt hot wetness trickle from the lance of fire spearing through his shoulderblade. In retaliation, he latched onto a nipple, tongue flicking it tenderly to hardness, and then teeth scraping and pinching till El growled broken swears and flopped backwards, hair already stuck to his cheeks and neck in sweaty curling strings.

The American yanked off his shirt, and then, cursing at the unchanging black, blindly fished a jar of half-used ointment from the guitar case. Crawling up the length of the other man, Sands let El pull their pants the rest of the way off, and then hooked his mouth to El's throat as he jabbed his fingers into the salve. El whipped around and snapped into Sands' upper arm, causing the jar to tumble unnoticed to the floor, then moved his lips down to score teeth over Sands' pectorals, raising fire in their wake. "Now, try to relax," Sands told the mariachi, voice strained and husky.

"What-" El clamped down on the finger, hissing, and dug nails into the American's arms till the bones bruised. "That hurts."

"Relax, you prissy little virgin," Sands retorted, "Jesus Christ, you'll run into a firefight the size of California, but you can't take-" he somehow wriggled the finger "-this?"

El's eyes came close to bulging, and the muscles in his ass abruptly released. "Mary, Mother of God…"

Immediately pushing in another finger, the other man snaked his hand under the pillow and brought out the gun, thwacking El with it before the American dropped it where he remembered the side-table was. "It's Sands. Try to remember that." And he drank the oaths from El's lips before the mariachi could let the flaying words fly.

Sands would have liked to play a little, to see what made El twitch, but the rising in his veins was too fast, and he replaced fingers with cock as quickly as he could, hands then riding up and down El's flanks as he began to thrust. Biting at Sands' chest, the mariachi unsurprisingly pushed back harder than he got, driving Sands deeper and deeper. The American angled himself so his cock rubbed against El's, feeling the shadows slicking down his back, and rammed himself forward into the blurring gilt man beneath himself. He was climbing, and El's howls were soaring higher and higher, and…

…they were falling through the sky, lights streaking by as they plummeted-no, not lights. Something plunged through Sands, and he felt El snap up against him, and then he saw glow stab into the mariachi, and heard.






Shaking the grogginess from his head, El gingerly moved. And then promptly froze, wincing.

"Sore?" asked a gleeful voice. Turning a scowl upwards, El was none-too-pleased to find one blind American sitting on the edge of the bed, smirking broadly. But before he could comment, he was handed some pills and a glass of water. Sands flicked off El's puzzled look, saying dismissively, "Neo wouldn't shut up until I did."

"What about breakfast?" the mariachi queried, simultaneously amused and irritated. He quickly checked over the pills, and finding them to be from his own small supply of painkillers, he swiftly downed them with the water.

"No cooking info here, so that's your deal," Sands informed him. "Oh, yeah. Neo also said he thought we were going to have visitors in a few."

"Days," El agreed. "The Oracle and a few others. I can feel them too."

"Well, isn't that just spiffy." Sands bounced on the bed, eliciting another flinch from El. "Know who they're in?"

"No." Reaching behind the other man, El carefully set down the glass. And then he wrapped a hand around Sands' throat. Pulling the choking man up to his face, he said, slowly and quietly, "We're switching off."

Releasing Sands, El laid back down, waiting for the painkillers to kick in. But of course, the American had to have the last word. "Knew you'd like it."

And despite himself, El couldn't help but let some of his negativity dissolve in the laughter echoing through both men's minds.


More ::: Home