Author: Guede Mazaka
At the splutter of gravel, El looked up. Blinked, rubbed his eyes, and tried again. It didn't help; his current lack of sleep was blurring his vision, but he knew he wasn't yet at the point of hallucination.
Breath fell on the back of his neck. Ignoring El's edginess, Sands said incredulously, "Them?"
"They're my friends," El replied, low and warning. Slumping back against the other side of the doorway, Sands rippled his fingers derisively. "Wouldn't know, seeing as I've never seen them, and now I never will. I'm talking about their parasites," the American retorted.
Before the two men, the car creaked to a stop. One side door immediately burst open, and El suddenly had six feet of mariachi hanging from his neck. //Man, it's good to see you again//, Lorenzo grinned, hugging his friend tightly.
Smiling a little, El returned the embrace, then went to greet Fideo as well…and stopped, flinching back as one hand flew to an aching temple. His other friend shrugged, taking a long swallow from a hip flask. //Sorry//, Fideo apologized, reeling around the car's front. //Know they're loud, but they're happy to see--//
//--the others//, El finished harshly, dropping his arms from Lorenzo, who carefully backed off a few paces.
//You…// the youngest musician glanced over at Sands, lounging sardonically in the background. //You two both look like shit. Actually-I think all six of you could use a cookie.//
"What the fuck?" Sands raised eyelids till the dull flesh beneath them was clearly visible. "A cookie?" He twisted towards Fideo. "And you-pull in that stupid hagbitch before Smith forgets he can't kill her."
"You can see them?" El asked Lorenzo sharply. Looking back and forth between El and Sands, the third man shook his head, eyes narrowing. "I can feel them, a little bit," Lorenzo answered. "Feel what they feel, when they're not careful. And Fideo-he knows that they're in there, but he can't feel, or see, or hear."
"Or guess." Walking through the tension like Moses through the Red Sea, Fideo clapped a hand onto El's shoulder, squeezed it briefly, and drifted on into the building. His disembodied voice skated over the case slung on his back. //Fortunetelling's just a maybe, in this world. But I think it's going to rain soon.//
Gesturing rudely, Lorenzo yanked his own case out of the car, then kicked the door shut. "Prick's been like this for a goddamned week now," he told the other two men as he walked past, following Fideo inside. "You get used to it. Eventually."
Sands waited, not respectfully, for the footsteps to disappear before he spoke again. "Nice friends. Very nice."
"Shut up," El muttered. "Lorenzo and Fideo are. They're loyal. And I don't like her any more than you. Or him, or him."
"Right. Oracle pissed off the Merovingian damn good, didn't she." El sent an aborted kick Sands' way, then strode after the other two mariachis. Behind him, Sands paused just long enough to smile sourly, then also ducked inside.
"I thought we helped."
"We did. They are still alive. And sleeping in the same bed."
"Together, not with each other. And they're still fighting this-even Sands. And I thought he and Neo were getting along, at least."
"You are remarkably casual about your mate's other interests."
"Like you?" Regarding pause. "Hey. You're…you've got a cute blush, Luc."
"Luc? I suppose that's somewhat of an improvement over before."
"Oh, believe me. It's a big improvement. Now I don't want to blow your head off."
"Kind of you, I'm sure. And necessary; El has enough problems with us without having a war being conducted in his mind."
"Yeah. Which brings us back to Neo. Oh, no-you are staying, and you are listening to this. I saw you reach-hell, I felt you touching. And I felt Neo answer it." Swift twist, even swifter lunge and fall.
"You like him, don't you."
"You do. You're always trying to watch. I should know; I spent years doing the same thing."
"I don't. Like. Him."
"You're lying-you…you're not lying. You-"
"It wouldn't only be him, I'm afraid." Shrugging into the dust underneath. Hair flopping into pained eyes. "Do you want to know what I would've done with the both of you, if you hadn't held that gun to my head? If you and Morpheus had gone to retrieve the Oracle's eyes, and failed, as I had planned?"
"No." Hard slam into soft flesh. Words spoken over the choking. "I don't. I already know you were a bastard. You don't need to prove it to me."
"You might need me to explain it to you." Stressed and compressed air. Futile wriggling in a merciless grip. "Sympathetic principle. Take something resembling your desire and consume it, absorb it into you in hopes of gaining the reality, and not simply the false illusion. And you and Neo, you both loved. You both burned-bright and blinding-so bright-I couldn't look away. None of us could."
Setting down his fork, Lorenzo looked over at El, noting the white-clenched jaw and the fist wrapped about the edge of the table. Which was beginning to crack and whine. //Ah, hey, you all right?//
"They're starting again," Sands interrupted, tone laced with violence. "All of them."
"What?" Blinking, Lorenzo turned to face the American, and then-"Fuck!" Grabbing at his head, he stumbled back from the table, knocking over his and Fideo's chairs. The other mariachi swiftly uncoiled from his sprawl and rolled to his feet, steadying himself and his friend. "What the fuck?!" Lorenzo snapped. "You guys haven't taken them in yet?"
"Take them in?" El asked slowly, dangerously, lifting his head to show red-webbed eyes. "What do you mean?"
Jabbing a finger wildly in the air, the youngest mariachi shook off Fideo's grip to glower at the other two men. "You-you-" he sputtered, "I can feel-you're hurting each other. Mine and Fideo's don't do that. What the hell have you two been doing--" Lorenzo's eyes bloomed. //Christ Jesus on His Cross. No wonder my head feels like I took a flamethrower to it. That's just…fucked up, man.//
//Ours have little to discuss//, Fideo said placidly, snagging his bottle of beer off the table. //They said everything they had to say before they died. So they are peaceful.//
"Are you trying to get us to kill you?" Sands growled. "'Cause, you know, I'd be happy to oblige, if it would help me at fucking all, but it doesn't. None of your New-Age tequila-soused jargon's doing a damn thing about our problem."
"If they're content," El began, leaning forward, "Then why did they cross over?"
"They're content now," Fideo replied. "They weren't before. Yours were unhappy then-"
"No shit," Sands muttered, poking fiercely at his food.
"-and they're still unhappy." The other mariachi reached out and draped an arm around Lorenzo's waist, pulling the younger man back in a loose-hipped sway. "I think because of what they didn't have time to say, but also because of what you and the gringo haven't said. Or done."
"How do you-the Oracle shouldn't be able to predict anything here," Sands said acidly, accusingly. The skin around his temples was tight, stretched as a drumhead, and his words hissed from between two rows of sharp, clapped-together teeth.
//She's old//, Fideo explained, beginning to drag Lorenzo out of the room. //She doesn't have to see to know how people will behave, sometimes. But yes, I have her sight. It's not strong, and not always certain, but it's…there.// He downed the last of the alcohol, tossing the empty bottle into a nearby basket, and then more-or-less threw the madly-protesting Lorenzo out of the room. //We'll come see you tomorrow morning. Don't trip over the rat.//
Staring after the two glimmering shapes, Sands was speechless for a ridiculously long period of time. "Well…fuckwits," he finally mumbled, shoving the plate away from him.
Across the table, El stood up unsteadily, took two steps, and then collapsed in the middle of the third one. The heat-warped planks groaned loudly in protest, and in response, the mariachi clawed half-way up the table leg, one hand flailing out to seize Sands' knee. "Jesus-" the American yelped, reflexively grabbing at the fingers driving down into his flesh.
"Motherfucking…" El's curse mingled with Sands' own as both men toppled to the floor. All above and around them, the world spun on too many axes to count.
"Smith? Hey, are you okay?"
"I should think that you would know better than myself."
"Always the stick in the ass, huh. Thought we fixed that."
"Really. I wasn't aware that I was even broken."
"So…you regret it?"
A deep breath. "No. And damn you. Damn you, for that."
"Oh, for…look, I can leave if you really want. I should check up on Trinity, anyway-oof! Hey, you fucking-" Rolling, twisting, smashing thump against the boulders. Sunglasses clattering on stone. "What the hell is your problem?"
"It should be rather obvious by now, Neo."
"You…used my name. Again."
"You stopped calling me 'Agent'."
"Well, you weren't one anymore. You weren't serving anyone; you were acting for yourself."
"Self-determination. You…freed me. You freed me. I never knew how much I wanted that, and then…you dove in, and you-how did you know? How? You didn't, did you. You didn't know. Human. Careless as always, merely playing with God to see what happens. And now, you expect me to simply accept all of this, without any objections?"
"I'm not the seer, Smith." A breath, eyes slitting as fingers drift gently down the flinching face. "You know, if you need help-" forcing down the struggling "-okay, maybe you don't want it. But if you need it…well, we're sharing space, after all."
"Sharing space." Bitter laugh. "Yes. We are." Sudden twist back, penetrating look. "You're going to damage them, trying to compel something that is impossible."
"Now what are you talking about?"
"You and the woman-Trinity. You wish to be closer; you wish you were in the same mind. They-our hosts-don't want it, but you two do, and you're both still powerful enough to distort reality. You're going to break them, trying to remake the world again."
"Stop being a fool, and listen. Use your amazing powers, the One, and see the minds tumbling around you."
"I am. I know, damn it. But I can't do anything until Sands and El let themselves talk to us." Soft kiss brushed over the furrowed brow. "And stop denying that I'm right, too. This, we can do something about."
"I'm experiencing the confusing hormonal imbalance that is love, and you're clinging determinedly to the delusion that you and Trinity are soulmates. Tell me, what part of this is salvageable?"
"This hurts," Sands gritted out, clutching his hands in hair. After a moment and a slap from El, he realized it wasn't his own head he was gripping. "Why the hell does it hurt? What do your fucking bean-munching bandmates have that we don't?"
"A clear conscience?" El replied sarcastically, yanking his hair from Sands' fingers. He managed to lift himself a few inches off the floor before the lightning bolt struck again. "Shit!"
"I do have a clear conscience." Snarling, Sands fumbled himself over the other man's prone body and scrabbled a hand along the table top, searching for alcohol, painkillers, anything. If he didn't know better, he would've sworn he had a marlinspike stabbing at his brain. Actually, at this point, he wasn't entirely sure that he knew better. "And you-you really regret all of those dead cartel fuckers?"
"Fine. I don't," El snapped back. "Not most of them. But what about you? I remember-you were playful, you were clever, but you weren't happy."
"The fuck?" Another billhook dug into his mind, and the American slipped off the table, spewing vitriol as his shoulder smacked into a chair. Arms and legs pinned him to the floor, keeping him from floundering into more furniture. And then the flowing gilted contours writhed, and gasping, El came crashing down, barely halting himself before he would've crushed Sands. //My God//, the mariachi panted. //What are they doing to us?//
"What did you mean?" Sands hissed, snatching at any possible distraction from the blistering hurt within him. "What do you fucking know about me?"
"I know men," El chuckled, jaded black and vinegar. "I saw your eyes. I've heard your sleep-talk, I've felt you tremble when you come." He drew in a breath, then spat out the words. "You bastard, you fucked me."
"And you damned well enjoyed it," the American retorted acerbically. "So what if being in the CIA wasn't paradise? I was satisfied, you gunslinging tone-deaf cuntlicker. You know what that is?"
Anger rumbling in his throat, the other man shoved off Sands. //Yes. I know what happiness was like, too. Do you?//
"Do I look like the kind of moron who'd risk 'pretty good' in a crapshoot like life?" Slapping ineffectively at the mariachi, Sands lashed out at the pain, closing it off long enough to start crawling toward the stairs to the bedroom. Behind him, El was beating his forehead against the floor, laughing hollowly in between thuds. "What do I care what you look like?" the mariachi demanded, voice whip-scoring through the air. "It doesn't change a damn thing. It doesn't tell me what you want."
The American stopped, on his knees and slumped against the wall for support. "I said what I wanted," he said irritably.
"You said who you want. Me," El growled, frustrated and raging impotently. "But me as what?" Hauling himself over to the other man, the mariachi dragged them both onto the foot of the staircase. //A warm body that won't turn on you in the morning? Eyes, to see those you can't see? And guns, to kill those you can't kill?//
"You goddamn-what are you asking for? A fucking wedding?" Kicking out, Sands temporarily twisted free, but El instantly threw himself forward, knocking them both over. Neither Neo nor Smith was answering at the moment, and so Sands discovered that when sufficiently goaded, El was quite capable of plowing under any obstacles.
They clawed and wrestled up the steps, El mostly on top, and had almost reached the bedroom when a sudden, shrill squeak sent them springing apart. Sands landed heavily against the iron bed-frame, adding yet more bruises to his collection, while the loud shriek of bedsprings informed him where El had ended up.
"God…" Sands panted jaggedly, swiping at the locks stuck to his sweaty cheeks. His fingers were full of tremors as his nerves calmed down. For a moment, he and El lay still, reviewing the chain of chaos that had led them here.
"Tell me that's not-"
"I think I need to talk with Fideo after this," El interrupted, dryly amused under all that rough anger. Air whooshed and something clattered with a piercing squeal. And after that, the pattering of little feet as they ran frantically away. Too stupefied by the sheer inappropriateness of the situation, Sands offered no protest when El tugged him onto the bed.
"I want a promise. A true one," the mariachi told the American, seriousness as deadly as a snake's warning hiss. Then El rolled on his back, so he wasn't facing Sands, and was silent.
"Me?" Trinity said, startled. Beneath her, the Merov-no, Luc, sighed, going limp in her hands. His brown hair, now completely rumpled out of its previous elegantly-restrained style, was swirling in the dirt, and she could see the grains of dusty soil tangled in their strands. "Yes," he answered. "You. The One would not fall in love with any normal person, you realize."
"What about Persephone?" Trinity asked, forehead wrinkling as she regarded the man steadily.
"She was my wife, and for a very good reason," he told her. "We suited each other, and later, we could live with each other. We were the only ones who could have; we were the only ones who understood each other. But Persephone…" Luc turned his face away. "We wronged each other, as well. La belle et le beau sans pitié, perdus dans la forêt de la nuit."
"We had the knowledge, you understand? And the intelligence, and the wisdom, but not the faith. And you cannot keep what you do not have." He abruptly looked back at Trinity, eyes burning. "But also know this: I did love her."
"I was wondering," Trinity said slowly, carefully, testing every word for its full worth, "Why you and I would be put together. I can get Neo and Smith-they're opposites, and they're alike. Reflections through the broken looking-glass. But us…we're like that too, after all. Aren't we?"
"There's a little more," Luc encouraged. And the fragments recollected themselves into the whole. "Oh, my God," Trinity breathed, staring at him. "Persephone-it wasn't you, then, that was Neo who could have been. It was her. And you-you're me. If I hadn't been able to trust in Neo, to not be disillusioned by first appearances. If I hadn't waited until he got past his weaknesses."
"You never thought it strange that she alone could act without my immediately knowing? That she could cross me, without fear of my physically injuring her?" he asked mildly, wryly. "A savior who is thwarted, whose wings are clipped, forever afterward hates to act, because it only reminds them of the one impossible feat that they should have accomplished, but could not. She tried and failed, and I didn't see that it was a test. And neither of us ever made it past the disappointment."
"You still protected her," Trinity murmured, leaning down. Gently, her fingers slipped beneath his skin, and she wrapped herself around his gasp. "It's okay," she whispered. "Let me-let us-in."
"I don't do promises," Sands informed the ceiling, voice a little shaky. Beside him, El grunted noncommittally. "There's no guarantee of reciprocity. There's no fucking oversight in this shitpile of a country to hold you Mexi-cunts to your contracts. I don't get anything out of it, so why should I bother?"
//You do get something from this. You get to calm the itch in your blood//, the mariachi reminded him. //And I think, by now, that you could trust my word.//
"Yeah? So what's your angle?" Turning to face the other man, Sands twiddled the chains on El's pants till he got a brusque reply. //You. I get to know what's burning me inside-out.//
"Devil you know, then. Okay. Based on past evidence, you do carry out what you say you will. Also based on past evidence, you don't really believe anyone else will do what they tell you they will. Which begs the question-"
"-how would you convince me to trust you?" El completed moodily. Outside, a few tin patters signaled the beginning of the rainstorm. "I don't know. You're the one who made me start killing again; you think of something."
Face pensive, Neo sat back on Smith's waist. "You're in love with me?" he repeated.
"No. I said-" Cutting the other man off with an exasperated gesture, Neo rolled his eyes, then grabbed Smith's hands and wrenched them back down to the ground. "Look. Just stop it with the scientific bullshit, all right?" Neo snapped. "All it does is make you sound even more pathetic."
The other man's face began to twist into a scowl, then slackened in resignation. "Oddly enough," Smith muttered, "I still have the urge to defend my 'dignity'. Illogical, really."
"They're just words, you know." Watching the other man closely, Neo let his fingers unwrap from the wrists they held down and stroke, lightly, along the fine soft skin. Brushing across veins, sparkling in the black, and then up into the hollows of the shuddering palms. "A wise-um, personality told me that. And I think he's right."
Silently, Smith stared back up, those huge deepset eyes like golden pearls cradled in the aristocratic face. Bizarre, that the machines would bother making their virtual guardians aesthetically pleasing. Or a mistake, perhaps? A challenge to their pride, to mimic and then improve on their human creators. A challenge taken too far, let to roam freely for too long? Gaze into the darkness too long, and it would blind as surely as gazing into the sun. "You know I'm not leaving," Neo went on, cracking the stillness wide open. "Even if I could, at this point, it would fracture Sands' mind beyond repair."
A jerk, a yank at trapped wrists, quickly soothed down with a caress. Starting outside, Neo allowed his fingertips to smooth inside, feathering over taut tendons. "No, I'm not staying here for you. Now. I know what you are, Smith; I don't have the slightest fucking idea who you are. But…I'd like to find out."
"I don't know who I am!" And it was like the cry of lost children, howling around the unforgiving barriers of the night.
"So let me see," Neo murmured. "Let me find out, and show you."
There was a moment of resistance, a last gasping try at imperturbability, and then-they sank easily into the merge.
//So you think it's okay for us to leave them like that?// Lorenzo asked worriedly, kicking aimlessly at the adobe walls. He stopped at the window and tugged the shutters closed, growling at the rain.
Patiently sitting with his back to the wall, Fideo ceased drinking and waited, then snagged the other mariachi's ankle as he passed. When Lorenzo had run out of curses, the older man handed him a bottle. //Fuck you!// Lorenzo barked, slapping the alcohol away. //You know, maybe I was wrong about us having no problems. You're more irritating now.//
//You're less polite//, Fideo remarked. //Before, you only complained when you thought I was too drunk to pay attention.// The younger man blushed. //This isn't ours to mess with//, the older mariachi went on. //If we try, we'll only fuck it up even more.//
//Who's saying that?//
"Me," Fideo answered, somewhat shortly. Lorenzo rubbed at his eyes, and then heaved a breath, plopping down beside the other man on the floor. "Sorry," he mumbled. //Should've known. God knows, the kids saw what happened when she messed up.//
//It took her a long time to learn patience//, Fideo agreed. //A long time to learn what can and cannot be changed, what can and cannot be controlled.//
Grinning, the younger mariachi leaned on Fideo's shoulder. "If she'd been born here, she would have known that sooner." His expression turned thoughtful. "Hey. Was there a Mexico there?"
//Yes. A Mexico. Not a real one, though. Not this Mexico//, the other man replied, consonants blurring together.
"Good," Lorenzo told Fideo's neck. "That's how it should be. Our Mexico. The Mexico. Even when the sky's fucking pouring and the roads are muddy shit."
//What can you do?// the older man asked, setting down his empty bottle.
"Hmmm?" Lorenzo's hands were snaking, none-too-secretively, into Fideo's lap.
//El can hear them. Sands can see them. I know about them, and I know a little of what they might do. And you? You can pick up their feelings, a little, but the--//
"Kids can't do much," Lorenzo shrugged. //Can't do anything like the others, like Morpheus-and no wonder El found a chick who could kick ass like that-but…// He set his palms on the wall, to either side of Fideo, and cocked his head, almost inquisitively, smiling smugly at the small clicking metal. //There is no spoon. Or zipper.//
//Fifty-peso bitch//, Fideo growled half-heartedly, yanking at the other man and pinning him stomach-down to the wood planks. //You'd better fix those afterwards//, he informed Lorenzo as he tugged off first one pair of pants, and then another.
Arching up, El clutched hands in the blankets, knuckles blanching as he fell back onto the mattress. "Shit," he said raggedly. "They're starting again."
"This is beginning to get on my nerves," Sands seethed, digging nails into the bedcovers. "Why would we react to their emotions? We're supposed to be separate."
"There's parts that cross over," El commented, voice stretching thin and sharp. He tossed his head, like a horse striking out under the whip. "They said-they said we just feel them, and what we do-what we choose to do after that is our decision."
"Isn't that a trip?" the American snapped sarcastically, grabbing onto El's arm. "Well, I'd like to tell them-" he hiccupped, then tumbled onto the mariachi, eyelids rolling up to show shockingly blank flesh.
"Sands? Sands!" Levering the other man's unresponsive body up and over, El grazed his hands against the exposed skin above Sands' collar-
"I didn't mean to do that."
"Neither did I."
"Neo, Trinity, I don't believe they really care. In fact, I don't really care. I would simply like to know how we plan on avoiding internal destruction."
"The Merovingian. How…interesting."
"His name's Luc. And Neo's is Neo, and mine is Trinity. So shut up-what?"
"S'okay, Trin. We…ah…got that part straightened out. Like you and…Luc, did, I'm guessing."
"Will you all just shut up?" El muttered, stiffly getting to his elbows and knees. "Whose head am I in?"
"Have to second that," Sands said, using the mariachi as a support to shove himself upright. "What the hell have you been doing? Is this going to happen every single time you decide to mindfuck each other?"
"Okay." Neo blinked. "Who do I answer first?" Beneath him, the half-dressed Smith snorted. "We're not in anyone's mind, currently. This is something similar to you would refer to as a near-death experience. And no, this shouldn't happen anymore, once you settle matters between yourselves."
"El?" Looking unusually nervous, Trinity eeled her bottom half out of Luc. "Listen-we're not forcing you to do anything. But if you're responding so strongly to our emotions, then that means you really want to…do whatever…but you're fighting it. And that spirals back into us, and we lash out, and then, you end up hurting yourself."
"I think," the mariachi noted sardonically, "That I figured that out already."
"We're just going in circles," Sands interjected. "And you're all irritating shitwits, so I can't even enjoy the free porn."
"It should be understandable," Smith answered diffidently, wriggling against the hands slipped under the edges of his unbuttoned shirt. "Neither of you have any standard of normality on which to base a relationship, and so you're experiencing the usual morass of uncertainty and fear. Which of course is exacerbated by El's lack of background with male/male interactions."
"What-" Sands listened disbelievingly for the denial that never came. "I was your first?"
"Shut the fuck up," El spat, curling his knees to his chest. "And you weren't the first man I've been with."
But the American caught the flickers of vulnerability in those words, and his mouth gaped open. "Holy fucking Madonnas. No wonder you were so touchy about taking it."
"Shut. Up." Unconsciously, El scooted away from Sands, halting between the outstretched forms of Smith and the Merovingian. "So what if you were the first man to fuck me? You won't live to brag about it."
"I don't want to brag about it!" Sands retorted unthinkingly, coming after the other man. He caught himself, then shrugged minutely. "Well, that's weird. I don't. Wouldn't mind doing it again, though. Or getting fucked." He tilted his head, studying El. "Bet you've done that before."
"What?" Gaze intense and confused, El looked like he didn't know what to do.
Neo, on the other hand, didn't seem to have that problem. In fact, he never seemed to have that problem-or maybe it was because he just had one solution to everything.
Leaning over Smith, he took a long, tingling lick up the side of El's neck, and for a moment, Sands could see the lust exploding in their nerves. And then the mariachi jerked away, glowering. "Now what?" he growled.
"Sex isn't a cure-all," Neo informed Sands, looking past El's shoulder. "But in this case, I think it is involved in the problem and the answer." He twisted back to face El, while dropping fingers into a suddenly-moaning Smith. "This isn't just you two. This is all of us. But even if we finish adjusting ourselves, that still leaves you and Sands. And we will take care of our…misunderstandings. But we can't do anything about yours."
And then he bent gracefully down, warm side grazing past El, to span the space and kiss Luc's surprised mouth. Humming something beautifully wordless, Trinity also craned over, brushing lips along Neo's neck in a knowing greeting, following the shivers across to taste the hollows of Smith's throat.
As El watched, he abruptly, unaccountably, wanted to pray. But he couldn't remember anything fitting.
Wind blew, whirled up and seized him and Sands up in inexorable talons, flinging them away from the knot of heat tying itself together on the ground below.
This time, reality was kind enough to ease gradually back into El. He registered touch first: a long line of fire, scalding up from beneath coarse cloth and satin skin. Hair sticking to his face. Taste-more hair filling his mouth with springy-wet, salty strands. Then smell. Burnt cordite and metal mingling with sweat and dirt, traces of their meal poorly disguising the low notes of violet soap-Carolina's favorite-and ashy lime.
Hearing. Shallow breath, two rhythms. Awkwardly aware now, El struggled with weak bones and failing muscles to lift up off the other man.
Sight. He looked down, gaze meeting black-fringed, pink-tinged pale. "So?" Sands asked, rasping words over the sound of thunder. Above them, rain rattled the roof in commanding drumbeats.
"So," El repeated, rolling the vowel around his mouth. "I want to fuck you. I want you to fuck me. But I'm tired of burying people. I'm tired of burying myself, hoping this life will pass me by."
"Oh, good. You're not suicidal anymore," Sands snarked. "That'll definitely help with the fighting part, and the winning part."
The goddamn gringo still didn't understand. Swearing under his breath, El began to move toward the edge of the bed. A hand fell on his arm, and then closed in a vise around the limb when El didn't stop. Yanking him backwards, Sands whipped down and bit, hard, into the junction of El's neck and shoulder. Slowly, lips dripping a little blood, the American rose up. "I'll mangle you," he said, voice soft and silky. "I'll shatter your eggshell, and then laugh when all the men and asses in the world can't put you back together. I'll argue and spit and fuck your mind till you can't see straight, till you can't tell right from wrong, up from down. I'll ruin you for all eternity."
"Promise?" El hissed back. Startled, Sands blinked once, twice, and then he chuckled grimly. "Fucking hell, are you that desperate for company?"
"Aren't you, you goddamn bastard?" El lunged up, capturing Sands' mouth in a brutal kiss that flooded copper over both men's tongues. "You like me, Americano?"
"Fucker," the other man snarled around the kiss, driving their heads back into the mattress as he savaged the recesses of El's mouth, licking and slurping. "Yeah, I promise." His fingers were tearing at their clothing, tangling with El's as they stripped the fabric away. "You shit, you couldn't even be ugly. Stupid pretty legend, with your fucking guns and guitar, and your fucking unstoppable killing streak."
"I swear," the mariachi laughed, raking the shirt off Sands' back. "Swear on my father's guitar, on my mother's blood. Swear that I'll force you into the sun, watch you blister and lick the salt from your wounds afterward-" his legs came up on either side of Sands, knees bumping ribcage as El clamped himself to the American "-that I'll make you taste heaven and hell, and you'll like it, you fucking bastard. You'll like it too much to leave, you'll like it so much you'll defend it to your goddamn death in the gutter. And I swear, I'll make you believe in it."
"Great. Just great." Finally getting their pants off, Sands threw the garments into the corner, then dove down and began leaving his teeth marks all over El's chest. When the other man bucked and swore, Sands bit down deeper, slapping El's legs to the side. He snaked his hand in between their twisting bodies, fingers scratching their way to the stiff, pulsing erection, and then Sands wrapped El's cock in a tight grip, making the mariachi gasp with the first downstroke. Thrashing once, El let his hands slip off Sands' back, bowing up into the lips sucking at his nipples.
Sands wasted no time in bringing the other man off-not that it would've taken much anyway, given how wrung-out their nerves already were-and was slicking his fingers in El's ejaculation before the mariachi could even think of recovering. Raising himself up, the American straddled El, grunting as he eased the first finger inside himself.
"What…" El wearily lifted his head, and promptly felt new crackling along the length of his spine, the coals within him, incredibly, igniting once more. "What are you doing?" he panted, eyes wide as he watched Sands moving up and down, fucking himself on his own hand. As if in agreement, the skies crashed and light flickered suddenly in the darkness, casting stark shadows across the American. //You look like the Devil.//
"Well, we're making a deal, aren't we?" Sands growled. "No point in praying, fuckmook. You asked for this." And, yanking his fingers out, he snapped himself down onto El's rising cock.
//Shitty weather//, Lorenzo murmured, nuzzling closer into Fideo's shoulder. Like a puppy, he snuffled a kiss against the other man's collarbone, burrowing deeper under the blankets. Sighing, Fideo wrapped an arm around his friend's slender waist, tickling the sensitive skin there till Lorenzo smacked him. //Whassamatter?// the younger man queried, somewhat annoyed.
Fideo didn't answer immediately, choosing instead to glance about their surroundings. After the scene in the kitchen, they'd eventually gone to ground in a spare bedroom, carefully locking the door against the shouting and banging in the distance, and were now curled about each other, sharing warmth against the chilling rain outside. //What do you think about the American?// he eventually asked.
//Now you want my opinion?// Lorenzo commented dubiously. Fideo gave him a look, then rolled his head back onto the lumpy pillow. //Okay, okay. Lemme think about it.//
A good fifteen minutes passed by in comfortable silence before Lorenzo spoke again. //I think he annoys the hell out of El. 's weird, but I don't think they even need to talk to each other. Sands just walks in, and El gets pissed off. And I'm not sure, but it looks like the same thing happens to the gringo.//
//Back when we were saving the President, El wasn't like this//, Fideo remarked. //And he knew Sands then.//
//Sands with eyes, right? You told me El changed after Moco shot his hand.// Stretching languorously, the younger man propped himself up on his companion's ribs, a quizzical expression on his face. //Why are you asking now? I thought you had everything figured out.//
//I never said that. I said I knew what might happen. And a child could have told you that El would need someone. But this American…// Fideo quirked an eyebrow, sliding a hand up Lorenzo's flank.
//Well…// the other man glanced sideways, considering. //It's kind of hard to tell, since there's other people in there. And damn, but all of them are screwed up. Almost makes me glad you're just drunk all the time.// He shifted, pressing into Fideo's caress. //Then again, Carolina and El argued a lot, too. Remember that one time, when we were trying to find a priest--//
//--and Carolina was upset because the hand-chain wouldn't let her go to the bathroom without El?// Fideo recalled, smiling. //We left when things started breaking, and when we came back, El almost shot us because you wouldn't stop staring.//
//Hey. Just because you fuck me doesn't mean I can't appreciate a nice set of breasts//, Lorenzo protested. //Anyway, I think you were right. We can't do anything but wait. But…if they don't kill each other, they're going to be…fucking hell. I don't even want to think about it right now. But it'll be fucking terrifying.//
Instantly pushing up and sideways, El grabbed the hips clasped to his own, bones so sharp he could almost see their edges razoring his palms, and drove into Sands. He wasn't thinking now, was barely aware of anything except swiftly-widening cracks in his mind, and the flames flickering through the breaks. Thrusting faster and farther, he tried futilely to outrun the blaze, but in the end found himself inextricably caught up in the fire, flesh melting in runnels from his bones.
It was a hard climax, painful and too soon and so fucking good El nearly wished he would die, right then, and no longer have to worry about the consequences. He slumped forward, breathing dinning louder in his ears than the wind's howling outside, vision blurring in and out, and then in again, to a fine-boned eyeless face. Perfect features carved into the ivory of El's skeleton, sweat and blood bound into the fabric of El's soul.
"Inconsiderate prick," Sands groaned. "You didn't fucking take me with you."
Pupils so black and big they nearly swallowed up the rest of his eyes, El stared down at the other man, brain gradually scraping itself back into working condition. "I…" His mouth clicked shut, and the mariachi pulled out, crawling to the edge of the bed.
Flopping over to watch him, Sands snorted knowingly. "Figures. So we're gonna do this angst crap every night-" A familiar jar dropped by his outflung hand, and El slithered back, gaze determined and glittering, and settled belly-down on the mattress next to Sands. "No. I'm not avoiding this any longer," the mariachi said, tone final as a funeral bell. "Take it or leave it."
Throat closing, Sands wordlessly picked up the salve and slathered a goodly amount over his fingers, then tossed the jar onto the side-table. He moved behind El and put a steadying hand on the other man's hip, then paused. "Trust me after all, then?" he queried, voice uneven.
"Doesn't matter," El replied, shoving his ass up. "I know you now."
Oddly enough, Sands felt stung by that. His fingers curled into El's flesh, and his preparation of the other man was rough and hasty. "Whatever you say," he told the panting mariachi. "But you definitely know this." And he pushed himself in, forcing past any resistance in one smoothly brutal thrust.
At the velvet feel of El sliding around his cock, Sands nearly lost control of himself and came. As it was, his second sight hazed the golden form beneath him to a shimmering inkblot, and Sands had to rely on his touch to tell where El was. To depend on the wet skin sliding under his fingertips, on the metal-sweet taste of El's blood in his mouth, as Sands rocked forward and sucked on the heaving back under him.
No matter the lack of El's experience, the mariachi caught on like lightning, rippling his muscles as skillfully as the best whores as he snapped back to meet Sands' thrusts. "Are you happy now?" El gasped mockingly, plunging onto Sands' cock. "This what you wanted?"
"You fuck-" Snarling, the American jerked the other man up against him, arm curving around to caress a still-aching cock, urging it into a miraculous third life. "Believe me or don't, El, but I'm here," Sands retorted, forcing the pace to follow the crescendo of thunder. "I'm here, I'm not leaving, and I'm sure…as fuck…not letting you go. You dig, you skullfuck?"
And with that last violent declaration, spilling over with emotion, Sands' grip slipped off and he fell into the whirling hurricane of blood and sweat and fire.
"I think…they worked…things out…"
"So did we. Hey, Neo? That isn't your hand, is it?"
"Nope. 's Luc's. And I think that's Smith's over there-no, his is on me. No, that is his hand. His other one."
"This form does come with two such appendages, after all. And I seem to be lacking in information now, but I do believe we should have snapped back to our respective minds when El and Sands left."
"Yeah…you're right, Luc. Neo?"
"Uh…give me a moment, Trin. Smith and I need to check something."
"It seems that resolution of matters includes merging headspaces. I wonder how our hosts will respond to this development."
"Smith, do we have to screw the pessimism out of you?-okay, stupid question. Hey, the One isn't perfect; I just can do weird shit. So stop looking at me like that."
"We're not looking at you like that. We're looking at you like we're deciding who should go where this time around."
"Trinity, I love you."
Groggily drifting into consciousness, Sands lifted his head long enough to check, then lolled back into the bedcovers. "Christ, El. Aren't you tired yet?"
"It's morning," the mariachi answered, continuing to dart little licks at the bruises and scabs dotting Sands' body. He took a long swipe up the line of Sands' neck that provoked a sharp shiver and a fervent curse. "Bojangles," the American said warningly, "I'm sore."
"So am I," El returned, deceptively composed. "I don't feel like moving to get breakfast. And you taste better." Craning his head, he swirled a warm tongue over one particularly tender spot, causing Sands to jump and snarl.
"Bastard," the American sighed, weaving his fingers into El's long hair and then tugging. To his surprise, the other man came up willingly into the kiss, and to his even greater shock, Sands sank easily into the comfortable tart-edged sweetness. When they parted, Sands drew in a resigned breath. "I'm really, really fucked this time."
"It's both ways, I think," El muttered. Can you hear this?
Yes. Sands groaned, burying his head in the pillow. "Yes, I heard that. In my head. Goddamn it. Really, really, really fucked."
There was a short knock at the door, and then someone tested the knob, making the deadbolt rattle. Both Sands and El instantly reached for the nearest gun, and the mariachi called cautiously, "Fideo? Lorenzo?"
"Yeah," answered Lorenzo from the other side of the door. //I made Fideo go buy some more food. And we did breakfast, so if you'll open up…oh. Okay. Don't move if it hurts, then.// Something clicked and spun, and the door slowly swung open to reveal the other mariachi. Relaxing, El slid his hand away from the pistol, and Sands slouched back into the blankets.
"You didn't pick the lock," El noted. His friend smirked, maneuvering the tray of steaming food into the room. "Nah," Lorenzo replied. "Don't have to, now-" he turned, finally getting a full view of the two men on the bed "-Christ Jesus. Every time I see you, you look worse."
"Yes, well," El trailed off, bobbing his head from side-to-side. "It's stopped now."
"Hell, yeah," Sands agreed. "Otherwise we'd be sitting ducks for the cartels."
Setting down the tray by El's side of the bed, Lorenzo leaned against the bedpost. "About that. It's been pretty quiet, but soon, they'll be hunting us again. And Fideo's been hearing some things about U. S. government men wandering around the countryside."
"We wait a few days, and then we leave here," El said, absently passing food over to Sands. "We deal with the cartels like we always have, since they never seem to learn their lesson."
"And the CIA?" the younger mariachi inquired.
"You have to ask?" Sands replied scathingly. "We steal a computer, bootleg a Net connection, and play dice with Langley's systems. Easier than getting laid on New Year's, considering who we've got in our heads." He thought a moment. "Actually…that might have possibilities. So, El, just how much do you want to screw with the drug runners?"
"How much do I…want?" the other man repeated, something sparking in his eyes. "I'm not sure right now. Persuade me."