Tangible Schizophrenia



Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: NC-17. Really rough sex. BDSM. Gunkink. Carsex.
Pairing: Sands/El/Vincent
Disclaimer: Never mine, always others', dammit.
Feedback: Yes, please. Whatever you can spare.
Notes: Crossover of Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Collateral. Distorted reality. Random resurrections. Immortality. Established Sands/El relationship. Dedicated to roadparty for the icon.
Summary: Vincent, Sands, El and circular movement.


The land is two strips of yellow baked to either side of the road, which should be black as hell but has been bleached bone-white by the same sun that is threatening to burn Vincent's retinas out like imploding stars. He's reminded of an old geology lesson, which somehow has stuck with him through the less innocent lessons of mapping perimeters and prioritizing targets and triple-tapping marks just to circumvent the wonderful, wonderful advances of technology.

That's a butte they're passing. Similar to butt, as in of a joke. The way his chest screams and hisses with every inhale-exhale, he's starting to think he might fall into that category. What was the story he told Max?

"A man on a subway dies, and no one notices for six hours."

The driver is tall and dark and invisible in the sense that any attempt at reading him only rolls off the calm unyielding shadow he has wrapped around himself. Vincent knows that the man has to have at least a nose and a mouth and a tongue to go with that lazy gravel-flow voice, but even when he squints, he can't make them out. The profile shimmers and waves in his vision.

"A man in Mexico dies, and everyone notices." Scratch-hiss-red swooping through the air, and the face grows a smoking cigarillo. It only obscures the profile even more. "You know why?"

Vincent's hands are tied down, thin leather strips wrapping around his wrists and then snaking beside the seatbelt-buckle to disappear somewhere beneath the seat. His head is lolling on the edge of an old bench-style seat, and his legs are sprawling over the passenger seat behind him. If he let his chin slid just a few inches, he could find out whether his driver's real or only a trick of the dark.

He feels like he hasn't had water in days. His tongue is swollen, his lips cracked to the point of excruciating pain whenever a breeze stirs over them, and his nose parched so every breath is pain every step of the way through his body.

But he can still think, even if his reason is fractured fragments cutting each other up into bloody slivers. He knows this game. Once upon a time, he enjoyed it for its own sake. "No. Why?"

"Because only in Mexico are the dead the truly living." The driver takes one hand from the wheel and twists to face Vincent. He's all eyes, black searing things that make the crusts on Vincent's mouth and eyes and skin itch. Peel. Oranges and apples both have peels, don't they? Everything else is different, but when it comes down to it, the peel is most important. Someone told him that once, and he wonders why he remembers smug smirk over lime slices now.

He flinches when the hand takes his chin, moans when a thumb experimentally presses down against his lips. He got shot in the thigh once and dug out the bullet himself without making a sound aside from the snaps whenever he bit through his chip of wood. That, however, was bloody and gushing and supposedly nauseating, to judge by how many agents always washed out of that part of field training. This is tender-torturing, and this is not what the driver is supposed to do. Minimize contact to keep things clean.

Vincent's under no illusions about how shitty he must look now, but the graze of that thumb over his lower lip seems to squeeze the filth in him to the surface.


They're sitting on the balcony of some hysterically bad restaurant Sands has found, eyeballing the much, much nicer restaurant across the street. It's been long since Vincent was stupid enough to trust the real native cuisine, but Sands is eating with gusto. Vincent wonders if HQ knows just how well their fuck-up has taken to this backwater hellhole.

"See those two? They come in, they have the same meal every time, and they always fight over the wine. It turns into a shitfest to the nth degree that spans the contents of his bed, his mistresses' beds, and both their families out to the great-grandparents." Sands licks his fork while eying Vincent. Checking the hang of his jacket. This is probably to see what metal Vincent is packing, but one never knows with Sands. "Then he storms out, she sits in place and fakes a cry, and then she goes off to get fucked in the kitchen by that waiter."

"And this is your idea of essential information?" Vincent has been in town for exactly three days, and he feels like he's been here for three years. A good, warm, easy three years. As cheesy as the set-up is, he gets Sands' point about the lurid attraction of Mexico. Blood in coke bottles, and a fucking around every corner. It's got life to its imperfect mess, full and vivid and blissfully ignorant of anything else, unlike the sterile cold civilization that self-obsesses over its relative importance to the point of constant neurosis.

Smirks slide from one side of Sands' honest brown eyes to the other, proving once and for all that what you see is light-years from what you get. "Vince, my good comrade-it is. Because you know you can't get married to the job."

"It's a point of professionalism to be all that you can be," Vincent counters, idly stirring at the dregs of his margarita. "Possibly the most brilliant slogan the Army's ever had. Stirring without making a single mention that the average person's ultimate capability is, in a word-"

"-pathetic." Sands seems to soften a little, as if making friends, but a stray beam of light ricochets off his smile and shows it to be hardening. He's actually backing off, wary of a man with whom he shares a good deal of understanding. In truth, it's the head-game that wins wars. "Still, there's a difference between being the best at your job and being in love with your job. It's better to have a mistress on the side. Reminds you that treachery's always, always around."

As he speaks, the man's voice floats off into a stratosphere of dreams and ideals and abstract thinking that Vincent has never been able to quite follow. That's the painful irony of being just this shy of genius; you can feel the lack, but you can't, no matter how hard you try, do anything about it. And then absolute jackass slackers like Sands can do it hung-over and mainlining all of Columbia.

"Speaking of, here comes numero uno." Brown eyes flick back to the restaurant, and Vincent tracks their line of sight.

He's not quite grateful for the opportunity to retreat back into business. It's so much more…interesting outside. But then, it's also comfortable, and comfort is danger. That's why he keeps making himself leave Culiacan.


The hand falls from Vincent's groan and then comes back to offer him a drag on the cigarillo. He would like to spit and curse and scream, but all of that requires water, and he can't even manage to ask for that.

"Not that far back." Driver's voice is thoughtful. The hand does its sleight again and produces a flask. Metal rims are brutal thinness against Vincent's lips, but he can smell the water-and science has that detail wrong, because water does have a smell if a man is desperate enough, just like money-and so he clamps his mouth around the flask neck and messily drinks around his hurting whines.

It's not soothing in the least, but it's needed. Several times the driver pulls back a little, making sure Vincent doesn't drink himself to vomiting, and each time Vincent dimly understands but fights anyway. He finally finishes all the water and slumps back, feeling the moisture swiftly disappear into his internal desert. The human body is sixty to eighty percent water, depending on which authority is asked, and it is woefully underprepared for preventing water loss. Even mice do better. So really, humanity has nothing to brag about.

"I was dead," Vincent croaks. He would like some more water-he would kill, not eliminate, for some more water-but he knows how this dance goes and he doesn't want to play. A little bait, a little hope, and the sheep all leap off the cliff. He isn't a sheep. He would like to be because it would be easier to just finish falling, but he isn't.

"For a while," the driver agrees. He puts his hand back on the steering wheel, fingers splaying across the top, and eases the car into a turn. His other hand rolls to the top, exposing an odd leather gauntlet, and then goes back down with the spin of the wheel.

Medieval times. Fortune, Vincent thinks. He used to have a clever little dissection of that notion, but he can't remember it.

"I used to be dead as well."

It's funny. Vincent wasn't ever religious, but he's had to stake out enough places of worship to know the basics. And way, way back, when he still had to suffer the partners, he'd been forced to listen to more than his share of folk and country. "I thought the devil drove a pick-up truck."

"I like this kind of car." That large, long-fingered hand strokes down the dash, casually loving. "I can't speak for the devil."

"Mexican. You have very good English, though. Which cartel?" Vincent honestly doesn't expect a helpful answer, but he's too weak to even blink all the way and so his eyes are half-okay, half-dryburninghell. He figures that he does have to pass the time somehow, and even if he gets a little into the game, he does have an even chance. It's not poker, but then, he's better at this than he is at poker. Cards can be played well either mathematically or intuitively, and he doesn't quite grasp either of those.

The driver only laughs.


Even when he's being fucked, Sands still smiles like he controls the situation. Vincent keeps Sands' wrists out of the action, bruising them and then some, and he viciously shoves into the other man's quaking body without a care for even general health. It's somewhat reassuring to see that physically, Sands responds just like anyone else.

Mentally is a different story. Balls-deep in clenching and tearing flesh, sweat mingling in the afternoon stench-steam of the crappy hotel room, Vincent stares into Sands' eyes and fails to find any give.

When he comes, he almost thinks that a splash of semen has somehow sprayed into his mouth because he tastes acrid fetid bitterness. Then he opens his eyes again and knows that the taste is from something else.

"You're a real riot, Vince." When Vincent pulls out and steps away, Sands slicks down the wall like a boneless mash of flesh. Which in fact he should be. Dark shadows spreading on his fishbelly-white thighs say that he won't be bouncing quite so high for a while, but the lift of his lip says different. "Tough call to say whether it was special training or you that fucked you up the most."

"My psych report is better than yours." Vincent goes into the bathroom, methodically cleans himself off and dresses himself. He ignores the slight tremor in his gunhand. It'll be gone as soon as he hits the street and loses himself in the chattering, chaotic obliviousness of thousands of procrastinating fools.

Sands' snicker stops him at the door, and he pivots to see the other man gingerly limping toward the bathroom. "Oh, I don't doubt that. Thing is, Vinny-the world is insane, and thus I fit right in."

"My name's not Vinny." It's a minor debate whether or not HQ really needs Sands all that much. After all, they had rated him down here as a punishment, and they had given Vincent a much, much nicer benefits package. It was pretty telling.

"I bet it wasn't Vincent either." Vincent's gun is halfway up when Sands ducks out the bathroom door again, still with that fucking smile. The man's eyes note the gun, then dismiss it. "You're nothing but Vincent now, and you haven't realized it yet. Oh, and yes, they would be upset if you killed me. I'm in the middle of something, hence our little meeting."

He leans back inside the bathroom, but his voice is unimpeded by walls of any kind. "Did you ever wonder which one of us they really, truly wanted to walk away from this?"

And it's deliberately manipulative, Vincent knows, but he also can't deny the effect it has on him. He plays his hand, but he hates being cut into the deck, or flipped out onto the felt.

His gun goes back in his holster. Two days later, sitting pretty in some beachside café after a full day of killing, he starts researching alternative employment in the private sector.


It's not the heat that gets to Vincent, though the thick beating dryness does edge under his skin and fever his mind. It's not the endless barren landscape that still manages to have more fury to it than all of L. A.'s magnificent steel hollowness. It's not even the sink of the black presence driving him to hell.

The car has had a CD player wedged into its instrument panel, an incongruous spot of modernity in the violent romantic sweep of the rest. And the driver is playing Miles Davis.

"Turn that off." When Vincent doesn't get a response, he unhinges a little. The leather slices deep into his swollen wrists and makes his snarl wither into a desperate cry when he tries to lunge for the other man. His forehead hits a hard shoulder, and his body shifts its aches to spoil the change in position. Jagged glissades reverberate through Vincent's skull, churning the insides to pudding. "Turn it off," he moans. "Turn it off."

"You don't like Miles Davis?" The inflection indicates that Vincent's supposed to.

Vincent squeezes his eyes all the way shut and grits his teeth against the onslaught of the trumpet solo. "Turn it off."

Surprisingly, the other man does. And then his arm wraps around Vincent's head, not quite comfort and not quite restraint. Fingertips rasp over Vincent's throbbing temple, a kind of petting, if docility were anywhere in this equation.

He starts humming. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it's better, and then he hits a groove that's slow and soothing and slippery chile prickle on the roof of Vincent's mouth. It wraps around Vincent, twists him close, and makes him settle into it. That's painful, but then, everything is.

He wonders for a moment if he's really that readable, that a stranger can second-guess him so quickly. That a washed-up loser of a cabbie can out-maneuver him in the field of his fucking expertise. It's been hammered into him long, long ago that he wasn't cut out for the higher-level shift-shuffle-switch, but he at least knew what he could do, no one could do better. Eventually, that was enough to stop the grating of self-knowledge.

At least, that was what he'd thought.


The next time they meet, Vincent has cut through the private sector like the Reaper with a nuclear scythe and has found what he thinks is a reasonably workable match-up of his skill set and their administrative bullshit. Sands is still in Culiacan, spinning out his tales against a backdrop of tequila-spangled cobwebs and cocooned bullet cartridges, just waiting to hatch out some new hellholes.

He's not precisely here to eliminate Sands. Normally Vincent tries to stick as closely to the target list as possible, but he thinks Sands might prove the gleeful exception to the rule. After all, the stupid bastard still sits with his back to the door.

"Musicians. Down here they're called mariachis. Annoying as fuck, but they do get the news around, and more reliably than the TV." Sands takes a drag off his cigarette and flicks it into the little puddle at his boot-tips. He ambles over to Vincent's church doorway just in time to get out of the blast path. "Pity they don't know shit about keeping their mouth shut."

"Messy." Vincent doesn't smoke. It's too relaxing. Add the matter of addiction and the strong smell of nicotine, and it puts in too many variables on the victim's side. They've all heard the story of the assassin who got his head blown off when his target smelled the cigar smoke clinging to his clothes.

The other man shrugs and plucks out another cigarette. "There's no convenient river around here, and unlike the American big cities, you've got certain rules of brutality that have to be followed down here. Mexicans are a hell-fucked vengeful bunch. Play too clean and you might as well be on the good guys' side."

"I didn't realize they had a good guys' side here." The clock's ticking and Vincent really should be on his way, but he's tempted to hang around for some reason. It's not sex-neither of them have any problem getting that, and anyway, Sands hasn't been fishing. Vincent doesn't fish, either.

"Once again, I am obliged to inform you that if you put a bullet in my head, you will be fucking up major shit. And it will follow you to whatever two-bit tailoring shop you happen to wander into." Sands snaps his grin toward Vincent's suit, running an appreciative eye over its lines but not doing anything more. He's also assessing Vincent's current capabilities, which is oddly good to know. Vincent doesn't actually care too much, but he still doesn't enjoy the sight of an agent going soft. It makes his gunhand itch, and that shouldn't happen because private sector is objective systems that don't include itches.

The reek of seared human flesh is beginning to blow their way, so Vincent swings out for a walk. Sands does the same, sensibly keeping a few steps behind. Not that Vincent can't still shoot him first, but in their world, mutual wariness is the highest mark of respect that can be given. "I don't work for the agency anymore."

"Yeah, I heard. Interesting, that." Amusement never, ever seems to leave Sands. "Should be good for you. Less independence."

That stops Vincent.

"Oh, don't be that conceited. You know perfectly well that you couldn't cut two fucking minutes in my job." Sands claps a hand to Vincent's shoulder, squeezes the stiffening, and walks off. "Back on the clock, doggie."

The man is very, very lucky that now Vincent is seven minutes behind schedule, and can't afford the twenty seconds it would take to smash Sands' face into the adobe walls all around them.


Vincent's stomach is past hunger and into ravaging; it curls him up and skids his head down a healthy, lean, hard chest onto equally muscled thighs. He momentarily thinks about biting the fucking smoky shadow in the crotch, but then fingers slide into his sweat-draggled hair and clench.

"Who the fuck sent you?" he gasps, trying to distract himself from the pain.

"I'm still thinking about that." The driver relaxes his grip and even massages the same hair roots he nearly wrenched out. Vincent doesn't slump into it. He's just very, very tired and so it's natural that he collapses.

The car is nearly stopping before he even notices that they've slowed down. When the driver unties his wrists and pulls him out, he sees long flat death in every direction, bleached monotony interrupted only by a ramshackle excuse for gas station. The lone attendant is a wavering blob behind the window several yards away, and man or woman, they don't seem to think that one man lashing another one's hands to a car handle and then dousing him with water is anything remarkable.

Hose-water tastes stale and metallic and absolutely wonderful. Before Vincent realizes what he's doing, his mouth is open and he's drowning in relief. When the sun starts to dry him out again, he suddenly notices that his feverishness has gone, leaving his mind something like clear.

The driver is refilling, and for the first time, Vincent gets a good look at him. Mexican like he'd thought, chiaroscuro garb on glowering brown skin. Black shoulder-length hair. A face that probably made angels cream their robes and a pair of eyes that did disturbing things to the steadiness of Vincent's knees. "Mariachi."

"That's what I do." He still hums, and the music is low and sultry and will not get out of Vincent's bones. It would be nice if asking him to stop was an option.

"Somehow I don't think this is part of your recording contract." Vincent tries out a smile and is a little pleased to find that if he does slowly enough, it doesn't hurt anymore. "The pay's that bad, then?"

A hint of humor amid all that sarcasm. "Occasionally I have to do other things."

"Mariachis moonlighting as pistoleros, if that's what they still call them down here. Mexico never ceases to amaze me." The leather around Vincent's wrists is shrinking as it dries, and his fingers are going red-burning to blue-numb. He bites down on his lip and tries to pretend he doesn't notice, because odds are the driver gets a kick out of it. "If this is about that last job-"

"Your hands." The driver is staring at them, and then his dagger's whipped through the leather. Feeling floods back into said appendages and cripples Vincent to the ground as effectively as a ruptured spine.

By the time enough of his vision has returned to even contemplate escaping, the driver's already gotten his wrists rewrapped in rags, with rope over those. It's immensely more comfortable, and somewhere along the line salve's worked its way in to squish cooling bliss on the abused flesh. Vincent remembers vague fragments of Stockholm's syndrome, which supposedly isn't a real, acknowledged psychology term but nevertheless feels fucking real enough to him. "What the hell are you doing with me?"

"It depends." The driver props Vincent back up against the side of the car and reknots the end of the wrist tether to the car handle. Then he goes to take out the gas pump and screw in the cap.

"Depends on what?" This is, quite possibly, the first time Vincent has ever truly, deeply felt irony. Usually he doesn't because irony depends on the victim first giving a shit about the current situation, and he generally doesn't.

For fuck's sake, the driver is never supposed to have the upper hand. It's a matter of strategic positioning: you sit in the back, you have a clear shot at everyone else and no one in the car has a clear shot at you. Passenger gives the orders.

"On you." Now the driver has palms on Vincent, scorching through his damp shirt, and is trying to maneuver him back in the car.

Hitmen aren't whores. Both categories trade physical skills for money, but hitmen always have the option of turning their weapons around the other way. Whores don't have that advantage.

So twisting up and kissing the driver is a bad idea, and it more or less wrecks the professionalism that Vincent has painstakingly built up around himself. But-

--actually, this is possibly the first time he's ever seriously kissed someone. Both hitmen and whores also maintain a certain distance from their clientele. Therefore, mashing his bleeding, sore lips against the driver's slightly parted ones takes Vincent out of both categories. This doesn't make him feel any better about it.

However, it's also the first time anyone has ever taken a kiss and whipped it around on him so fast that he's gasping open for the hot tongue, going limp before a frenzied whirlwind of teeth and pressure right there and then blood seeping into spit like hot acid. He actually whines in protest when the other man withdraws.

"Did that help?" the driver asks. His expression doesn't seem to give a damn.

"No." Vincent watches himself unravel a little more in the other man's eyes, and all he can do is wonder whether the driver will take that as an invitation or a refusal. He's not sure himself which he means.

In the end, they're back in the car, driving on. Once again, Vincent's wrists are lashed down, and once again, the driver is smoking and humming to Vincent and ignoring how every second sees Vincent melt down a little further onto him.


As a memory, Sands ranks right up there with Vincent's father, his shitty silhouette lingering in Vincent's mind long after the origin has stepped off the stage of Vincent's life. And it is a stage-Shakespeare was a wise man whenever he stepped back from his farcical obsession with lust. Vincent always doubted the veracity of love in Elizabethan plays, given its foundation of enchantments and double crosses and stolen identities.

The private sector does suit Vincent better. Less red-tape bullshit, less having to match his step with some stupid policy…and less thinking. Goddamn Sands.

But it is a relief to get away from the seething politics and the social interchanges of triple-edged words and beds that makes up the greater part of espionage. In the cold, solid facts of mapping out an approach to a target, Vincent finds security. Bullet trajectories, patterns of habit, architectural plans…and in the morning, it all goes away. Whatever happens during the kill stays at the kill, and Vincent can walk onto the plane not caring about it in the least because there are no longer any ramifications to the situation in Libya or Brazil or wherever the hell the current hot-spots are.

He doesn't even watch CNN any more. All the news he needs he can pick up during the conversations his bullets regularly interrupt.

But there's always a weevil in the grain, and in Vincent's case, his is Sands. For some reason, he has a feeling that Sands has won some argument they've had, and that. Fucking. Grates.

He tried to track down the snarky son of a bitch a while ago, but even with his connections, Culiacan's managed to finally digest and shit out the fucker into unrecognizable bits. As he gets off the plane in L. A., Vincent tells himself that it's better that way. He never liked Sands anyway.

Someone bumps into him and his fingers automatically let his briefcase slip out while his eyes are comparing face to photo. Sands drops out of his mind as the contract details submerge him in brisk, emotionless efficiency.


Dusk is falling when they finally pull into something resembling an overnight stop. It's a derelict church on the outskirts of a small town that has to be crawling with cartel, given its position by the highway. If Vincent had any trust left in his assessment skills, he'd be debating whether it was a religious kink, a danger kink, or some bizarre combination of both. Boston had had a team of odd Catholic vigilantes operating out of it for a while.

"Why did I come back?" Since religion has never made a terrible amount of sense to Vincent, he doesn't bother drawing the Christ parallels. He just asks the reasonable question. "I was shot. I died. And then I wake up here with you."

"It happens." The driver finishes off his last cigarillo and blows smoke rings at the windshield. He watches himself rub his fingers together, as if trying to scrape the stains from the tips. "I thought you've lived in Mexico."

Vincent laughs, even though that still hurts. "I occupied space here. In my line of work, it's a bad idea to make attachments to anything."

"Then you should've mentioned that to her." The fingers jerk out towards the landscape, which is now dappled in blaring fluorescent colors that should be gaudy, but thanks to the extreme asceticism of the land are instead haunting. "She likes you enough to bring you back."

"Who the hell are you?" It's a statement that should be said cool and smooth, but the driver's hand has dropped to Vincent's side and is now stroking to the burning spot where Max, that hypocritical son of a bitch, had shot him. Vincent squirms and hisses, but he can't stop himself from rubbing himself against the petting. "Who and why and what the fuck--"

The hand sweeps up to Vincent's chin and makes him look the other man in the eye. In his peripheral vision, he can see a big black gun muzzle nestling in the man's sleeve, next to the pulse. "Do you need a reason?"

Since the question confuses him, Vincent doesn't reply.

"Do you need to know?" With every word, the driver rolls his thumbpad over Vincent's mouth. He isn't doing it to be cruel, Vincent suddenly realizes. Which is possibly worse, because this he doesn't understand.

"There are billions and billions of stars up in that sky, and they'll all come out in a few minutes. I'm assuming." Big black shades are at the window, and that smirk hasn't lost a bit of its edge in the seven intervening years. Then Sands takes off the sunglasses, and Vincent is startled enough to let his lips part. Before he can correct himself, the gun has slipped out of the driver's sleeve and found a new resting place in his mouth. "El?"

The driver is grinning, and unlike all the other smiles Vincent has seen on his face, this one is backed up by actual fierce emotion. It transforms him from Death to Lucifer. "Hmm?"

"I see the trip's not improved your backassed sense of humor, you shitfuck. Is it night-time or not-you know what? Not relevant to my point." Sands taps on the window and El rolls it down so Sands can rest his arms on the bottom and lean in. "Billions and billions and fucking gajillions. And in all of that, a tiny flash on one star is supposed to matter?"

Vincent steamrolls his words into his glare. It's a useless effort with a blind man, but the gun doesn't seem to be leaving his mouth any time soon.

"'I don't know, shithead; you tell me.'" It's a devastating imitation of Vincent, and suddenly he faintly remembers what embarrassment is like. As if he senses that, Sands smirks and reaches down to ruffle Vincent's hair. "Well, the answer is: what the fuck do I care what my relative importance is to everything else? It doesn't matter. I'm me, I'm fucking around in this crazy-shit land, and as far as I'm concerned, that's all I need to know. Everyone else? Not even a flash in my universe."

The pistol suddenly slides out of Vincent's mouth, catching the edge of his lip as it goes. That doesn't really matter, given how beat-up he already is.

El calmly wipes off the gun on a rag, which gets tossed into the backseat, and then he strokes it along Sands' cheekbone, using it to tip Sands towards him so he can savage the hell out of the other man's mouth. "I told you-it depends."

"If I'm not allowed to ask why me, then can I ask why you?" Vincent is addressing Sands, who is…purring, and licking El's gun like it was candy. The sight cuts Vincent's breath short and doesn't do much to help the slow final slide he feels himself going into.

"Vince, babe. Come on." Sands' grin is wide and white and hungry. "You know I always liked you, right?"

It's funny how fast confusion can swing into anger. But the ropes still hold, and El clearly wouldn't have to do much to put Vincent out of commission. While the permanence of that is debatable, the consequent pain is still very much in Vincent's system. And he's never been one for masochism. He thinks. "No. I didn't."

"Oh, right. That's why I liked you." Then Sands twists into something sly and slinking and salacious. He drapes himself further in the car and nuzzles the side of El's tolerant expression. "You do like El, don't you?"

"Some days I think I should kill you," El murmurs, half-smiling as he grabs Sands by the hair and…goddamn it, Vincent doesn't have the right angle to see.

He feels even more annoyed once he catches himself at voyeurism, but then the other two have already noticed and it's no use hiding. Or lying down, so he claws himself up El's side into a semi-sitting position.

That's even funnier. The more time Vincent spends around Sands, the more…like himself he feels. It's interesting to notice that his idea of "himself" isn't very recent, but instead dates back quite a few years. "What, you got yourself a mariachi playtoy? Is that what that other one was?"

The gun swings around to Vincent's temple. He freezes.

"Other-oh, fuck, you actually remember that?" Despite the fact that El is nipping rather hard on Sands' neck, the other man's bounce is undiminished. "But, no, unfortunately not. El here is…really hard to kill. And really hard to comprehend in the first place."

"Other mariachi?" El pulls back a little and stares past the coyly fluttering lashes to the thick white scar tissue that bulges out of the eye-sockets. He's still amused, but there's a dark tone to it that could turn very nasty very quickly.

Sands just runs his tongue over his lips, then darts in to mutter-suck at El's ear. Several times El starts to move, ominously graceful, but each time Sands manages to settle him down. Vincent wonders just what percentage of what Sands is saying actually matches the memory. Then again, he'd never bothered to find out if Sands had been telling the truth back then.

His attention snaps back to the present when Sands abruptly withdraws and El swings the car door open. The gun vanishes, fingers twist around the knots that tether Vincent to the seat, and then he's being hauled out. His back is stiff and his knees are rubbery, so the stumble-fall's basically inevitable. Still doesn't mean that he forgives himself for it.

"If you put your weight on me, it wouldn't be so difficult," El says, but Vincent is damned if he'll do that. The car is behind him, and as soon as he can, he throws himself against it.

The space he puts between himself and El isn't much, but it'll do. He can already feel his head clearing a little, dragging out of that swirling chili-hot lime-cool disorder into which the man plunges him.

"Difficult is the word," Sands drawls. He's hanging off El's back in defiance of most laws of physics and looking as lazy as a fed cat in a sunbeam, while El merely catches the tether dangling from Vincent's bound wrists and wraps it around his palm. That and a knee pinning the steadier of Vincent's is just about all he needs to hold Vincent in place.

"Why?" Vincent hisses. "Why-"

Sands tilts his head. "-did a plain ol' little taxi driver with a shit life consistently outthink you? Why did you misread his two-neuron brain? Why the fuck do I irritate you?"

Vincent could add a few more to the list, but when the questions are this weighty, they start to pyramid. Answer a couple at the top and it all percolates down.

Anyway, he doesn't have a clue how Sands is getting his information, and it…he guesses that that feeling might be fear. It's been a while, so the slow recognition is understandable.

"Vincent, compadre, a little fact of life: you cannot get into a man's head from a distance." The other man swerves his hand through the air, drawing ridiculous shapes: a heart, a star, a question mark. And he's wearing that goddamned grin that makes Vincent want to-except El shoves his other knee against Vincent's, trying to make it bend in excruciating ways.

"It's all down-in-the-muck-and-guts work," Sands continues. "Something you never got, I believe. You always figured your rules and order and organization would make the glorious piece of shit that is the human mind understandable to you-well, doesn't happen like that. Take El here-he's rude as hell and won't talk half the time. The other half, he answers with stupid inanities that don't give a clue to what's going on in his pretty head."

El turns his head just enough to catch Sands' bottom lip in his teeth and gently bite. "Good description of you."

"Shut up. I'm being clever here." Sands reaches out and tweaks Vincent's nose, then flicks his finger on Vincent's teeth at the reflexive snap. "So the only way you're ever going to get into him is if you shove your fingers into his gory blazing chaos and start letting it run all over."

It's humiliating as fuck, but Vincent has been half-hard for at least the past thirty minutes, and proximity to El like this isn't helping. He squeezes himself back against the car, trying to widen the distance between them, but then El simply rocks forward onto the balls of his feet and presses. Vincent's head drops back and he watches the emerging stars spin epileptic ellipses around each other. He feels a hot mouth against his Adam's apple and the moan that's coming out dies into a gurgle instead. The lips move to the side and trace his erratic pulse to the corner of his jaw, where the teeth come out. Or sink in, as it were.

"Of course, that way you risk becoming human, and that's sort of a bitch." Entirely too conversational, Sands' tone is. "But if you don't, you just about marginalize yourself. Because there are thousands of galaxies with billions of planets out there, but lucky you, you're stuck on the one that's ruled by humanity."

Vincent's hands are being flattened by the slow grind of his and El's bodies. He tugs at them, trying to communicate by that because now El's taken possession of his mouth, and somehow manages to convey that he wants them out. El graciously lets him sling his arms around the other man's neck, then calmly goes back to sucking Vincent's brain out through his mouth. Probably a good decision, as now Vincent could theoretically reach Sands' throat and give strangling a go.

"On paper it looks better to be objective and cool, but hell, Marxism worked on paper as well. All comes down to personalities, Vince, and you did a really good job of almost not having one for a while." Grinning lips flicker over Vincent's fingers, teasing their twitching, then move to El's ear. "Take it you like him."

"If he doesn't have a personality, then what am I liking?" El murmurs it against the underside of Vincent's chin, which puts him at an awkward angle because Vincent has slid down to the point that the back of his head is banging against the car roof. The other man takes a moment to heave him back up by the waist, then starts peeling off his shirt. Fabric's been stiffened by sweat, crumpled after drying from the dousing, and so it makes an odd crinkling noise.

Tears like paper. Then El's palms are splayed over Vincent's ribs, one of them petting the newest gunshot scar, and suddenly that tired metaphor about putty and hands makes sense.

"You are such a facetious jackass, jangle-fuck," Sands replies to El, weirdly fond. He wiggles his tongue at Vincent, who's somewhat preoccupied with straddling El's thigh, but who still retains enough outside awareness to hook his leg around and dig his heel into the prick's leg. Sands yelps and pins Vincent's ankle to El's back, which throws everything askew till El pulls Vincent's other leg up to join that one. Then it's only Vincent who's off, which seems to be standard circumstances in Mexico.

The next time El comes up for air, Vincent tries to pull him down for another reality-merging kiss, but the other man holds him back. Fingers comb through his hair, but slide over his lips whenever he leans forward. "What?" Vincent hisses. "You're not getting cold feet, are you?"

El just looks at him, giving the general impression of patience hiding a hell of a lot of things that Vincent just can't get at. It's frustrating. It illustrates Sands' maunderings, which is aggravating. It's really fucking not what Vincent wants right now.

"Learning curve," Sands snorts. "Look, sugar-I'm blind and I can hear that you're not exactly the best kisser in the world. It's part of that mind-fucking thing I was talking about."

"I don't know if I want to teach him how to mind-fuck me." Of course, the way El talks, he knows damn well that Vincent is never going to be able to do that. "And I'm not sure you're one to give advice on that."

Pride is something that Vincent understands perfectly well, because he never messed with that. Right now, his is stinging almost as badly as his bruised lips. "An intelligent man wouldn't listen to him anyway because he's full of bullshit. Always was. Has he told you about all the little tricks he used to play? How about-"

And Sands is stiffening and setting his lips in a snarl, but El doesn't even bat an eye as he bends down and licks very lightly along Vincent's upper lip, like he's painting on fire. "No, and he doesn't have to. I knew he was a bastard, but that was before he was mine." Half-smile. "And he's still a bastard, but he's one I know."

Then the finger barriers are finally gone and El is going slower this time, stopping whenever Vincent gets too far ahead and easing down the rate with his mouth. Slicking his tongue along Vincent's, showing it where to bend and where to taste, and it would all be so much fluff and sickening sweetness if not for the merciless way El disregards what it's all doing to Vincent's extremely sore mouth. There's blood in the spit, and El seems to like the taste.

"I did mention that El's not exactly a nice guy, didn't I?"

Sands sounds like he's back in form, but now Vincent doesn't really care because frankly, Sands is not the most interesting part of this geometrical system. Trajectories of tongue and teeth, keep the latter from clipping the former too hard because then El would drag a nail over Vincent's nipple and that distorted the vertical slide of their cocks against each other. Hands leisurely slicing Vincent's pants off, cool thin knife-blades grazing parallel lines along the seams.

When El's hand leaves and reaches for something, Vincent has his face buried in the other man's neck, tentatively feeling out the sensitive spots. It's an old law which effectiveness he's forgotten until now due to ennui: perform desirable action, get rewarded. And an extra shove of thigh against his straining cock is far, far more effective than a ridiculous amount of money that he doesn't ever spend because he doesn't really want anything it can buy. He has a feeling that El isn't for sale in exchange for anything. Sands…is somewhat undecided, but his true list-price doesn't take money into account, Vincent thinks.

And he thinks that he's right, certainty warm and low in his belly like he almost never feels when he's making a personality judgment. Oddly enough, it doesn't irk him quite as much as he'd thought to admit that Sands was right. "You can't be doing this just out of the goodness of your heart."

"Nah. I'll say that my life's taken a few weird turns, but charity and rehabilitation of others aren't among them." Sands lays his cheek against the side of El's face and shuts his eyelids, looking oddly angelic. "Rest assured, this entire thing is entirely for selfish reasons."

Then El's finger finds its way up Vincent's ass, and Vincent discovers a completely new level of pain. There's some kind of oil involved, but it still hurts.

It's the perfect time for El to slip his tongue over every inch of Vincent's mouth, and thank God El seems to have excellent timing. Vincent even manages to relax-then the bastard jabs his finger up farther. But it's actually good this time. Good enough to make Vincent writhe and whimper into El's mouth like a whore. When the second and third fingers come, he's so eager for them that he actually finds himself trying to shove himself down. Nearly loses his grip on El's waist, but Sands seizes Vincent's ankles and locks them between El and himself.

"Hey, El? What color's his hair now?" There's an unfamiliar tangle of wistfulness and resentment in Sands' voice that makes Vincent glance over. Eerily, Sands wiggles his fingers at him. "Well, you're picking up this quick. Think you can read me?"

"No," and that's through gritted teeth because the fingers had just started to play sparks inside Vincent, and now they're leaving. He almost asks El what the fuck before realizing that the virgin act doesn't suit the occasion. Even if he is technically a virgin to this version of things-cock. In him. Oh, fuck.

El amusedly nuzzles his moaning throat. "Good."

"El…" Annoying spastic Sands is poking the man and distracting him from the fact that he's completely in Vincent's ass and he needs to fucking move.

"It's silver, but his stubble's black." Thankfully, El can do multiple things at once, which includes talking and fucking the hell out of Vincent.

Apparently, that might be a useful skill for Vincent to pick up while he's at it. "Dyed. I don't like the mottled look," he gasps.

"Unprofessional?" Sands does an excellent impression of a dedicated scientist.

"Not…clean." Wrong word. Vincent digs his fingers into El's neck, braces himself against the car, and rolls his hips down. The next thrust jounces everything to brilliant white flashes and knocks the right word into place. "Not smooth."

Nodding, Sands adjusts his hold from Vincent's ankles to Vincent's calves, which are going slack. "Ah, yes. Look streamlined, be streamlined. God forbid you get run ragged by anything, or have that pristine façade of yours marred in any way. Perfectionist."

"He never shuts up." It's a rhetorical statement, fired out in quick bursts in between the rocking and shoving and-if El does that one more time, Vincent suspects that the world might collapse. At least his body will.

"Wait a while. It takes a bit to get him quiet, but…" El somehow manages a shrug. And an unsettling, ravenous smile. "It can be fun."

Sands growls. "Don't make me remind you that I'm right here."

"Go to-fuck!" And Vincent finally loses the last pieces, gets swept off the board and completely, utterly cleaned out. He watches things blur to sweat-haze, feels his stiffness liquefy to limpness and sinks onto El. Into El, he thinks for a moment, disoriented as to what's gone where.

He doesn't protest when El carries him inside and dumps him on a bed, then does a rough, fast job of cleaning him before turning on Sands. Vincent rolls over and avidly watches, trying to slot notes into place. But the pace is too fast and the atmosphere's too thick-hot, and anyway he knows this method doesn't cover all the bases. Snorting at himself, he lies back and lets it wash over him, figuring that he can get the details later.

Eventually they remember to feed him. In the morning, El fucks him over the breakfast counter while Sands pops food into his mouth, which is much less cuddly than it sounds because Sands' idea of hand-feeding is similar to the crabby old hags who tease squirrels with bread bits. Vincent doesn't know where the new suit comes from, but El slides him into it slow and easy and torturous, so he doesn't ask.

Mexico, he thinks. What the hell took him so long?