Author: Guede Mazaka
There's something about empty hallways. Especially old ones, soaked up to their plastered mouldings in lives that have long since passed on.
People say the pictures and the sculptures become real. Step down from the canvas and the pedestals for their turn across the creaking floor. They say that a gray lady whispers along the wall, just out of sight, and that a well-dressed man glares from the corner there, where the odd stain eternally glistens.
When they have to go through the hallway, alone and after dark, they rush through. They're afraid of what they might see inside. They don't worry about the outside.
Windows, lining each side, and in the dark, they're opaque like so many framed holes.
Or are they?
Changing Directory: Matrix, PG, for dreamiflame
Neo hasn't told anyone yet except Trinity, but he can see the code inside people. When they're in the Matrix. When they're jacked in with electricity sizzling their synapses and the numbers are shooting through their veins like so much sparkly gold cocaine.
It's still different from what he sees when he looks at an Agent. Or a program walking around in human form. Looking at someone like Trinity or even Morpheus is nothing like looking at Seraph. Sparring with them is nothing like fighting with him. He's a crackling river, always changing flow and giving into the blows so he can rear back into a colossal wave. The glyphs tingle when they slip away from Neo's fists, when they graze past his arms and head. It's whirling in water set afire, in an electrical sea that threatens to just pound him beneath its great currents of-
And then the code settles into serenity, still and constant. Leaving Neo out of breath. Only scorched, not ignited.
He wonders why that bothers him.
Buoyancy: PotC, PG, for sparrowhawk723
In the Caribbean, life is so abundant that man decided to name everything after death. Dead Man's Cay, Dead Man's Walk, Dead Man's Island-what Will is doing now, they call it the Dead Man's Float.
This is irony, he thinks as he stares up into the blue, blue sky. Because he knows that corpses do tend to ride the surface of the sea, but that's not true of any that he's seen. Or heard about. Barbossa's pirates walked down. His father plummeted, cannon flinging him to the sea bed.
"Will?" And ocean splashes over his face in a little wave, stinging his eyes and nose and tongue with salt. Elizabeth giggles an apology as he rolls over and treads water, glaring in between rubs at his face.
Jack doesn't even bother, but instead snags Will's wrist and begins to tow him back to the Pearl. "C'mon, Turner. Any longer an' y'll be burnt raw. Not healthy t'think on th'beyond too much, lest y'forget what's by y'r side."
Foreshadow: PotC, G, for unen2gemismasin
Most sun-struck sailors saw mermaids. Jack, being Jack, saw a sea dragon.
It was long and sinuous like a lock of sweetheart's hair dragged through the water, and it had the largest, most liquid eyes he had ever seen. They seemed to blow mist down his throat and stoke fire in his belly, just under his heart. They spoke of endless skies and endless depths where glittering secrets were folded into unrelieved black. They cried out for the horizon, and they wept for the end.
He blinked, rum drifting through his own eyes, and then it was gone. But the ship-black beauty just rolling into the bay-didn't. And that's when he knew.
Fisherman's Rest: PotC, PG, for the_dala
There's a head poking itself into James' knee. He's not quite sure what Will thinks he'll find tucked into that joint, but they're both slightly tipsy due to some very fine whiskey, and James doesn't think he could ask anything without garbling the words. So he doesn't.
A good decision, because the nuzzling turns into nipping, and then into long murmuring up James' front until he has lovely warm blacksmith sprawled across him. It's something like lying in a sunbeam, only with a much more pleasant texture. And the ability to reach down, stroke along a smooth back and pull up a lazy, drunken kiss.
All those days searching the seas, and it turns out that he has only to dip into his own parlor in order to catch the prize.
Spiced Toddy: PotC, PG, for fabu
Rum goes very well with cinnamon, Elizabeth has found. Sweet hot tang, chased down with slow-scorching fire.
Though it isn't often that she gets to taste both at once. Jack and Anamaria seem to have a private accord wherein one applies himself to one side of Elizabeth, and the other glides herself along the opposite side. She has to be clever and patient, and keep a sharp eye out for the opportune moment when-
--twine them together, them the wild raw fiber and herself the spindle. It never lasts for more than a moment, but then, that is as it should be. They're pirates, after all, and they do as they please.
Most of the time. Elizabeth smiles, and enjoys the seconds where she steers the ship.
Tutoring: PotC, PG, for fuzipenguin
"See? Breathe like so-" tanned hand so dark against the delicate pale satin and lace "-not like a gallopin' horse. Corsets're like th'women who wear 'em: finicky an' demandin.' Y'have t'show 'em respect."
It should have been so much rank nonsense. It should have been humorous, or ridiculous.
But Elizabeth and Jack both in corsets, practicing the art of taking air, was in the end nothing short of breathless. She swayed in the circle of his palms, her pupils drawn to needlepoints and her mouth parted barely enough.
"Aye, that's it," Jack murmured as his smile descended upon her.
Making Up: PotC--Fairytale-verse, PG, for raphe1
//Carolina?// José poked his head into their cabin, his expression a strange cross between amusement and disgust. //Why would Sands leave dead rats on my chair?//
Sighing, she set down her hairbrush and went to take a look. //That's not your chair. That's El's chair.//
//I went through the trouble of getting them, so they're all my cha--// José stuttered to a halt as El trotted out of a shadow to stare at the pile of furry corpses, then miaowed in a loud, exasperated tone. Carolina emphasized.
From another dark nook, a blob of black inched out, emitting pathetic mews every few seconds. //He's apologizing//, she translated. //Moron. El likes fish more…should've swiped one from the galley.//
Little grumbling growls as El leaped up onto the cushion and batted off each rat. Sands tentatively eeled himself up the chair leg to lick at the other cat's muzzle. El snorted and pawed a suddenly-grinning Sands beneath him, then curled up and settled in for a nap.
//Cute but messy//, José summarized as he and Carolina began to clean up the rats. //Sometimes I wish they weren't so good at massacring these.//
Dirge: Brotherhood of the Wolf, G, for monkeypuzzle
"Les fantômes," Mani said, staring out the window. His voice was hollow, and from the side, his eyes seemed dipped in phosphorus. They glowed with eerie fire.
Grégoire stepped up next to the other man and jovially clapped his hand to Mani's shoulder as he peered out. Stables, darkened courtyard…nothing out of place in a rural nobleman's castle. "They sound like common wolves to me."
Mani smiled, but kept looking away. "They are wolves. And they're crying for the ghosts."
Nihil Obstat [Nothing Stands in the Way]: Gladiator, NC-17, for signofawave
Trees, and trees, and trees. That was all Quintus ever saw of Germania, and it would most likely be all he remembered.
Bark shoving into the back of his head, seeming to press through the leather and plates of his armor. A drifting shower of razor-scented pine needles that somehow worked themselves into every chink and crack. He clutched for support and felt metal slice into his palms, the hot blood pulsing out with every ragged breath.
Maximus made no sound as he continued to twist and jerk and ram Quintus into the trunk. His eyes were still maddened with battle, only a faint sliver of reason remaining to guarantee a return to sanity. He snapped his body forward one last time, then momentarily sagged before yanking out to let Quintus slump against the tree.
The general began to turn, then halted and offered a rag. "We need to get back to camp."
Only cool, distant logic in his gaze now. It chilled as much as it warmed.
Extempore [Without Premeditation]: The Ninth Gate, R, for dementedsiren
Dean Corso has picked up fragments of many, many languages during the course of his ravenous searches, but he hasn't yet learned the language of the damned. He shouldn't have to, as it's one of those things that come with the contract, but somewhere something must have been forgotten.
hot heat hands palms down and in and holding clenching
Damn shame. He'd like to say a lot of things right now. "Stop." "What the hell?" "This isn't what I was promised."
forcing in and in and fuck, he's going to split into too many pieces
He'd like a word with that woman, too. Something along the lines of, "Why'd you let me screw you if you were only going to-"
fire raking his bones to ashes smoke up his nose and in his mouth thick and lapping
But he's screamed and screamed in every language he knows, and none of them seem to work.
Maybe he should have read the whole book first.
For the Dearly Departed: The Ninth Gate, G, for oleander9999
Dean had met Bernie by way of a 16th-century illuminated treatise on the sexual exploits of witches. The bastard had actually managed to screw him over and make off with the text. That'd been why he remembered Bernie.
The next time, it'd been him trotting off with a first-print folio of Marlowe. That was probably when Bernie had started to remember him.
The third time, circumstances had brought them to a draw, and Dean had invited the other man out to coffee for a frank, objective discussion. Which had ended surprisingly well, dropping a nice thick packet of cash in both their pockets. Bernie was smart, efficient, and completely amoral. He was someone Dean could relate to.
It was a shame he'd gotten himself killed, and Dean felt it only right to pause a moment. But just a moment. The book was waiting.
Decision-Making: The Ninth Gate, PG-13, for hippediva
He has the last engraving. He's come back to the castle. So now he's sitting on a rock, holding the book and staring at the door.
Well, what? Is it going to happen? Should he bother going through with this-after all, he's come out with his paychecks and business intact. Client list a little shorter, but that can be fixed.
The parchment grazes yellow and soft against his fingers as he idly flips through the book. His thumb slips down the leather binding, testing its give. Tracing whorls across the creases of time while a light breeze does the same to the back of his neck. He can smell the richness, the power in the book-it's like long-brewed lightning, and it makes his vision swim, his hands slip on the slim volume. The black ink, undaunted by age, blazes up and when he mouths a few words, coats his tongue with dreamy dark incense.
Gold streaks across the page, startling him into glancing at the door. The gate. The opening.
The Stacks: The Ninth Gate, NC-17, for auburnnothenna
One minute he was wandering the back parts of the library, and the next he was spun about and shoved up into the books, fingers scrabbling wildly at gilt-stamped leather and worn cloth.
Tongue invading his mouth, tearing out his words by the roots. His hands jammed through the built-in bookends and locked there while his tie was stuffed into his mouth and his pants were ripped down to his ankles. And then he was rising up on tiptoes, gagging on the silk as he arched back and pushed and helped rip himself to shreds-
--sagging onto the floor, limp wrists sliding from the sharp metal. Beside him, a single book lay open. Its pages fluttered flirtatiously in the slight breeze that coasted through the empty aisle.
That settled it. Fuck his major; Dean wasn't going into advertising. Not after that.
Rationale: The Ninth Gate, PG, for wingedkiare
He didn't believe in the Devil. What was the point of having an ultimate evil when man was already so very, very good at screwing himself over?
And no, that time in New Orléans didn't figure at all into the equation. He'd drunk too much, then staggered into a cemetery to sleep it off because there were cemeteries everywhere. The entire city was just a cemetery, with lots of tourists to space out the graves.
There had been no claws sinking into his wrist, and he'd stumbled against that mausoleum. He hadn't been pushed, and he definitely hadn't kissed anything-anyone. Besides, he'd still been able to walk fine the next morning, hadn't he?
No, Corso did not believe in Satan. He believed in himself.
Post Scriptum: The Ninth Gate, NC-17, for angieloki
When his struggles almost upset the inkpot, a sharp slap to his left buttock sent him hissing into the sheets. The leather around his wrists and ankles tightened, cutting as painfully as a knife drawn slow and hard across the skin. He felt lightheaded. Faint. He wanted to black out, but that wasn't allowed.
Just in range of his peripheral vision, whiteness moved. The quill daintily brushed over his nose as excess ink was scraped off the nib, and then it was whispering down his throat, over his straining shoulders.
A pause while the work so far was considered, and then fire prickled into Dean's blood, an agonizing scorch, as the next line was inscribed upon him.
Bargain: The Ninth Gate/From Hell, G, for elefwin
Corso eyed the book, then the man. Book-correct paper and ink, excellent condition. Man-thin and hazy-eyed, slightly less gentle-seeming when he wasn't bowing his head. "Standard Victorian medical text. They're quite common, and I'm afraid you won't get too much for it unless it's got some mark of distinction attached."
"It belonged to Jack the Ripper."
As he shook out a cigarette and offered the pack, Dean shook his head and smiled, wolfishly sharp. "Look, Mr. Abberline-"
"It's all right." Abberline took up the book and tucked it into his satchel, then plucked out a cigarette and stuck it into one corner of his mouth. He lit it as he walked out. "I only wanted to see if you'd take it."
The encounter left a sour taste in Dean's mouth, and he spent a good fifteen minutes trying to remember if he'd seen a lighter or book of matches in the other man's hand. But then Balkan called, and there were more important things to think over.
Precipitate: From Hell, G, for fangirl_lizzie
Opium is concentrated air, laced through with lazy poison.
Laudanum is deadened water, all its life strained out to leave only the cold.
Absinthe is drunken fire, doped with momentary echoes of sweetness.
Abberline needs them all, for he is nothing more than earth, pounded flat by the tread of fortune. He's crumbling and disintegrating, and he needs to borrow from the others if he wishes to stay on his feet of clay.
If he wishes to.
Thus Conscience Does Make Cowards: From Hell (title from Hamlet), PG, for penguingal
"Sir, you're drunk. And you've been smoking opium."
Drawn-out, slurring chuckle muffled in Godley's shoulder, and the hands kept up their feeble plucking. He fought down the flinch and pulled Abberline's fingers off his coat, then pried the other man's moustache from his neck. "You don't know what you're doing."
"I know you're a man. You're holding onto me."
Vice versa, and they didn't pay him enough for this. But Godley put up with it anyway, gently fighting off the advances until he had the Inspector safely bundled into bed. And then he walked out, found the nearest bar, and ordered himself a stiff drink.
He'd never liked men, and he never would, under any circumstances. When Abberline was like tonight, though, Godley came dangerously close to thinking that didn't matter.
Intoxication: From Hell, PG, for ghostgecko
Blacker than hell, and sweet as heaven. It's a saying, used to describe the perfect cup of Turkish coffee. It describes the feeling of the knife very well.
Gull remembers the warm contentment of the teaching rooms, the glow of royalty. The admiration of colleagues, and lastly, the dark sleepy gleam in the Inspector's eyes. One who came closer than any of the rest to understanding. Close. So close…
But nothing to the slice and flash of the blade. Nothing.
Hearth and Heart: Norse myth, G, for viva_gloria
Frigga knows that her husband strays. She also knows that he fears. Oh, not her-the end. He's seen and he's been told of the wolf-age to come, and of the sole two survivors. So he spreads his seed far and wide, trying to ensure that his blood will live on in the world that comes after theirs.
He knows that she is content with her quiet spinning. He knows that she has her own ways of learning things, and he knows that she agrees with him. It's a comfortable relationship, and beneath all the trappings of godhood and warrior's ways, that is all a woman can ask of a man in these times.
But she still lacks, and aches in the cold. She has her own ways of dealing with that, too-
golden head pillowed upon her breasts, that famous necklace trailing over both their bodies sweet smile and quiet joy
--perhaps he knows of that, his mess from which she's woven bright gold. She cares not. His place is out in the world, fighting and searching and struggling. Hers is here, watching the skies and tending the wounded.
Rose-Tinted Shades: Cowboy Bebop, PG-13, for fey_puck
They were filthy and bedraggled and wet, stumbling through the door. Spike stepped too hard on his twisted ankle and teetered, then grabbed Vicious' shoulder.
Luckily, the couch was right next to the door. It was a soft and hard landing-broken-springed cushions and tangling limbs. Cursing turned to laughing, and from there it was only a short smooth slide into kissing. Bloodstained whiskey and bruised lips, but neither of them cared about that. Vicious caught a hangnail on Spike's jeans, but found his snarl muffled in warm, warm mouth and sly hands and rubbing flesh. Every spot already mapped out and known.
"Got my back, huh?" Spike's teeth were like fresh white candles in the dark.
"You know I do," Vicious muttered, and pulled the other man back down.
Movie Night: 'Mexico'/Cowboy Bebop muse-fic, PG, for megpie71
The couch wasn't shaking anymore. Lorenzo tried to ignore the nagging in his mind, but it wouldn't go away. He growled and detached Faye from his neck, then glared over at El. "If he suffocates and dies, I'm not helping with the body. And I'm blaming everything on you when she asks what happened."
El's face was as bland as puréed oatmeal-Fideo's idea of an American breakfast-as he casually leaned back and dragged Sands' face out of the cushions. "He wouldn't stop laughing."
Stupid Fideo had already hauled Ramirez back to the bedroom, so Lorenzo got to put up with everything, damn it. "Like you could blame him."
"…'she had some style'…" sung through the gasping for air. "… 'don't cry for me'--it'll ruin the eyeliner…oh, God…" Sands jabbed at El and collapsed in a fit of giggling. "Evita, huh?"
"That was. Not. Me," El snarled, shoving Sands onto his back and-
--right. "Wanna go hotwire the DeSoto?" Lorenzo asked as he threw up an arm as a blind.
"Already swiped the keys," Faye muttered back, yanking him out the door.
Footnote: 'Mexico,' PG, for permetaform
Archetypes, you see. Legends. Myths. They last forever-oh, not in the same form, but change is acceptable.
Or so Sands thinks. But the gift of immortality never comes quite as expected, and when his eyes are oozing down his face and his blood is watering the dead dust, he almost wishes he'd never bothered. Let El have all the unwanted glory and the wild blazing walk in the sun. All he'd ever asked for was a nice little asterisk and a few sentences in the book of history.
But that's not how it turned out, the hands pulling him up out of the dirt tell him. That's not what he got, the low sharp laugh at his weak attempts to escape tells him.
That's not what he wants, the heat that welcomes his tentative touch months later tells him.
Constant: 'Mexico'--Archetype-verse, NC-17, for rokeon
"You know, it feels weird to see normally again," Sands panted as he grabbed onto El's shoulders and hauled his ass up the side of the mausoleum. Whereupon things nudged and slipped and wedged in, and-"Fuck! Fuck, I missed that. But don't you have a-a name now?"
"Not really." El shifted his grip on Sands' thighs and proceeded to whack Sands' head into the stone. Which wasn't to be tolerated, so he wriggled himself into a forward lean and latched his mouth into El's throat. Felt the words against his tongue. "Parents abandoned me, this time around."
Whisper and glimmer around the edges. Sands grinned at the gathering ghosts and cheerfully flipped them the finger. "Glad the show's rolled back in town, huh?"
"You have no idea," El grunted. "List of names-next town over-"
"Later. Right now-" Sands bucked and hissed himself limp. "Oh, Christ. Thank God some things don't change."
Laying in for the Winter: Goldeneye/'Mexico'-Nifheim/Muspelheim-verse, G, for pinkdormouse
Well, the blond man could still shoot and run and kill. He could move in Mexico, which was a quality that few foreigners ever truly acquire. It was a fact that told El a lot of things, and one that annoyed Sands to no end.
On the other hand, Alec didn't know how to deal with the heat. He'd force himself to keep going during a firefight, but if El left him too long in the marketplace, Alec would invariably end up huddled in some patch of shade, mouth hissing parched breath and face blenched to no color. But he wouldn't stay in the rooms or the car by himself.
"Why?" El had asked once, when Sands had been too deep in sleep to interrupt.
"I need it. I need as much of it as I can take." And something had cracked through the frozen blue eyes, flashing, before the fracture resealed itself. "I need it for the time when I won't be able to get to it."
Semantics: Goldeneye, G, for snowpiratess
"England. There's something…"
"What about it?"
"James, you're being very distracting, and I'm trying to…England, all right? Just England. Not Great Britain. Not-"
"What we do, we do for England. That's why we say that. Alec, how many vodkas have you had?"
"And Scotland, and Wales, and the Irish…and hell, even the bloody Americans. The whole world, Bond. But all right, we're only answerable to London. So it is for England. Only England. Always England."
"God, I hope so."
Wink and smile, and then the last image whirls itself away into the dark. It leaves an aching blankness behind as all the life seeps out of the hallway.
And that is the real reason why people fear it so much. So much, and then-
--nothing. Like death.
But unlike death, this feeling is only temporary. Only until the next night, and the next lonely walk.