He knows it's a dream.
He's known from the beginning, from the moment he found himself looking around the cheap Mexican motel room and actually seeing it. Even before he stared into the mirror at his own face and saw the gaping sockets, the bloody tears, he knew he was dreaming. So it's not a shock when he looks back to the mirror and sees that it isn't a mirror but a doorway, and standing in it waiting patiently to be noticed is a man who is not his reflection.
There's something familiar about him, though, and it's not just the cocky smile and dark glasses that make him doubt for a moment and think maybe the door is really a mirror after all. It's something intangible, something in his aura or ambiance or attitude or the blood caked beneath his fingernails that says yes, this is a killer of men. One that doesn't bother with gloves when things get messy.
He wonders, in one of those perfectly rational tangents that happen in dreams, if the cockroaches in the bathroom are figments of his imagination or if they are indeed the dreaming selves of the cockroaches he's heard skittering along the tiles at night while he lays in bed and doesn't sleep. He'd been starting to think that maybe he couldn't, that he would spend the rest of his life awake and aware, and he's discovering to his surprise that he would have missed this dreaming if it hadn't come. He's not used to missing things.
He misses his eyes.
"They were wonderful eyes," agrees the man still standing in the door that still might be a mirror. "I saw your balance through them, and it was delicious."
"The best it's ever been," he quotes, feeling the corner of his mouth turn up as he remembers. Maybe that's why his plan failed; his dream was too good. Mexico is a country of extremes, of too-bright colors painted over the too-stark contrast of black and white. She has her six-string samurai sons and her traitorous bitch daughters, and somehow the two dance around each other like matter and antimatter. Never stable, never actually cancelling each other out, but as close to his vision as they can come without exploding.
The man's smile, when it comes, is as sharply edged as a knife sinking into his gut. Because he's seen it on himself a thousand times, practicing it in the mirror until it became second nature, fine tuning that mix of threat and promise that made him more than just another punk kid in high school, more than just another faceless agent in the company. "But you still want to kill them all in the most painful way possible."
It's a beautiful thing, being understood like that without having to explain yourself. And it's half a dozen steps across the room to reach for those sunglasses, to pull them off and toss them away somewhere over his shoulder, ignoring the dull sound of their impact on ragged carpet in favor of the laughter he hears behind the words. The smile is three times as sharp now, and the balance in this- the killer who consumes eyes and the killer who has none- is so perfect it hurts.
A small corner of his mind takes a moment to note that this is quite probably the most fucked-up staredown in history, Mexican or otherwise.
It's probably too perfect, but there's no one here to shoot but himself and the man he's pressed back against the door, and besides he's never had anything that remotely compared to this moment: the taste of good tequila, the smell of fresh blood, the feel of hard muscle, and the sound of the neverending laughter that refuses to stop even when they kiss, biting lips and chewing tongues and clashing teeth and whatever happened to his lunchbox, anyway? He liked that lunchbox.
He forgets to mourn its loss as things abruptly spin out of his control, an ankle hooking behind his knee and hands gripping his shoulders and by the time he figures out what happened it's him that's pressed against the door. One of those hands is tangled in his hair now, wrenching his head back for the inexplicably delicate, nipping teeth that are busy mapping his bared neck as the other hand rubs its way down past his chest and stomach to settle on his leg. There's a pause, just long enough for him to realize that the fingers have wrapped around his thigh and the thumb is lightly stroking over the worst of his collection of half-healed gunshot wounds. It's a transcendent sort of moment, almost an epiphany, during which it's so clear what's about to happen. Then it does, the thumbnail digging in as the teeth sink into his throat and the pain is white heat that flashes through every part of his body before burning its way out.
If it's possible to black out when you're already unconscious, he does, because he has only the vaguest sensation of wooden door transmuting into cotton sheets and gravity somehow resetting itself by 90 degrees so that by the time things come back into focus he's on his back in a rather nice bed. Trying not to think about how exactly it is that he's focusing when he's pretty sure his eyes are still somewhere other than his face, though he'd have to check to make sure. Easier to think about something else, like the way he seems to have conveniently avoided coming in his pants by having said pants conveniently vanish, along with the rest of his clothes and those that had been worn by new best friend.
Speaking of whom, now that certain pressing urgencies have been relieved he can take the opportunity to really look at the man, and damned if he isn't smiling again. These smiles are different though: smug and self-satisfied and hungry, and that's a feeling he can relate to, a banked heat that wasn't satisfied with just a quick flashfire. He seems to recall learning something about REM cycles, though, and unless he's lost even more of his mind than he already had he'll be going through several of them before he wakes up, and they'll only grow longer each time.
It's an abrupt question, one backed by genuine curiosity. "Do you have a name?" The best orgasm in his life, even if it was imaginary, and he's only now getting around to asking. He supposes it fits, priority-wise.
And now he's lost it completely, laughing so hard he's not sure he's ever going to be able to stop. He'd thought the kiss was too much, but this, this is whole worlds of wrong, and Freud would be having a field day with it if he wasn't six feet under somewhere in Austria. Dreaming of sex with the homicidal lovechild born of the affair between his own subconscious and the Hero of Mexico, and all he can think to himself is that he'd always believed firstborn sons should be named after the father, and apparently he's managed to do that without having to pass on the childhood trauma that is Sheldon.
He's also thinking that he knew he was good when he lied his way through the psych exams, but he never imagined that he was this good. What do they call psychic incest, anyway? Is there a clinical term?
"Sands," he offers some time later, when he finally can breathe again. It's only fair to give a name for a name, even if it is a lousy one. "Sheldon Jeffery Sands, late of the CIA."
"I know who you are," says the Corinthian, and there's something in that voice that washes away the last of his hysteria and brings him fully back to the present, back to his body where it's sprawled in bed with this strange man straddling him on hands and knees. It's another set of smiles now, heavy and slow and possessive, and he can't suppress a shiver as lips press softly against his and warm breaths blow feather-soft into the twin pits that were his eyes.
"You're one of mine."
The brush of lips deepens into a kiss, and it's long and slow and very, very thorough. He feels every muscle in his body relax, bones melting as he sinks into the bed, and this is the most foreign sensation he's had to deal with all night. He's been coiled like a spring since he first heard of the coup, on edge since he was first assigned to Mexico, tense since he first joined the CIA. Hell, he's been keeping one eye out for trouble since kindergarten. Stupid fuckmook parents and their book of 1001 Names That Will Scar Your Child For Life.
Of course, one eye is more than he has to spare at the moment. Maybe that's why he's not worrying.
Whatever the reason, he's currently content to lie back and let the Corinthian do the work. He occupies himself with cataloging the tastes: tequila with lime, that one he noticed during that first blitzkrieg of a kiss. Good stuff. Copper and salt, the sweetsharp tang of blood that he's fairly sure is his own. Heavy smoke, tobacco with just the slightest hint of cordite, and he moans as he imagines it, taking a drag off the cigarette and dragging his tongue along the barrel.
Time is melting again, now, stretching and twisting and folding back on itself like a Mobiüs strip made of saltwater taffy. As long as it's not the kind that tastes like licorice. It's strange; the sex, if you can even call it that, was over too fast for him to register any more than a series of impressions, a sudden detonation of heatpressuresharplight giving way to a sea of cotton-wrapped gray. But this drawn out tangle of lips and tongues has lasted for... oh, at least a week, now, and there's absolutely no reason for it to stop anytime this month.
There's a whorehouse in Hong Kong, the sort of place where the girls are just one of the many services available. He paid it a celebratory visit the day after the death of a certain prominent Triad member was officially ruled as being due to natural causes- long soak in a hot tub, full-body massage, fabulous lunch, and what he'd always considered to be some of the best sex in his life. He feels the same way now that he did then, all from a single (neverending) kiss without so much as a hint of physical contact below the neck.
Is it true that dying in dreams means you never wake up? Because he's heard of people having coronaries while they're fucking. (And knows three different drugs that can help trigger the contributing arrhythmia... fascinating subject, chemistry. One of his favorites in school, though he ended up majoring in political science. He still regrets that Professor Rigby, his teacher for Comparative Governments II, wasn't his first kill. Though the origin of the skills the CIA taught him to use to withstand torture, the ones that kept him from breaking down and crying like a little girl while they gouged out his eyes, those can be traced back to two weeks of 7 AM lectures on the Value of Cultural and Historical Uniqueness. So maybe things balanced out after all.) Sands does not want to be one of those people, his end the punchline of some pathetic locker room joke- Did you hear the one about the secret agent that died from a wet dream?
He's vaguely aware that he really shouldn't be able to think this clearly. Maybe it's not that odd, though: his body is behaving like a separate entity, one that can only react to what the Corinthian is doing to him. Independent action just isn't possible, not with the way the endlessly rolling waves of sensations have left him unable to do anything but feel, not without being in serious danger of blowing every single fuse in his nervous system if he tries anything. So there's really no reason his mind shouldn't wander elsewhere. After all, there are a million and one things to think about: things like the best ratio of PETN to RDX for making Semtex, like the way his cousins' dog used to bury stuffed animals in the backyard, like the day he found out he could actually get paid to cause chaos and mayhem, like the JesusfuckingbastardChrist way the Corinthian's tongue just started working the sweet spot on his neck as twin voices whisper sweet nothings into his ear.
Other people have always been the most irritating part of getting laid, before now. They're so needy, demanding gifts and vows and time and effort when all he wants is something more satisfying than his own hand that doesn't require the bar-hopping and drink-buying involved in picking up someone new.
Is easy, regular, completely meaningless sex really too much to ask for?
These are promises of faithfulness and devotion, but not the sort he's ever seen on candy hearts and valentines. These are real. You will never forsake me, they tell him, never belong to another. I am inside you, in your bones in your bile in your blood, and the deeper you cut yourself the deeper you will drive me. When you kill, I will eat their eyes. When you die, it will be at my hand.
He could call it love, but he won't. This isn't about romance; it's barely even about lust. It's about being connected, being possessed, being known from the inside out. It's about being in a place he could stay for the rest of his life, but feeling no regret that he's going to wake up soon. It's about knowing his next kill will be more satisfying and more meaningful than any sex, real or imaginary, could ever be.
It's about knowing that he may be blind, but he'll be seeing the Corinthian's triply-smiling face for a very long time.