Title: The Secret Box
Fandom: Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Pairing: None necessarily
Summary: While helping Sands retrieve some things from his hotel room, El uncovers something rather queasy, shedding light on Sheldon Jeffrey's less than in control side.
Warnings: Gross imagery
Disclaimer: They ain't mine, they're Rodriguez's, Banderas', and Depp's.
Notes: I wanted to try writing an Agent Sands who wasn't completely chill and collected--he just seemed way too calm on the surface to not be hiding anything, or not have his covert fallings-apart.
For someone so outwardly composed, his hotel room was a mess.
El picked his way through the chaos incarnate which was Sands' floor, slowly and carefully finding places to step. He did not want to break anything. If he did, there would be hell to pay. He knew it. The two of them had returned to the place to collect the blinded man's valuables, whatever they were--in a room littered with dirty clothes, beer bottles, empty cigarette packages and crumpled papers, it was hard to see anything of value. The mariachi looked warily over his shoulder at the skeletal figure leaning on the door frame, and paused. His eyes flared intensely as he studied his companion.
It could be said that Sands was beautiful once. El remembered the man's graceful, almost delicate features and soulful, velvet-brown eyes from their first meeting. That face had been like an angel's, and though he tried not to admit he noticed, that body had been sensually lithe. Those few months ago, Sands outright glowed with catlike perfection...and how the course of those same months had twisted his seraphic beauty into perverse new forms. His spaniel eyes were nothing more than gnarled craters under his dark brows, over which greasy lusterless brown hair hung limply. Bones protruded where his weathered flesh was exposed, and he slouched instead of carrying himself proudly. El watched the dark, scraggly creature puff languidly on his cigarette, and he was sickly fascinated. What comeliness remained was unhealthy, corpse-like and mangled, if it could be called comeliness at all.
"Oh god...what did you break?" Sands exasperatedly drummed his fingers on the wall, his voice thick with annoyance and strained patience. The mariachi lifted his foot nervously, trying to keep his eyes on Sands and survey the damage at once. It appeared to be a book of some kind...no, a photo album. The album had a black snakeskin cover, and antique-looking brown leather binding, which was now bent askew.
"...A photo book."
"Great job, El," he said venomously and softly. "There goes one of my valuables."
"If it was so valuable, why did you leave it on the floor?"
"Y'know, I would advise you not to give me shit at the present time. I'm kind of grouchy, it's early, you don't know where my weapons are hidden...comprende?"
El did the safe thing and let it go.
"Do me a favor and get the suitcase from my bed, okay? It's the bright pink one, and it's near impossible to miss."
Yet somehow, El Mariachi could not see it. Either he was going crazy, needed eyeglasses, or...
"It's not on your bed."
"Then where is it, Sherlock? How hard can it be to find hot pink luggage?" He inhaled deeply on his cigarette after snipping at El, and raised an eyebrow. "Between the two of us we've got the visual capacity of a cave fish...and that's not a compliment."
"I'll find it," El responded tersely. He looked under the bed, under the covers, behind the headboard and through the adjacent pile of blankets, turning up nothing.
"It must be somewh--" he stopped in mid-sentence when he spied the corner of something pink, purple and fuzzy sticking out from under the pillows. It was shaped rectangularly, like a small suitcase. Sands, you are a sick, sick man, El thought, shaking his head incredulously at the flamboyantly-colored leopard print. There was something very wrong about it all.
El reached out to lift the pillow and his instincts viscerally halted him. Danger, they screamed. Leave it alone. Rationally, he needed to get the suitcase. This could be it. There was also nothing which indicated it endangered his life. Dios Mio, he told himself, it's only a piece of luggage.
He lifted the pillow.
"Have you found it yet? I've been waiting patiently..." Sands' voice escaped El's ears as he lifted the fake fur covered lunchbox from its hiding place. Something rattled inside the rusty tin when El turned it over tentatively in his hands. The smell of corroded metal and earth emanated from the thing. Dark brown flecks fell from the parts not covered with material. El's curiosity overcame him, and he flipped it to look at the front. When he saw what emblazoned the lid, he nearly dropped it.
Matted into the fur with crusted human blood were a skull and crossbones.
"El, what are you looking at?"
Opening the hinges with a mix of curiosity and revulsion, the mariachi caught a strong whiff of iron and rot, but the contents of the box made the smell seem tame. Glinting in the morning sunlight were scores of rusty, blood-spattered blades of numerous types. Razor-keen scissors, wickedly barbed stretches of wire, serrated kitchen knives and metal shards with too many edges to touch were heaped within the lunchbox, to the left of several sewing needles, to the right of a coarse thread spool. When the lid was lifted wider, El saw the small polaroid photographs covering the underside of the box's top. Each and every one of them depicted deep wounds--on an arm, a leg, a chest and abdomen and groin--all gouged into the same person's tawny golden skin with a cruel implement held in one graceful hand.
The click of a cocked pistol echoed in his ear. His eyes turned cautiously to the barrel of a silenced Ingram, then to the man who brandished it. A chilly darkness had come over Sands' face, shrouded by his neglected black hair, and his breath came sharply between his quivering lips. The hand which held the gun was barely steadied, and a dark stain was quickly spreading on the arm of his white shirt.
"You did not see this," he whispered, lethal and raw as a fresh wound.