Tangible Schizophrenia


Vengeance Prologue: Aftermath

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: PG-13. Violence and language.
Pairing: Sands/El/Ajedrez
Feedback: Would be much appreciated.
Disclaimer: Does not belong to me.
Notes: AU. I picked Eva as Ajedrez's first name. Sands has had eye-reconstruction surgery. //words// in Spanish.
Summary: El has a bad morning. Fideo thinks this is very funny, but he'd be the only one.


El woke up in a crowded bed. Someone's ass was shoved up against his crotch, and there were elbows jabbing into his back. Also, his head was in slightly less than good shape, what with the gringo marching band fucking it up inside his skull.

The person in front of him twisted around to reveal a sickly complexion, nice bones, and a lack of pupils. "Morning, pussy-cat. You still gonna respect me?"

It wasn't the blind eyes that made El rear back, and consequently ram his solar plexus against a heavy chain-those actually looked familiar-but rather, the whole attitude of cheerful pissiness. Too much like the one and only time he'd ever gotten drunk with Lorenzo. Which both of them had silently and mutually agreed never to talk about.

"Christ! Watch it!" A woman's voice blasted his ears, and ample breasts squished against his shoulderblades as he was shoved back.

Thankfully, the chain wasn't attached to El; it was only linked to the two other people in the bed. So he grabbed his gun from under his pillow and did the sensible thing.


Fideo wandered in just in time to see the American attempt to glare in the general direction of the window. "Jesus. He climbed onto the fucking roof? What is he, some overgrown spic tomcat?"

"Would you shut up?" hissed the woman. "I've had enough of your brilliant ideas, Sands. 'We have to share the bed, but we need a buffer or I'll play Frankenstein and make me a matching doll.' Bastard."

The chain rattled like Fortune's dice as he jabbed a finger into her nipple. Fideo assumed he'd been aiming for something else, but then again… "Don't talk, precious. It's your goddamned fault that I'm in this soap opera. You and your fucking dad."

While letting them go at it would've been fun, Fideo figured that getting El off the roof was a little more urgent. So he cleared his throat and watched them nearly jump off the bed. "Hi. What'd you do to my friend?"

"Nothing. We're more innocent than an unused condom." Fight draining out of him, Sands flopped back on the mattress and rumpled at his hair. Which made the…oh, yeah, made Eva scoot back a few inches. Grumpy-faced, she yanked on the chain. "Oh, get off, Ajedrez. I graduated from the sandbox, thank you."

"I pity whoever had to litter-train you," she snorted, folding up her knees against her chest. Clothes weren't in good shape, Fideo saw: ripped, burned and filthy. And the expression on her face just about matched. "You were there for some of it. Don't you remember?"

It took Fideo a moment to realize she was speaking to him, mostly because the vulnerable twist to her mouth was so unexpected. Then again, Sands couldn't see, and Fideo didn't really give a shit unless it meant they had to fight. "I'm a drunk."

"Yes, we know," Sands muttered. "And you still sound drunk."

"This is as sober as I get for strangers." Fideo settled himself in the nearest chair and began to rummage in his pockets. Oddly enough, the first thing he found was a bottle of water. He started to pitch it into the wastebasket, then rethought that and instead directed his throw towards Eva.

She caught it one-handed, without even looking as if she were trying. Actually, she seemed pissed off again, though when Sands rudely nudged her, she only elbowed him before passing the water.

"By the way, I'm only doing this because I'm assuming you know how to get that jangle-assed idiot down. If you don't, speak now or risk disembowelment. And no, I don't think Eva here would mind cooperating with that." Sands tipped a healthy mouthful of water into his mouth, then waited a beat. When Fideo didn't say anything, the American shrugged and started. "So, six months ago I…all right, I fucked up as a CIA agent…

"And I was dumb enough to think he could be salvaged." Eva threw a half-hearted glare over her shoulder, the real heat in her anger focused somewhere else.


Yesterday Afternoon

Eva lunged down the steps and grabbed Sands' elbow. "Wait, wait, wait. You can't just walk out of this hospital-"

He shook her off, teetering unsteadily against his cane as he did. "No, I'm limping. But I am, in fact, leaving. And, Federale, you have no legal means to hold me against my will. So unless you're going to play by the other side's rules, I'd like for you to get the fuck away from me."

"Oh, great way to treat the one who made sure you didn't bleed out." She clattered after him, trying to ignore the way the heat swooped down like a smothering pillow. Her ponytail was falling down, her eyeshadow was dribbling down her face, and now the only in she had to Barillo's organization was blithely walking back into private obscurity.

Sort of. After weeks haunting Sands' bedside, hoping for a lead or a hint or really, anything that would help her crack Barillo's balls, Eva felt she knew Sands pretty well. Probably better than the people he'd worked for, given that she'd seen him screaming and lashing out. And doing a damn good job of strangling that one bastard doctor that'd required a little more persuasion to lower his fees to something her bank account could take.

But the point was, he wasn't the kind of man that was any good at disappearing. While still alive, anyway. "He'll know you survived. And he won't let you stay that way."

"Look, sugarbutt, why don't you leave mine and Barillo's little tiff to me? Since I'm a professional killer and all, and your AFN's just a very good amateur cock-sucker." He flipped her off as a goodbye wave and stepped into the street, hailing a nearby taxi.

Eva barely managed not to slam his stupid skull into the pavement. "Because you didn't seem to be very good at dealing with him last time. I'm just judging by what I saw when we raided Dr. Guevara's basement."

Sands' back instantly stiffened, and the fingers on his cane went bone-white. "Do not go there, Ajedrez."

"Says you and what weapon? No matter how good you are with that cane, I can still shoot faster. And since that one time, I haven't seen any CIA around here, period." She nearly tripped on the last step, but caught herself an inch from falling over Sands' shoulder. As if. Knowing just what a guy looked like when he puked was definitely not a turn-on for Eva. "Listen, work with me here, and you can unravel Barillo at your own pace. All I need is a little bit. I've been working on getting him since I joined the AFN."

"Why?" Eerily fast, he whipped around, and Eva suddenly discovered that no sight could be just as piercing as a good glower. "Why are you so interested in him? He knock up your sister, or what?"

The taxi pulled up behind him and sprouted guns before Eva could react.

"Shit!" She did try, but her hand was only half-way to her gun when another car slewed to a stop before them and the window cranked down, revealing her life's nightmare.

"Sands. Heard you were out today, and I decided…" Barillo's eyes darted past the tense, frozen man to lock with Eva's. His face paled while her stomach boiled up and laced her mouth with hot bile. "…Good God. Lucia?"

Eva gritted her teeth and moved her hand away from her gun. The odds weren't on her side here, and if it'd been one thing she'd learned, it was that in order to be happy, a person first had to survive. She didn't give a damn about all the angels heaven had waiting for her; they didn't have the slightest clue what it was like to have to choose between groceries and avoiding eviction.

Though that didn't mean that'd she'd lost her spine. Or her carefully-nurtured hatred. "No, you son of a bitch. You had her killed, remember?"

"Oh. So you're the useless piece of shit she fought with me over. And what's better, you must also be that Federale I've heard about, who's gunning for my cartel." He withdrew into the darkness of the car, shadow covering him until only a disembodied hand was left, negligently waving. "Get them both inside."


Present Time

Someone was shuffling around on the balcony below, footsteps in time to the tune El was plucking. Lorenzo was temporarily out of town, so that left Fideo, whom El really didn't want to talk to.

//Hey, can I say something?//

But they were friends, and considering El's life, just the improbability of that deserved something all by itself. Also, El's sense of fairness might not be reliable, but right now, it was screaming loud and clear.

That could be a side-effect of the hang-over, but he wasn't going to think about anything alcohol-related because that would lead to last night. Which was going to make this conversation difficult, because Fideo reeked of tequila and beer. //Does it involve picking up more strangers in bars?//

//I don't do that, and this was the first time I've ever seen you do that.// Fideo's head popped up over the edge of the roof, then vanished. A loud thud and a muffled exclamation bounced up from below, briefly making El smile. //Sort of. How'd that happen?//

"Just shitty luck. Extremely shitty luck. So shitty, in fact, that if this were a fair world, I should be Emperor right now just to make up for it." Sands' words were slightly slurred, due to the grunting effort he was making at dragging something out onto the balcony with him. "By the way, if you tell me your name, I might be less offended at you leaping from bed like that. I spent long enough in that damned hospital to be squeaky-clean, you touchy fuck. Should be worried about catching shit from you."

El gave up on finishing the song and put his guitar away, though he made no move toward the edge of the roof. It was relatively quiet up here, and he could see any movements around the building for a few blocks.

He should've been disturbed that one of his first instincts now was to go to higher ground and look for enemies, but somewhere during the bullet-rain that was his current life, he'd come to terms with the fact that for whatever reason, he didn't want to die yet. Living was a different story, but his head hurt too much to even begin to deal with that one. "El."

Below, a long pause reigned. It was finally broken by Fideo idly shaking his leg so his pants jingled. "Yeah. That one."

"No fucking shit. God, I hate this place-fuck!" Sands muttered, sounding as if he'd tried to drop his head into his hands while forgetting he had metal links attached to his wrist.

"Why were you two chained to the bar?" Someday, the curiosity was going to get burned out of El like everything else had, but while it was still around, it refused to be ignored.

"Would you believe a kinky-ow! Ajedrez! Okay, fine. We were there because…"



//So what's taking the boss so long to catch up?//

//Traffic, I guess. Didn't you see that huge snarl midtown? The one we almost got stuck in?//

//Yeah, but…was it just me, or was that a bazooka and what looked like a drunk mariachi?//

Sands had just spent six months trapped in an antiseptic-scented hell, complete with surgeons that'd violated his eye sockets while discussing the merits of Nurse Marita's tits against the mean vacuum-cleaner imitation Nurse Juanita did. And before that, he'd gotten his eyes popped out like they were pills from a blister-pack, only without the promise of hallucinating bliss afterward. And before that, he'd somehow managed to fuck up the easiest assignment ever: meet Barillo, get hired by Barillo to arrange assassination, get assassination done and throw in Barillo's corpse while he was busy counting his scammed money.

All in all, he was very unhappy with how his life was going. And the curvy woman squirming on his lap wasn't helping, either. "Ajedrez. Knock that the fuck off. This is no time for last-minute virginity-demolishing."

"You prick. I don't know why I ever bothered with…goddamn it, move. My arm is killing me." She shoved at his chest until he twisted around the bottom of the barstool just enough to let them both rest their arms on its cushion.

Barillo's car had gotten cut off from theirs, so apparently the cartel goons figured they could blow a hole through the side of the bar, thread a chain through it, and cuff Sands and Eva to opposite ends. What was really annoying was that it was working. He wasn't in any condition to go smashing wood, and after the beating she'd taken in being forced into the car, she probably wasn't, either. "You think he's bringing Guevara?"

"Does that scare you?" Being perfectly oblivious to reality, Eva of course was industriously yanking at her wrist until droplets of blood began to sprinkle Sands' face. "Goddamn it."

//Hey, cut that out. Or I'll break you in ahead of schedule//, sneered one of their guards.

Eva's back went rigid against Sands' chest, but she stopped. And she kept her mouth shut.

"Gee. What with the anesthesia and all, I forgot that people aren't any better when their voices aren't really low and distorted."

Sands hadn't meant for it to make her laugh, but it did. In retrospect, that might not be too bad, because when she wasn't blinded by personal issues, Eva struck him as a very capable person. And…yes, he could use that.

"Any ideas?" she asked under her breath.

He let his head rest against the bar and thought about it. "Not when they're out of reach. How many, anyway? Four?"

"Two by the door, ten feet ahead, one to the left against a table, one sitting by the far wall to the right…and one walking in the door." The last man seemed to have Eva thrown a little.

//Fideo?// Jingle.

//No, private party, and you're not-oh, shit! I remember y-//


//Damn it. Okay, listen. Don't-I really don't want to do this. I didn't want to do that, either, but he and I met up-oh, fine.//

Sands threw up his free arm just in time to block a spray of wood from somewhere from spearing his face. It had enough holes, fuck everyone very much.

"Down, down, down!" Eva was shoving him again, trying to make them go behind the stool and disappear between the floorboards, which was physically and painfully impossible because one, even after a hospital stay Sands wasn't that skinny, and two, the chain was yanking their arms in the opposite direction.

Something seared back Sands' cheek, and a moment later, the sound dragged its lazy-ass explosion into his ear. He flinched away, reflexively curling around Eva, and then he nearly fell ass-over-head backwards when the bar suddenly fell to pieces above them. Sharp shit sliced into his shoulders and fingers so he was liberally doused with his own blood. Fucking unpleasant feeling. "What the fuck happened?" he yelled.

"He shot the bar!" Eva was cursing and yanking splinters from them both, her body weight keeping Sands pinned so he couldn't move. Not good. Needed to get out of bullet range, needed to find weapon… "Jackass! He could shoot the bar, but he couldn't shoot the goddamn chain."

Well, shit. The next Murphy Sands ran across was getting strangled and gutted in honor that goddamned crapfest law. "It's bigger. Maybe he's-" another bullet crashed into the floor about four inches from Sands' head "-okay, fuck that. Cookie, we're going up. Now."

He heaved before she could bitch him out for the nickname, and kept going until he was over the bar. It would've been a perfect landing if Eva had known anything about rolling over countertops, but apparently, that wasn't her specialty. Instead, they ended up in almost the same squish, except now they were on the other side, and there was a shotgun jabbing Sands in the forehead.

It wasn't attached to a hand, thank fucking God. He grabbed it, whapped Eva out of the way, and let both barrels out into the face of the whoever the hell was scrambling over the bar. Wasn't their mysterious distraction, because Sands could hear the tinkling loud and clear, ricocheting all over the damn place. But apparently, he still hadn't perfected aim-by-hearing, because he didn't hear any loud thumps. Just groaning and half-coherent swears.

"Give me that. Moron, don't know how to use a shotgun right-" Eva snatched it from him and rammed home another load, then cut it loose. A high-pitched scream. "Hah. One up on you."

"Matter of time, honeybuns. Now get your knee out of my balls, 'less you're planning to make up for daddykins." The jerk of her, all stabbing joints and hissed breath, told Sands his guess was right. "So that's what you have against him."

And as he spoke, everything fell quiet. Just like a fucking movie.

Footsteps. Slow, deliberate, prowling. They came over the bar and stopped. Sands and Eva both tensed, not breathing. And then he flung her up, shotgun out, and in return, a circle of burning steel pressed into his forehead. From the sound of Eva's exhale, she got the same treatment.

Sands put on his best smarmy smile and tried not to twitch. "Hello. It's a self-serve bar, so please get that dick-compensation away from my face. I've had my fill of abuse for today."


Present Time

Fideo was having a coughing fit that sounded suspiciously like laughter. El thought for a moment about exactly how much more sin hurting his friend would get him, and whether it would make a difference. Then he remembered that aside from the old habits like crossing himself, he'd been having a problem relating to the church for a while now. //Fideo…//

//Sorry, it's just…Lorenzo isn't even here, and you still manage to find the biggest trouble-magnets in town.// His friend wheezed, gurgled down what smelled like the cheapest beer around, and then wheezed some more.

"Hey, El? Get your ass down here, or you will be removing these links from your friend's spleen." For unneeded emphasis, Sands rattled the chain. "And what were you doing there, anyway?"



There was a reason why Lorenzo, for all his complaining, didn't usually stray too far from Fideo. Namely, he was the one that knew where to look.

El figured that he'd gone crawling through almost all the dives in the city-he hadn't even bothered with the respectable bars, and he still hadn't turned up anything. The giant flameball had been in this general vicinity, but the only nearby bar was a ramshackle one that didn't even look as if it were capable of open. Still, there was a car parked out front, so he went and checked just in case.

Bad idea. A leftover from the shoot-out five days and two towns back was inside, along with three others, and a man and a woman chained to the bar.

Even as he was telling them not to mess with him, El was already gearing up. Nowadays, he only did the warning out of reflex, because absolutely no one ever listened.

It didn't take very long, especially since the prisoners decided to join in and then show that they were good at it. That set off bells in El's head, but he didn't immediately shoot them.

"The shotgun isn't a very nice thank-you." He nudged it out from under his chin, matching stares with the woman, since she was the one with eyes.

"Well, we're not really in a trusting mood right now," said the man, who was pale and American and blind. Not the worst thing El had ever seen, but the first view of it was enough to startle him a little.

The woman caught his flinch, and the corners of her mouth went up as the shotgun went down. More slowly, El withdrew his own guns. "He looked worse a few months ago. Eva Ajedrez, AFN, and this is Sheldon Jeffrey."

"Sands. You ever use my first two names without my name on a contractual consent, and I will kill you, stuff you with beans, and serve you with puerco pibil." He slouched backwards and fumbled under the bar until he came up with two bottles, which he showed to Eva. "Hey, what are these?"

Expression annoyed, she shoved him away. "Not now, jackass. We have to leave before Barillo gets here."

//El?// Fideo wandered in, three sheets to the wind and about a half-bottle closer to accidentally fucking his guitar in his sleep. //Hey, man, where you been? I was waiting at the bar three doors down. By the way, we need to go. This place is crawling with cartel, and I think I pissed some off. Killed some. Actually, I'm not sure which…//

El pinched the bridge of his nose and pretended that he could deal with his life. //Fideo, just hand me something to drink, and we'll go.//

He gulped down half the bottle before he realized that it wasn't water.

Fideo held up his hands in a wavering gesture. //Sorry. I sort of shot the other bottles, so vodka's all they had left.//


Present Time

Fideo blinked up at El, wise and confused all at once. //Well, when you put it that way, maybe it is safer for you up there.//

"Bullshit," Eva snorted, stepping forward. Her fingers appeared first, curling tight around the edge of the roof so her ragged nails oozed blood, and then her face. "Sands, shut up. I'm standing on the chair, not on you. And believe me, I could."

El waited, laying his guitar case across his legs.

"Listen…whether we're with you or not, Barillo's going to come after you. One, because you killed his men, and two, because you're so well-known." Her grip slipped a little, and she took a moment to adjust herself. "We've all got a better chance of surviving if we-"

"Don't tell me that. This isn't about surviving." He usually tried to lock his laugh down, because its parched bitterness frightened people who didn't need to be frightened, but this time, it just slipped out.

Taken aback, she didn't say anything for a few minutes. "He's a criminal-"

"It's not that, either. I can see it. This is about revenge. And-" he raised his hand to forestall the protest growing on her face "-don't say it isn't. I know too much about revenge for you to fool me."

Her lips tightened until the skin around them whitened, and she was silent again.

Below, there were scrabbling sounds, and suddenly Sands' face was alongside hers. "Okay, yeah. That was in the plan for my post-retirement life. And that's your specialty, so I hear."

//Let me know where you want his body//, Fideo laughed.

"Fuck off. Now, El. You leave us put, we're dead. And don't start, Eva-if Barillo could show up like that, then I'm betting your superiors sold you out." Sands turned back to El, pensiveness sitting rather oddly on his face, as if he wasn't used to it. "You know, the least you could do is take off this damn chain."

El thought about that, and then he nodded. "All right."

Sands and Eva both lost their grips when he shot off the cuff-bolts. From the balcony came furious cursing and much thudding, which El was careful to avoid when leaping down. After landing, he cradled his guitar case under an arm and went to gather the other one.

"And where the hell are you going?" Sands called after him.

El held up the keys. "Going to start the car. We'll stop somewhere later so you can shower and change."

And so El could figure out where to go from there.


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