Tangible Schizophrenia



Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: NC-17. Violence. Torture. Unfluffy sex.
Pairing: Dwight/Gail
Feedback: Good lines, bad ones, etc.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Notes: Dedicated to lasergirl69 and mlewys. Knowledge of A Dame to Kill For necessary.
Summary: New face, new man, old love, old downfall.


Dwight couldn’t feel a thing and he could feel everything. That was how drugged up he was.

His new face was only half-done, bandages layered on scabs layered on raw nerves. It itched and crawled, the skin tormenting his muscles that were too sedated to move. He wanted to rip it off and he wanted to smooth it further on, he wanted to cut away everything the change in features stood for and he wanted to swallow it whole. There was no turning back now, no way to retrace his steps and start anew. Instinct told him this was his last life; the world wasn’t going to tolerate any more of his uncertainty and so he’d better seize what he had before death did.

Right now what he had was a hand in his own, large for a woman and with calluses where no proper lady would from pistols and whips. Gail worked evenings and nights, usually, because her specialty was the exquisite infliction of pain and, more importantly, humiliation, to which the bright light of day was immensely unsuited. Her clients came crawling down from their high thrones to lick her boots when the sun went down.

He shouldn’t be holding her hand like he was, like he had any right to it. He didn’t. He should be licking her boots along with the rest of them, but instead she was lying beside in and quietly hiding the last of her soft sobs in the sheets. Her fingers tightened and loosened, banding his hand with pressure rings that inched up his arm and expanded concentrically in his chest till he almost couldn’t breathe. He shouldn’t be holding her hand, but he wouldn’t let go.

“When do you have to go to work?” he rasped.

“In an hour.” Her voice was as hoarse as his own. After a moment, she turned over to stare at the ceiling and stuck one of her Russian cigarettes between her lips. The smell was distinctive, unforgettable. It seeped into his nose and stained his lungs with her.

* * *

The first he knew was the scent: acrid, strong, vaguely eastern. Dwight thought it was a man, but when he staggered around the corner, he saw perfect breasts and shapely legs. Then they collided and went down so all that beauty slammed him into the gutter. About par for the night.

She was breathing hard and deep and like it hurt, like she’d been running for hours from her worst nightmare. When he put a hand on her shoulder, she nearly took off his head with a punch. He blocked it and twisted her arm behind her back, but she still went at him with knees and elbows and even teeth. So he slapped her hard enough to stun and then hauled them both to their feet. “Hey, what’s the rush, babe? Boyfriend caught you cheating?”

Her teeth snapping at his face, thisclose to taking off his nose. His fist curled tight against his leg, but even when he was shit-faced, he didn’t hurt women.

Besides, he recognized her. At least, he recognized the tatters of blatant sexuality, the cold prowling abacus that should’ve been clicking away in the backs of her eyes. She was Old Town, and Old Town was where he’d grown up.

“Sorry about that, sir.” Some suit came walking out of the dark, hands outstretched for the woman, all plastic apology. The wrongness just came leeching off of him, like the yellow halo around a streetlight. “She’s a little—”

“Keep your fucking hands off me!” She ripped herself from Dwight and dove for the trash-pile where the two-by-fours were.

The suit’s hand went into his coat, and suddenly Dwight had a reason to let himself punch something to nothing. So he did. Worked off a couple of those whiskies—would’ve worked off more, except suddenly he was shoved aside and she was finishing off the suit. Then she bent over him, long fine fingers dancing over his unconscious form. They extracted a gun, a wallet, a gold-plated lighter…which she dropped, because her hands were shaking. Across her back were criss-crossed dark stripes, shading through the torn threadbare shirt she had on.

He touched her shoulder and nearly got knocked over again. “Jesus Christ…”

“Thanks a bundle, sweetcheeks, but you can just run along now—” Her sharp little dismissal had itself razored in two by the sound of a car coming down the road. The woman’s hands went down, pressing the gun against the corpse, and her head went up like a frightened deer.

When Dwight moved, the gun snapped up so he was staring down it. Drunk as he was, it was not much more than another black hole floating in his vision. He jingled the carkeys again. “Need a lift? ‘m heading to Old Town.”

Her eyes narrowed, wondering what his game was. But it must have looked a hell of a lot better than the one purring over the crest of the hill, because then she was soft against his side and purring herself. “Lead the way, sugar. How come I never saw you ‘round before?”

Because Dwight had been gone a long time, trying to make it straight so he could keep Av—no. Forget her, and think about the six-foot wonder currently snugging his hip.

* * *

Fifteen minutes down. Gail flopped on her side and drew the back of her hand down the side of Dwight’s face. When he flinched, she didn’t stop. She knew him better than that.

Her nail slid under the bandage wrapping his jaw. It was filed into a slight tip that caught at a stitch and sent a bright white arc of pain through his skull. “How’s business been?”

“Good. Never got to worry about that, you jealous prick.” There was a smile in her voice and it was half-cobra hiss. Her nail moved, scratching a little further down where it was skin and not scabs and where it felt good. “Where the hell have you been?” Jab at the softness beneath his chin, then soothing fingertip. She had to keep her hands in top condition; her expertise depended on her ability to deliver a precise sensation to a precise spot and the slightest imperfection would ruin the balance of pain/pleasure. “I should have told Molly not to bother opening up your chest, you dumb bastard. You didn’t even say goodbye.”

She never could control herself around him, and same went for him around her. If she hadn’t already known, Dwight would have told her the reason he hadn’t said goodbye: he wouldn’t have been able to do it. It had made him a coward, but the coward and the dreamer was flaking away beneath the pressure of her nail.

When she took away her hand, the very tip of her finger had a pink smear on it. Gail leaned in and put her lips against the spot she’d just tormented, delicately sucking away the pain and the blood. Dwight would’ve preferred that she didn’t, and not just because she was waking up his dick and that had already done enough bad thinking for him. For a moment, the pain had cut through the drugs.

“I was trying to make an honest living,” he said, and he couldn’t help adding the little scratchy laugh to the end of that. He didn’t make it because he was amused. “Set-up jobs for this private dick named—”

“Agamemnon.” She pulled the murmur out along with the cigarette, which she stretched over Dwight to tap off the ash. “Jackass. Still saving girls. The younger ones wanted to give you a nickname, call you their knight, but I put a stop to that. You aren’t a damn knight, that’s for sure.”

He figured she’d known. He hadn’t ever given away his name, but there weren’t many who went around saving Old Town girls and then not extracting a quickie in the back as a reward. If he thought about it too long, he started to think he’d done it on purpose, as a way of letting Gail know. Except of course he had not been that good at forward thinking, back then.

* * *

Her name was Gail, and that was all Dwight found out on the drive over. For all he knew, that was a lie, so maybe he hadn’t found out anything. He’d sobered up a little between the fight and the driving, but he was still drunk enough to find that profound and funny and not worth the trouble of pushing.

She was a looker, all right, but she’d been through something rough recently. Not that anyone could tell by the way she kept that suit’s gun on her lap. Her ragged nails rattled along it, tip-tapping the nerves that she was trying so damned hard to hide.

Dwight had been assigned to cover enough crimes so that he’d learned to read fear and intimidation, and those had had their sweaty prints all over her. Her jaw could’ve cracked an iceberg with the way it jutted and her hands were kneading around the gun, long-built and strong and spine-breaking, but there were big five-fingered shadows on her arms and cracks in her defiance.

“Which corner?” He wasn’t going to push her, but maybe he wasn’t going to be nice, either, because somewhere in the haze of his drinking was the thought that if it was big and he’d just gotten himself in it, maybe that was a bad idea.

“Stop here.” They were in a back-alley, not quite in Old Town, and before the wheels ceased rolling she was climbing between his legs, her hands already petting around for maximum effect.

It pricked him, straight through the last of the alcohol daze. Stung his pride that she was just going to…cheapen it all, just like Ava. Ava. Last damned thing she’d ever said to him was that he was a bill-payer and nothing more, that he’d never be anything more.

He pretty much threw the woman out of the car. His hands landed on some sore spots hidden beneath her shirt and she hissed at him, tongue flicking out like a snake’s, but he paid it no mind and he didn’t feel sick about it till he’d driven all the way home. Then he opened the door, swung his feet out onto the ground and put his head between his knees so he could puke.

Dwight didn’t find out till the next morning that she’d dropped the suit’s wallet on his seat, and by then he was already late for work so he just said to hell with that. First thing he saw when he opened it up was a business card. Heavy paper, real gilt engraving. But too much ornamentation for real taste.

He might have been hungover and tardy, but he still had his photographer’s eye. He still could smell her all over himself, too.

* * *

Every third or fourth breath reminded Dwight that his ribs had been cracked open and for a few long cold black moments, his heart had been beating in open air. He pictured it: bloody pulped him lying in the center of a pack of beautiful women, heads bowed over the gaping wound in his chest.

No, that wasn’t right. They weren’t vultures. They weren’t Ava.

“You don’t talk much now,” Gail almost-scolded. She’d finished her cigarette and now she had her head on his shoulder, her hand lying innocent and slack on his healing ribs. They were two kids blundering in the dark, two babes in the wood all tired out from being lost and taking a short nap.

Yeah, right.

“Did I ever talk much?” Dwight thought about lifting his hand and didn’t believe he could, so he was surprised as hell when it moved. His fingertips floated over Gail’s cheek, flopped down around her waist.

Too far, the little voice in his head said. She’d let him roll them over and have her if he had the energy for it, but that wasn’t what the voice meant. Fucking didn’t mean much. It was everything else that did.

“When you’d had a few you could be chatty as hell.” Her nails were moving again, drawing sharp thin lines all over his chest, wandering further and further down. Every word she spoke was rich with memory and dripping with fondness and tasting of withered leaves. “Especially about her.”

“I’m going to kill her.” His words were light and hung in the air, but second by second he could feel them taking on weight. By the time he’d healed, they would be heavy enough to smash skulls.

Gail rewarded him with a long slow stroke from aching breastbone to cramping thigh, and she laughed into his shoulder when he squirmed. “About time.”

* * *

He’d still been hanging onto the Times by a thread. The department was baying for his head and even Gilleran, who’d once joked about being his best man, was reaching for the scissors, but Dwight still turned up enough to keep himself from being cut loose. It came in handy now.

His head had been pounding like fucking tambourines in the hands of monkeys and he’d been thinking about nothing but crawling back to bed, but that damned smell was hanging all over the car. Gail’s cigarettes. And that card, with its curious mix of quality and vulgarity, had caught his eye. So he did a little research. When it didn’t pull up anything of note, he wandered down to the reporters who handled the police beat. They were harder drinkers than he was and years of dealing with the spin and then trying to sleep at night had left their minds twisted in ways that scared the higher-ups too badly to fire any of them. Well, that and disturbed drunks or not, the police reporters were the only ones the Times could keep in the position.

Two hours later it was barely noon and Dwight was already cruising the backstreets of Basin City, looking for a particular address.

He wasn’t surprised when the tux at the door turned him away. Played it broad and slurred his words a little, staggered a little more—all he was really wanting was a peek inside, and that, he got. Enough of one to give him a guess at the kind of business behind the fancy-schmancy name.

Back to Old Town. By then the itch was rising and hell, he wasn’t one to suffer. No, he wasn’t. He wasn’t.

He wasn’t thinking about her, either.

At a corner shop he picked up the first bottle of sweet panacea of the day. When he came across her, strolling down a main road with a whip at her hip and cuffs clicking in time with her heels, he was just soused enough to be pleasant. “Hello, hello. What’s the time of day, sunshine?”

She wasn’t smoking and there wasn’t anywhere in that tight scant outfit for her to be keeping her cigarettes, but nevertheless there was the smell. A silver-studded leather mask blocked off most of her expression, but one half of her mouth was twisted up. “You were funnier when you were depressed, Mr. Dwight McCarthy.”

“Hey, you looked me up. I’m honored, babe. Gail. Whatever the hell.” He slowed the car to a crawl and kept pace with her. Soon they were going to reach the end of the street and wander into the twistier, darker parts of Old Town, where some days of the year the sun didn’t reach that far. Systematic hell and some clever thinking on the part of the street veterans had been steadily pushing out the mob, but as far as Dwight knew, that still wasn’t a sure proposition off the bigger roads. So he watched her, carefully as he could with a bottle rim tucking itself into the corner of his mouth.

Her hand started on the roof of his car and sloped down to the rearview mirror so she was leaning with her breasts in his face and her voice slithering into his ear. “My name’s not ‘whatever the hell,’ Galahad.”

“And that guy watching you on the corner isn’t your daddy, I’d bet.” He flicked his eyes towards the shadowed doorway of a nearby house. Drunk, drunk, and nearly broken, but he still had the eye. About the only damn thing he had left.

Gail went stiff, but she kept her cool. Only the sudden ripple of her fingers tapping on the rearview mirror gave her away. “You aren’t my kind of client,” she whispered, swiveling so the cuffs and whip rattled. So did a couple other things—she was packing and packing heavy. “You aren’t looking for fun.”

No, he was looking for a fight. The whiskey had spread out the itch to a low persistent burn that was just dying to flare up, and he was not thinking about that bitch, and he was drowning in Gail’s smoky breath. This close, he could see the marks on her through the careful make-up and that heaped up the coals, too. “Yeah, well, he and his brothers aren’t, either.”

She froze again. Just for a second. Then she was eeling about and slipping into the passenger seat of his car. “You work for the papers,” she said, lighting up. Offered him the box, which was white with spiky Russian lettering on it. He refused and she lighted up with the lighter from the unconscious suit who’d never shown up in any hospital and who’d never fingered Dwight for his beating. “Looking for a story?”

“Spin me a good one, and maybe.”

* * *

The room around them was an uneven dark, air hot and stale and whispering. Against it, the white, white sheets of the bed were delicate gauze, translucent like a second layer of skin. And like usual, Gail was getting under it. Her hand had slipped along his belly while she had laughed at his cursing and cooed them back at him. Now her fingertips were splayed out on his thigh, edging his cock into lifting the sheets.

“Gail, damn it, not now.” His arm was still wrapped around her shoulders and he was squeezing the point of one, pushing and pulling. Dick said one thing, head said another and he knew she was smiling shark-like at his confusion.

“The one damn thing you were smart enough to keep in one piece. Or maybe I should say Ava was smart.” Her voice was pure poisoned honey and when it dipped, so did her hand. That last inch between her palm and his prick was gone, and now her fingers curled around his prick easy and familiar, like there were imaginary grip-grooves to guide her. Thumbnail slid over the head and he groaned, straining his ribs. Over the sound of their creaking is her slow languid whisper. “Maybe she did miss you, just a little. Or maybe she’s just a cock-lover. I know girls like that—” squeeze and pull up, squeeze and push down “—they hate everything about men but they can’t stay away from a fuck.”

She was jealous. Always was, right from the beginning. Sometimes Dwight wondered whether he had a sign scrawled across him, a message only for women that told them where he’d been and where he was and where he could be punched right now. Or pushed, or kneaded till the sweat beaded beneath the bandages, got them damp and raised a dull prickly itch beneath them. Once upon a time he would have chased after that, but not now.

Once upon a time he would have fought her, but not now. Not now, because he’d turned into her kind of business. “We need to think. Ava’s up in Damien Lord’s mansion, surrounded by guards…” don’t think about Lord, about how your face now must look a hell of a lot like his mashed one “…we need a plan.”

“I’ve heard that from you before,” Gail grinned. She caught his earlobe between her teeth and bit with the incisor so he arched, filled up her hand so she didn’t have to waste effort on the downstroke this time. She yanked him back and forth, gently twisting his strings around her fingers.

* * *

She told him a story. She told him and she showed him, unstrapping herself like her body was nothing, and it might as well have been because Dwight was not so far gone to be blind to abused flesh, nor was he dulled enough to write it off the way the crime beat reporters did.

He had rage and alcohol on his breath, and knight or not, he wanted a fight to make up for the one Ava hadn’t let him have with Damien Lord. Gail read that clear through and they both knew it; she told him nothing but the truth, each word ringing solid sordid gold, but she worked it the same way she worked her streetwalk.

Manuel plus four brothers, she told him. A house with cells on the second floor. Just temporary, just for putting the girls fresh off the street before they were broken and collared and sold up the line. Women’s names seared themselves into him: Kelley, Denise, Sandy. And when the blood had welled up thick and singed around the brands, when the angry drunk had him good and well, she stopped talking and she let him go on. She let him on, led him on—not much difference.

Either way, they ended up back at that house in the dead of night, her with an Uzi dangling light as a feather from her hand and him with cold lethal steel weighing down his hands. They scaled the fire-escape and came in the window with bullets already nestling in two guards’ bodies. Dwight rolled in first to clear the way and landed in a hail of fire.

His nerves were shaking his eyes and so he got snapshots, beautifully framed in hallucinatory red and yellow and black. Black shiny sunglasses. Red hole blooming in a white shirt. Yellow glaring lights slanting over everything, over the newly-dead girl with her big blue staring eyes and her semen-slicked thighs and her slashed body.

The camera cut off and Dwight lost his eye, lost his head, lost everything except the burning-hot death firing from his hands. And then he lost that and had only the sound of wet mashing thuds till Gail pulled him off, told him they had to keep going.

Live girl, live girl, dead one, live, dead, dead. Men were all alive, but he changed that. He ripped that out of the world and he kept ripping it till suddenly they were through and outside and laughing like crazed children. He had blood drying on his face and she didn’t need her mask for all the stains on hers, and it was drizzling now but he couldn’t stop laughing. He whirled under the lightning with guns in hand and let the storm blast him clean, and she came to him and they danced.

Sometime later they landed in bed and they had their own storm, ravaging and hungry. He tasted lightning in the line of her throat and the sound of his heartbeat was fast thunder in his ears. Her hands slicked him like rain and she drenched every inch of him with her savage want only to leave him gasping for more. His mouth opened and opened and still couldn’t stretch wide enough for her tongue, and her body parted for him so deep and hot that no matter how he tried, he still couldn’t touch bottom. She was a hurricane that swept his feet off the ground and held him there till with that last gasp, he gave up.

* * *

“It’ll be good this time. It’ll be the way it should have been,” dropped the promises from Gail’s lips, like the bright, dying leaves of autumn.

Dwight could feel her other hand squeezed between his hip and her crotch, could feel the way she worked herself in time to him. His back seemed permanently bent, and the new patches on his face were aching with the way his unending moan stretched them. He wished he had the power or the energy to just turn and look at her, to turn and see the smolder in her eyes and to kindle from it. But for once, fate was being kind and he couldn’t. If he caught now, he wouldn’t come out a new man—he’d come out nothing but ashes, and so would she.

“No…” he managed to whisper. “No, Gail, it won’t…”

She punished him for that. For that and for leaving and most of all, for telling the truth. Her body twisted as she stabbed her fingers inside of herself, in that warm clutching delirium he’d known once, and she ground herself against his hip so he could feel every inch of it. She wrung him out by his prick and then she stayed to make sure he felt how he wasn’t getting to wring her out in return.

Her teeth sank into his shoulder and stayed there while her body went through its sweet spasms, while they both relaxed into the suffocating lassitude of the empty room and while one silent, violent sob shook her.

* * *

Dwight woke up to pains in his wrists and someone bashing him across the face so hard he almost went to sleep again. Then he was yanked up by the hair and there was Manuel, eye missing and front black with dried blood, shouting in his face. They’d not accounted for everyone.

On the bed was Gail, tied to the posts, and in her eyes was raw fear. That was all Dwight saw—not the beating, not what led up to the explosion of pain in his crotch that left him curling around himself and gritting his teeth while Manuel staggered over to Gail. When Manuel picked up Gail’s whip from the side-table, Dwight choked on his gag and he didn’t stop choking till Manuel, arm tired, dropped it on Gail’s flayed back.

“Don’t worry about her,” Manuel sneered. “I got doctors. They’ll fix up her skin all nice and pretty again. But you—you touch what you haven’t paid for and that I fix myself.”

He had a knife then and he was kneeling beside Dwight’s legs when the rope finally gave to Dwight’s strugglings. And then it was back to that angry haze, to forgetting about the cuts and the bruises Manuel was leaving on him in favor of putting more on him, of pushing him out onto the balcony and scraping his face on the concrete. Flipping him over the railing and thinking nothing but that the building should’ve been taller. It was tall enough to do the job, but not tall enough for Manuel to scream long before he hit the ground.

Dwight cut Gail free, hands shaking so hard that at first he’d been afraid to point the knife anywhere near her. But he did it and he was folding her into his coat when her eyes widened and he moved, but not before unconsciousness exploded from the back of his shoulder.

He came to when she was straddling that brother and drawing the knife through his throat. She was bloody front and back now, and he was all down his side, and so all they did for a few moments was stare and try to see the human in each other.

* * *

Soon Gail lifted her head. She sat up, brisk and purposeful, and checked the clock. “Another five minutes,” she said, voice flat.

“Give me a cigarette.” The doctors said not to and Dwight didn’t care. Gail was staring because he hadn’t yet been a smoker when they’d first met, but he out-stared her surprise.

When she put the lighted cigarette between his lips, her thumb drifted beneath his jaw to stroke the tender spot she’d made.

“You damn fool.” She snatched back her hand and watched the wall-clock.

“I love you.” It was the first time he’d ever given shape to that string of words that twisted, barbed ends hooking deep, around the both of them. “Always. Never. It doesn’t matter—I do. But no, Gail. Not that.”

Her shoulders heaved in a deep breath and she stared down at her cupped hands. The way the shadows shimmered and flowed, it looked like she held a still pool of water in them. “You damn fool,” she repeated. Quiet, and not to him.

* * *

Gail knew doctors, too. She healed and Dwight healed. She went back to her job and Dwight lost his.

One night at Kadie’s—the night the last of the bandages were going to come off Gail—Dwight gripped the sink in the men’s room and stared in the cracked mirror and he flinched from it. He walked out of the bathroom, walked out of Old Town and he stayed away.

He’d wanted a fight. He’d gotten one. He’d wanted a woman. He’d gotten that, too—in a way. In a way, in a way, in a way. Not the way he’d wanted.

He stayed away and he scrubbed himself so clean that neither Russian cigarettes nor Ava’s red lipstick remained. And he mistook that for the truth about himself.

* * *

“The twins will be tricky, but we can square them.” Her mask was back on, so when she bent to kiss him on the forehead, she scratched the bandages with the studs. “Lie back and heal up. I’ll be around to see the new you.”

She left, but the smell of the butts in the ashtray filled the room in her place. It promised more than any words Dwight could say would. He hoped he could live up to it, even if he couldn’t live it.