Authors Note: Is there anyone who can offer a title for this story? I'm horrible at writing titles, I leave most of them out until I write the first chapter or so and then I can decide. I'm just so proud of this chapter. I really am, I think it's one of the best stories I've ever written. It's the sarcastic, socio, dark side of me that wants to let itself out. Here's it's chance, and how great is it to be able to write Sands' character? He's just amazing. Full of surprises. What do you think of it? R&R thanks!!!

Sands sighed as he fought to remain standing against the crumbling clay wall. He would not allow himself to sink down to the ground as he so wanted to. Collapsing before, he told himself, had been the only way he could get Ajedrez out of the building. He knew that she wouldn't be able to resist the chance to kill him once and for all.

Unfortunately, for her, she had underestimated him, this was something Sands was used to. A lot of people didn't take him seriously. Having found the image gave him the edge in certain situations, he flaunted it for all he was worth.

"Do you like what you see?" she taunted hauling him to his feet knowing full well the drugs they'd injected into him were slowly wearing off. Pain increased in small increments just enough so that he could get used to the new agony before more started. She was going to pull the trigger he could feel the darkness coming for him.

She kissed him and lights exploded in his mind. That wasn't due to any divine presence. The bitch had bitten his lip to draw blood before she rammed her forehead against the black sunglasses he wore. He'd pulled the trigger despite the agony that had quickly spread from his eyes and found the victory incredibly satisfactory. Somewhat anti-climatic considering the pain he wanted to put her through, but it achieved the same result as hours of torture, regardless.

She had gotten too full of herself, thought herself invincible because of her rank, but he knew nothing mattered when death came calling. Sands grinned in irony, didn't he know that all too well. There was no escaping the cold hands of the reaper, but he was too much of an evil son of a bitch to waste away burning in hell. He would never be content as a simple pawn and Lucifer wasn't moving aside, so now he was just living dead.

This wasn't a life. This wasn't even a half-life, though he knew he should stop wasting time. He needed to buck up and stop bitching about the past. He still had his guns, when had he not had the trusted weapons?

The first rule he'd ever taught himself: never be left defenseless. Always have a weapon and if he didn't then he damn well found one fast. As he grew up he made rules for himself and followed them to the letter. Real authority had no governing over him, what he believed and what had saved his life before was all that mattered. He had a gun, even now, attached to the inside of his boot.

The one that had been inside the lining of his pants was used, the bullets gone and those he carried before were strewn on a street somewhere. He wouldn't have bothered to go and find them even if he could see. They were gone, he had no ammo for them so they were forgotten.

He'd learned a long time ago that no one would fight his battles. He didn't want anyone to, either, he could take care of himself. It was either that or die trying, he'd be damned if he let anyone dictate to him.

"Are you okay?" the little boy asked. Sands grinned in irony, was he okay? He'd never had the luxury of being just plain okay.

"I don't know," Sands replied instead. The sarcasm he held dear had no place here. The kid had risked everything to help him. That was damn brave and worthy of aomw respect in his book.

"You will be."

Sands couldn't be sure whether or not the boy had left now. Probably, and he wouldn't blame him. No one had ever put such trust in him. Even his fellow officers, he snorted in disgust, thought him psychotic on his good days.

He would get better, he was a CIA agent and a few wounds weren't going to stop him.

Except his sight.

So much for the pep talk.

Sands leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. Or what was left of them, he couldn't help the hysterical sounding laugh that escaped his lips. He was in the CIA. More laughter. He was a blind gunman assassin, crossing his arms he felt the blood on his shirtsleeve from the bullet wound on his arm. Maybe he really was insane, that thought made him laugh even harder.

Car wheels spun to a stop in front of him. A door slammed shut authoritatively. An agent or a very pissed off woman, Sands decided. It was both. She was angry, very peeved to say the least.

Her week off included scenic Mexico and a bitch of a migraine. Paid vacation? Yeah right. Then she'd heard the 'Oh, by the way, could you squeeze in a sociopathic-agent pickup?'

She slammed the other door shut, too. Crap car, to boot. I'm livin' la vida loca, she thought. A car whose door wouldn't shut unless physically tackled, and its side door which creaked open whenever another closed. Perfect.

Was that really Sands? Dressed all in black with a leather vest and black sunglasses, he must be hotter than hell in this climate. As she got closer she noticed traces of blood still on his face. What kind of injury did he have?

She'd heard all about Sands from people who knew him better than she. He wasn't completely stable and they informed her that she should 'be on guard at all times' She was instructed to go in, bring him back, and forget it had ever happened. Unfortunately, she was more like Sands than they accounted for.

"Agent Sheldon Jeffrey Sands, I presume." Sands pushed the sunglasses further up on his nose and turned his head to where he heard the voice. So it was a woman.

"How could you tell?" he replied wondering what she looked like.

"Lucky guess, don't be stupid. C'mon, CIA wants me to get you back to the US."

"Fuck them. How do I know you're from the CIA?" Sands couldn't see the impatient look on her face, the one that had other agents scurrying to do her bidding. Why was Sands acting so out of it? He knew her, or at least she thought he would have remembered her from the many meetings they had to attend. But then again, he slept through most of them anyway.

"Senior Arnoldo, ring a bell?"

"You could have killed him, taken my file and skedaddled." Sands wasn't about to be taken by a pretty sounding woman again, he'd done that once and boy how marvelously that turned out.

"He's to much of a son of a bitch to kill. 'Sides, he's the only one that can tolerate you." She was getting hot in this damned sun and Sand's little mind game or whatever he was playing at wasn't improving her mood at all.

"Alright, sugarbutt. Whatever you say." Things couldn't get any worse although now they inevitably would. Those words had never boded well for anyone. She could, what, take out his eyes? Oh wait, he'd been there, done that, and had the blood on his shirt to prove it.

"We're not getting a plane outta here for a few days so we lay low until then," she said helping Sands into the car.

As much as he wanted to refuse her help it was she who offered it, not the other way around. He wasn't sure about his capability of climbing into the car much less actually locating it. He had a relative idea of where it was, but finding it was another story.

He smelled vanilla perfume and cigarette smoke once she had closed the door. Thinking about cigarettes, he sure could use one now. He reached into his left pocket and took out both that and a red flamed lighter. Putting the self-rolled cigarette into his mouth he held the tip suavely and successfully lit it on the first try. The first deep puff was heaven, it had been way too long since he'd had one.

Weight balanced out the car then and as the door shut Sands felt his side open. In reflex he pulled it shut again and raised an eyebrow in question.

"Buckle up," he heard the woman say.

"What is this, fucking Drivers Ed.?" He took another drag and imagined her lips pursing as she glared at him. What color was her skin? Pale, tanned, dark, and the shades of her hair? Funny the things he'd taken for granted before, he never realized how essential being able to process all of that information was.

"Hang on then, cowboy. This is gonna be a rough ride." She spun the car in reverse and then forward. Sands' arm hit the door as she roughly pushed the car to its limit of sixty miles an hour.

"I didn't catch your name," Sands said through gritted teeth. Seat belts were great devices, but he couldn't put one on now because he didn't know where the damn thing was. She obviously hadn't realized he was blind and he preferred to keep it that way.

"Cut the crap, Sands. You know damn well who I am."

"No, I really don't." he went through all the women he knew from the CIA. There was Julia, the receptionist at the front counter. Michelle, the food and donut lady who never failed to forget his coffee, and. . . Sable!

"Look. . ." she started to say, but then he again crashed into the door as she sharply pulled over.

"Could you maybe not do that? There's a hole in the side of my arm that's as big as fucking Broadway, so if I didn't happen to fall on it every fifteen seconds that would be great." Sands was running through a long and very detailed line of expletives he'd love to say aloud.

"I don't know what the hell you're playing at, but I'm Sable. Alice you usually call me, as if you didn't know I hate my middle name. So if you would just let me get you back so I could stitch and clean whatever injuries you've sustained. . . that would be great." She threw his words back at him and Sands grinned now that he knew who it was that was snapping at him.

"Alice. . . sorry, sugarbutt. Completely unforgivable, I know. Just wanted to keep you on your toes." The car again pulled onto the highway, but he noticed that she took care to drive slower. He also heard her mumble something about a carcass and the side of the road. Ah yes, this was Sable. Props to the CIA for not sending someone entirely boring and fussy.

"How're you feeling," she asked a few minutes later. "Gonna make it back to the hotel?"

"Getting ideas, are you?" he masked the rising pain as he focused on her voice. He could feel the sunglasses resting on his nose and the top of them on his forehead. Even this slight pressure was distracting, but he wouldn't take them off, she didn't know and he planned to keep it that way.

"Several, but none of them included you actually making it this far."

"Aw. . . but it's no fun solo."

"Speak from experience," she gave as good as she got, and his color was better so she continued the banter as she pulled into the parking lot and circled the area twice to make sure no one was following her. The road was clear and she pulled in around the back near their window so she would be able to see any danger.

"It's all in the wrist, babe," he laughed inwardly as he heard her snort, "I just wave the dollar and the women come running."

"Go wave your dollar someplace else," she loaded her other gun and
scanned the parking lot again as she got out of the car. Sands reached around for the door handle. He got it on his second try and made a mental note of where it was.

All of the blood rushed to his head and on pure luck he leaned against the door just right so it closed properly. He felt her presence and grabbed her wrist when she put the back of her hand to his forehead.

"Son of a bitch. You're burning up," without wasting any time she slung his arm around her shoulders and only stopped to unlock the door before bolting it behind them.

Sands knew that already. He could tell that his fever was exactly one hundred and four, it had been that way for about two hours. Part of the CIA training was learning how to separate themselves from pain, which was one of the few lessons he had paid attention to in classes.

"Lay down."

He felt the mattress at the back of his legs and sat as she increased her weight to induce compliance. Had it been anyone else but Sable. . . he had always gotten along with her. To a certain degree. She was too damn much like him for trust to be a complete factor. No, he didn't trust her, or like her, for that matter, but he could appreciate the banter and her ability to do what needed to be done.

"Really been anticipating this, haven't you." He heard her moving around and the sound of a zipper being undone. The hollow noise reminded him it was a duffel bag being opened and not anything else, no matter how tasteful the imagery.

"Oh yeah, you're in for the ride of your life." He heard water running in a sink now, probably a basin and a cloth to clean way the blood.

"Are you trying to give me a-" she was back and as he'd expected a washcloth with warm water was in her hand.

"Anything to take your mind off my novice surgical skills."

"I really should warn you," Sands paused weighing his options, less pain for him if she didn't jerk away, "don't take off the glasses, alright?"

Something in the tone of his voice stopped halted her in mid-motion. He was serious, what was he hiding with the black sunglasses? "Why not?"

"Just don't. Little souvenir from Mexico to remind me of the trip."

"What are you really feeling? Are you in your comfort zone?" She quoted a psychological therapist seminar they'd had to sit through.

He relaxed a little more and grinned at the sarcastically masked worry. This was where he was master, innuendos and mind tricks. She understood them and wasn't stupid enough to try and 'mother' him through this.

They'd both had their share of gun wounds and she knew the pain he must have been in. Stating the obvious wasn't her forte and she wasn't about to bother with it now.

"Not especially. Just don't take the glasses off, okay?"

"But you can't see anything with them on, it's not exactly bright in here," she glanced towards the ceiling. Amidts the cracked and peeling paint there was only a row of light bulbs across the ceiling for light. Paid vacation, this was the best they could do?

"That's the point," he waited as she processed that information.

"Fucking bastards!" She got up and crossed restlessly to the nearest wall irrational fear riding her. The loss of her sight, the idea sent a shiver down her spine. Anger followed the fear, she didn't like being scared.

"Yes, that was one of the things I called them."

Plaster and wall dented as she punched the wall as hard as she could. No wonder he hadn't known who she was! Sands had most likely taken care of it, but if not she would at any price. Whoever had done this to him would pay.

"Is it just. . ." there was hope, if they'd used some sort of chemical the CIA might be able to find an antidote.

"No, the entire eyes. . . obliterated." It was the first time he'd ever said it that made it true. He wasn't going to wake up and there was no chance of this all being a really fucked up bad dream.

"Did they tranq you," she dove back into the professional coldness the CIA forced them to develop. It was well learned and certainly was proving useful.

"To a point," she caught the double meaning in that, too, and again punched the wall. She fought to keep her pulse steady, her breathing even, it was one of her worst fears.

"Hey! Do you mind?" Someone rapped back on the wall.

"Feel like dying?!" Sable snarled and fired a shot at the wall. No more objections were made from their neighbors.

"You're going to get us kicked out." Sands didn't completely understand why she was reacting so violently to him being injured. It happened all the time with the type of job they had. Nevertheless, he was reveling in the fact that someone else shared a smidgen of the rage he felt.

"Let them try," he heard the gun switch barrels and he sat up against the bed's headboard. "Do you want a painkiller?"

"Does it cause drowsiness?"

"Says it's only temporary," she pulled out the small-unopened bottle and read the label. Focus on the job, she told herself, put everything out of your mind. Be a damn professional, you were trained for this.

"Screw'em. Just work fast before the ones I'm on wear off." He estimated there to be about an hour or so left before he went insane from keeping the screams inside again.

"Brace yourself. This is gonna be over before you know it." Noticing that the blood was mostly gone from his face, she palmed a small scissor and began cutting the material around the bullet wounds. She only hoped that the bullets had gone through and exited the other side. It would be a bitch to try and dig them out with the limited equipment she had on hand.

"I really hope so." Sands let his mind wander and hung on to her voice as she unconsciously hummed songs under her breath. Humming masked nervousness and he didn't want to think about her being tense. The person who wielded the needle should never be jumpy.