(Written between 2005-2010, completed and revised January 2010)
Fandom/Pairing: Agent Sheldon Jeffrey Sands (Once Upon a Time in Mexico)/Elektra Natchios (Marvel comics)
Timing: Five months after the events in OUuaTiM, after Elektra's Marvel Knights run (#10-22), after Daredevil Vol. 2 #37 and before #76. And before all the Skrull-kidnap stuff.
Disclaimer: Characters are property of Robert Rodriguez and Stan Lee/Marvel; I own nothing.
Sands sat alone in the almost-empty bar, smoking his fifth (or maybe it was sixth) cigarette of the day and listening to the jukebox behind him play the same tuneless songs over and over, the records skipping forlornly every so often. He absently fingered the gun in his belt, wondering if today would be the day he finally turned around and put a few rounds into the damn thing.
Five months had gone by since Mexico. Five months since he had been found still leaning against that building, chalk-white and delirious from blood loss, singing quietly to himself. They'd found his badge on him at the hospital, and within hours a swarm of agents had descended on his room, asking him over and over what had happened. They told him later they hadn't been able to get a sensible word out of him for days (although he was told that he kept saying something about pork to anyone who was around. He didn't bother to try and clarify). It took a long time for him to remember everything. The last thing he recalled distinctly was sitting in that cow place, feeling a sharp pain in his neck and seeing her smirking at him. And he didn't remember the actual sight of the drill, which was probably a good thing. The sound of it, though, he knew would never leave him; in the hospital he'd heard someone buffing the floor in the hall and had started to shake uncontrollably, actually becoming nauseated with horror. He didn't think the full enormity of what had happened to him had hit him at all that day—all he knew was that he had some people what needed killing, and he had to do it any way he could. He remembered something about a boy, and a cab, and gum (although that part made no sense, he'd always hated gum worse than death). He remembered shooting, although that was a fairly common instance in his life, not much use in putting the pieces together. To his own slight surprise, he didn't even really recall much pain. That came later, in great crashing waves.
No, the only thing that was absolutely vivid was the memory of her, the way she grabbed him roughly from the ground, the smell of hot sand and blood mixing with the scent of her hair, the way her lips felt on his, and the way her whole body jerked with the shot, the way she seemed so surprised, and how she died without a sound. He had left that part out, of course, when attempting to explain to his superiors what exactly had gone down, but he knew the memory was burned into his brain forever. The scene played on an endless loop in his head as he lay in the hot Mexican hospital room; that plus the unending searing pain prevented him from a moment's sleep, so he lay there for days, unsure if it was day or night, tormented to the point where he could think of absolutely nothing else and found himself tugging vainly at the IVs in his arm, hoping one of them would be the magic one and it would all be over. It was strange, but the loss of his eyes actually concerned him less than the fact that it was her, she had done this, she had stood over him with that look on her face and watched him bleed, watched him try to scream. He, of all people in the fucking world, had been felled by love.
Well, not love, of course. But what, then? Whatever that thing was, the thing that made him keep her around, the part of him that didn't mind having her around and hadn't grown bored with fucking her and was intending to share his newfound wealth—and his life, really—with her. Most people would have called that love, he thought bitterly, and that was what made it so terrible: his cheap, half-assed, dime-store parody of love had had the horrible ramifications of the real thing. What a rip-off. She was just the first person he'd slept with and then kept around for other things. She was good at her job and good in bed and all right to talk to, that was all. She'd been there for a while and it was fine; it wasn't something he felt the need to change, and so he didn't. Simple as that. When he'd been scheming down there, he just figured he could use her and she'd be in it, along for the ride. He didn't even remember deciding that. It just made sense at the time, and that was good enough. That was one of the things he dwelt on: how could he have fucked up that badly? He had just assumed, just trusted her because they'd been around each other for a while. And even worse—why was he still thinking of her? Not just of his own errors, but her? He didn't care. He'd done what he had to, and he was glad. Hearing her fall heavily to his feet had been incredibly satisfying, he wasn't sorry he had done it, he would have done it again, and again and again—but then why wouldn't she leave his head?
See anything you like?
You really didn't see it coming, did you.
No, he really hadn't.
The only good thing in all of this—actually, 'good' wasn't strong enough. The only completely hilarious thing in all of it was that the agency had no idea, really, about any of it. He'd received a hero's welcome back to Virginia; as far as they knew, he'd been successful. Barillo was dead, Marquez was dead, the president was alive—and they had no idea El had been involved at all; most of them didn't even believe he was real. On some of Sands' past assignments, on all of which he had done things his way, so to speak, he'd had to be very careful to cover his tracks before reporting back to Langley. This time, on his most massive fuck-up ever, he hadn't had to do a thing, they had made all the right assumptions. The irony was delicious.
The novelty quickly wore off, though. Upon returning to the States, he'd been given "as much time as you need" off. At first he'd been quite content to take an extended vacation, but he soon found the solitude unbearable. He couldn't stand the silence of his apartment; he still couldn't sleep for more than a few hours at a time and he kept his gun in his belt every moment. (They had, at least, had enough sense not to bother trying to relieve him of his firearm, apparently understanding that it would be a complete waste.) He jumped at the slightest sounds, which all seemed so much louder, and had terrified a pair of Girl Scouts out of their wits when he'd fired a shot into the door frame when they'd knocked on his door one afternoon. After a week and a half, he couldn't take any more and returned to work.
It turned out to be just as bad as staying at home, however—stupid fuckers coming up to him all day long and clapping him on the back, demanding jovially why he was there and not at home, enjoying his well-deserved break. Then they would get solemn and say how they thought, he had done his duty as an agent and should be proud, really. (He hadn't even been able to come up with a suitably snarky reply to any of it yet, a fact which depressed him endlessly.) It was a full month before he realized that they'd really meant the first bit. He hadn't been given a single assignment of any form since he'd been back, but of course they couldn't outright fire him. As soon as it had become clear that he wasn't going to step down with dignity, there had been no other choice but to humor him for a while, dropping more and more frequent hints regarding his departure, and then eventually just fire him, or ignore him altogether, or send him on a mission from which there would be no coming back, or something. He'd always known they regarded him as a wild card, unstable, impulsive—an asshole, basically. But a useful, valued asshole. Apparently, a blind asshole was no good to them. The thought infuriated him more than he would have guessed; he hadn't realized that the job actually meant anything to him; few things really did. But when he thought about the fact that Mexico had pretty much been his last act as a federal agent, he felt white-hot fiery anger licking at his insides, and soon he couldn't even stay on agency grounds anymore, it was too much. He was fairly certain he was going to blow off the head of the next person who called him a "trooper," anyway. Ironically, it was only in this dingy Mexican-style bar that he found any kind of solace. He had taken to spending most of his day there, in limbo, smoking and drinking tequila and waiting for something to happen. "Uno mas," he said tonelessly to the barkeep now.
The door jangled, and Sands heard the stool beside him scrape the floor as someone sat down. "Whatever he's having," the newcomer said, evidently indicating Sands' drink. He made no move to acknowledge the man, but inwardly admitted that he respected anyone who'd order 'whatever he's having' at 11:00 in the morning.
"Enjoying your lunch break, Sands?"
Aw, fuck. Busted, Sands thought absently. "Immensely," he replied dryly. "Who's asking?"
"Special Agent Hansen." Sands guessed the man had a hand extended, but he didn't particularly care. He waited, but Hansen didn't say anything else, so Sands took a swallow of tequila and asked, "The fuck you want?"
"Do you recall a conversation we had a few months ago, Agent Sands?" Hansen asked silkily.
"Not really, no."
Hansen made a soft sound of dissent. "In the hospital? Regarding your misadventures in Mexico?"
Sands thought. Now that he thought about it, he did remember something—aside from the agents pestering him with stupid questions, he'd only had two visitors in the hospital room. One of those instances had been profoundly enjoyable, but the other... He remembered someone standing over him, their voice going in and out like a badly tuned radio, saying something like "do you think we'd..." What was it? He frowned slightly, trying to remember—he hadn't really been listening, he'd had other things on his mind at the time. Something about "you'll be of use to us later," and..."you really thought you'd get away with all of it," that was it. That stupid fucking sort of non-question, just like the one—
Hansen kept breathing rather harshly through his nose, sounding offended—apparently, he was used to people remembering it when he had threatened them. "I suppose so," Sands said noncommittally. "Why?"
"Do you happen to recall that I mentioned your being useful in an upcoming project?" Hansen demanded, sounded pissed now. Sands started to half-shrug, and Hansen barreled on, not waiting to hear that he hadn't really been paying attention to that part, either. "Because the plan is currently in motion. Looks like you're finally going to have something to do." His smirk was audible.
"Is that so?" Sands asked archly, exhaling a cloud of smoke rather harshly, fairly sure he was being insulted. "Well, I've been waiting with baited breath, really."
Hansen chose to ignore that. "Recently it's come to my—and some of my colleagues' attention—that McKean knows some information he ought not to know. Therefore, we have decided to have him taken care of," he said brusquely.
Sands let a full five seconds go by before saying blandly, "So you're asking me to whack him?"
Hansen gave an extremely derisive laugh. "Hardly," he said contemptuously, and Sands clenched his jaw. He was definitely being insulted now. "We've found a professional."
Sands raised his eyebrows. "A hitter? Well, that seems a little superfluous, don't you think?"
"Maybe you didn't realize, but we've got a couple of buildings just chock-full of trained federal agents. With guns and everything." Besides, Sands' past experience with hitters was...dicey at best.
"Well, now, that wouldn't be a hard case to crack, would it. 'Director of Central Intelligence shot with agency-issue gun on agency property.'" Hansen deadpanned back. "No, we've found a freelancer. Best on four continents, if you believe the rumors."
"Hmm." Sands stubbed out his cigarette on the bar, missing the ashtray by six inches—again—and pretending not to hear the bartender's sigh of annoyance. Taking another one from his pocket, he said, "Well, that's terribly interesting, really. What's it fucking got to do with me?"
Hansen swallowed his drink in one go. "They've recently upped the security on the grounds even more, especially around McKean."
"Yes, I know that. I got the memo." In case you forgot, I'm an agent too, you fucker.
"Our professional is, of course, going to need access to several agency buildings in order to carry out the hit. We'll be needing you to help with getting past security without raising any alarms in the system. Your pass code will be of great use in the early stages."
Sands said nothing. So now he was just some hit man's bitch. His blood boiled. But his tone was utterly calm when he replied, "Well, that's a real nifty plan, Nancy Drew. But remind me—what's my motivation, again?"
Hansen had clearly been hoping he'd ask just that. "Come now, Agent Sands," he said patronizingly. "You had to have known that we'd have time to go through all your files and belongings when you were lying in that hospital. We know about everything. All the business with Belini and with Barillo..." Sands' hand clenched into a fist on the bar, but Hansen continued as though he hadn't noticed. "Think about, Sands. If you'd really gotten in Barillo's way like you said you had, you'd be dead. What they did to you, well..." He sighed theatrically. "They were sending a message."
"That's very observant, congratulations. It's no wonder you're a 'special' agent."
"Anyway," Hansen continued, again ignoring Sands' interjection. "it's not just Mexico that we know about. Apparently you've made quite a habit of stirring up trouble on assignment. We've talked to plenty of people, and we have all the information we need." He paused for effect. "I'm suggesting strongly that you cooperate with us."
"Blackmail," Sands observed disinterestedly. "How very...Lifetime Original Movie of you."
"Oh, 'blackmail' is such an ugly word," Hansen replied airily. "Think of it as an assignment. You haven't received too many lately, have you?" Sands again said nothing, just expelled a cloud of smoke in Hansen's general direction. "I'll take that to mean you're on board. Good, that will make everything easier on you. You'll be coming with us to pick her up at Dulles this evening."
"Her?" he replied, thrown. "Her who?"
"Our professional, of course," Hansen replied buoyantly, and Sands realized he'd purposefully left this juicy bit of information for last. A woman. Jesus Christ. Just what I need. Sands kept his expression neutral. "For the purposes of this assignment, the two of you will be staying at the Staybridge Suites for a few days, until it's done." The Suites, Sands knew, was the closest hotel to the grounds.
The CIA agent and the female assassin trapped in a hotel room together. I couldn't have written a better plot for a porno myself. "I'll have to run home and get my pajamas," he commented, dropping his cigarette butt into his glass, hearing it hiss. "Been years since I've had a slumber party."
"Hmm," Hansen chuckled softly. "We had a feeling you might enjoy a woman's company. Is it true you stopped to pick up a hooker on your way home from the hospital?" Sands made a soft noise of assent.
"Well, you know how it is with these broads. Tried a real relationship, but apparently I just couldn't see things her way," he said, his voice soft with danger. "So I had to, you know. Drop her." Yeah. Drop her right at my feet where she belonged.
Hansen said nothing, but Sands was slightly surprised to hear his breath sharpen briefly. Before he had time to speculate on this, though, Hansen had stood up and said, his tone normal, "Her flight gets in at eight-thirty. Be ready at your apartment at half past seven."
"Swell." Sands heard money drop carelessly onto the bar, and Hansen left. "Dick," he added, not troubling to keep his voice down. He leaned back in his seat, thinking. A woman. A chick assassin. What a pair we'll make – the two lady-killers.