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[ m e n t a l i t y ]

A groan of tedium escapes me,
Startling the fearful.
Is this a test? It has to be,
Otherwise I can't go on.

-- The Patient, Tool

“Is there a particular place you´d like to start?’

Sands laughed. “How about by leaving?’

There was a sigh and then a scratching sound, followed by a clicking. “Where did you grow up?’

“Kentucky,’ Sands answered, putting the so-long-ago-forgotten twang back in his voice with ease. “Though, I´m not sure that´s where I grew *up*. It´s where I was raised though.’

“What do you mean?’

Sands shrugged. “About?’

“Where did you grow up if not the place you were raised?’

“Well, Doc, that really depends on your definition of ‘growing up´ now, doesn´t it?’ Sands asked, raising an eyebrow. “Is it the actual physicality of bones changing and growing, forming into what is considered an adult? Or is it, ya know, realizing that it´s not all peaches and cream, but rather that it´s put up or shut up?’

Scratch, scribble, pause. “Which do you think it is?’

“I don´t know,’ Sands said, shrugging. “Guess it´s fitting either way.’

“I suppose.’

Sands frowned, crossing and uncrossing his legs. “Yep.’

“Alright,’ he said, his voice sounding more like a sigh than anything else. “Why don´t we delve right into it?’

“Delve away,’ Sand said. “I´m an open book. I´ll warn you though, might wanna read the last page first, cause it´s a doozy.’

“Uh huh,’ he said as the pen scratched on the paper again. “How did you lose your sight?’

“Eyes, Doc,’ Sand said, pointing up a finger. “Lost my eyes, not my sight.’

“Eyes, then,’ the man clarified.

“Some dame got a wee bit angry with me,’ Sands said with a laugh and a shrug. “Decided I spent too much time with other things in my line of vision. Reckoned she´d fix that.’

“You were romantically involved with her?’

Sands laughed. “Oh, there was little romance involved. Mostly sex, and money, and a little thing I liked to call interagency cooperation. Or, ya know, backstabbing. Whatever.’

“And this ‘she´ would be Ms. Ajedrez?’

“So she told me-- turned out she was Ms. Barillo. Though, not by name.’

“Tell me what happened?’

“I already did, Doc. She got angry, I got maimed.’

“Why don´t we try another angle -- ’

“Gee, Doc, you can try whatever angle you like,’ he said, smiling lazily and leaning back on the couch. “I´m still not gonna be able to see it.’

“A different approach, Sheldon,’ the man said, his voice so caring and calculated it made Sands feel like spitting glass.

“Agent Sands, Doc,’ he said, gritting his teeth. “You don´t know me well enough to call me by my first name.’

Another sigh bounced around the sparse room, the clicking-scratching sounding again. “I apologize,’ the man said, his voice of infinite compassion sounding slightly forced this time.

“Honest mistake,’ Sands said, turning his grin up just enough to bare his teeth.

“So how did you feel when she betrayed you?’ the older man continued, his voice low and lulling.

“Well, I just don´t know,’ he said. “I didn´t really have time to write down my feelings before they jabbed the needle in my neck.’

Scribble, flip, scribble, click. “Agent Sands, do you not feel that being here is important in the progress of your healing?’

“You sound annoyed, Doc,’ Sands said, frowning, and leaning up slightly. “Have I done something to annoy you?’

Another puff of air reached Sands´ ears, and he decided that maybe this man just had a problem breathing, because, honestly, that was just too much sighing in the span of ten minutes for it to be healthy. “I must admit, you´re not as receptive to what I am trying to accomplish as one might hope.’

“Perhaps I should go,’ Sands said, pointing towards where he assumed the door was. He started to stand, and turned his head back towards the doctor. “The door´s this way, right?’

“Sit, Agent Sands,’ the doctor said, his voice now lacking the fake understanding and sympathy. “I have you for a half an hour today, and I intend to keep you here.’

Sands´ smile turned real as he took his seat again, reaching into his pocket and grabbing one of his cigarillos. “You don´t mind if I smoke, do you.’ He stated rather than asked the words, lighting it up without waiting for the man to answer.

“You´ve been through a traumatic experience, Agent Sands,’ the man said, scribbling yet once again on his pad as he spoke. “I understand that you feel therapy is perhaps not for you -- ’

“So, really, you see, there´s no point to me being here,’ Sands said, letting the smoke waft lazily out of his nostrils.

“But,’ the doctor continued, clearly dismissing Sands´ words without a thought. “You must attend these sessions.’

Sands found himself sighing, and wondered if sighing wasn´t as contagious as yawns were. “Hence my being here, Doc,’ he said, his tone bored. “It´s not of my own accord.’

“The point being, why don´t we try to get something out of them?’ the doctor said. “And instead of calling me Doc, why don´t you call me Dr. MacNamara? If I show you enough respect to call you Agent Sands, you could do the same.’

Sands licked his lips, nodding. “Fair enough, Dr. MacNamara,’ he said, nodding again and taking another puff from his cigarillo.

“Good,’ the man said, his voice reverting back to business mode. “Now, what exactly do you hope to get out of these sessions?’

“Don´t know Doc,’ Sands said, grimacing slightly. “Sorry, habit.’

“Go on.’

“I don´t know what I expect. I´m not the, uh, sharing type, exactly.’

Scribble, click, scratch. “Why are you here?’

Sands snorted, crossing his leg over his other and leaning back into the couch again, tapping the ashes into his hand. “You know why I´m here.’

There was a pause and a halt in the scratching sound of pen to paper. “Are you really only here because you were assigned?’

“Yep, all eight weeks of it,’ Sands said with a sharp nod. “Plus this quaint thirty minute getting-to-know-each-other session. I´d *much* rather be doing my summer reading. Except, well, it´s winter, and – no eyes.’

Another sigh sounded as the scribbling began again. “Our time is almost up, and I still don´t know what you hope to accomplish here with me.’

“I hope to accomplish whatever it is the agency has decided I need to accomplish for me to get back to my *job*,’ Sands answered, his voice slightly strained. “Whatever that may be.’

“The *agency*,’ the doctor said, the annoyance once again in his voice. “Wants you to be in the best possible mental health, before sending you back into the job that landed you here to begin with. They´re concerned for you.’

Sands covered his mouth to hide the small laugh he gave at that. “They´re concerned for me?’

“Yes -- ’

“No,’ Sands said, shaking his head. “They´re not concerned for *me.* They´re concerned for my *ability*.’

Scribble, click, tap. “Is that not the same?’

Sands shook his head. “No. They don´t care about my mental well-being. They care whether or not it affects my ability.’

“And you don´t think the two are interlocked? You don´t think that your emotions will effect your ability to perform your job?’

“Well, Doc,’ Sands said, smiling sardonically at him. “They never have before.’

Pages flipped and a seat crackled, groaning as the doctor shifted in his seat. “Our time is up.’

“Gosh,’ Sands said, tilting his head to the side in a mocking gesture of disappointment. “And I was just feeling near a breakthrough.’

“I´ll see you here Wednesday,’ the doctor said, his voice nearer to Sands than it had been. “Two o´clock. For the full hour.’

“Alright, Doc,’ Sands said, standing and placing a hand on the doctor´s arm. “I mean, Dr. MacNamara.’

“Doc will be fine,’ the man said, leading Sands to the door that led to the agent waiting to accompany him back to his safe-house.

“I thought you said you preferred Dr. MacNamara?’

For the first time Sands heard the doctor laugh. “I´ll make an exception.’

“Well you´re a peach, Doc,’ Sands said, clapping the doctor on the back before reaching out and opening the door. “See you -- or rather, I *won´t* see you -- next week.’

“Goodbye, Agent Sands.’


Sands turned toward the man that still held his arm. and made a grand sweeping gesture with his free arm. “I bid you adieu.’

“I was told to see you to Dr. MacNamara´s office,’ the man said, his voice stone cold and stoic. A voice, Sands thought, that probably was meant to cover the fact that this man was terrified of him. If it weren´t for the jerky reactions to any move Sands made, the man would have perhaps pulled off the façade.

“And you have,’ Sands said with a pleasant smile. “Now fuck off.’

The man dropped his arm, but made no move to leave his side, instead shuffling his feet in place, as if to shake off the pins and needles of immobility. More likely, though, to stave off the urge to run away. “I will tell the secretary we are here.’

“And I´ll sit,’ Sands said, jerking his cane backwards, and thwacking the couch behind him. Taking two quick steps back he sat down and crossed his legs, placing the cane in his lap. “I hope they won´t keep me waiting long,’ he droned when he heard the man return to his side. “What, with me unable to entertain myself with finding the three acorns in Highlights.’

“They don´t have Highlights,’ the man answered distractedly. “I could get you the New Y— I mean -- ’

Sands laughed, shaking his head. “You really are pretty slow for a federal agent, Stevens,’ he said, frowning. “Which, honestly, explains why you´re stuck babysitting a blind sociopath.’

Agent Stevens grumbled unintelligibly to his side, but he was able to pick out ‘fuckin´ nutjob´ and ‘asshole´ in there, so he could pretty much piece together the gist of the diatribe. The flip of pages let him know that the man had picked up a magazine of his own, and he had to stifle the urge to rip it from his hands. He didn´t because that would mean admitting that other people´s blatant disregard for the fact that he can´t see bothered him, which was something he was not prepared to divulge just yet.

Luckily the door to Dr. MacNamara´s office opened then, and Sands´ ears perked up as he heard a sniffling sound followed by hushed words of what was probably comfort. A gust of air floated past him, the skirt of the woman´s dress floating just within reach of his outstretched fingers. He smiled to himself, and thought that would never be the way he left, not in this lifetime. Stealth was his mode of operation, and crying in public was something he hadn´t done since he was twelve.

“Agent Sands,’ the secretary with a thin voice said. “Dr. MacNamara will see you now.’

Agent Stevens started to rise, but Sands was too quick for him, lashing out with his cane and stopping just short of where he thought the man´s chest to be. “Stay,’ he said, lowering his cane slowly. When he heard the man beginning to breathe again, and settling back into the couch, he smiled. “Good puppy.’

He took the remembered six steps to the door in at a quick gait, the cane hovering just above the ground in front of him, and paused as it tapped against the wall lightly. Next time, it would be five and a half. He reached out his hand, and frowned as he hit wall, sliding it to the left and then the right until he hit open air. “Already open then,’ he said to himself, laughing slightly. “Peachy.’

“You didn´t look as if you wanted directions, Agent Sands,’ Dr. MacNamara said from just to his right, startling him. “Seemed to be determined to do it on your own.’

He covered his surprise with a tight smile, nodding his head and stepping between the man and the doorframe. Taking two steps in, he waited until he heard the door click, and turned to where the couch should be. “Have you redecorated, or is the couch still three paces to the left?’

“Depending on your stride,’ the doctor said, a huffing of air, and the creaking of leather letting Sands know he´d already taken his seat.

He took three steps, and felt with his cane, allowing himself a slight smile as he hit the couch just where he should have. Turning, he flopped himself onto the couch and ran his hands over the leather. “Ya know, if this is brown, it just might be the same style couch I had in Kentucky,’ he said, frowning as he ran his fingers over the worn leather. “Though, in better shape.’

“Cream,’ the doctor said, as the fluttering of papers being turned reached Sands´ ears. “So how was your weekend?’

“Dandy, Doc,’ Sands said, lifting his feet and lying down on the couch. “Is this how we do it? I lie, you masturbate?’

He expected to hear a sigh, but instead heard a laugh. “You may lie or sit, it´s for your comfort really.’

Sands arched an eyebrow. “Doc has a sense of humor?’

“At times,’ the man responded.

“So what´s the score?’ Sands asked, crossing one foot over the other on the arm rest of the couch, and wondered idly if the doctor is irritated by his lack of respect for his furniture. “Dreams? Wishes? Regrets? Haunted pasts? Perhaps fetishes?’ Sands waits, and smiled as he heard the sigh. ‘Ah,´ he thinks. ‘There it is.´

“Why don´t we start with what happened to you in Mexico?’

Sands fought the urge to roll his eyes, something which is harder to do when there aren´t eyes to roll. Funny how you never notice how often you do something until you´re prohibited from doing it. “Well, it´s like I told you last time. Agent meets Girl. Agent recruits Girl. Girl gets mad. Agent gets gouged.’

“How about we try a little more in depth coverage, Agent Sands?’ the doctor asked, barely contained annoyance hidden in the soft tones of a professional voice.

“That´s the problem with my trade, Doc,’ Sands said, yawning and lacing his hands on his chest. “Can´t tell you details.’

“You´re under doctor-patient confidentiality, Agent Sands,’ he said. “Which means anything you say in here can not leave this room.’

“Not can not,’ Sands said, raising a finger and waving it. “Can´t and shouldn´t are two wholly different concepts.’

“Will not, then.’

Sands laughed. “Just the same.’

“You´re going to have to trust me, Agents Sands,’ the doctor said softly. “If we´re going to get anywhere.’

“Trust you?’ Sands said, laughing again. “Last time I trusted someone besides me, it was my ass in the frying pan. So thank you, but no.’

“Not everyone is like Ms. Ajedrez,’ the man responded.

Sands lifted his head and titled it towards the doctor, raising both eyebrows. “Did you think I meant Ajedrez? No, no, Doc, I didn´t trust her. I trusted her about as much as I´d trust a pit bull with his mouth around my nuts.’ He shook his head, lowering it back down to the couch. “No, I didn´t trust Ajedrez.’

“Did you feel she betrayed you?’ the doctor asked, the steady scribbling of pen to paper sounding in the room.



Sands laughed. “Isn´t that much clear? I mean, come on man. I have no eyes.’

He could see the frown on the good doctor´s face almost as clearly as if he had his sight still. “So you felt betrayed?’

“There´s a difference between feeling betrayed, and someone betraying you,’ Sands said, nodding softly.


“Well, it all depends on expectations,’ Sands said, frowning for a moment. “To betray someone, you have to take what you say you wouldn´t do, and do it to that person. Now, granted, she never specifically said she wouldn´t gouge my eyes out, but I´m pretty sure that should have been inferred.’ He paused a moment, tilting his head back towards the doctor. “Following?’

“So far.’

“But,’ Sands continued, pointing a finger towards the ceiling. “To feel betrayed, you have to have not expected this person to betray you. I did, as a matter of fact, expect her to. I pretty much counted on it.’

“So since you felt the chances of her betraying you were high--’

“I felt the chances of her *not* betraying me were next to nil, Doc.’

Scratches, scribbles, and slight humming noises sounded before the doctor continued. “Since you had the feeling she would betray you, you´re saying you didn´t feel emotionally betrayed?’

“Exactly,’ Sands said with an easy smile. “You catch on quick.’

“Was trained to do so,’ the doctor mumbled, scribbling furiously yet again. “What thoughts were going through your head when you realized she´d betrayed you, if not betrayal?’

“You mean when that sick fuck was dangling tweezers in front of my soon-to-be-empty eye sockets?’

He imagined the violent shudder the doctor probably gave at that and stifled the giggle he felt rising in his throat. “Yes.’

“Smart girl.’

There was a pause. It lasted for no more than a few seconds, but it was enough to give Sands another sniffle of a laugh. “I beg your pardon?’

“I thought ‘smart girl´, Doc.’

“Why?’ the doctor asked, the awe in his voice hardly covered at all.

“There are two things that are necessary to me in my profession, Dr. MacNamara,’ Sands said. “Three actually. My brains, my dick, and my perception.’

“Your dick?’

“Yeah, though, my dick is more personally important than professionally important.’

“I see.’

“So, to deprive me of my sight? Well, Doc, that´s just initiative right there.’ He smiled and laughed, shrugging. “That´s just poetic. One´s perception changes quite drastically when their eyes have been ripped out.’

“I would imagine, yes.’

“Am I disturbing you?’ Sands asked, feigning dismay. “You seem thrown.’

“Your cavalier attitude does seem a bit odd, yes,’ the doctor said, clearing his throat and resuming his scribbling. “But that´s for later.’

“Right,’ Sands said, nodding his head. “Dig out the demons for exorcism later, right now there´s lunch to digest.’

“I´m curious, Agent Sands,’ the doctor said, the quiet strength returning back to his voice. “How did you feel when you killed Ajedrez?’

Sands´ jaw tightened, his nails digging lightly into his palm. “Eliminated.’

“I´m sorry?’

“I didn´t kill her,’ Sands said, shaking his head slightly. “I eliminated an imminent threat.’

“That resulted in the death of an AFN agent who had, not two hours earlier, as you put it, deprived you of your eyes?’

“Yes,’ Sands said, nodding his head. “Killed implies an intent. My intent was not to kill her. My intent was to eliminate her ability to kill me.’

“Color it however you want, Agent Sands,’ the doctor said softly. “The fact is she is dead.’

“Whatever means necessary.’

“I believe the original question was how did you feel?’

“Relieved.’ The scratching was beginning to make Sands´ skin itch, and his palms were in danger of bleeding if he didn´t stop digging his nails into them.

“Is that all?’ the doctor asked.

“The fuck do you want me to say,’ Sands barked shortly, reaching into his pocket and grabbing his cigarillos. “Saddened? Dismayed? Regretful? Tell me -- so I can say it, and get it the fuck over with.’

“You seem agitated, Agent Sands.’ The smirk in the doctor´s voice was almost palpable.

“I´m not a talker, Doc,’ Sands said after lighting the cigarillo. “Told you that.’

“Was relief all you felt?’ the doctor asked again.

Sands chewed on his lip for a moment, taking long slow drag from his cigarillo. “No.’

Scribbling and flipping permeated the air for a few moments before the doctor sighed again. “And what else did you feel?’

Sands exhaled through his nostrils, feeling the tension slowly leak from his body with it. “Vindicated.’

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