Need, Or Lack Thereof
A Pink Dormouse Production
There had been no need for Ramirez to help Sands; no matter how badly injured the man might have been, he had someone with him already. Ramirez told himself that repeatedly until he reached his home. Then he continued to remind himself of all the reasons why he need not go back to help, as he found food and water bowls for Moco, and set them down in front of the little dog. One stray coming home with him in a day was more than enough. He found a blanket for Moco to sleep on and laid it, neatly folded, in a corner of the room. No strays sleeping on the couch, none at all, he told himself firmly. Then he gave the dog a severe look, and told it to behave, before he headed back into town.
Sands was gone from the wall he had been leaning against, which really should not have surprised Ramirez. It had been what? An hour since they had spoken? It had been no more than two, which was still long enough for Sands to have found someone to help him. If Sands had needed help, Ramirez reminded himself, he had no definite proof of that. Sands had looked to be in need of something, but that did not mean that he would have accepted any that Ramirez might have offered.
If he had kept the cell phone Sands had given him, he could have called the man and saved himself the walk into town, while still taking this niggling worry from his mind. Ramirez liked everything to have its proper ending -- why else had he settled in Culiacan of all places, if not to see that Barillo got the ending he deserved? And maybe he did owe a little piece of gratitude for that to Sands. Enough to perhaps call the hospitals tomorrow, and see if Sands had been admitted. But now he would go home, before dark fell. That way he could ensure neither looters, nor his newly acquired pet, could damage his little house.
By the next morning Ramirez had decided that it was none of his business whether Sands lived or died, whether he was hospitalised or lying in the street somewhere. It mattered a little to Ramirez, assuming that Sands was alive, whether the man stayed in Mexico or went back to the US. If Sands stayed in Mexico, then he might want to cause trouble for Ramirez again sometime. That was Ramirez' reason for calling the hospital -- not concern for Sands' well-being, but a healthy caution where his own safety was concerned. He almost believed that. Almost.
"Don't say anything," he warned Moco as he picked up the handset of his telephone. The dog looked at him in puzzlement, then wagged its tail hopefully. He would need to take it for a walk. The exercise would benefit him too, so he would go out as soon as he had located Sands.
On his walk, Ramirez analysed what he had learned from a nurse at the hospital. Now that he knew that Sands was alive, and stable, he could get on with his life. The extent of the man's injuries meant that he was in no danger of a visit from Sands for quite some time. He could settle back into his old routine, with the addition of a dog to care for, and forget that he had briefly been 'no longer retired'. Visiting Time began at two. He knew that, but had no intention of doing any visiting.
Sands had a room to himself. The hospital staff were taking good care of him. There was no need for Ramirez to go into the room; and definitely no need for him to stay, and sit with the man. Sands was too drugged-up to understand, or even to hear, anything that Ramirez might tell him. So there was no need to talk to him. And Sands had done his research before their first meeting, so there was no need for Ramirez to tell him any stories from his career. Telling Sands what had happened during the attempted coup would have been of some use -- but only if Sands had been listening.
Maybe, though, he needed to tell someone, Ramirez rationalised. And he realised, once he had begun, that he had a lot of stories to tell. So he kept on going back to the hospital, because having started talking, he saw no reason to stop.
Sands had no other visitors while Ramirez was there. But one day he saw two men -- Americans he guessed -- wearing suits, and with obvious bulges under their jackets, entering Sands' room ahead of him. Ramirez ducked around the corner and waited until the men left again. Then he hurried into the room.
Sands was propped up in his bed. He smiled to himself as the door clicked shut.
"Agent Ramirez," he said. "Looks like I'm the one who's retired now."
Ramirez pulled a chair up to the bed.
"Once again, I am retired." He did not bother to ask how Sands knew that it was him, and not some other visitor.
"That could be argued." Sands said lightly. Then he grew serious. "I need to move out of here. The kid usually visits me after you've gone, so I'll ask if I can stay with his family. It might be a wee bit cramped but -- "
" -- You could stay with me." If Sands wanted to leave hospital early, he must suspect that he was in danger. Enough innocent people had died recently as a result of Sands' meddling; it was better that he did not put any more in jeopardy. Ramirez could take care of himself, and he could make arrangements for Sands to move far away as soon as possible.
"That's very kind of you, but I wasn't asking -- "
" -- I think you were. When do you want to leave?"
"Got a car with you?"
Sands could stay until Ramirez found a place for him to go, or until he was well enough to cope by himself, or until his presence endangered Ramirez. The first was definitely the option of choice. There was no reason for Ramirez to care whether Sands could take care of himself; so long as Sands was far away when the men came looking for him the next time, or when other men came looking for him.
There was no need for Ramirez to check each safe house personally. And no reason at all why he should find each wanting in some way. Although, Ramirez thought, as a houseguest Sands was no more trouble than his other stray from the Day of the Dead. Moco was happy to eat scraps, and Sands was happy to keep himself entertained with the fruits of his doubtless fraudulent credit cards. He even went so far as to throw wholly legitimate bills on the kitchen table as his contribution to food costs and power bills. And, so far, no one had come looking for Sands -- with or without dangerous intentions.
So Ramirez stayed at home more, and began to talk to Sands again. He found that Sands remembered more of what had been said at the hospital than Ramirez had expected. Not that it stopped Sands from asking to be told again. And neither did it stop him asking for more details every other sentence.
Sands kept out of Ramirez' way when he was genuinely busy though, and Ramirez decided that maybe it was better to have company. It certainly saved him from turning into an old man with no friends, who talked to his dog too much. That could happen later, of course, when Sands finally moved on. But for now it was pleasant to talk to someone who talked back. One day he caught himself toying with the ring on his left hand, and wondering why he had never felt the need to finalise his divorce. But that was just a side effect of bring up so much of the past in his conversations with Sands.
What Ramirez should have done, was to have thrown Sands out the instant he crawled into Ramirez' bed, muttering something about nightmares. But Sands had fallen asleep straight away. Ramirez was too tired to risk starting a fight with someone unlikely to have any problems with maiming his host. So he ignored Sands, and tried to get back to sleep.
There had really been no need to mention it in the morning either. By the time Sands woke, Ramirez had already eaten and was about to walk into town with Moco. Although if he had mentioned it, then it would have made throwing Sands out of his bed the next time a lot easier.
By the third night -- the third night it happened, which was actually about a week after the first night -- Ramirez had just given up. It was not as if anything had changed between them. Sands still alternated between annoyingly inquisitive, and so busy with whatever gadget currently interested him as to be practically invisible. Right now, Sands was being invisible -- no, annoying, Ramirez corrected, as the annoyance in question draped himself over Ramirez' shoulders.
"What are you cooking?"
"You'll find out soon enough."
"Can't I taste now?" Sands paused, which was usually a sign he was plotting something. "Please, Daddy?"
"What did you -- " But by the time Ramirez had spun around, Sands was sitting at the table, affecting what he probably considered to be an innocent look.
"I've been going over some property details," Sands said, inserting the laptop's earpiece. "I thought somewhere a little bigger, with a garden for Toto."
"Moco," Ramirez said. "The dog's name is Moco."
"Yes," Sands said, as if explaining the obvious. "But my dog's going to be called Toto."
"My dog," Sands said with a self-satisfied smile. "The dog I'm going to get when I move to the big city."
"You're moving to the city? And just where are you getting this dog from?"
"I'm thinking about moving -- you want me out of your house don't you? And I thought you could get me a dog -- as a moving-in present. Since you're so good at finding things." Sands swivelled the laptop around. "What do you think of this one?" He smirked. "I left the pictures enabled specially for you."
Ramirez studied the details.
"It's a big house." It was also on sale at several times the value of his house. "The CIA must have given you a very generous pension."
"Who says I don't have money of my own hidden away somewhere?" Sands removed the earpiece, stood up, and walked out of the kitchen.
Ramirez checked the soup bubbling on the hotplate, before following. It was none of his business what Sands chose to do once he left. There was no need for Ramirez to ask Sands if leaving was what he really wanted to do. He sat down on the couch next to Sands.
"You're definitely leaving then?"
"Have to." Sands twisted around to face Ramirez. "I've got big plans, and I'm thinking that you might not approve of them. Even if -- " suddenly Sands was straddling Ramirez' legs, his arms around Ramirez' neck " -- you are, once again, retired."
Ramirez stared at Sands and saw twin images of himself staring back reflected in Sands' sunglasses.
"Big plans?" he asked, still thrown off guard.
"Yeah. And you, being the good guy -- not to mention some kind of fucked-up father figure -- have no need of knowing them." Sands dropped down into Ramirez' lap and ground against him in a manner that, Ramirez sincerely hoped, had nothing whatsoever to do with family.
There was no need for Ramirez to kiss Sands at that point. And there was definitely no need for any of what happened after, even if he did turn a deaf ear to some -- most -- of Sands' more unusual endearments.
Sands left anyway, of course. But there was no need for anyone to find out where he went to, even if Ramirez did know.
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