The prisoner's camp has a dusty, choking indignity to it despite the issued uniforms. But it's nothing Blondie isn't used to. He'd worn a uniform like this as prisoner and soldier alike, too young and eager then to number his days by deaths. Should have known I'd be stuck here again.
Being a criminal feels more honest.
Music. Music is somehow an ugly, torn sound in the fields of war. Blondie tugs at the stained collar, casting a glance over to the quarters where Tuco is being held.
Whatever's left of him, by now.
Should be happy, shouldn't I? Tuco put him through more than hell. But he'd given as good as he'd gotten. I deserve just as bad. Maybe I’ll get it.
But not if I can help it from that sonofabitch. Blondie had heard tell of Angel Eyes, a legend rasped in the ear of any outlaw with a mark to kill and could make his price. Blondie had thought about taking up that kind of work, in the later parts of his days hunting bounty. Losing faith in what that meant.
A killer by any other name. Does it really matter who pays you?
Blondie had stopped killing, kept getting paid. It felt worse, and yet better. But that two hundred thousand dollars ... that could change all of that. It's enough for him to trail Tuco around, enough of a promise to keep the trust between them thin but present.
God knows how Angel Eyes is going to test that. Blondie wishes for a quirley, not for the first time since they'd been captured. It might very well be his last.
The music is running quiet. There's a soft moan, but it's coming from one of the prisoners rather than where they took Tuco. Can't be a good sign.
“Get over here. The sergeant wants to see you.”
Blondie nods once. He’s not armed, and might just become another notch in the ledger of those Angel Eyes had struck down. But I’ll go to hell before I tell him anything.
Walking into a door ready to die is more familiar, if anything, than the uniform.
He isn't expecting to be hit by a bundle of his own clothes, which still smell of the cheap incense of the abbey.
“The war’s over for you. Put these clothes on.”
He regards Angel Eyes carefully, who is looking at him with a measure of respect. Bastard. What's he up to? Blondie has reason to believe Angel Eyes was a lot of things, but he was rarely a subtle liar, to other outlaws. Rarely needed to be.
“We’re going for a ride.”
“To find two hundred thousand dollars. I know the name of the cemetery, now. And you know the name of the grave”
When Blondie turns his head down, he sees the blood on the floor, the writing on the wall. He drags his foot through it experimentally, wrinkling his nose at his own curiosity.
“You’re not going to give me the same treatment?”
This is why he's a twisted sonofabitch. Damned and evil.
“Would you talk?” his mustache curls around whatever he’s drinking. Damned and evil and good at it. Blondie can't help thinking it. He's thought about the line between him and someone like Angel Eyes far too often. How close he is to that edge.
“No, probably not.”
“That’s what I thought. Not that you’re any tougher than Tuco,” Angel Eyes smiles, tipping back his neck like he relishes the memory of torture. Blondie feels a shiver go through the core of him, keeping still through it.
“But you’re smart enough to know that talking won’t save you.”
Blondie keeps his face impassive, holding Angel Eyes’ gaze. He shouldn’t give a damn, after what the bastard put him through. But he has to ask, “And Tuco, is he…?”
“Mm-mm. No,” Angel Eyes stands up, reaching for the gun belt. “Not yet. But he’s in very good hands.”
“You changed partners, but you’ve still got the same deal. I’m not greedy. I’m only taking half. There’s two of us. Should make it easier than just one.”
Small comfort that he doubts Tuco is dead. If there's one thing he's learned in his dubious partnership with the sly bastard, it's that he never stays down for long. So maybe that's why I left him out in the desert.
It seemed like a bad idea at the time. This was damn worse, though.
He wants to be sure of that.
“Yeah,” he sheaths the gun deliberately, enjoying the way Angel Eyes pauses, uncertainty momentarily flaring in his eyes.
Better or worse, Angel Eyes needs him. Blondie can admit at least, that if anyone deserves his worst-- it's this sonofabitch. That settles in an uneasy certainty in his chest.
He keeps a close eye on Blondie even as he strips into his clothes. It fires up a hatred right down to Blondie's toes. Who in God's name does he think he is?
By the time he's pulled on his jacket, Angel Eyes is examining his own Remington. He runs a finger along its length, then sheaths it. Neither says anything as they head out into the desrt.
Angel Eyes jerks his head towards the other horse, pulling himself onto the second with snakelike grace.
Blondie glances once doubtfully at the horse.