Disclaimer: El and Sands belong to Robert Rodriguez. I'll give them back now that I'm done borrowing them.

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Game over.


"No, not like that. Jesus, you're going to ruin it. Give me that."

"What? I did it like you told me."

"Were you even listening to me when I explained this?"

"Yes, but you did it too fast, I didn't get to see what you were doing."

"Oh my Christ. Here, let me."

With a few deft maneuvers, he had the sling about El's neck and the mariachi's arm positioned just right. "There. See? It's not rocket science, El."

"It's easier for you," El said defensively. "You've got two hands you can use."

"Excuses, excuses," Sands snorted. He gave El a little push. "Now go sit down."

"It sounds like they're almost done," El said. "Should we go inside and help?"

"No," Sands said with exaggerated patience, "we should stay out here and let them do all the work."

After a moment El said, "All right." He sat down in the chair beside Sands.

Sands lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply, pleased to note he felt only a small nagging pain in his chest at the movement. Crickets were singing out on the lawn, and he could hear a moth beating against the porch light. Inside, Jorge and Chiclet chattered back and forth as they prepared dinner.

"Are you packed?" El asked.

He nodded. They were leaving tomorrow morning for Mexico City. El had said he wanted to stop first at the house he owned, the house that had once belonged to his friend Lorenzo, and Sands had not argued. He supposed he owed El that last visit.

They were going on the road. On the hunt. El wasn't really ready for it yet, but Sands had just shrugged and accepted El's wishes. It made no difference to him if they left tomorrow or a week from now. There was plenty of cartel out there, after all.

All in all, he supposed, things hadn't ended too badly. They had played their last hand, made their last move, and their game was over. He did not completely trust El and El did not entirely trust him, but that did not matter. With El life was simpler, more primal. With El the only things that mattered were heat and touch. With El he could say whatever was on his mind and not worry about being misunderstood or how the other person was going to react, and every conversation was a verbal battleground where he took no prisoners. Yet with El he could talk about things he had never talked about before.

With El, it was easy to feel kinship.

With El, it was easier to feel everything.

Sands put out his cigarette. He stood up. He grinned. "Ready to go?"



Author's Note: Many thanks to everyone who has reviewed or written to me. You guys are the best. I hope ff.net begins giving me my reviews again, but if not, please bear with me if it takes a while for me to respond to you.

This story would not exist without the support of my wonderful beta reader Melody. She kept me going even when I came dangerously close to throwing in the towel. I love you, girl.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.