A Pink Dormouse Production
A cell phone was ringing. El raised his head and saw that it was his phone making the noise. He moved across the truck and retrieved it from where he had thrown it, then flipped it open. The display indicated that Sands was calling but El was not getting his hopes up until he heard the caller speak.
"Well it sure ain't the Easter bunny. You can tell Stu that he was only supposed to blow the bloody doors off."
El's smile grew even wider at the reference. The other two men in the back of the truck were staring at him, but he was not bothered.
"Where are you?" El asked, trying to keep the relief out of his voice.
"End of the escape tunnel, waiting for Corky to come back with the jeep."
"You all got out in one piece?"
"Yeah," Sands said, with an air of stating the obvious. "How about you guys?"
"We all made it - I'm yet to hear from -" El was interrupted by the 'call waiting' beep. He looked at his phone's screen and saw that the other caller was Lorenzo. "Looks like the others made it too," he told Sands.
"Going to let me take a look now?" El asked. Since they had met up back at base Sands had stuck obstinately to El's side and refused, just as obstinately, to let anyone take the bandage off his right hand.
Sands nodded, pressing in closer to the other man's side.
"Stay there," El said as he got up from the couch. The others had dispersed to different parts of the building after a very brief debriefing from Sands, who seemed unexpectedly subdued compared to his mood before the raid.
Sands started to follow him, then slumped back down. El was feeling a little stiff after the morning's exertion, but Sands seemed to be in real pain. And not just from the wound to his hand - El would have to ask for a fuller version of what had happened later.
Sands was worried. More than worried, he decided, trying to come up with a word that appropriately covered the situation. The bandage on his hand was stiff with dried blood, so at last he had no concerns about uncontrolled bleeds. But his elation at getting out alive, and having accomplished all he had set off to do, had worn off long before his transport had shown up to deliver him back to base.
For all his talk of retiring on the proceeds from selling stolen artwork, he had had big plans about what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. All of which involved being able to shoot and type with both hands. No point getting too optimistic about that right now. There was no reason he should be too pessimistic either, but it was frustrating not knowing where on the scale of worst case scenarios he should be aiming for.
Sands started to feel his way around the bandage again, trying to figure out if everything that should be underneath was still there. He heard someone come into the room and dropped his good hand back into his lap.
"Need a drink?" Fideo asked.
"I'd prefer a handful of painkillers and another of valium."
"The first I can do, the second -"
"-Side pocket of my holdall. And I just want two." He deserved them. Especially when El was about to go poking around at his injuries. Sands made a much better patient when he was at least halfway out of it.
By the time El came back Sands was in a deal less pain and considerably more laid-back about his situation. He had the perfect cocktail of pharmaceuticals in his bloodstream. All washed down with Fideo's god awful tequila.
El sat down next to Sands on the couch and took hold of his wrist.
"You ready for this?"
Sands nodded, his heart barely speeding up with the anticipation. He heard the snip of scissors, then the pressure on his hand began to ease as El slowly unwound the bandage.
Then El stopped. Still holding onto Sands' wrist with one hand, he brought the other up to stroke the side of Sands' neck. Sands leaned into the caress.
"Yeah, El, that's kind of nice. But maybe you should just get on with it."
"You seemed tense."
"Yeah, tell me something I don't know." El's petting was helping, but Sands just wanted the whole shebang over and done with.
"The bandage is stuck to you here." El pressed on Sands' palm; Sands tried not to wince. "And here." He pressed closer to Sands' thumb.
Now that was sore. Sands twisted around and pressed his face into El's shoulder, which aggravated the bruise on his temple. At least it took some of his focus away from his hand.
"Want me to soak it off?"
Sands nodded, glad that Fideo had fucked off, and that the others were still keeping a low profile.
Once again, Sands proved that he had the devil's own luck. A chunk of flesh had been torn away from between his thumb and trigger finger - and that finger was going to need splinted for a while - but it could have been so much worse. Sands knew that of course, but merely joked about how his hand would not match El's, before curling up against the other man and practically falling asleep while El stitched what he could and put a fresh dressing over the rest.
Ramirez walked in.
"A word, if you don't mind?"
El looked up at him, then slid out slowly from under Sands. He took his coat from its hook on the wall and laid it over the sleeping form. Sands rolled over, wrapping himself tightly in the coat.
El followed Ramirez into the kitchen.
"We have one final problem," Ramirez began.
Sands sat up and stretched. Then he grabbed at the leather coat before it could slide onto the floor. His head was still muzzy from the valium, but he had done quite enough sleeping for one day. He heard El walk in.
"We won, didn't we?"
El sat down next to him.
"Yes, we did." He slid an arm around Sands' back. "Decided where you want to go next?"
"Europe," Sands said decisively. "At least until the art's sold, and the money's in a dozen different accounts. We could travel - there are a few famous criminals I'd like to meet without them wondering if I'm planning to haul them in."
"Who knows? We're rich, we've got connections to some of the maddest, baddest employers of mercenaries around. We can do whatever we want." Sands paused. "One question."
"Back at the hacienda, when you were getting me to fuck off out of the big fight. Did you mean what you said?"
"Oh, that's all right then. So you might actually believe me if I said it again sometime."
Mathilda sat on the porch, a textbook in her lap and a pistol in the pocket of her shorts. Her new life was quieter than any of her previous ones had ever been. No rowing parents or screaming siblings -although she still missed her kid brother, even after two years. No one shooting at her. No one wanting to hire her for a cleaning job. Just her and her lessons. And her 'uncle' Jorge, who had always been too dedicated to his work to get around to meeting someone to have a family with. He made sure she kept up with her education, ad she did the more mundane, less euphemistic sort of cleaning for him.
She had promised everyone that she would stay here until she was eighteen, and that after that she would at least think about going to college back in the US. But in her heart Mathilda knew that when that birthday rolled around she was going to pack up her clothes, sling her rifle over her back and hit the road with Lorenzo.
They would be like El and Carolina, at least as far as killing a lot of very bad men was concerned. And Fideo would come along too, because every hero needs a sidekick. And then her letters to El and Sands would be full of as many exciting tales as were those that she received from the two men, currently in Romania if their last communication was to be believed.
But for now, she would study chemistry and later go into town to practice her Spanish on the local children. Life was quiet, but it was not going to stay that way forever.
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