Author: Guede Mazaka
"Ow!" Jerking her finger away from the half-assembled rifle, Carolina hissed and shoved the bloody tip into her mouth. Looking up, El put down his own pistols and silently held out a hand. Blinking, she handed him the gun stock, which he briefly glanced at before wiping the little red smear off and setting it down. And then he put out his palm again. Gaze much more intense, Carolina stopped sucking on her injured finger and laid it in his hand.
Examining the still-oozing wound, El made a thoughtful noise and produced a clean rag from somewhere. He began to wrap it, but a head suddenly bent down to rest on his arm, its black curls splaying over his lap. "Carolina?"
"You shot seven men an hour ago," she remarked quietly, broodingly, looking off to the side. "Because of me."
Uncertain of how to reply to that, El was silent for a few seconds. At last, he said, "It seems Marquez still has friends who remember him fondly."
"And want to prove they're better than him by killing his killer," Carolina sneered. Scooting herself around the guns piled between them, she nestled into his shoulder. "But they were soldiers. Real ones, with uniforms and government power," she continued, more soberly. "Am I worth that? Just a used whore…and believe me, you don't want to know where I've let myself go."
"No," El replied, so fiercely that Carolina's head shot up to stare at him. Lifting up his gauntleted hand, he cupped her cheek and kissed her, long and tender, before laying his cheek alongside hers. "The Church, my friends, those I could give up. But you and Sands make me want to live."
//Holy Mother//, Carolina whispered back, forcing herself not to choke on the words. But she couldn't make herself look him in the eye, and so she had to tell it to the hollows of his throat. //I love you.//
She could see the chords of his neck moving, hear the intake of breath, and swift as a stooping falcon, she blocked the words with two fingers on his lips. //Don't. Don't tell me-anything--now.//
There was an endless pause, and then El sighed, tucking her into his side. //When you're ready//, he promised. Picking up the guns, he recommenced cleaning. And after a moment, so did Carolina, content just to sit there beside him.