Title: "Long Live the King"
Author: monimala
Fandom: OUaTiM
Rating/Classification: AC for language, Sands/Mariachi, slash, future fic.
Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine even though I want to cling to them for dear life.
Summary: This is the legend. Right? The sixth and final piece, following the stories archived here.

His hands are too frail, now, to properly grasp the instrument, but he plays anyway...his liver-spotted fingers tugging a haunting tune from the strings. It's much easier to pull the trigger than to play guitar...but he hasn't held a gun in years. Just this, cradled close to his body, like a an old friend or a lost child.

They come from far and wide to see him. They whisper. He is a legend. One of the great men of Mexico. They say that he once saved an entire village full of orphans and widows single-handedly...and that his lover was one of the most beautiful creatures on earth and in heaven. Tales of their adventures have spread far and wide. Above the border and below. Stretching far into the past and far into the future.

He is El Mariachi, they say. And no one knows his name.

"That's where you're wrong." He chuckles, softly, hands pausing on the guitar he finished mere hours before. "You've got your legends crossed, Honeybunch. Totally. You took a three day burro ride for the wrong trick pony."

When he raises his head, his gray-streaked dark hair spills aside... and they gasp.

He has no eyes! Madre de Dios! Es el Hombre Sin Ojos! He is the Man Without Eyes!

"No shit." He puts the guitar aside, rising slowly, knowing the street corner by memory, now...every crease in the dust...the hollow that his bony ass has made in the concrete after twenty years of sitting in one spot twelve hours a day. He moves along the wall at a steady pace, cocking his head and listening for the chorus of gasps marveling at his steady progress.

"I do have a name," he says, helpfully. "Three of them, in fact. Sheldon Jeffrey Sands. I used to be somebody. I used to be CIA. I used to be a lot of things. Now...now I'm just a mariachi. But not *The*."

*"Soy un mariachi! Solo soy un mariachi!"*

It was El's chorus when he was just a boy...just a frightened boy with the wrong guitar case. "I'm a mariachi! I'm only a mariachi!" As if saying it made it true, made it real.

He used to sing his own chorus for that very reason. To make it more real. To make it more true. He has no eyes. He has no eyes. He has no eyes.

It doesn't get any realer. Time has taught him that.

The week's haul of guitars hang from pegs in the small outdoor stall, and they knock against his shoulders as he walks through. He put the finishing touches on each of them, tightened the strings, played a few notes to make sure the echo is just perfect. Juan Pablo will be in from the city to pay them their commission and take the order in. He thinks the blind man and his old cronies don't know that he's skimming money off the top, but Sands has a sawed-off shotgun that will enlighten him the minute he sets foot in the pueblo.

He's a legend. Sure. In his own mind.

He stopped wearing his sunglasses about sixteen years ago. Vanity, thy name is Sheldon. There was no one to hide from...and El...El never thought he was some kind of fucking freak to begin with. He still remembers those first few weeks, the fingers rubbing salve into the tender skin around his wounds...soon enough there was no salve needed and the rubbing just made him moan like a thirteen-year-old staring at his first Playboy centerfold.

*"They say that justice is blind, you know."*

*"Who's this 'They'? Bullshit. Don't try to re-make me in your holy image, all right? I'm not blind. I have NO EYES...and no justice. There is no justice anywhere near me. Nope. No sirree!"*

*"Sometimes I wish you had no mouth."*

*"Aw, you know you love me, Pepito."*

*"Go to sleep, querido. Just...go to sleep."*

He counts the steps to his apartment. Twenty-seven. Measured exactly. And then the stairs. Fourteen steps. There is a loose brick on the third. He always taps it with his heel, saluting god-knows-what. He certainly doesn't need the luck. He started target shooting again two months after the gouging, his great Day of the Dead Sam fucking Peckinpah extravaganza...and he hit every single empty cerveza bottle on the first try. Whether that was because El used to stand next to the row, just *breathing* and watching the guns--ready to re-appropriate them after practice--he doesn't know. He doesn't know...or he won't admit. Even now.

*"Don't you get tired, Pepe?"*

*"Tired of what?"*

*"Of being...*him*. El. The big man."*

*"I am not big. Simply a man."*

*"That's what you think."*

They come from far and wide to see him. They always have. They're always vaguely disappointed to find a skinny, eye-less guy in faded blue jeans...but at least his guitar skills have improved. Tia Teresa told him that he played for the presidente once, but he doesn't believe her. The villagers could tell him that he played for Elvis just to make him happy...in fact they have. He didn't bother telling them that the King was dead. As the saying goes, the king is dead, long live the king. Here, legends always live forever.

Which is too goddamned long. At least according to Mama Sands's baby boy. He shoulders aside the door. Someone, either he or El, shot off the lock at some point when they were pissed on really bad local tequila...but it doesn't matter because no one would dare break in. They know they can't rob him blind.

He knows this room by heart, too. The way the sun streams in the window and hits his face. The fact that a lizard lives in the wall above the rickety bed. El named it Miguel and refused to admit that 'Miguel' was quite possible his elusive first name. It's ten steps from here to the utilitarian bathroom with its pull-chain toilet and the shower that only really works when there are two people squeezed into the stall.

Miguel skitters across the mud bricks, his little feet working double time, and Sands waves 'hello' in his general direction.

"There's people downstairs. They want to see a legend. One of the great men of Mexico."

The laugh has not changed in twenty years.

It still melts his spine and re-forms his bones and makes his eye sockets throb. He thinks, maybe, that this simple sound has been re-growing his eyes, re-connecting the nerves, ever since the first time he heard it...because he sees the man sitting in the window as clear as day.

He has not aged. No gray hairs. No stooped shoulders. No sirree. He's still hulking and patient and annoyingly right all the time. Still the most beautiful creature on earth and in heaven. "Then why did you leave them, amigo? Are you not a great man?"

"No, not great." He grins. "Simply a man."

Lips brush like a whisper across his forehead. Hands just barely linger on the sides of his face. Like a benediction. A blessing. Go forth in peace.

As he makes his journey back down to his adoring public, the gentle laughter echoes and guides his way, reminding,"No...you are a mariachi. You are a *motherfucking* mariachi."

They come from far and wide to see him. Him. Like Jesus. Or Mickey Mouse.

He's come a long way, too.

All the way over the rainbow.

--end--

September 26, 2003.



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