Comments welcomed. Thanks to the Horsechicks for feedback, Perri for the edit.
In June, Americans can get by in Mexico on the accent, a smattering of Spanish, and the ability to read a map. Jonathan wakes before dawn every morning at his spot on the beach, ready to use those advantages. Andrew gets up much later. The magical boundaries Jonathan stakes out around the blankets every night serve as both concealment and protection until he leaves; if Andrew can't be bothered to get up when he does, then he can take his chances with the policia. So far, nothing has happened to Andrew, even though Jonathan has to admit that he half-hopes it will. Anything that scares sense into his fellow traveler would be a welcome relief.
From the beach he goes to the bus station, buys a breakfast burrito whose contents he doesn't want to think about, and waits for the tourists. Families, mostly, although there are couples on honeymoons and romantic vacations as well. But it's the families who are glad to see him, who are ready to hire a short, harmless-looking fellow American in a tacky Hawaiian shirt to show them around town for ten dollars and lunch. American dollars go a long way in Mazatlan, and Jonathan can usually find at least one group for the morning and one for the afternoon; that's enough money to keep himself in food and shots of cuervo for the evening, plus a little extra. In a few more weeks, he expects to have enough money to buy another Hawaiian shirt, maybe rent a room off the main city plaza, possibly consider getting a junker of a car and enough money to pay off the police so he can park it legally.
He is resolutely not thinking about what that implies about how long he'll be here.
Andrew has been playing tour guide as well, although not as regularly. More often, he's been looking for trouble: searching for witches' shops, the bodegas (whose practicioners are not about to talk to some skinny Anglo kid); talking trash to cynical, hard-eyed men in bars; smiling hopefully, hopelessly, at the rich senoras at the hotels. Jonathan would be disgusted by this if he had the energy, but he doesn't. There had been lots of recriminations about four days after the trip across the border: why didn't they grab the fake I.D.'s Warren had stashed at the bank? Why hadn't they taken some of the money from their bank accounts? Why didn't they take any supplies, computers, weapons with them? All questions with one easy answer, which Jonathan is sick of repeating: Because. Because of the police, because of Buffy, because of Willow.... Because. They were lucky to have their *lives*. They were incredibly lucky to have full use of all limbs. Anything more would have been pushing said luck past the point of Sunnydale's non-existent karmic mercy, and Jonathan, for one, was content to escape with what he had.
Andrew can't see it that way. Leaning against the newstand next to the Arrivals area, Jonathan wonders how long it will take Andrew to find someone else to worship. Three weeks, tops, is what he figured a week ago, but now he's beginning to think it might be sooner. Andrew is getting desperate not to sleep on the beach, and it's not like he's all that picky about who he kow-tows to. He'd been clingy with Jonathan their first week here, so clingy that it had started to freak Jonathan out. But after watching Andrew in the cantina with one of the scary, skanky local girls, he'd decided that Andrew wasn't actually gay or bi or whatever: he was just so immature, he'd go with anyone who asked. He didn't *have* an orientation yet, he was a mental eleven-year-old.
No wonder Warren had fascinated Andrew. Jonathan realizes now that Warren's mental age was a nasty fifteen, which made them perfect for each other. Not that Jonathan can talk. They were him, but for a few good role models --- largely ignored, but still there--- maybe a little compassion, and more luck than he deserved.
The sun is beginning to heat the asphalt, and Jonathan picks up a newspaper to fan himself, trying to feel like Hemingway in exile, or Rick from Casablanca, instead of one of the seedier guys inside the Star Wars cantina. He never wanted to be Greedo, but that's what he is. Not Han Solo, not Darth Vader, but the anonymous guy who gets it in the first twenty minutes of the movie, a puddle of goo left to be cleaned up by the waitress after Han leaves the building. It's humiliating. Worse, it's humbling. He has experience with humiliation, but at least that always left a nice film of resentment and injustice to cling to.
Being humbled is worse. It's looking at Willow, and knowing that she had been better at 'evil' than the entire Trio, without even trying--- but that she'd had a lot better reasons to go Dark Side, when their best excuse was boredom. Being humbled is looking at Xander, who doesn't even have magic, and watching him stand up to Warren, slinging the wisecracks while Jonathan cowered and lied to keep Warren from killing anyone else. It didn't matter that his way worked better. He never could have done what Xander did in the same place. When Buffy did something terrific, or brave, or noble, he could at least say: well, she's the Slayer. It's part of the package. Watching Willow or Xander reach the same limits he had, and then just step over them, doesn't leave him any room to lie to himself.
Being humbled is realizing that the statute of limitations on attempted robbery doesn't matter. That staying one step ahead of the local police and the authorities doesn't matter. That getting enough money for food and the basics of life (toothpaste, combs, bottled water) matters, but not much.
Being humbled is knowing that at any moment, Willow could come find them, and they'll still be dead, charred meat. That's half of what's driving Andrew to hook up with someone, anyone, who he thinks can protect him. If he's sticking close to Jonathan at night, it's just to hide behind him. Jonathan is only allowing it because Mazatlan is still strange and huge and lonely, as alien a landscape as Tatooine or Narn, and much less fun. Andrew may be annoying and pathetic, but he's familiar and sometimes the only thing that keeps Jonathan from crying in his sleep from fear. What if she's only toying with them? he wonders. What if she's stalking them, waiting for them to screw up again, and then she'll make her move?
The nights he spends in bars, he finds himself looking out for female tourists, half from guilt, half from fear. He switches any spiked glasses of alcohol the local wolves buy for them with their own with a harmless little chant, and then watches the predators get goofy and harmless, and smiles before he has another drink. He tells the groups of wide-eyed kids younger than he is which parts of the city to avoid after dark, and keeps them from finding the one or two vampire nests in the slums near the docks. If Willow comes looking for the two of them, he plans to fall on his knees, beg for mercy, tell her that he's been trying to make up for it all. Tell her that he's sorry, he's really sorry, and all he wants is to be killed quickly.
He doesn't expect that it'll make any difference to her, if she does come looking for him. But at least he'll have tried.
Jonathan wipes away the sweat beneath his sunglasses, wishing that he'd remembered the sunblock. Eighty degrees in the shade, and the first bus won't be here for an hour. But he doesn't have anywhere else to go. Ramon, the newspaper seller, tries to teach him more Spanish each morning, and usually that's cool, but today he doesn't have the stomach for it and just closes his eyes behind the shades, pretending to be asleep on the taxi bench.
He passed an internet cafe in the more expensive section of town last night, on his way back from one of the beach bars. The sight of the keyboards and disk drives and color monitors had made his fingers itch. But Willow isn't just a master of darker magic, she's a wizard on the 'Net, too, so he kept walking, trying to think of what he would do if he had the money to spend on computer time. He'd already sent a postcard to his parents, telling them to burn it after they got it, right before they reached Tijuana. He hopes they did what he asked; he doesn't want to think about Willow using that to trace him and Andrew, if she ever finds out about it. An e-mail would be even easier for her to track.
But what if she isn't a threat any more? What if Buffy stopped her? What if she isn't crazy now? What if she's dead?
The Magic Box has a homepage, Jonathan remembers. And an email address, for ordering magic supplies. He could write to Anya, ask her if it was safe to go home now. She teleported into their jail cell to warn them, she'd probably tell them if it was safe to go back.
But what if she didn't? What if she lied for Willow, and lured them back to Sunnydale to be killed? What if Willow *made* her lie, or had her ask where they were, and then came looking for them? What if the second he sent the email, Willow knew exactly where they were, and she came flying down to Mexico and drowned them on their beach at low tide, because Buffy was dead and Xander was dead and Anya was dead and there was no one to stop her?
He opens his eyes, then twists open his water bottle without looking at it, taking a long, long drink, every muscle tense. Most of the time, he can believe that the reason they're still alive is because someone stopped Willow, and they're safe. Most of the time. If that's true, and he wrote to Anya, she'd probably tell him that. But she'd probably also tell him that coming back to Sunnydale is a Very Bad Idea. That they're only safe as long as Willow never has to look at their faces again. And that no one really wants them back, anyway, so why not stay away?
There was a play in high school, one that the A.P. English classes studied with Hamlet their last semester of senior year. He can't remember the name of it. It was the two guys in Hamlet, the two guys on the boat who'd betrayed the hero of the play on the king's command, and ended up carrying their own execution orders when Hamlet double-crossed them. They could jump in the sea and drown, or arrive in England and be hanged, and either way they were screwed. Jonathan argued that they could leave the ship early, or lie about losing the letter, or do a couple other things to get out of the situation during class discussion; that it really wasn't that big a deal. Willow, he remembered, had said that he was missing the point: that wherever those two guys went, they'd be in danger of being recognized, they'd be wondering what happened to Hamlet and who was in power in Denmark, and they'd never know--- they'd never know if it was safe to go home, because once they started running, it would never be safe to stop. She got an A+ that semester. But then, she always did.
The first bus is pulling in now, the exhaust making him choke for a few seconds before he gets his breathing under control. Some days, walking around town, telling stories that are mostly lies to the tourists, throwing back shots in the beach cantina.... Some days he can believe that it was all meant to be this way, that he's finally escaped Sunnydale and has the life that he never could have found there. Other days, when it's hot and sticky, and he hasn't heard a word of English for hours... those days, he wonders how he's going to survive when the tourist season dries up, when the beach is colder, and the locals aren't so tolerant of a gringo who isn't leaving town with the others.
Those are the days he wakes up with Willow screaming in his dreams. Because nobody in Hamlet cared about the guys on the boat, or what happened to them at the end of the play. And maybe that's what she planned for them all along.
Chilled even in the heat, Jonathan pushes this thought aside, and steps forward to greet the first tour group off the bus with a practiced smile.
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