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Zen and the Art of Running Away

Author: Fab
Pairing: None
Summary: Shortly after arriving in Mexico, Andrew runs into someone he thought he'd never see again.
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Not mine. Dammit.
Notes: Written as a backup fic for Jidabug for the Andrew Ficathon, who requested a no pairing fic set in Mexico with an unexpected encounter. Thanks to Aphedas for betaing and fixing my abuse of the English language into something a bit more palatable.

Time seemed to pass differently in Mexico. Oh, the sun still rose and set, the days and nights passed just the same as they did in Sunnydale, only... it felt different, somehow. The days seemed longer. Andrew had tried desperately to figure out just what it was about the days that made them seem longer; when he failed to come up with a suitable explanation, he turned to Jonathan. Jonathan replied with a caustic barb about time flying when you're running for your life, but after the jab, he had suggested that perhaps the reason the days felt longer was that it remained so blisteringly hot, even in the dead of night, whereas in Sunnydale, the temperature seemed to drop below "broiling" once the sun had passed. Or, maybe it was just the Sunnydale fear of an impending vampire attack that had kept them chilled to the bone. It was a wholly depressing sentiment, but Andrew had expected as much from him. Nothing seemed to matter much to Jonathan anymore. Andrew felt badly about him, but what could he do? He couldn't turn the clock back or reverse actions. The only person he knew who could even have potentially done that was currently trying to hunt them down and finish them off.

It was thoughts like these that passed through Andrew's mind throughout the day; because if he didn't try to keep his mind busy, he was certain that he would snap. He had never felt so alone and helpless. Even the time spent in jail after Warren had abandoned him hadn't felt quite like this. At least then, pure sadness had filled the hollowness within him. Now he just felt like a shell. He had taken to talking to strangers in markets or other shops in the hopes that he might find someone whose life was going worse than his. He felt sick about wanting to meet someone like that, but seeing that he hadn't actually come across anyone whose life seemed to really suck; Andrew didn't think he had anything to worry about. Talking to Jonathan, of course, was out of the question. He had been so numb since they had arrived, barely saying two words to Andrew unless it was absolutely necessary. Andrew was fairly certain that the only person whom he could relate to in the slightest was Jonathan. And yet, Andrew kept approaching people, hoping that one day he would find someone even remotely in his position.

This was what had prompted him to approach the man sitting at the bar of a small tavern. Andrew couldn't see his face, but the man's hair was longish and shaggy, as if he hadn't had time to cut it in ages. He was also slumped over on the bar, which led Andrew to think that this man's life hadn't turned out the way that he had planned either. He slid onto a stool at the bar, not next to the man, because he didn't want to scare him, but the one right next to that one.

"Hi," Andrew said, his voice wavering slightly. The man's shoulders twitched and he turned to face Andrew.

"Hey, Andrew."

Andrew gasped, nearly choking on his tongue.

"What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing. Last time I saw you, you were hanging out organizing comic books by publication date."

"Like you never did that."

"Well, I don't now, and that's all that matters. And what are you doing sitting so far over there? Sit your ass over here, unless you're scared of your brother now."

Andrew slid over onto the stool next to Tucker, still blinking. Without warning, he threw his arms around Tucker, hugging him and burying his face in Tucker's neck.

"I missed you so much," he mumbled into Tucker's shirt. Tucker flinched and awkwardly patted Andrew's back, giving his shoulder a quick squeeze.

"I missed you too, twerp. Now, you wanna stop invading my personal space and tell me what the hell you're doing here?"

Andrew pulled away, his cheeks a faint pink.

"Sorry. I just thought, um, that I wouldn't see you for... a while or like... ever, but, well, you're here and so, um, I am seeing you and... hi."

Tucker raised an eyebrow.

"I'm your brother, why the hell wouldn't I ever see you again?"

Andrew folded his arms on the bar and rested his head on his elbows. He couldn't tell Tucker what had happened. He just couldn't. He had to think of something, though. Maybe he could just fabricate the details. He chewed his lip.

"Well, see. You remember Willow... um... Willow... Rosenberg?"

Tucker nodded. "She's that smart chick who took over Miss Calendar's class, right? The redhead?"

Andrew shrugged. "Well... she's not a redhead now. She had an extreme makeover of sorts. Anyway, she's... not in a good mood, so we thought we should just, um, leave her alone for a while."

"Wait, how do you know Willow? And who's 'we'? And what could you have possibly done to piss her off?"

"'We' is Jonathan and me. You remember Jonathan?"

"The short kid?"

"Yeah, him. And I know Willow through him. And I didn't do anything wrong! It was all Wa- someone else's fault."

Tucker frowned. "What?"

Andrew sighed. "Well, for some reason Willow's a little mad and she thought it was me that made her mad, but it wasn't me because I didn't do anything wrong and so I'm here trying to give her time to cool off but really I shouldn't have to because I didn't do anything wrong and I just wish that she could see that and not blame me."

By the middle of his tirade, Andrew had started sniffling, but by the end, he had started crying. Tucker handed him the little napkin that came with his drink, and Andrew wiped at his eyes, hiccupping through his tears. Tucker placed his hand on Andrew's arm.

"Look, I... I still don't really follow you, but whatever happened? Deal, okay? Beating yourself up isn't helping, and if you want to make things right, you shouldn't sit here and mope, you should get out and do it. Because you'll only really start to feel better when you do that."

Andrew sniffled, frowning slightly.

"Are you sure you're Tucker? Cause my brother doesn't ever act like this."

Tucker laughed.

"This is that whole dispensing wisdom thing that us older brothers are supposed to be so good at, so shut up and listen, dumbass; I'm just trying to watch out for you."

"But... but you're so... Zen. My brother isn't Zen. My brother plans mass murder because he has a hangnail." Andrew was extremely confused and only slightly hysterical.

"Well, see, Andrew. It's a funny story. You've told me how you wound up in Mexico, but you never heard my story. It started after Graduation. You remember that local band that played at the Bronze? With that Devon guy who sang lead?"

Andrew nodded. Of course he remembered Devon. Devon had been his first crush.

Tucker continued. "Well, see, after Graduation, I knew I had to get out of Sunnydale. Too many bad memories. You know what I mean. So I decided to travel. And it turned out that everywhere I went, I kept running into this one person. We didn't really get along in high school. But then we learned that we had some stuff in common, so those old feelings just... dissolved."

"Who was it?" asked Andrew, curious now.

"Well, actually..." Tucker trailed off.

"Hey. Who's this?"

Andrew blinked at the man whose hand was now on Tucker's shoulder. Tucker colored slightly.

"This is Andrew, my little brother. Andrew, this is Oz."