Title: Juxaposition

Author: Robin/icyfire

Rating: G

Summary: Disney Zorro. A little vignette about the events during and after the episode "Ambush".

A/N: If you haven't seen it, and liked to be surprised when you watch it, don't read this little ditty. It contains dialogue from the episode. =)

An old story that had been uploaded here.

Diego again wondered why he was here. He could be resting in his hotel room, or having a drink with his father at the tavern. He could even be riding as Zorro. Instead, he was shackled and sitting on the hard ground. "You know, I came out here to tell you how happy I was that you had escaped the ambush," he said, frustrated.

Theresa, busy stirring something in a black kettle that sat over a fire, was sitting in front of him. The delicious aroma floated around Diego. His stomach immediately let him know of its hunger. He really wished that he had stayed at the inn.

"After a few more hours of this," he finished speaking to Joaquin. "I'm not sure I'll be happy about it at all."

He watched Theresa rise to her feet. The lovely señorita's boisterous ways had often amused him, but he had to admit he admired the fiery lady. She was unafraid to speak her mind. He had never met a woman like her. Even Anna Maria did not speak with as much passion and freedom of thought as Theresa.

Relief flooded through him as Theresa now used her words to defend him to Joaquin. The love and respect she felt for the outlaw were in her voice. "Joaquin, it could be true what he says about the governor." Amazingly, the impetuous Theresa was the only one in the camp apparently willing to listen to reason. "Anyhow, why blame Don Diego? If he did make a mistake, I'm sure he did not do it on purpose."

Diego looked at the ugly metal ring encircling his ankle as Joaquin angrily answered her. "This you could have said at my funeral-if it had not been for Zorro!"

Amusement and frustration fought each other in Diego. Amusement because the same man singing his praises had him chained to the ground, and frustration that the same man singing his praises had him chained to the ground. It was his life now. Ever since his return from Madrid, he had been forced to face the conflicting opinions others had of him.

Some of those opinions amused him, but many hurt him deeply. He laughed with Bernardo over Garcia's reactions to him. The fat sergeant-being almost certain to get a bottle of wine-would smile broadly when he saw Don Diego riding into the pueblo. The same man came into the pueblo wearing a mask and a cape, and the sergeant shivered in fear.

Yes, he could laugh at Garcia, but he could not laugh at Anna Maria's reactions. She would smile and laugh when she saw Don Diego, too. The shivers that ran through her body, however, when she saw Zorro were from excitement instead of fear. He desperately wished she would feel the same way for him, for Diego. Looking into her eyes, he yearned for the same dreamy expression that he saw as Zorro to be on her face, but it was never there. He wondered if she could love the man as much as she did the hero.

As much as Anna Maria's responses stung, Don Alejandro's estimation of his son hurt the most. He could wear a mask, banish a sword, and his father would smile in pride. There was never pride on his face when he saw Don Diego. No, the emotions he showed for Diego were anger and frustration.

It was his life now. He had to be two different people with everyone he loved except one. Fortunately for him, he had Bernardo. All too often, he took his frustration and rage out on his mute friend, but Bernardo remained loyal anyway. Who would have known that a mistaken turn into a dark alley could bring such friendship? Through his actions, Bernardo taught him what the word "loyalty" really meant. The man had even volunteered to play deaf to help him in his cause, a fact that humbled Diego. Being mute had cut Bernardo off from much human contact, but playing deaf basically ended any chance he had for making other friendships in Los Angeles.

He could hear his frustration in his own words. He yanked on the chains. "Where did you get these accursed things anyway?"

"You do not recognize them, Don Diego?" Joaquin asked mockingly. "They belong to your friend, Adjutant Rico. He uses them to confine my people."

Offended, Diego sat up straighter. "Why do you call him my friend? You know I oppose him."

Waving her hand, Theresa walked away from Joaquin and sank to her knees beside him. "Pay no attention to him," she spat. "When he is angry, he is stupid. And all of the time lately, he is angry." She looked back at Joaquin, concern on her face.

Leaning back against the boulder behind him, Diego again tried to reason with the peasant rebel. "She's right, Joaquin. You have let your anger blind you. Why, even your friends you treat as enemies."

Angrily, the outlaw interrupted. "I will decide who my friends are!"

"Joaquin," Diego spoke confidently, with only a hint of pleading in his voice. "You could be a man of reason, and so could the governor. If only the two of you would get together, talk this out like reasonable men, there would be no more trouble."

Leaning forward, Joaquin angrily spoke to the caballero. "These are the same arguments you gave me before, Don Diego, and they nearly cost me my life."

Theresa again spoke up for Diego. Her voice was soothing. "He meant no harm by it, Joaquin. And besides, you managed to get away safely."

Joaquin spoke softly to her. "The saints protect the poor . . .with a little help from El Zorro." Anger again on his face, he looked at Diego and shook his finger. "Señor Rico-he will not be so lucky."

Dread pitted in his stomach. "What do you mean by that?"

Speaking with pride in her voice, Theresa told him. "Joaquin is very smart, even though he is just a vaquero. He has worked out a plan to ambush Adjutant Rico, to give him a taste of his own medicine." The admiration on Theresa's face let Diego know that he would be unable to count on her aid now. She would not be the voice of reason against the insane plot. Diego would have to try on his own.

"He will find out what it is like," Joaquin said proudly.

Diego leaned forward, pleading with him. He knew exactly what would happen in Rico was ambushed, and Rico would not be the only loser. "What do you think will happen when you've ambushed the Adjutant? Do you think this will be the end of it?" he asked, waving his hands.

"It will be," the vaquero answered, anger and pride dripping from his words, "for him."

Images raced through Diego's mind, turning his stomach. He knew what would happen if Joaquin carried out his crazy plan. The screams of the innocent, not yet shouted, echoed in his mind. "Do you not realize that soldiers will scour these hills from one end to the other? You and a hundred other péons will be driven from your hiding places-shot if you run and hanged if you remain." The frustration and fear he was feeling made him angry. "Is this what you want for your people?"

Joaquin's anger answered his own. Diego understood that the man was also feeling the same frustration and fear. "If my people must live like animals, hiding in the hills," he said. His voice softened just a little as he finished the sentence. "Then, perhaps, it is just as well."

Theresa looked at Diego kindly. "You do not understand, Don Diego. I know you are our friend." She looked around their camp for a moment. "But until you have lived like this, until you have been pursued like an animal," she said softly. Diego was unable to look her in the eyes. He understood what she was saying. Before Zorro, he would not have been able to appreciate the feelings, but he had been pursued like an animal far longer than Theresa or Joaquin. "You do not really know," she finished.

"There are posters in the market place, right now," Joaquin told the caballero. "Offering a reward for my capture-dead or alive."

Diego met his eyes for moment. "Yes, I know. Two thousand pesos." He was forced to look down. He had grown use to looking away from people as he spoke to them. The eyes always betrayed people. If a person could look another in the eye, secrets were nearly impossible to hide between them. "Exactly the same reward that is offered for Zorro-dead or alive."

He looked over at Bernardo. He found his friend already looking at him, wearing a look of concern. His servant enjoyed the adventure of Zorro. He usually had a look of glee-like a child on Christmas morning-on his face every time Zorro rode out of the cave. He never worried about the danger to himself, even when he rode as Zorro, but he did not like to be reminded of the reward on his patron's head. It was high enough to draw many amateur, as well as professional, bounty hunters to Los Angeles. Diego did not like to think about it himself.

Later, night had fallen over the camp. Diego could feel the chill of the ground seeping into his bones, but his physical discomfort was mild compared to the chaos of his mind. He understood Joaquin's anger and passion. He craved justice for all, too. If he did not, he would live the life of the care-free caballero that he pretended to be. However, he also knew that injustice could be a swift current that drowned many innocents. Joaquin was preparing to perform a desperate act while there were still other options available to end the madness, and that Diego could not accept.

He watched as the man sat close to the campfire, explaining his plan to the others. All of the vaqueros and péons were sitting around the fire, all of them eager to hear Joaquin's instructions. The man was a natural leader. His passion, and his way with words, drew people to follow him, and this time they would be following him into disaster. Joaquin was too lost in the anger to understand his responsibility to those that followed him, but Diego hoped he would one day learn and grow into the role.

"I have worked all of this out with Marcello," Joaquin said. "Who has worked at the Governor's house for many years." Theresa was sitting at his side, showing how much the vaquero rebel admired the lovely señorita. Most men would not have included a woman in the planning, but then most women were not like Theresa.

"Every year it is exactly the same thing," said another man. Diego thought he might be Marcello and was disappointed in him. He should realize that the governor was an equitable man, but then it was easy sometimes for a man to resent the one who gave him his pay. It was a humbling experience, to be so dependent upon another's good graces.

"Always on his patron saint's day," Joaquin continued. "The governor goes first to early mass, and then he goes to the shrine of San Jose, accompanied by Señor Rico."

"To bad this has to happen on the governor's saint's day," Theresa said sadly.

The man who may have been Marcello spoke again. "But this is the important part-we will know where they will be and when they will be there."

Tired of just sitting, Diego picked up a large rock with a sharp point and started to pound it against his chains. He was enjoying the feel of pounding the rock on the heavy metal. It was helping relieve some of the tension that had been his companion all day. Lost in the act, he forgot to be quiet. "What was that?" he heard someone ask.

He quickly hid the rock between his and Bernardo's legs. Everyone turned to look at him. "Why do I have to wear this thing around my ankle? Suppose I gave you my word," he said, holding his hands out over the chains.

"You word? Ha!" Joaquin snorted. A flash of anger seared though Diego at the insult.

Standing up, Theresa pushed on Joaquin's shoulder. "Why don't you let him out?" She walked over to the restrained men. "Do you want something, Don Diego? Do you want something to eat? Do you want some water?

"No, nothing like that," he answered, touched by her kindness. Suddenly, an idea struck him. "Didn't I see a guitar?"

Amazement in her voice, Theresa asked, "You want to see Joaquin's guitar?"

"Well, I get so tired sitting here," Diego explained. "I would like to do something."

Theresa smiled sympathetically. "I'll get if for you."

Diego felt Bernardo starting to look at him. His friend was confused by his request, too. He could almost read the thought going through his servant's mind-"How can he be thinking about playing guitar at a moment like this?" His father often asked the same question, too, but during those times Bernardo always knew that the guitar playing was part of the act of "Don Diego".

Bernardo grinned when he started to play. Diego handed the guitar back to Theresa after strumming it a few times, and then he deliberately insulted it. "Who could make music on this box?" Joaquin took the bait, and within moments he was playing his guitar while Theresa danced. All of the rebels were distracted, watching the beautiful woman dance, and the music covered up the noise as Diego and Bernardo both picked up rocks and began pounding on their chains.

They hid their rocks when Joaquin finished playing. He ordered his men to go take their positions. Walking over to Diego, he said, "Strong locks, hey, Diego?" The caballero was surprised. After all, he had grown use to winning the games he played. "It takes more than a rock to open them."

"Then, you were watching," Diego said, looking up at the man. "Well, why did you let me go on?"

Joaquin smiled before answering. "I wanted you to see what it was like to try and try and get no where." Diego wondered what Joaquin would say if he answered that he knew that feeling far better than Joaquin did. Oh, he always won his fights as Zorro, and if he looked at each fight individually, he could feel pride at the battles won. However, the real goal was justice, and he had failed to bring it. Each battle brought some fairness, but Diego knew the frustration of being unable to get "no where". Too many people fought valiantly against injustice every day, and too many of them lost.

Tossing a key into Bernardo's hand and another at Diego's feet, he told them, "You can go now. Someone might have seen our campfire. We have to keep on the move. Besides, we have things to do." Quickly inserting the key into the lock, Diego tried to open it, but the lock refused to budge. Frustrated, Diego tried to force the lock, but still it refused to move. Then, he noticed Bernardo was having the same problem. He exchanged keys with his friend, and the locks opened. Diego quickly shook off his shackles, ready to go back to Monterey. Why was he so involved with Joaquin's struggle anyway?

The next night, Zorro watched from the shadows as the péons-and the governor-celebrated. It was a beautiful night. Joaquin was again playing his guitar, and Theresa was again dancing, but tonight he was wearing no shackles, not even those of his own mind. Tonight, he was free of any burdens. One more fight had been won, and for a little bit, he could rest. With sounds of joy and laughter ringing in his ears, Zorro turned and prepared to leave.

Just then, Joaquin stopped playing. Holding up a hand, he said, "I'm sorry, my friends, but my hands grow tired! Simeon, won't you play for a moment?" Zorro took his foot out of the stirrup and watched as Joaquin left the campsite, disappearing into the darkness of night.

Walking carefully to the spot he last saw Joaquin, Zorro again wondered why the vaquero's struggle had been so meaningful to him. Every fight for justice was important, but Joaquin's had been especially poignant to him. Joaquin's fight had become his fight in his mind, and he didn't know why.

"I see you and the governor decided to talk after all," he whispered to the back of Joaquin.

Joaquin whirled around, laughing softly. "I was wondering if you were out here, my friend. My people-and I-owe you a great deal."

Zorro grinned back at the man whom he considered a friend. In many ways, Joaquin was his only friend outside of Bernardo. None of his other acquaintances could understand his life like Joaquin could. It was true what Theresa had said: Until someone had been hunted like an animal, they could not understand.

Suddenly, Zorro understood why he had been so desperate to help Joaquin. It was for hope. Hope, that one day, he too could live a normal life. If he could help Joaquin win his battle, if he could help Joaquin return to the life he had before, then there was a possibility that he too could return to the life he had given up to be Zorro.

"You and Don Diego were right. The governor is a reasonable man, and I can be, too. I also owe him a debt of gratitude," Joaquin said to him. Zorro saw the maturity in the vaquero's eyes and knew that the man was finally growing to be the responsible leader he was born to be.

Unable to believe what he was about to do, Zorro laughed. "I'm glad you both decided to listen to reason, instead of anger."

Joaquin laughed with him. "Yes, Don Diego tried to warn me about my temper. He said it blinded me, and he was right. I treated him, my friend, like an enemy."

"Don Diego can be a good friend to have," Zorro replied. He knew Joaquin did not know him well enough to hear the irony in his voice.

"He is a good man." Joaquin nodded, lost in thought for a moment. He turned to look at Zorro. "But he cannot understand what it means to struggle like we do."

Looking back at his friend, Zorro asked, "You think not? I bet Don Diego knows more about struggle than you think."

Joaquin shrugged. "What would he, a caballero, know of struggle?"

"Don't be so quick to judge," Zorro told him, his arms crossed. Again, he could not look the man in the eye. Joaquin had a few more lessons to learn. "Especially in our world. Everyone has a set place-even their dress tells who they are supposed to be. You could walk into Monterey right now and pick out a caballero from a merchant, a merchant from a vaquero. But the clothes we wear don't say what we are on the inside. I'm outlaw. I wear the clothes of an outlaw, but the people do not fear me. They know I am a friend. Joaquin, you made a mistake of judging the governor by appearances. Please, don't make that mistake anymore."

Nodding, Joaquin held out his hand. "I'll try not to, Señor Zorro."

Zorro shook the man's hand. Deciding not to make his startling confession after all, he turned to walk away from his friend. "I must say-it was a brilliant plan, giving us each the key to the other's leg shackle," Joaquin said to his back.

Turning to look at him, Zorro realized he wanted this man to know the truth. It might help the man to realize the truth in his final lesson. "I must give credit where credit is due. I thank you for the idea, Joaquin."

Startled, Joaquin stared at Zorro. "I gave you the idea?"

"I wanted you to see what it was like to try and try and get no where," he quoted back to the man. Joaquin's head came up and his jaw opened a little as he slowly realized the truth. Zorro found himself laughing. "Remember, Joaquin, never judge what a person can understand by their clothing. Adios, Amigo."

He turned and walked away, thinking about the former outlaw. Joaquin understood. He knew what if felt like to be hunted. He knew what it felt like to have a bounty on his head. Like Zorro, he too knew what it felt like to face death for his people, and he knew that, in the end, it was all worth it. Justice was worth the fight.

Moments later, Zorro rode away on Phantom. He felt free and happy. Laughing as the wind raced past him, he urged Phantom to run faster. Tomorrow, he would be concerned about what he had admitted tonight, but he knew that Joaquin would tell no one, not even Theresa. In fact, Zorro knew when the vaquero saw Don Diego again, he would not even share the secret with him. It was something that would never be mentioned between them again, but for tonight, it had felt good to have someone else understand the truth about him.