My usual disclaimers: all copyrights go to those who rightfully own them. This is a rewrite of Amnesty for Zorro.

IcyWaters has requested a story involving Anna Maria and Monterey. So this is for you. First off, I'm going to apologize. It's been a very long time since I've seen the second season of Zorro (I wasn't too fond of the Monterey arc). That and I don't like Anna Maria (she struck me as a spoiled rotten brat who only thought of herself) so please let me know politely what needs fixing and I'll fix it. Oh, and this story is pretty fluffy.

With that all said, enjoy and destroy.

All the Wasted Time

It was shortly after siesta when Diego came into the abandoned home Zorro had made as his den in Monterey. I was brushing out Phantom's long mane. Something was wrong, Diego was quiet. "Are you all right?" I asked, looking up. Diego was pensive, deep in thought. I watched him rub his shoulder in pain. "How's that cut treating you?"

"Not as bad as it was after the duel three days ago." Diego said, sitting down on a stool. "Can you check and see how it is?"

"Of course, let me wash my hands. Bernardo, can you please get my medical bag from the cot?" Bernardo put down the tack he was cleaning and I rubbed vinegar on my hands and up my arms as Tía Marcella had taught me. Diego had removed his jacket and unbuttoned his long white shirt. Bernardo set the medicinal bag by the stool. "Thank you, Bernardo." I said. He nodded and returned to his tack. Diego winced as I unwrapped the bandage and removed the linen dressing. The stitches were strong and the skin was healing beautifully. It had bled a bit, but not enough for me to worry.

For a while, we were silent as I cleaned the caked blood away and put down new dressing. But something was wrong. I had known Diego long enough to know that something was troubling him. But I also knew that he would tell me what was wrong when he was ready.

It's so strange, isn't it…how love makes you more patient and understanding…I realized that I had loved him long ago. But I had been afraid to tell him. Why, I don't know…all I knew was that I loved him. I suppose I've been much more forgiving of him since he had fallen for Anna Maria.

"Thank you Esperanza." Diego finally said as I finished wrapping up the bandage.

"You're welcome." But I couldn't stand it anymore. "Diego, what's troubling you? I haven't seen you like this in a long time."

Diego sighed as he buttoned up his shirt and put his jacket back on. "The governor's offered amnesty for Zorro on account of all the heroic deeds he's done for California."

"Oh…?" There was more to it than this. I knew there was.

"I'm considering taking it." Diego said.

What?! I dropped my bag. "You can't…!"

"Why not? This wasn't supposed to be forever. You know this." Diego stood up. "Zorro was born in an attempt to save Los Angeles from Monastario. Then the Eagle took over. And now all of this in Monterey? This is my one chance to settle down for a normal life…"

"But the people who need you! Who will champion for them now?" I grabbed his arm. He can't do this…who will protect them now?!

"Garcia and the other soldiers can now. That was their purpose the entire time. I believe he has enough confidence now that he will protect the people…"

Anna Maria…she had to be the reason. I had been civil to her the entire time since our meeting. It would've upset Diego otherwise. "There's more to it than this isn't there? It's Anna Maria, isn't it?" Anger was bubbling, all the pent up feelings were spilling out like a flood.

"What about her?" Diego looked at me venomously. I knew I shouldn't have said more, but I didn't care.

"You want to marry her…" My vision began to tear over. "Diego, I've bitten my tongue regarding her but I have to say what I need to say now! There is only person she cares about and that's herself! She's nothing but a silly and vain pretty face with a head and heart as shallow as a flowerpot!"

Diego finally lost his temper. "Don't you dare talk about Anna Maria like that! And for that matter, you and Ricardo…!"

"What about us?" I remembered the plot he and I hatched to make Diego and Anna Maria jealous…now I was beginning to regret that.

"I saw you two…how you'd flirt with him and how he swept you off your feet!"

"We were trying to make you and Anna Maria jealous! That was a very foolish decision, I'll admit, but we never had anything!" All my emotions were running high. I wanted to smack Diego upright the head and see the mistake he was going to make.

"What do you know about love, Esperanza?! How it aches, burns and pulls you apart?! How you crave to be with that person and feel like Death is gripping you every time you aren't with them?!"

"Of course I know what it's like! Because I…" I almost said it. But I couldn't. Why not?! Diego and I had never been afraid to talk with each other about anything…but now I couldn't say how I felt.

"Go ahead, Esperanza. Say it." Diego spat out. "Say you love Ricardo and that you understand."

"I don't love him! I love you, Diego!" I shouted, finally allowing myself to cry. God…God! How it hurt to say it and yet how wonderful and soothing it did too… "If there's anybody I would spend the rest of my life with, it would be you!"

Diego nearly fell backwards when Esperanza told him that she loved him. She quivered with sobs, tears falling down her face. What…? She…she loved him…but all those things she said about Anna Maria…the deception she played out with Ricardo…Esperanza Montoya loved him…

But she had crossed the line. The bridges had been burned. "My mind is made up." He said, more calmly than he felt. "The deadline is the vespers bell tonight. I will accept the offer of amnesty and ask Anna Maria to marry me."

Esperanza blinked. He waited for her to start wailing. But she didn't. Instead, she nodded, wiping her face dry. "As you wish. Mark my words, though…you'll regret this every day until you die…" She pointed at him before leaving the house.

Silence filled the room. Phantom whinnied. Diego turned to Bernardo. He could always count on him for support. Instead, the faithful servant shook his head, looking at Diego in angry disbelief before following Esperanza.

Now he was alone. His two most faithful allies and friends abandoned him. God…God! Diego slammed his fist into the wall. Why now?!

Why when he finally had a chance for himself, does everything fall apart?!

I ran into the alley behind the house, shaking with sobs. God…why is this happening to me…why must I respect his decision even if it causes me unbearable pain?! I leaned against the wall. My tears mixed with the dust on the walls. I heard Bernardo stepping behind me, he put an arm around my shoulder. "Oh Bernardo…" I cried. He began rubbing my back, trying to comfort me. It's over…it's all over…

Hold on, Esperanza. I thought calmly. Get your head together. You're looking a lot like Anna Maria right now, crying to get her way…I took deep breaths, wiping my eyes dry with the back of my hand. I can figure out something. There had to be some way of getting him to see otherwise…but how?

Anna Maria…I thought. As much as I detested her, I didn't think she was entirely empty-headed. Or rather…I hoped she wasn't completely stupid. And Zorro would listen to her.

The housekeeper showed me to Anna Maria's room. The young woman's cheeks were flushed and her brown eyes sparkled. Her wardrobe doors were opened and she was throwing dresses out left and right. "No…too dark…no…too gaudy…no…too ugly!"

"Anna Maria, I need to speak with you now." I opened my mouth.

"Esperanza, are you all right?" Anna Maria dropped the dress she was studying and looked at me. "You look terrible!"

I caught my reflection in her vanity mirror. Tears were streaking down my dirty face. "Tell me something I don't know." I mumbled, wiping my face off.

"Come here, we need to get you ready for the governor's big fiesta tonight!" Anna Maria returned to the wardrobe. "I've got the perfect dress for you!" She pushed dresses aside before finally taking out a beautiful off white dress with a wide green sash. "It'll go with your eyes! Go behind the changing screen and get dressed!"

Part of me was sorely tempted to slap her. But I knew that I had to warm her up first, deciding to play along. I felt like I was lying as I changed into the dress. Why, I don't know…maybe because I was doing something I really didn't want to do yet had to act like I was enjoying it. I stepped out.

Anna Maria looked at me, smiling. "Más bonita…very beautiful…I'll be the first person to say this, that dress looks much better on you than me." She tapped the chair before the vanity. "Now sit down and I'll pin up your hair for you."

Numbly, I sat down, my words tumbling around in my head like the ocean waves. Anna Maria undid my braid and began brushing out my long hair until it was glossy. What was I supposed to say?

That Diego is Zorro? No…I don't think she'd believe me. Besides, that would only make things worse between Diego and me.

That I knew who Zorro was? No. She'd insist I'd tell her.

That he was seriously considering the amnesty? Definitely not…that would only give her more fuel for the fire. I had to appeal to her common sense. Hopefully she had some…

"There." Anna Maria finished. She had re-braided my hair and wrapped the braid around my head. Except for the red eyes, I looked more confident, more mature. Anna Maria looked at me, expectantly.

"You have very good taste, Anna Maria." I readily conceded.

"Thank you…Diego will definitely notice you tonight. Maybe he'll propose to you just as Zorro does to me! Maybe we can even have a dual wedding tonight!"

My heart burned and ached painfully. God…she didn't understand what she was saying…I doubted she would be that cruel. "What makes you say that, Anna Maria?" I asked sadly. "He has eyes for you, just as every other man in Monterey."

"I don't think so." Anna Maria shook her head. "I've seen the way he looks at you whenever you come into the room. He lights up every time he speaks to you. He even looks sad whenever you leave. I say you're the lucky woman who owns Diego de la Vega's heart." Anna Maria looked almost wistful.

"What's wrong, Anna Maria?" I asked.

"Nothing…just…I've always wanted what you and Diego have. You have such a wonderful companionship, able to talk about everything and anything together. All my life, all the men who've talked to me have said how beautiful I am. I suppose after a while, one wonders if that is all people see to them, is their looks…"

"And if that's all there is to you." I finished her sentence. I suddenly understood Anna Maria once better. She was insecure. While I didn't find myself becoming her fast friend, I felt sorry for her.

"That's the one thing I've always admired about you, Esperanza. You're always so honest." Anna Maria said honestly. "I've never once see you play petty games. Why not?"

"Because I realized a long time ago that there are more important things in life." Maybe this was my chance… "Anna Maria, why do you want to marry Zorro?"

"Because he's my soulmate…" Anna Maria looked off dreamily. "I've wondered if he's seen more to me than others have and if so, why hasn't he said so to me, like how Diego does with you. But…he's rescued me…he's swept me off my feet…he's so…wonderful. My knight in shining armor, just like out of the fairy tales Papa used to read to me."

"You are aware though, that if he does take the amnesty, he won't be Zorro anymore? He won't be saving any more people. No more serenades. No more moonlit rides under a starry sky. And life doesn't have happily ever afters. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but that's the way it is." I was desperate for her to see the truth.

"But he'll be with me, doting upon and fussing over me…and that's all I care about. Now…can I ask your advice? Which dress should I wear?" She held up a blue dress in one hand and a yellow one in the other.

It was in vain. She doesn't care about anybody but herself. No…I remember what she had told me. She doesn't understand. Nor will she ever be able to. "The blue one, Anna Maria. I think it brings out your eyes." I said sadly.

Diego stopped his horse. Wind whistled over the long expanse of grassland, smelling faintly of salt water. He had to go on a long ride to clear his head. Esperanza's words rang in his ears. How he'd regret this.

She loved him. And didn't he? Didn't he care about her?

Of course, they'd still be friends after their wedding…wouldn't they? He knew the two women detested each other. Every time they were in the same room, storm clouds felt like they were gathering. And Anna Maria could be quite jealous…

But how could Esperanza call Anna Maria vain and silly?! She wasn't! She was…Diego tried to think of Anna Maria. Beautiful…amazing…inspiring…what else was there to her?

Diego felt himself grasping at straws. Was Esperanza right? That Anna Maria was nothing more than a pretty face with a heart and head as shallow as a flowerpot?

After the whole incident with Anna Maria, I wandered through Monterey, trying to think of anybody else I could talk to. Ricardo was on his way back to Yerba Buena. Garcia and Reyes were busy preparing for the big fiesta to celebrate the amnesty. Anna Maria was too lost up in her daydream. And the sun was beginning to sink quickly.

There was one last person…the only man Diego would ever listen to…I must be completely insane. But I had no other choice. I made my plans carefully though. I would never say who Zorro was…

I stood before Papa's bedroom door. I knocked. No answer. I tried again. Nothing.

My broken heart completely collapsed. No…it's over…all hope is lost…God…God…why…why?!

Bernardo ran upstairs, gesturing wildly. "It's over!" I yelled at him, feeling completely lost. Time was up. The vespers bell would be ringing in less than an hour. I ran back to my room, closing the door behind me.

I collapsed on my bed, crying into my pillow. He's lost. Diego's lost to me forever. He'll marry Anna Maria and leave me all alone. I could only watch as they would have children and grow old together.

And I'll never have that. I'll not only lose my childhood confidante and best friend…but my soulmate too. I almost lost him during the whole incident with the Eagle…but this one has no hope…

I don't know how long I had been there. The bedroom door opened. Who was that? I didn't care anymore. "Esperanza?" It was Papa. I didn't look up; instead, I buried my face deeper into my pillow. "Oh, querida…what's wrong?" Papa rubbed my back. Maybe…just maybe there might be a chance…I looked up. Papa was looking at me sympathetically. I couldn't speak as I sat up. "Here," he took out a handkerchief and held it over my nose. I got the hint and blew my nose. Papa wiped my face dry. "That's better. Now, take a deep breath and tell me what's wrong?"

"Zorro…is going to make the biggest mistake of his life…" I said, taking a deep breath. "He's going to take the amnesty…and I can't talk him out of it."

Papa nodded. "You care about him very much, don't you?"

"I love him. Papa, I'd do anything for him…and he won't listen to me…I said things I shouldn't have said." Papa embraced me, rubbing my hair. "I tried talking to Anna Maria, but she focused on herself. You're the only one he'll listen to. But please don't say anything to him about me! He'll think I told you who he is and…"

Papa held up his hand. "Esperanza…calm down…I know that Diego is Zorro and that you and Bernardo have been the ones who've helped him."

I could've been knocked over with a feather. "How did you know?"

Papa looked at the door. Bernardo stood there, looking at both of us in shock at Papa's revelation. "Bernardo came and got me after you went to Anna Maria's. He wrote down that you were upset and…"

"No, I mean, how did you know that Diego was Zorro?"

"I had my suspicions since Zorro's first appearance but wasn't confirmed until Zorro stopped Monastario from killing us. You remember that, I trust? When I had been injured?" I nodded. "Zorro checked you over first, making sure you weren't hurt. That's when I knew for sure. Diego always looked after you first."

"Not this time." I hiccupped, feeling bitter.

"I'll try and talk some sense into him. Now, do you want to come along?"

I shook my head, not wanting to get my hopes up. "We exchanged some very harsh words as Bernardo can testify." It seemed useless for Bernardo to keep up the whole deaf-mute masquerade in front of Papa now.

"I understand. Now try and get some rest."

"Gracias, Papa. Thank you so much." I said, but the dark cloud still hung over me. I didn't want to raise my hopes. Why not? I had already been crushed enough for one day.

Diego was about to enter the hideout. Zorro was about to ride one last time. He'd unmask before the governor and Anna Maria and then…well…then they'd get married…yet he wasn't as excited about it as he thought he would be. He felt more like he was going to a funeral…

He opened the door. To his surprise, Father and Bernardo were standing there. What?! How?! Esperanza…she had to have told him… "I see Esperanza's betrayed me." Diego said coldly.

"I've known you were Zorro for a long time, my son." Father said. Bernardo nodded, as if to confirm his words. "I've supported you secretly all of this time. And so have Esperanza and Bernardo. Isn't it time now to hear how much the fox is appreciated and needed? Esperanza did try to talk Anna Maria into meeting with you and giving up the mask. But she wouldn't listen. Esperanza is right though. The people need Zorro. You can't give him up. Please. You've done so much good for the people of California. You've given the people something that hasn't been experienced for a long time in California…hope… don't destroy that."

Diego nodded, knowing Father was right. Maybe he's known the entire time that he and Esperanza were right…but there was still one last thing he needed to do…

"I'll be going out as Zorro…but to say goodbye to Anna Maria…" Diego picked up his mask.

I sat on the bed, looking at the little shrine on the wall opposite. I could barely feel the rosary beads in my fingers. The vespers bell rang an hour or so previously. It was dark outside, there was no moon, but the stars shone brightly. I didn't go to the square. I didn't want to see Diego give himself to Anna Maria. That would've rubbed salt in the wound. I doubted Diego's mind would be changed. While he would've heard Papa out, I didn't have much hope that it worked.

Right now, they were probably dancing…I shook the image away but it hurt.

The little statue was a sweet image. Of the Holy Family; Joseph with his hands protectively around Mary, she was holding the child Jesus…it ached to look at it. I had often wondered if I would be that. A wife. A mother. It hurt knowing that I would never have a part of that…to be Diego's wife…to be the mother of his children.

From the shadows of the balcony, Zorro watched Esperanza as she prayed. It hurt to see her so upset…so sad…probably because she had been so strong for so long.

Of course Zorro rode down to the square. He swept Anna Maria off her feet for one last time. How they rode off and he dropped her off. He explained that the people needed him more. And they kissed before he was chased off by Sergeant Garcia…a perfect storybook ending…but how it still hurt to give up the sweet dream he had held onto for so long…

But now Zorro realized something as he studied her…Esperanza made no conditions. She had no expectations. She had always been there, giving her all and asking for nothing in return. And Anna Maria…what had she done?

When he was injured during the duel with Ricardo, Anna Maria panicked. Esperanza tended his wounds without hesitation.

She bravely took Anna Maria's place when the bandits demanded the ransom money for Señor Verdugo. Anna Maria shivered and shook.

Esperanza didn't want him to give up the mask. She knew how important Zorro was to not only the people but to him as well. There was no way Anna Maria would've allowed Diego to continue being friends with Esperanza had he accepted the amnesty and married her. She would've wanted him to lavish and dote all his time on her.

He stepped into her room. Esperanza had done so much for him…because she wanted to…and how he loved her for it…

I sensed him there before he said anything. Could it be…? I looked up. Zorro stood there in the balcony doorway. No…it couldn't be…. Unless... "You didn't take the amnesty." I stood up and walked over to him.

"I had more important things to do." Zorro said, removing his hat and untying his mask. Diego stood there; I touched his face, afraid that I was dreaming. It was when I felt his warm cheek that I felt vindicated… "I'm sorry, Esperanza."

"No, I'm the one who should be sorry. I shouldn't have shouted. What I said wasn't very kind…"

"…but they were true." Diego interrupted me. "I'm sorry that I took you for granted. You've done so much for me and I never thanked you for it."

"You never had to." I wanted to cry, grateful I had my friend back and that I knew everything hadn't been in vain. "But thank you."

Zorro stroked Esperanza's hair. She looked so pretty in the starlight. He kissed her. She returned it lovingly.

It all made sense now…he loved her and knew who he wanted to be with.

A/N: To those of you wondering why Ricardo is going to Yerba Buena, that's the old name of San Francisco. The name change didn't occur until after America took over during the 1840's.

I also know it was the angelus bell (the bell for morning prayers) was the deadline, but I remade it the vespers bell (the bell for evening prayers) because I think the fox operates best at night and also to pay tribute to the lovely balcony scene between Linda's Lolita and Ty's Zorro from the 1940's film.

And I didn't follow the whole scene where Zorro rides off with Anna Maria. Because I wanted this to be Diego and Esperanza's story.

The title of this piece comes from the musical Parade, which is about a man named Leo falsely accused of raping and murdering a little girl and the fight his wife Lucille puts up to prove his innocence. (It's a beautiful musical, I recommend it, you can find the music on YouTube and ITunes). Anyway, the third to last number in the musical is called "All the Wasted Time" and is about Leo and Lucille finally admitting to the other how much they appreciate and love each other despite all the bad things that happened.

Any more story ideas? That is if people want more Zorro and Esperanza stories?

With that all said, happy early turkey day and thanks for reading!