When it’s all said and done, Carlos joins her, keeping pace with her steps, walking away from the wreckage, the end of the battle at her side.
They don’t touch and she doesn’t look at him, but she lets him walk with her, keep her company now that Richard had sped off in a car with his brother—los hermanos Gecko were never much for fighting, trickery and schemes, choosing flight always over fight, their precious hides worth more than any pride they might have had—and Carlos’ fledging had chosen his human sister over Carlos.
Carlos is a habit of loneliness that she allows to persist.
He offers to show her the world, pulls out a map and tells her to pick anywhere, but she tells him Mexico, always Mexico, show me what they’ve done to my homeland.
They avoid the temples, she had enough of those for another five hundred years—ruins, he tells her, heaps of stone that tourists come to see, skin pinkening under the sun, taking pictures immersing themselves in the history; it makes her laugh, bright and airy, and he smiles at her, so she takes a picture of him, standing outside a food stand on a street in Mexico City, steam rising up behind him.
(They eat a pair of them—tourists—luring them with easy smiles and offering to show them the real Mexico, whatever that had meant, left them in an alleyway with torn out throats and she kissed Carlos with a bloody mouth, head spinning and feeling heady, drunk from the kill, and finds steady feet with her lips on his.)
Santanico tries to make sense of her country, connect what Carlos had told her throughout the years to what she sees, thought if she could see it, if she could touch it would become real to her, but none of the places look the same, not even the ocean, like time had eroded away all her memories and left her stranded in a foreign land on foreign soil that she once used to know, felt between her toes and laid down on, smelt as it warmed under the sun.
Carlos combs his fingers through her hair as she stands with the ocean water lapping over her feet, staring out onto the horizon, wishing she had let him show her elsewhere, taken her away so her long dead heart wouldn’t feel this heavy.
“If you had seen the change,” he whispers above the breeze, the gentle roar of the waves, “It would have been better. I wanted to you to see. I’m sorry you didn’t get to.”
He holds her at night, just like that night, when they’re not hunting, when she’s shaking and hiccupping, tears hot on her cheeks, curls around her like a different sort of shackle, hand pressed against her chest like he could still feel her heart, feel it beating though it stopped long before he stumbled into her temple and claimed her for his own. She brings his hand to her mouth and kisses his palm, a careful benediction that’s more of a thank you than forgiveness—maybe one day, there’s still time.