Title: Waiting for You

Rated : PG

Synopsis: Diego reveals his secret in an unexpected manner.

Written: 7/05

Disclaimer: This story was written solely for the enjoyment of other Zorro fans and is not intended to infringe on any copyrights held by Goodman/Rosen Productions, New World Television, Zorro Productions, the estate of Johnston McCulley or anyone else.

Notes: Mil gracias to Amy for pointing out this lovely song by Josh Groban called 'mi morena'. It is the song I envision Pizzon singing, and a few of the words from the song are quoted in the story.

Waiting for You

"A decree of amnesty has been issued for the man known as Zorro. He has committed no crimes against the Mexican provisionary government."

The words of Alcalde Armando Garcia echoed through Victoria's sleepy dreams, reminding her that this was the day she would finally know the true identity of the man she loved so fiercely, the man she had waited years to marry.

"Therefore, I invite the man behind this legendary hero's mask to reveal himself at the celebration of our successful break from Spain. At midnight tomorrow evening, Spanish law will no longer govern this land."

In her dreams, Victoria saw Ignacio de Soto frowning as he stood resolutely beside the new alcalde of Los Angeles. Her mind replayed the events of the previous day, her heart full of joy at the prospect of finally being able to share a life with the man she loved.

"I accept your invitation, Alcalde!" Zorro's voice rang through the plaza as he stood atop the tavern roof. "Until tomorrow!"

Victoria smiled as she slept, remembering his eyes searching the crowd for her that day. His gaze settled on her as he bowed, tipped his hat to her and was gone.

When the rooster crowed in the early morning light, Victoria opened sleepy eyes. Today would be the first day of her life with the man she loved.

Unbeknownst to Victoria, her masked love was just slipping into the church to speak with the padre.

"Forgive the early hour, Padre." Zorro smiled as the good friar tightened the rope concealing his nightshirt.

"Of course, señor." The padre smiled knowingly, his eyes twinkling. "What can I do for you?"

A moment of nervous silence followed before Zorro spoke. "I know you do not usually attend such events, but could I persuade you to attend the celebration this evening at Victoria's tavern?"

"I was surely considering attending this special event." The padre tilted his head, carefully watching the masked man's reaction.

Zorro nodded, a nervous smile parting his lips.

"Is there something specific for which you wanted me to be present?"


The padre waited patiently.

"I know it will be far later than you are accustomed, but could you be sure you stay until the end of the celebration?"

"I'm certain I could be persuaded to remain until the end, Zorro." The padre grinned conspiratorially. "But I have a request of you, señor."

A small smile turned the corner of the masked man's lips and the padre's eyes glistened.

"What would you have me do?" The blue eyes that focussed so suddenly on the padre nearly unnerved the man in their seriousness.

"Confession is good for the soul, señor. Begin your new life with a clean slate."

Zorro nodded in understanding and followed the padre to the confessional where he would reveal everything he had secretly hidden for so many years.

Victoria was already in the kitchen preparing the morning meal when he arrived. "Zorro!"

She flung herself into his arms and their lips met and clung hungrily for a few short moments. When they parted, they were breathing heavily.

"Excited, querida?" he asked as his arms came around her shoulders and embraced her tightly, drinking in her unmistakable scent, the delicious taste of her lips.

"I never thought this day would come!" Victoria whispered excitedly, not wanting to draw too much attention from the taproom. "Of course I'm excited!"

"I only have these words, for you, my love," Zorro pressed his lips to the corner of her mouth. "You may be shocked by what you find tonight; I only hope you search your heart before you reject what you see."

Victoria's eyes narrowed suspiciously, remembering his admission in his cave that wonderful day he'd asked her to marry him. She flattened her hands against his chest and gazed into his unmistakably clear blue gaze. Repeating what she said in that cave, she hoped it would give him some comfort. "The courage and the passion that live in Zorro's heart also live in the heart of the man beneath this mask. I will love him no matter who he is."

Some rustling outside the curtain tore his gaze from hers and he lifted her hand to his lips. "Until tonight then, querida." He pressed a kiss to the back of her hand and then turned it over to kiss her palm and then her wrist.

She trembled, his touch sending shivers of excitement through her small frame. His eyes held a promise of more to come.

"Bring the ring," was the last thing he said as he slipped out the back door, leaving her staring at him with joy-filled eyes.

"Good morning, señor y señora," Zorro said, bowing respectfully to the couple standing before him.

"Ah, señor Zorro. The masked bandit of Los Angeles. " The man extended his hand. "It is good to meet you at last."

"Forgive the interruption, but I would like to employ your services."

"Oh?" A curious eyebrow rose.

"Sí. Zorro extended his hand, offering to the man a piece of rolled parchment as well as a neatly penned letter. "If you would be so kind as to follow the instructions laid out in this letter, I will pay you handsomely."

The man unrolled the parchment, his experienced eyes scanning the notes carefully. He then opened the letter and a small smile appeared at the corner of his mouth as he read the instructions.

"I believe I can take care of this for you, señor."

"Mil gracias, señor Pizzon." Zorro offered a small leather bag filled with the specified amount of coins, "Until this evening, then." He bowed and made a quick exit, content that his errands for the day were now complete.

"Diego, Don Alejandro!" Victoria bounced around the tavern, pressing a kiss to each their cheeks. "Felipe! Don't you all look perfectly handsome!"

Victoria didn't notice Diego flush just as deeply as Felipe had at her unusual praise.

When she turned to flounce away, Diego caught her hand. "And you look positively radiant."

Alejandro's eyebrows rose as the unusual compliment fell from his son's lips as if it were an everyday thing.

Victoria blushed at his words but Diego continued, "Tonight's the night, hmm? Are you ready?"

Her face lit unlike anything Diego had ever seen, and it soothed his racing heart.

"More than ready!" she exclaimed happily.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a few customers holding up their glasses. "If you'll excuse me, Diego. It's busy tonight!" She glanced down uncertainly at their joined hands.

"I hope you will take the time to enjoy the festivities," he said, his voice low.

"Of course!" Victoria smiled sweetly and squeezed his hand at his obvious concern. "I'll even save a dance for you."

"I would like that," he said softly, releasing her hand and staring after her as if she held his heart on a string.

"Well, she's certainly not hiding her elation." Alejandro chuckled as he watched the young taverness disappear into the kitchen. When Diego didn't respond, the older man glanced over at his son, who was staring at the curtain.

"Oh, son," Alejandro laughed, grasping Diego's forearm and leading him to a corner table. "No need to be scandalized at her affection. Today is the day that young lady is going to know the identity of her masked man!"

Diego nodded and if Alejandro had been paying attention, he'd have noticed the worried look, the fear radiating in his son's usually calm, blue gaze.

Diego finally found his voice. "Yes, indeed." With a heavy sigh, he shook his head. "I hope she's not disappointed by the revelation."

Alejandro regarded his son carefully. "Is there something you know that I do not?"

Diego shook his head and gave his most self-deprecating smile. "I think we're all quite well aware that Victoria has loved Zorro for a long time. Am I the only one concerned that she won't like who she finds?"

Alejandro paused, considering his son's words. "I honestly hadn't thought of that, Diego. For her sake, I hope she is elated by the revelation."

"I do too." Diego said quietly; his voice was nearly drowned out as the crowd grew in anticipation of the beginning of the celebration.

Not twenty minutes later, the new alcalde entered the tavern amidst a roar of applause. He had been presiding over festivities all day, but now it was time for the evening dance to begin.

"Please, please." He held out his hands, calling for silence.

Ignacio de Soto stood beside him, soaking in the last few hours of his waning jurisdiction over the pueblo. At midnight, it would be official. He would no longer be the alcalde of Los Angeles, he would be a private Spanish-born citizen. Even his military rank would have no bearing, no importance in this land. Tomorrow, he would leave on a ship bound for Spain, but tonight, he would partake in the celebration, the wine, the dancing; and then he would witness the unmasking of his nemesis. A man who had plagued his every move from the moment he'd set foot in this dusty little pueblo.

De Soto had held his disgust and anger in check when the decree of amnesty had been announced. The masked man had finally won his freedom . . . but only at the expense of de Soto's military career in the Spanish colony of Alta California.

De Soto gazed around the room, squinting at the assembled crowd. How strange it felt to celebrate the arrival of a new governmental power. He was here, truly, for one reason, and one reason only; the demise of the man known as Zorro.

Alcalde Garcia raised his arms as the band made its way to the stage. "I have the distinct pleasure of introducing a good friend of mine who will be serenading us this evening with his exemplary voice. The renowned Edwardo Pizzon and his wife Doña Augustina. Please welcome them."

He allowed the cheers to die down before continuing. "And without further delay, let the festivities begin!"

Doña Augustina sat in a chair at the head of the stage and began to strum a beautiful tune on the guitar while Don Edwardo sat behind the piano Alejandro had had brought over from the hacienda just that afternoon.

It was an fast-paced tune that began the festivities and Diego's eyes immediately sought out Victoria, who was weaving her way in between customers refilling drinks. "She needs to relax and enjoy the evening," he said with a determined air as he stood.

Alejandro's eyebrow rose as he watched his son boldly walk over to the lovely señorita and take her hand. At her surprised look, Diego only smiled, took the carafe of wine out of her hands, set it on the bar, and whirled her out onto the dance floor. Alejandro nodded approvingly as Victoria's whole demeanor changed in the arms of his son.

"You're certainly in a different mood this evening!" Victoria laughed as Diego held her and spun her around in the popular country folk dance. "Such a change!"

Diego smiled down at her, a smile that reached to his eyes, and she was momentarily taken aback by its intensity. "Am I always so dull?"

"That's not what I said and you know it!" Victoria playfully slapped at his shoulder but he simply held her and continued the dance, content to hold her in his arms even for these few, brief, moments.

"Tonight is a change for everyone," Diego said as they sashayed with the rest of the dancers along the line, "You aren't the only one deeply affected by Alcalde Garcia's appointment."

Victoria nodded, the smile vanishing from her face for a moment as she considered his words. "I'm sorry, Diego. I've been so preoccupied since the announcement, I didn't think how such a change in the government would affect your family and your business."

"Don't worry about it," His smile was contagious and she found herself grinning once again as his words set her at ease. "You've had a lot to think about."

One final twirl, a bow, and the dance was over before either of them were ready to end their conversation. Diego led her back to her forgotten carafe, "Don't work so hard, tonight."

Before she could say a word, he lifted her hand, kissed it and then placed it in the hands of a nearby caballero who stood waiting to ask her for the next dance.

Victoria wondered at Diego's sudden . . . charm, and watched as he returned to his father's side and joined whatever conversation was going on between the older de la Vega and a few nearby caballeros. Diego was certainly acting different tonight. More forward, more confident, more . . . commanding. Victoria stared for bit longer than she probably should have, recalling how good it felt to be held in his arms during their dance, and how safe and comfortable she had felt as he talked to her, looked at her, laughed with her. It was almost as if he was a different man.

She shook her head, dismissing the odd behavior as one born from the incredible change that had swept through the territory seemingly overnight, and threw herself into another dance, hoping that Zorro would come soon.

But he didn't come.

Hours passed and Victoria hadn't sat out one dance yet.

Diego could see the smile on her face starting to look forced and her mood had changed considerably from when he'd stepped into the tavern hours ago.

As the current dance ended, Diego pushed himself from his seat and made his way over to Victoria, who was politely trying to decline the next dance.

"Excuse me, I need to speak with Victoria."

Victoria had never looked so grateful to see her friend and she instantly placed her hand on his arm as he led her into the kitchen and out the back door.

"Thank you for the rescue!"

A smile spread across his face. "You looked like you needed a break."

Victoria nodded and lifted her head to catch the breeze that blew through the desert. "You're probably right. I've been dancing non-stop."

"Trying to hide the nervousness, hmm?"

Victoria dropped her head and leveled an incredulous look at Diego. "How do you do that?"

Diego gave a wry smile. "Do what?"

"Read my mind!"

Diego glanced up at the stars, "Oh, I can imagine Zorro is feeling the same about now."

A bubble of laughter escaped before she could stop it. "Zorro? Nervous? I can't imagine him nervous about anything."

Diego's eyes slid slowly from the heavens to watch her and she gave a small start. "I'm sure he is just as nervous about tonight as you are," he said softly.

Victoria regarded him with a curious stare. "He has nothing to be nervous about," she said sharply.

A small smile curled the corner of his lips. "He has no reason to fear your rejection when you discover the real man behind the mask?"

Victoria hid a small gasp behind a yawn. "What makes you think that?"

Diego shrugged. "I suppose I would be worried about such a thing, if I were Zorro."

Victoria stared at her friend, looming over her in the darkness. "But you're not." She turned away and glanced up at the moon, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable. A sudden, unbelievable thought occurred to her and after a silent moment, she whirled and stared at him. Are you? she thought silently, her mouth parted to voice the question. Something stopped her and she simply looked at him, watching him with curiously narrowed eyes.

He was looking at her expectantly now and she knew she needed to say something. She covered herself with, "I wanted to spend the evening with him but he hasn't shown himself yet." I wonder why?

Diego grinned and took her hands in his, squeezing them lightly. "I imagine you'll find out the identity of your masked man at some point this evening."

Victoria frowned and narrowed her eyes. That wasn't exactly the answer she was hoping for.

Diego only chuckled. "Oh, I'm sure he's here somewhere, just waiting for the right moment."

"I wish he would do it sooner rather than later! This waiting is so nerve-wracking!" Victoria exclaimed, her exasperation evident.

"All good things come to those who wait." Diego smiled down at her and her eyes flashed.

"Well, if you'd been waiting for someone for so long, you'd be impatient too!" Victoria sighed.

Diego dropped her hands and turned away, struggling to hide the longing flickering in his eyes." Yes. I know I would." He whispered.

Victoria's eyes narrowed in concern, suddenly feeling as if she'd just hurt him. Diego was not just Diego, her old friend tonight. Something about him had changed. She'd noticed it from the moment he'd walked into the tavern tonight. But – if he were Zorro, surely she would know it. They were the best of friends Zorro had kissed her, many times. Diego never even touched her! Never even showed an interest. Well, that was not quite true – he'd been interested when he'd returned from Spain, she was sure of it. Overwhelming curiosity gripped her heart and she had to ask, she had to know. "Diego?"

He leaned toward the door, hearing a familiar tune. "Ah, I love this song." He stepped away and took one of her hands. Bowing over it, he smiled handsomely. "May I have this dance?"

Victoria blinked at the strangely familiar gesture, suddenly forgetting what she was going to ask him.

Diego held her hand and slowly led her back into the tavern. Weaving their way through the throng of people to get to the dance floor, he took her in his arms and they joined the slow dance.

They said little as they moved to the slow beat of the music, each absorbed in their own private thoughts.

Victoria was nervous for herself and for Zorro. Could he really be as nervous as she was? Was he as afraid of her rejection as Diego thought he would be? And why was Diego so concerned? Victoria tried to think, but the ease in which he held her, the steps to which they moved, caused her thoughts to jumble incoherently.

Diego's strange mood had confused her all evening. Suddenly, she regretted not asking him the question that burned in her mind while they stood outside talking. Now, she desperately wanted to hear his answer. She didn't think it could be possible, but now she was even more anxious to discover Zorro's identity. The heart of the real man behind that mask had asked her to marry him and no matter who that man turned out to be, he would be the one with whom she would spend the rest of her life.

But as the music ended, Diego led her off the dance floor and brought her hand to his lips, kissing it for the first time since he'd returned from Spain all those years ago.

Victoria stared at her friend, a shiver racing down her spine. Was he trying to tell her something? Further thought on the subject was driven from her mind as Mendoza stumbled over to her and asked for the next dance. Victoria didn't have the heart to tell the good sergeant no, but she stared at Diego's back as disappeared into the crowd, presumably to join his father at their table.

"Father, could you do something for me?" Diego asked as he stood at his father's shoulder while the older de la Vega sat happily sipping a glass of wine.

"Of course, son. What is it?" Alejandro smiled at his son, proud that he had willingly danced with every eligible señorita present so far this evening. A change had come over his son tonight, and Alejandro hadn't quite put his finger on the cause.

"I've got to run a quick errand," Diego said somewhat nervously. "If midnight comes and goes and I've not returned yet, can you make sure that you are with Victoria?"

Alejandro's eyes narrowed. "You've got an errand to run? It's nearly midnight now, son. What could be so important?"

Diego shook his head, amused that his father had chosen to pick out that particular part of his statement, rather than question his odd request.

"I'll explain when I get back. But I really must go."

Diego moved toward the door, but Alejandro placed a hand on his son's arm, halting his steps. "What's going on, son? And what is this about Victoria?"

Diego smiled and shook his head. "Please just make sure you are with her, in case . . ." Diego hesitated, rethinking what he was going to say. "Just be with her father. Please. If I cannot be."

Diego turned and walked out the door, leaving Alejandro to stare after the space he'd just vacated with an oddly confused look.

Felipe was already in the Guardian's office when Diego arrived.

"Felipe, good, you made it."

The mute signed quickly and pointed to the clock on the wall.

"Yes, yes. I know what time it is. I was talking with Victoria outside and lost track of the time." Diego slipped off his tailcoat, vest and quickly began unbuttoning his white silk shirt.

Felipe handed him the familiar black shirt and the caballero nervously slid it over his shoulders and fumbled with the buttons.

"This is the moment of truth, Felipe." Diego said, unable to stop his voice from shaking. He continued to change, speaking all the while to get rid of his nervousness. "I don't know why I was foolish to think that revealing my identity to her in the middle of a celebration was a wise idea. Now everyone will see her rejection –"

Felipe signed rapidly, a frown creasing his young face.

Diego chuckled nervously. "Yes, well, forgive me if I'm not as certain as you seem to be." He finished tying his sash and buckled his sword belt over it.

Felipe held out Diego's mask and he took it reverently, glancing down at the thin silk.

"Zorro's days have come to an end, my friend." Diego's eyes misted as he drew Felipe into a strong hug. "It's time for him to begin a new life." He glanced toward the doorway and sighed heavily. "You have been an invaluable aid, Felipe. Mere words cannot express my thanks for your sacrifice."

Felipe smiled at the praise.

"Toronado is out back?" Diego asked.

Felipe nodded.

"Good. In case –" Diego heaved a huge, breath-filled sigh. "In case I ride home alone tonight."

Felipe shook his head, trying to reassure Diego that it wouldn't happen.

Diego gave his friend a small smile. "El Zorro must always be prepared. I don't think I could ride home in the carriage if she –" He shook his head to clear those unpleasant thoughts.

Felipe nodded in understanding and pushed Diego toward the door, gesturing at the mask the man still held in his hand.

"I know." Diego said, his voice laced with sadness. "It's time."

Alejandro checked his timepiece and glanced around the room. Unable to locate his wayward son, Alejandro sighed in annoyance and turned his eyes toward Victoria, who was standing next to the bar, nervously watching the clock tick closer to midnight as the patrons clapped the lively dance number to its end.

Slowly, he made his way over to the lovely lady, placing his timepiece back inside his jacket as he arrived beside her.

"Ladies and gentleman!" Señor Pizzon held up his hands and called for silence.

Victoria smiled somewhat sadly at Alejandro as they turned their attention to the stage on which the man stood. She'd been looking for Zorro all evening, and he had not come. Had he changed his mind? Perhaps Diego had been right. Zorro was as nervous as she was.

"I have been asked to sing a lovely piece this evening . . ." He glanced around the room, searching for the young woman. "Ah, there she is!" Pizzon extended his arm toward Victoria and motioned her to come forward.

"Me?" Victoria placed her hand on her chest, a look of surprise spreading across her pretty face.

"I do believe he means you, my dear." Alejandro placed her hand on his arm and escorted her to the front of the room. Remembering his son's adamant request, he stood to the side, but close enough should she need him. He stepped back, glancing around expectantly for the masked man whom he was certain set this plan into motion.

"Yes," Pizzon said as he nodded to his wife. Doña Augustina began to play the loveliest piece of music Victoria had ever heard and as her fingers strummed the guitar strings, the man began to sing.

Pizzon sang of love, of adoration, of waiting – of patience. Victoria was lost in his words, in the emotions and the memories those words conjured within her. Every moment she'd shared with Zorro flashed before her and her eyes misted at the realization that he had arranged this serenade.

Felipe slipped into the crowd smiling as he listened to the softly sung words. He heard, rather than saw, the gasps echo behind him and he knew Zorro had just stepped into the tavern.

What he didn't expect, however, was that Zorro would be carrying his mask instead of wearing it.