A/N: I've been watching an awful lot of Zorro lately, and he's always been a staple in my vigilante diet. So, inspired as I am, he gets a tribute. ^^ I've not seen any of the Zorro series on the Family Channel, (only heard about it last week), so most of the inspiration for this comes from the original story by Johnston McCulley and the old Disney series starring Guy Williams. (THE Zorro for me. :D)

Beta: SkyTurtle3.

Disclaimer: *sigh* No, I don't own Zorro, in any of his many forms. T^T

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Respectable Rogue

Raven Ehtar

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Don Diego de la Vega, a young California noble, studied himself carefully in his mirror, checking his appearance and bearing. He was a handsome specimen of the de la Vega stock; dashing, some would have called him. Some did, but the young caballero, while being appreciative of the attention bestowed, remained judicious regarding the attentions of señoritas. Black hair combed back neatly from his face, eyes dark and quick, skin the shade of fine toffee, teeth white and even, he was the perfect picture of a young California landowner. He grinned at his reflection, and was pleased with what he saw. It may have been slightly lopsided, but that just added a certain rakish charm.

Life was hard on the frontier known as Spanish California in the dawn of the nineteenth century. Drought, Indian raids, disease, revolts, and the ever present malady of corrupt políticos preying on civilians were all a reality the people fought and lived with. But that was no reason to let the proprieties slip away. If one let themselves forget their position in the community, why, then they would be no better than common peones or savages.

The de la Vegas were a hardy folk, and rightfully proud of what they had built for themselves on the very edge of civilization. They were also mindful of their position in society. Of the example they had to set. Don Diego was no exception, and always presented himself as handsomely and well-bred as possible. With deliberation, the young man continued to dress himself for the evening.

He picked up the dark cummerbund draped over the back of a chair and wrapped it around his slim waist. Owning land was not just a mark of prestige, it carried with it certain responsibilities. A landowner had to make good use of the property in his care, to provide something to the community as well as eke out his own living. With hard work and the blessing of the Saints, he was successful, but then the responsibility would only increase. Hired hands would look to him for their own means of living, and to fail would not only be to fail one's self, but one's workers.

Soft leather gloves slipped over his hands, encasing them protectively in their soft, dark folds, disguising the small calluses that would be unfitting a man of letters. A hacendado, far from feeling less pressure, would only feel more. The business of keeping all there was running smoothly could not be delegated to a hired hand or vaquero, it must be attended to by the patrón personally. Every corner of the hacienda must be known to him, every transaction carried out and tallied, every peon accounted for by he who had the last word in all.

A Spanish cape the color of midnight swirled around Diego's slim shoulders, drenching him in darkness that made his frame seem somehow bolder. A gentleman, while not unacquainted with these responsibilities, knew how to conduct himself appropriately. He carried himself with such a bearing that spoke of his breeding. He made it his duty to see that the conduct of those around him followed the proper etiquette at all times.

The wide brimmed Cordobés was set over Diego's carefully brushed hair, tilted at a slightly jaunty angle, the best to give an impression of roguishness. A Don was well aware of his place as a leader in the community, and took that role seriously. He attended the gatherings of his peers and discussed the collective futures of not only his own household and hacienda, but for those of all. It was very important to have plans in place, goals for a country still in its early days and so delicately balanced.

Rapier, silver of hilt and black in scabbard, was belted around narrow hips and adjusted to precisely the place for an quick and easy draw. A caballero would defend his honor to the death, but did not accept every challenge that came his way. To duel an opponent who was greatly inferior to himself in rank or skill would not be a true defense of his honor; it would be an insult. He picked his fights carefully and fought fair and justly, or there would be no point.

Don Diego de la Vega, landowner, hacendado, gentleman, Don, and caballero, studied his form in the mirror. He was all of these things, carried them all on his shoulders. It was his inheritance, and his good fortune to receive, but they did tend to weight him down from time to time. All of the little unspoken rules of conduct that nevertheless tied him as surely as ropes. In such times as these, rope was only used for hanging.

The last little item was picked up almost tenderly. He stroked it with his fingertips, caressing the cool, satiny material. It was such a tiny piece of his attire, and yet the most important part.

A man had to know when it was time to stand for what was right, whether it followed convention or not.

A mask, black as coal, settled into place over Diego's eyes, and el Zorro, the curse of Capistrano stared back from the glass. A bandito was accountable to no man, and moved as he wished. He went where he felt he was needed, performed as was required, then was lost to the night, unknown if he would ever return.

El Zorro grinned, brilliant white teeth flashing out of the darkness. Embraced by shadows, he was the essence of night and vengeance, ready to descend on those who preyed on the weak. Don Diego de la Vega could do nothing to touch them with his fetters in place.

The Fox turned, cape swirling in a circle of promised retribution, and strode out into the desert evening. The night parted, welcoming one of their own, and swallowed up the hero on his mission of justice.