Title: Varios Significados

Author: Robin aka icyfire

Summary: I wondered at how quickly the people believed the worst in Zorro after watching "Double Entendre". I thought Diego might wonder a little too. Who better than Don Alejandro to be the voice of the people?

Rating: G

Disclaimer: I don't own them. I play with them.

I 'm alone.

"Down with Zorro! Down with Zorro!" My ears still ring with the earlier cries in the plaza. People in the pueblo believed that the impostor was me. They believed that I stole from the church poor box, and thatIcut Mendoza. They joined the alcalde against me-eagerly.

When I first put on this mask, I thought I understood all the sacrifices I would be making. I was wrong; I'm totally alone. "Down with Zorro!" I shake my head trying to rid my memory of their chants.

"Diego! Oh, there you are. Guess what happened in the plaza today?" Father rubs his hands together as he quickly walks into the library. Too excited to notice my mood, he continues to talk without waiting for my response, which suits my dark humor well. "The real Zorro turned up and challenged the fake one!" Pouring himself a glass of wine, my father shakes his head and grins. "Then, the alcalde accidentally shot his own impostor-of course, he would never admit he hired him, but we all know the depths that man will go to turn us against Zorro." He lifts his glass in a toast. "Zorro lives!"

After he drinks all of the ruby-red liquid from his glass, he looks at me and frowns, and I realize that he has finally noticed my lack of excitement. "Diego, what's wrong?"

"The people seemed almost eager to condemn Zorro on flimsy evidence," I admit my concern. Since my return from Spain, I've been unable to share much of my life with him or anyone else besides Felipe, who is much too young to hear about some issues. Right now, I need to hear my father's opinion, need to have his insight into what happened in the pueblo over the last couple of days.

Nodding, he sits down across from me, studying me as if I'm a chess move he must counter. "True, they did, but they were even quicker to back Zorro when they had evidence supporting him. Why does it trouble you so, Diego? Even you said so yourself: 'The people will make up their own mind about Zorro.'"

"I expected them to look at the evidence! Not be lead by their emotion after a couple of events that made Zorro look bad," I snap, hoping that I'm not revealing too much, but unable to hide my distress. I stand up from my chair and begin to pace in front of the fireplace. Even its warm embers cannot ease the chill from my bones.

I'm startled by my father's sudden laughter. "'Not be lead by their emotion?' Diego, my son, you forget we make most of our decisions based on emotion. You're always so logical, but even you make all the important decisions based at least somewhat on what you're feeling. One man alone might have thought through everything and made a logical choice, but a group of men? Forget it! Mob mentality is pure emotion. That's why they cause so much harm. Diego, if you must know the truth, after watching the impostor yesterday, even I thought that maybe he should be locked up, and we all know that I'm his greatest defender among the caballeros!"

I stop pacing, stunned by my father's words. I have given little thought to what most of my fellow Los Angelinos think of me, but I assumed they all felt like my father and Victoria. Looking over my shoulder at Father, I notice that his eagle eyes are focused on me, taking in my every movement. I force myself to relax. "What do you mean?"

"Diego, sit!" my father says while using his arms to point to the seat. I sit. "Good. Now, I'm not sure why you're upset, but you have to understand how the people feel about Zorro."

"How do the people feel about Zorro?" I ask hesitantly, surprised by the feeling gnawing in my gut. I'm doing this because I think it is right and not because of public acclaim, aren't I? I know what Father and Victoria think about Zorro, but I've never considered what the townspeople think of me. I do what my father taught me was my responsibility- taking care of the people. I know the crowds cheer when I do some deed, but then I ride back to my life as Diego. After the events of yesterday, I suddenly crave to know exactly how they think of me, think of Zorro.

"Zorro is-Zorro is a stranger, Diego," my father finally answers. I can tell by the crease of his brow that he is struggling to put his thoughts into words. "He's done great deeds, but no one knows him. It was very easy to believe that someone who looked similar to Zorro, wearing a mask and cape, was him. I didn't want to believe it, Diego, but I did have my doubts. No one knows him," my father repeats, leaning forward for emphasize. I barely stop myself from shivering at the words. They're true. No one knows me; only Felipe has been allowed to see the man that is both Diego and Zorro.

My father sighs and leans back into his chair. He looks down at his crossed fingers as he talks. "No one knows why he helps us, why he wants to help us. The unknown scares people. You more than anyone else should know that's true. Look at how long people resisted some basic facts of your beloved science. Our Church has yet to forgive Galileo for daring to say the earth was not the center of our universe! Zorro's a great enigma to us."

I carefully consider my father's words, and I realize how much I have ignored in my thirst for justice. "Father, why does it matter who's beneath the mask? Shouldn't his actions speak for themselves? Is not what he does a great part of who he is?"

"Actions always speak louder than words, don't they?" My father smiles at me, but I am unable to ignore the sadness in his eyes. What put it there I cannot say, and it disheartens me that my father has been unable to share with me because of the persona I must wear as Diego. "Zorro's only been here for a few months, and actions can be faked for a little while. The people of this pueblo were taught that lesson well."

I look up from the chessboard sitting on the table between us, confused by his bitter words. "'Taught that lesson?' By whom?"

My father stands and walks over to pour himself another glass of wine from the decanter. He walks slowly back to his seat, obviously lost in old memories. Sighing, he sits and takes a sip. "You weren't here when everything started to fall apart, Diego. The Alcalde Jerrera was an interesting piece of work." Another sigh fills the air and another sip of wine is taken. "In hindsight, I guess he was preparing us for Ramone. Jerrera pranced into the plaza kissing babies and shaking hands. He helped some of the farmers get in their crops, and once even he waited on tables for Victoria during a busy period. We were thrilled." The pain in his words twists my heart, but I can't find the strength to comfort him. I'm unsure if there is any way to help him forget the old ache.

I see a hint of tears in my father's eyes, but of course they never fall. "We had a hard working, caring alcalde. Then, things started to slowly change. The real Jerrera started to seep out for us to see. Oh, he was nothing like Ramone. Thank goodness," I hear my father mutter under his breath, and I hide my smile. "He was just lazy. He worked hard at first to get in our good graces. He knew if we liked him, we would be more hesitant to complain to the governor when he slacked in his duties. He was terrible, Diego; there were days that Mendoza was the only soldier in the pueblo to guard it, and he stayed out of loyalty and duty. The rest of the lancers just ran wild without any leadership. Eventually we had to complain to the governor. Then came Ramone."

I see the small shake in Father's hands that he tries to hide from me as he sets his empty glass down. "Ramone was everyone's friend at first, too. I remember your first letter about him. I read between the lines. I knew you were hesitant about believing him, but I didn't know why," I say, allowing him a moment to collect himself and his thoughts. I'm beginning to get the picture of why the citizens of Los Angeles might want to believe the worst about Zorro.

"Oh, yes, Ramone came in with the same 'I want to help' attitude. However, he was worse than Jerrera. He wasn't just lazy and incompetent; he was greedy and evil." Anger replaces pain in my father's words. "We didn't believe his good will at first. We had been burnt before, but Ramone had-has-a charm about him that eventually led us all into believing him, too. However, the results were far worse this time. Farms were taken from good men in the name of avarice!"

Father stands and walks over the fireplace. His hands on his hips, he shakes his head. "People were whipped for daring to have an opinion that differed from him-even on pointless matters that had nothing to do with the government! I will give the man credit though, Diego. He was far smarter and far more subtle. Ramone's change was much slower and less overt. We let him get by with so much because we believed him; sometimes we believed him against our better judgment."

The reasons for my father's pain are obvious now. He has always taken pride in his judgment. To have been wrong must cut him to the core. To be wrong, and have others harmed because of it, is a fault for which he will never forgive himself. Responsibility, especially towards those that depend upon us, is something I've heard about since I lay in the crib. Even more than hearing the words, I've seen it in action my entire life.

I softly sigh, also understanding why the people acted the way they did yesterday. "Then came along Zorro doing good deeds." I hope my father cannot hear the regret in my voice. I do not lament my actions as Zorro; I just wish I had taken more time to build trust.

My father turns away from the fire and smiles at me. "Yes, then came Zorro." He walks back to his chair, sitting down again in front of me. "The people have a hard time believing in him. With Jerrera and Ramone, we knew the reasons for their actions, but what are Zorro's motives? Why would he want to help the people at the risk of his own life? Some even said he was working with Ramone to find the 'rebellious factions' of Los Angeles," my father says with a laugh. Although my body aches with the knowledge that someone could believe such a horrible thought about me, I'm pleased that Father dismisses it out of hand.

I relax as Father continues. "No one says that anymore. Everyone knows Ramone wouldn't let someone working for him humiliate him as badly as Zorro has, even for more power!"

I laugh, more in relief than joy. "No, Ramone is not the type to let anyone demean him if he could help it." The laugh ends on a sigh. "The people just thought Zorro was finally showing his true colors yesterday. They had been expecting him to be bad, too."

"Yes, the people thought he was just being like Jerrera and Ramone; trying to earn their trust only to betray them in the end," he agrees. I see compassion and understanding in those eyes staring at me. For one brief moment, I almost confess, but then I remember the danger I would be putting him in and the words refuse to leave my throat. "Ramone might be a devil, but better a devil you know than a devil you don't, Diego."

I see my father lean back into his chair, knowing that his tension is leaving him now that so much of mine has left me. "You also have to remember who was chanting 'Down with Zorro' in the plaza, my son. It was caballeros mostly. The peasants have welcomed him with open arms. They love him for all that he has done for them, and I believe they trust him. The caballeros though are a little scared. True, he's helped some of us-me for instance-but overall he has helped the peasants."

I'm amazed yet again. "Father, the peasants have been the most hurt by the alcalde. He has done very little to hurt us. He doesn't dare for the most part."

Father's laughter fills the room. "I know, Diego! I was explaining to you the concerns of the people, not mine. The caballeros are concerned that Zorro will help the peasants rebel against them. Most of our neighbors are wonderful, kind-hearted individuals, but unfortunately some of our neighbors need to be horse whipped!" I barely keep my jaw from falling open. The man who waved goodbye to me as I left for school all those years ago would have never said those words.

"Fear of Zorro has made them rein themselves in, and for that I'm grateful," Father's smile tells me he knows about and understands my shock. "Even the kind-hearted are frightened by Zorro though. He's an unknown man to them, an unknown man who may lead the peasants against them, and they would have no way of fighting back without the lancers. And our King's soldiers have been humiliated time and time again by our masked bandit." We both laugh together and all the tension of the day leaves me. "Generally, everyone believes Zorro's a peasant."

"A peasant?" I ask, again surprised by the assumptions made about him. I make a mental note to keep a closer ear on public opinion.

"Perhaps a disowned younger son, but most believe he is a peasant. I'm ashamed to admit how few of the caballeros would risk their necks to help keep a peasant from receiving a whipping he didn't deserve." My father shakes his head.

"You risk your neck all the time, Father, as do most of your friends," I protest, even though I know exactly what he means.

Nodding, Father smiles. "True, but we're getting to be a rare breed, Diego. Even you find it easier to ignore the problems than to take them on yourself." I barely keep myself from wincing. Father sighs at my lack of response. "At least you're lost in your books, Diego: Your passion is elsewhere in life, and you help in different ways by teaching others. Some caballeros and their sons have no passion outside of their own pleasure and ease of life."

When I was younger, military officers often visited our hacienda. Many had served with father in his younger days. Others were children of men with whom he'd served. Still others were men who had heard of my father and wanted to meet such a hero. I sometimes forget about my father's past, but then sometimes I see that military hero in my father. Tonight is one of those times. "I'm glad Zorro's making justice the priority in Los Angeles again."

Tiredness begins to seep into my father's posture. He rubs his eyes, smiles and stands. Laying his hand on my shoulder, he looks down at me. "You also have to remember that Zorro's an outlaw. He's wanted by the King of Spain, and that will always make some weary of him, no matter what good deeds he does."

I want to ask him if he knows. He seems to be talking to me, telling me not to worry. But he's reminded me again why I can never tell him. I am a wanted man. I don't know if not knowing will protect my father from punishment, but I do know that knowing will guarantee it.

"To some, following the law is more important than justice; to them, justice is found only in the law. The people will make up their own minds about Zorro, Diego, but they will make them up over time. You'll have to remember that people make decisions based on reasons we may never be able to understand. Some of the people in this pueblo will never trust Zorro, and some will never doubt him. That is the way we humans work, and it is what makes the world such an interesting place to live."

I stand and hug my father. "Thank you. I needed to hear that from you." Maybe he does understand and maybe he does not, but I have to express my appreciation.

He laughs as he pats my shoulder. "Diego, out of every person in this pueblo, you find Zorro the least interesting. You didn't even know how others felt about him until today. Why were you so upset?"

I smile at Father, placing my hand over his. "I think I was surprised. The only people I ever hear talk about Zorro is you and Victoria, and you're both such supporters-"

Father nods his understanding. "You thought maybe all the pueblo was that way?"

"No, not really. I just didn't expect them to ever side with Ramone against him. It surprised me." The words leave a bitter taste on my tongue even though I now understand why the people lacked faith.

"Well, people are strange creatures, Diego," he answers, taking his hand away from my shoulder. "Now, I'm off to see how our new foal is doing tonight before going to bed."

"Father," I say softly which stops him from exiting the room. I must know the answer to more questions. "Why do you trust him? Why didn't you shout 'Down with Zorro' like the rest did?"

"Good question," he says, crossing his arms. He frowns as he thinks. Finally, he sighs and shakes his head. "I don't know why, Diego, but I trust that man with my life, with my friends' lives, even with your life." The fire in his eyes tells me what an incredible trust my father has in the man, in me.

"When I first saw him through those bars in the jail, I thought he had been sent by the alcalde. I walked out with him not believing he was there to help, but then I looked into his eyes and somehow knew he would never let any harm come to me if he could help it. I knowthat he is trustworthy. It was like he was an old friend," he declares with a smile.

His eyes meet mine. "My friends don't understand, and I don't expect you to either. I just know Zorro is a good man."

I'm unable to hide my smile as Father leaves the room. I'm not alone. I have Felipe, Father and Victoria, and their support is all that matters. As long as I do what is right, I will always have their endorsement. Father's right. Zorro will be a hero and a villain—it depends upon the person who is seeing him. For most in Los Angeles, he will be a hero.

My smile grows as I think about Father's comments about why he trusted Zorro. "I understand, Father, more than you would believe." Joy overflows from my heart. "He is an old friend, and he will stop anyone from harming you."

The End

Thank you for reading!