Disclaimer: Still not mine and just having a little fun with them.
Summary: After the Emissary leaves, Diego still needs to cure De Soto, even though he's more interested in spending time with Victoria.
Author's Notes: Ok, I lied. Actually, I didn't lie because at the time I couldn't think of anything to do with this episode. However, after spending the entire month of October revising and uploading The Fox & the Son of the Dragon, which is grimmer than I usually write, I really needed something light and fluffy as a change of pace, and "A Love Remembered" doesn't really fit the bill. So you have that story to thank for this one because I never would have been tempted without the need for something different.
This is another story that takes a slightly different path. Instead of being set during the episode, this starts immediately after "Turning the Tables" ends. After all, Diego did say that if De Soto came to the hacienda the next day he might be able to think of something to cure his "condition." So the original episode happens pretty much as seen, only Diego and Victoria are publicly courting (not something that makes any change to the plot), and Victoria was slightly more complicit in the plan. All in all this is meant to be a pleasant bit of fluff.
Curing De Soto
(After Turning the Tables)
Diego and Felipe entered the tavern, still smiling over the sight of the alcalde clumping around in his over-sized clothes. It had been fun, but he hadn't thought of what to do about it afterwards. Diego stopped smiling as he thought about it, since he would need to think of something appropriate, something more than just getting back at De Soto for indulging his bigotry in order to ingratiate himself with someone in power.
It was so frustrating. The Emissary may have changed for the better because of his experience, but he'd left De Soto the worse for it. A better Emissary might have made De Soto more keen on shining as a just leader. But, no, that would have been too much for Los Angeles to hope for, he thought cynically. They'd never get that lucky.
Victoria smiled at him as he approached the bar, and that cheered him slightly, especially now that he was allowed to show his affection (albeit mildly) in public. He took advantage of that fact to kiss her hand for the second time that day, and Victoria's smile grew brighter.
"I was about to get some coffee for your father," she said, glancing at where Alejandro was now sitting. "Would you and Felipe like some as well, Diego? It's such a cold day."
"Made warmer by your smile," he whispered, glad that no one was standing near, enjoying the slight blush on her cheeks but then more loudly said, "That would be wonderful, if you'll come and sit with us."
"That would be my pleasure, señor," she said, with a mock curtsey. "Especially since I want to know what it is the alcalde wanted from you."
"I will be only too glad to tell you," Diego said, "if you let me help you bring the coffee out."
"Done," Victoria replied. "It's always a pleasure to put you to work."
She turned and headed for the kitchen, followed by Diego who waved at Felipe to join his father who simply smiled at them. That was another thing Diego was grateful for. He and his father had been getting along so well. Alejandro was pleased that Diego was finally courting someone and particularly pleased that it was Victoria. But it was more than that. He'd actually gone along with Diego's plan for the Emissary without any more than rational objections. There had been a time when he would have dismissed it as impossible without a second thought. Having his father's confidence had been wonderful, actually.
The tavern's kitchen was empty when they entered, and Victoria turned and looked up at him expectantly. Diego leaned over and kissed her cheek and smiled at her disappointed look.
"Is that all?" she asked.
"Well, we've just started courting," Diego teased. "You wouldn't want me to be too forward, would you?"
Victoria looked at him for a moment before elaborately turning back to start getting things ready. "No, I suppose not. I could just start reminiscing about my old, bolder suitor," she said, lightly. "Not that he was that bold, at least not for anything more than flirting and hand-kissing. No wonder that never lasted."
It had started so gradually that Diego was hard pressed to remember exactly when they'd started teasing each other this way. Perhaps, it was because their courtship had started so unconventionally, it was hard to be proper, even though Alejandro did give them more latitude than more parents would have. But still it was fun to see which one would break first when they were alone.
Knowing she'd won this round, Diego came up close behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and brushed his lips against her cheek before she turned her head further towards him for a kiss on the lips. "And that's the best I can do while we're supposed to be getting coffee," he said, stepping back.
She sighed melodramatically before finishing getting everything together. Diego took the tray and carried it back to the main room of the tavern. He set it down on the table, not too smoothly, and Victoria's head turned to look at him with an undecipherable expression.
"Sorry," he said. "I'll get better with practice."
She smiled at him. "As long as you don't break the dishes, I don't mind." Then she looked at Don Alejandro, as she poured out the coffee. "Diego is starting to get quite handy around the kitchen." She sat next to Diego.
"I'm glad to hear that," Alejandro said. He looked as if he were tempted to add something else, but instead looked at Diego. "What did the alcalde want, Diego?"
Diego was a little hesitant about this. "Um, well, it seems as if someone has told the alcalde he might have contracted Napoleon shrinking disease," he said. "And he wanted to know if I'd heard of it."
"Really," Alejandro said with a smirk. "Do you know who?"
"I can't be sure, but I think it was probably Zorro; he seems to have followed everything that was going on," Diego said, speaking quickly as he hated to lie by implication. "De Soto asked if I'd heard of a cure, and I told him I had but couldn't remember it and said if he came over tomorrow I might find something out."
"With all your work with the Emissary," Alejandro said, "I lost track of what was happening to De Soto."
"I think we all did," Victoria interjected. "The Emissary was the major problem."
"Well, now we need to cure him, so that things can return to normal, frustrating as that may be," Diego said in a low, irritated voice, but then looked at Victoria with a more cheerful expression. "Would you like to come over this afternoon and help me with that? If it will help, I've just received a few new books that you might like to read."
"New books and time with you. What could be nicer?" Victoria said.
Alejandro spoke up. "How about joining us for dinner as well? If you can spare us that much time." He always encouraged Victoria's visits.
"Yes, please do," Diego added, putting his hand over hers.
Smiling at both Diego and Alejandro, Victoria said, "I think I can take an afternoon and evening off. Pilar loves to be in charge."
"Excellent!" Alejandro replied warmly.
Victoria leaned close to Diego and said softly, "For you, I can spare all the time in the world."
They'd ridden the carriage into town to see the Emissary off. It had been easier, and it made a good excuse to have Victoria ride back with them. Not that Diego really needed an excuse anymore. When they arrived back home, Miguel came to get Alejandro about some problems with the cattle, and Alejandro had Felipe join them. Diego managed not to roll his eyes at his father's more obvious maneuvering before he and Victoria went inside.
Taking just long enough to tell Maria about the extra guest for dinner, Diego and Victoria went into the library and slipped into the secret passage. Victoria stopped near the bottom of the steps, and Diego turned to face her. They were almost at a level for once, and he had only to lean forward to touch her lips with his. He kissed her lips, then each cheek, and then her forehead before stepping away. Her eyes remained closed for a few moments.
"Better?" he asked, with a smile.
"Definitely," she said, stepping down to the floor. "Now what did you have in mind? I know we can't expect much time here."
"That is unfortunately true," Diego said, moving over to the table. "However, most of my medical and philosophy books are down here, as well as the cactus tea that I think we'll be using for the 'cure.'"
He moved over to a beaker with a strange yellowish green liquid in it. Victoria came closer to get a better look.
"Oh," she said, "that smells terrible."
"And it tastes worse, but it is a good pain reliever, and more importantly for our purposes, induces sleep," Diego said. He brought over a glass bottle and a funnel and poured a quantity of the cactus tea into it. He put in a stopper. "This should make sure he sleeps long enough for whatever else we decide to do to take effect." He handed her the bottle while he went over to his desk and picked up a few books. "Maybe in one of these we can find something we can use to make our cure sound convincing." They headed up the stairs. "I can't believe I didn't think about how to properly resolve this," he said, as they returned to the library.
Victoria put the bottle on a table. "Well, the Emissary was the greater problem and I don't blame you for having a bit of fun with the alcalde at the same time." She sat down on the sofa next to him, and took one of the books.
Diego shook his head. "Sometimes, I think my propensity to have fun with the alcalde gets me into more trouble than if I were sensible."
"Well, if you hadn't done what you did with the Emissary, the Indians would still be facing whipping and worse. You saved them. All of you this time. It was Diego's plan..."
"That Zorro had to intervene in," Diego replied. He wished just once Zorro could stay out of things.
"But it was still you," Victoria insisted. She tended to get frustrated when he dismissed his contributions. She understood why he'd need to do it in public, but she hated it in private. "Now, what clever ploy do you intend to use on De Soto?"
Diego flipped through one of the books. "I'm not certain. Obviously I don't have any books that mention Napoleon shrinking disease. So I think I'm going to have to find it in some old school notes, but it's a question of what he'll need to do for the cure."
"Besides drink cactus tea, of course," Victoria said, looking at the bottle. "I guess you aren't planning to add to the humiliation."
"No," Diego said. No point in antagonizing him further. It would be a miracle if the "cure" worked without letting him know how he'd been fooled. "I would like to think of someway to encourage him to behave though."
"It's a pity we can't tell him that behaving unjustly would make it worse," Victoria said.
"A pity indeed," Diego said slowly. "I think it would take a better man than me to convince him." He stared blankly, then a light came into his eyes. "Brilliant. I think I have it." He grabbed Victoria's face and gave her an enthusiastic kiss. "Wait." He went over to the bookshelves and pulled a book off the shelf, before coming back to the sofa and giving Victoria another kiss on the cheek. He flipped open the book. "This might work, provided he's not too familiar with the works of Descartes."
"Who?" Victoria asked.
"He was a Seventeenth Century French philosopher, which fits nicely for our purposes," Diego said. "Even if he predates Napoleon. But we can get past that easily enough by saying it's a new name. I do hope that De Soto's interest in philosophy really does begin and end with Machiavelli."
"I'm surprised it even reached Machiavelli," Victoria said.
Diego smiled. "Yes, I somehow doubt that he'd be too interested in anything the French had done. Anyway for our purposes and putting it in its simplest terms, Descartes believed in a dualism between mind and body and that the pineal gland is where they interact. So there's a physical connection we can use for our explanation, and considering that De Soto hasn't realized the nonsensical quality of his 'shrinking,' I think we have a very good chance of making him believe the cure."
Victoria kissed Diego's cheek. "That's good. Now that you know, what do you suppose we ought to do while waiting for your father and Felipe to return?"
Diego smiled and lifted one of her hands for a gentle kiss. "I can think of one or two things."
Victoria returned the smile. "I can too. There's the books you promised I could choose from."
"So I did," Diego replied, dropping her hand dramatically. "I suppose we should be good."
Victoria stood up, but moved closer to Diego. "I don't think we have to be that good," she said, leaning forward until their lips were mere inches apart.
Diego reached up a hand to caress her cheek. "I agree," he said before drawing her forward into a lingering kiss.
By the time Alejandro and Felipe had returned, Diego was playing the piano, and Victoria was reading a book. Alejandro shook his head at the sight but didn't say anything. Over dinner, Diego explained his plan. Alejandro was a bit skeptical about some points, but since De Soto had fallen so hard for the shriveling, he thought this did sound like the best way to finish it up. After dinner, Diego was able to escort Victoria home. Felipe went with them. His father would only allow them so much freedom. Diego wondered just how long before he could properly propose. He knew that his father would encourage it sooner rather than later, but it had only been a couple of weeks, so still too soon. He kissed Victoria's hand in farewell, before returning home.
De Soto arrived early in the day still clumping around in his too large clothes, and Diego worked at being his most convincing.
"Yes, I finally found something in some old lecture notes," he said. "It seems this condition is a rare one that has a tendency to flare up randomly. There is no permanent cure per se, but it can easily be treated."
"How?" De Soto asked.
Diego brought out the bottle of cactus tea. "Since this is an initial flare up, it should actually recede fairly quickly if you take this tonight, at bedtime. The whole dose and tomorrow things should be back to normal."
De Soto stared at the bottle. "You're sure?"
"Almost, entirely," Diego said. "My notes were fairly vague."
"You say this isn't a permanent cure? Is there nothing I can do to prevent it returning?" De Soto asked anxiously.
Diego took a breath and prepared to spout his nonsense as convincingly as possible. "Well, according to Descartes, there is a connection between the mental and the physical aspects of this condition."
"What does that mean?"
"Simply, this condition seems to be brought on by too much stress, usually in line with overly ambitious plans. Encounters with Zorro seem to be very stressful for you, so I'd suggest avoiding things likely to encourage his intervention." Diego hoped he sounded sincere enough.
"What nonsense!" De Soto snorted.
Diego shrugged his shoulders. "It's up to you, alcalde, but I've heard that this tends to get worse the more it happens, and it takes more and more time to reduce it." He smiled with apparent embarrassment. "Maybe I shouldn't have put it that way."
De Soto glared at him. "I'll give this a try, but I think it's mostly nonsense."
"Well, it's the best I can do," Diego said. "But I think you'll see a change tomorrow."
"I hope so," De Soto replied. He left clutching the bottle in his hand.
Diego had to wonder how De Soto could not notice that it was really only his clothes and his desk that were changing size. He had never yet been able to understand the ability of the human mind to be fooled by the power of suggestion. Someday, he'd need to make a closer study.
The rest of the day he spent working with his father. It was a relief to not be always disappointing him now. He still had to be careful enough that his excuses would still be believable when he needed them to be, but now he could do more to be a help rather than a hindrance.
Once they'd gotten home, Diego went to get cleaned up, before walking into the library. His father was already there, sitting in a chair.
"Going to see Victoria this afternoon?" Alejandro asked.
"If you don't mind," Diego replied.
"Of course not. You should spend time with her," Alejandro said, taking a deep breath, pausing slightly before continuing, "Diego, there's something I wanted to ask you about."
"What is it, Father?" Diego asked, sitting down near him, a little nervous at Alejandro's tone. Was it about Zorro's involvement with the plan? Did he suspect?
What he wasn't expecting was what Alejandro said instead. "Your courtship with Victoria..." Alejandro broke off, apparently looking for the right words.
Diego was confused; he knew his father approved of Victoria, so he wasn't sure what he was trying to say. "What about it?"
"She's a very spirited young lady," Alejandro said.
"I know," Diego replied, still confused. "It's one of her best qualities."
Alejandro sighed slightly, finally coming out with his concerns. "Are you sure you're courting her in the best way? She's always seemed to prefer men of action. Books and music, do they really interest her?"
Finally understanding what his father meant, Diego said, "She seems to genuinely enjoy them. Perhaps, she likes the change." He wasn't going to add that there was a little more to their courtship than books and music. As relatively innocent as their kisses were, he didn't really think his father would approve.
Alejandro got an introspective look on his face and a reminiscent smile crossed his face. "I suppose that is possible," he said slowly. "Did I ever tell you about my courtship of your mother?"
"Not really," Diego said. His father rarely talked about his mother, and he was interested. "I'd like to hear about it though."
Leaning back in his seat, Alejandro began speaking. "Well, it actually starts with your grandfather and grandmother. You know your grandfather insisted on making sure I had a classical education. He said he didn't want any son of his to be either an ignorant soldier or ranchero, and your grandmother insisted on my learning music so as to appear more refined to any proper young lady. I thought it was pointless, and it didn't seem to matter that much here, but of course, they sent me to Spain to get proper training as a soldier. And I wanted to be a soldier and fight for the king. Love—" he paused, clearly leaving something out, "for various reasons, I wasn't too interested in love at the time. My studies and training were enough, until, of course, I met your mother.
"It was at a ball, and your mother was the most beautiful and popular woman there. All the cadets were vying for her attention, but I was the brash young man who managed to secure it for most the evening. And every free day after that. Many people seemed surprised that she'd want to spend time with someone like me; she was interested in art, in poetry, in music, in books. You inherit that from her. I had never been that interested before I met her, but the way she would talk about all those things, they were suddenly the most fascinating things I'd ever heard, and she seemed to feel that way when I described California. No one would have expected us to fall in love, and yet it was as if we'd found our other half. That's why I always called her Felicidad. I was never more fortunate than when I won her love," Alejandro said, his eyes glistening slightly. "I want that for you too, Diego."
After what his father said, he was determined to be partially honest. He owed him that much. No, he owed him more, but it wasn't safe to give him more than he did. At least he could assure him on this point. "I've been in love with Victoria for a long time. It's only recently that I thought she might be willing to give me a chance." That was most certainly true. He smiled as he thought of Victoria. "What you felt for my mother is what I feel for her. I don't think you need to worry. She doesn't seem to mind my quiet ways."
"I am glad to hear it," Alejandro said, looking relieved. "You know, the weather's gotten warmer. It might be a good idea to take her on a picnic tomorrow, if she's willing. Fresh air would do you both good."
"You have a point," Diego said, while refraining from pointing out he'd spent much of the day in the fresh air. After all, there was nothing that he liked better than spending time with Victoria. "I'll ask her."
Diego had a late night ahead of him once he returned from the tavern, since Zorro had to slip into the alcalde's rooms and restore everything to its proper order. He crept in silently and took a close look at De Soto, who was sleeping very soundly. At his bedside was the empty bottle of cactus tea. De Soto should sleep well into the morning, and if he and Victoria were very lucky they should be away on their picnic before De Soto emerged from the cuartel. Once Zorro finished putting everything back the way it had been, making a bundle of the oversized clothes, he made a vow not to play any more pranks this elaborate if he didn't have a way out planned in the end. Or at least something that wouldn't require so much work on his part. He was glad to get finished and return home to get some rest.
The morning was bright and warm, a relief after the recent cold. There were no difficulties. When he went to town to pick up Victoria, Diego was relieved to hear that De Soto was still apparently sleeping. He really didn't want to deal with him today. If all went well, De Soto would feel cured, and that would be that.
Felipe went along with them. He wanted a chance to go fishing and disappeared with the second basket that had been packed the moment they reached the spot not too far from the river. There was a shady tree, and Diego spread out a blanket for them.
"Your father's idea?" Victoria asked, sitting down while Diego brought the basket closer.
"I'm afraid so. I think he's a little worried about my ideas of romance, though I hope I reassured him a little," Diego said.
"What did you tell him?" Victoria said.
"Not too much, just that you seemed to like my quiet side," Diego said, taking her hand in his. "Though I do recall you complaining about my tendency to kiss your hand."
He lifted her hand to his lips, turning it over to tenderly kiss the palm, then moved to her wrist before turning it again in order to place kisses on the back as well as between her knuckles, and the tips of her fingers. Victoria's breathing grew shallow, and her eyes closed. He finished by placing one last lingering kiss to her palm before placing it in her lap. Victoria didn't move for a long minute. Then she opened her eyes.
"Well?" he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
"I don't think I was complaining about you," she said, a little breathlessly. "Though now I have to wonder..." her voice trailed off as she looked past Diego's shoulder. "I don't mean to ruin your day, but I think our alcalde has found us."
Diego turned and repressed a groan as he saw De Soto approaching. Victoria grabbed his hand. At least De Soto didn't look unhappy, but Diego wished he'd stayed in town where he belonged.
"Don Diego!" he exclaimed. "They told me in the tavern you'd be out here."
Diego shot a look at Victoria, who shrugged. Plastering a fake smile on his face, he said, "And what brings you out here in such a hurry, Ignacio."
"The cure, it worked perfectly," he said. "It's amazing. When I woke up, everything was back to normal, and I feel wonderful."
"I'm very pleased for you," Diego said. "I was hoping it would work."
"But what is this nonsense about stress and Zorro?" De Soto asked sitting without invitation.
Diego could see Victoria's irritation out of the corner of his eye and squeezed her hand gently. He put on his blandest face and said, "Well, he does seem to be the largest source of stress to you, one it might be good for you to avoid for a while."
"And just how am I supposed to do that?" De Soto growled. "He's worse than a pestilence."
Diego kept his voice neutral and mild. "I'm not sure, alcalde, but he does seem to be a bit of a showoff, eager to play the hero of the pueblo. Perhaps, if he didn't have any reason..."
"Are you seriously trying to get me to stop trying to trap..." De Soto broke off and stared into space for a moment before a smile crossed his face and a sinister chuckle came from his lips. "You might just have a point there. If Zorro isn't given the excuse to pretend to be the hero, he's bound to show his true colors."
"I'm afraid I don't quite understand," Diego said.
De Soto let out another snort of laughter. "Of course not, you're a man of..." He stopped in mid-sentence, as if he'd just remembered he was grateful to Diego and shouldn't insult him. Clearly reaching, he continued, "... intellect... not strategy. It's so simple. Zorro loves the limelight. Looking heroic. Receiving adulation. He isn't going to be able to stand doing nothing, so if he can't look like a hero, he'll show himself as the villain he truly is. The people will no longer defend him, and his capture will be assured." He stood up. "It's brilliant in its simplicity." He looked down at Diego and Victoria. "Gracias again, Diego. I'll leave you to your picnic." He strode away, still chuckling.
Victoria looked after De Soto. "What just happened?" she asked, bemused.
"I'm not sure," Diego said, equally bewildered. "I think... De Soto's planning to behave himself in the hopes that Zorro will get bored and commit a crime." He had no idea how that made sense to De Soto. Maybe he was still suffering some after-effects of the tea.
"He'll have a long wait then," Victoria said. She turned to Diego with a flirtatious smile. "And what will you do while Zorro has a vacation?"
He was still looking in the direction De Soto had disappeared. "I don't know, perhaps indulge in my... intellectual pursuits," he said.
"Oh, not more philosophical ones?" Victoria asked.
"Philosophical ones?" Diego raised an eyebrow curiously as he turned towards her.
"Yes," Victoria said, looking into his eyes. "Such as: how can you court a woman with only half your attention on her?"
Diego smiled at her slyly. "Oh, believe me, Señorita, you have my undivided attention," he said, leaning forward to give her a kiss.
Next Up: "A Love Remembered." This time no kidding. I just needed something a little lighter before dealing with this one.
End Notes: Well, as I said I was going to skip this one since I couldn't think of anything to do with the episode itself, but I did manage to come up with something to follow it. I know the plot's practically nonexistent, but I needed something a little fun. And there was that thread with De Soto and Napoleon's Shrinking disease still dangling, so I picked it up. And since Diego and Victoria are now officially courting, I thought I'd give them an opportunity for a bit of flirting and kissing (I know they should be better supervised than they ever were in the series, but in this case as in many others, I'm going with the more anachronistic version the show gave us). Also, Diego and Alejandro were getting along very well in the actual episode, and I wanted another moment of father/son bonding there.
Their picnic with De Soto interrupting was sort of (very mildly) inspired by the incredibly squick-inducing Victoria/ De Soto picnic from "Love Potion Number 9." I just wanted to reverse Diego and De Soto's roles to get that bad taste out of my mouth, since by the time I reach "Love Potion Number 9" the only thing that story will have in common with the episode is the ten potions of Dr. Henry Wayne. And speaking of those potions, does anyone know what all ten potions are? There are five mentioned in the episode: Love, Passion, Courage, Fear, and Strength. From screen capture, the sixth is clearly Jealousy. That leaves four unknowns, one of which seems to end with "-rgy" (Lethargy? Energy?).
As always, all forms of feedback are sincerely appreciated, and I'd definitely like to know what you think.