Disclaimer – I don't own the rights, Zorro Productions Inc does - I just like to play with the characters.
Plot – Diego finds himself in the de la Vega's laundry with unexpected results.
This can be a companion piece to my story "Zorro's Clothes" but it's not a sequel or prequel and you don't need to read it first as this is a separate story.
One shot story.
Toronado's hoof pressed the hidden lever on the wet, muddy ground and the door to the cave opened slowly as though the bad weather had caused the ropes and pulleys to stick together but it finally opened and with a sigh of relief, Zorro urged his faithful steed inside the dry cavern.
It had been a busy couple of days for them and even the terrible weather had not stopped a gang of bandits from robbing several outlying farms in their district. Five separate families had been robbed in the last three days and it had taken all of his skills in tracking to find them; what had made it even hard for him was the rain. It had rained for most of the last four days and he had been surprised that he had been able to track the men in such conditions and he was about to give up and go home when he came across their lair and after a short and a rather one sided battle with the four bandits, Zorro tied them to their horses with his trademark 'z' etched into their trousers and had left them under the pueblo sign as a gift for the Alcalde and his men.
But now as he dismounted Toronado, he gazed down at himself in disgust; he was covered in mud for he had slipped and fallen during his fight with the bandits, he was drenched to the skin and not even his cape had saved him from the rain. He pulled off his mask and tossed the wet fabric to the floor where his other black clothes were laying in a damp pile. Normally Felipe would have sorted out his wet clothes but his father had taken the younger man to San Pedro several days ago to wait for a shipment of fence posts and other items for the ranch that was coming by ship.
Diego shook his head as he quickly stripped off his cape and shirt and wondered just how and where Felipe washed the black clothes, he mused to himself, it wasn't something he could just place in the usual laundry for their servants to do. He grabbed a towel that he had left on his desk and gave his broad chest and back a quick wipe down before he sighed and shook his head, somehow he was going to have to do his own washing since Felipe wasn't due back for at least another two days and he didn't have any black outfits left.
But first he had to attend to Toronado, who was snickering impatiently to his master to hurry up and get his saddle and soggy blanket off his back. "Alright Toronado, I haven't forgotten you." He said with amusement as he unbuckled the straps and removed the saddle and the horse blanket and placed it on the chair to clean later. There were many times when his faithful steed acted more like a human than any other horse he had owned, or other people for that matter, he mused to himself.
Toronado shook himself as Diego placed some extra oats and fresh hay in his feed box before he grabbed an old towel from the shelf and slowly and meticulously rubbed him dry.
It took some time but it was calming to both man and beast. "Is that better old boy?" he said fondly as he scratched behind the stallion's ears.
Toronado nodded his head and snickered in agreement before he nudged his master's chest.
Diego looked down and grinned. "Yes, I better clean myself too. I wouldn't mind love a hot bath and some clean clothes for a change." He turned and looked down at the pile of wet clothes. "And then I will have to find a way to wash and dry these clothes before they become ruined." He shook his head as he looked around his cave.
"Unfortunately I can't have a fire in here, even though we have enough ventilation, it's just not appropriate to have a fire raging for several hours and have all that smoke accumulate in here. Then there's the number of chemicals I have, I don't won't to blow up the cave either." He sighed once more. "I'll have that bath first and hopefully the rain will stop long enough for me to find a place to dry them." He muttered to himself as he changed out of his black trousers and into his blue suit.
An hour later Diego had bathed and was dressed in clean, dry clothes once more. He entered the cave and went over to the pile of wet clothing and wrapped it up into a bundle before he left quickly. He carefully made his way to the rear of the hacienda and outside to the small building where the washtubs were located. On one of the outside walls, there were several strong hooks which allowed a number of lines to be strung up between the building and three large trees on laundry day.
He was pleased to discover that not only had the rain stopped and the skies cleared but none of their servants were around to ask what he was doing. He wasn't in the habit of washing his own clothes and he would find it very hard to explain why he would be washing the famous black outfit that Zorro wore.
He entered the building and placed the bundle on a bench and as he removed his jacket and placed it on a separate table, he gazed around the room and wondered where he should start. There were three washtubs; two large ones that had been built upon wooden stands with spaces that allowed excess water to run down into a drain which ran outside and a much smaller one by the far wall, along with a small fire place in a corner where the water was heated. He immediately ruled out using the large ones as they were too big for his needs so he went over to the third one.
He frowned as he looked between the small tub and the fireplace, wondering if he should heat some water but decided against it for fear that the smoke would bring the servants racing out to the building. He sighed as began to fill the tub with water from the inside pump and then he looked around for the soap. He found it on the shelf behind him but he frowned again when he saw several large blocks of soap; one was the homemade wood ash lyre or soap, which he recalled was used more on white cloth than coloured ones so he turned his attention to the other block and it reminded him of what he used when bathing but it was different in texture, while he didn't recognise what the third block was and decided not to use that one.
He cut off a piece of soap from the second block and placed it into the water but then he wondered if it was enough; his clothes were very dirty, so just to be safe, he placed more of the soap into the washtub. He gazed out of the window and the door, to make sure no-one was in the immediate area and then one by one, he placed the black clothes into the washtub, including a pair of undergarments that, by necessity, he had to remove; he couldn't simply put on a pair of trousers while his underdrawers were wet without drawing attention to himself, so they too had been tossed into the pile of wet clothes to be washed.
Once all the items were soaking in the water, he began searching the room for some thin rope in which to hang the clothes from. He couldn't use the outside lines but he knew of a nearby place that was safe from prying eyes. Perhaps it was even the same place that Felipe used to dry his clothes, he mused to himself as he found several yards of rope in a corner. "Ah wonderful." he muttered as he picked up the rope.
"What's wonderful Diego?" came an unexpected female voice from behind him.
Diego almost jumped out of his skin at hearing Victoria's voice and stumbled against the washtub causing the water to splash over the side and wet the bottom of his blue trousers. "Wha...What are you doing here Victoria?" he asked a little breathless as he dropped the rope. Just how long she had been there, he wondered, it couldn't have been long for she would have said something.
She smiled. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. The rain had stopped and I was feeling a little weary of staying inside for the last four days so I thought I would come and see how you were, considering that you're on your own at the moment." she paused as she moved towards the tub. "Are you doing some washing?"
He immediately stepped in front of her, stopping her from seeing what was in the washtub. "Ah, yes...well it's nothing, just something I wanted to try for myself." He was pleased that his voice sounded normal to his ears and did not reflect his growing panic.
She smiled. "Like an experiment." she moved again, this time to the left, wanting to see what he was doing.
But again he moved in her way. "Well, yes you could say it's an experiment." he replied. It was a good an explanation as any but he really needed to keep her away from the tub; he would not be able to explain away Zorro's clothes.
She giggled at his obvious attempts to keep her from finding out and it made her even more curious to know what he was doing. "Surely it's not a secret is it?" she said as stood on her toes and craned her neck in an effect to see over him but he was just too tall and too broad for her to look around.
What is it with women and their curiosity? he mused to himself as he kept himself between her and the washtub. "Yes...No...It's not a secret but it's just..." he stopped as he had misjudged her single-mindedness as she tricked her way around him by pretending to go in one direction but going in the other.
"What's this?" Victoria said as she looked down into the tub and saw black material in the water. "Since when do you wear black clothes?"
Oh querida, I wear black all the time and yet you can't or won't see beyond it to the man wearing it, he thought to himself as he stood frozen in fear of this unexpected discovery; he just didn't know what to do or what to say.
She frowned as she reached down and pulled up several items from the water. "Diego, this is Zorro's shirt and this is his mask!" she turned to him with a confused look on her face. "What are you doing with his clothes?"
He felt the beginning of a headache as he tried to think of something to explain what he was doing with Zorro's clothes. "Obviously I'm washing it." he replied lamely.
She gave him a strange look that he couldn't decipher. "Why did he ask you to do it? I mean, he should have come to me, I would have washed his clothes for him."
He shook his head. "I don't think that would be appropriate. A gentleman doesn't ask an unmarried woman to do his washing for him."
She smiled warmly. "That's kind of you to say that but I wouldn't have minded." she turned her attention to the tub and frowned as she reached down and pulled out the well known cape. "Diego de la Vega, surely you didn't put the satin cape in with the rest of his clothes?" she exclaimed in horror.
Diego shifted uneasily on his feet as the pounding in his head grew worse. "Well I..."
"You should have kept this separate from the rest. How much soap did you use?" she asked as she noticed several white streaks on the black material. "Oh never mind, this will never do. I will have to take all this back to the tavern and wash it myself." she stated firmly as she began to pull the items from the tub.
"But...but Victoria..." he started to say but she interrupted him.
"No buts Diego, Zorro can't go around with these white marks on his cape." She paused as she noticed the distressed look on her friend's face. She reached out and gently touched his arm. "It's okay Diego, everything will be fine and it was a truly wonderful thing you that were doing for him but you need to let me take over now. I've washed many different fabrics over the years and I know which soap to use."
Diego sighed once more, he knew that she was right; she knew what she was doing whereas he did not but it still didn't feel right to him. "But Victoria, what if someone sees the clothes. They could jump to the wrong conclusions about how you came to have them." he said worriedly. "I think it would be better if you washed them here. I have already planned to dry them somewhere nearby using these ropes." he said as he pointed to the floor where he had dropped them.
Victoria felt a slight flush rise over her cheeks at the implication of his words but also at his obvious concern for her reputation. "I thank you for your concern Diego, you're a real good friend." she replied sincerely.
As she thought about his words, it certainly made sense to wash them here, the tubs were all ready for her and she was sure that the de la Vegas servants had the correct soap that she needed for the satin material. "Okay, I'll wash them here but I think it would be best to take them back to the tavern to dry, especially as I saw more dark clouds gathering in the south on the ride here. We can use an old blanket or something to wrap them up."
He sighed, he knew it would be better for her to take his clothes back to the tavern as she can dry them in any of the rooms. "Very well, if you really don't mind, I could use your help with this." he said.
She beamed. "Of course I don't mind. Now I'll get these clothes out of the tub so I can wash them properly." She replied.
As she began pulling out the clothes from the washtub, he saw a piece of white material that he most definitely did not want her to wash and he quickly grabbed it out of the water before she saw it herself.
"What was that?" she asked curiously as she retrieved all the items from the tub and began to separate the shirts from the trousers and placed the satin cape and mask on the bench to be washed on its own.
He felt heat rise over his neck as he scrunched up that particular item behind his back. "Ah, it's nothing Victoria." he replied.
"Oh come on Diego, hand it over." she said as she held out her hand for the mysterious item.
"Victoria, will you let the man have some privacy." he muttered as he moved away, looking for something to wrap the clothes in, while putting the wet item under his jacket. He would wash that particular piece himself once she had gone.
"Oh...Ohhhh." she replied as she felt her cheeks flush red as she suddenly understood the reason for Diego's strange behaviour and it was only then that she looked down at the wet clothes and realised that these were Zorro's clothes; the clothes of the man she loved and felt her cheeks burn even more at the thought of doing something as intimate as washing his clothes, almost as though she was his wife.
"Ah, here we go." He said as he found an old but clean blanket, it was perfect for what they needed.
She looked at the blanket and nodded. "Yes, that will do nicely. This won't take long, but Diego, I'm curious as to how you came to have Zorro's clothes. I mean, are you friends? Is that why he gave them to you?" she asked as she took one of the black shirts from the bench and she began to gently scrub them against the washing board in the soapy water.
He cleared his throat as he stalled for time and he was saved from answering by Consuela calling out. "Excuse me Victoria, I must see what Consuela wants." He said as he made his escape from what would have been an awkward conversation.
Victoria chuckled as she watched him go; just like Diego to leave when something was happening.
It didn't take long for Victoria to wash the cape, mask, three shirts but as she finished with the last of the three trousers, she felt something in one of the pockets and as she pulled it out, she realised that it was a white handkerchief. She chuckled to herself, I guess that even Zorro needs to blow his nose occasionally, she mused to herself as she noticed that it was a clean but she would wash it anyway.
But as she did so, she saw some stitching on one of the corners and as she gazed thoughtfully at the neat stitches, she thought it was the letter O but on a second, much closer look, it was the letter D.
"Now what does this mean?" she muttered aloud. She had found it the pocket of Zorro's trousers so it must be his. "What does D stand for? Was it the initial of the lady who stitched it or perhaps it's the initial of the owner. Is this Zorro's name? The letter D is for..." she stopped as she stared hard at the handkerchief.
"Could...could it be D for...Diego? Is that possible? It must be, I mean there could be no reason why Zorro would have Diego's handkerchief unless he gave it to him." she shook her head at that idea. "No, that doesn't sound right, if he had asked for it, he would have used it straight away but it was clean." she muttered.
Diego was Zorro.
She closed her eyes as everything that she had ever suspected over the last five years about her friend being Zorro, now fell into place. Every single look, every single word, every single time he disappeared and then Zorro magically appeared moments later, it all made sense now, including her strange attraction to her friend that she never wanted to dwell on, for fear of what she might find; that she loved Diego more than she loved her hero.
She opened her eyes once more and as she stood staring down at the white handkerchief, a truly wicked smile slowly grew over her face. "I have you now, my masked bandit."
Diego returned and as he watched his lady placed the still wet but not totally saturated clothing on the blanket, he felt a strong longing to have her in his life; if only he could be sure of her feelings towards him, he would tell her immediately. But right now, there was much danger to both him and to Victoria, if anyone saw them with Zorro's clothes.
"I see you have almost finished." he said as he stepped inside the room.
She jumped slightly and smiled as she turned to him. "Yes, this bundle just needs to be tied up and I'm ready to take them home." she replied.
He nodded. "I can't thank you enough for doing this Victoria." he said; he knew that he could not have done it without her.
She blushed slightly at his sincerity. "You're most welcome Diego, you've helped me out many times in the past and besides isn't that what friends are for, to help each other." she smiled warmly as she decided to put him to the test. "Diego, can I ask you something?"
"Of course you can." he replied as tied some rope around the blanket to make it secure.
"Is this yours?" she asked as she held out the wet handkerchief.
Diego, not realising the trap that he was about to fall into, looked at the item and nodded. "Yes, that's mine. Where did you get it?"
"It was in the pocket of Zorro's trousers." she stated simply.
The ensuring silence was deafening while Victoria waited and Diego tried to think of something to say. He didn't know whether to make up a story or tell her the truth but as he gazed into her unreadable eyes, he knew what he wanted. He wanted to tell her the truth.
He cleared his throat. "I guess you want to know how my handkerchief came to be in Zorro's trousers."
She cocked her head to one side but said nothing; it was up to him to say it.
It was then that he finally realised that she knew; she had worked it out from the initial on his handkerchief and he took it as a good sign that she was still here; that she hadn't left the moment she had discovered the secret. He took a step forward and gently took both her hands in his. "For a long time now, I've wanted to tell you but I could never gather enough courage to do so. I can face a whole garrison on lancers, any number of bandits, a crazy English lord and even a rampaging bull" he paused as he gave her a small wry smile. "But I could not tell you the simple truth."
"And what truth would that be?" she asked.
He squeezed her hands. "The truth that I love you, that I have been in love with you for years and never told you." he paused to take a breath. "The truth that I am Zorro."
Victoria let out a long breath at the words she had been waiting years to hear and now that she knew, she felt a great sense of relief; all the hiding, all the lies, all the half truths were over. She felt hot tears run down her cheeks at the overwhelming feeling of happiness in her heart.
Diego let go of her hand and gently wiped away her tears. "Please forgive me." he said, his voice deep and hoarse; he too was overcome with strong emotions of love and relief that she obviously accepted him as himself.
She smiled lovingly through her tears. "Of course I forgive you Diego, as long as you forgive me for being so horrible to you in my remarks."
He smiled. "There's nothing to forgive." he replied as he leant down and placed a soft kiss to her tear stained cheeks. "I love you Victoria."
She melted at his words. "I love you too Diego." she replied as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
But before their lips could touch, a sound behind them made them jump apart.
"Ohhh...Please forgive me Don Diego. I need to see you patron, it's about our bull, I think he has injured his leg." he said apologetically with his hat in his hands.
Diego sighed. "I'll be right there Jose." he said.
Jose nodded and left them.
Victoria smiled. "No rest for the wicked, eh."
He chuckled. "Unfortunately no, but will you come back for dinner. We have a lot to talk about." he said as he caressed her face.
She leant up and kissed him gently, tenderly for the first time without the mask. "Go and see to your bull and I'll come back for dinner and then Diego de la Vega, we will have that talk."
I hope everyone enjoyed this short reveal story. It does make you wonder who does his laundry. I would have to assume it's Felipe, unless it's one of the servants but then she would have to know the secret too :)
You may be also happy to know that I am currently working on a sequel to "Repercussions". I've done 3 chapters so far but it might be some time before I get it posted as I like to have my stories completed first before posting.