Disclaimer – I don't own the rights, Zorro Productions Inc does - I just like to play with the characters.
Plot - There's been about a million fanfics about the episode "One Special Night" so I thought hey, what's one more story :)
I'm not changing the episode, so what happened (or perhaps what didn't happened) remains the same but I am focusing on what happened on the morning after, when Diego escorted Victoria to the pueblo's gate and the whispers that should have started. I would imagine that a single man and a single woman travelling alone in those days and staying overnight, no matter how innocent it was, would have led to an immediate marriage.
This story has been sitting on my hard drive for about 2 years now; I just wasn't happy with it so I just left it until I could find the energy to get back to it.
Although I'm still working of the 3rd part of the trilogy, this old story started calling out to me again and so over the last couple of weeks I have completely re-written the first couple of chapters and I'm filling out the rest of the chapters to get it posted for you to read and hopefully enjoy :)
Victoria opened her tavern a little later than normal for she wanted to bathe and wash her hair after spending the night on the hard floor of the old windmill; the smoke from the small fire had gotten through her clothes and seeped into the very depths of her skin, making her feel gritty and dirty. As she bathed, her thoughts turned to her friend and wondered again to the change that had come over him when he was speaking with the King's Emissary; the eloquence of his words were unmistakable, he was forceful but not arrogant in voicing his opinions and she had been amazed that he had even made a number of suggestions to which the Emissary had listened intently and had in fact asked his own questions regarding taxation and what followed was a discussion on economics that she couldn't even begin to follow.
But then Diego changed once more on the way home and especially in the windmill; he had returned to his usual docile self and then had made that comment when he had placed that bench between them; that he wouldn't have it any other way, had ruffled her feminine pride. She didn't think too hard on why she would want Diego to flirt with her or at least attempt to do so; perhaps she was used to men flirting with her that she wanted to see he would but he didn't; he had been the perfect gentleman the entire time.
"Oohh, that man can be so vexing at times." she muttered to herself as she scrubbed her hair harder than she needed to.
Once she was presentable again, she opened unlocked the main doors just as Pilar arrived.
"I'm sorry I'm late Victoria." She said a little out of breath from rushing from her home.
Victoria smiled warmly. "It's okay Pilar, I was running late myself." she replied as the two of them moved further inside.
Pilar smiled back, glad that her employer was understanding; it was one of the things that she liked about working for Victoria. "I hope you didn't mind that I closed up earlier than normal but there weren't any patrons and I didn't see the need to keep the tavern open longer."
"Of course not, Pilar, sometimes it gets like that. I probably would have closed up early too." Victoria said as she led the way to the kitchen and went to the small wood pile that she kept inside, grabbed a number of pieces and placed it into the fireplace to light up later.
"So what time did you get back yesterday?" Pilar asked as she moved to the pantry and pulled out a small bag of flour.
Victoria shrugged. "Actually, I didn't get back till this morning." she replied absently as she moved over to where her pots were hanging and grabbed the large kettle from its hook and filled it with water from the inside tap.
Pilar stopped and stared at her friend in surprise at how indifferent she sounded; it was as though she didn't think there was anything wrong with staying overnight with a man who wasn't a member of her family or her husband for that matter. "You stayed overnight with Don Diego?"
This time Victoria picked up the unease in Pilar's voice and felt a flush rise over her face at how it sounded. "You knew that we were going to stay overnight in Santa Paula."
Pilar nodded. "Yes, you did say that, so where did you stay in Santa Paula?"
Victoria hesitated which made Pilar even more worried. "If you didn't stay in Santa Paula, then where...No, wait, I really don't want to know." she said as she started to mix some of the flour with water.
Victoria's blush deepened. "Nothing happened, Pilar. Can you seriously believe that people would gossip about Diego and me like that, it's just ridiculous."
Pilar sighed as she paused in her kneading of the dough. "How can you think like that? Don Diego is a man, a very unattached man and you're a single woman; well sort of anyway. Of course people are going to talk, you should know that better than I do from running this tavern. Oh look Victoria, it's not my place to tell you how to live your life, just don't tell anyone that you spent the night alone with him."
Victoria had no answer to that but she just couldn't believe that anyone would gossip about Diego and herself in that way.
Just before lunch, Alicia came into the kitchen and called out to her employer. "Victoria, Señora Olmas is outside setting up her stall with vegetables from her garden and I think we may need more tomatoes and carrots." she said.
Victoria nodded as she wiped her hands on her apron. "Gracias Alicia. We do need more vegetables." she said as she went over to the cabinet where she kept cash box and pulled out some money. "I won't be long." she said before she walked out of the kitchen and out through the front doors carrying a basket over her arm.
She walked over to where Señora Olmas had set up her stall near the mission under the shade of a large tree. "Buenos dias Señora." she greeted the older woman with a warm smile.
Señora Olmas smiled back. "Buenos dias Senorita. Do you need some vegetables for the lunch rush?"
Victoria chuckled. "You could say that. Your tomatoes are looking good today." she said as she picked up a couple and felt the firmness of the vegetable; although Diego would have told her that it was a fruit, not a vegetable.
The older lady nodded. "Yes, I waited until today to bring them in, I wanted to make sure they were ripe. I also have carrots, corn, potatoes and mushrooms."
"Wonderful, now how much...?"
While the two women negotiated on price, two of the pueblo's most notorious gossips; Señora Escobar and Señora Valdés emerged from the mission chapel after praying to the Madonna for the recovery of their neighbour's first grandchild, who had taken sick the night before.
"Look Jordana, there she is. Are you sure it was her that Marina saw?" Señora Escobar asked her friend.
Señora Valdés turned her gaze to where Victoria was just handing over some money to Señora Olmas. "That's what Marina said. She said she had just stepped out of the doctor's office for some fresh air after spending most of the night with her grandson when she saw Senorita Escalante return home just after seven this morning and as she turned around, she saw a man ride away in the distance."
"And that man was Don Diego de la Vega? I still don't believe it. He's such a gentleman that he wouldn't...well...you know."
Señora Valdés snorted delicately. "Well he probably wouldn't but I wouldn't put it passed her, after all she's consorted with a bandit for years, so going after a gentleman would be nothing to her."
Señora Escobar nodded and then she saw another of their friends Señora Portillo coming towards them. "Buenos dias Loida, have you heard the latest...?"
Victoria thanked Señora Olmas and with her basket full of vegetables, she turned towards her tavern and it was then she saw the three ladies talking together by the mission, who kept looking in her direction and she had a feeling that she was the subject of their conversation and Pilar's warning floated in her mind. Had they somehow found out that she had spent the night with Diego, even though it had been entirely innocent? She shook her head and walked back to the tavern with her head held high.
It wasn't until lunch time when Victoria heard the gossip for herself. She had just carried a tray with drinks outside to Mendoza and Perez when Zorro appeared with the four bandits tied to their horses with the usual mark carved into their clothing.
She smiled warmly at seeing the man she loved but at the same time she was disappointed that he had to leave almost immediately; she wanted to talk with him, to let him know that she had stayed overnight with Diego before he heard it from anyone else and to convince him that nothing had happened between them. "Will you ever be able to stay?"
Zorro gazed at the woman he loved and found himself wanting to give her something to think on, perhaps even to guess his identity; he knew it was the coward's way but he couldn't bare the thought of seeing the hurt, the anger on her face and then her rejection of him. "Your smile almost quenches my burning desire." He said before he rode away.
She smiled after him and was about to turn back when she realised what he had said. "Huh?" What had he meant by that, she mused to himself, it was almost the same thing that she had said to Diego last night and he had finished the quote. She shook her head and entered the tavern with the now empty tray under her arm; Zorro had obviously read the same book that she had done as well as many others, it was a popular book after all.
"Did you see that, she has no shame at all! She's flirting with Zorro like nothing has happened." Señora Portillo muttered to her friends.
"I told you so, didn't I? Poor Don Diego, he doesn't deserve to be treated like that." Señora Valdés stated not so quietly.
"I actually feel sorry for Don Alejandro; he has to accept her as his daughter-in-law for Don Diego must marry her now, even if it's just to save his own reputation." Señora Escobar said.
Señora Valdés nodded. "She planned it that way too. You should have seen her face yesterday when Don Diego came back into the pueblo with the Doctor and he told her that he was going alone to Santa Paula, she all but jumped at the chance to trap him into marriage by staying overnight with him in Santa Paula. She wasn't content just to be Zorro's woman but now she wants to be the wife of a caballero too..."
Señora Portillo leant forward. "But they couldn't have spent the night in Santa Paula for if they had, they would have been back later than what Marina saw; it's several hours ride from here, they wouldn't have ridden in the dark."
"Exactly, so where did they spend the night?" Señora Valdés asked.
Victoria had heard enough by this time and walked quickly to the kitchen and out the back door with hot tears welling in her eyes at their innuendos. "Madre de dios. What have I done?"
Even Diego had been concerned about gossip of them travelling together but she had laughed it off and then she had all but forced herself into his company. Those women were wrong, she didn't plan it, it was just a sudden impulse but they would never believe it, just as they believed that she and Zorro were lovers; they weren't but that hadn't stop people from talking. The talk of them being lovers was old news to her; it had been around for years and she had always ignored the gossip but now they were talking about Diego being her...lover...too.
This wasn't something she or Diego could ignore. "What am I going to do?" she wailed softly.