New Year Eve challenge requires:
- Word count should not exceed 4000 words;
- Someone must find out Zorro’s identity in an unexpected way
- Zorro must free someone from prison
- The Alcalde must get drunk
- Mendoza must get a kiss
- The action of the story must take place on the New Year’s Eve (obviously)
- Finally, because this year was as it was, and I feel we all need some optimism, the stories must have a HEA and BE FINISHED AT THE MOMENT THEY ARE POSTED. Only One-shots accepted!:))) Waiting for new chapters is annoying!
——————– Hot spring ——————–
De Soto woke up in a very uncomfortable position, all sore. Semi-conscious, he looked around to find that he was still sitting behind his desk with an unfinished report. Duty first, so he decided to finish it before he started his day and had breakfast.
He began reading it to see where he had left off.
“On Christmas Eve, Zorro came to the mission to take one of the orphans for a ride.” – He stopped and thought “What a stupid idea for a present. The child would certainly be more pleased with the new set of toy soldiers.”
“When Zorro was leaving, padre Benitez stepped on my feet and delayed the chase, so I arrested him. It would have been a perfect opportunity to lure Zorro into a trap. Unfortunately, in the next few days, padre was sitting peacefully in my cell and Zorro was leaving another “z”s on the jail’s walls, but no one saw him. People started to whisper about the revolt. But on the fourth day, Zorro came in the middle of the siesta, walked undisturbed among the lancers and freed the padre. I myself was on patrol, so I couldn’t prevent it.”
Alcalde stopped reading again and added to himself “and then Zorro caught so many criminals that padre would not have fitted into the cell anyway. Damn Zorro. Today is December 31st. Another year has passed, Zorro is elusive, nobody appreciates my leadership. Beautiful Victoria won’t even look at me, she only has eyes for that outlaw. There will be a party in the tavern tonight, but no one has invited me. What an ungrateful, dusty pueblo.”
Out of the desk cupboard, he took a bottle of alcohol and a glass. With a sigh, he filled it up and raised a bitter toast to his favourite Machiavelli.
— Zorro —
Meanwhile, in the pueblo, only a few were already up. Mendoza entered the tavern long before the first patrons arrived. He looked with admiration at the last preparations and the decorations still spread on the tables, which were soon to be hung on the balustrades, walls and the chandelier. Victoria stood in the centre, crossing things off the preparation list. The soldier immediately noticed that she was exhausted. After all, for the last two days not only did she handle the regular clients but also cooked and baked treats for the party.
The tavern owner smiled at the sight of her favourite customer. “Buenos días, sergeant. What can I do for you?”
“Well, today the question is, what I can do for you, señorita. You work so hard, so I have something for you. I found a hot spring near the pueblo. No one knows about it. You should be refreshed and relaxed for tonight instead of tired and overworked. You know what the proverb says: “How the first day of New Year is, the same will be every day of New Year.””
“Oh, sergeant, it is so sweet of you. Thank you. But how can I go when I need to hang all of these?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll finish decorating while Alicia and Pilar will cover for you perfectly in the kitchen. You don’t want to enter the new year on your last legs, right? You deserve to have fun tonight more than anyone, señorita.”
Victoria felt tired, but in the end, it was Mendoza’s puppy eyes that convinced her. “You won. So where is this place?”
— Zorro —
Zorro was just coming back after another busy night. He wanted to fill the prison without de Soto having the idea of imprisoning Padre again. This time, however, he did not lead the Tornado straight to the cave. There were a few secret places in the de la Vegas lands that only he knew about. One of them was the hot spring where he was heading.
His muscles ached, so a relaxing hot bath was what he was dreaming of. He quickly got naked and folded his clothes a little higher on the rock. In his birthday suit, he went down to the gurgling pit. With a loud sigh of relief, he plunged into the perfectly warm water. After a few dives, he settled down in its favourite spot where the water was shallow. He put his hands under his head and stretched out. With eyes closed, he began summing up the passing year, with its victories, failures, dreams and anxieties. The morning sun was dazzling his eyes, so he closed them and focused with delight on the gentle waves flowing over his body. Soon he found himself in the arms of Morpheus.
— Zorro —
Mendoza explained the way to Victoria in detail. In fact, if she had passed this way hundreds of times, she never would have guessed that the rock did not end the road, but concealed the entrance to a small valley.
She walked the last part and led the horse by the bridle so as not to make a mistake. However, when she entered the valley, she stopped immediately. She saw the movement and the silhouette of a steed nearby. “Mendoza said no one knows about it…”
Curiosity got the better of her, so she tied her mare and began walking silently. As she approached, she instantly recognized Tornado. She stroked his snores. “Where is your master?”
The black stallion nodded as if he understood the question, and waved its head twice to the left. In fact, a little farther down there was a carefully folded pile of characteristic black clothes, and even lower …
Victoria stood frozen in place. Below, in the warm spring, her best friend was lying in all his glory and sleeping.
A lot of thoughts suddenly crossed her mind. Out of the general chaos, one finally broke through. “Zorro is Diego.”
She looked around. Tornado. Checked. Black clothes and the legendary sword. Checked. A moustache and male jawline. Checked. Few sword and gun’s scars on his torso. Definitely checked. He didn’t have to open his eyelids to confirm the blue of his eyes.
At first, she was angry, because he deceived her for so long. But it passed in a second when she understood why he did it, and all love for him, for both his sides, flooded her.
However … Escalante’s temper is as legendary as Zorro’s stunts. Or maybe not temper, but a little pixie inside her. After all these years he deserved small payback. And when she thought about his soooo proper behaviour during the trip to Santa Paula last year, there was only one prank she could think of.
When Victoria finished, she hid behind the bushes. And well … she was curious by nature, and their encounters were always so proper and quick, and they never had a chance for something more than a few kisses. So now she cherished her undisturbed gazing on his so well-muscled torso, which was visible clearly through the shallow water.
— Zorro —
Sometime later, Tornado probably got bored with waiting for his master. During the mission, he could be very patient, but today he just wanted to finish adventures and go home. Or he had other ideas. Who knows what the horse was thinking? Anyway, he took a little pebble in his teeth and threw it at Diego. He needed another three for the caballero to start waking up.
“Tornado, amigo, forgive me. It seems I took a nap and completely forgot about you. I’m getting dressed and we’re going home.”
Diego got up unrestrainedly and reached the rock where he had left his clothes. He stopped his hand halfway because they weren’t there. He glared at the steed. “Tornado, don’t play with me. What did you do with the clothes?”
The horse grinned and shook its head.
“But I can’t go home naked. Give me back my clothes!”
Diego put hands on his hips and continued glaring at his friend. So when he heard a woman’s laugh from behind a nearby bush, he panicked and quickly covered the lower part of the body with his palms.
Victoria got up and, holding his underwear on her extended index finger, asked playfully: “Are you looking for this, little fox?”
Poor Zorro was definitely caught. He didn’t know what everything meant. Was she angry or not? Would she give him his clothes or make him come back home with his bare ass? One thing was certain – she knew his secret.
“Victoria, I can explain. I am really sorry, I didn’t tell you earlier, but it was only for your safety. I have never intended to ride as Zorro for so long, but the alcalde was getting worse with my every deed and I can’t just sit and do nothing. Could you please give me the pants back, and then I’ll tell you everything?”
Victoria was giggling more and more with every sentence. His flustered face and the visibly uncomfortable position was her sweet revenge. She forgave him right away, but his distress was worth taunting him more.
“Preciosa, please, give me back my pants. I can’t return like this, please.”
“I’m equally sorry for you deceiving me. So if you want me to forgive you and have your pants again, you grant me one wish.”
“Whatever you say, mi Reina.”
“Wash my back.”
In the same time, she untied the ribbon on her blouse, revealing most of the cleavage. She heard a loud gulp on his side.
“Wash your back?”
As she was getting closer to him, losing more parts of her clothes on the way, Diego tried to protest, looking everywhere but at her.
“Victoria, be reasonable, it is improper to be in such a situation. Your reputation will be ruined, and it is the last thing I want for you. If someone comes here and sees us …”
“Only three people know about this hot spring and two of them are already here. And the third person is very busy in the pueblo till evening.”
When she finally brushed her lips against his, he looked at her.
“What are you afraid of, Diego?”
“Rejection.” He sounded honest, not giving her poor excuses.
“Do I look like I’m going to reject you?” She raised her brow.
“Absolutely and definitely not.” His panicked expression changed into a dashing and sure one. “You want a bath, you will have one.”
And with a sudden movement, he threw her into deep water and jumped after her.
— Zorro —
In the evening, almost all the inhabitants of the pueblo and the surrounding area were having fun in the tavern. The music was playing and couples were swirling on the dance floor. Tables were placed against the walls to make room. They were fully covered with delicious dishes and sweets prepared by Victoria and her helpers. Everything was organized splendidly, so the hostess was able to have fun and dance as well.
She invited Mendoza to one of the dances. “I think you needed a bath in this warm spring, señorita. You look blooming tonight. Truly radiant.”
“I don’t know how to thank you, Mendoza. You were right, I needed it. And I will keep going there from time to time, so if I see any soldier around …” She glared at him, so the sergeant understood her hidden threat.
“I know, I know, we will be all doomed to garrison rations forever. You can stay calm, only I know where it is, and I’ll never say a word.”
Victoria smiled gratefully again and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, amigo.”
The sergeant blushed but replied, “This is just a small token of appreciation for the best cook in all of California.”
Their dance was interrupted by a wave of laughter that spilt all over the tavern. The crowd parted in front of Zorro. Or rather, in front of a man in a black cloak over a crumpled uniform, with a lopsided mask on his face and the characteristic white goatee. His stripped sword served him more to stabilize his unsteady gait. Nobody doubted who was beyond the mask.
De Soto walked over to where Victoria and Mendoza had stopped their dance. “How could you kiss the stupid sergeant when you love me? Kiss me, your Zorro!”
The tavern owner grimaced with disgust. “Better go back to bed and sober up.”
Diego came to help. He stood next to Victoria and began explaining to the drunk. “Dear Zorro, Victoria could kiss on cheek her friends, it is absolutely normal. Look.” He leaned in and Victoria gave him a peck as a silent thanks for saving her.
“You see? And Mendoza is her friend too, so you don’t have a reason to be jealous. But you can’t expect that she will kiss you for real in public, can you?”
Such complicated reasoning was apparently too much for a fogged mind. Diego turned to the sergeant and with a wink, he proposed, “Zorro must be arrested. Don’t you think it should be you who catches him and escorts him to the cell?”
When Mendoza escorted his superior to jail but left him in front of the overcrowded cells, the fun in the tavern was resumed. Patrons were still laughing at de Soto’s drunken state.
Diego asked Victoria for the penultimate dance before midnight. Whirling on the dance floor, he directed them towards the kitchen. Unnoticed, they sneaked behind the tavern through the back exit.
In the darkness, tightly embraced, they kissed passionately until the clock struck midnight. Loud toasts and wishes were heard from the inside.
The lovers looked at each other in the eye.
“Feliz Año Nuevo, mi Victoria.”
“Feliz Año Nuevo, mi Diego.”
— Zorro —
In a loving embrace, they didn’t pay attention to anything else. So they did not notice that someone was watching them. Someone in military uniform.
“Hihi, this time it’s me who outfoxed the Fox. Feliz Año Nuevo, amigos.”
Happy Mendoza turned around and returned to the tavern. When he caught Zorro in a hot spring half a year ago and recognized young de la Vega, he was still trying to connect them. Only now he had the first opportunity. He rightly assumed that Zorro was tired from the last activities and probably went to the hot spring. Finally, the sergeant could risk sending Victoria to this place without raising suspicions.
“A really good start of the new year.”