Alternate Ending, A 'Real' Marriage: Day Six

by Linda Bindner

Diego spent the day editing articles for The Guardian, but in reality he was getting more and more nervous by the hour. The fact that Alejandro had reminded him that he only had one day left - today - hadn't helped any. Even less help had proven to be the jailbreak that happened in the early evening; now Diego had nothing to look forward to but tracking the escaped criminal, Lopez, for the night's adventures. As he had already tracked criminals who had broken out of the jail, and as he had already tracked Lopez, he was getting a bit irritated at the Alcalde for making it so easy to break out of prison.

As it turned out, Diego did spend all night as Zorro tracking Lopez, who, in the end, wasn't very smart as he had built a fire to warm himself in the early Spring air, and had unwittingly led Zorro right to him with the light while he slept. The capture was easy from that point on; Zorro poked Lopez in the back with the end of his sword to wake him, and led him to Los Angeles tied to his horse, ready to stand trial for petty theft and pick pocketing. It hardly seemed worth breaking out of jail for, but then he'd led his chief tracker on a merry chase that lasted all night, leaving Diego tired, hungry, cold, and sore, even though the eventual capture had been simple.

Except today was the day of Alejandro's 'deal,' and Diego couldn't help ruminating the subject to death the second he reached the cave and safety, but he still saw no solution to his predicament in his tired mind. The fact that Alejandro had grabbed a book and was reading in the library, thus preventing him from escaping the cave to his bed the easy way through the library fireplace, made his mood even more sour. Diego turned and walked in an exhausted haze out of Toronado's larger entrance and around to the front of the hacienda, noticing that the carriage was out and waiting for something, all the while thinking on what excuse he could offer for his seemingly early rousal. Grooming the horses in the stable was appropriate, but he had only passed Major hooked up to the carriage, still dreaming of his bed, when Alejandro suddenly opened the front door, apparently to greet him.

Only Alejandro didn't bother to greet him at all. Okay, Son, let's get going. He walked over to the carriage in unmistakable haste.

Diego stopped abruptly, confused in his exhaustion. Go where? he asked.

To town. To the mission, Alejandro explained, now irritated himself if Diego could judge by his rising voice.

Diego was really confused now. What for? Is it a special holy day? He searched his memory for any mention of a day of special observation, but he wasn't even sure he knew what day it was.

For your marriage to Teresa, Alejandro said, clearly irritated now. You're beyond hope. But come on, Diego, we shouldn't keep a lady waiting. He grabbed Diego by the upper arm and propelled him into the carriage.

Diego had no trouble staying awake any longer. What? Now, wait a moment, Father.

Alejandro was insistent. I've given you five years and one week. You knew if you hadn't chosen a wife for yourself by now, there would be an arranged marriage with Teresa. Paco, the chief stable hand and driver, arrived and climbed into the front. Drive on, Paco, Alejandro ordered, and practically pulled Diego to sit across from him as the carriage jolted forward.

Thoughts of Victoria immediately barraged Diego's mind. He just couldn't get married! Wait a moment, please, Diego begged.

No. And no more of your excuses. Alejandro suddenly grew curious. Where were you this morning, anyway? I was waiting for you to wake up.

Diego fumbled for the excuse that he had prepared. Uh... I was out grooming the horses. he said, attempting to distract his father from his purpose in going to town. But what's the rush?

Alejandro was undistractable. Rush? he repeated loudly. There's been no rush. I've waited for almost five years. I want grandchildren, Diego, and if this is the only way I'm going to get them, then this is what I will do.

Desperate, Diego tried again. Father, please, I...

But Alejandro cut him short. No! he said, finally getting angry. None of your excuses. Not this time! Now, you're getting married, Diego, even if it's the last thing you want, or... He paused, but forced himself to continue, or you can leave the hacienda today. It's your choice...

Except there was no choice. Diego felt his stomach role at the thought of such a choice, and he spent the rest of the way to Los Angeles concentrating on not throwing up as Paco seemed intent on hitting every pothole in the road, bouncing the carriage unmercifully. Diego was in no shape to protest, and they were inside the mission before he had regained any amount of strength.

The wedding ceremony was all prepared. The Martinezes were already there, Teresa looking properly nervous in the long, tight, fashionable, white wedding dress she was wearing for the occasion, and even though it was early morning, appeared wide awake and ready to fulfill her father's wishes. She smiled at Diego, invitingly, though she appeared not to be a blushing bride at all, as she didn't blush and didn't seem even remotely shy. Why would she, as she was getting the business deal she had anticipated? Don Alejandro and Don Jose were prepared to act as the necessary witnesses, and Padre Benitez had his bible already opened to the appropriate page, waiting for the groom to take his place beside the altar, when Diego finally realized that he had to say something or commit suicide, and that was not ever an option he had considered.

Padre Benitez was already softly intoning the Latin call to marriage before Diego could yell Wait!

Alejandro looked angrier than his tone indicated. In a smooth, overly polite voice, he asked through tightly drawn lips, What is it, Diego?

Diego's voice was much calmer, though he insisted, I can't get married. He was coherent enough not to say 'right now,' as both Alejandro and Teresa could misconstrue his words to mean he could get married at a later date, when that wasn't what he had in mind at all.

The anger leaped through Alejandro, but he attempted to control it for the other parties' sakes. Unfortunately, such concentration left his lips even more drawn and thin. Do you mind telling us why that is, Diego?

Diego hesitated. He would have to tell his father everything, unless he wanted to give up his dream of Victoria and marry Teresa here and now. That wasn't an option he wanted to consider. Can I have a word with you, Father, in private? he muttered, then motioned for Alejandro to follow him.

Clearly bewildered, and also clearly still angry, Alejandro rose quickly enough to accompany his son out the back door of the mission.

What is the problem, Son? Alejandro asked, not so angry that he didn't notice Diego's obvious agitation.

In a moment, Diego promised in a low voice, looking furtively around, heading for the swinging sign bearing the name of the pueblo and out to the open land beyond.

When they had walked for five minutes, and Diego was satisfied that there weren't any eavesdroppers listening from around the pile of large rocks they'd chosen to halt beside, Alejandro leaned against a convenient boulder and crossed his arms. All right, out with it. What's your excuse this time? Now he sounded more tired than angry.

Diego heard the sound in his father's voice, and tried to be quick in his confession. Without any prevarication or excuses on his part, he blurted, I love only Victoria and I'm the outlaw known as Zorro.

Alejandro pushed himself from the rock, his mouth hanging open as he slowly uncrossed his arms. What? His voice was deceptively soft, as if he'd just received a blow that he was least expecting.

Diego hung his head, his hair swinging across his forehead in the breeze, and repeated his statement.

Alejandro fell back helplessly against the rock, and any spoken reaction was swallowed up by his cold surprise.

Diego reached out his hand. I know this comes as a shock to you. I've put you in the greatest danger just by telling you, but this 'deal' leaves me no choice. He sighed. Now do you know why I can't possibly get married today?

Dazed by the news and suddenness of the disclosure, Alejandro said, No, of course you can't.

Relief poured over Diego. I'm glad you think so. I was worried that you would be stubborn about this. He smiled, though the gesture was a bit wan.

No, of course I'm not, Alejandro insisted, still a little dazed.

Diego scratched his eyebrow, looking at his parent in some concern. You can't tell a living soul what you know, he warned. The danger of hanging is still very prevalent.

Alejandro nodded. Of course, of course. I won't tell anyone. Suddenly, the haze seemed to lift, and Alejandro smiled, the endearment slow and creeping across his face. To think, my son is Zorro!

Father, please, Diego said, embarrassed but accepting of the prideful look, anyway.

Alejandro was pushing himself away from the boulder, losing the prideful expression to be replaced by a look of apology and dismay. Then, Son, this 'deal'... I've made your life...

Diego raised his eyebrows in comprehension. Hopeless? he finished, interrupting his father's atonement.

Alejandro truly appeared regretful now. That was never my intention... Not the point I wanted to make at all... I only wanted grandchildren... His voice faded away.

Diego wanted to feel anger, but the sense of forgiveness was much stronger in his heart. He sighed, trying hard for animosity and getting compassion instead. You have to understand; I love Victoria so much...

Victoria? Alejandro interjected, remembering with a sudden flash of insight who he was talking to. Then a marriage to Teresa, to anybody...

Was unthinkable, admitted Diego, and a great weight that he'd felt all week lifted from his mind with the confirmation. Unbearable, incomprehensible... impossible, he ended on a sad note of admittance.

Then the reality of the situation struck Alejandro. He began to speak, slowly. If you love Victoria, and you're really the masked legend, then...

Father, Diego finished, somewhat regretfully. she doesn't know.

She doesn't know? Alejandro repeated incredulously. Diego shook his head. In all these years, you haven't told her? Diego shook his head again, reluctant now that the subject close to his heart was being addressed. Dios, whispered Alejandro. I thought sure...

No. The danger to her is too great. I couldn't force myself to tell her about... Diego's head again hung down, and his voice, what had started out so strong and confident, now became hesitant and sad.

Alejandro looked at his son, his capable son, he reminded himself, feeling the consternation mixed in with something like pride. But, Diego, what are we going to do?

Diego was bewildered even as he was sad. He held out his hands, palms up. About what?

About your problem, Alejandro insisted. About my problem. About grandchildren!

Diego smiled in amusement. He couldn't help himself. Oh, that.

Yes, that, Alejandro repeated, irritated despite what he had just learned.

Diego studied his father's features. Is it really that important to you? They had never actually discussed Alejandro's desire for grandchildren before.

Alejandro blustered, a little embarrassed. Well, yes, I suppose so. He stopped and regarded his son. You may have a price on your head, but I'm not getting any younger! he exclaimed, now thinking of an unexpected marriage between his son and Victoria.

Well, I... began Diego, when he was interrupted.

Alejandro snapped his fingers. I've got it!

Diego felt really nervous now. His father had that familiar gleam in his eye that meant he planned to do something either foolhardy, dangerous, or both. Got what?

An idea, Alejandro explained. Excited, he could barely contain his waving arms as he spoke. Listen, you want to marry Victoria, right? he asked.

Diego shrugged, appearing nonchalant, though his heart flipped over at the mention of the culmination of a frequent dream. Eventually, yes, that's the plan.

Alejandro continued without missing a beat, And I want grandchildren before I die...

Diego rolled his eyes. Father, you're not going to...

I know, Alejandro also interrupted. At least, not until... Or, at least, I hope not until you have... But the subject of having children proved to be too delicate for the conservative caballero. Still, he attempted to explain, What I mean is, we have the perfect excuse to convince Victoria that a marriage is necessary to...

Father... Diego warned.

But Alejandro ignored him. Hear me out, Diego. What we have here could potentially be a gold mine worth of reasons... if you're willing to explain the same thing to Victoria that you did to me.

Diego looked exasperated. Father, please, I can't...

But you can, Alejandro asserted.

Diego decided to admit everything then, and in a beseeching tone, whispered, But I'm afraid.

Alejandro wasn't so quiet. Afraid? Of what?

That she'll abhor me, Diego admitted, and to the doubting expression on his father's face, explained further, I've lied to her for years.

She'll understand, Alejandro insisted, though in extreme irritation with his son. He tried to be more patient. What worries you the most, Son?

That she'll never agree to anything as long as I'm involved, Diego persisted. After all, the person you've known as Diego is very different than... the outlaw, he said, reluctant to speak the name that could in any way link himself to Zorro. Old habits died hard, he realized.

Alejandro only eyed his son. You should tell her anyway.

Desperate again, Diego said, I'm afraid she'll stop loving me, and I can never live with that.

Alejandro was not sympathetic. Love is forever, he argued.

Yes, but...

Stop making excuses, Alejandro said then, fully exasperated. Just tell her. Not knowing is much worse. I can attest to that!

Knowing may get her killed, Diego warned.

Not knowing may get her killed, too! Alejandro predicted.

Diego's head hung low. I know. And that idea terrifies me, he admitted, his hands on his head, his fingers laced through his hair.

Alejandro was slowly comprehending how much of a burden his son had carried alone for so many years. It made him depressed just thinking about it, but it also forced him to renew his entreaties. I'm sorry to hear that. But don't you think she should die knowing who she might be dying for?

Diego snorted. I'd rather she not die at all!

Diego, Alejandro gently urged, you have to tell her. She deserves that you tell her.

Diego sighed. I know, he whispered, but his answer was carried away by the wind.

Come on, Alejandro entreated with a hand on Diego's shoulder, gentle yet compelling him forward. Let's solve both of our problems. I'll tell the Martinezes everything... not who you are, he rushed to say, but that you plan to get married...

We do, announced Diego suddenly, still feeling sad, even with his father's hand still on his shoulder.

This news obviously stunned Alejandro. He brought them to a complete halt. You're what?

Planning to marry. Engaged, Diego explained quietly.

Alejandro was silent for a moment as he digested this news. You are?

Yes. Seņor Zorro... asked her to marry him months ago, and as I'm... Again, Diego couldn't finish the explanation.

Alejandro was too surprised by this divulgence to act anything but delighted. You are? he asked once more. You're engaged? He smiled. Why haven't I heard of this before now?

Diego heaved yet another sigh. We haven't told anyone, couldn't tell anyone. Do you realize how that knowledge could be used against..? Perhaps the spontaneous proposal had not been such a good idea.

Alejandro spluttered, Well yes, but engaged! The last he said in amazement. His son had found the courage to propose marriage? See, a marriage should not be any problem now!

Victoria hasn't agreed to anything, Diego warned. You're assuming an awful lot.

I am, agreed Alejandro, But I know Victoria; she'll agree, when you tell her.

Father... Diego protested, feeling the same old reluctance he'd always felt.

But Diego's protest was useless. And in another year or so, we should have grandchildren in the hacienda. Both our wishes will be granted in one fell swoop.

Diego could hardly resist the persuasion in his father's voice, but resist he did. I haven't said a word to her yet...

But you will, Alejandro predicted. Now, as soon as you can get to the tavern.

As if it heard his father speak, Diego's stomach growled very audibly. Even as Diego's empty stomach protested, he felt his will cave in, felt himself soften.

Where else can you get a descent breakfast? Alejandro continued in the same tone.

Diego may be softening to his father's persuasion, but he still rolled his eyes even as he helplessly followed Alejandro back in the direction of Los Angeles. Where else, indeed? he mumbled, powerless to control the ball of his life now that it had been set in motion. In fact, the pueblo was coming into sight and growing by the second.

They had reached the mission before Diego knew it. Alejandro spoke, keeping his voice low. Don't worry, Son, I'll speak to the Martinezes and to the padre... I have everything under control.

That's what worries me, quipped Diego, but he made his way across the plaza to the tavern, avoiding the chickens set loose to roam in the dust. The lure of a free breakfast was almost too tempting to his growling stomach. The mighty Zorro, felled by free food, he thought sardonically as he climbed to the porch, thinking about the dejection that Teresa was probably too realistic to feel and the love he automatically experienced every time he saw Victoria, and entered the establishment.

Victoria greeted him instantly from her usual place behind the green counter. Don Diego, you're in here early. What can I do for you?

That was a loaded question, given the circumstances. Despite his thoughts, Diego's heart swelled. He couldn't help himself; he was becoming such a softie where she was concerned, he thought ruefully, and shook his head. Diego knew she was talking about breakfast, but he intentionally leaned on the countertop first. There was no time like the present. His heart full of love, and fear, and his father's words ringing in his mind, he asked, Breakfast, please, though I wondered if I could speak to you before you get it?

The request surprised Victoria, but she agreed. Certainly, Diego. Anything for my best friend in the world.

He gave a grimace at her smile and wondered how long such cheerfulness would last. You're rather chipper this morning, he commented.

Victoria continued to grin. The sun is out, it won't be too hot today, and Mendoza just told me that the Alcalde plans to go out of town next week.

That is good new, Diego enthused honestly. Perhaps now so many criminals might not escape from jail.

She smiled again. There's a lot to be happy about.

Diego grew grave. You might change your mind when you hear what I have to say, he predicted, his voice soft and his attention turned inward.

Questioning, Victoria's eyebrows met together.

Diego straightened, now being purposefully vague. Can I just speak to you a moment, Victoria, please? I have... something to tell you, he finally settled on.

She looked even more puzzled, but agreeable. All right. We can talk in my kitchen. She moved hesitantly out from behind the bar, then preceded him through the curtains and into the warmer room. Food smells instantly assailed them, and Diego's stomach growled just as quickly.

Victoria whirled at the sound. Are you certain I can't get you something, Diego?

In a moment, said Diego, taking her hands in is and rubbing their warmth.

Victoria continued to stare at him in perplexity. He's never touched me so much before, with such... tenderness, she decided. Wondering what he could possibly have to tell her that would leave him looking so serious, Victoria sank down onto a convenient bench shoved against the kitchen wall and tugged him down with her. It's all right, she encouraged. You can tell me anything. And you don't have to worry about interruptions... I'm the only one working today.

He was glad to hear it, but her first comment made him bark a short laugh. I'm not sure you'll want to hear this.

Concerned now, she could only ask, What is it?

Diego inhaled a deep breath of the aromatic air, then smiled as he enfolded her hands with his own. He looked at her. Her own dark gaze stared back. Victoria, we've always been good friends, haven't we?

This was odd. Suddenly nervous, a chill snaked up Victoria's spine. Yes, was all she could say, and that she said in a whisper. The noise of the breakfast crowd, small though it was, peeled much louder than her voice in the kitchen.

Diego continued to rub her hands, though he hung his head so low that she could no longer see anything clearly but his hair. He looked much more vulnerable that way, much more haunted. Victoria, he said to the floor. I'm going to tell you a few things, then ask something of huge importance, but you shouldn't feel pressured in any way to say that you agree to it. He lifted his head and turned those haunted eyes on her. I don't think I could stand it if you feel coerced.

Victoria's brows drew down again as she frowned. What happened? she asked, sounding curious, now, and slightly frightened.

Diego took a deep breath, then just plunged on. I want you to know that I'm the outlaw, Zorro, and also that I want to marry you, for real this time. Today, if possible.

Predictably, Victoria was highly indignant. She jumped up in spite of the fact that he had a tight hold on her hands. What?

Why did no one ever believe him? Had he acted that well over the years? Diego heaved another sigh, then quietly repeated what he'd said. It wouldn't do to be overheard now.

Victoria sank down beside him once more, stunned. That's what I thought you said.

Swiftly, Diego cautioned, Don't say anything yet. You should know all the circumstances before you make any reply.

Dazed, she nodded once, and Diego commenced to tell her his story, starting with the inception of Zorro and ending it with the events of the previous week. She listened, unusually quiet.

That's it, Diego said when he was done, still hushed, though he'd often shown his anger as he spoke. He couldn't mask it completely. Now you know everything. Victoria remained mute until Diego finally said, Victoria? What are you thinking?

Slowly, as if she had suffered a severe illness to her throat, Victoria said, I knew there had to be a reason why I didn't like Teresa Martinez. Now I know why. She was my competition.

You should never think like that, Diego was quick to refute. She was never competition for anybody, especially not for you. How could she be? No one can compare to you.

Briefly, Victoria smiled. That's... that's very nice of you to say, Diego.

She thought he was giving her a compliment when all he meant to do was tell her the truth.

He was about to say so, but she cut him off. You telling me this... this story explains a great deal.

It was his brows that were puckered now. How so?

The watching, the looking after me, the daily visits, the hastily covered affection... Oh, don't think I didn't notice. Any woman would. Diego remained quiet this time, not knowing what to say. But it also explains why you were never around when... Her voice broke, but she cleared her throat and forced herself to continue. ... when Zorro was here.

That confession made him say, I wanted to tell you, Victoria. I wanted to so badly! But I was afraid that you... that you wouldn't like me anymore. His own voice broke on his divulgence. I don't think I could have born that. I don't think I can bear it now.

She turned towards him on the bench. Then why are you telling me at all? Why not just let things go on as they always have? she asked slowly.

A silent moment went by before he said anything. Because I promised my father I'd tell you at last, because he's waiting to hear what you have to say, because you have the largest right to know, though this puts you in serious danger, and most importantly, because I love you, and have always loved you.

Still too surprised by his admissions to move or speak much, Victoria just sat, seemingly frozen to the bench. Yet she managed to hold on to those three words. You love me?

Diego could do nothing but nod.

Victoria looked at him, then looked away, then back at him again, too jumpy to settle on one thing. An arranged marriage? she asked, to be sure.

Diego nodded bleakly, miserable at the thought. Yes. Though I had no intention of ever going through with it, he promised, then smiled wryly. Promises were a big thing with him.

Victoria missed his ironic smile. She sat on the bench and just stared.

Her inaction was beginning to unnerve him. She was typically such an active woman, such a fighter, that this silence was frightening. Perhaps he shouldn't have explained the whole story all at once? Victoria? Are you all right? he finally asked.

Victoria nodded almost out of habit, looked away again, thought for a moment, then without a word of warning, threw herself at him.

He caught her in strong arms, but was surprised by her seeming acceptance of everything. Sh! It's all right. You don't have to say anything if you don't want to.

Her arms grew tighter around his middle. Are you kidding? Of course I want to say something, anything. Dios, I've been looking for you for so long that I'd almost given up.

Sh! Diego soothed.

Now Victoria was crying, her broken sobs coming to his ears from somewhere over his shoulders. She clung to him and cried in relief, her tears mixing with his sounds that were meant to soothe. There was a great need in him that he didn't understand that commanded him to comfort a crying woman. So he made the hushing sounds, even though he knew it would have little effect, and Victoria continued to make soft crying sounds that carried to him easily enough, though he doubted anyone else in the tavern was aware of what was going on in the kitchen.

Then, not even knowing or caring how she got there, Victoria was sitting on Diego's leg, her face only inches from his as she stared. She looked as if she had never seen him before. Her fingers reached up to trace his high forehead, his ears, his cheeks, everything that was typically covered by the mask. Her face held an expression of discovery. I'm sorry, Diego, she whispered. It's just that, half the time, I didn't know it was you, and the other half I rarely looked. I saw, but didn't know what I was looking at.

I didn't want you to know, he said by way of absolution. Victoria's look of wonder dissolved into a huge smile, and she embraced him again. Diego reveled in the closeness they were sharing, in the unanticipated feel of her in his arms, the smell of her hair and skin. However, as nice as it was to feel her in his arms, he had to ask her one more thing. There is something else I have to know, he said by way of introduction.

Victoria leaned back and looked at him. You're going to ask if I can not react to you in such a manner, if it's possible not to look like I've found something I've been searching years for?

He glanced at her in surprise even as he knew he was beginning to react to her closeness. How did you know? he asked breathlessly.

Victoria smiled. I could say that it's woman's intuition, but I would be lying.

Diego laughed. We've had enough of that.

Victoria shook her head. It just makes sense. I can't appear too happy, to keep away suspicion, and for that same reason you haven't told me the entire story. I suggest you start over, and this time, don't leave anything out.

Diego gazed at her, unblinking, and asked, How did I get someone as smart as you?

She smiled again. Luck. Now start talking.

Diego chuckled, and said, I would love to tell you everything, though what you don't know acts as a protection for you, but I've been in here long enough; I'll tell you later. However, I really do have to know what your answer is; what should I tell my father?

Need you even ask? she chided, still speaking softly. Yes.

Diego held her out so that he could see her. You'll marry me?

Victoria's answer wafted like a sigh to his ear. Yes.

Today?

Yes. She touched her forehead to his. I think we have some babies to make.

* * *

Diego slid calmly onto the bench across the table from his father, noticing the smells from Victoria's kitchen wafting even as far as the main room of the tavern. It was amazing that he noticed anything, however, after the kiss Victoria had just given him to seal their 'arrangement.'

Well? prodded Alejandro, unable to contain his curiosity.

Still remembering, Diego seemed to wilt right into the table top. She said yes.

Alejandro smacked the table and then laughed and rubbed his hands together in glee. The noise he was making caused quite a few customers to stare at them in abject curiosity.

Alejandro smiled. When is the happy moment?

Diego wished he could calm down his exuberant parent, but he understood only too well what his father must be feeling. Today. At noon, replied Diego, and at Alejandro's surprised look, explained, We thought we'd better stick to the original... uh, 'deal.'

Alejandro comprehended perfectly. I'm glad things have worked out so well, but I want you to know that if it weren't for me, you would never have been pushed to bring up this subject.

Diego was so tired and hungry by then that he just said, Oh, shut up, Father.

Alejandro simply laughed.

* * *

So at noon, in a small ceremony, with Padre Benitez officiating and Alejandro acting as the only witness, Diego and Victoria were quietly married without any fanfare, coercion, or fuss. The kiss at the end would have made an innocent man wonder about the couple, but Padre Benitez, who was always the recipient of anyone's Confessions, was fully aware of who he had just married, and only looked at Alejandro, winked, and smiled.


Back to [Zorro Stories]. Send comments to linda.bindner@gmail.com.

This page has been accessed 1888 times since 2005 Jul 30.