Title: Shattered Dreams

Rated : PG

Synopsis: Zorro takes Victoria for a midnight ride and secrets are revealed while her blood is spilled.

Misc Notes: This story takes place a few months after the series finale 'A Conspiracy of Blood'

Written: 8/05

Disclaimer: This story was written solely for the enjoyment of other Zorro fans and is not intended to infringe on any copyrights held by Goodman/Rosen Productions, New World Television, Zorro Productions, the estate of Johnston McCulley or anyone else.

Additional Note: The original posted version of this story has changed, and as such, every chapter has some changes to it that may or may not impact those who read the original version.

Shattered Dreams

"Zorro!" Victoria's excited exclamation was but a whispered one as he stepped from behind her curtain and regarded her with a wide smile.

"Is there something wrong?" She had closed the tavern and was just finishing her duties for the evening before going to bed.

"Must there be something wrong for a man to come visit the woman he loves?" He asked with a wink before gathering her into his arms.

"Of course not, but in your case . . ."

He silenced her with a kiss that caused her to whimper with excited delight.

"I've come to spirit you away for a midnight ride." He drew away from her with a reluctant sigh. "Can you get away?"

Victoria glanced around the kitchen and regarded him with an amused smile. "I think my employer will give me a few hours to myself."

Zorro laughed at her joke and bent to press a kiss to the corner of her mouth. "Then come, mí bonita, I have something to show you."

She giggled happily as he took her hand and led her out the back door. Once settled comfortably in his arms, he turned Toronado and trotted out of the pueblo. Distracted by the feel of his lady's intimate closeness, the masked man didn't notice the lone figure urging his horse to follow.

"It's so dark!" Victoria called over the wind as she glanced up at the star-filled sky.

Zorro's arms tightened around her as Toronado trotted at a comfortable pace toward a large, looming hillside.

"This is the best time to see the Aurora Borealis." Zorro resisted the temptation to drop his lips to her exposed neck. Instead, he tightened his arms around her waist as they neared the small pathway they would take up the hillside.

"What is that?" She craned her neck and he sighed, unable to resist the innocent invitation.

He pressed his mouth to hers for the briefest of kisses and whispered against her lips, "The most beautiful light show you have ever seen."

Zorro brushed her cheek with his own and Victoria trembled at the feel of the smooth silk against her face. She sighed happily while he guided Toronado up the slowly inclining hill.

When they came to a stop at the top of the hill, Victoria's breath caught. They could look down on the huge valley below them and Victoria had no doubt by daylight they would be able to see all the way to the ocean.

Zorro slid from behind her and helped her from the saddle. He held her a few moments longer than was really needed and gazed down into her bright eyes. "I've been wanting to do this for weeks."

She tilted her head up and smiled invitingly at him. He accepted her unspoken invitation and brushed his lips across hers in a gentle kiss before releasing her to gather the items he'd brought for their evening from Toronado's saddlebag.

Once settled onto the blanket they watched the sky turn different shades of pink and yellow. Falling stars raced across the sky and Victoria sighed at the spectral beauty displayed before her eyes.

"From this elevation, everything seems so much clearer, brighter, more visible." Zorro gathered her into his arms and leaned back against an overturned tree. "The Aurora Borealis was named for the Roman goddess of dawn."

"My mother always told me it was a fire burning far away that caused the sky to glow." Victoria snuggled against him, reveling in the feel of his solid chest behind her.

"I thought for many years that the lights were the images of celestial warriors locked in immortal combat with swords made of fire." He chuckled, recalling the stories he was told as a child. "And then I learned the truth. My childhood image was shattered."

Victoria smiled and added, "But my father would tell me it was the spirits of our dead ancestors come to visit." She snuggled against him. "I've never seen the lights so clear, so bright, before." She was mesmerized by the beautiful aurora of color displayed in the sky overhead.

And Zorro was mesmerized by the beautiful woman lying in his arms. He slowly brushed the hair off her nape of her neck and dropped a kiss to the smooth skin, causing her to tremble from the intimate touch.

"How did you know to come up here?" Victoria asked.

"I know a great many things about the sciences, Querida." He grinned against her neck. "I come up here quite often."

Victoria tore her eyes away from the sky and searched his face in the darkness. Why did such an admission surprise, yet not surprise her? She already knew he was an educated man. The way he spoke, the way he carried himself, his honor and unwillingness to compromise her virtue, were all clues to his identity that she had never really examined too closely. There's weren't many people in the pueblo so well educated in the sciences.

She moved to her knees so that she could flatten her hands against his cheek. Her fingers traced the outline of his jaw before brushing across his lips. She was speechless for probably the first time since meeting the masked man to whom she'd given her heart. "I -"

"What is it?" He was clearly perplexed by her sudden behavior.

She shook her head to clear the wild, unbelievable thoughts and settled her back against his shoulder once again. No. It can't be. I would know. She drew his arms around her waist and burrowed with a heavy sigh against his chest. But still, that familiar feeling nagged at the back of her mind, disturbing her pleasant thoughts.

"I know someone else who would probably love to see this," she said after a few moments of silence. Was she ready to test her theory? Did she really want to know?

"Oh? Who might that be?" Zorro's lips dropped to her ear and kissed the flesh lightly, sending a tremor down her spine.

"Diego de la Vega."

She could feel him tense slightly at the mention of Diego's name and her breathing quickened. Dios. But she could feel his lips curl into a small smile as he nuzzled her neck.


"He knows a lot about the sciences, too. You would probably understand each other well." She hoped he couldn't hear her voice shaking.

Zorro swallowed hard, trying to think of a suitable response. If there were ever a time to tell her, it was now. While they were alone, in the middle of the night, far away from the pueblo or anyone who could overhear her anticipated angry tirade over his deception. But, as usual, he couldn't bring himself to say the words. He couldn't risk losing her. The great legendary Zorro was afraid – afraid of her rejection. As Zorro he had her love. As the real man behind the mask, he had only her friendship.

"Perhaps," was all he could bring himself to say in response.

Victoria turned her head sharply as he nuzzled her neck. When she once again pushed herself to her knees in front of him, he couldn't meet her eyes. She flattened her hands along his cheeks and drew his gaze to hers.

"I think you would." For the first time, she searched his eyes for some recognizable sign. Why couldn't she remember what Diego's eyes looked like? Weren't they blue? The same color blue?

He knew she was expecting him to speak. He struggled for the right words. "Very rare in the colonies to find another with such interests. Most similarly educated men live in Europe." He kept his tone light but inwardly winced when he realized that he'd just inadvertently given her another clue. It was rare to find two men in the same pueblo with such interests in the sciences. Are you sure you don't want her to know?

"Yes, very rare." She was watching him intently now, as if she were an eagle hunting for unsuspecting prey.

She could see the nervous reflection in his clear blue gaze. Why had she never noticed before? It wasn't often, but she had seen that very same look elsewhere; in the eyes of the true man behind Zorro's mask.

She inhaled sharply as the full realization of his identity swept over her. Immense relief mixed with just a little shock at being deceived for so long, flooded her small frame as she slid her arms around his neck and kissed him with a newfound, almost unbelievable, knowledge.

Any shred of doubt was completely driven from her mind as he whispered her name with desire and reverence against her lips.

Diego had said her name many times, but Zorro used endearments. And it was her friend's unmistakable passion-filled voice that she clearly heard now. Her mind reeled. She now knew the identity of the man behind the mask! Finally! After so long! Why did she feel a sudden, un-retrievable loss? The hero with whom she had fallen in love was simply a man now. But a man that unmistakably loved her as much as she loved him.

A myriad of questions melted from her mind as his lips clung to hers, hungrily drawing the very air from her lungs.

He leaned back against the fallen log and drew her more deeply into his arms. He groaned against her lips as his hands slid around her soft curves, gently caressing her.

Passion and desire drove him, but his honor and sense of propriety governed any further action he might take. "Victoria," he breathed raggedly against her lips. "We mustn't . . ." He reluctantly pulled his lips away from her delectable mouth. "Not here. Not like this."

Her eyes flashed with sadness and a bit of anger. "Then when? How long must we wait?" She trailed her fingertips along the edge of his mask. "You asked me to marry you. That was over a year ago. When will we be able to have a life together? I want children. " She kissed him gently and flattened one hand against his chest. "I want your children." And to her great surprise, she absolutely knew she wanted them with the real man, not the legend.

"Ah, Querida." He took her hand and brought it to his lips while he placed his other hand on her stomach. "You have no idea how I long to see you grow big with our child."

His heartfelt admission caused any lingering anger to vanish and she embraced him tightly, willing away the tears that threatened to slip from misty eyes.

"Soon, I swear to you." Zorro whispered, his voice laced with determination. "Dios, I love you so much. I owe you everything for waiting for me. For putting on hold everything a woman your age should be doing."

"I want those things with you. Only you." Without another word, she kissed him. Slowly at first, but as he began to respond, she slid her arms around his neck and held him tightly. She delighted in the feel of his hands caressing her back and they were completely lost in one another's embrace. So lost, that they didn't notice the flint flicker until the pistol cocked behind them.

Zorro scrambled to his feet, pushing Victoria behind him as the pistol leveled at his chest.

"How sweetly romantic," de Soto sneered. "I'm sorry to inform you, Señorita, that I will be shattering that dream of yours tonight."

De Soto's finger squeezed the trigger but Victoria would not let the alcalde take the man she loved from her so easily. She pushed with all of her might against Zorro's back but at the same time his shrill whistle called for Toronado.

The pistol shook and discharged, as the black beast reared close to the alcalde, showering the area with white smoke. Victoria screamed as the force of such a close shot propelled backwards.

"Victoria! No!" Zorro caught her as she instantly collapsed, blood spreading a bright red stain across her chest.

De Soto's eyes widened and Zorro acted quickly. His quick right hook had the alcalde instantly sprawled on the ground and the masked man quickly lifted Victoria into his arms and mounted his now very agitated stallion.

The alcalde gaped for a moment at Zorro's back, realizing with a slight pang of regret that it was once again Victoria that had taken a wound for her masked love. Well it was her own fault for involving herself in the life of a dangerous criminal.

De Soto pushed himself to his feet with a grunt and mounted his own stallion, determined to catch and eliminate his masked enemy once and for all.

Her moans and whimpers of pain ripped at his heart. He knew the wound was bad. Her breathing was shallow, and he could feel her heartbeat thud sharply, erratically against his own body. He slowed Toronado to a trot and maneuvered him toward a cave that would keep them hidden. They were too far from the pueblo, too far for him to make a run for the doctor, or even the de la Vega hacienda. He couldn't risk the wound going untreated for the time it would take to reach any of those places. Zorro would need to tend to her wound himself.

She slumped heavily against him and he was grateful for the mask; for it soaked the tears that spilled from his eyes.

"Victoria." Zorro laid her down inside the cave and quickly gathered materials to make a small fire. The cave was hidden much like his own lair; with large brush and trees that served to conceal anyone within from the elements. A small fire wouldn't be seen - he hoped.

He quickly pulled all of the medicinal supplies he carried in Toronado's saddlebags and piled them next to Victoria as she watched him, clutching her chest and breathing in short, painful gasps.

"Querida, be still. Breathe slowly and deeply." He mixed a few substances together but continued to speak to her. "You must stay awake. Victoria, please."

Zorro ripped open her blouse, paying no attention to the skin that bared itself before his eyes. He choked back a sob when he noticed how close the wound was to vital organs. It was bleeding bright red and he briefly thanked God that there was an exit wound. Surgery in such low light and unsanitary conditions would surely kill her.

He took his knife and rested it in the fire, heating it for the task he knew he that lay ahead.

"Victoria, I need to stop the bleeding. It will hurt, badly. But it needs to be done." He held a folded strip of cloth to her side to stop the blood loss but the sooner he sealed the wound, the better he would feel. She'd already lost too much blood.

"Diego." His name was a breathless whisper on her lips.

Her voice was so weak, so low, he almost missed it, were it not for the shocking revelation of her speaking his own name.

He stopped mid-sentence, and stared, an incredulous look passing across his unmasked features.

"Please. Please." She begged and he inhaled sharply.

This couldn't be happening. She couldn't die. Not now. Not when they were so close. If she knew – If she knew, then she accepted him. The true man beneath the mask and not just -

"Kiss - me, - Diego."

Zorro swallowed hard, his heart in his mouth. "Victoria . . ."

"Please." Her eyes held a longing that made his heart constrict. "Please, I . . . want to feel – to see – your face ." She closed her eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath.

She coughed and he gathered her into his arms, gently brushing his lips across hers. With unfathomable strength, she wrapped her arms around his neck and covered the knot of the mask that kept his identity from her. He held her gently, tears wetting the mask around his eyes. "Hold on, Querida. I won't let you die."

She tugged weakly at the knot and he closed his eyes with a silent sob. He could feel her body tremble with the effort and he lowered his head so she wouldn't have to reach so high. Her arms shook as he allowed her to pull the mask from his face.

Her eyes held no shock as her hands dropped into his hair and slid through the dark strands. A small sigh escaped her lips as he dropped his forehead to her shoulder.

"Victoria, please, you must hold on. I can't lose you. Not now." Diego begged, pressing quick kisses to her forehead, her cheek and lips.

She whimpered when she saw the tears glistening in his eyes. "Diego - " The name was a breathless whisper on her lips as she closed her eyes. Her hands fell limply from his hair but he caught them, holding them gently in his own.

"No! Victoria!" He cried as he felt her body tremble in his arms and then go still.