Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Zorro characters. I just borrow them for my daydreams. Hopefully, I can share a few of my daydreams with other Zorro fans. This story is written solely for your enjoyment, and not for any other type of profit on my part.

This story is a companion piece to A Father's Love. Hopefully it will satisfy all of the requests for a version of that story with a happier ending. It is also told from Victoria's viewpoint, rather than from Alejandro's.

REPOSTING NOTE: You don't need to reread any of this if you've already read it. The only thing that changed is the author's name…or names, in this case, with chapter 22 posted new 3/10/09. I had to repost it all because I GOOFED and deleted ch 1 instead of replacing it with the revised version. Sorry.

Love's Triumph

Co-authored by smithcrafter and georgiamomma123:

Ch's 1-15 by smithcrafter

Ch's 16-20 coauthored

Ch's 21 on by georgiamomma123, betaed by smithcrafter

Chapter 1

"Buenas dias, Victoria! How are you on this beautiful autumn morning?"

Victoria Escalante looked up from her work with a smile, as she heard the voice of her best friend greeting her.

"Well, aren't you up bright and early today. What's the occasion?"

Diego de la Vega grinned a bit sheepishly, and glanced quickly away. He was a notoriously late sleeper. Victoria had heard his father complain frequently about Diego's tendency to still be sound asleep in his bed at noon, or even later on occasion. He would get caught up in a book, or some kind of experiment, or his painting, and totally forget to go to bed until almost the time his father was getting up for the day.

"Padre Benitez asked my father and me if we would ride over to San Pedro and meet with the friars in charge of planting the mission's new vineyard. They're just getting started, and need some advice on which varieties of grapes would be the best for them, and on techniques for growing the grapes and setting up their winery. Since father has been developing our vineyards for so many years, Padre Benitez thought he could give the friars some good suggestions."

"That's an excellent idea, Diego." Victoria smiled again at her friend, trying to hide her amusement as he blushed at her praise and dropped his eyes. He's so shy around me. He almost never looks me in the eyes for more than a few seconds at a time. For that matter, he never looks anyone in the eyes for very long.

"The De la Vega vineyards are the best in the whole area; and it isn't just your father who can give the friars good advice, Diego. Just last year, you went back to Europe for several weeks especially to visit some of the better French wineries, and learn their latest techniques for wine production. Your father just gave me a sample of your new vintage last week. Even fresh, it was good. Once it's aged a while, I think it will be your best wine yet. Don Alejandro said most of the differences between this wine and your older ones came from the ideas you brought home from France."

Diego blushed again. "I didn't do that much. I brought back some descriptions of new distilling techniques, and cuttings from a couple of new varieties of grape vines. Father chose the ideas he wanted to try, and those he didn't. It's his work, and the men who do the distilling, that make our wines so good. If you put me in the winery and left me in charge of the distilling, we'd probably end up with a very good supply of not so marketable vinegar!"

Victoria sighed in frustration. "Diego, why is it that you always belittle your own accomplishments? Sometimes I get the feeling you want people to think you're incapable of doing anything right. You're always putting yourself down one way or another. Why do you do that?"

Victoria's frustration with her friend was very real. They'd been friends since childhood, so she felt free to give him her opinions without fear of hurting his feelings or making him angry at her. Victoria could remember when Diego and her older brothers, Francisco and Ramon, were inseparable childhood playmates. They were always getting into trouble of one kind or another, and most of the time, young Diego de la Vega had been the indisputable leader of their exploits.

As the youngest of the four children, by several years, and being that she was also a girl, she had usually been excluded from the boys' escapades. As the children grew older though, Victoria had noticed a distinct change in Diego's attitude toward her. By the time the nineteen-year-old Diego had left to attend the university in Spain, Victoria had recognized that she had a huge crush on the young don, and she suspected he felt the same way about her.

She couldn't help but hope that when Diego returned to California after his years at the university, that they would have a chance to develop their relationship into something more than a childhood crush. When Diego walked into the tavern that first day after he returned from Spain, Victoria almost dropped the tray she was carrying. The gangly teenager who had left Los Angeles nearly four years earlier was now one of the most handsome men she had ever laid eyes on.

Then that boorish, half-drunken lancer had made a pass at her…right in front of Diego. She was so embarrassed and angry that she reacted by dumping the pitcher of lemonade she was carrying right over the lancer's head. Not surprisingly, the lancer didn't take her action calmly. He grabbed her arm and the next thing she knew, Diego had jumped to her rescue, and was actually threatening the lancer if he didn't leave immediately. She thought for a minute that Diego was actually going to challenge the lancer to a duel, right there in the tavern. It took both herself and Don Alejandro to calm Diego down, and to placate the angry lancer before Diego wound up in more trouble than he expected, and found himself in the alcalde's jail for assaulting the lancer.

But that was the only time Victoria could remember seeing the "old" impulsive, short-tempered youth she remembered. By the time Diego had been home a couple of weeks, it was painfully obvious that the time Diego had spent in Spain had changed the young man more than anyone ever could have expected.

The confident, outspoken young daredevil she had known throughout her childhood had returned from Spain a quiet, reserved, almost embarrassingly shy young intellectual. This Diego would never be caught dead climbing trees or sneaking off to have a wrestling match with the Indian boys from the native village a few miles up in the hills outside of Los Angeles. He was too busy reading his books, writing poetry, or painting. And somewhere in Spain, somehow, that quick-tempered daredevil had turned into a complete, total pacifist. In fact, Diego's refusal to carry a weapon of any type, and his tendency to completely disappear at any sign of a fight, had rapidly earned him the reputation of a coward among the Los Angelinos.

In a time when even the poorest peasant wouldn't be caught traveling without a weapon of some kind, this new Diego didn't even own a sword. Every caballero wore a sword. It was like a symbol of their nobility. But not Diego. Then again, in the five years since Diego had come home, she had seen him attempt to use a sword a couple of times. He was probably much better off without one. How could someone who was so adept with the wooden swords he, Francisco, and Ramon had played with as children, turn out to be such a total klutz with the real thing?

Anyway, about the same time Diego had returned from Spain, another man had entered Victoria's life. The mysterious, exciting, romantic masked vigilante known only as El Zorro had stolen her heart after their very first meeting, when he rescued Don Alejandro de la Vega and herself from the alcalde's jail. It hadn't taken Diego long to recognize where Victoria's heart was leading her, and he had immediately dropped their relationship back to the familiar intimacy of their childhood friendship.

Victoria's mother had been executed by the military for helping a wounded revolutionary when Victoria was just fifteen, and her father, in his grief, had simply disappeared. It wasn't until just a couple of years ago that she had found out he was a prisoner at the Devil's Fortress, where he died shortly after she found him. By that time, Francisco and Ramon were both serving in the military, one in Mexico, and the other in Venezuela.

Victoria had been left alone, running her parents' tavern completely on her own, after her mother's death and her father's disappearance. Don Alejandro had stepped in and helped her learn the basics of bookkeeping for a business, and how to plan ahead and organize her time and finances to assure her success with the tavern. Over the years, he had come to be almost a substitute father to her, so it was very easy for Diego to fall into the roll of protective older brother and confidant.

It was a rare day when Diego didn't show up at the tavern at least once. Sometimes twice in the same day. He always had an explanation for his appearances (more than he did for his frequent sudden disappearances any time there was a sign of trouble), but she realized that many of his visits were more to check on her and to be sure everything was ok at the tavern, than for any real need for a cold glass of lemonade or even for lunch or supper.

She knew he still loved her, but now their love had relaxed to a brother/sister type relationship that was much more comfortable for both of them. Diego knew her heart belonged to Zorro, and she knew that Diego would never make a romantic advance toward her when he knew her heart was already spoken for. He was far too much of a gentleman for that. Yes, she was far more comfortable having Diego de la Vega's "brotherly love" than she ever would have been with him as a suitor. Diego was too much of a dreamer and a thinker for Victoria's tastes. She greatly preferred a man of action…like Zorro…for her romantic interest.

"Anyway," Diego was changing the subject, and Victoria pulled her thoughts back to what he was saying. "I wondered if you might be willing to go to San Pedro with us. We can advise the friars on the types of grapes they should raise, and the distilling equipment that they're going to need, but you know your customers' likes and dislikes. You would be the perfect person to advise them on what types of wines they should concentrate on if they want to sell their product here in the colonies, or what types of wine would sell better if shipped back to Spain."

"Oh! I'd love the chance to get away from the tavern today, but we're already busy, and it's only 8:00 in the morning. I couldn't possibly close the tavern for the entire day."

"You wouldn't have to. I took the liberty of going by Anna's house before I came here. I know she usually doesn't come in to help you until evening, but I asked her if she would be willing to take your place for the entire day. And you don't have to worry about paying her, either. Since you would be going as a special favor to m…uh, Padre Benitez, I told Anna I would pay her wages for the day. She's going to be by in a few minutes to see if you'll be leaving with us or not."

Diego's mischievous grin and the glint in his eye told Victoria that he knew she would agree to his plan. It really was a beautiful day, today…far too lovely to stay cooped up inside, slaving over a hot fireplace. And she hadn't had a day off in several weeks. Besides, it wasn't that often she had a chance to spend an entire day with her best friend and his father.