Title: Ironic, isn't it?
Pairings:
Diego/Victoria
Genre: Drama/Angst/Romance
Warnings: none
Rating: PG (K+)
Chapters: one-shot
Status: complete
Word Count: 2520

Disclaimer: I don't own New World Zorro nor the characters.

Summary: NEW WORLD ZORRO: Victoria has always wanted to know the truth. And when she finally did, she learned that sometimes a person needs to make a decision they never thought they would make. One-shot.

xxx

Victoria has always wanted to know the truth. The truth behind the Mask of the only man she ever truly loved. She dreamed of this glorious day all the time. She dreamed of her masked hero and how he told her who he really was. How he took off the mask revealing his face, how he swept her off her feet and how they left into the setting sun on his black stallion, Toronado.

But it hadn't happened this way.

Actually, she doubted he even realized that she was aware of his true identity. It all happened by accident. And she never had the time to confront him about it and then-

Well, she could still remember how Diego clumsily spilled some of her perfume on himself that day while he was helping her at the tavern. They laughed it away - mostly at his expanse –and then she didn't think much about it. Everything was as always. The hustle and bustle of an evening in Pueblo was going on as usual. A tavern full of customers, local merchants closing up their business for the day, other people meeting with friends and family and laughing merrily.

And then the screaming started. And gunshots. Horses were galloping around the plaza as Rodrigez and his men wracked havoc.

She didn't remember when exactly she had rushed out of the tavern and that Diego was not behind her as she assumed. She knew she just stopped on the porch watching the bandits for a few seconds before rushing in to help anyone she could.

And then he came. A dashing figure of their savior. The black cape blowing in the wind behind him, the silver hand of his saber glistering in the setting sun, and his eyes shining in the prospect of a battle.

The masked hero of the Pueblo.

People cheered and the bandits stumbled in fear as he stood up on the roof of her tavern. He delivered his customary witty remark, before jumping right into the middle of the havoc-wrecking men. The fight began, and even alcalde's men spilled on the plaza to do their job for once. Surprisingly.

She wasn't exactly sure what has happened next, but she must have screamed as a stray bullet passed closely before her, impaling itself in the nearest wall. Zorro's head turned immediately to her and he barely avoided the sword of his opponent. He quickly finished the fight, he was engaged in, and rushed to her side.

It was then that another bullet passed them and he instinctively flattened them on the ground, putting himself on top of her.

Her heartbeat always quickened whenever she was this close to her masked love. And this time it was no different. She felt secure under him and cherished the feeling of his body on top of hers. If only…

Her nose was pressed against his firm chest and she inhaled involuntary. She has smelled him already a few times before, and always loved how his musky and clean scent made her feel. It was a smell of freedom; one that reminded her of the dry air of their land. Sometimes she could smell horses on him too, as if he worked with them on daily basis, and sometimes there was a tinge of something strange smelling she couldn't put her fingers on. Somehow it reminded her of Diego's experiments…

But this time she inhaled something totally different. A flowery and sweet smell she recognized instantly. A flowery and sweet smell that assaulted her senses in an intoxicating amount. It was as if… as if someone had spilled a bottle on him...

Her eyes widened and she stared dumbfounded at the black-clad chest.

Her perfume. Spilled this very afternoon. By her own best frie-

Her jumbled thoughts were interrupted when Zorro sprang quickly to his feet bringing her with him, then looked down at her smiling reassuringly – with the, suddenly, oh, so familiar and dear smile of-

And then another shot rang around them, and the alcalde called his lancers to catch him. He saluted and graced her with another smile and kissed her hand gallantly albeit quickly. Then he turned and rushed away, disappearing behind the nearest building. She heard a sharp whistle and watched wordlessly as Toronado galloped to his master from the gates of the pueblo. A fleeting thought of where did he came from passed her mind, but overall she felt numb as she watched Zorro and his horse disappear from the pueblo in their customary fashion.

She faced the gate for a long while trying to comprehend what has just happened. How could her masked love smell like her perfume when it was her best friend that has spilled it on himself earlier? She could not wrap her mind around the shocking conclusion her intellect has drawn from these two facts.

But before she could think closely about this, Doctor Hernandez came to her asking for her help with the few people that got injured in the ambush made by Rodrigez and his men. She quickly followed him helping wherever she could and keeping close eyes on her tavern. She acted as if nothing has happened, as if she hadn't just realized who her masked love was. It must have been shock, she supposed later. And in a way she was grateful for it, as it allowed her to act in her usual way, taking care of her customers and the tavern. So what if she has done it mechanically? At last she hadn't had a breakdown!

But when the shock has worn off… thank goodness it was after she closed her business for the day! She broke quite a few good plates that night! Oh, she still gets a bit angry with him whenever she thinks of that night. She still remembers her tirade quite well… How could he do this to her? Was one of the frequently repeated thoughts. She could not believe he would lie to her that much. He deceived them all! He had been deceiving them from the very beginning. And not only with his masked persona! Somehow she felt that the docile caballero he was on daily basis wasn't exactly his true self either! After all, no one would even think of taking the peace-seeking and cowardly man as the (in)famous Fox! That meek persona of Diego protected Zorro even better than the black mask on his face.

And she was quite angry with herself too. After all, how could she have not seen this deception earlier? Seriously, she knew the man since her childhood! How could she have not recognized him? Not many Spaniards have blue eyes! But suddenly she realized both Diego and Zorro did. And they were both quite tall. All of the many similarities between these two became obvious to her then. And she was supposed to be smart! Ha! How dare he fool her like that? He was going to have a fine dressing down when she sees him next day! She vowed that evening, seething with anger.

But she didn't see him the next day.

The tavern was fairly busy; people, who were not in town the day before, tried to find out what has exactly happened. But Diego has not come like he did almost every day. And she felt both disappointed and relieved. She quickly learned that Rodrigez and some of his men escaped the soldiers and she wondered briefly if he had gone to catch them.

She got her answer a quarter past noon when Zorro rode peacefully into the plaza followed by a few horses that carried their masters bound up and gagged. She recognized instantly Rodrigez and some of the men that has attacked the pueblo. Then she looked up at the Man that has brought them to justice.

She can still remember the wonder, filling her in, as she stared at the masked hero, unable to take her eyes away from his face. How come no one has ever recognized him? It was so obvious who was under the black mask now that she knew the truth!

He smiled at her, courting, still unwise of her sudden knowledge about him. She felt a blush creep up her cheeks as she smiled involuntarily in return. Then she looked away, feeling suddenly embarrassed. Her eyes widened and she gasped before acting instinctively.

"Diego!" she shrieked trying to warn him just as the armed lancer fired the musket in his hands.

The lancer missed (surprise, surprise!) maybe thanks to her gasp as Zorro turned even before she called her warning. But she couldn't tell for sure. She saw as their masked hero patted reassuringly a slightly agitated Toronado and allowed his faithful companion to take him away from the danger.

For a second day in a row, she stood dumbfounded in the plaza, trying to cope with everything that has just happened. She felt light-head and she feared she might faint. Chill filled her in – still did whenever she thought of that day – as the full meaning of her cry slammed into her. She just- she could just-

Strong arms prevented her from falling down and she looked up to see the concerned face of Don Alejandro. After he took her to the tavern she excused herself quickly, ordering Pilar to close up for siesta. She needed to be alone.

She remember bolting the door to her room – her sanctuary – and taking a tentative step toward her bed as her eyes blurred with tears. Then she collapsed on the floor, a soul-wrenching sobs shacking her small frame.

She just couldn't believe she had almost blown his cover away! Seriously, how stupid she could get? A chill ran down her bones once more as she recalled the scene before. With that simple shout in the plaza she has almost sent her beloved to gallows!

More sobs followed, this time mixed with countless prayers of thanksgiving. It was so close! It was so close… But thankfully, the musket swallowed her cry and no one heard exactly what a name she has called.

She didn't know how long she had been crying on the floor, but when the tears stopped, she felt exhausted. She scrambled gracelessly to her bed and fell down over the covers. She didn't bother changing her gown.

She laid there hoping for sleep to come, but it had not. The events of the past two days were playing before her eyes over and over again. She marveled at her stupidity and carelessness but as time passed another thought entered her mind.

Zorro – and Diego too! – has told her …all of them! on many occasions that his mask protected them. She has never quite understood that sentence. She was in a lot of danger regardless if she knew the truth or not. Did not those bandits or alcalde usually take her for bait to capture him?

But now she understood.

If- if someone has heard her call him by his given name that afternoon… She shivered. Not only his cover would be blown out. She would be arrested and hang alongside him as his accomplice, especially if it turned out she knew his true identity. But she could live – or die – with that. What she could not stomach was the idea of Don Alejandro being in danger. Surely the alcalde would have arrested him for treason and helping the outlaw. It all made sense to her now. Why Diego donned the mask in the first place and how the it protected them all. How it protected his closest ones.

She laid in bed for a long time, wondering what she should do. Should she confront him or should she play the charade he started? She slipped so easily that afternoon on the plaza… One day since she knew! It was only one day since she knew his secret and already she has endangered him! She squeezed her eyes angry with herself, then opened them as anther thought passed her mind. Was it another reason for not telling her his true identity? To protect himself? Did he suspected she would slip with his name if she knew it? It was another possibility… and certainly she hadn't proven him wrong today, had she?

She sighed. A new resolve forming in her heart. As much as it pained her, she knew what she should do. And as much as it pained her, she will do it, her mind made up.

And thus, here she was now, three years after those two fateful days that changed her life forever. Here she stood in the family graveyard at the back of the hacienda and watched the man she loved. He was burying the long-lost twin he never knew he had. She was close to the de la Vega family and no one said anything as she comforted him, even if it was only as a friend.

Friend. How she felt a sudden disgust with that world.

She could see the tension in Diego's back as he stood before her. She could still remember the hardness on his somber face, and more than anything, the pain in his beautiful expressive eyes. And she could do nothing about it. She could not comfort him like a woman should comfort her man. For she was not his woman. Not in the eyes of the pueblo. She was his friend. Only his friend.

For the past three years she played the charade that was Victoria, Diego and Zorro. Friends and lovers. Always unable to be with the one they loved. For the past three years she acted as his friend and cherished all those small moments she had with him as Zorro.

There were many times when she almost told him she already knew the truth. But then the chilling fear, that if she did it then it would only lead to his death, prevented her from saying anything; and gave her strength to continue this whole pretense.

And so, she stood next to the man she loved, both of them caught up in the web of their lies and deception. Here they were; driven by the need to protect each other, but unable to be with one another. Here was what has become of their lives. Here was the price of their sacrifice.

She always thought the truth would set them free. That when she finally knew who he was under the mask, everything would resolve itself and fall into right places painting the most beautiful picture of a happy-ever-after. That they would finally be together, married and ready to start their happy family.

Never in her wildest nightmares has she suspected that knowing the truth would force her to make the hardest decision of her life.

To ignore the knowledge she has finally been given. To pretend she did not know.

She never even thought she will choose to continue the charade he put upon them; never thought she'll choose to live the double life Zorro's appearance forced upon them.

She always wanted to know the truth.

And now she hated it.

Ironic, isn't it?

xxx

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