Victoria pulled Zorro into the library. Alejandro stood from where he had been writing at his desk. The man in black was resisting, but couldn't refuse. Alejandro smiled a little. A gentleman born and bred. The man had no chance against Victoria.
"You say you love me, you say it over and over and over again. I try to believe what you say is true, but is it? This will never, ever end. We will be apart forever, won't we? Pretty words…that's all they are. You should not be kissing me, you should not be promising things you cannot deliver," Victoria was saying. Her voice was rising. "Is that not true, Don Alejandro? He should not be leading me along this path."
Alejandro shifted uneasily. Victoria's temper was rising. Must she confront the man here, in his house? She was waiting for him to respond. Zorro glanced at him; the fear in his eyes made Alejandro draw breath. "I am the closest thing to her father, El Zorro. You should not be doing such things. If you wish to court her, you must be a proper gentleman."
"And what must a proper gentleman with a mask do, in this situation?"
"Zorro, you must know. A proper gentleman hides nothing from his prospective bride's guardian. The mask might just have to come off. Is it fair that she doesn't even know who her prospective husband is?" Alejandro saw the masked man flinch, and turn aside for a moment.
"The mask….it is a horrible barrier for us. It needs to come off, or we are finished. I love you, but I can no longer bear this masquerade party…" Victoria said. She froze for a moment. Did she really mean that?
"Do you mean that, Victoria?" Zorro's voice came out in a strangled whisper. She bit her lip and nodded.
Zorro reached behind his head, and with trembling fingers untied the knot that held the mask in place. The mask dropped to the floor, and Victoria's hand connected with Diego's pale cheek in a fierce slap.
Diego stood still, feeling the sting and not reacting. There was nothing to say. Nothing to do…
Alejandro watched in shock, as his son turned on his heel, cross the floor towards the mantel piece. No one spoke, no one had words. Diego kept his head, and pushed something in the mantel piece. A hidden door swung open, revealing a secret room. A room Alejandro had known of, but had forgotten. Alejandro held up a hand.
His son didn't stop; he entered the room, and pulled a hidden switch. The door swung shut behind him. The library was as it had been before.
Alejandro shook himself and tried the mechanism. He had known of that room; he had shown his son years ago. The switch was stuck. Diego had probably wedged something against the mechanism. He had the intelligence and stubbornness for that kind of response.
"Felipe…" He touched the boy's arm to get his attention. The boy was in tears, silent drops running down his face. Felipe shook his head at Alejandro, and ran off towards the back door.
Felipe was distraught. How had this happened? Why had Diego left him behind? He had to get to the cave. He had a sense of dread that he couldn't shake. Victoria was an obsession of his friend; he couldn't get the hang of thinking of him as a father. If the obsession was gone, if Victoria had rejected him truly, what would it do to Diego?
Alejandro tried to think around the device. "Diego, can you hear me? I want to help you. I'm not angry or disappointed or ashamed. Nothing matters to me, except you and your safety. You are my son; I love you, I am proud of the man you are. Come on, I want to come in to you." He paused, and thumped the mechanism. The de la Vega temper strikes again.
"I will smash this fireplace apart if I have to. The trick with the switch is clever, but I don't think it will stand up to brute force," Alejandro yelled. He glanced back at Victoria.
Victoria stood very still. She had not moved from where she had been standing when she had struck Diego's face. Alejandro was worried for her.
"Victoria is in shock, Diego. She didn't mean what she did. She reacted from shock. She needs your help," Alejandro tried. He loved the woman, maybe that was the key to help him. "I have no notion of medicine. You've read so much, you know so much."
Victoria sighed and in a fluid motion sunk to the floor. Alejandro moved quickly and caught her before her head hit the tiles. He glanced back to the hidden door. Maybe Diego had left the cave, Alejandro remembered a back passageway. His father had built the cave and passageway as an emergency exit during the time of the hostile Indian attacks. In peace time, there was no need for emergency exits. So he had thought.
"Diego! I could do with some help here!" He shouted. He started to fan the unconscious woman. She sighed, and stiffened in his arms. She started sobbing, and it intensified into hysterics. Alejandro made soothing sounds, and wondered what to do. Diego would know what to do, he was always so clever.
He looked up at a slight sound. Diego sat next to him, dressed in normal clothes. He had a bottle of smelling salts, which he handed his father. Being taught how to care for women, Alejandro knew what to do with the smelling salts.
Victoria held Alejandro's hands as she breathed in the strong scent. She never looked at Diego. Alejandro decided he could deal with her after all, and helped her down the hall to a guest room. Maria, the housekeeper, took over the fussing and care, while Alejandro made his way back to his son.
Diego was sitting where he left him, on his knees on the tiles. He was staring into space, still holding the mask in his hands. Alejandro still had the smelling salts in one hand, and wondered if his son needed them also.
"Diego," he said softly. Touching his son's arm gently, he got no response from his silent boy. "Diego, I meant every word I said while you were in the cave. You will hear nothing from me until the right time. I am not angry, or ashamed. I am very very proud of you. I love you. You are my son. However, we have things to discuss. Many things."
Still no response. Alejandro came closer, to actually sit in front of his son. Placing his hands on Diego's arms firmly, he shook him gently. Tears had travelled down Diego's face, leaving trails. The tears were still coming. Alejandro wasn't sure what to do. His son seemed like he was in shock. He embraced him tightly.
"It will be alright, my son. Everything will be alright."
A sob escaped his son. Diego shook in Alejandro's arms. Another sob, and suddenly he was gasping for air, trying to say something.
"She…doesn't….she doesn't love me….she doesn't love me…" Diego sobbed. He started to rock in his father's arms. Alejandro realised the situation was getting progressively worse. This had been his reaction when he had lost his wife.
"It will be alright, Diego. She does not know what she thinks right now. Everyone is in shock. Everyone is in shock. It will be alright, my son."
Diego clung to his father's arm, as Alejandro helped him onto his feet. Felipe crept through the hidden door, and looked at Alejandro with relief. Felipe supported Diego on one side, and his father supported him on his other side. Diego could barely walk, and Alejandro remembered his grief when his wife died. He reacted the same way. If Victoria had died, and Diego had lost her that way, what would it have done to him? He really really did not want to know.