Disclaimer: I do not own Zorro, nor do I make any money from writing this story. Dialogue and situations used from the episode are property of ZPI, the rest of the story is my property and cannot be printed or used without my permission.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Two story ratings again, this chapter identical. This is nowhere near the heat of Conquering Fear, and when I write the T version I will heed the comments I got before.

If you like a little heat, but Conquer was too graphic, still try the M version first. Since it's a two chapter story, pick your version next chapter.

LaCorelli inspired this story, which was originally one chapter. For some reason she said I couldn't end it here. Just a fair warning: this chapter has an…abrupt ending. Since LaCorelli asked so nicely, there will be more by the end of the week.

Timing: Set after they 'fall asleep' in the windmill in One Special Night. Exam time again, and I'm in review withdrawal.

zzz

Diego couldn't sleep. Of course he couldn't sleep. He never expected to, and that was before Victoria opened her mouth.

But Victoria was never one to stay silent, so he shouldn't be surprised. Did she have to speak of love and adventure? He could tell her a few stories of love and adventure, of becoming engulfed in the flame of passion. He could show her, too. He wanted to, but it was as if Diego wasn't even a man in her eyes.

He took a chance and turned on his other side to face her. He shouldn't have given her his jacket. He curled his knees up higher and hit the bench. He definitely shouldn't have put this bench in his way. If she didn't worry about gossip, if she never expected Diego to do anything, maybe she would have let him hold her to keep her warm. Maybe if he accidentally kicked out his legs and snuffed out the fire, she'd get chilled again and he could offer anyway. Only then he wouldn't be able to see her.

Her eyes were closed. He never got to watch her sleep. He'd seen her angry, dreamy, tired, excited, worried. He'd even seen passion cloud her eyes when she looked at Zorro. He'd also seen her confused when Diego said the wrong thing, and mocking when he didn't do enough. That hurt more than anything his father ever said. Now, he had something else which would plague him and keep him awake at night. She didn't even think Diego was man enough to risk her reputation.

Her lips parted and Diego's eyes dropped to her mouth. He loved to listen to her beautiful voice. Now, though, her lips were relaxed. They'd probably be soft. Maybe a little chilled. Maybe he should warm her up. Wouldn't want her to be uncomfortable. He was growing decidedly uncomfortable. He didn't even realize he was reaching for her at first. He watched his hand hesitate in the space separating them, but she was asleep. He often watched her and she never knew, both as Zorro and Diego. Never this close, though. She was so close.

His finger lifted a tendril of hair away from her forehead. Her hair was soft, too. He never got to feel it because Zorro wore gloves. He made a mental note to take them off before Zorro came to visit her tonight…because he knew he would. Maybe Zorro could find out about the sleepover. Be jealous. Make her realize Diego was a man, and maybe let her try to reassure Zorro he didn't need to be jealous. He smiled. He hoped she'd be convincing. His finger continued its exploration…barely touching her forehead and trailing down her cheek. Would she be sleeping if she were stranded with Zorro? He sighed as he pulled his hand away and tucked it back under his cheek. Sometimes he got tired of being noble.

Her eyes opened, and for the briefest moment he thought he saw a flare of something. Was it different now that he was facing her? Did she realize how close he was? How easy it would be to take her in his arms? He frowned when her expression relaxed almost immediately. Storm raging outside, storm raging inside his chest, but Victoria was completely relaxed. He rolled onto his back to stare at the high ceiling. Maybe she was thinking Zorro would swoop in from the rafters and rescue her. Did she think of Zorro when she slept? Did she think of Zorro in the dark, in her bed before she slept?

"What are you thinking about?" Victoria whispered.

Diego chuckled. "I was about to ask you the same thing."

"Well, I asked you first."

He heard the smile in her voice and turned his head to face her again. Still so close, yet she was completely relaxed in the presence of her friend. "I was thinking about the power of words." And mocking laughter, Diego thought to himself. Her expression and laughter at the thought of being compromised by Diego de la Vega echoed over and over again in his mind.

Victoria rolled her eyes. "You were wonderful today, the way you spoke to the emissary, but words aren't always enough."

Diego stared back at the ceiling. "Oh, I was thinking of actions, too. Words are powerful, though. Think. Your mother read you stories twenty years ago, and still they make you dream."

He heard her sigh, and Diego's body tightened. In the dark, everything else seemed far away. The low fire cast shadows everywhere, as if they were in a dream. The storm kept them inside, however it also kept everyone else from interfering. "I guess it depends on who says them." Diego sighed himself. "Or maybe it doesn't matter."

"What do you mean?"

Diego bit his tongue, but here he wasn't playing the hero. He wasn't playing the dutiful son. "Those stories. Does it matter who says the words of love? Or is the passion so consuming it doesn't matter who says them?"

"Of course it matters who says them, Diego."

"Right."

"Why do you sound so angry? Don't you think it should matter?"

Diego heard movement and he wondered if she'd moved closer. He didn't trust himself to look and find out. She called his name when he didn't answer, and Diego scrubbed his hands over his face. What happened to the cold? Now that he'd stretched out, he was too close to the fire. Funny how his feet weren't hot. It was the rest of him, with every muscle tensed and focused on keeping still instead of tossing the bench into the fire for kindling.

"Yes, it matters who." Diego didn't even realize he was speaking aloud at first. He hadn't planned to speak out loud, but he couldn't stop. "Three words, always powerful. I admire you. I need you. I desire you. I dream of you." Diego's hands ran through his hair again as he tried to draw a breath in the suddenly stifling atmosphere, but the words kept coming. "I hunger for you. I thirst for you. I'd die for you." Diego's hands clenched against his side. "They're all just words."

Diego heard her breath catch and he once again told himself all the reasons he had a side and she had a side.

"Those aren't all just three words."

Diego's toes curled in his boots as he heard her breathless voice. His muscles seemed to snap as he curled back on his side, needing to see her face. He no longer saw the bench, nor any other barrier. He saw the confused fire in her eyes, and knew he'd surrendered.

Unable to stop himself, he reached out a hand to touch her face again.

"Three more words, Querida.

"I am Zorro.

"I love you.

"Which is more powerful?"

Zzz

Author's Note 2: Endless thanks to Marla and LaCorelli, even though LaCorelli planted a seed I couldn't ignore when I should have been sleeping or studying. Thanks to everyone who reviews, even the anonymous ones I can't reply to. Reviews are wonderful, even if you want to suggest how I can do something better or stop doing something wrong.

And thanks to those who read and enjoy but stay silent and give me traffic to feed on when I'm hungry for reviews.

Yay? Nay? Like it? Hate it? Want this to be the ending? Let me know please :) I hope everyone is having a better month than me! the semester is almost over…if I pass…