EPILOGUE

     "And they lived happily ever after."  Diego de la Vega announced as he finished the story.  He glanced up to meet the eyes of his beautiful Victoria.  Then he looked around the library of the hacienda.  The wide eyes of his three sons were staring up at him.  He planted a kiss on the top of the raven curls of the little girl who sat on his lap.

     "That is my favorite story, Papa," stated the eldest of the boys.  Nine year old Alfonso de la Vega may have been named for his maternal grandfather but he was an almost exact replica of his father.

     "Ours, too."  The six year old twins, Alejandro and Francisco bounced off the settee and began a pretend sword fight.  Diego looked at his sons proudly.  They kept him and Victoria very busy.  It had been a long time since the de la Vega hacienda had rang with so much children's laughter.

     "Muchacos, outside if you are going to play so rough," chided their mother.  They looked at each other and then tore out of the room, followed by their older brother.  Victoria shook her head but smiled at them indulgently.  "They have so much energy."

     Diego glanced down at his little daughter, who had fallen asleep.  Felicidad Elena Victoria de la Vega was only two years old but had had her father wrapped around her finger since birth, especially since she grew to resemble her mother more every day.

     So much had happened since that day ten years ago.  The transaction from Spanish to Mexican rule went rather smoothly.  Ignacio de Soto had left on the first ship back to Spain, so anxious was he to shake the dust of Los Angeles from his feet.  Privately he cursed himself for wasting so many years in California, far away from where the real power was.  He had many years of bowing and scraping to make up for upon his return to Madrid.

     Sergeant Mendoza was named commandante of the garrison.  He also had been first in line to sign the loyalty oath.  The pueblo was his home and he had no wish to leave.  He and Leonora Ortega married about a year after Zorro's near execution.  (For more on Mendoza and Leonora, read the 'After Zorro' story "Not To Be".)

     Don Alejandro had been voted the new Alcalde in an election he insisted upon when the people just had wanted to give him the job.  It had been a landslide victory.  He only remained at the post for five years though, wanting to spend more time with his ever growing brood of beloved grandchildren.

     Felipe had stunned not only Ana Maria but everyone in the pueblo by revealing he could hear and speak.  Felipe's law practice was quite successful as Los Angeles continued to grow and his services were needed more and more. (For more on Felipe and Ana Maria, read the 'After Zorro' story "Sueños Roto" ("Broken Dreams").)

     Victoria oversaw the day to day operation of the tavern until she was about six months pregnant.  She then left it in the capable hands of Pilar and Alicia.  She would fill in for them from time to time, but even that occurred less often as her and Diego's family grew.  Victoria finally had the children she had wanted for so long, the tavern seemed insignificant in comparison.  She did not want to sell it though, and Diego agreed with her decision.  They would keep it for one of their children to run one day if they wished.

     Diego carried the sleeping Felicidad to the nursery.  Victoria helped him to tuck her in her little bed and then they stepped into their bedroom.  A wicked gleam shone in Diego's eyes as he embraced his wife.

     "The baby is asleep, the boys are outside," he said.  "My father is in town.  What say you and I take a little ‘siesta'?"

     Victoria responded by kissing him fiercely and unbuttoning his shirt.

     "I'll take that as a yes," he said when he could breathe again.  Even after all these years, he sometimes found it hard to believe that Victoria was his wife.  And they had been good years, with only one unhappy incident marring them. (For more, read the 'After Zorro' story "The Death of Innocence".)

     Diego looked at the woman he held in his arms.  Dios mio, he loved her.  He lowered her to their bed and their mouths meet, their tongues intertwining.  Their passion for each other had never been sated.

     "I am the luckiest woman in the world," purred Victoria a little later that afternoon.  "I still shudder to think though of what might have happened that day.  I was so close to losing you."

     "I know," replied her husband.  "We have been blessed, querida.  We have our children and each other. And Zorro's services have never been needed since then."

     "Oh, I can think of one service he has been providing."  His wife smiled naughtily at him, running her hand through his hair.  The silver strands that now mingled with the black only made him more handsome.  Victoria then grew solemn.  "I love you, Diego de la Vega, with all of my heart."

     "Mi querida Victoria, I love you so much," he murmured, reaching for her and placing a kiss on her rosy mouth, one she eagerly returned.
                                                Z                                                   Z                                                   Z

 FIN

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