It was nearly half an hour later before the doctor emerged from the bedroom.  He was smiling.  "Everything is progressing normally, Don Diego.  It won't be long now."

     "Is she all right?  Can I see her?"

     "I don't think that would be a good idea," Hernandez replied with a chuckle.  "She's not feeling too kindly towards you right now."

     He patted Diego on the shoulder. The doctor then re-entered the bedroom, once again firmly closing the door.  Diego looked at his father with bewildered eyes.

     "I imagine she's not too happy about the condition you got her in," the elder de la Vega explained with a grin.  A loud cry from inside the room interrupted anything that might have been said.

     "Madre de Dios," Diego uttered in alarm.  His Victoria was suffering, was enduring so much pain and it was his fault.  He swore he'd never make her go through this again.  Then he realized how stupid that vow was.  It would mean he could never make love to her again.  There would be no point in living anymore if that were the case.  And he thought, a smile touching his lips for the first time in hours, that she would not agree to such a pledge, no matter how much agony she was going through at the moment.

   Several more howls echoed through the hacienda.  Then about fifteen minutes later, there was a new sound, like the wail of a small infant.

     The men in the hallway all stared at each other.  Diego rushed to the door and uncharacteristically swore when it would not open.  He stepped back as the knob turned from the other side and Ana Maria came out.

     Felipe was immediately concerned.  His wife was wide-eyed and trembling, like she was scared to death.  But then he looked at her mouth.  Her smile was so big her face could hardly contain it.

     "It's a boy," she announced.  She glanced up at her father-in-law.  "You'd better get in there.  She wants to see you."

     Diego didn't need to be told twice.  He flung open the door and raced to his wife's side.  He paused though as he gazed down at her.  Dios, she was so beautiful, even though her face and hair were drenched in sweat and her eyes were tired and full of fading pain.

     "Diego," she smiled up at him.  He knelt down beside the bed and took her hand, placing a kiss upon it.  Then he noticed the small bundle in her arms.  A very red faced little fellow, his eyes scrunched closed against the light, was wrapped up in a blanket.

     "A son?" He reached out at finger and touched the little boy's face.  Then he looked at Victoria.  "Everything is all right?"

     "We're both fine, Diego," she reassured him as she stroked his cheek.  She lifted the baby up.  "Here, go show your father."

     Diego's hands were shaking as he took the infant from her.  He held him close and the niño opened his eyes and seemingly stared at his father.  "A son," he repeated in awe.  Glancing once more at Victoria, Diego carried the baby to the doorway.

     "Let me see that grandson of mine," Don Alejandro said boisterously.  The sound of his voice startled the infant and he began to squall.  The old don just laughed, took him from Diego and began rocking him back and forth.

     Felipe and Ana Maria also peered at the baby, then looked at each and smiled.  In less than six months, it would be their child in their arms.  Felipe embraced his wife tightly.  "Are you all right?" he whispered in her ear.  She nodded, still a little dazed by what she had witnessed.

     "I won't be so scared when my time comes," she murmured.  "Felipe, I love you."

     "I love you too, querida," he replied, placing his hand on her belly.  He glimpsed over at his father who was once more cradling his son in his arms.  Diego noticed his regard and a look of apology crossed his face.

     Felipe knew what the older man was thinking, that he was jealous of the love Diego was showing toward his new son.  The young man let his father know he couldn't be more wrong in his assumption by grinning broadly and winking.  A wave of relief washed over Diego's face before he carried the baby back to his mother, who was waiting anxious for her son's return.
                                                           Z                                                               Z                                                               Z

     Alfonso Alejandro Diego de la Vega did his best to keep everyone awake that night.  His loud hungry cries could be heard throughout the hacienda about every two hours.

     The day had been spent marveling at the new arrival.  Diego would only leave Victoria and Alfonso to fetch the new mother something to eat or drink.  By mid-afternoon, while Felipe and Ana Maria were chatting with the older couple, Victoria mouthed to Felipe, "Take him somewhere," then rolled her eyes.

     "Diego, I want to show you something," the young man said, suppressing a smile.  Obviously Diego was getting on her nerves, being overprotective and a little too helpful.

     "Can't it wait until later?" his father asked.

     "No, come on."

     Felipe tugged on the older man's arm and led him from the bedroom.  Diego cast one last glance at his wife and child before exiting through the door.

     He was surprised as their journey took them to the library where Felipe tripped the mantle switch.  He ducked as he passed through the opened panel.  Turning around, he saw that Diego was not following.  "Come on."  He motioned with his hand.

     Diego shrugged and went in after the young man.  "What's so important it couldn't wait?" he asked.

     "I think you were in danger of being strangled," Felipe replied, no longer able to contain his mirth. "You're driving Victoria crazy."

     Diego was indignant.  "I am not," he disagreed.  "I'm just making sure she has everything she needs and that the baby is all right and. . ."  He stopped, then laughed.  "You're right.  I probably am."

      The cave looked the same as it always had except for one change.  Toronado no longer was kept there.  He was now stabled with the other de la Vega horses.  And he had become quite the ‘ladies' man'.  All the local horse ranchers wanted him to breed with their mares.  Even some as far away as Santa Barbara and San Diego were interested in his services.

    The black clothing that had served as Zorro's disguise still hung on the clothes rack.  All the swords and whips still hung on the wall.  Diego's laboratory was still bubbling and boiling away.

     The two men spent about an hour working off their excess energy by engaging in a little swordplay. Both had kept up their skill with a blade.  Afterwards Felipe immediately went to seek out Ana Maria as Don Alejandro drew Diego's attention.

     She was in the bedroom yet with Victoria and Alfonso.  Victoria was asleep, taking a well-earned nap.  Ana Maria sat in a rocking chair, holding the newborn and singing to him softly.

     A huge lump formed in Felipe's throat and tears came to his eyes.  She was so beautiful.  He couldn't think of what he had done to deserve her.  Sure, he had rescued her from that bully Quiñones, but any gentleman would have done that.   It wasn't long after that incident that he knew what she felt for him wasn't just gratitude.

     Nor was it pity.  She had accepted his supposed deafness and lack of speech without reservation.  He remembered how eagerly she mastered the sign language system he and Diego had devised.  She had even learned how to read lips.

     Ana Maria looked up him then and smiled.  He could see the tears shimmering in her eyes as well.  He went over and knelt down beside the chair, then kissed her gently on the mouth.

    "Can I?" he asked as he held out his hands.  She placed the baby in his arms.  Felipe stood and gazed upon his little brother.

     "Alfonso," he said.  "You are a very lucky little boy.  You have the best father in the world.  And no one could have a better mother."  ‘Except our baby,' he mouthed to Ana Maria who smiled at him affectionately.

     The infant stared at him solemnly.  Felipe kissed his forehead as Diego came into the room after he had paused in the doorway while his son spoke.

     "Shh. . ." Victoria cautioned him quietly.  She too had heard what the young man had said.

      Felipe didn't realize he had an audience.  "And one day, Alfonso, when you're a little older, your big brother will tell you all about the legendary fox of Los Angeles."  He kissed the niño again.  "We are both lucky, little brother," he whispered as he closed his eyes.  "Very lucky."
                                                             Z                                                               Z                                                               Z

     Felipe and Ana Maria were lying on the bed in his old room later that night, listening to the tiny infant across the hall crying lustily.  He was stroking his wife's stomach, loving to feel the swell of it in his hands.

     "We haven't discussed names yet," Ana Maria stated.  She loved the touch of  her husband's hands on her burgeoning belly.  She was so glad he wasn't resentful that she had gotten pregnant.  She had heard so many stories of men who had felt trapped by such an event, men like her father.  But not Felipe.  He had been shocked at first, of course.  So had she. But that had worn off quickly and he was as happy about the upcoming baby as she was.

     "Diego, if it's a boy," replied Felipe decisively.  She smiled as she knew that would be his choice.

     "I was thinking Rosa if it is a girl," she said.  "That was my grandmother's name."

     A cloud passed over Felipe's face then.  He had no knowledge of his grandparents' names or even his parents' for that matter.  All he could remember was that he called them ‘Mama' and ‘Papa'.  But the name Rosa roused up something inside him.  Had that been his mother's name?  It made him sad to think he would never know.

     Ana Maria was concerned when she saw the sorrow on his face.  "What's wrong, querido?" she asked.

     "Nothing, querida," he answered with a smile.  "I like Rosa.  That would be a beautiful name for our daughter."  He pulled her to him and kissed her tenderly.

      A week later, the young couple stood as godparents for little Alfonso as he was baptized at the Mission church.  They were to return to Santa Paula the next day as Felipe's two weeks of leave were nearly over.  He had to be back at Don Ernesto's office on Monday morning.

     The baptism was held on Saturday afternoon and a large celebration was held after at the tavern.  Victoria had recovered rapidly from her son's birth but was trying to do too much too soon in Diego's opinion.  Felipe could see many clashes ahead for them because of his father's overprotectiveness and Victoria's independent streak.  He almost wished he could be around to witness them.  Their quarrels were actually quite amusing to anyone who knew them as he did.

     Felipe and Ana Maria arrived home early Sunday evening.  He insisted that she rest as soon as they walked in the door of their little house.  She willingly obeyed.  The journey had worn her out even though they had stopped along the way and had a picnic lunch.  She had also taken a little nap then.

     She was lying on their bed when Felipe brought their luggage into the room.  She smiled as he starting putting things away in the drawers and the tiny closet.  Unlike Victoria, she didn't mind all the things her husband did for her.  A wave of fatigue washed over her as she relaxed into the soft mattress.

     Then she put a hand to her abdomen.  "Felipe," she exclaimed excitedly.

     He immediately rushed over to her side.  "What's wrong?  Is it the baby?"  Oh Dios, no, he prayed fervently.

     She grabbed his hand and put it where her hand had been.  "Wait," she cautioned mysteriously.  Anxious with worry, he did as she bid.

     About a minute or so later, he felt a tiny flutter, so inconspicuous he thought he might have imagined it.  He looked at Ana Maria in amazement.  "Was that. . .?"

     She smiled and nodded her head.

     Madre de Dios.  He really was going to be a father.
                                                           Z                                                               Z                                                           Z

     After they had been home about a week, Felipe and Juan had to go to the pueblo of Santa Ynez to witness a will for an elderly client.  The caballero in question changed his will at least once a year and Don Ernesto felt confident in sending his two apprentices to handle it.  It usually just consisted of cutting out one son in favor of the other.  But because of the distance between the two pueblos and the old don's long-winded complaints of the son he was disinheriting, the budding lawyers would have to stay the night and return home  the next morning.

     Felipe was apprehensive about leaving Ana Maria alone overnight.  It would be the first since they were married that they would have to spend a night apart.   The previous evening had been filled with kisses and caresses that led to the inevitable lovemaking.  It hadn't been enough to cool their ardor though as that morning before he left, Ana Maria gave him a send-off he would never forget.

     "Hurry home," she had murmured in his ear as they embraced on the front steps.

     "I'll miss you, querida," he whispered back.  "Take care."  Then he patted her stomach.  "Rosita too."

     She smiled at his certainty that their child was a girl.  ‘One that looks just like her mama,' he had requested.  "I will," she replied, kissing him.  "I love you."

     "I love you too."  Hugging her tightly, he then reluctantly let go and walked down the path through the garden.  She waved goodbye as he turned around every few feet and waved back to her.

     When he finally disappeared from her view, she went back inside the little cottage.  She rubbed at the pain in her back absentmindedly.  It had been nagging her off and on for a couple of days.  She hadn't said anything to Felipe about it because she wasn't really concerned.  Victoria had said her back hurt, especially the last three months before Alfonso was born.

     Ana Maria just shrugged and went to get her market basket as it was the day the mercado was set up in the pueblo's plaza.

     Felipe arrived back in Santa Paula early in the afternoon the next day.  Don Ernesto had given Juan and him the rest of the day off and he had eagerly headed home.  Just one night away from his querida and he was missing her terribly.

     "Ana Maria?  I'm home," he announced as he rushed through the front door.  "Ana?"
                                                            Z                                                               Z                                                               Z

     Much later that evening, he sat down at the little desk in the corner of the sitting room.  Drawing out a sheet of paper, he dipped a quill and began to write.  He had only penned a few lines when he had to put down the writing instrument and bury his head in his arms.  Heart wrenching sobs filled the room.

                  Dearest Mother and Father

                    This is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to tell you.
                    Even more so than when I had to tell you the opposite was true.

                    We are no longer having a baby.
                                                             Z                                                               Z                                                           Z