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Title: “Reunion”

Book: Endless Summer

Main Pairing: Sean x Taylor (gender not stated)

Other Pairings: Grace x Aleister, Craig x Zahra, Diego x Varyyn

Genre: Romance, Vaanu Ending Override

Warnings: Mild swearing

Summary: “If you love someone, let them go. For if they return, they were always yours.” During a group reunion party on La Huerta a year later, the old memories come rushing back. Sean and the others are invited to Elyys’tel for a Vaanti ceremony…

 

 

~ ~ ~

 

Sean re-read the letter twice before he rolled it up and stuck it into his back pocket.  He’d spent the entire flight in composing the perfect letter to Taylor; whether they’d actually be able to somehow read it or not, Sean had wanted to do something meaningful. He was still debating whether he’d set the letter adrift at sea in a bottle, or burn it and let the embers escape into the sky. Maybe Quinn would have an idea. She understood that sort of thing a lot better than he did.

Stepping off the Rourke-Hall International plane onto the familiar dirt runway, Sean was suddenly hit by an intense flood of memories. Behind him, Grace and Aleister descended as well, hand-in-hand. “Sean, are you alright?” asked Grace.

Sean shook his head to clear it and looked back at her. “Thanks, Grace, but I’m okay. Just memories.”

“Such is to be expected,” said Aleister. “Nevertheless, memories can be good or bad, depending on one’s outlook.”

“Bit of both, I guess,” said Sean, shrugging. “Come on, let’s head up to The Celestial. Hopefully it won’t be abandoned this ti–”

The roaring of an engine overhead cut him off, and the three of them turned to see a small private jet, wobbling unsteadily through the air, coming straight toward them! “Whoa! Watch out!” shouted Sean, grabbing Grace and Aleister by the arms and yanking them off of the runway. They watched as the plane did a barrel roll, overshot the runway, then swooped down low, skimming the tops of the jungle trees before flying back into the air. It did a full loop around The Celestial before coming in on a vector right toward the runway. It narrowly missed clipping the RHI plane before bouncing twice on its landing gear, finally coming to a stop a few feet away from the control tower. Somehow, impossibly, without a single scratch.

Sean, Grace, and Aleister looked at each other for a moment, and then Aleister said, “Ah. It appears Jacob has arrived.”

At that, the three of them couldn’t help but break down into laughter.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Bro, I think I’ll fly with you on the way back, thanks,” Craig was saying to Aleister some time later. The whole group had all trickled in on this plane or that plane, until now all eleven of them were seated around a large table in The Celestial for brunch. Furball sat curled up in Quinn’s lap, licking the frosting off of a cupcake she was feeding him. “I felt like I was gonna puke!”

Jake laughed. “What’s the matter, can’t handle a few basic maneuvers? I’ll have you know that was all on purpose.”

“Pfft. ‘Maneuvers,’ my ass,” muttered Zahra. “And Craig, you did puke. On the window. It was disgusting.”

“How was I supposed to know the windows didn’t open?”

“It’s a PLANE.”

“…So?”

Aleister put his face in his hands as Grace rubbed his back soothingly. “The ignorance. It burns…” he muttered.

Sean was only half focusing on the conversation. His eyes were constantly drawn toward the twelfth chair, the empty one they had all placed between himself and Diego. Diego noticed him looking at it and flashed a reassuring smile. “I know. ‘Eleven Catalysts’ doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?” he asked.

Sean nodded. “Yeah. They made the right call. I just wish… I just wish we’d had more time. To say goodbye.”

Diego leaned across the empty seat to pat Sean’s shoulder. “We all do, but probably you more than anyone. I guess…well, Varyyn told me about a tradition the Vaanti have. They climb to the highest branch of Elyys’tel, and toss leaves containing messages for their departed loved ones into the wind. They say if you listen closely, you can hear a reply on the breeze blowing through the boughs.”

Sean took in Diego’s words. “That’s….” He swallowed hard. “That’s beautiful. D’you think he’d let us do that?”

“Sean, of course he would! Why do you think I suggested we go to Elyys’tel tonight, anyway?”

Sean broke into a grin and pulled Diego into a tight hug. “You’re the best, Diego. Damn, I’ve missed you.” He stopped, and looked around at the others at the table, smiling at each and every one of them. “I’ve missed all of you.”

“What, even me, bro?” asked Craig.

Zahra punched Craig playfully. “He sees us every day, dumbass. You know what he meant.”

“Oh yeah. I knew that!”

Mmmmrl!” squeaked Furball, leaping up onto the table and knocking over the stack of waffles on Estela’s plate. She glared at the blue fox for a few seconds before breaking down and smiling, unable to stay mad at the adorable creature for long.

Quinn giggled. “Furball says he missed everyone too! And I agree with him!” She smiled sweetly and added, “Let’s not wait another year to have a group reunion, huh?”

Michelle nodded. “Amen to that, girl!”

A sudden slam from the direction of the front doors made everyone look up. “What was that?!” demanded Estela, leaping to her feet and dropping into a combat stance, butter knife in one hand.

Diego sighed. “Not again. It’s just the Vaanti, Estela, calm down. How many times do I have to tell them…uh, be right back, guys.” He jumped out of his seat and sprinted into the lobby. Estela dropped the knife and sat back in her chair, relaxing a fraction.

The rest of the group stared after him in confusion. “Well, that’s a thing that happened,” said Raj. “Anybody want any more waffles?” Silence. “Just me then? Oooooookay, be right back.” He stood up and wandered over to the buffet line.

From the lobby, Diego’s voice drifted into the dining area. “I asked Varyyn to tell everyone, no need for battering rams! Just knock normally next time!”

“We apologize, Canis, Consort of the Elyyshar.” The doors opened and Diego entered, along with two Vaanti carrying a massive tree-trunk between them.

“Uh…what’s with the log?” asked Michelle.

Diego waved her question off, a slight blush creeping up his cheeks. “Just…uh…a little confusion. Point is, finish your plates, because we’re heading to Elyys’tel!”

Raj was walking back to the table at that moment, a massive stack of waffles on his plate. Craig’s eyes widened at the sight and he jumped out of his chair, sprinting over to the buffet table. “Bet you 50 bucks I can eat more!” he shouted.

“Craig, no, c’mon–” Sean started to say.

“You’re on, dude!” Raj shouted back, taking a seat and drizzling his waffles with syrup.

Diego sighed and sat down. “On second thought, this brunch might take longer than I thought…” he said. “Uh… so, anyone seen any good movies, lately?

 

~ ~ ~

 

After about another hour of watching Craig and Raj wolf down waffles, and another couple of hours trekking through the jungle, the eleven Catalysts finally broke through the treeline and emerged at the base of Elyys’tel. Varyyn was standing at the entrance, flanked by Seraxa and three other Vaanti warriors. The elyyshar broke into a massive grin when he spotted the group. “My friends! Welcome! Diego had told me you were coming. This is a joyous occasion!” He waved the warriors and escorts away and raced forward, pulling Diego into a bear hug that lifted him straight off of the ground, spinning him around before setting him back down. He straightened and looked at the others, one by one. “I am delighted to see you all once again. Come!”

As the Catalysts followed Varyyn into the city proper, Sean noticed Seraxa following, looking him up and down appraisingly. “Aquila. It is a joy to see you again.”

Sean smiled. “You, too, Seraxa.” He looked around at their surroundings, admiring the extensions and additional levels and structures that had been added to the city since the last time he had been to the island. “I like what you’ve all done with the place.”

“We had a lot of help. The workers that Cygnus and Serpens provided to us have been most useful, especially since we lost so many warriors in battle with the Hydra.” It took Sean a few moments to realize she was referring to Grace and Aleister.

Kee-la! Hi!” shouted a small voice. Sean bent down and scooped Taari up into his arms, laughing.

“Whoa! You’ve gotten bigger!” he observed as the Vaanti boy giggled.

“Yep! I’m gonna be a warrior soon! Rar!”

Sean set the boy down. “Wow, you sure are scary!” Then he glanced over at Seraxa. “Warrior? But there’s no one left here to fight…”

“Shh. Don’t tell him that,” replied the war chief.

Taari suddenly stopped in his tracks, looking around at the rest of the group. “Kee-la, where’s Dromma? Are they back from their trip yet? I wanna say hi!”

The entire group stopped in its tracks. Seraxa’s eyes widened suddenly. “Oh! Uh…Andromeda has gone a very far way away. They are still on their long journey, but the other Catalysts have come back in the meantime!”

“That’s not true! I saw Dromma yesterday!”

Seraxa laughed halfheartedly and patted Taari’s head. “I’m sure you did. Run along and play now, I want you at your best for the Wind Talking ceremony tonight!”

Taari pouted. “Do I have to?”

“Yes.”

“Aww…. Oh well. Bye, Cat-a-lissus!” He waved at the others and scampered off across a bridge.

An awkward silence followed this exchange. Sean, finally, was the first one to break it. “…What did you tell him about Taylor?” he asked.

Seraxa shook her head, a faint dark green tinge visible on her cheeks. “I told him that Andromeda is on a long journey with Vaanu. I did not wish to burden him with sorrow at such a young age. I…neglected to mention this earlier. I apologize.”

“No need to worry, Seraxa. I get it. It was a little awkward, but I get it.” Sean pushed his thoughts of Taylor out of his mind and put on a smile. “So! Who’s up for some wind-disc later?”

“Diego and I accept your challenge!” Varyyn called out from the front of the group.

“Whoa, I never agreed–” stammered Diego.

“Fine, then I’m with my bro!” declared Craig. “Let’s do this!”

 

~ ~ ~

 

That night, the Catalysts prepared for the Wind Talking ceremony. Varyyn and Seraxa had provided each of them with formal Vaanti attire for the occasion, which Sean appreciated after spending all day in a t-shirt sticky with humidity. The eleven of them stood in a single file line along a massive branch at the top of Elyys’tel, a set of flimsy-looking wooden railings being all that separated them from a very long fall. “I… I don’t know about this,” stammered Grace nervously. “Have I mentioned I don’t like heights?”

“Fear not, Grace. When these weak structural barriers inevitably fail, I will keep you safe from falling,” Aleister reassured her. “It’s simple physics, given the discrepancies between our respective body mass and my impeccable sense of balance.”

“You’re right. Even if I were to fall, if you held me tightly by the hand, the vector force would be sufficient enough to overcome the pull of gravity–”

Sean turns his attention to the leafy “altar” at the tip of the branch, where Varyyn stands resplendent in his full regalia. The Vaanti leader holds up two of the massive leaves they had all been given earlier, each one significantly bigger than an ordinary sheet of paper. “Tonight, we commence the Ceremony of the Wind Talking. For those of you unfamiliar with this tradition, we will each step forward to this place where I now stand. Face the wind, and read your words to your departed ones in a soft, clear voice. Allow the wind to carry the words, and when you are finished, release the leaf and pause. Let the rustling of the branches carry the departed one’s reply back to you.”

Varyyn then turned around, stepping to the very edge of the branch. He held up his first leaf, and began to read aloud, though too softly for Sean and the others to hear. They waited quietly, though Taari started to shuffle impatiently. When Varyyn was finished, he held the leaf aloft and released it, letting the wind catch it and carry it upwards and upwards until it was lost to the night sky. He paused for several moments, eyes closed and face raised to the sky, listening.

When this was done, Varyyn repeated the process with his second leaf. “Two leaves?” Sean heard Quinn whisper, curiosity in her voice.

“One for Taylor, one for Ximaedra, I bet,” Michelle whispered back.

When Varyyn was finished, he turned and walked silently back toward the group. He nodded to Diego, who took his own leaf in hand and stepped forward to the tip of the branch.

The rest of the Catalysts went in turn, as did Seraxa with Taari at one point. Grace and Aleister did their wind-talking together, but the rest went individually. Sean hung back, knowing his letter would take the longest to read, and letting himself go last for the others’ sake. Finally, it was Sean’s turn. Slowly, confidently, he strode to the edge of the branch, looking out along the La Huerta horizon to the point where the sky met the sea.

Opening his letter, Sean read it aloud:

 

Dear Taylor,

I don’t know where you are, or even if you’re still “you,” but I hope you’re happy and at peace. I wish we could have had more time together, but I, maybe more than anyone else in our group, understand making the hard call. The sacrifice play. I may not have liked it, I still resent that you were forced into the choice at all, but I’ve accepted it. I would’ve done the same thing in your place.

I’m on my way back to La Huerta now; it’s been a year and a day since I became your husband, and exactly a year since the day we left, and we’ve decided to celebrate with a reunion…where else but the place it all began. And no, I don’t mean suddenly breaking out into song on Jake’s plane, even if that was the moment I first fell in love with you.

Know this, Taylor, the love of my life: I may have moved on, I may have accepted our circumstances and tried to push my life forward in spite of this hole in my heart, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten you. I will cherish the memories of our time spent together for the rest of my life. Whenever I look up at the stars, I will think of you, wondering if you’re out there somewhere, with Vaanu, looking back down at me. And I know it’s impossible, but if I had one wish, it would be to hold you in my arms. One last time.

Love, forever and always,

Sean Gayle

 

He was barely able to finish the letter as the tears began to flow down his face. He stared at the horizon for several long minutes, letter clutched in his fist. He heard a commotion and some muttering from the group behind him, and he knew they were getting impatient, but he needed this. He needed this moment. He took a deep, shuddering breath, held the letter aloft, and released it.

Sean closed his eyes and turned his face to the sky. The breeze whipped through the boughs of the great tree, and he concentrated, hoping to hear some fragment of Taylor’s voice. If he strained, he could almost hear words…and if he really tried hard, he could even hear that familiar voice….

“Sean, I…I’m glad you didn’t rage against my choice, or try to stop me. I knew you’d understand. It was the toughest choice I ever had to make, you know. But I hope… I hope you haven’t moved on too much. I’d like to grant you your wish, and so much more. Because this time, I’m here to stay.”

Sean blinked and shook his head. His own wishful thoughts had definitely taken over toward the end there. He knew logically that it wasn’t really Taylor, it was just his own thoughts and mind interpreting the sound of wind on leaves as words, but for just a moment, he had wanted so badly to believe… part of him still half-expected to see Taylor there, smiling at him, when he turned back around. Don’t be ridiculous. C’mon, Sean Gayle, he told himself before preparing to rejoin the others at the base of the tree.

He turned around…. And he stopped. His mouth fell open. He blinked, then rubbed his eyes, then pinched himself, then pinched harder, because they HAD to be an illusion. There was just. No. Way. But it was: behind them, the others were watching, enraptured, and it was clear they could see the figure standing before him as clearly as they saw Sean himself.

“TOLD’JA I SAW DROMMA! TOLD’JA THEY CAME BACK FROM THEIR TRIP!”

“God dammit, Raj, how much do I owe you?”

“Five hundred bucks, dude! I told you, Raj is always right! Called it, a year and a day to the minute!

“It’s just… utterly illogical! How…?”

“Al, logical or not, I’m happy to accept it.”

“Guys, let them have their moment.”

But Sean heard none of this. The whole rest of the world could have vanished right then and there, and he wouldn’t have noticed. All of his attention was fixated on the person standing there before him.

“Hi, Sean. Did you miss me?”

 

~A SceptileMasterr Studios Creation

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