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Found 9 results

  1. I'm sorry if I do this wrong. I don't normally start topic posts but seeing as this part of the forums is a little bare, I'd like to upload some of my pictures. Here's the one I drew of Furball. It's still one of my favorites, even though it was the first one I did while learning digital art. You've probably seen it before, but I thought I would share on here too. <3
  2. marmolady

    Kin

    This wound up being a whole lot longer than anticipated. Anyhow, more exploration of the Endless ending, which I think has become my favourite thing to write! Title: “Kin" Book: Endless Summer Main Pairing: Taylor (f) x Estela Genre: Family, Hurt/Comfort Warnings: mild language Summary: Post-ending (Endless ending). The world beyond La Huerta is gone, Taylor’s family are nothing but a fabricated daydream, and Estela’s only living relative is a walking reminder of her connection with the figure that tore her life apart. What do love and kinship mean in this burned and scarred world? “Hear me out, dudes,” Raj urged, setting down steaming plates of food on the table. “this place has everything; everything we need… except for…” “Waterslides!” Craig exclaimed, throwing his arms in the air. “…waterslides!” Raj finished. “And how,” Aleister sneered, “pray tell, do you intend to build such a thing? I suppose one of you is an engineer, equipped to build a theme park monstrosity up to health and safety regulations.” Jake scoffed. “Malfoy, when has anything we’ve done met health and safety regulations? I dunno… maybe jumping into the path of the Loch Ness monster’s psycho cousin with nothing but a ripped-up hang-glider was a stretch, but a slide? That’s goin’ too far!” “Fine, enjoy your death-trap. I can assure you I won’t be running around beneath it holding a net.” Aleister wrinkled his nose. “But there’s no escaping the fact that a waterslide would be an absolute eyesore. I swear, paradise is wasted on you people!” “But who build’s a world-class tropical resort without a waterslide?” Around the tables by the pool that had been brought together for breakfast, the Catalysts, save for Diego who had spent the night in Elyys’tel with Varyyn, chattered animatedly. Since Rourke’s demise, it had become routine, along with the nightly dinner gathering. Dealing, as they were, with a loss so huge, so devastating, holding together was the best they could do. Raj was in his element- on almost full-time hospitality duty- and he saw it as a way of honouring his grandmother. If he could do anything at all to keep his friends smiling as they moved through unspeakable grief, he’d be doing her proud. Taylor, wracked with guilt for her failure to sacrifice herself to end her friends’ suffering, had been reclusive, but she was trying… she was trying so hard to be the supportive shoulder they all needed. Beneath the table, her fingers were entwined with Estela’s, stroking them in a circular motion, and feeling a soft and reassuring pressure in return. As she took a sip of juice- what strange fruit it contained, a mystery- Taylor briefly made eye contact with her wife, and it was enough to make her heart flutter. She tuned back in to the familiar bickering and reached for a breakfast burrito. “This is ridiculous!” Aleister was saying. “When you’ve all emerged from fantasy land, we can talk about creating something that’s actually worthwhile. The sheer knowledge we have access to- the possibilities are…” “Waterslide! Waterslide! Waterslide!” chanted Craig, banging his fists on the table. To his great satisfaction, Aleister’s face began to colour with increasing frustration. “I’m sorry- how old are you; eight?” “And what are you, the fun police? Estela- he’s your brother, stick it to him!” In an instant, the table went quiet. Estela’s expression turned cold and stony. A hard glare resting upon Craig, who withered back with an averted gaze, she got to her feet and, without a word, walked away. Aleister looked pointedly in the opposing direction, discomfort showing clearly on his flushed, drawn face. Grace immediately placed her hand over his, looking over him with great concern. Zahra rolled her eyes. “Nice one, dumbass, you really outdid yourself there.” Quinn’s brow furrowed, worry all over her face. “Taylor, is she okay?” “I- I’ll go after her.” Her gut twisting, Taylor rose from the table. The silently bubbling tension within the group had finally breached the surface, and she felt a personal responsibility to resolve it. She strode out onto the sand, picking up the pace until she had almost reached her wife’s side. Without looking back, Estela reached her hand out behind her, inviting Taylor in. “It’s a shame we can’t fix that faulty connection between Craig’s brain and his mouth.” Taylor took Estela’s hand and grasped it tight. “Family means something,” Estela growled. “My family is gone. Aleister is not… is not…” With a tug of her arm, Taylor pulled her into a hug. Estela was tense, but she returned the gesture, her movements stilted. “Do you want to be on your own right now?” Estela took a moment before answering. “No. Stay with me.” She held on tightly to Taylor’s hand. It anchored her, holding her from losing herself in grief and rage. Slowly, she calmed herself and gave Taylor an encouraging smile. “You don’t need to worry about me.” “I don’t worry about you- pretty sure you are literally the biggest badass on earth. But I do care about you. And even the strongest people can use a hand to hold sometime.” “You can do more than hold my hand, you know,” Estela said, a smirk on her face and a glint in her eye. With a giggle, Taylor nuzzled her face close to Estela’s and planted a sweet kiss on her cheek. “That’s a start, right?” “I’m feeling better already.” As she went in for another kiss, Taylor felt a gentle hand catch the side of her face, lovingly drawing her lips towards Estela’s. They met in a tender, lingering dance. Estela came away, her cheeks glowing. She sighed. “Goddammit, I love you, Taylor.” “Goddammit, Estela, I think I love you too,” Taylor said, a laugh in her voice. She playfully twiddled with Estela’s hair as she watched her expression become thoughtful. “I do want to open up to everyone. I care about them,” Estela said. “Even Aleister, two-faced bastard,” she added with a snarl. “It’s just, some things I… can’t. He’s no brother of mine. Hearing it is a knife in my chest. You understand, don’t you?” “Yeah, I do. Well, as much as anyone can. You know, I don’t think anyone’s expecting you to be a bubbly, outgoing life of the party all of a sudden. And everyone knows you care. It’s obvious. They like you for you. I think even Aleister does… in his snobby, terrified way.” “He should be scared. Half the time I can’t stand to look at him. And the stupid thing is, I don’t even know if it’s the betrayal, or if I just don’t want a reminder of who I am.” Taylor shrugged. “If it makes you feel any better, I’m getting the impression the ‘secret half-sibling’ thing is weirding him out too.” She kicked off her shoes and walked into the sea, enjoying the cooling feeling of the water lapping around her ankles. “Look, I know talking isn’t always your strong point, but it might do you both good to just put it all out there. Maybe that’d do something about that elephant in the room.” “The last elephant on earth… maybe we should keep it, for now.” Estela sat down in the sand and rested her head on her hands. There was no hurry; they were together on this island for as long as they lived. Confronting Aleister, confronting whatever it was he meant to her, it could all wait. “Just… just, don’t let it trample over you, all right? You deserve to be happy.” In spite of everything, a smile tugged at Estela’s mouth. She watched Taylor wandering through the shallows, her face a picture of quiet contemplation. There had been a lot of that in the week or so since Rourke’s plans had been scuppered… introspection, coming to terms with new identities and adjusting to a future so different to what any of them had envisioned. Estela knew she was fortunate; grief for her tio and the earth aside, her future was far brighter than she’d have expected not so long ago. She just hoped her friends- friends… how long it had been since she’d had any of those- would in time find the same contentment. Perhaps more than anyone else, though, Taylor appeared lost. Estela looked over her wife protectively in the aftermath; with no quest for vengeance to occupy her, her purpose was now to support Taylor through a turbulent period of transition. And, of course, it worked both ways. Today felt like a bad day, but there would be tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that. Estela bit her lip, her eyes glazing over as troubled thoughts swirled through her mind. Perhaps Taylor was right. Perhaps she should stop skirting around Aleister, if nothing else but to avoid awkwardness for everyone else. She wondered, how did Aleister perceive her? The child of his father’s affair, he could quite easily resent her. Maybe he should. After all, at the end of the line, Rourke had acknowledged Estela as his truest heir, not Aleister. As much as she tried to shake the ridiculous thought from her head, Estela found herself coming back to a disturbing conclusion. Part of her was afraid that Aleister- not family, never family, but a genuine link to her mother- might turn away from her. She angrily pushed the notion from her thoughts. She didn’t need or want a half-brother, and certainly not a literal Rourke clone at that. It was just… part of letting go, and she’d grown enough to know that letting go was what she needed. Having been powered on anger for so very long, Estela wasn’t quite sure who she’d be once she had no living person to channel it towards. Would she simply implode? Perhaps… if she didn’t have Taylor. The faint sound of sand beneath light feet made Estela alert. She glanced sideways to see Quinn approaching, a piled-up plate in her hands. “I thought you might appreciate breakfast to go,” said Quinn shyly. Surprised and touched, Estela sat back in the sand and offered Quinn a bashful smile. That girl really was too good. “Thanks.” Taylor came running back from the water and put her arms around Quinn. “You’re the best, you know that?” Quinn beamed in response, and she carefully sat herself down beside Estela, making sure not to drop anything. “Well, I couldn’t let you miss out. I think we all know Raj’s heart would break just a little if you two didn’t get to enjoy his breakfast burritos.” Tentatively, she placed a hand on Estela’s arm. “And, if I’m honest, I wanted to make sure you were okay.” Estela’s cheeks flushed, but she didn’t shy away. “I’m… fine. Is Aleister…?” She shook her head. “However I feel about him, I mean… I don’t like him… but we’re on the same side. When it comes down to it, it’s not him who’s really hurt me, it’s his father.” Still, she could not say ‘our’ father. Her tio was the only father figure she’d ever needed. Out of nowhere, she felt a stab of pity for Aleister. He’d never had that. “I think he and Grace were gonna go down to the library together. That’s their happy place.” Taylor plonked herself down in the sand and began tucking in. “Honestly? I think that Aleister’s pretty happy on the whole. He’s just adjusting to… a lot.” She gave a little sigh. Poor Aleister. With everything that had happened since the revelation of his origin, she hadn’t taken as much time as she should have to make sure he was okay. Responsible as she felt for caring for her gang of friends, she knew she’d dropped the ball there. “Like we all are. But we’ve all got each other’s backs.” Relieved to see Estela looking a little brighter- another win for Raj’s cooking- she put her free arm around her. “I’m gonna have to give my compliments to Raj- these are so good!” “We’ve got to be getting low on meat that isn’t squirrel or… dinosaur. Is there anything left in the freezer?” Quinn furrowed her brow thoughtfully. “I think we’re getting near the end of our supplies. I’ve been meaning to do some baking but… once everything’s gone, it’s gone. We should talk to Varyyn; if the Vaanti can throw lavish feasts, there’s no reason why we can’t make La Huerta work for us too.” “I don’t need to ask Varyyn to know how to hunt,” said Estela. She was quiet for a moment. They needed to start doing something. The initial high of the fight for survival ending had waned, and what was left was reality. Everyone was in pain. With emotions running high, the group could easily splinter, devoid of a clear way forward. Chilling around The Celestial wasn’t enough anymore. “But you’re right. We have everything we need here. I’m going to go hunting- or fishing, it feels like it’s gonna be a hot one.” “You’ll teach me, right?” Taylor asked. Estela just smiled. Honestly, she couldn’t imagine much she’d rather do with herself. She met Taylor’s eyes and answered her silently. Beaming, Taylor raised her burrito. “To bringing home the bacon- or whatever the screwy La Huerta equivalent might be!” “Cheers!” laughed Quinn as she and Estela bumped their tortillas to Taylor’s. Having gathered a few supplies, all the while managing to avoid any awkward encounters in the wake of the breakfast drama, Estela led Taylor along the coast to the west, Furball trotting eagerly at their heels. “There,” Estela said, nodding her head in the direction of a strip of land rising out into the sea. “There’s a reef just beyond the cliffs.” Carefully, Taylor lowered herself down the rocky side of the grass-covered headland, gripping tightly with her fingertips in a precarious hold. Beneath her, Estela climbed down with ease, barely slowed by fact that she had the added complication of holding a spear under her arm. Taylor huffed, a little breathless. A pebble plinked off her forehead, and she looked up to see Furball skittering around the edge, watching them with great curiosity. “You be careful, little guy! You don’t want to sl-“ She bit her tongue as she lurched downward, her foot missing the next hold. Scrambling to regain her grip, Taylor felt something firm beneath the ball of her foot, and she glanced beneath her. “I think the fox is fine. You might want to check your own footholds.” Estela held the blunt end of the spear beneath Taylor’s foot until she appeared to have steadied herself. She settled on a jutting out ledge just above the water and held out a hand to guide her partner down the last little way. “And we couldn’t have just swam out from the shore?” “Not unless you want to catch all the waves breaking. It’s better to go straight to where the fish are.” Stripping down to her swimming costume, Estela slunk into the water, her movements smooth and stealthy. Taylor followed suit, ducking under the crystal-clear water. Together they swam out to a colourful reef, where they found themselves surrounded by silver-scaled fish that appeared to shimmer in the bright sunlight. It was beautiful. Running out of breath, Taylor returned to the surface and treaded water, watching as Estela rounded onto a target and popped her head above the water, hair plastered to her face. “Hey, you want me to try and herd them over to you?” Estela nodded. “Push them toward the sandbar, if you can.” “I’ll see what I can do.” Taylor swam from side to side, sending the fish swimming away from her- and towards the sandbar, where Estela was waiting. After a few moments, Estela streaked forwards, and came up with a writhing fish on the end of her spear. “Okay, that was impressive.” A little smile on her face, Estela beckoned Taylor over to the shallows surrounding the sandbar. She pulled her close against her chest and lowered into the water. “Here,” she said, taking hold of the fish with one hand and giving Taylor the spear with the other. “Don’t flail around so much. Be still… keep your eyes open… focus.” Feeling her pulse quicken at the sensation of her partner wrapped around her, Taylor took a moment to redirect her attention to the task at hand. She held her breath and put her face under, trying to avoid sending ripples out into the water as Estela gently guided her spear arm backwards in preparation to strike. She didn’t move a muscle, and soon the fishes swam by them, oblivious. Seeing her chance and taking it, she thrust her arm forward, but the resistance from the water was greater than anticipated and she came short. “Dammit!” “Try again… you were close.” Estela swam away, taking her catch back to the rocks, where Furball spun around in excited circles. Determined to catch something, Taylor slipped back beneath the surface and tried again… and again… and again… until finally… “I got one!” she hollered, taking in a mouthful of water and spluttering. “You’re a fast learner. Throw it here.” The sun rose high into the sky, beating down hard on the La Huerta coastline. The pile of fish Furball had been diligently guarding had grown satisfyingly, and he proudly perched himself on top, watching as the women splashed about in the sea. At one point, Taylor had sat him on her shoulder, egging him on as he shot ice out into the waves, catching fish that got in the way of his short, powerful blasts. He only accidentally iced Estela one time. Leaving fishing to the pro, Taylor built up a small fire on the edge of the headland and managed to tackle the cliff face with just enough finesse to bring up a large fish to cook. “Shit, it’s hot,” Taylor grumbled, very quickly realising that the water was very much the place to be. Mrrrrp? Furball chirruped, and he sent out a small wave of snow. He bounced to the side and looked up at Taylor quizzically. Taylor scooted over and sat in the newly frosted-over grass. “Thanks, little guy!” She pulled off a little piece of meat for him and tickled his back as he dug in. That little fox was totally unique, one of a kind. Had he ever had a family? Thinking about Estela and Aleister, about the families her friends had all lost, Taylor felt a bizarre loneliness. She could reach into her mind all she wanted, but there was nothing beyond sitting beside Diego on the plane. In fact, the more she tried, the less that came to her. Even knowing it was all fabricated, a lie, she wished the false memories of a childhood were still there. So she could at least pretend. Next to the lives of everyone she cared about, her existence seemed so… shallow… empty. You could scratch beneath her surface and you’d find nothing, no history at all. “Something on your mind?” Taylor jumped, looking behind her to see Estela hauling up the fruits of her efforts up onto the grassy outcrop. “God, you nearly made me jump outta my skin! You know you don’t have to sneak up behind me like a ninja, right?” Estela crawled over, sitting down beside her wife with a little grin. “It’s fun making you squeal.” “One of these days, I’m gonna get you so- “ “You can try, if you like. But you should know I don’t scare easily.” “We’ll see…” Brushing a wet strand of hair from Taylor’s face, Estela looked at her imploringly. “So, what has you so distracted? You looked… sad.” Taylor shook her head. “It’s nothing. I…” And then she stopped. There was no point to hiding what she felt, not from Estela. “I’ve just been finding it harder and harder to recall anything I thought I knew before we came here. The fake memories Vaanu gave me. I know how crazy it sounds trying to hold onto something that was never really there, but… it’s all I’ve got.” A thoughtful frown on Estela’s face, she considered Taylor quietly. “Maybe your true memories are taking their place, pushing them down. Is any of it left at all?” “I can sort of recall things related to Diego. I guess those feel more real because he’s here, I’ve got something solid to build from. But anything else… no. It used to be like a blur, but now there’s nothing there. Blank. Of course, it was going to be like this- it’s not as if the memories I thought I had were ever real. I just feel hollow, like I’m missing something that should be there.” Estela pulled her close, so they sat shoulder to shoulder. “I can’t imagine it,” she said softly. Taylor winced. “This is going to sound insanely self-absorbed with, well, everything, but I wish I’d had a family. People to remember from my childhood. Hell, even to have had a childhood at all.” “That’s not selfish. All those things; it’s part of being human. How could you not want that?” Estela gave a heavy sigh. “Memories, a past… family. Losing it all, it feels like you’re being ripped… torn to pieces. It’s the worst pain there is. But it hurts because what’s been taken away meant something. My mom, my tio… I would go through losing them again, over and over, if it meant we could have one more day together. Or an hour.” She leant her head against Taylor’s and closed her eyes. Hearing the gentle crashing of the waves, she could imagine they were sitting together on a San Trobidan beach. “I wish I could give you those memories… those hours.” Grasping her lover’s hand tight, Taylor exhaled shakily. She slowly relaxed into a comfortable silence, closing her eyes to appreciate the feel of Estela next to her, giving unflinching support. Her stupid hurts and worries didn’t feel so shameful while she had that love surrounding her. “Tell me,” Taylor whispered, after a long while. “Tell me about all the little things. The memories that make it worth the hurt.” A small but warm smile came to Estela’s face. “For a long time I couldn’t look back. Looking back made me weak, and I couldn’t afford to be weak. Even when I was small, I couldn’t stand it. Mom wanted to protect me, and I never wanted her to feel like she’d failed. When I was eight, I broke my arm- or had it broken for me. Kids in San Trobida, they don’t know anything but fighting. That’s all we see all around us, on the news, it’s just normal… you learn to pull a punch young. It was after that, Tio Nicolas started to teach me to defend myself. I knew I would do whatever it took to follow after him; I was too young to understand, but I knew he was fighting so Mom didn’t have to worry anymore. When the riots kept me awake at night, I would crawl into bed with her. I wasn’t afraid… I didn’t know any different, but I knew she slept better if I was in her arms. I would go to sleep with her singing to me, stroking my hair, holding me like I was her whole world. I’d get up before sunrise, make her a coffee. Spill it everywhere ‘cause, you know, broken arm. And she didn’t care that I made a mess, she just knew I loved her.” Her voice became hushed. “I loved her so much, Taylor.” “I know.” Taylor gently rubbed Estela’s arm, hoping that she could give even a little comfort. All she really knew of Olivia Montoya was from her virtual reality message, and from the haunting hotel room recording. “I- I wish I could have met her. She seemed so intelligent… brave.” “She was. She was so determined. Whatever it took for her to get the future she wanted for us, she faced it. But she always found time for us. Just for us.” “Like going on your lunch hikes?” “Yes, like that. And when I was little, we used to walk along the beach and collect shells. We’d go swimming and look at the fishes; there would be tropical fishes in all colours. She showed me how to appreciate small things… beautiful things. Sometimes, it felt like the world was blowing up all around us; you need to find beauty in the little things when that’s your life. And she made it easy. Just being near her. She would sit and read on one side of the room, and I would sit on the other side. We didn’t have to say anything, I could just feel that she was there. After she was gone, I don’t remember being happy. Not until I met you.” Taylor wrapped her arms around Estela’s waist and nuzzled her face against her neck. She suddenly started giggling. “What’s the matter with you?” “Estela, my love, my soulmate, my heart’s desire, my dearest friend, my starlight… you stink of fish. Like, bad.” Estela laughed and put her hands to Taylor’s face, pulling her in. She caught her mouth in her own, kissing her fiercely. Taylor’s hands travelled up Estela’s back and into her hair, holding her close as she reciprocated, the momentum pushing them down into the grass. After a moment, they both doubled over, collapsing into giggles. “You’re not smelling like a basket of flowers yourself.” “How about we finish this once we’re cleaned up a bit?” Propping herself back up, Estela gazed over her wife, her cheeks hot. “Promise?” “Cross my heart.” Taylor looked into those dark eyes, which were brimming with warmth, and felt herself melt. A promise like that? Not even a question. “I’ll give these to Raj,” Taylor said happily, swinging the bucket of fish. “We are gonna be his absolute favourite people. At least until everyone’s sick of seafood.” Estela gave her a quick kiss. “I hope so. He’s been on my back about the knives disappearing from the kitchen.” “Yeah… I’m pretty sure there was a note pinned to the drawer. Something about ‘these knives are for cutting food, not people’. You may have been mentioned by name. In bold block capitals.” “That’s our next job, then. Make some practical weaponry. We should get a hold of some of that amber the Vaanti use.” “Sounds good. The cutlery is spared, and you can put your dagger-envy to rest. Everyone’s happy.” Taylor gave Estela a playful shove and headed inside. Estela made to follow, but her eye was caught by a movement from the side of the hotel. It was Aleister. Her walls leapt up, her gaze hardened, and she turned away. “Wait! I wanted to…” Aleister faltered, singed by the hostility that radiated off her. “I have something for you.” He wished he’d thought to just give what he’d found to Taylor, who was rather less the human equivalent of a bomb that could go off at any moment. “You needn’t think of it as a gift or anything sentimental. But it belongs to you.” He thrust his hand forward, ignoring the clear mistrust in Estela’s eyes. She took from him several crumpled photographs. Estela’s mouth dropped open. Her eyes grew wide, then scrunched tight shut, wet with tears before she could properly comprehend what she held in her hand. She turned herself away from Aleister and messily wiped her eyes. Mirroring her actions, Aleister awkwardly turned to the opposing side, completely at a loss for what to say. Dealing with emotions was not his strong point. Words of comfort, sympathy? Simply callous coming from him. “I, uh, that is my mother and I… and Grace… we found these in a hidden safe in the library,” he said finally, still avoiding eye contact. “I had wondered… he said he’d truly loved your mother… perhaps something might have been kept.” Her fingers running tenderly over a photograph; a small child, arm in a sling, walking hand in hand with her mother along a beach, a rough but almost pretty town in the backdrop, Estela could barely hear Aleister’s words. “My mother,” he continued, “knew that he’d put away some items from her room. Obviously, somewhere private… hidden. It’s not much, but it seems he couldn’t bring himself to destroy everything.” A flicker of rage licked through Estela’s heart, but it was extinguished by a bittersweet wave of aching sadness and love. “It’s the fish… the smell; it’s making my eyes water,” Estela lied, sniffling still. Aleister snickered appreciatively. “Given the sensitive nature of our exchange, I decided it best not to comment on the… aroma. I am glad that you are at least aware of it.” “A small price for dinner. I hope you’re hungry.” Frowning, Estela looked down at the ground and then pointedly into Aleister’s face. Well, shit, better get this over with. “We almost died because of you. You were so stupid, so arrogant, you almost killed the only people who gave a damn about you- “ “-Can we not do this now?” Aleister scowled and rolled his eyes. It had been too much to expect to get through to someone so blinded by hate. Estela was just like their father… never satisfied… out of reach. It was small wonder he’d seen something in her that he never had in Aleister. “Is it really so difficult for you to let the past be the past for five minu-“ “No.” Estela’s gaze became steely, and Aleister was momentarily forced into silence. “No; listen.” “To your well-prepared character assassination? I would rather not.” “You put your trust in the wrong person. Even the best people…” she felt her voice waver as she thought of her mother, of Lila. “Even the best of us can trust the wrong person… the worst person. In the end… you made your choice. You saved us. He… he told you he could bring your mother back to life. You were an idiot to believe it but… I understand. You’re a better man than Rourke ever was. And I can’t keep holding a grudge against you. I don’t want to.” Aleister’s face registered surprise, but he quickly collected himself. “Uh, thank you. I know how personal this has been to you; how personal it has always been. You and I have been at odds so much of the time… but I would not have wished my father upon you. I’m sorry.” Estela winced, her face clouded over. Her eyes flickered back to the photo. To her mother. The last person she imagined would keep her in the dark. Tears rolled down her cheeks and once again she had to look away. She felt a hand placed awkwardly on her shoulder, then hastily removed. “Ah, I…” Aleister stammered. Where was Grace when he needed her? She’d have wrapped Estela in a hug and been done with it. Certainly, she could have done so without the fear of having her lights punched out. But yet Estela didn’t bristle at the bumbling attempt at physical contact. If anything, she looked… amused. “Is something funny?” “You’re about as good at opening up as I am,” Estela said, smirking through her tears. “A side effect of a life shaped by a treacherous snake,” Aleister said with a wry smile. He paused for a moment, trying to read her. “We have a certain kinship. A regrettable one, I’ll admit, but… I’m grateful to have it. He was never much of a father… my mother died when I was small… it has been lonely, I’ll admit. Perhaps, in time…?” Estela’s mouth was dry. “…maybe we could have a couple of drinks, stew over how he screwed us both over?” “That sounds appropriate. I don’t expect you to ever see me as family… kin… but…” Unsure, he held out his hand. “Friends I could do.” With a deep breath, Estela grasped Aleister’s outstretched hand firmly. “I’ll leave the hugging to Taylor, though.” She glanced down to the precious photos held tightly in her other hand. “And, uh, thanks. Thank you… more than I can say.” He gave her a nod of understanding, and they parted ways. Her photographs clutched to her chest, Estela realised she was trembling. “Hey?” called Taylor, walking over, her brow furrowed in concern. “Hey, is everything all right?” She put her arm around Estela’s shoulder and inhaled sharply as she saw what was in her hand. “Wait- are those?” Estela wiped her eyes and nuzzled close to Taylor. “Everything is… good. Uh, better than… uh…” Another deep breath. “It’s family… family stuff.” She put a hand to Taylor’s cheek and almost laughed at the stunned look on her face. “Let’s go up to the room, okay? We’ll get cleaned up and… I’ve got some things to share with you.”
  3. My first Choices fic. I'm wanting to write some more and get better! Title: “Aftershocks in the Night" Book: Endless Summer Main Pairing: Taylor (f) x Estela Genre: Romance, Hurt/Comfort Warnings: mild language Summary: Set in the immediate aftermath of the events of Book 3 (Endless ending); Taylor and Estela are kept awake at night by the dawning reality of the choices and revelations made in the final showdown with Rourke. Taylor woke with a jolt, a sudden crash bringing her abruptly to her senses. Cold flushed her body as she sat up, knowing in an instant that Estela was not by her side as she should be. The warm light from beneath the door to the ensuite bathroom drew her to her feet. A muffled sob broke the eerie silence. “Estela? Is everything all right?” Pushing the door ajar with a low creak, Taylor found Estela sitting curled up on the floor, shaking with fury, her head buried in her hands, her fingers wrenching into her own skull. Cautiously, she stepped forward, avoiding the glass that peppered the tiled floor, and wrapped herself around her wife. She gently pulled away Estela’s bloody hand and brought it to her lips for a soft kiss. Estela’s shoulders heaved as the sobs came anew, but she released her vice-like grip, instead embracing Taylor’s form, holding on as if for dear life. “Six years, Taylor… six goddamn years.” Estela looked up, catching her reflection in what was left in the shattered mirror. “Nothing else mattered, nothing but destroying that bastard. All this time, and there’s a part of him in-“ Taylor stroked Estela’s hair. “You’re not him. You’re not a Rourke, Estela Montoya.” “I looked at my reflection and all I could see was him… my mother.” She convulsed, as if physically ill, and held on tighter to Taylor’s side. “Look at me.” Taylor guided Estela’s chin upwards, meeting her eyes. She looked over face as if examining her, her heart aching with affection as she took in every feature. She traced her fingers along the side of Estela’s face, feeling the raised line of her long scar. Estela gazed back, the fierceness draining from her eyes. With a sniff, she reached out, stroking Taylor’s cheek. There was no fear in her partner’s face, as there never had been. Taylor wasn’t looking back at a monster. Closing her eyes, Estela leant forward, allowing their foreheads to touch. For a long while, the two women quietly held one another. As Estela calmed, Taylor gently pulled her to her feet and led her to the door. “Here, let me grab something to wrap your hand.” “It’s nothing.” “Humour me, okay? I guess we’ve outstayed the honeymoon suite as it is, but I’d rather not sleep in bloody sheets.” Estela smirked and crossed her legs on top of the bed. It was a long time, so very long, since someone had fussed over her. She shivered a little, but patiently waited for Taylor to dig out the room’s first aid kit. “I’m sorry,” she said, her face falling once again. “I thought it was all over.” Handing Estela a robe, Taylor sat down upon the bed. Her eyes clouded over as she retreated into her own thoughts. The past forty-eight hours had been an insane storm of despair, defiance, jubilation, doubt and loss. Their friends had survived, but the world had been lost in the fight to bring Rourke down. Relief and hope for a future together on La Huerta could only sustain their spirits for so long, and Taylor was kept awake at night by her own demons. “I guess when the fight stops, sooner or later our minds have to catch up with everything that’s happened. You’ve been so strong… but no one can be strong forever.” Tenderly, she wrapped Estela’s hand. As she finished, she pecked the bandaged knuckles with a kiss. “You’re not defined by what you’re made up of. If you got anything at all from that son-of-a-bitch, it was that insane determination- and it was because of that beat him in the end. We won. I wouldn’t be sitting here right now if it wasn’t for you.” Estela frowned, drinking in the words and grasping for the reassurance she was not sure she was entitled to. Taylor was honest, but that didn’t mean she was right. That belief, though, that meant the world. Seeing the doubt lingering across her wife’s face, Taylor grasped Estela’s good hand. “Your mom would be proud of you. She wanted you to find your peaceful life, and you found it. You’re surrounded by people who love you. And, hell, you decided how you wanted to define yourself, and it wasn’t a vengeful assassin that spared Lila and who saved my life again and again. You took my hands and made a promise. I love you, Estela; you make my heart whole.” Leaning forward, Estela met Taylor in a soft and tender kiss, lingering to feel a slight smile against her lips. “I love you too.” She shifted a little. “I, uh, I guess you’re not the only one working out who you are.” “We can work it out together. Whoever this new you -unburdened by a mission for vengeance or saving our butts- is, I know she is the same beautiful warrior queen who’s been driving me crazy.” Estela giggled and fell into her, her head against her beloved’s chest. The shadow Rourke left hanging over her still hung, but it was not suffocating her. She was, she knew, so much stronger than that murdering, selfish coward. She exhaled. “Thank you,” she said. “I hope you know you can always wake me if you’re ever having your own late-night crisis. Do you… do you want to go back to bed?” A grin came to Taylor’s face. “I have a better idea.” Down by the poolside, the two women walked arm in arm, taking in the moonlight. The red glow on the horizon was a sombre reminder of the destruction that lay beyond, but yet it couldn’t disrupt the peace that had fallen upon The Celestial. Taylor let her robe fall to the ground, leaving her clothed just in her underwear. As she slowly pulled away from Estela, she looked over her shoulder with a provocative smile, before taking a running leap and cannon-balling into the pool. She whipped her head up, only to be blinded by a second splash as Estela joined her. Automatically, her arms reached up and out, catching her partner as she emerged from the water, a laugh across her face. Estela squealed, but recovered masterfully, ducking below and taking Taylor out from the side with a hard jab to the ribs. “-Oof!” Taylor spluttered. “I just bandaged that!” “And you’ll do it again. What kind of wife would I be if I went easy on you?” With a sly grin, Estela pulled Taylor close, close enough to see the droplets of water on her face… almost close enough to kiss. Taking the bait, Taylor moved in, but in that moment Estela dove beneath the water and swept her clean off her feet. Shouts and shrieks ran out from the pool as the sweethearts splashed and played, finally becoming quiet in one another’s arms. “This is our lives now,” said Taylor, floating back in contentment, Estela’s hand wrapped in hers. “More of this. No more fighting, my love; just us, our friends… it’s about time everyone saw your fun side.” Estela gazed up into the endless expanse above, remembering the night she and Taylor sat together under the stars… when her life began to change. Her fun side- if it was not, as she suspected, a figure of her Taylor’s imagination, was stunted by the harsh reality of her childhood and further by her mother’s murder at the hands of Rourke and Lila. She cared deeply about her friends and slowly she had lost her discomfort in showing it. To be at ease, playful, was a struggle. She was finding it in her relationship with Taylor but bringing her walls down could only be achieved brick-by-brick. This was her life now, though, the future she’d never planned- never dreamed- of having. Unafraid, she squeezed Taylor’s hand and closed her eyes. Beginning to feel the cold, Taylor and Estela stepped out of the water, immediately regretting their lack of towels. Again, Taylor’s eye lingered on the burning horizon. No one but the two of them knew all that was involved in the fateful choice that prevented the world’s restoration. Taylor’s heart told her she was right; Rourke was not to be trusted. In the aftermath, Estela had given her open support- telling her that a world poisoned by such evil was better off not revived- but Taylor struggled with her own inability to make the sacrifice that would have restored the world they knew. It was Estela’s last desperate plea that had kept her from taking the leap. Quite literally, she had the world on her shoulders. Had she been alone, she’d have surely collapsed under the burden. A cold hand on the crook of her arm startled Taylor back to the present. “Are you tired?” Estela’s eyes shone with concern. That guilt had played on Taylor’s mind was no secret between them. She could only give reassurance that it had been right not to gamble her life for an unknown, that the world was long since lost, that their best hope was there, together, on La Huerta. “I want to hold you.” “Then hold me.” Drawn to her wife life a magnet, Taylor buried her face in Estela’s neck and wrapped her arms around her firm, muscular middle. A chill breeze caused her to shiver and huddle in tighter. Slowly, she began to sway, and one hand moved to hold Estela’s. She looked up to a warm smile. Estela pressed into Taylor’s hand, taking the lead. They skimmed across the cool tiles, moving in sync to music that wasn’t there. Taylor could not keep her eyes open, and she found herself leaning further into her partner, losing herself in the feeling of security in those arms. Suddenly, her legs were taken from beneath her, and her eyes sprang open. “Woah!” Estela giggled. “So, you are awake?” The utter trust moved her, and she knew she would return it, always. She carefully adjusted her hold and touched her forehead to Taylor’s. Taylor put her arms around Estela’s neck, allowing herself to be held tight. “Yes… and yes, maybe I am tired. A little.” “We can dance tomorrow night.” The night to follow would bring a village-wide celebration in Elyys’tel to mark the survival through Raan’losti and the defeat of the Hydra. Varyyn had promised a night that his friends would never forget, with the Catalysts’ role in saving the Vaanti honoured. It would be the final bookend to the adventure that began when the small plane crashed onto La Huerta’s shores. Reluctantly, Taylor put her feet back on the ground. “I’d almost forgot. We should take this back to the room… or another one; we can clear the glass in the morning.” “You don’t need me to carry you?” Taylor aimed a playful kick out to the side but stumbled as her foot collided with a chair. Her balance lost, she fell forwards, only to be gathered up in the arms of Estela, who stifled a laugh. “Come on, before you hurt yourself.” Having taken a new key from the front desk, the couple crept through The Celestial’s halls to a lush rainforest suite. Taylor dragged behind them a bag with just some bandages, towels, and clothes for the next morning. “Is that… a tree? Inspired by the Vaanti treehouses, you think?” Estela collapsed onto the bed and took in her room. “Rourke’s attempt at it.” Taylor wriggled beneath the clean, tight covers, and reached out. “This whole place has Rourke all over it. Maybe… maybe we need to make that change.” “Sometimes I can’t stand it,” Estela growled, becoming tense. She shook her head. “But still, I know at some point she was here. It makes it… hard.” “The closest thing to home, and the farthest thing from it.” Taylor pulled back the cover to invite her partner in beside her. Estela nodded. She edged in, allowing herself to be enveloped in a warm embrace. Slowly, the tightness in her eased. “This is the closest thing to home. You.” Fighting the urge to bury herself into the depths of the luxurious bed, Taylor grabbed the bandage from the bedside table and propped herself up. “Good. Because I intend to be wherever you are.” Tolerant of Taylor’s nursing, Estela leaned into her lap and offered her wounded hand for tending. As her eyes wandered over the cut, her mind flitted back to her breakdown before the bathroom mirror. Rourke’s daughter… by rights, The Celestial- all of Rourke International, was hers. Hers and Aleister’s. Burn it to the ground. She took a deep breath, focusing back into the feel of Taylor against her back. Exhaustion pressed down on her as the fight to keep her head above the rush of self-disgust began once more. Rourke hadn’t won. When Estela was done, The Celestial would bear no mark of him, nor would any structure left standing. It would stand as a tribute to Olivia Montoya. She would not be forgotten. “Someday,” Estela said quietly, “we’ll have our own place. You and me… maybe a family, one way or another.” Taylor recalled the vision from Estela’s Ember of Hope, her wishes to start a family, back home on San Trobida. “Maybe Colonnade Cove?” she suggested, stifling a yawn. “Or we could have a second home there, for whenever we need another honeymoon. I guess everyone’s most likely to live in or near Elyys’tel; close to Varyyn and Diego.” Estela’s eyes fluttered shut, and she allowed herself to get lost in a beautiful daydream, images of her cursed father driven from her mind. She murmured contentedly. “Good as new,” Taylor said cheerfully, lifting Estela’s poor hand to her face for a kiss before returning it to her side. She moved back beneath the covers, pressing her chest against her wife’s back, breathing in the security of her strong presence. A bandaged hand reached back, clumsily caressing her cheek before falling softly to the side. “Ready for another tomorrow.”
  4. So, which ending (or multiple) did you go with? I actually made my choice different depending on who I was with. - Stayed on the island. Like she said, "I'd burn down the whole goddamn world for you." - Vaanu. So that he could have his name cleared (and in my headcanon at least) be reunited with Mike. Which did you choose?
  5. 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
  6. Title: “Not Just Dreams” Book: Endless Summer Main Pairing: Quinn x Taylor (gender not stated) Other Pairings: Vague hints toward Diego x Varyyn Genre: Romance, Vaanu Ending Override Warnings: Brief swearing Summary: Ever since the island and the sacrifice to Vaanu, Quinn has been dreaming about Taylor. Then one night, Michelle notices something… ~ ~ ~ Most people hate being abruptly yanked from their dreams by the blaring of their alarm. Quinn, though, had more reason than most to hate it. It should have been impossible. It still didn’t make any sense. But somehow, whenever she fell asleep, she was able to talk to Taylor. At first, she’d assumed it was just that: a dream. But the longer they went on, the more and more she wanted to believe that it was real,they were really there, somehow, talking with her. But it wasn’t until she spent a night at Michelle’s place that she and the others understood what was really happening. ~ ~ ~ “Quinn! Quinn, are you okay!?” Michelle shouted. The dream connection vanished as Quinn was roused from sleep. She blinked open her eyes to see Michelle standing over her, grasping Quinn’s shoulders and staring at her with concern and fear. “Wha… Michelle?” asked Quinn groggily. “Something wrong?” Michelle’s eyes were wide with shock. “Quinn. Is that you in there?” “What?” asked the redhead nervously. “Uh…of course it’s me. Who else would I be?” Michelle glanced furtively back and forth, as if unsure what to say. Finally she took a deep breath and sat down on the bed. “Quinn…you were glowing. Glowing green.” Silence followed this statement for several moments as the meaning of her words sunk in. “Green. Like…?” “Vaanu green.” Quinn’s mouth dropped open as she felt the puzzle pieces click into place. “They’re not dreams…” she muttered to herself. “They’re not dreams!” Ecstatic, she jumped out of bed and pulled Michelle into a tight hug. “Michelle, do you know what this means!?” “That you’re…crushing me…?” Embarrassed, Quinn let Michelle go. “Er, right, sorry.” She sat back down and turned to face the other girl. “I’ve told everyone before about my dreams, remember? After the island?” Michelle nodded. “Your dreams about Taylor.” “I was talking to Taylor again in my dreams just now. Before you woke me up. But if you’re telling me I’m glowing like Vaanu in my sleep….” Now it was Michelle’s turn to be surprised. “…Then you’re saying…you’re actually talking with Taylor?” “Vaanu’s still with me, somehow. Which finally explains the mystery of me being cured after returning from La Huerta.” “I had been wondering about that…” “So maybe, if Vaanu’s still somewhere inside me, that’s why I’m able to talk with Taylor! I have to tell them that tonight!” Michelle nodded. “This is…I really hope you’re right. God, I miss Taylor. I miss them so much. We all do.” Getting a sudden idea, she pulled out her phone and started a group text. “I’m gonna let the others know. This is huge.” Quinn smiled at her gratefully. “Go ahead. I’m gonna figure out a way to stay distracted until tonight, or this is going to be a long day for me….” ~ ~ ~ Quinn tossed and turned, back in her own bed that night, frustrated as she wondered why trying to go to sleep always seemed to make it more difficult. She’d tried just about everything she could think of: counting backwards from 1000, reciting poems in her head, meditating, counting her breaths…. She had even put on a recorded lecture from her absolute most boring professor, only to inexplicably stay awake for the whole thing for what was probably the first time in her life. She kept glancing at her phone’s lock screen to check the time. 2:57 AM … 3:35 AM … 4:12 AM … ~ ~ ~ “Quinn?” asked dream-Taylor suddenly, and she realized she’d finally, finally, fallen asleep. “Hey, there you are.” “Taylor! Oh God, finally. You’re not a dream!” There was a long pause. “…Yeah, Quinn, I’ve told you that before.” “Well, only a dream would say they’re not a dream.” “That doesn’t make sense.” Quinn laughed. “I’m…still connected with Vaanu, aren’t I? That’s how I can hear you?” “Probably. I’m not quite sure. I…it’s like I’m the one dreaming, but all the time. I don’t know where I am. Inside Vaanu? Part of Vaanu? It’s complicated.” “That’s not important. What matters is that I can talk to you, for real, and you’re not just in my own head anymore. You’re somewhere.” Quinn pictured Taylor smiling that familiar, infectious smile, even though she couldn’t actually see them through the dream-connection. “Well, yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying. I have to be somewhere, don’t I? Otherwise, I wouldn’t be anywhere.” “…What?” “I don’t know, either. Time doesn’t really…make sense the same way to me, anymore.” She felt she could almost hear Taylor shrugging. “I’m part of Vaanu, but also…not. I’m somewhere, though. I get flashes of a place sometimes.” “What does it look like? We’ll find you.” “Purple.” Quinn paused, unsure if their ‘connection’ was somehow ‘faulty.’ “Did you say ‘purple?’” she asked. “Yep. All purple and…crystal-y. I, uh… can’t get much more than that.” “I’ll tell the others. We’ll find you. I promise.” Quinn felt her dream-avatar start crying. “You’re real. I’m really talking to you. I so badly wanted to believe it…but…” “Shh,” came Taylor’s familiar, reassuring voice. “I’m real, Quinn. I’ve always been real.” “I…I wish I could kiss you.” Taylor’s smile was audible. “Me too, Quinn. Me too.” “I love you, Taylor. I miss you. Come home.” “If I knew how to, I would.” “Then I’ll find you. However long it–” ~ ~ ~ *CRASH!* Quinn was abruptly awakened from her dream-talk with Taylor. She looked around for the source of the disturbance, and saw her door hanging off its hinges, with Diego and Varyyn standing just outside. “Varyyn, I told you, you can’t just slam through a locked door!” whispered Diego. “I am sorry, Diego. Was the door not intentionally sealed shut as a test of strength?” “What!? No! Look, next time, just let me lead.” Then he noticed Quinn for the first time. “Oh! Our bad, I am so, so sorry. I didn’t realize you were still sleeping!” Quinn sighed and brushed a stray lock out of her face. “It’s fine. It’s so nice to see you two again! What time is it, anyway?” “Uh…almost noon.” “Right…wow. Okay. Just let me get dressed and I’ll be right out!” Diego’s face went beet red. Varryn’s face turned green, which was maybe the Vaanti version of blushing, she still wasn’t really sure. “Yeah. Of course. Sorry! Uh…what do you want me to do about the door?” Quinn laughed. “No worries, I can get it repaired. Just keep it closed for now.” How in the world I’ll explain THAT to the school maintenance service, I have no idea, she thought to herself. ~ ~ ~ Some time later, she met Diego and Varyyn in the student lounge, along with Michelle, Raj, Craig, Zahra, and Sean. Everyone looked at her expectantly. “…Right. Michelle, what did you tell them?” she asked. Michelle shrugged. “Just the basics. You still glow green like Vaanu sometimes, and you can talk to Taylor.” Quinn looks at the others. “Well…yeah, that’s about it,” she said. “I thought I was just dreaming about Taylor all this time. But now, I think I’m really talking to them each night.” Everyone started talking at once, until finally Zahra stood up on a chair and shouted, “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Silence. “Go ahead, Quinn.” Quinn smiled gratefully at Zahra. “Thanks. Listen, I still don’t really know what all this means, but I do know one thing. Taylor’s still out there, somewhere. Someplace…‘purple and crystal-y.’ At least that’s all they were able to tell me before I got woken up.” Diego scratches his neck sheepishly. “And if they’re still…alive somehow, then we need to find them, and bring them home. I know out of our group I’m not the smartest…or the strongest…or the bravest…but if I have to, I’ll do it alone.” An awkward silence followed this statement. “Uh…thank you.” Quinn bowed awkwardly and took a seat on the couch beside Michelle. Everyone looked at each other. Then Diego started clapping. Then Varyyn joined in. Then Zahra, then Sean, then Michelle and Raj. And finally, with a sigh of “What the hell…”, Craig joined in. “I always wanted to do that!” exclaimed Diego excitedly. “Nice speech, Quinn!” “And you won’t have to do it alone,” added Sean, standing up. “I’m with you.” “We all are,” put in Michelle. “Right?” A chorus of affirmatives greeted this statement. For the first time since Taylor’s sacrifice, joy filled Quinn’s heart again. “Taylor…” she said softly, looking up toward the ceiling, picturing their smiling face in her mind, “…I’m on my way.” ~A SceptileMasterr Studios Creation
  7. The final day of Endless Summer Appreciation Week, hosted by mysteli and brightpinkpeppercorn! Celebrate anyone and everyone from the series!
  8. Day 7 of Endless Summer Appreciation Week, hosted by mysteli and brightpinkpeppercorn! Celebrate Michelle and Raj!
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