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  1. 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.”
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