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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Captive Hearts
By Aurora


Part 1

Madrid before dusk was always a curious thing. Sounds of the day begin to shift and reform, amalgamating into something that is characteristic of the night only; human voices become fewer and more subdued, even the traffic passing in the streets below sounds different at this time of night. There are no longer birds flitting from house to house making all sorts of ruckus. The bright colours of sunshine, so typical for Madrid's streets, become subdued beneath the silky purples and pervading night sky, swallowing the day as it goes.

Maca had always loved this time of night, watching these changes from her seat on the patio, Esther snuggled beside her under their blanket. Together they would sit out here well past nightfall, watching the stars appear over the horizon and making a wish on every single one of them. But tonight… Maca sat alone, with just the memory of Esther beside her.

It had been some weeks since Maca had asked Esther to leave their house and far from feeling relieved, Maca could only feel the absence making her ache for her wife even more. It had been somewhat bearable to begin with because she really did feel like she was making the right decision, but as the days went by and the nights seemed never to end, Maca could feel herself sinking; sinking into nothingness.

She was a strong woman, she knew, her strength one of the few traits she was proud to have gained from her parents but even her reserves of strength and courage were failing now, crushed under the weight of her own heavy heart. Her attempts to continue striving forward had begun innocently enough; a glass of wine at the end of a long day, a casual beer or four with Claudia after shifts and a few shots of hard liquor when the weekend finally arrived.

Now though, staring down an almost empty bottle of tequila, Maca was beginning to realise that somewhere along the line she had stopped coping with Esther's absence and was now hiding from it. She was no longer the woman she was proud to be, facing the world head on as a fighter and not a survivor. Now she resembled so many of the nameless patients that drifted in and out of the ER in a haze of drunkenness, each of them stuck within vicious cycles that more often than not claimed them, permanently.

Maca's face contorted in a grimace as thick tequila burned its way down her throat, setting her stomach aflame whilst numbing the rest of her body. Her pretty features were marred by deep, dark circles beneath her eyes and the lines of her face were cast in shadow, sharp and hard against the usual softness of her looks. Loose tendrils of chestnut hair lay bedraggled over her shoulders as though it had neither been washed nor brushed in days. She was beginning to look exactly the way she felt; desolate.

She was sat on an easy chair in the back garden of her small apartment, tucked up in the same old blanket whilst watching the sun set. Her only company was the occasional crackle of a baby-monitor that connected her to little Pedro's room and the mostly demolished bottle of tequila. She drank straight from the bottle, tossing back the amber liquid every time the burning sensation went away and emotional feeling started to return. Her only conscious thought was that she would burn away this love, even if it did kill her.

Esther was in the house somewhere. Even though they were no longer living together she spent a lot of time here. Ever since Maca had mentioned that Esther hadn't seen her son in quite a while, insinuating that perhaps she didn't love him, Esther had come by every night.

When Maca had discovered that Esther was pregnant, something inside her had snapped. Her more rational half was just glad that Esther had survived the hospital ceiling collapse, escaping with comparatively minor injuries, but the news of her pregnancy had been too much to bear no matter how she was relieved. She was still trying to reconcile it to herself, how something like this could have happened. She wanted to believe that Esther's lapse in judgement had been the result of a concussion or at least, alcohol induced, but the horrifying truth was that Esther knew exactly what she had done when she had slept with Raul. And that very fact was what had Maca drowning herself.

The baby-monitor suddenly began to crackle and Maca could hear Pedro stirring over the connection. His little gurgles were soothing, almost making her smile. But instead of allowing the moment of emotion, Maca just swallowed another mouthful of tequila, head swimming with drunkenness and listened detachedly to her son murmur in his sleep. After a few moments of half-asleep murmurs he began to cry, the door to his room opening shortly after and a soothing voice whispering softly, coaxing him back to sleep.

Esther's voice, so tender and soft as she spoke to their little son tore through Maca's heart, tears stinging the backs of her eyelids as she closed them tightly in angry hurt, refusing to let anymore tears fall. She had cried for days over Esther's betrayal, for weeks even, her heart shattered in her chest and swept away by a careless breeze and she would cry no more, damn it. But they slipped out anyway because there was no stopping the tears, ever.

Maca quickly reached over to switch the monitor off, taking three hasty gulps of tequila as if to cauterise her heart from feeling anymore, the cool night air hitting the wet streaks down her cheeks. The alcohol made her feel sick, but it felt better than the crushing betrayal she felt every time she heard Esther's voice.

She knew Esther would be out in a few moments to speak to her, ask her gently to come into the house and get some sleep, and Maca's answer would be the same as every other night Esther asked her to come back in; she wouldn't. So every night after she'd settled her son to rest and drunk herself into comfortable numbness, Maca would leave the house and hit the streets, walking till she reached somewhere… Anywhere that wasn't here.

Some nights she simply walked till morning, coming home only when Esther would have to leave for work and other times her aimless wanderings would take her to the hospital, rundown all-night diners and the far reaches of Madrid's city limits. She didn't care about the danger, as long as Esther wasn't there she could feel a little peace.

The muffled sound of the glass doors leading out onto the patio sounded behind Maca and she took another gulp of alcohol to steel herself against her wife's entreating voice. She hated that Esther could still get to her, practically make her do anything, and whereas before it had been something she loved, Maca now despised it.

"Maca…?" Esther's voice was as soft as when she'd spoken to Pedro. "It's getting late." She said, knowing already that Maca would not come into the house while she was there. "Cold, too…" She added quietly, rubbing some warmth into her arms as she stood in the doorway.

For a moment Maca's thoughts gave way to darkness as she wondered if Esther had used the same tone of voice when she spoke to Raul. Had Esther whispered small words of nonsense into his ear as they made love, like she had done so many times when they were together? Had those lips that Maca had always thought belonged to her only, been used to taste another? No matter how hard Maca tried to block the thoughts out, she couldn't, and was unable to bring herself to respond to Esther who was still silently waiting for an answer.

Every time there was nothing but silence to her pleas, Esther could feel the wedge between herself and Maca getting larger and larger till it threatened to push them to opposite sides of the world.

Maca would leave the house after Esther confirmed she would stay with Pedro and it kept Esther awake all night with worry, sick to her stomach that some thing or someone might happen to Maca as she walked Madrid's darkened streets. The mornings after when Esther had barely seen the back of her eyelids, let alone real sleep, she felt utter relief at finding her wife well and unharmed.

Shamefully, Esther pressed a hand to her slightly swollen stomach, swallowing hard as she tried to stop the tears slipping down her cheeks. She knew what she'd done was unforgivable and she didn't deserve Maca's love anymore, but God she hoped that one day she could try to get back Maca's trust. There was no one else in this world she wanted to raise this child with and she needed Maca more than anything.

She was still so much in love with this woman; her own knight in armour, ready to protect her from the whole world if necessary. There was nothing comparable to the way Maca smiled at her, for her only. The way she kissed, so soft and sensual, a seductive and bone-deep need she conveyed with the barest of touches against her lips, her skin and any part of her Maca chose to claim. When Maca kissed her, there was no one else in the entire world, only the two of them.

Maca could touch her heart and hold it within her grasp, never too tightly so she would bruise under such love, and never so lightly that Esther feared she would just let go. Although, really, fear of slipping through Maca's grasp and fading away was what had caused her to seek out Raul in her weakness, needing to have her insecurities alleviated. It had been a lapse in judgement, an inappropriate request for love and if she could only go back, it would not happen again. But at the time, Maca had been so far away, not just physically but emotionally too and Esther felt Maca slipping, and she was terrified. The irony wasn't lost on her that she'd pushed Maca away and now lost her anyway.

How she would ever be able to explain herself to Maca, Esther didn't know. She didn't even know if it could be done at all...

"Stay tonight?" Esther asked timidly, her eyes bright with worry.

Maca took a last long swallow from the bottle and dropped it to the floor, not bothering to pick it up again as what little was left of the contents began to dribble across the patio. She watched dazedly as the little trails of liquid began seeping into the cracks of the concrete, numbly thinking that this was how she felt now; like her very essence was slipping from her body, like the alcohol was from the bottle, to disappear down a dark hole.

"No." Maca muttered, rising from her chair with the blanket still wrapped around her. Esther's hopes sank at her words, the fear she was feeling building and building as Maca stumbled toward the house, beyond drunk. Esther tried to catch her eye but the taller woman wouldn't look at her and hadn't looked at her, actually looked at her, in a long time.

"I'll leave…" Esther conceded, thinking that was what it would take to keep Maca in the house, wanting nothing more than her safety.

Maca brushed passed her without another word, stepping into the living room and throwing her blanket down on the sofa. She walked away in silence, not looking back or appearing to have registered Esther's words at all, wobbling on her unsteady legs. It wasn't until she reached the hallway, heading out toward the front door that she turned and looked at her wife for the first time that day.

"You need to take care of your son." She said simply, not waiting for any argument on Esther's part before resuming her way to the door, leaning heavily on the walls as the room continued to stumble and spin.

It had played out this way almost every night. Maca made it clear that she wouldn't be coming back to take care of Pedro through the night and it was up to Esther to remain in the house with him. And every night Esther had to let her go, resigned to watching the gap between them ever expand. It may have been the same this night too if Maca hadn't clumsily fished up her bike helmet and keys as she walked toward the door.

Esther could barely cope with the thought of Maca wandering dark streets alone and vulnerable, easy prey for anyone who wanted her. She could rationalise it to herself because Maca needed the space; this was what Maca wanted. If and when anything happened, Esther vowed she would be there, like Maca had been for her. But there was no way in hell she was about to let Maca leave with her helmet or the keys to the bike.

She crossed the room so quickly she frightened herself with her own panicked reaction, dodging past Maca and pressing herself up against the front door, her jaw set and her eyes fixed on Maca's hazy ones.

"You're not leaving with those." Esther asserted, her words unyielding as she blocked Maca's path. Maca wasn't forthcoming in handing over the items, instead just standing there, slightly swaying from side to side. "Maca, please…" Esther was almost at the point of begging, fear that Maca could crash her bike and kill herself clawing at her. And despite knowing it would do her no good, she even tried to reason with her. "You could get yourself killed…"

"What do you care!?" Maca spat back, throwing the helmet and keys down on the floor with such force that the helmet hit the door to the nursery with a loud bang, startling Pedro from sleep and making him cry out. Esther looked helplessly to the door to their son's room, knowing that as soon as she moved, Maca would leave and she'd be left alone, worrying in the darkness that she may never see the love of her life again.

"God, I'm begging you, Maca, please. Don't leave… I don't know what I'd do without you…"

Maca looked away from Esther's gaze, unable to cope with its intensity even when drunk. "You should have thought about that before you screwed the first man that made an offer." She said acidly, still not looking at Esther.

Esther flinched as though she'd been physically struck across the face, the words stinging as much as an open-hand slap to her cheek would have. Tears pushed out from her eyes, dribbling down her cheeks as all the air whooshed from her lungs in hurt, Maca's words cutting right through her. It had been hard enough to listen to Maca say that she didn't care, but to have her concerns roughly pushed back in her face, with such vehemence, was too much and she staggered away from the door to fall against the wall, the sounds of her own tears mixing with those of Pedro's as Maca marched out of the apartment and slammed the door violently behind her.

Esther's tears were endless and merciless, becoming painful as time went by and she was unable to control them. She trembled from head to toe as her knees became sodden with salty tears, the consequences of her actions plaguing her. She would do anything Maca asked, if only she could have another chance.

It wasn't until she was really about to lose Maca's love that she realised how stupid she'd been before. And this wasn't the first time her insecurities had led her into regrettable situations. They may have been on rough ground when Maca refused to open up to her, when she herself had succumbed to raging jealousy over the various women that passed through Maca's life, and when they'd decided to have a child. But through all of their time together, as lovers and a married couple, Esther had always known that Maca loved her. Now… She wasn't so sure where Maca's heart was.

She hated herself for not coming clean with Maca straight off. She should have gotten down on her knees and begged for forgiveness, instead of just hoping it would go away and she'd never have to admit to succumbing in a moment of weakness.

Esther didn't know how long she'd been huddled against the wall of the apartment but it was now completely dark outside and Pedro was still crying. She rose with difficulty, her limbs shaking with fatigue after crying for so long. Maca's safety and the salvaging of their relationship were the only fervent thoughts on her mind as she headed to Pedro's room, finding a little comfort with her son in her arms…

Part 2

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