DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the following characters and no infringement on any copyrighting is intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Captive Hearts
By Aurora


Part 3

Maca awoke much earlier than would be expected for someone who had drunk so much the night before. When she attempted to lever herself off the bed a sharp pinch in her arm where the IV unit was connected made her yelp in surprise. She followed the plastic tubing to two empty saline bags, silently thanking Cruz for that little measure which had probably saved her from a monster of a hangover. At the moment she felt only a little weak.

Gingerly, Maca pulled the unit out from the crook of her arm, wincing as an indecent length of internal tubing slid out from her vein. But in the process of removing it she accidentally tugged the digit clip away from her finger, cursing under her breath when the piercing whine of the monitor announced an absence of a heart beat. Maca smiled perversely at the thought of even though she had a heart to beat, it really didn't do much else anymore.

The exclaiming monitor brought Cruz rushing into the cubicle a fraction of a moment later, panicked and out of breath. Her eyes were unnaturally wide, as though she had been on the verge of falling asleep before being shocked into action. Maca looked up from the cot with a sheepish smile, offering a tiny, "Good morning…" and sounding very meek in the face of Cruz's worry.

It was still only five in the morning and Cruz looked bitter about that very fact, her breaths becoming more controlled. "Something like that." She muttered, stepping round to the side of the bed and retrieving a pen light from her coat pocket.

She shone the light in Maca's eyes without mercy, finding no satisfaction when she shied away from the pain of it. To Cruz's relief however, both pupils were even and reactive, Maca's pulse now much stronger than it had been and some hint of pink was returning to her skin.

"How do you feel?" Cruz asked gently.

Maca didn't answer the question, instead thinking of how the woman now stood before her in such an obvious state of concern could have so easily neglected to tell her about what had been going on in her absence. Sometimes she just couldn't pin down Cruz's motives; in one instance she was the best friend you could ever ask for and in others, her interest seemed almost business-like. Maca wondered what half of that personality faced her now because she needed a friend more than someone to talk sense to her.

Her hands were slightly unsteady in her lap as she spoke. "Why didn't you tell me…?"

Cruz had no answer, or at least, no answer she believed Maca might find some solace in. The truth was that she hadn't known about the pregnancy or any affair until Esther had ended up on the emergency table. She even guiltily realised now that even if she had known, it wouldn't have been her place to tell Maca. She'd have spoken to Esther, for sure, but not Maca.

Maca's recent lapses made Cruz feel as though she was going to have to start getting involved though. "I only found out when you did." She explained, hoping Maca believed her. "… And even if I'd known before, it wouldn't have been my place to say, Maca." She added gently, hoping that Maca didn't find reproach in those words or that she'd somehow deceived her.

Maca couldn't refute the logic but she was still bitter over the fact she'd apparently been the last to know. Aside from Claudia, who seemed to have taken an interest in her affairs, everyone appeared to be so overjoyed for Esther and the pregnancy they'd completely forgotten she was married. From what she could tell, the entire hospital seemed to think that Esther pairing up with Raul was a damn-sight more normal than being married to Maca.

Cruz took Maca's hands within her own as they began to tremble more visibly. Her shoulders heaved unevenly, long breaths that were broken by barely constrained sobs rising from her chest. The tidal wave had been building within her for days and Maca could feel her flimsy defences falling as Cruz enveloped her in a hug. She wished so much for it to be Esther.

The security Maca found within those strong arms, solid and real, not just a memory of a dream where she had really been in Esther's embrace, caused the first silent tears to fall. She bit her lip, trying to keep it all in. She knew if she cried she'd be admitting to everyone how much it hurt and that she wasn't okay. And she needed more than anything to be okay, even if it was a lie only she knew the truth of.

Maca managed a strangled "Why?" as she held ever tighter to Cruz, desperate and heartbroken.

And to that there was no answer. Cruz, after seeing this precious relationship develop from its beginnings, through so many hard times, to blossom into the romance it had, would never be able to fathom what had come between Maca and Esther. They had a fairytale romance and more than once Cruz had envied them for it.

Maca continued to cry for a long time, all the while Cruz whispering soft reassurances to her friend. It was only a small thing, to stand here with Maca braced against her stomach, sobbing uncontrollably into her shirt as she brushed her fingers through the paediatrician's hair. But Cruz felt as though she owed her that much; a few moments of comfort in a well of darkness, something she might cling to when too much was all there was. It was also an act of penance, hoping that Maca would forgive her for not being there when she was needed most.

Cruz pulled away when Maca's tears dissolved into uneven hiccoughs. "I'll be right back." She promised at Maca's pleading look, gently cupping her face in her hand and stroking a thumb over her chin.

Left alone on the cot with the remnants of her tears, Maca's thoughts began to drift away again. She wondered what Esther was doing at this very moment. She was most likely sleeping but Maca imagined her still speaking to Pedro in that voice that made her insides churn with need. Not so long ago Esther had spoken to her in such a way, laying her hands on Maca's body, instilling that familiar ache that would make her walk the world over if asked; making her fall in love with her all over again, a little deeper and a little further each time.

God, how she still loved that woman… The bed sheets still smelled of her, all her clothes were still neatly folded next to her own and the shower walls carried Esther's imprint. Every morning Maca would wake with a familiar heat next to her body, curled into her stomach, and for a brief moment of happiness before Maca remembered everything, Esther was with her. But when she opened her eyes there was nothing but pale cushions and eiderdown feathers pressed to her breast where her wife should have been.

No matter how much it hurt, made her sick, to think of someone else with their hands on Esther's body, her hips, her arms and places far more intimate, Maca couldn't push away the love she felt. She wanted to stand her ground but she was rapidly losing purchase on her ideals and her heart. Soon the alcohol would no longer work, no longer drive away the aches in her heart that demanded Esther come back, and she would be forced into something else more deadly just to silence her longing. Even then, Maca doubted she would ever be able to rid herself of Esther's mark. Esther was inside every part of her, running in her blood and ingrained into her very soul, and there was no way you could just turn your back on that.

She needed her wife back, regardless of anything that happened between them…

Tears threatened to spill past her control once more and she defiantly tossed her head to the side, taking a deep breath to push all her feelings down to the pit of her stomach. She tried to convince herself she was better than this but it was a lie even to her own ears; she wasn't any better than the love she felt.

Cruz returned quickly with a satchel and handed it to her. Bemused, Maca opened it up to find a towel, wash kit and a spare pair of clothes. When she looked up again Cruz was smiling. "Go take a shower and then get back down here; there's a whole mountain of paperwork to do and since you seem so keen to hang around, you can help."

Maca smiled at the gentle ribbing, the sensation somewhat alien as her facial muscles felt unused. With the satchel clutched to her stomach, she slid from the gurney and made her way to the showers, head hung a little low.

As Maca walked away, Cruz's own smile slipped from her face, feeling a little too forced and uncomfortable upon her lips. Something had to give between those two women and as much as she didn't like the idea of getting involved, having already 'lied' to Maca, Cruz knew she had to try something. Even if her efforts only amounted to locking the two of them in a room until they sorted it out, threatening them with their jobs or being a complete nag, she would do her damnedest to sort things out.

Something had to change or Maca wouldn't make it. She hadn't expected it to happen so quickly but Cruz could see the radiance slipping from Maca's features. Maca no longer carried herself with pride, there was no heart in her actions and it just seemed to cast Maca in shadow. In essence, she no longer seemed to be Maca at all.

She sat down at the roundabout after Maca moved out of sight, her indecisions spinning round and round in her mind. There was no easy answer to the dilemma; on the one hand, if she let things happen as they would, Maca would either drink herself to death or she would avoid Esther so effectively that they would never cross paths. The other side of the coin was that if confronted, Esther would be so sorry as to appear insincere and neither scenario would be easily rectified.

With another great sigh, Cruz ran her fingers through her thick black hair and returned her gaze to the stack of paperwork, only to stop short when she noticed a small envelope sitting on it. It was hospital stamped, addressed to herself regards a patient. It could only be Maca's blood-work and Cruz tore the crisp seal with a slightly unsteady hand.

When she pulled the letter from the envelope, Maca's name became visible underneath the bold red letters declaring the information confidential and Cruz pressed her hand to her mouth in disbelief.

"Damn it, Maca…"

Part 4

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