Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Danielle Langley and Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:3:6) in the Corellian system: Corellia (Gold Beaches) and Nerf Herder, in the Essesia system: Esseles (The Void) and Nerf Herder, and in the Sullust system: Nerf Herder and Sulon (Arkovich homestead).
Asher Arkovich, Sophia Cromwell, Sub-Lieutenant Tosha Previn, Lord Marcus Rodney, and Major Min Traebor.

Marc offered a quick nod to Sophia, hoping that she would keep her promise and not get them into any hot water this time. He let out a deep exhale as he prepared to open the Nerf Herder's hatch, popping it open to reveal the inside of the massive Imperial hangar in Esseles' mountains. Once again wearing the suit of custom-designed armorweave, the hunter stepped out of the ship and set foot on the cold, metal surface of the facility. His eyes roamed the hangar, but neither Min Traebor nor Tosha Previn was visible. He turned to look at Sophia, shrugging his shoulders in confusion.

Suddenly multiple bolts of blue energy shot forward from the darkness and impacted with Marc's armorweave, sending him staggering backwards against the hull of the Nerf Herder. He took a moment to consider why he was not dead, when he quickly realized they were using stun weapons that had no effect through the protection of his armorweave. "Stay in the ship," he yelled to her as he moved back towards the hatch.

"In the head! Shoot him in the head you idiots," the foreboding voice of Major Min Traebor was heard to shout from the darkness. The Imperial Intelligence officer was irate at the incompetence of the troopers around her and grabbed one of their DH-17 blaster pistols. She leveled it clearly with the Nerf Herder's head and pulled back on the trigger with deadly accuracy.

The bolts from the other troopers flew all around Marc as he made his way back to the ship, slamming into the hull and harmlessly dissipating over the small transport. The blast from Traebor, however, slammed into his righ temple and he froze dead in his tracks, less than two meters from being back inside the ship. He fell forward like a sack of potatoes, landing face forward on the deck, unconscious before he hit the ground. He had been successfully stunned by the Imperial witch.

She stayed in the ship, her eyes were wide she had no idea what was going on "Hey! ":he had told him she would not cause any trouble. How in the hell had she done so without ever stepping out of the ship? Her heart was pounding as she watched him, and the moment it hit his temple she was down for the count making her way to him. She stayed quiet as she pulled him to her, checking for a moment before she would stand up and move to the hatch and glaring out of it "The hell was that for? The mark is dead." Her hands were gripping the metal of the ship before she would try and fill the large gap, blocking the fact that Marc was down. She was a damned good shot, so she kept her hands high though she kept hold of the edge of the hatch. She licked her lips slowly, glancing behind her for a moment before back to them. "Tell me your reasons."

Major Min Traebor stepped forward from the shadows, presenting herself to Sophia in the clear of light. Her eyes moved towards the young hunter's gun and a confident smile formed on her lips. "Shoot me if you wish. It will make you feel better for the brief moment you live before the troopers in this hangar destroy your ship and you along with it," she said with a smug look as she stepped towards Marc's body. Her gaze shifted down and she thrust a booted foot into his side, just to make sure he really was stunned. Confident that he was, she tilted her gaze towards Sophia and laughed.

Tosha Previn was quick to follow from the shadows, believing that this it was a bad idea to make a move against the hunters. "While the 'Nerf Herder' may be an enigma to us ... we know all about you Sophia Cromwell," she said, spitting out the name with disgust and contempt. She shook her head at the fallen body of the master hunter, wondering how he could have allowed himself to get entangled with the likes of her.

"We know all about your parents, Miss Cromwell," Min quickly added as she placed her boot on top of Marc's chest and used him as a foot stool. "We know about Asher Arkovich as well," she said with a soft chuckle as she shook her head at the young woman. "You should have stayed on Sulon and married him, my sweet. You might have been happy," she added as she wagged a finger at her, as if to indicate she had been naughty.

"You were followed to Sulon by one of our agents," Tosha explained as she moved closer towards Traebor, her eyes looking wearily down at Marc. "We sent you there as a test to find out if you could be trusted given what you have learned her..." before she could continue she was quickly, and rudely, cut off by her counterpart.

"...and we found out we couldn't!" Min interrupted, shaking her head in disappointment at Sophia. "If you want your ... lover ... to walk out of here we have another assignment for you," she said with a visible sneer as she looked over towards Tosha to allow her to finish.

"You will return to Sulon and eliminate Asher Arkovich," Tosha said as she folded her arms in front of her chest to exert her dominance. "Not only is he part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor..." she said as she narrowed her gaze on Sophia. "...but he is your last connection to your former life. Only when you give yourself to us completely will we be able to trust you," she explained as her eyes moved towards Marc again. "...and him," she coldly concluded, feeling they had made their point clear.

She stood there staring. "I wouldn't shoot you, I'm not an idiot." Then here eyes began to drift from the to of them. She kept her back straight and just continued to watch the women. She never once looked down to Marc, never once had the urge to go to him. She licked her lips slowly and her muscles tensed before anger was seething around her. Her body shook with the amount of anger that poured through her veins "Kill Asher?" She bit her lower lip and her hands lowered. She rested her hands to her  sides then and glared at them. "Fine. I'll prove to you, you can trust me. I'll...kill Asher..." She slowly took a step back into the ship, her eyes watched them before she turned to Tosha "What will you do with him while I'm gone ..?" She had been careful this entire time not to say his name, not to show any emotion towards him...well as much as she could anyway. She continued to watch Tosha and not the other, almost ignoring her really. "And what will happen to us when I get back, when I succeed with this mission?"

Min smiled up at the young hunter as she looked towards Marc's body, on which she still rested her foot. "We will take good care of him," she said as a sinister grin plastered its way onto her beautiful human visage. "And if you prove us wrong and show that you can be trusted..." she added as she looked towards Tosha for a brief instant. "...then you can continue to work for us until you screw up and get yourself killed," she said as show slowly began to laugh.

"You agree to this." Though she heard her words, she was ignoring Min, instead she kept her eyes on Tosha. Watching her face for any sort of hint or something... She sighed then and nodded "Get the hell away from this ship then and I'll leave right away. I'll prove to you...that you can trust me." She took a step back into the ship, her body still shaking from anger "I swear I'll be back to get him, and we'll do your damned jobs. I won't take long." She had not yet let it hit her what she had to do to save Marc.

"He will be quite safe with us," Tosha said as she nodded to the ambitious young hunter. This would be an excellent opportunity for her to test how far the bounds of 'love' would actually strain before breaking. Personally, she felt she would never encounter Sophia Cromwell again.

The moment she sat down in the pilots chair, she began pressing the buttons to go. She hesitated, but she did not glance back. The hatch door closer, the engines roared to life and she was off. Mimicking everything that Marc had done she thought of nothing but leaving that place, typing in the coordinates so that the moment she hit the stars she could jump into hyperspace...She was not use to this flying without him. The moment the was away though she broke down. Sophia cried. Cried for not being able to protect him, cried because they knew her...and cried for what she had to do. She would do anything but sleep until she reached her destination, finding herself back in her pilots seat, angry again to land the Nerf Herder.

It was a long and lonely flight back to her home planet. And it was a short ride to his old home. She stood outside for the longest time. She was debating on whether or not to go inside. Her whole body was shaking. She was going to save Marc, she knew she was going to kill Asher...She just did not know how hard this was going to be. She stood out there for a good fifteen minutes before she would walk down the stairs to his home calling out softly "Asher?"

The Arkovich homestead was an unassuming structure in the Wastelands of Sulon, not too far from the capitol of Barons Hed. The modest home once belonged to his parents who toiled long and hard for Sulon Incorporated for minimum wages before dying young from the backbreaking work. In the bedroom he used since he was a child, Asher slept, still recovering from his leg injury from his last encounter with Sophia. He had been dreaming of her each night since, struggling to purge her from his mind. He very much still loved her.

She knew the house like the back of her hand. She moved through it easily enough keeping quiet. She moved towards the kitchen first pouring him...some sort of drink, before she moved towards his room. She saw him sleeping, pulling up a chair towards the bed she set the drink down on a night stand before whispering lightly so as not to scare him "Asher...Asher wake up..."

Asher shivered as he heard the familiar voice, his eyes opening so quickly that it caused him to experience a headache. He stirred slowly, trying to lift his head off the pillow. It was dark in the room and all he could make out was a silhouette, but he could feel her presence and he immediately knew it was her. "Sophia?" he cried out excitedly as he placed his hands on his side to boost him off the bed.

"Stop." She sighed lightly reaching out she rested her hand on his shoulder. She licked her lips slowly and gently pushed him back to lay down, taking in a deep breath she gently let it out "You're still wounded Asher you shouldn't be moving around too much. You know that..." She bit her lower lip then, and picked up the glass from the table, swishing the liquid around it gently.

A soft sigh escaped Asher's lips as he settled back down into the bed, smiling up at her in eager anticipation. His heart began beating in his chest more rapidly, a deep sense of longing that had gone unfulfilled began to flow through his body. "Have you come back to me?" he asked, his hand moving to gently brush across the unfamiliar texture of her armor. He always remembered her wearing such soft clothes.

"No..." Her voice though she tried to hard not to let emotion slip through she could not. "No...I haven't come back to, I've come to say good bye..." Her voice was full of pain...hurt...and sadness... She took in a deep breath then gently let it out. She kept her eyes on the glass in her hand, still watching the swishing liquid.

"Goodbye?" Asher repeated sadly as his eyes focused on her, small tears beginning to well in the corner of his eyes. He sighed, taking in a deep breath as he shook beneath her. "" he said as panic began to overtake him, having always believed they would one day be reunited.

"Asher..." Her voice was harder, but he would not be able to see her, he would not be able to see tears begin to fill her own eyes. She took in a deep breath then gently let it out. "Men aren't supposed to cry Asher..." She could see him much better than he could see her. She watched him, before she licked her lips gently and spoke lightly "I left you Asher, why aren't you mad at me... I don't understand you."

"Because I love you, Sophia..." Asher admitted as he inhaled again, bringing his hands up to wipe the tears from his eyes. "Why are you here? Just to tell me this?" he asked weakly, his head turning to the side to break the uncomfortable strain of the eye contact.

"Yes. Here..." She reached out and handed him the glass "It'll help you relax." Her hand shook lightly as she handed it to him and a tear slipped down her cheek. "I'm sorry I left you Asher..." She shook her head slowly "You were's just...maybe it was me."

By now Asher was quite overwhelmed and needed the drink and accepted it willingly into his hand. He brought it to his lips and drank it down quickly, blissfully ignorant as to its poison contents. As he finished, he smiled at her and let out a content sigh. "Not a day went by where I didn't miss you..." he said to her as he began to feel his body warm slightly.

"Please don't say things like that." She moved out of her chair and she would feel his bed sink in a bit as she sat beside him. She moved to lean forward and press her lips to his cheek "You were too good for me, Asher... you deserved someone better. Please forgive me...for everything."

"I forgive you, Sophia..." Asher replied weakly as he offered a soft yawn. Suddenly he felt very tired and his cheeks began to flush red as his body temperature began to rise. His heart beat began to slow and he felt tingling in his arms and legs. The poison was beginning to work, but he was too simple-minded to understand the implications.

"Thank you." Before he would leave her completely she leaned over and her lips pressed to his own warming lips. She closed her eyes and a tear fell on his cheeks. "Forgive me for everything...I'm so sorry Asher..." Then she stood and left the room. She began moving through the house, he had old pictures of the two of them together. She broke them...dropped them so she would not have to see them. She stopped at the door, there was a table next to it, on top...was Asher's addiction, something she hated. She picked up the pack and left. On the way back to the Nerf Herder, she slid one of those damned white sticks out, placing it between her lips before she took the tiny lighter that actually came attached to the packs and lit the cig. Taking in a deep breath...before slowly letting it it was back to Marc.

"Hmm. So she did return," Major Min Traebor commented as she watched the Nerf Herder land inside their hangar facility on Esseles. "Perhaps love does triumph over all," she added as she walked around towards the hatch with a smug look on her face. Her arms folded over her chest and she tilted her head, waiting for the pilot to emerge.

"I had a feeling she would choose love," Tosha Previn added as she remained in the shadows. Still unsure as to whether or not the bounty hunter would emerge from the transport with guns blazing, attempting a foolish rescue mission.

The hatch opened and made a pounding sound as it hit the ground. She stepped outside, there was a cigarra between soft lips. It had made her feel better on the way here, as well as it reminded her of Asher. But out of politeness or...whatever she was feeling at the time she sucked in one last puff before pulling the butt from between her lips dropping it on the hatch stairs and grinding it in as she made her way down, gently blowing out the misty air. She licked her lips slowly. One hand to her hip the other just rested at her side. It was obvious something in her had clicked.. had changed. Her face was blank, her heart was cold...and she just stared at the two woman, waiting.

"Well you certainly have changed," Min commented with a soft chuckle at the young hunter's appearance. Clearly, she had killed the man, but she planned to have her fun yet. "Those will kill you," she said as she reached down into her utility belt to produce her ornately crafted cigarra case. Pulling a long white cylinder out she slipped it to her lips and lit it with a gold-plated lighter. Exhaling a plume of smoke at Sophia's face she smiled knowingly.

"Have you completed your mission?" Tosha asked as she emerged from the shadows, her eyes moving over her with singular purpose as she tried to read her body language.

She completely ignored Min. She made no comment, she didn't even flinch at the woman's words or actions. Instead she turned her body to obviously show how she was ignoring her and faced Tosha instead. "Yes." One word. It held no emotion, well except for a bit of hatred that slowly traced it's way around such a small enticing word. She took a step away from the hatch, but not towards anyone in particular. She was waiting silently for Marc.

Tosha raised her hand and motioned towards herself, the rest of her body and her face not moving the slightest muscle. For the first time she was impressed with this bounty hunter and believed that she was now capable of greater assignments.

From the shadows two Stormtroopers dragged the unconscious body of Marcus Rodney from an unknown location. His body was bound with cuffs at his wrists and ankles that would prevent him from any form of movement. Without any form of ceremony, they lifted his body like a sack of duracrete and tossed him into the hatch of the transport.

Min nodded to the hunter and tossed her ornate cigarra case and lighter to her. "Your payment for a job well done," she added as she turned her back to the pair of hunters and began to withdraw into the shadows, leaving a trail of smoke behind her as she moved.

She reached her hand up and caught both the lighter and the case, but she said nothing. Her eyes glanced to Tosha for a moment before she moved back into the ship, slamming her hand on hatch button to close it quickly. She did nothing for marc just yet. She moved to the pilot seat, mashing buttons before she would get them out of here, out of the atmosphere and back into space. Once she was free to hit the autopilot button did she finally move back to him. Took a moment to lift him onto the cot, unlatching his cuffs, then she began working on waking up, but...she did not seem excited about it.

"Ugh..." Marc groaned as he slowly began to come around. He could not see very well and everything appeared blurry, adding to his sense of alarm. "Where...where am I?" he asked in a dazed voice, his head sliding from right to left as he tried to regain his senses. The last thing he remembered was attempting to make it back to the ship. That is when he gasped and immediately surged upward into a seated position, wondering if perhaps he was still under attack.

Her hand caught against his chest and she pressed her palm against him roughly pushing him back down to the caught. "On your ship." She shook her head and reached over putting something like a straw to his was simple water for him to drink, placing a wet cloth to his forehead as she spoke lightly "Lay back, they hit you with everything they had to stun you...gave me a I got you back and you're here."

Marc drank the water she offered him slowly, choking slightly as he drank it in the prone position. The words she were saying seemed to go in one ear and out the other as his mind awoke from the effects of the stun. "Mission?" he asked weakly. His head lay back against the thinly padded pillow of the cot, his eyes looking up at the bulkhead to try and regain focus.

"Don't worry about it." She shrugged lightly and stood up. She had made sure nothing was broken, that everything was working correctly before she left him and moved towards the pilot seat again. She needed to go somewhere, far away from those ladies, as well from Sulon. She pressed a button, the map of the system they were in popped up and she sighed..

Marc let out a steady groan as he forced himself to sit up and swung his legs over the side of the cot. He placed his hands firmly on the side of the cot and pressed down, forcing his body up and back on to the ground. At first, he found it hard to walk, but then began to slowly make his way towards the cockpit with an awkward walk. He looked over towards her, tried to smile, before weakly plopping down in the co-pilot's chair. "You all right over there?" he asked as he unleashed a deep sigh.

"I'm fine." She waved her hand behind her back towards the cots "You need to be laying down." She looked towards him, but it wasn't the same look she use to give him, something was haunting her, something darker then what she was use to. She licked her lips slowly before she took in a deep breath then sighed "Where do you want to go to rest?"

"Is something wrong, Sophia?" Marc asked as he swiveled his chair around to face her directly. Her facial expression looked somehow different and he frowned, shaking his head slightly. "Did they hurt you?" he asked, a mix of anger and nervousness permeating from his lips as he spoke.

"'They' didn't do anything. Tell me where we need to go, Marc, then go lay back down." She watched him for a moment before looking away "You shouldn't be up right now." She was sitting uncomfortable, before she reached down under her and pulled the lighter and cigarra case out, setting down in front of her and stretched a bit.

"Corellia. Let's go back to Corellia," Marc said as he rose from his seat, preparing to take her advice and get some rest. As he began heading towards the rear compartment he froze when he noticed the lighter and cigarra case. Turning to look at her, he tilted his head and stared down at her. "...that's new," he commented in a confused tone, bringing his hand up to rub the side of his face. "How long was I out?" he joked softly, observing how much had changed.

"A day or so." She looked to the case, then back to the map, before she began setting in the coordinates and putting everything on autopilot. "One of witches tossed it to me." She shrugged gently before she moved to lean back against the pilot chair as she watched him, crossing her arms over her chest a bit "Now go lay down."

Marc shook his head at her, wondering what had happened while he was under. He did not want to push her and hurried towards the cot, still feeling a bit woozy. As a soft groan escaped his lips, he found himself sitting back down on the cot and holding his head up as he stared down between his legs.

She took in a deep breath then slowly let it out and moved away from the pilot's seat and towards her cot. "That's not laying down. You're going to make yourself sick if you don't lay down and just rest." She shook her head and moved to sit on her cot, leaning back against the frame of the ship a bit.

"Come lay with me?" Marc asked as he put his feet up on the cot, swiveling his body so that he could lay back down. Something about her was clearly different, and it did not sit well with him. He was worried and struggled to regain his capacities in case she had been corrupted by them somehow.

She watched him for a moment then took in a deep breath and slowly let it out "No, you need to rest and I need to watch you to make sure...they didn't do anything else while I was gone." She licked her lips gently and crossed her arms over her stomach her eyes staring towards her lap "Just sleep, I'll be right here."

She had never turned down an opportunity to lay beside him before, which caused him to fear the worst. He rolled over onto his side, turning his back to her as he slowly closed his eyes. In the back of his mind he worried that she may try to kill him, but the effects of the stun made it impossible to stay awake and soon he drifted off to sleep.

She took a deep breath. Once she was sure he was asleep did she finally break down. She buried her face in her hands, she would not cry again, but she was trying to hide from the world. Trying to hide from things that she had done, hoping those witches would never make her do it to someone...she would give up her life for. Eventually though she would fall asleep herself, hugging her pillow to herself.

The next time Marc's eyes opened he felt as if he had regained his focus and more easily rose from his cot. He looked over at Sophia on the cot and let out a soft sigh, moving past her to find his way into the cockpit. Plopping down roughly into the pilot's seat, his attention moved towards the navigation computer to determine the progress they had made. They were coming up on the Corellian system and soon he would be able to peel this armor off, clean himself, and relax. If he were lucky, he might even be able to determine what happened to Sophia.

She groaned lightly, mumbling in her sleep. She mumbled something, words slipping in and out of a whisper. "Drink", "Asher", "I'm sorry", but then she began to stretched and whimper as she moved to roll over it woke herself up. She reached her hands up and rubbed her eyes gently before she slowly sat up with a gentle yawn she blinked looking towards the cot, before she would glance off to the side and look towards the cockpit seeing him in the seat she just laid back down and stared up at the ceiling.

Marc did not hear her wake up and when the transport suddenly emerged from hyperspace the small craft lurched noticeably. Deactivating the auto-pilot, he plotted a course towards the nearby planet Corellia. Settling into the pilot's chair his hands gripped the controls as he accelerated the craft to its top sublight speed. The distant terrestrial planet began to grow larger in the viewport as they neared their destination.

She sat up when the ship lurched. She leaned over to the edge of her cot peeking more towards the large window before her. Licking her lips slowly she stretched before she got up, taking a few steps towards the cockpit, she still didn't speak until she reached forward and grabbed her case and lighter, moving away from him back to the cot. She was a grumpy girl in the morning.

"Good morning," Marc said with a soft chuckle as he only caught a soft glimpse of her. As his hand moved to the throttle he began decelerate as he descended through Corellia's atmosphere. Through the viewport a the familiar Corellian beaches came into view. "I promised we'd come back..." he said quietly, positioning the ship over a makeshift landing space. As he descended, the front landing claw touched down beneath the water line and the hatch provided direct access to the beach.

"I know." She sat down, opened the case and placed the butt of the cig to her lips, taking in a soft breath as she flicked the lighter and lit the end of it. Inhaling before removing the stick from her lips and letting out a gentle breath as she watched the hatch doors open, staring out at the beaches with a sigh.

Marc did not comment on the smoking, feeling that whatever would calm her nerves in this line of work was worth using. He feigned a smile towards her, but could tell something was wrong. "Won't you tell me what happened?" he asked as he unstrapped himself from the seat, taking in some of the fresh sea that mingled with her smoke inside of the cockpit.

"No." She looked up to him, before she stood leaving the case and lighter inside, but she kept the lit stick between her lips before she moved towards the hatch. She inhaled deeply before letting a stream of soft white smoke out between her lips, her hands reaching up, fingers clamping at the end of the stick and pulling it from between her lips. "I'd rather not."

Marc slowly came up behind her, pressing his chest against her back as they stood at the hatch. His hand move around her waist and pulled her back against him as his face moved down to press a gentle kiss on the back of her neck. "Tell me when you're ready..." he said to her quietly as he looked out at the beach in front of them.

She closed her eyes. She wanted to lean into him, she wanted to let him protect her from the world. But she had just done the dirtiest deed she could think of, and it seemed wrong to fix her broken heart with him. So instead she opened her eyes and pulled away from him. "I can't. I won't be ready." She licked her lips then occupied such soft petals with that white sticks, that way she wouldn't have to worry about saying anything else as she moved down the steps to the sand.

Marc stood there as she withdrew from his grasp, his head sinking dejectedly as he remained silent and motionless behind her. He closed his eyes tight to prevent any tears from forming and then proceeded to strip the suit of protective armorweave from his body and descended to the beach below. He sighed as he felt the warm sun bake down upon his flesh, moving past her to descend into the warm water to cleanse his body. He could not look at her and intentionally fell forward, letting his entire body splash down into the sea.

It hurt her, to leave him. But there was something about her now...falling into the arms of the man whom she did love, while having the death of a man who loved her on her shoulders just didn't sit well with her. Yes she was happy, she was beyond happy at the fact that she found him safe and sound. That she went through it, but she still felt wrong because she thought of no other way. She moved to the water, still wearing her suit and letting hte water splash over the material.

Marc's exposed rump settled into the sandy bottom of the sea, the water going up nearly to his neck line. He stretched as he sat there, a large fish swimming by as he watched her. "You won't get clean like that..." he observed, watching her move through the water in the suit of armor.

"I know." She stood there, watching the waves hit her armor before she would turn around and move back towards the hatch. She licked her lips and dropped the stick into the sand burying it with her boot before she would keep her back to him, slowly removing her suit.

Marc splashed water over his body, attempting to get clean as he sat in the crystal clear waters of Corellia's golden beaches. His eyes roamed constantly towards her, feeling a distance between them that caused him nothing but displeasure. He sighed and tried his best to avoid looking at her, instead choosing to focus on getting himself clean.

Soon she was nude to the sun's rays and the entire planet, but the only one that mattered was Marc and she was doing her best to ignore her feelings for him. She licked her lips gently and moved towards the water though clearly keeping distance between them as she went till it was deep enough to dive into.

Marc could not stand it anymore. He could not allow a woman to be this close to him without knowing what her intentions were. Situations like that often led to death, particularly with the information she had about him. He swam towards her, closing the distance very rapidly as a determined look crept over his face. He grabbed at her roughly, attempting to keep her from escaping. "What happened?" he demanded, unable to control himself any longer.

He shocked her. Her eyes were wide as she stood there, well mostly floated in his grip. She watched him, her lips parted gently as a soft gasp and a whimper of gentle pain left her. She did not struggle to get away, she welcomed his strength, but she still denied him any information, though her voice wasn't harsh was soft and shaky "Nothing happened, Marc."

"Then why are you so distant?" he asked as his hands squeezed roughly against the soft flesh of her arms, drawing her tighter into his grasp. His eyes narrowed towards her, focusing in an intent glare. She was holding back. It did not take an expert psychologist to realize that.

Her eyes welled up. "You're hurting me..." Her voice was hardly a whisper, and her eyes welling up hardly had anything to do with the pain in her arms. She wouldn't look at him, this was a secret a pain she thought she was supposed to carry alone. She glanced off to the side as the first tear rolled down her cheeks.

"Damn it, Sophia. I love you..." Marc confessed as he released his grip from her, moving sway slightly as he exhaled a deep sigh. There had been a definite change in the nature of their relationship and it was not one he was comfortable with. He shook his head at her, almost disgusted with the way she was holding back what had happened.

Her heart was aching, pounding. Her lower lip trembled and she turned her back to him. The moment he was out of her sight, the moment she was out of his...did her shoulders shake. Did the tears spill over and her arms slipped around herself, hugging herself. She felt completely vulnerable and hated it, hated herself...but she said nothing ...did nothing more then stand there in the water and cry.

Marc froze when he heard her begin to cry, spinning around quickly to take a careful look at her. "If you won't tell me what happened ... then I'm going to make those two harpies tell me..." he said as he moved swiftly towards her. There was a look of determination in his eyes as he moved swiftly towards her. He leapt forward out of the water, in an attempt to pounce on top of her and arrive on top of her in the wet sand.

Despite how adorable that would have been at any other time she wouldn't look up to him, at least not at first. Slowly thought her eyes found his, she watched him silently, a soft sniffle. "They will kill you Marc. The second you land there...and you won't be able to stop them." She shook her head slowly "Just leave them out of it, they've done enough damage to us both."

Marc pinned her to the wet sand as the tide washed over them, the warm water coursing between their bodies as his face looked down upon hers. "I will deal with them," he informed her confidently as his face descended down, placing a rough, quick kiss upon her smoky lips. She tasted different since she had begun smoking, but it did nothing to prevent the intensity of the kiss.

She whimpered, at first she wanted to fight him off, to push him further away from her...but being this close to him, kissing him. Soon her whimper was one of defeat. She kissed him back, her hands, her arms managed to get free to wrap around him, pulling him down to her. She wanted every inch of him, his strength, his comfort, she needed him so badly then that denying it before had hurt her worse.

"I love you, Sophia," Marc admitted again as he placed a soft kiss upon her lips. For the moment he had forgotten all about the women on Esseles and the secret she was keeping him. He was such a man. With a soft groan he rolled off her, laying back on the sand as he stared up at the beautiful, clear sky. His chest was heaving, his body tired and the gentle tide began to wash away any traces of their passion.

"I..." She moved against him, the front of her body hugging his side, her leg sliding over his, her head resting on his shoulder, her arm trailing over her stomach, her hand caressing the opposite side she would be laying on. "I love you, Marc..." She sighed and cuddled him into her tightly.

"Lay with me here, my love," Marc implored as the sun began to set over the water. The shimmering light continued to cascade on their bodies as they lay in the sand, a gentle cascade of water continuing to wash over their bodies in a gentle massage. It was paradise and they were the only two ones there. Neither would notice the small device on the ship that was monitoring their every move, broadcasting their love making for the amusement of their employers back on Esseles.

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