The Beach

The Beach

Authors: just-slummin and Midnight Obsidian

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Oh wait, yes we do!

Rating: PG

Summary: Follows "Murphy's Law". Short piece of fluff for those kind souls who wanted a little more Marcus/Elizabeth interaction.

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Elizabeth Striker sat under the shade of a palm tree, wiggling her bare toes in the sand contentedly and enjoying the view. Marcus Hazzard, Captain of the Hit or Miss and the object of her current attention, was swimming just beyond the breakers, his powerful arms slicing through the water as he rode the currents.

Fairly certain that her eyes could not be seen behind the large sunglasses she wore, Elizabeth was taking full advantage of the situation. They'd been vacationing now for three days, and each morning the crew of the Hit or Miss had meandered off to their own devices in a not-so-subtle attempt to leave the Captain and the doctor alone together. Having come to the conclusion that life would be much more pleasant on the ship when the two quit circling each other and finally spent some sorely needed alone time together, Pierre, Bear, and Murdocke had orchestrated events to make that happen as well as they could reasonably manage.

And so, each morning Marcus had offered to accompany Elizabeth wherever she would like to go under the guise of seeing to her safety on the unfamiliar world. Elizabeth, more than willing to play along with this transparent ploy, had managed every day to come up with at least a half-way plausible destination. And today, she had chosen the beach, in part because she knew Marcus enjoyed the water and because she very much enjoyed the sight of Marcus enjoying the water.

Unconsciously licking her lips as he came up from the shore toward her, she drank in the sight of him, all long, lean muscle covered in smooth skin glistening with sun-kissed water. She was forcefully reminded of the way he'd looked the first time she had seen him, when Murdocke had ushered her into what she had not known was the communal shower aboard ship.

Marcus swallowed thickly, watching the way the tip of her tongue swept across her full lips and thinking about how delicious those lips had tasted when he'd kissed her before they'd gone aboard the Persephone Queen. There had been no repeat of that kiss, though often enough he'd tried to arrange things so that there would be. Perhaps, he thought wryly, today would be the day when it all came together.

"Sure you don't want to join me for a swim?" he asked, careful not to drip on the small square of blanket on which she sat.

Elizabeth looked up at him, shading her eyes against the glare of the sun. "No thank you," she said. She was sorely tempted to take him up on his offer, but she could not bring herself to do so.

He frowned slightly, unaware that her refusal had nothing to do with him and was rather the sad result of a phobia she'd harbored since early childhood. She loved the beach, but very much disliked the water, having come too close to drowning once to ever enjoy it again without fear.

Seeing his frown, she hastened to add, "Though I'm perfectly content to stay while you swim some more."

He reached for the towel beside her on the blanket and began to dry off, short-circuiting her thought processes for a moment. "No, no need to sit out here and get a sunburn," he said easily. "Your skin is already getting a little pink."

She looked down in surprise, having been completely unaware of the faint pinkness across her shoulders and chest. She looked up at him with a wry smile. "Much too pale for this kind of exposure, I suppose," she said, rummaging around to find a shirt to pull over her shoulders.

Marcus held in a slight sigh as she covered her skin, thinking that he would much rather her clothing choices be going in the opposite direction. Trying to derail the thought before it manifested itself physically, he cleared his throat. "How about some lunch, then?"

"Sounds wonderful," Elizabeth said, taking his proffered hand to get up from the sandy blanket. "Shall we go back to the ship, or find something along the shore?"

"Don't want to go back just yet," he answered, gathering up the blanket and tucking it efficiently under his arm. "Imagine there's food that way," he said, pointing toward a small grouping of tents in the distance.

She nodded, happy that he wasn't quite ready to end their morning together. Taking his arm, she realized with a start how very natural the gesture had come to feel in the short time she'd known him. It warmed her.

"What are you smiling about?" he asked, a smile curving his own lips.

Elizabeth looked up at him, her blue eyes shining. "What's not to smile about?" she replied. "The weather's beautiful, the water's warm, and…the company is first-rate."

"Thank you," he said, inclining his head slightly. The way she spoke so directly never failed to lift his spirits. "I couldn't agree more." His hand closed over hers and he squeezed it gently.

They walked in companionable silence for a time, letting the waves wash the imprint of their steps away behind them. When they came to the tents, they found a food vendor just as Marcus had suspected, and they walked down the beach a little further, looking for a spot of shade in which to spread the blanket and have their meal.

Just when Elizabeth was beginning to wonder if they'd find a shady spot, Marcus pointed forward. "There, beyond those rocks," he said. "Seems I recall a little cave of sorts. Good place to stay out of the heat of the day."

Elizabeth nodded and dutifully climbed the slippery rocks, holding on to Marcus' large, steady hand until they were back on level land. She looked around in surprise. "It's beautiful," she said a little breathlessly.

Marcus grinned, pleased by her response. He'd scouted out the area early in their stay, and knew that they would be undisturbed in the little cove. His heart beating a little faster than it had before, he spread the blanket in the opening of the cave and motioned for Elizabeth to enter.

She settled herself on the blanket, pleased by the cool breeze that soothed the growing heat of her skin. "There must be an opening on the other side of the cave," she said, glancing into the darkened interior. "The breeze is wonderful."

Marcus nodded, dropping down beside her as she opened the bag of food. "Not a large enough opening for anyone to get into the cave that way, but big enough for the air to stir."

"So, you've been here before," Elizabeth said, raising one eyebrow quizzically.

Marcus blushed slightly, cursing his light skin. "Saw it the day we landed."

Elizabeth nodded, beginning to understand that the Captain had obviously had a plan for the day. Her pulse began to race in a very pleasant way.

Handing him his food without another word, Elizabeth began to eat what she had chosen from the vendor daintily. Marcus watched the small bites disappear into that tantalizing mouth of hers, and he quickly finished the food he'd chosen for himself.

She looked at him quizzically, offering him a portion of her own meal. "All that swimming must have made you hungry," she said.

Eyeing the tempting offer, he replied, "Wouldn't want you to go hungry."

She smiled prettily, displaying small, white teeth. "I can't finish it anyway. My eyes are always larger than my stomach when I smell food grilling by the shore."

He took the food from her hand and picked at it thoughtfully. "Why don't you swim?" he asked, slipping a morsel into his mouth.

Elizabeth sighed, hating to admit her phobia. "Let's just say I had a bad experience as a child that taught me that I can't swallow the entire sea."

Marcus nodded. "Almost drowned, huh?" he said.

"Afraid so," she replied ruefully.

Marcus grinned. "I could teach you to swim. Nothing else in the 'verse quite like the feel of it."

"I don't think so," Elizabeth said with a little more force than she'd intended. To lighten the moment, she added, "Besides, you'd have to catch me first."

"Don't expect there'd be too much trouble with that," Marcus replied easily. "Your legs are about a foot shorter than mine."

Elizabeth shifted the shapely legs in question. "I may be short," she replied. "But I'm very fast, when I need to be." Her eyes danced merrily.

"I've no doubt of that," Marcus said, his voice deepening.

They sat for a moment, frozen in the suddenly charged air. Then, Elizabeth drew in a very slow breath and Marcus could see the slight shiver that ran through her. Pleased to see that she was as affected by the circumstances as he was, Marcus swallowed thickly and put down the rest of the food.

Elizabeth leaned forward slightly, reaching out to touch his face. He looked at her in surprise. "You have a little….sauce," she said, her fingertip barely brushing the side of his mouth.

Turning his head quickly, he captured her finger between his lips and slowly licked the sauce from it. She sighed, the sensation of his warm tongue on her skin intoxicating. Looking down into her eyes, he gently kissed each fingertip of her hand.

Her bones turned to liquid fire at his touch and she felt as if she would melt in a moment. When she made no move to withdraw her hand, Marcus leaned forward, bending to trail a line of soft, wet kisses along her arm to her elbow.

"Marcus," she sighed, the sound a soft exhalation.

"Elizabeth," he replied, his lips brushing along the tender skin on the inside of her arm as he continued to work his way up her arm.

Reaching the sleeve of the shirt she'd donned to protect her skin from further sunburn, he stopped and sat back slightly. "Think I'd like to slip that shirt off your shoulders," he said, his voice low and thick with hunger.

She swallowed nervously, a hunger of her own growing by the moment. "Think I'd like that too," she whispered, her cheeks flushed with sudden heat.

Before the last word was out, Marcus' hand slid up across her arms and pulled the shirt down from her shoulders. Feeling her tremble as his fingertips brushed along her now-exposed skin, he let his lips follow the trail of his fingers.

Elizabeth sighed, her own hands moving across his chest and down his sides, her fingers trailing fire in their wake. Working his way up to her neck, Marcus nibbled the tender skin at the junction of neck and shoulder. "You taste wonderful," he murmured, aching now with need.

"You too," she breathed against his neck, the salty taste of sand and sea mingling with the more subtle taste of the man himself as she delicately licked the sensitive skin beneath his ear.

Something between a moan and a growl rose from deep in his chest, and she could feel the vibration of it against her own sensitive breasts. Her answering moan was swallowed by his mouth slanting strongly over hers, his lips and tongue suddenly insistent as he explored her mouth with exquisite care.

He pulled away after long moments, panting heavily with a need for air. She blinked slowly, her slightly swollen lips parting as she drew in a deep breath. Scarcely able to believe the intensity of her hunger for him, she sat still, the only evidence of her condition the heaving of her breasts against the fabric of her swim suit.

"Be best to tell me now if this is a road you don't want to go down," Marcus said with a measure of difficulty.

Something in the fierce light of his eyes and the barely contained desire in every long line of his body made Elizabeth almost dizzy with need. Holding her trembling arms out to him, she said, "I want to. Lead the way."

And pressing her gently back onto the blanket, with the sound of the surf mingling with her soft sighs, Marcus did just that.