This takes place after Jacinto's Remnant (the latest fiction book about the Gears universe, authored by Karen Traviss), but doesn't really have many major spoilers. Could just as well be AU. But I've had this swimming around in my head, just a short little blurb. Very fluffy. Plus beta'ing WolvGambit's story 'Sunset' kicked me into gear-- but hers is much better than mine, I suggest you go read it, too. :D
Fun fact: Written while listening to 'Biko' by Peter Gabriel on constant playback.
EDIT: Cleaned up the story a little bit, added some more detail. If you've read it already, I suggest a re-read, and if you do I'd like to hear your thoughts on this one as opposed to the last version. And if you haven't read it yet, I'd like to hear your thoughts anyway. I think the story now conveys what I was looking for, with more direct and visual wordings. :D
(Oh, and another fun fact-- all the edits were conducted while listening to 'Believe' by The Bravery on constant playback. I have some weird music choices.)
Sorry, I'm rambling. Finis!
The sun dipped slowly into the ocean, the orange ring touching the edge of the horizon and being pulled like taffy, stretching out into a long thin tendril; the hand of God reaching out across the world to reach him, to pull him across the void to the other side of the charred, dead planet. The hand paused as it neared the shore, fractured into pieces by the approaching waves; yet a low roar sounded from the sea, itself rising up across the sand, an extension of solar intentions. It rushed up to greet him, tug him under, but stopped just short of his booted feet, repelled by the hatred and pain that stained his soul so liberally.
Bending over slightly to heft a small, flat rock from the damp sand, he almost let out a bitter laugh, throwing it out across the offending water, watching it skip haphazardly to be swallowed up into the opaque depths, cruel intentions of the sea camouflaged by the reflection of the painted sky. It was one of the most beautiful places he had ever had the privilege to see, this hidden island called Vectes, this refuge for humanity. But even here his demons would not leave him be, despite the serenity that such a place offered.
It was times like this they emerged the most often, lording their negativity over his mind and twisting the dagger in his constantly bereaved heart, despite his best efforts to repel them. The sunset in front of him stirred images of his long-dead mother. She had loved sunsets, and when he was younger, they had watched some together; it had been his most valuable time spent with the woman before she passed away. A mixture of hatred and remorse passed through him as he stared into the melting star in front of him, remembering his father's cold gaze as the man lied to his only son about her death far beneath the surface of the earth, the first of many lies Marcus would come to hear. His father even had the nerve to desecrate the sunsets she used to love-- the Hammer strikes after E-Day had thrown thousands of toxic chemicals into the air, which, even now, probably still existed in the highest layers of the atmosphere, warping the colors form their original beauty.
Sitting down on the soft fragments of shells and rocks, the soft grains seeping into every wrinkle and scar of his hands, he bent his knees in front of himself, resting his elbows on them and placing his hands on either side of his head, fingertips touching the weathered fabric of his skullcap. In prison there had been no sunsets, blocked by the cold, harsh walls of concrete. He could still hear the screams in his mind, echoing off the rusted metal bars in the ceiling of his cell, listening as the prison guards laughed, watching as an inmate reacted to some new experiment. The COG scientists-- like his father-- used the death row prisoners as lab rats, taking data as different combinations of psych drugs pushed the men to the limit, causing them to literally rip themselves apart, piece by piece, unable to stop the rage and hatred that consumed them yet horrified at their own actions. Marcus had been subjected to the lowest dosage of the drugs along with other, less volatile but still altogether life-threatening things, and he often wondered if his father had some hand in that. He had no doubt that he probably did.
What he remembered most was the blood, the acrid smell of rotting copper as it trickled from the undisturbed and decomposing dismembered body, seeping down the metal grate, dripping in the center of the floor and pooling maliciously. It would glitter in the razor of light that came from underneath his cell door, warning that he would be next, shoving fear down his throat and letting it fester in the pit of his stomach. But the screams, the screams were what bothered him the most, gurgled but alive, and utterly, utterly terrified.
He closed his eyes, screwing them shut, and put his hands to his ears, trying to block it out, much like he had then. It was pure horror that flashed across his heart like an electric pulse, making the hair on his exposed arms stand up straight as he wondered when the guards would decide to drag him out to play. Yet the soft, cool breeze caressed his face, his nostrils flaring at the scent of saltwater, and the memories disappeared.
They would always do that-- leave as fast as they had come, but he knew, as his cold eyes followed a gull bobbing up and down on the surf, he knew they would be back. They would always be back, and he used a calloused hand to trace the deep, raking scar on his weathered face absentmindedly. They'd let a damn locust wretch loose on him, taking bets as they left him nothing to defend himself with. The ravenous beast had barely missed his eye, instead carving the jagged line down his face as he fought for his life, his primal instincts enveloping him as he grasped its throat, squeezing with all his malnourished strength and crushing its windpipe. It wouldn't have been so bad, had he been able to obtain a mirror; the stitching would not have been so warped-- and it was because he'd stitched it himself that it disfigured his face so drastically. He'd made the thread out of his filthy t-shirt, fashioning a needle from a bone he'd found on the disease-ridden cell floor. It was better to have the wound closed than leave it open, he thought, but it would get infected either way.
He couldn't stop it. But he would survive.
A noise from the rocks behind him made him flinch, the horrors in his mind fleeing at the presence of another person, and he calmly craned his neck around to see who it was. This place was a small shore, sheltered from the rest of the island, but not more than a few minute's walk away from VNB-- no one came here but himself, and whoever they were must have known he was here. It could have been Dom; his younger brother was the only one who held the knowledge of this spot, but he found himself to be in error. The thin framed girl appeared in his vision, wrapping her light jacket tighter around herself against the chill of the night that was borne on the light wind. She brushed her displaced strands of hair behind her ear and smiled half-heartedly-- it was Anya.
"Hey." She said quietly, just loud enough for him to hear.
"Hey." He replied, voice rumbling in his throat.
He watched as she walked over to him, leaning from his knees back on to his hands, sitting cross legged as she sat down to his left, rebellious strands of her platinum hair breaking away from their set place behind her ear. It had grown longer since he'd last seen her with it down, and it framed her face nicely now, stretching a little past her shoulders. She looked at him, giving him another melancholy smile as her warm brown eyes met his own icy blue, the pleasant glow of the setting sun lighting her angled face beautifully.
"Dom told me you were here," She spoke quietly, turning away from his intense gaze and fiddling with her fingers, then looking back out over the water. He couldn't have been happier that she had found him, but he turned away from her, grunting with a mild disapproval; still distant, despite all the years they had spent together.
She took a breath at his reply, used to his massive emotional walls of defense. Perhaps she'd try again, she thought, as she brushed her hair behind her ear and turned in his direction again, fixing her eyes on a far-off pebble before flicking to his blank-featured face.
"He said you needed someone to talk to." She started again, quietly, watching as he clenched is jaw a few times, then finally offering a reply.
"He needs that more than I do." It was gruffly spoken, the man clearly averse to any display of affection.
"He's not the one who runs off to the beach to sit by himself," She looked back at her hands, regretting the condescending tone in her voice. He stiffened when she said it, if only slightly, and when she looked back, rubbing her neck to warm her chilled fingers, she saw him looking at her sidelong, letting out another dissatisfied grumble as he turned away from her again, stretching his legs out from their cramped position and crossing them in front of himself. He turned his head away from her to eye a small fishing craft down the coast, coming in for the night, their glittering decks plentiful with fish from this remote sea.
She looked down, letting her knees down to sit cross-legged on the sand. Only a quarter of the sun was visible now, yet the color of the sky grew more and more fantastic as the water devoured it. Behind them, the darker sky was beginning to fill with a multitude of stars, much more than one would have ever had the chance to see in Ephyra, especially Jacinto; due to the massive light pollution and imulsion smog. It was truly a stunning sunset, and she breathed in deeply, the pure, clean air filling her lungs, putting her completely at peace with nature, seemingly with Sera itself, and she wondered if Marcus had chosen this place for that precise reason.
She glanced at the tired soldier next to her, his muscled jaw clenching, moving a few sinewy tendons in his neck, knowing there was no other place she would rather be.
Her perceptive eyes cast downward again to the sand, seeing his scarred hand so plainly spread across the bleached white earth, almost beckoning to her own for a cover. It was a silly thought, yes, something that teenagers would do, not grown adults like themselves, but honestly, Anya couldn't help herself. She wanted Marcus to know how she felt, what she was feeling now.
Removing a hand from her warm neck, Anya cautiously laid it over his own, clutching her fingers around his rough, calloused palm. He bristled immediately, the sudden tense in his muscles and the strained clench in his jaw likened to a porcupine, but he managed to turn his head slowly and calmly, glancing down at the intimate touch with his cold, permanent frown, like it was a disease. His blinking gave him away-- he was surprised at her physical display of affection, not disgusted as she had originally presumed, and it didn't seem like he knew what to do.
Anya smiled softly as their eyes met once again. He looked at her for a second almost quizzically, asking 'what in the hell are you doing?' as she took the reins, moving slowly as he watched her suspiciously, positioning his somewhat resistant arm around her shoulder as she scooted closer to him, desperately taking advantage of the small crack she'd found in his barrier. He didn't need to talk, no, talking wasn't his prowess. He would do instead, and she showed him how, lying her head on his chest, able to feel the rippling muscles beneath his thin cotton shirt as she curled right up next to him, her knees leaning on his thighs.
He was stiff, almost unmoving initially; she felt a slight restraint in his breathing as her ear laid against his warm body and it made her worry if she had pushed the contact too far. But as she watched the last of the sun dip beneath the horizon, having finally succumbed to the gravitas of the ocean, she felt more than heard the rumble from his chest as he leaned forward and shifted her head to a more comfortable position, bringing his other arm around to hold her loosely, his hand resting on top of her own. She wasn't sure, but he might have actually managed a small smile as she intertwined her fingers with his, the two of them observing the lingering glow that still tinted the horizon.
No, he didn't have to talk. She would be here for him, no matter what he wanted. He leaned cautiously on her hair, breathing in deeply as the last of the color receeded from the sky, and she felt that he knew that, too.