Hey look. I'm alive. If you've read my story before, I suggest you go back and read it again. I rewrote the good majority of chapters 3 and 4 to make the story flow a little bit better.

Just played through the Gears 3 campaign, had to write something, so here you go. I'm back, but who knows for how long.

I do love you guys and all the compliments you give me. I don't deserve any of them, but thanks to everyone who reads. Sincerely. :)

- Meggie


Chapter 5: Ghostly Memories, Part 1

The apartment was quiet. Sounds could be heard outside of celebration: there were loud pops of not bombs, but fireworks in the distance, and somewhere down the hall loud music was playing.

He had just walked her back here from a night out with the boys; the last night they'd see Cole and Baird for a while. They were leaving early for one of Prescott's new settlements, one of the first in a step to reclaim the mainland for the human race. Bentin, they said it was called; about 20 miles inland from the New Jacinto coastline along one of the major rivers. It was almost unbelievable how far things had come in only a matter of months; just that night Cole had already been talking about new thrashball teams, as much as Baird was about settling down. He'd just become engaged to Samantha Byrne, a pretty young islander and capable soldier they'd met a few years back.

He thought of marriage and subconsciously his icy blue eyes flicked to the young woman with her back to him, looking out the sliding glass door to her balcony and beyond, while he stood near the door. She was beautiful in her own right, her angular face accented nicely by the lamplight in the corner of the room, her soft turtleneck and slacks forming nicely around her hourglass shape, so different from the uniform he'd become so used to over the past 20 years. It seemed like forever since he'd seen her relax like this, and he found himself a little more loose than normal… but that could have just been the booze.

Anya sighed, looking away from the window and down at the shoddy patchwork on the walls, Anya couldn't help but think that this apartment was more like a cut-rate motel, but that would have been in the heyday of the COG. Now, when most people had less than a box to live in, Hoffman gave her this, a palace all to herself. She was thankful, yes, but thought it unfair that even the distinguished soldiers of Delta had to share rooms. She thought of the brooding man sitting in the chair at her left, and wondered if he would ever take advantage of all the prestige and awards that they bestowed on him, but she already knew the answer. He wouldn't be Marcus if he did.

"So," She said slowly, breaking the silence and leaning on the wall to her right, still looking out the window. "The war's over."

She heard movement behind her; the low, lumbering thuds of Marcus's footsteps behind her. There was a moment of silence as he took a moment to think, fiddling with something on her dresser.

"So it is," He grumbled, still fiddling with something, as she could see from the glare of the lamplight in the window. "You buy into that shit Prescott's spouting?"

Without even looking, she could feel him giving her that peculiar, icy stare.

She remained staring out the window, her eyes moving from the buildings across the street to the waxing moon above. "I believe it enough I guess," She said, looking to his right out the window for a moment. "I think Prescott has his reasons for declaring it this early… but really, what else to we have to believe?" She looked down at her feet, folding her arms. "But even then, I've seen the reports. Hundreds of thousands of scans have come back blank. There just simply aren't any more of them."

In the silence that followed, she looked over her shoulder to see where he was because she hadn't heard him moving around, only to be met with his enormous chest and arms standing inches behind her. She stifled a surprised 'Oh!'

A smirk crept on his face slowly as she took a deep breath to calm herself.

"Just wondered what you were looking at." He said, his cold eyes peering out the window in the same manner she had been.

She looked at him sidelong, smirking herself. The burly, beast of a man with hands shoved in the pockets of his favorite leather jacket, looked rather menacing if you included the icy stare and badass durag. Yet she knew him as a gentleman, and for a moment she flashed back to their younger years, when Marcus was younger and less tortured. When she herself was younger and less tortured.

This war had taken so much out of the both of them. In silence they looked out the window, the world finally calm outside, and Anya thought to herself how nice it would be to snuggle up against that warm chest, to be held by those strong arms. They were notions she'd had almost her entire life, though she'd managed to suppress them largely due to the stress of the war and the intense pressure of being one of the last remaining ranking officers in the Comm. Center.

But now that war was over. And although they were rebuilding, there really wasn't much for her to do anymore. She had passed thirty, and Marcus was sure to be approaching forty soon. How long would they continue to play this game? Maybe it was the alcohol from earlier, but her heart beat a little after at the thought of their lips finally meeting, her feelings finally being reciprocated. Then the floodgates had been broken, and all the feelings she'd managed to keep under wraps for so long came pouring out into the forefront of her mind, and she couldn't help herself as she leaned over, took his face between her hands, and kissed him.

He stiffened immediately, hands emerging from his pockets and grasping her arms tightly as he pushed her away from him slowly.

Her eyes fluttered open, her image of a perfect night shattered, and she felt like she was going crazy. His jaw muscles were twitching almost continuously; his glare was so intense she shied away from it.

"I'm sorry," She blurted, understanding that she'd overstepped her boundaries. "I'm sorry Marcus I just thought maybe- I j-just thought- Oh hell I don't know what I was thinking, I'm sorry I'm so sorry…"

She wasn't looking at him anymore, she was looking at her feet, her mouth still spouting apologies, her face red with embarrassment, but his hands were still clasped around her biceps and she had nowhere to run. She just felt so utterly naked before him now, like he'd known everything she'd been thinking that she'd tried to keep for herself for so long, and now that he knew he didn't feel the same. She couldn't believe herself, and she felt tears creeping up behind her eyes until finally, he spoke.

"Anya, shut up and look at me." His gravelly voice rolled into her ears, and she looked up at him, her chocolate brown eyes meeting his icy blue for what seemed like an eternity.

He struggled with what to say next. "Do you… This is what you want." His jaw was twitching slower now, and he was blinking a little more than normal, waiting for her response.

"Yes," she said quietly, looking away, and then back. "Longer than I can remember."

"Good."

Then, he grabbed her, one hand on her side and one on the back of her head, forcing her lips into his with such desperation and desire that Anya thought she might cry out from how wonderful it was, his chapped lips meeting her own soft ones rough and wanting, pulling her close to him with his strong arms. He moved both of his hands to grasp her rear, hiking her up so that she could wrap her legs around his waist as he walked her over to the bed, their mouths still entwined.

Later, in the glow of early morning, he lay awake next to her, observing her as she slept. The heaviness in her breath, the small twitch in her fingers, the fact that she slept on her side, a pillow bunched underneath her head. She couldn't erase all his hurts, she couldn't erase all the horrible things he'd done and seen. Nobody could. Yet her presence made him feel human again.


Chapter 5: Ghostly Memories, Part 2

Drops of saltwater assaulted his aged face, bringing him back to reality. He blinked slightly, and looked up at the sea around him, not fully realizing where he was for a moment. He felt the rough, weathered concrete of the seawall underneath his hands, smelled the pungent salted water spraying about him as another wave slammed into the breaker a few hundred feet in front of him. He almost got lost in the rhythm, again; the cyclical motions of the waves hypnotized him, bringing back so many memories and feelings that he had managed to swallow and pack away for good.

Twenty-five years was a long time. Sitting there, alone with nothing but the breeze to keep him company, was the first time in a long time he felt vulnerable. His heart was still beating in his ears, his hands still clenched in anger, his jaw still twitching periodically. The hurt was still there, it was always there, like knives in his back and chest, pulsating constantly. There were some things he could never overcome; the anger, the unquenchable sense of betrayal, and most of all, the heartache. He hadn't been this way since the day he left this place, and it was a perfect explanation to why he hadn't wanted to come back.

Still, it stunned him how vivid his memories of her were after all these years. When they locked eyes in that dimly lit bar, he remembered her as she was that morning so long ago: her face flushed, her hair wild and unkempt, lying naked in his arms like he had always dreamed they would be one day. The war had been over. They could have finally had a life together. Slowly, all the feelings that he'd harbored and smothered and choked out of existence slowly revived themselves. In the midst of his jaded heart bloomed a slight compassion, and to his chagrin, it grew the more he thought of her beautiful face.

He massaged his temples, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees as his legs dangled over the seawall, his feet a small distance from the ground. A breeze blew from behind him, and he let out a sigh, feeling a familiar presence at his right. He was no longer alone.

"Tell me what to do this time, Carlos." He said to the brother seated at his right, his icy blue eyes gazing off into the distance, no expression on his face.

"I dunno bro. What do you want to do? She was always after you, man." Carlos replied, nonchalantly, mimicking Marcus' position.

Marcus huffed indecisively, and Carlos understood. A comfortable silence settled between them.

The older man glanced sidelong at his brother, who was looking down the coast. Carlos was so young, maybe not a day over 20, dressed in COG fatigues that had always been a little big for him. He had a slight smirk on his tanned face, his teeth so white they almost glowed. Marcus knew he enjoyed his view of the ocean. For some reason, Marcus found himself smiling a little bit as well.

Carlos leaned back, placing his hands in the soft grass, taking in a deep breath of the evening sea air.

"Man, I never get tired of the coast," he said in passing, laying all the way back into the grass and folding his arms behind his head.

Marcus turned his eyes back to the horizon. They had been the same age once, two kids with nothing better to do but enlist; neither of them had any idea what was coming down the pipe. It was incredible to think now how much he'd survived. Two wars and a near human extinction. What made him so special? What made Marcus Fenix the one to live, and millions of others to die in his place? Marcus became critically aware of the young man in his company. When he was Carlos's age, it was amazing how much they had taken for granted then. All the people they'd lost...

"You know you don't want her to become one of them, man." Carlos peeked an eye open, turning his head to look at the old man's back, reading his thoughts. He heard the man grunt, and look away from him.

"All I'm sayin is, I think you two are long overdue for some good times. Give that some consideration, huh?"

There was a heavy pause. Marcus wouldn't have continued this conversation if he was talking to anyone other than Carlos.

"...You think so, huh." He grunted. He couldn't find the right words. By no means was this Marcus's comfort zone, especially with feelings he hadn't dealt with for forty-something years. Carlos was not deterred.

"Go talk to her or somethin'. You know where she lives, I'm sure she won't mind. She knows how you are." Carlos surmised, giving himself a slight chuckle.

Marcus didn't respond.

"And lay off Dom for a while." He continued, resuming his previous relaxed position. "You know he was just trying to help."

Another wave roared up to the breakers, only to be hushed upon impact, the water splintering into miniscule bits, carried on the air to Marcus's face. The breeze took to blowing from the rear once more, lazily, pregnant with the smells of freshly cut wood, a tinge of rubber, and cookers warming for a morning meal. Somewhere overhead, a seabird called out to its flock, eager to rejoin with them for pre-dawn fish. Moments passed. The planet spun.