Mar-Vell sat up slowly, back aching from the too-thin mattress she slept on. Blank white walls, floor and ceiling greeted her, as they had for... how long had it been, now? She hated to admit she was losing track of the time that had passed since her plans on Terra had been discovered and foiled, and she'd been brought here as a captive. But, aside from the two meager meals she received per day, delivered through a slot in the door that opened only to slide the tray through, there was nothing and no-one to help her mark the passage of time. Upon waking in this cell, she had been told, via a temporary link to the Intelligence, that she had been judged guilty of treason in absentia, and was to be detained indefinitely at Its pleasure. Which meant, like as not, she would rot in here for the rest of her life.
To keep despair from crushing her, she resorted to one of her rituals, listing reasons to keep fighting, people she needed to atone for. “Talos, Soren, their people, the thousands of Skrulls I had a hand in the death of, Carol....” The thought of that brilliant, vivacious young Terran, dead because of Mar's dragging her into this war, the latest in a series of deaths on her conscience, choked her up, and she pushed Carol from her mind, or tried to. Instead, she let earlier, somewhat happier thoughts fill her mind. Thoughts of a time that was both happier, and more terrifying than anything she had known before... when she had fallen in love, and dared to think, to dream that she could be happy, that she could leave her people behind and start anew... A smile played on her lips as she recalled how it had all started.
Mar fought the urge to grimace as the tight, heeled shoes she was wearing, paired with the ridiculously ostentatious gown she had been given to wear to this gala, sent another pulse of pain through her feet. The gala was being held at the Shi'ar embassy on Chandilar, a biannual celebration of the peace between the Shi'ar and the Kree. Many other races also attended- it was, essentially, a gathering of the rich, famous and well-dressed. Blue Kree clad in elaborate tunics or gowns mingled with bird-like Shi'ar, their feathered plumes styled in fantastic ways. There were also pink Krylorians, dressed in bright shocks of neon-colored fabric, and even a handful of Xandarians- Nova Corps, no doubt, present at the Shi'ar's request, despite the ongoing feud between them and the Kree. A gala like this demanded a truce from all attendees.
Mar would have gotten out of coming here if she could. She hated this sort of event. Rubbing her bare arms to ward off the chill of the cooling evening, she glanced around. The gala was being held outdoors, so everything was basked in the red haze of Chandilar's setting sun. Everyone else here seemed to be enjoying themselves, huddled in groups sipping fine wine, talking and laughing, or listening to the light, almost ethereal music that wafted over the party from some concealed sound system. Lights in the trees twinkled merrily, and the decorations of living flowers lent a festive, natural air to the gathering. It was beautiful, and relaxing. And Mar was bored out of her mind. She was the only Pink Kree here, and had warranted an invite only because the Shi'ar Majestor (who was currently deep in conversation with Tanalth, a young Blue Kree Accuser) had wanted to meet the Kree behind the majority of their latest inventions, many of which he had bought for his own people's use. She had been introduced, briefly, then left to her own devices. Leaving, however, would be viewed as an insult to the host.
Sighing heavily, she toyed with the idea of actually getting drunk- she hated resorting to that, always worried she would make a fool of herself while intoxicated, but it seemed appealing now, if only so she could get through the next few hours without dying of boredom.
Out of nowhere, a slender wine glass filled with clear fizzing liquid was placed into her hand. She gripped it instinctively, turning to see a tall man, (a beautiful man, her mind noted), about her age, with a shock of startling red hair and twinkling green eyes standing next to her. He smiled, and for a second she was dazzled, forgetting to breathe. Mentally shaking herself, she attempted to smile back, but was worried it came out looking strange. (And why was she worried anyway? She didn't know this man, and she certainly wasn't here to find a partner!) Tearing her eyes from his face, cursing herself for blushing, she eyed the drink instead. “Thank you...” She spoke tentatively, not wanting him to think that accepting a drink from a stranger meant anything other than good manners. Thinking back, she did remember seeing him when she'd arrived here- he had been accompanied by two other young women at the time, a tall statuesque blonde and a sultry looking black-haired temptress. That recollection toughened her up enough to speak again. “What happened to your other friends, the ones I saw you with earlier?”
He arched a brow, but his grin widened, making him even more attractive. “Oh, you mean Thena and Sersi.” He chuckled, and the sound of it made Mar join in as well. “They're my cousins, that's all. I'm playing escort for the evening.”
“Oh.” Mar looked away, trying to think of what to say that didn't either make her sound foolish, or relieved to learn that. She was not relieved. Whether or not he had a partner was nothing to do with her. A stunningly good looking man like this would not want anything to do with her, short in stature, brown-haired and with nothing remotely beautiful about her. She swallowed hard. “Thanks for the drink. Oh, hold on, I already said that...” She could have kicked herself. She'd dealt with flirtatious Kree males in the army for years, fending them off with ease, so why was she acting like a fool now?
His smile, which was so bright it should have been obnoxious, but somehow wasn't, gentled a little. “You're welcome. It just occurred to me that such a lovely woman shouldn't be standing at a party as if it were a funeral. I thought I'd introduce myself, see if you wanted some company.” He glanced around at the other partygoers. “These affairs can be dull if you don't have a friend with you.”
It was her turn to raise an eyebrow. “A friend, hmm? Odd, since I don't recall meeting you before tonight.”
His eyes met hers again. “Does that mean you don't want me as a friend?” He put his free hand on his chest. “I'm wounded.” The gleam in his eyes was more noticeable now, as if he was enjoying the verbal banter.
Only then did Mar notice that his right hand was still grasping hers, where he'd handed her the wineglass. Now color did flood to her face, and she tugged her hand free quickly. He must think she was an idiot, holding onto his hand like that! He jumped a little at the sudden movement, almost as if he too had forgotten their hands were joined. Mar dismissed that straight away. If he had kept hold of her, it wasn't because he felt comfortable holding her hand to not have noticed, it was simply him trying to make her look less stupid.
He released her from his eyes, raising his own glass as if he were toasting her, before taking a sip and winking.
Mar was sure, now, that her face was as red as his hair, and she ducked her head, trying to hide her expression from him. Snap out of it! She told herself silently. Here was someone who, for some crazy reason, seemed to possibly like her, and she was acting like an utter imbecile, who'd barely said two complete sentences!
She could feel his eyes on her though, even though she wasn't looking at him. Come on, she pleaded silently, Just get fed up and leave so I don't act any more foolish, and I can relive this later, and dream about what might have been... That was the usual routine, if someone she genuinely liked showed interest in her- they would talk, the person would become bored and leave, and she would have to resort to fantasies about how things could have been, if she weren't so dull.
Instead, his arm slid through hers, like he intended to escort her somewhere. “Have you ever seen the gardens of the Majestor's palace?”
Without his beautiful face and intense eyes melting her brain, Mar found she could relax and answer properly. “No, I've never been to Chandilar before. But I thought those gardens were off limits to everyone except royalty?”
He laughed, already leading her away. “There's no harm in having fun, is there? And nobody will miss us.”
Relaxed, and going along with him, though she wasn't sure why, Mar nodded. “I suppose not...” She knew, in some detached way, that they shouldn't be doing this. They would get caught, and then she (and him as well, most likely) would get into a lot of trouble for trespassing where common folk weren't permitted to go. Yet she went along with him, letting him lead her. Something about him was reassuring, as if nothing could go wrong in his presence. It was as if happiness radiated from him, and she couldn't bring herself to question it.
“Did you know the Majestor has one of the biggest collections of inter-world flora in this quadrant?” Her new friend began as they walked away from the party. “He even has his gardeners working on interbreeding native Chandilar flowers with species from other worlds. Not sure what the point of it all is, but some of his specimens are beautiful.”
Mar was intrigued. “Interbreeding flowers could produce hardier species, and with the right combination, new medicines or foods could be sourced from them.”
“I suppose,” he concurred. “If the hybrids were viable enough, and if there was a market for them.” He turned down a passageway, 'fenced' by overgrown trees, ducking to avoid getting leaves in his hair. “I've offered to help. I have experience in genetic manipulation, and encouraging new cells to thrive, but the Majestor is very protective of his prized plants.”
“You are interested in botanical science?” The words left her mouth before she really thought them through. But, really, with his typical pretty-boy handsomeness, he looked like his only interests would be in attending parties, and attracting attention. She'd assumed he was here at the gala, because of riches, and/or family or political connections. Hearing that he actually had a brain, and used it, surprised her.
“Botanical, genetic, technological... my father saw to my education, and he made sure I was well grounded in everything.” He turned a wry half-grin on her. “I'm not just a pretty face.”
“I didn't say that-”
“But you were thinking it.” He shrugged. “It's OK, everyone does. Usually, I just let them go on thinking that. It's easier than proving otherwise. Besides, I prefer having fun than burying myself in studies and labs all the time.” Something in his gaze suggested he knew he'd just described most of Mar's life.
“But... you don't mind me knowing that you're not solely focused on fun?” Mar's heart fluttered. She firmly told it to stop. She should not be flattered like this! How did she know he didn't tell hundreds of girls the same thing to win them over?
But then he stopped at a glass door, keying something in too fast for her to see, and the door clicked open, letting out a rush of warm air that smelled of earth and the mingled scent of flowers. Her companion bowed theatrically, gesturing for her to precede him into the greenhouse. The movement was so over the top that she laughed even as she stepped inside.
She gasped- the greenhouse stretched as far as the eye could see, every aisle filled with tables laden with trays. There had to be hundreds of flowers in these trays, all at various stages in their life cycles, some barely sprouting, other heavy with opened flowers, in a heady swirl of colors, more still bearing fruit... It was amazing. No Kree would have ever 'wasted' time on a project like this. They never used resources on anything that didn't have immediate results or a definite purpose.
“Beautiful, isn't it?” Her new friend remarked, coming to stand beside her.
“Yes,” Mar said, dreamily, her eyes on the incredible sight before her. “It's like a garden for the gods...”
That made him laugh softly, before turning back to her. “It's unusual to see a Kree who understands the worth of creating and preserving fragile life.”
Mar nodded. “Most of my people are more focused on conquering than nurturing.” She bit her lip. Why had she just voiced that thought aloud? Fine, she had thought it for a long time, but she'd never told anyone before! Casting about for a way to change the subject, she just blurted, “What about yours?”
He blinked. “My what?”
Again, she'd sounded like an idiot. Cursing her awkwardness- she was a genius level inventor among her people, so why couldn't she, with such a 'great' mind, have a coherent conversation with someone she liked?! She rushed to clarify what she'd meant. “Your people. Who are they? How would they view something like this?”
He hesitated, and she tried to backpedal. “It's alright, you don't have to answer if I'm prying. I was just curious about how other species view the universe as a whole. I've rarely spent time with races that aren't my own.”
“No, it's fine, it's just...” He took a deep breath. “My people are pacifists for the most part. We work to try and live in harmony, using what we have to better the lives of others. But... it's been hard for a long time, for us.” His voice had changed, no longer jovial with the constant hint of laughter. Now he sounded somber, almost sad.
Acting on instinct, Mar placed her hand on his. “What happened?” For some reason, she spoke in a soft voice. That way, she reasoned, if he didn't want to answer, he could pretend he hadn't heard her.
“Some time ago, as we reckon it, one of our people went rogue. His philosophies went against ours, so he was exiled from our world.” He paused. “He came back... for revenge. My people were decimated, our world rendered uninhabitable, the few survivors scattered to the winds. We only meet up in small groups now, keeping our heads down, not drawing too much attention to ourselves.” His voice was thick, and his gaze was on the floor, his shoulders hunched. "I miss home, but... that's just how it is."
Mar backed up, her hand on her mouth. “I... I'm so sorry, I didn't mean....” She cursed her inquisitiveness. She shook her head. “I should... go. I'll...” She couldn't think what else to say, so just got out of there quickly. She thought he might have called after her, but she only moved faster. Apologizing wouldn't make him feel better, it would only comfort her, so best to just move on now she'd ruined their conversation.
Well done! She scolded herself. This is why you don't have any friends- your big mouth gets you into trouble, all the time. She all but ran back to the party, feeling sick with guilt over having upset someone who had only been friendly towards her. She'd actually been enjoying their talk, (and his attention) until she'd put her foot in it. She blinked back tears. It didn't matter now. He wouldn't want to talk to her again, and that was for the best. She felt a stab of regret that she hadn't even gotten his name, or given him hers- how could she apologize if she didn't even know who he was? She'd just have to let it go, she realized, her heart sinking. She'd probably never see him again after she and her fellow Kree left Chandilar anyway.
Mar let a bitter smile cross her face, remembering that disastrous first meeting. Of course, it hadn't ended there... he'd been too resilient and tenacious to give up! That night though, she honestly thought she had ruined everything, and recalling how callous she had been, given what she'd learned later, still made her feel bad, even though that mistake had long been forgiven.
Her eyes stung with tears- of mixed sadness and joy- as she remembered the ludicrous way he had gone about finding her again, the next day...
The day after the gala, Mar had woken early, her feet still aching and blistered from the ridiculous shoes that she'd thrown across her room as soon as she'd gotten in there last night, desperate to have them off her feet. After she'd applied cooling salve to them, and readied herself for the day, she slipped into the main room of the guest suite that they had been allotted, fully expecting to either be the first one up, or to have to deal with hungover Blue Kree who expected her to wait on them, as if it were her fault they felt ill.
She certainly did not expect to emerge from her room to see an enormous bouquet of flowers, in a myriad rainbow of colors, sitting on the dining table. Tanalth was examining them critically, as if they housed a bomb. Mar rolled her eyes, assuming someone had been foolish enough to give a female Kree Accuser flowers, when Tanalth probably wouldn't have the faintest idea that this was meant to be an affectionate gesture. Tanalth's eyes shot to Mar as she stepped closer, though, and she snorted. “Looks like you made a new friend last night, Pink.” She held a note in her hand, snapping it away when Mar, confused, reached for it. “I wonder just what sort of service you provided to merit such a reward?” She looked Mar up and down, her judgmental gaze speaking volumes. Holding the card out of Mar's reach, above her head, she began reading it. Aloud.
'To my new blue-eyed Kree friend who graced me with her company (but not her name) last night at the gala. I enjoyed our discussion, and hope you enjoy my gift, so you will remember me until I get a chance to actually introduce myself.
PS: I hope you see the value in not killing them!'
The flowers, and the reference to her eyes, along with the choice of flowers as a gift.... it had to be from the red-haired man, but why? Mar had been so sure she'd never see him again... Tanalth sneered, crumpling the card up in her hand, her eyes narrowing as Mar's face went red. “Do I need to remind you of appropriate conduct while we are on a diplomatic mission?”
Mar's fists clenched. “No, of course not. I know my duty.”
“Then, since we aren't here to start a flower nursery, “ Tanalth spat the words as if they were obscene, “You won't mind if I put these in the garbage where they belong, with this stupid little note as well?”
Mar sucked in a deep breath. The flowers were hers, by right, and Tanalth knew it. But if Mar protested, who knew what rumors or lies the young Accuser might make up about her conduct here? She forced herself to sound casual. “You may, but if whoever sent them takes offense, it will be down to you to repair things.”
“And just who did send them?” Tanalth demanded. “Who were you becoming 'friendly' enough with that he would send you a gift, but not know your name, nor you his? Unless you both were too occupied for the common courtesy of speech, of course. I don't recall seeing you for very long at the actual gala...”
Mar's blood boiled at the implication. “You- how dare you?! You think I would act so immodestly?”
“Mind who you're speaking to!” Tanalth snarled. “I still outrank you, so remember your place. As for what you might have gotten up to, how would I know? You're a Pink. Your standards of decency don't match those of true Blue Kree, everyone knows that.”
Mar had to grind her teeth to keep from retorting. Grabbing the bunch of flowers (big enough to almost conceal her behind them) she stormed from the room, leaving the crumpled card in Tanalth's hand- no way would she get that back, she knew that. Making her way outside to the street, she inhaled several deep breaths of the flowers' scent, letting it distract and calm her, smiling a little as she recalled the beautiful greenhouse she'd seen last night.
Why had her new 'friend' sent her flowers, though? She was so sure she had upset him, asking about his home, so for him to send her a present and hint that he'd like to see her again... It didn't make sense.
Running footsteps sounded, followed by a near-frantic conversation in the bird-like high pitched language of the Shi'ar, and a young man in a servant's uniform nearly ran into Mar, out of breath and looking terrified.
Mar shifted the flowers to one arm and put her hand out to brace him, concerned- was there some sort of emergency? “What's wrong?”
“One of the guests,” the boy panted. “The air-cooling and lighting systems in his room have malfunctioned. They're going haywire, he's unhappy, and I don't know how to fix it! If the Majestor finds out one of the honored guests is out of sorts, we'll all be blamed!”
Mar stood up straight. “I can fix anything. I could help if you want.” After all, she'd invented a large number of similar things, back home- how difficult could it be to fix the Shi'ar version? And if she could prevent this scared boy from getting into trouble, good. She'd be better than him at dealing with a stuck-up noble who thought the world revolved around him, anyway. “Which room is it?”
The boy pointed a shaking hand towards a flight of stairs just across the courtyard. “First door at the top.”
Still clutching the flowers, Mar set off determinedly, already picturing the guest who'd complained- probably some stuck up old man who had never worked a day in his life, and had broken the systems himself, trying to make them work, and was now blaming the servant for his own ineptitude. Her anger at Tanalth could maybe be re-directed after all, if this noble, whoever he was, gave her an excuse.
She didn't notice the 'scared' boy breaking into a grin behind her, and walking away, as if he hadn't a care in the world.
Reaching the top of the stairs, she knocked politely on the door, prepared to explain why she was there if she had to. Though, she realized belatedly, carrying the flowers would look strange. She should have left them somewhere.... well, it was too late now.
The door hissed open, and Mar opened her mouth to speak- then ended up gaping as she found herself face to face with her friend from last night. “What... how...” She eventually managed.
He shrugged, a boyish, mischievous look on his face. “I wanted to see you again. I overheard that the only non-Blue Kree here was a genius inventor, so I came up with a way to talk to you.”
Mar blinked. “But... the servant boy... he was so worried.”
The man laughed. “An act. One I compensated him for. I had a feeling your Kree companions might not want you mingling with other guests. You generally keep to yourselves. But I had to try.” His eyes met hers. “I enjoyed speaking with you yesterday. Well, until I let the conversation turn depressing, anyway.”
Mar's mind was reeling. After he let... But that had been her fault, hadn't it? She stared past him, into his room. “Your ventilation and lighting are working fine.” She said blankly.
He chuckled. “Well, for a few minutes, they weren't. It's easy enough to redirect the flow of power so the settings backfire, without doing any permanent damage to the interior of the devices.” He winked. “I thought I should make the boy's story as plausible as possible. I've reversed it again now, so it's back to normal.” He reached for the bouquet she still held, plucking a blue flower from it. “I see you liked my gift.”
What? Oh, right. She was still holding the flowers. “Uh, yes, I was...” Just going to throw them out because one of my non-friends made a disgusting accusation about how I got them? Yes, saying that would really go over well. “I was just admiring them when I saw the boy.” She hedged. Then something occurred to her. “Wait, the boy ran past me almost as soon as I came outside... how long were you planning this?”
He shrugged, looking sheepish. “A few hours? I thought a lucky coincidence of my needing the help of a scientist would look better than my showing up at your door asking for you.”
Mar's cheeks went pink. “I'm surprised you even want to see me, after I put my foot in it last night, asking about your home. I'm sorry if-”
He held his hand up. “I started that, commenting on the Kree, and honestly, it was nice to be asked by someone who doesn't tread on eggshells around the topic, as if I'm going to break down if it's mentioned. It helps, sometimes, to discuss it.”
“OK.” Mar nodded a couple of times, nervously biting her lip. “So...”
His eyes twinkled. “So, now that you're here, and I miraculously no longer need help fixing anything, would you like to take a walk with me?”
Mar was seriously beginning to wonder if frequent blushing could permanently change the skin color on one's face- if so, she was definitely going to suffer from it! “S-sure. If you want. I don't have plans, I shouldn't be needed by my people today, and I guess you don't have anything to do, since you asked-” She clamped her lips together. Shut up now, you idiot!
His grin spread across his whole face, and he offered his arm again, like he had last night. She accepted, her heart pounding a mile a minute. Someone of noble birth, mysterious and handsome, seeming to show real interest in a mere Pink Kree commoner... Things like this didn't happen to people like her, except in fairy stories- did they? Well, if this was bound to end soon, why shouldn't she enjoy it while it lasted? Boldly, she accepted the offered arm, her heart-rate increasing.
He paused just before they started down the steps to the courtyard, tucking the lone blue flower he held behind Mar's ear, his fingertips just brushing her cheek as he did so. “Perfect. I thought this bloom would match your eyes.”
Mar went crimson again, mumbled a thank you, and tried to will her face back to normal. She set the gaudy bouquet down outside the front door of the Kree guest suites, on a windowsill, noting and ignoring Tanalth's glare at her through the window as she returned to her friend's side. “So.... where are we going?”
He shrugged casually. “Why don't we just explore and see what we can find? I've come across lots of adventures that way.”
Mar frowned a little- she usually liked to have a plan of what she was doing and when, but she'd never had a chance to just go with the flow before.... it might be fun. Who knew? “That sounds good.”
His super-nova smile struck again, nearly robbing Mar of the power of speech as they resumed walking. She did muster enough presence of mind to speak though- just. “I'm Mar-Vell, by the way.”
“Eros.” He returned with a smile. He lifted her hand to his mouth, just brushing his lips against it, in an old fashioned, quaint greeting, before leading her into the streets of Chandilar.
It's just an older style of greeting, for him to kiss my hand. Mar told her now-racing heart sternly. It does NOT mean anything more than that!
Still, she couldn't help but wish that it did.
Mar was forcing herself to eat the usual bland, tasteless meal that she was provided with in this cell, already sick to death of the flavorless substance, and dreading to think where it had come from. But refusing food wouldn't help her situation. Sighing, she pushed the empty tray aside and went back to what she normally did now- stare blankly at the white walls and ceiling, which lacked even a crack or smear to catch her eye. She wondered if it was possible to go mad from isolation, spending all your time experiencing the same thing, over and over, monotonously. Like an insect stuck in amber but encased alive, she mused darkly. Life goes on but you can do nothing to influence or change it. Was this how Eros felt? Was a feeling like this why, at least when she'd known him, he kept himself busy, always seeking new excitement and adventures, because he feared he would stagnate or petrify if he slowed down, if he let the brevity of most lives compared to his touch him? Not that she'd known, then, of the immortality of his species- she hadn't even known his species for months, when they were first getting to know each other...
“Slow down!” Mar gasped, laughing as Eros all but ran through the crowds, tugging her by the hand. “I'm sure it will still be there in a few minutes!”
It had been over three months since the gala on Chandilar, and to her surprise, on the day she and the other Kree had been preparing to leave, Eros had shown up at the last minute, thanking her for her company (again), and presenting her with a small wrist-com that he had evidently built himself, so they could stay in touch. He'd called her the night they had returned to Hala, again shocking Mar, who had spent the journey convincing herself that she'd never hear from him again. He'd gotten her talking about her home, and how she usually spent her time. Despite how utterly boring Mar thought her life was, endless research and designing, no social life to speak of, Eros had seemed genuinely interested, even offering advice and suggestions on her latest projects. He hadn't said much about his life, but it hadn't mattered- they'd still ended up talking for hours, and he had actually asked if they could meet up again the next time she left Hala. She had agreed, assuming he was close enough to drop by. (She thought it was highly unlikely he would be, unless her next assignment put her close to wherever he lived.)
Then they had been sent to DiMave, a world on the periphery of the Kree Empire, homeworld of the DiMavi people, but colonized by the Kree. True to her word, Mar had told Eros where she was, but expected nothing to come of it.
To her astonishment, he arrived there just over a day after she had. She'd asked him how he'd gotten here so fast, and, eyes twinkling, he'd told her that he'd flown. Not on a ship, but apparently, by himself. In the vacuum of space. She'd rolled her eyes at his silliness, but hadn't pressed it. He'd come a long way just to see her (for some reason) and she wasn't going to ruin it by pressing for details. He had kept her company there on DiMave while she worked (the Kree superiors in charge there weren't as strict as those on Chandilar had been, and he was permitted into the Kree dwelling.) He'd insisted on walks outside at least once a day, and Mar had to admit, his presence made life more interesting.
Her shyness around him had eased over time, and she'd suggested he come back to Hala with her for a while. He had begged off that, saying he had family business to attend to, but he still called her regularly when she headed home. The visits continued- whenever she was sent off Hala, he made a point of showing up, always grinning, always pleased to see her. He received a lot of attention from passers-by while they were out and about, female and male alike, sometimes, but he never let them distract him from Mar. But neither had he done anything that hinted in a romantic interest in her. Mar concluded that he only wanted her as a friend, who didn't have desire for him, and that was fine. Friends were easier than lovers to deal with, anyway. Friendship wasn't terrifying. She wasn't disappointed at all. Really. Their friendship grew, and soon he was her closest confidant in everything- how she felt about her place among the Kree, her thoughts on the two or more wars always being fought by her people, the peace she hoped they'd achieve someday... He never volunteered much about his own people or opinions, claiming he found her far more interesting. He made offhand, silly comments about his cousins, and spoke fondly of his father, but nothing else. Mar assumed it was because his people's fate still hurt him, and didn't press the issue, instead letting him know she was there if he ever did want to talk.
Today, on Vadin, a Kree border world, with far less rigid social expectations than Hala, the oldest structure on the planet was being restored as a museum, and Mar (sent there to work on the world's atmospheric shields) was intrigued to see it. Vadin was one of the first worlds the Kree had colonized, in the early days of the Intelligence's rule, and seeing one of those centuries-old buildings, restored to its original condition, fascinated her. Hundreds of Kree had turned out to watch, hence why Eros had taken her hand to tug her through the crowds, to get them a better view.
Eros came to a halt abruptly, spinning round without warning, and Mar ended up slamming straight into him.
“Oof! Sorry, sorry.” Her face was pressed into his shoulder, their bodies far too close together. Ignoring the warmth she felt coming off of him, she tried to step back- and promptly tripped, almost going flat on her face, until Eros' hands caught her round the waist, steadying her. Blushing, and about to make a joke about her clumsiness, she looked up at him, and the look in his eyes made her forget to breathe for a second.
Eros looked away first, clearing his throat and letting go of her. She bit her lip, trying to hide her disappointment. Irrational disappointment. She scolded herself. He's your best friend, he doesn't think of you any other way. Tearing her eyes from him, she looked around, realizing they were only a short distance from the museum- but a number of taller Kree stood between it and her, so she couldn't see a thing.
Eros chuckled, watching her stand on her toes, trying to peer over their heads. She glared at him, trying to erase the strangeness of a minute ago. “I'm glad you think this is funny when you can see perfectly.”
It looked like he took a deep breath before stepping closer, placing his hands round her waist again, tentatively. “Hold on. And, uh, don't panic...”
“What do you mea-”
Then, somehow, they were floating just an inch or so above the height of the people in front. Mar stifled a gasp, looking down at their feet. Eros, supporting her weight, was levitating off the ground. After grabbing his shoulders for support (even though he seemed to have no problem managing her weight) she turned wide eyes to him. “You aren't wearing any kind of repulsor technology... how...?”
For a fleeting second, he almost looked sad. “I'll explain later, not out here, alright?” His voice was low, and from his expression and the shadows in his eyes, it was clear he didn't really want to explain, but Mar nodded. She'd drop this while they were out in public, but, later, she wanted an explanation. Her eyes were on the museum, but her mind was elsewhere, as she began listing what species she knew of that were capable of wingless flight, without tech aiding them. There weren't many, and none that physically matched Eros' description- basic humanoid- so what was he? And of course she wasn't only doing this to keep her mind off the feel of his arms round her waist, and her hands on his shoulders. That wasn't distracting at all, nor was it making her heart pound as fast as his. Really. She blinked. Wait, what? As fast as his...?
Eros' eyes were fixated on the restored building, his lips twitching. “They've taken some liberties with the restoration.”
Trying to keep her mind out of fantasies, she attempted to concentrate on his words. “What do you mean?”
Eros gestured with his head. “They've used titanium to reinforce the columns, and re-shaped the windows to make them more secure. Originally, the columns were raw iron, and the windows were round, not square, when this place was built. It was painted then too. Creamy-yellow, if I remember correctly.” His voice was thoughtful, far away.
Mar narrowed her eyes at him. “What do you mean, 'if you remember correctly'? This place was built centuries ago! You're no older than me.” She shook her head. “If this is a joke, it's not really funny this time.”
Eros started, then closed his eyes for a second. “It's so easy to relax around you. I forget sometimes...”
“Forget what?” A chill went down her spine. She had a sinking feeling that something was about to change between them, forever.
Eros inhaled deeply, like he'd come to some sort of resolve. “I will tell you everything later.” The look on his face, resignation, almost despair, made Mar want to say no, don't worry, it doesn't matter. He could keep his business private, if it meant their friendship survived.
“I shouldn't tell you, but I will.” His eyes met hers as he looked down at her. “But... I have to do this first. Just once. So you know how I feel about you. Before you find out...” He leaned closer, one hand reaching to cup her face, as he slowly, gently, brushed his lips on hers.
Mar's heart was racing. Is this real? She'd had dreams like this... Then, somehow, she was kissing him back, and as her eyes drifted shut, the conversation they'd just had suddenly meant nothing, and the universe seemed to shrink to just the two of them, and no-one and nothing else mattered in that moment.
Mar found herself sighing dreamily, even now, at the memory of that first kiss, the last time they had been able to simply be together without complications and doubts arising. Once she'd learned the truth, things had changed, become more difficult between them, because of the feelings they shared...
Mar was in two minds about asking Eros for an explanation concerning his statement about being present when the structures on Vadin had first been built, and about the levitation ability he'd shown earlier. On the one hand, she was burning with curiosity. On the other, he had seemed so despondent when he had said he would tell her 'everything', and he'd said that he wasn't meant to. She wavered, half tempted to tell him it didn't matter, that he didn't have to tell her anything, and they could just go on being friends. Right. Friends. Because friends really share kisses like that! Even thinking back to the kiss they'd shared, before someone had jostled them and they'd fallen the few inches to the ground, made Mar's heart beat more rapidly. Eros had backed off a little afterwards, looking as breathless as she had felt, and without needing her to tell him that she wanted privacy so they could talk, began the walk back to her rooms. The only thing that had changed was that instead of linking her arm with his, as he normally did, he now walked holding her hand, his fingers laced through hers.
Upon getting back to the rooms where she'd been lodged, (thankfully, this time, she had no other Kree chaperones, so had no need to explain a man's presence), she'd set about getting them cold drinks, since Vadin's capital city was on the equator, in one of the hottest regions. The desert-like heat was bearable, but still, cold drinks would be nice. Or that was what Mar told herself as she prepared them, while Eros sat on the couch. It absolutely had nothing to do with her avoiding his gaze, or the start of this conversation. She groaned softly. Fine. It did. She didn't know what was getting to her more: Eros' mysterious levitation ability, and whatever he was hiding, or having to talk about the kiss and what it meant, how it might change things between them- she was terrified of losing the friendship they had now, if things progressed further. She didn't know how to be in a relationship! With that, and the slow feeling of dread that whatever Eros was about to tell her about himself, he thought that it would change things, so much so that he'd kissed her before having to explain- why? To show his real feelings? In case he wouldn't get another chance later? That thought alone sent Mar spiralling down into another well of uncertainty.
Why had he kissed her? He was, without doubt, the most attractive man she'd ever set eyes on, and on top of that, he was cheerful, popular, intelligent and witty. She loved spending time with him- but she was nothing more than average in looks, and usually so caught up in science and her work that her conversations bored people, if they understood what she was talking about at all. She'd work for days on end on her projects if she could. Whatever had possessed Eros to cultivate an interest in her?
“Mar.” Eros' voice was wry, and she glanced up. He glanced pointedly at the glass she was filling- it had overflowed and juice was spilling over the counter. Shaking her head at herself, she quickly righted the carton and grabbed a cloth to mop up the spillage, moving rapidly, her hands shaking a little. “I'm sorry, I was miles away, not thinking...”
“Mar.” Eros had stood at some point, coming to join her, and his hand clasped hers, squeezing gently. “It's alright. Come sit down.” He paused. “I said we'd talk, and we will.”
Biting her lip, and swallowing hard, she let him lead her to the couch. Once they were seated, he released her hand, and sat with his hands resting loosely on his lap. He examined the carpet for a moment before looking up at her. “Where did you want to start?” His voice was cheerful as ever, but there was an undertone of tension in his words.
She fidgeted with her own fingernails. She should ask about his age, which, apparently, could be measured in centuries, despite him appearing no older than her, about in his mid-twenties. He had said he would explain, after all. But, to her mortification, the first thing her mouth blurted out was “Why did you kiss me?”
He blinked- then chuckled softly. “Everything you saw and heard from me today, and that's what's worrying you?”
She shrugged, her face heating. “I just... men don't usually take an interest in me... or notice me at all, really. I'm not pretty, or gregarious enough to catch anyone's eye, so I just don't understand why you, who could probably have anyone you wanted, would look twice at me, let alone...”
Eros' finger on her lips silenced her. “You don't see yourself clearly at all, do you?” His tone was lower, soothing almost. “Do you want to know why I spoke to you, that first time, back at that gala?”
She nodded, her mouth dry.
“You were looking around the room, and the first thing I noticed were your eyes. The exact shade of the sky of my homeworld. Beautiful. You were alone, and I sens- you seemed lonely. I came over, assuming if nothing else, we could get out of that dull gathering together, find something better to do. But, when I showed you that garden, and your whole face lit up, glowing...” He held her gaze steadily. “You were stunning then. And... I wanted to see you happy like that again, as much as possible.” His typical grin showed, but his cheeks were red. “I wanted to be the one to make you smile like that, over and over. Then we got talking, and the way you spoke about your work, the passion in it... It made me care about your career, to want to help you excel.” He paused, his expression turning a bit rueful. “And, as I'm sure you've noticed by now, work is not typically one of my strong points.”
“No, I hadn't the faintest notion of that.” Mar quipped, rolling her eyes, even though she was sure that her face had ignited by now, listening to him talking like this- did he really see her this way? No-one else had ever spoken about her like that...
He threw back his head and laughed. “And that, there, is another reason I can't keep away from you. It's refreshing to spend time with someone who can actually think for herself, who will tease back instead of blindly agreeing with what I say, or telling me what I want to hear.”
Mar smirked. “Doesn't my teasing back mean I am telling you what you want to hear, though?” Deep down, she wasn't sure where she found the courage to say that out loud, but Eros' laughter, kind and so full of guileless humor, was infectious, and her nerves about the kiss were all but forgotten when he shook his head, recovering his composure and brushing a strand of hair from her face.
He stared intently at her, the look in his eyes making her breath catch. “I've never known anyone like you, Mar-Vell.” He took several deep breaths. “Which is why I don't want to keep lying to you.”
Mar tensed, sitting back a little. “About what?” A chill ran down her spine. Do I want to hear this?
“About myself, my people, who we are...” Eros stood abruptly, pacing back and forth. “Telling you this is probably the stupidest thing I could do, because it'll scare you off, but I can't... I can't let this go any further without being honest.”
A ball of nerves churned in her stomach, but she stood up, taking his hand, tugging so he had to turn to face her. “Look, whatever it is... I've gotten to know you. I trust you. That isn't going to change, no matter what you're about to tell me.”
Eros' eyes locked on hers, as if trying to determine her sincerity, then he let out a sigh. “All right. But we should sit down for this.”
When they had done so, Mar folded his hand between hers and waited.
“First..... have you ever come across the name 'Titan'?”
“Of course. They're a nearly extinct race of god-like beings. No-one's ever seen any, so it's unclear how many, if any, still live. The one who's best known to most people is Thanos-” Mar cut herself off, remembering something Eros had said, almost offhandedly, when they'd first met. ”Some time ago, as we reckon it, one of our people went rogue. His philosophies went against ours, so he was exiled from our world... He came back... for revenge. My people were decimated, the few survivors scattered to the winds. We only meet up in small groups now, keeping our heads down.” She stifled a gasp. “You... and your people, those cousins I saw once... you're the survivors of Titan?”
Eros nodded, his gaze once again on the floor.
Mar's head spun. No wonder he hadn't wanted to talk about his past! “The general consensus is that your people nothing but a legend now, not heard of for centuries.” Her mind snapped back to their talk earlier. “You... you really were here when Vadin was settled. You're centuries old.” She let out a shuddering breath. “And immortal, if that story concerning Titans was true.” Thousands of other questions, about Titans, and their supposed other cosmic abilities, and how many truly remained, buzzed round in her head, but she silenced her inquisitiveness. This wasn't the time.
Another nod was his only reply. Eros still wouldn't look at her. “We don't tell people, because, like you, the first association they tend to make is Thanos. We do not and never will act as he does, and we don't want to be thought of only in relation to him. So, for that reason, and so that he can never discover that any of us remain among the living, we live on in obscurity.”
“But you told me.”
“I did.” He finally met her eyes again, and, to her shock, his were swimming with tears. “Because I care about you, and I feel better, happier, just by being in your presence, than I have done for years. But, if this is going to be anything, or lead anywhere... I wanted you to know the truth. And if not?" He looked as if the thought pained him. "Then at least I'd know why you didn't want to be with me.”
Tears burned in Mar's own eyes at the raw emotion in his voice. He'd taken an enormous risk in revealing his secret, in trusting her, that she wouldn't tell anyone about him. But he was also acting as if he expected her to flee, never to be seen again. As if she'd do that! Fine, this was a mind-boggling revelation, and yes, even the rumor of the Mad Titan Thanos terrified her, but... Eros hadn't asked to be born part of the same species as him, had he? Any more than she had wanted to be part of the warmongering, often bloodthirsty Kree. “We can't help the species we're born into, or what outcasts from our kind choose to do with their lives.” She said tentatively, stepping closer to him. “But I meant what I said earlier: I trust you, I always will, and...” She told herself to stop thinking for once, and reached up and embraced him. “I care about you too. I'm honored that you trusted me with this. And I'm not going anywhere.”
He relaxed in her arms, his head dropping to her shoulder, and their breathing almost synchronized as his arms wrapped round her.
“Thank you.” His voice was ragged, but intelligible enough, his breath hot on the exposed skin of her neck, the sensation sending a thrill through her that she'd never known before. She could feel his heartbeat, holding him like this, and instinctively, she laid her cheek on his hair, luxuriating in the heat his body temperature gave off, breathing in the spice-and-sunlight scent that emanated from him, comforting him as best she could. He fit in her arms so well, and this felt so comfortable, so right, that she could willingly forget how much older than her he really was, how much of life, of love, he must have experienced before meeting her. She forgot her precarious position among the Kree, a Pink barely tolerated by Blues, no matter how hard she worked to better their lives, and she forgot that Eros' life was wildly different from hers, that he wasn't mortal as she was, and that they could probably only ever meet in these stolen interludes, in secret, to protect his identity. It didn't matter, in this moment. He was here, with her, and that was enough. It was all that she wanted.
Mar sighed as she set down the datatab she'd been working on, shaking her head at herself. She'd been trying to work for the past few hours, despite having a rare period of free time and staying in her own home, not a military science facility, but she just couldn't focus. That was unusual for her. Maybe she was just tired, or overworked... She snorted at herself. Come on, admit it. The only reason you can't concentrate is because you're hoping Eros will call. She closed her eyes, both hating and loving that she was acting like a lovesick teenager. Since Vadin, they'd spoken nearly every day, but hadn't yet been able to meet up again, and she missed him more than she wanted to admit. He'd been silent, making no calls at all for over a week now, though, and she was starting to worry. Pessimistic thoughts had begun circling in her head- he'd changed his mind about her, he'd found someone else... in the darkest moments, usually in the middle of the night when she couldn't sleep, fears of something worse having happened to him surfaced, making her shudder with fear. Titans were nearly indestructible, she knew that, but still, they had once been driven to the point of extinction. Eros had confided to her that during Thanos' attack on their world, their population had gone from over three thousand to a mere few dozen. That sort of decimation petrified Mar. What if something had happened to him? She fidgeted with the wrist com he'd given her, a familiar habit over the last few days, as if toying with it would somehow make him call.
What happened instead was a thud against her front door, making her almost jump out of her skin. She got to her feet warily, edging towards the door. Whoever or whatever was outside either hadn't seen the door comm, or was choosing not to use it. Remembering spiteful tricks carried out by some of her classmates in her schooldays, she squared her shoulders, prepared to give whoever was trying to scare her a piece of her mind. Marching over, she practically punched the button that would open the door- and all but leapt backwards with a gasp as Eros half stumbled, half fell into her hallway, barely staying upright, the coppery scent of blood stinging Mar's nose. Horrified, she immediately closed and locked the door, and wedged her shoulder under his arm, helping him further into her home.
“What happened?” Managing to get him onto her couch, she scanned his form frantically. The blood seemed to be coming from a series of ragged gashes on his chest and stomach. He was pale, and his eyes were fluttering, barely staying open. “Oh, Gods... I'll call a medic.” She was fumbling for her personal comm, which was permanently linked to the Intelligence, and to the emergency services of Hala, when Eros' hand shot out, catching her wrist.
“No. Not supposed to.... be.... Hala. Not... safe.”
She shook her head. “You're delirious. You need help.”
“You. Just you. No-one else.” His breathing was labored, like it was a struggle to continue.
She breathed in shakily. “Alright, I... I have a med kit, just... stay awake, alright?” She raced into her bathroom, grabbing the standard issue med kit, praying it would be enough to help him. Running back to the main room, she froze for a second when she saw Eros' head lolling dangerously. No. No no no. Somehow, she snapped out of it, running to his side and kneeling, checking his pulse (slow) and noting that his usually too-warm temperature had dropped, his skin feeling almost cold. Not good signs. Don't panic. She told herself. Focus on one small thing at a time. Opening the med kit and grabbing the small scissors meant for cutting bandages, she sliced through the shoulders of the bodysuit he wore, and slowly, carefully, peeled the blood soaked fabric away from his wounds, so she could have a better look.
The six or so jagged rips on his torso, all gushing blood, made her recoil. How had he even gotten here before passing out? Swallowing past her nausea, she grabbed the disinfectant spray and slowly, methodically, began treating each wound, wincing whenever Eros flinched. Once that was done, she grabbed the sealant bandages and pressed one firmly to each gash, pausing to make sure it adhered to his skin, stopping the blood loss. In the midst of that, Eros came round, groaning softly, but she refused to let it distract her- there would be time to talk once he wasn't bleeding out. Pressing the last sealant into place, she surveyed her work. The bleeding had stopped, though Eros still looked pale, but he was awake at least. She managed a weak smile, which he returned. Blood also stained her hands and her clothes. She'd have to clean all that up- who knew what would happen if his blood was found in her home? Could it be identified as Titan blood? The Intelligence would surely recognize-
The Intelligence. Mar went rigid. Eros had said he wasn't meant to be here, that it wasn't safe. Even if she set aside the fact that his identity needed to be kept hidden, he had entered Hala illegally; his entering the atmosphere would have been noted, people would be looking for the intruder, and the Intelligence was wired into every computerized system on the planet. She surged to her feet again, bolting for her home's central console. Calling up the internal software, she began typing rapidly, putting into practice something she had theorized about, but never attempted until now. The Intelligence, for all its lofty status among the Kree, was still a computer. Metal, and wires, and data. And such things could be manipulated, and fooled, with enough skill. Working frantically, she managed to access and override the surveillance footage of her home and the streets nearby, essentially deleting the sight of Eros dropping from the sky and stumbling towards her home, replacing it with footage of the deserted street, adjusting the time-stamps so the footage appeared real. Logging out of that system, she quickly made sure she'd left no traces of her interference, before returning to Eros, who was now trying to sit up. Gasping, she immediately went to push him back into lying down. “You can't get up yet! You have to let the bandages set fully before you can move.” She scolded. “And, then, I don't know, we have to find some way to replenish the blood you lost...”
Eros, to her amazement, shook his head. “No need for that. I can make myself heal now. I just needed to get to safety, and have someone stop the bleeding first.”
“Safety?” Mar's heart was pounding. “Illegally sneaking onto a world where every move is monitored by the Intelligence is your idea of safety?”
“Of course.” He grinned. “You're here.”
She opened her mouth, closed it again, then shook her head. It was flattering to have him talk like that, but... “I bought us some time. I managed to alter the local surveillance footage so there's no proof of you arriving here. I have no idea how we're going to get you off Hala without being discovered, though.”
He waved a hand dismissively. “We'll figure it out. Come here.” He reached out for her, shifting so she could sit beside him on the couch. Only then did it really dawn on Mar that Eros was laying, shirtless, on her couch, in her home. Her eyes shot straight to his body, and heat flooded her face (and other parts of her) as she observed that he was very good looking, tanned and muscular, but slim. Despite the bright white bandages dotting his stomach, she could clearly make out his abs, and the fine line of reddish hair that trailed down the center of his stomach, leading to his waistline, and disappearing beneath his trousers. She followed the line with her eyes, and an ache she'd never known pulsed through her, making her want to reach out, and touch him, and have him touch her...
She tore her gaze away, keeping her eyes on his face as she sat- carefully- beside him. Nonetheless, she hadn't hidden her reaction well, considering that he arched a brow, and winked. “Like what you see?”
Mar buried her face in her hands. He'd just been injured, in serious danger, and this was where her mind went?
Eros' hand rested on her arm, gently. “Mar. It's alright.” He began stroking his fingertips up and down her arm, in a soothing gesture. It had a different effect though- she felt like tiny electric sparks were coursing from his hand to her skin, making her crave more. She inhaled deeply, forcing herself to think of more important things. “What happened to you, anyway? Were you attacked, or...”
His face darkened, but he nodded. “Long story short: my people have an ancient enemy, another immortal species-”
“The Deviants?” Mar interrupted. She'd come across mention of them, the monstrous counterparts to Eros' kind, and the feud between them and the Titans, when she'd first learned who Eros was, though, in the stories, the Titans were referred to as Eternals, a small inaccuracy, she assumed. He quirked a brow at her, and she bit her lip. “Sorry, go on.”
“Not much more to tell. I was just traveling to spring a surprise visit on my father, and somehow a group of Deviants tracked me down and ambushed me. I got away, but...” He gestured at his injuries. “They weren't happy about it.”
“Will they follow you here?” Mar fretted. If that happened, and these Deviants were caught by the Kree, she had no chance of keeping Eros' presence here a secret.
“No. Trust me, they were in no state of mind to follow me when I left.” Despite his grim words, he was almost smiling.
Mar shivered despite herself. “You killed them?”
“No, I...” He paused, sitting up more fully. “Right. I never told you that part, did I?”
“What part?” Mar frowned, feeling confused.
Eros took her hand in his, studying it intently as he spoke. “I assume you've found out that my people have rather... unique gifts.”
She blinked. “Well, I know you can fly, and you're immortal, obviously. You just said you can heal yourself at will.... and some of the older stories say you can use cosmic energy as a weapon, but beyond that, there aren't specifics. I didn't want to pry, because I didn't know how much of it was true.” Alright, that was a slight fib. She'd been dying to ask, but hadn't wanted to pressure Eros to tell her anything.
He sighed heavily. “It's all true. But also, some of us.... have other gifts that we're born with, that we can hone and develop over time. Most Eternals, or Titans, depending on which colony we were born on, only have the basics- flight, healing, cosmic energy manipulation.”
Mar mentally filed away the mention of a second colony, not originating from Titan, to maybe ask about later. “And... the others you mentioned?”
“Well, for example, Sersi, my cousin, one of the original colony from Earth-” At Mar's blank look, he elaborated. “Terra, or C53, to you.” She nodded and he continued. “She can actually manipulate molecules to create or change constructs, or even create living things from component atoms. Makkari, another friend of mine from Earth, has a remarkable gift for speed- he can create cyclones by running in circles, run up vertical surfaces and over water, and even generate tachyons at his fastest pace. Elysius, a friend of mine from Titan, has a minor telepathic ability, and I...” He hesitated, his eyes darting away.
Mar was enraptured by all this, already puzzling over how such things could work. It went against a lot of the science she took for granted. “What? Tell me!” Her voice was eager, excited, the exact opposite to Eros' current expression.
“I was born with some empathic ability,” He began, slowly. “I can sense, and to some extent, influence the emotions of others, but the main use of my 'gift' is...” He paused. “There's no good way to say this. I can... stimulate the pleasure centers of people's brains, increase pheromone production.”
Suddenly, Mar felt cold. “You... can make people feel good around you. Make them like you, even if they don't.”
Eros shifted so he was now holding both her hands, looking her straight in the eyes. “Yes. I can. That's how I convinced the Deviants to let me go, instead of continuing to slice me up. But Mar, I swear to you, I have never done that to you, and I never will. What's happening between us... It's real. For me too. Please, believe me.”
Mar pulled her hands from his, needing to be able to think straight, and far from sure she could do that while so close to him. What if, even unintentionally, he'd made her feel the way she did about him? Until she met him, she'd never had such strong feelings for anyone. She'd thought (hoped?) that it was simply because she hadn't met him yet, that he was special, but knowing he could make anyone feel that way, how could she be sure? She stood, pacing back and forth, not looking at him, running through the facts in her mind.
Eros had just admitted he could manipulate people into liking him and doing what he wanted. He'd also said he had never done that to her. Her feelings for him were stronger than anything she'd ever known before. But he claimed he felt the same. Since they had met, he had been the one putting all the effort into this relationship- going out of his way just to see her, initiating every call they shared, and visiting unprompted, for months. He had trusted her with his true heritage, something that his people, as a rule, did not do. And, when he was hurt and alone, he had risked everything, risked exposing himself, to get to her on Hala, when there had to have been other options, safer ones, because he trusted her to help him heal and to keep him safe.
Those weren't the actions of someone who was using her as a means to an end, Mar realized. And then, another thought chilled her. What must it have been like, growing up and living as he did, never being able to be sure, if he had friends, if they truly liked him, or if his ability was affecting them? Had he ever had any real friends in his life, without that doubt hanging over him?
Eros' head was hanging now. Mar realized she'd been silent for over five minutes.
“If you want me to go, I will.” Eros' voice was wretched, broken almost.
Mar decided that, again, thinking wasn't helping her much here, and acted on instinct instead. Returning to the couch, she sat beside him, and thought hard. Did she trust him? She posed the question deep inside herself, searching for the answer.
Yes. That was the unequivocal answer. Yes, she trusted him. She knew, deep down, that he'd never do anything to hurt her. Lacing her fingers through his again, she rested her free hand on his red hair, enjoying the feel of the silky strands against her palm. “It must be difficult, to have to be on guard against yourself, all the time.”
Eros looked up, blinking, as if he'd fully expected to be told to leave, and her response had genuinely startled him. Mar wondered just how many times before he'd been shunned because people were wary of him. Knowing him as she did, a truly friendly person who only wanted others to be happy, being treated that way must have been so hard on him.
Grabbing her hand, he pressed it to his cheek, resting his face against her palm, looking so relieved that Mar's heart ached.
“You mean a lot to me, I hope you know that.” His voice was still hesitant, as if he couldn't quite believe her reaction.
She nodded. “And you to me.” Acting on impulse, she leaned a little closer, her eyes on his lips, a silent invitation.
The kiss this time was more intense, as she tried to show how much she'd longed for this while they'd been apart. His tongue brushed her lips tentatively, and she obligingly opened her mouth, gasping as he deepened the kiss, tongue plundering her mouth hungrily. His arms wrapped around her, pulling her closer, and the room spun a little, until she was half lying on top of him, upper bodies pressed together, legs entangled, but with Eros' grip on her waist keeping their hips apart, despite her trying to squirm closer, aching, needing more. The heat of his body easily penetrated her clothes, which suddenly seemed too tight, too hot, and annoying. Her hands slid up his chest, loving the firm feeling of his muscles under her hands, and Eros let out a soft groan as she explored cautiously- then her hand hit a soft square of fabric, and he winced. Only then did she remember the bandages, and that he was hurt. Tensing, terrified she'd managed to hurt him more, she broke the kiss and scrambled off of him, frantically making sure she hadn't inadvertently dislodged a sealant and made him start bleeding again.
The bandages were fine, thankfully, but Eros' face was flushed, the pupils in his eyes blown wide, and he was breathing heavily. Mar's heart was galloping, she knew her hair was mussed, her lips were bruised and swollen, and the insistent ache still pulsed at her core, urging her to pick up where they'd left off, already craving more of his touch. The fact that Eros' pants were quite tight, leaving no doubts about his current state of arousal, didn't help matters. Heat surged through her at just the thought that she was responsible for making him want her like that. All she wanted to do was climb back onto his lap and... She tore her eyes away, willing herself to calm down. Now.
Eros inhaled deeply several times. “I think I'd better get myself healed.”
“Yeah.” Mar ran her hands through her hair shakily. “Did you need me to leave, or...”
“No. No need.” Eros shifted into a cross-legged position, closing his eyes. A faint white glow surrounded his body, and Mar, watched, fascinated, as it intensified around each of the deep cuts, before fading. Minutes later, Eros opened his eyes, and without a word, began peeling the bandages off. Mar stifled a gasp. Except for the remaining bloodstains, the wounds were completely gone! She reached out, half believing this was some illusion. No known species could heal themselves to that extent, at will! “That... that's amazing. The regenerative capabilities...” A thought struck her. “Wait, if you could do that, why not do so earlier? Why travel all the way here first?”
Eros stood up, then swayed slightly, yawning. “Healing is draining. I needed to be somewhere safe first.” He stretched, arms above his head, as if he were trying to wake himself up. “Is there anywhere I can get some sleep? I'm going to be out for a few hours now...” He swayed again, seeming on the verge of falling asleep on his feet.
Mar glanced around- she only had a one bedroom apartment, and the couch was far too small for him to sleep on comfortably. “Sure, come on.” It was daytime, she reasoned, she didn't need her own bed right now. Eros leaned on her for support as she led him into her bedroom, and helped him to lie down. His eyes fluttered shut as soon as his head hit the pillow, and she only heard a mumbled “Thanks” before he was out for the count. Covering him with a spare blanket, she tugged his boots off, smiling when he didn't even stir, and slipped from the room, closing the door behind her, leaving him in peace. She still felt hot and bothered from their... encounter, and decided a cold shower was the best thing right now. Thoughts of Eros, asleep in her bed, played on her mind, but she tried to squash them. He wasn't here for that, he'd come to her for help, because he trusted her, and lovemaking was absolutely not on the agenda for this situation. No matter how much her body was telling her that she wanted it, and that he did too, it didn't matter. Eros was here to recuperate, and then he would leave. And the next time they met, she would not throw herself at him wantonly like she had today, thank you very much! Her mind was in charge of what she did, not her body's primal urges. And that was that.
If she kept saying it, maybe it might even start to feel like the truth.
Mar was engrossed on her datatab, eyes scanning the list of ships leaving Hala in the next few days, considering and discarding each one as a possible way of getting Eros out of here before the Intelligence discovered his presence. So far, none of the ships going off-world soon had enough space to successfully hide a stowaway, and there was no way they could risk trying to bribe anyone to silence, even if she had the means to do that, which she didn't.
Movement in her room, followed by Eros' muffled voice, had her looking up- was he talking to her? What she could make out through the wall didn't make sense, it sounded like garbled nonsense. Standing, she set the datatab aside and went to her bedroom door, then paused. Should she knock? He was, apparently, having a private conversation... but on the other hand, it was her room, and it wasn't as if she understood what she was hearing. The door hissed open automatically when she got close to it, and she glanced in. Eros was sitting on her bed, a communication device on his wrist active, projecting a hologram of a blonde woman. Something tugged at Mar's memory- she'd seen this woman before... on Chandilar, that was it. This was one of Eros' cousins. Thena, if she remembered correctly. She stayed back, not moving into the room, not wanting to interrupt. Eros' eyes darted to her, and he smiled for a split second, before resuming his conversation.
Mar tried not to frown as she listened. Apart from the odd word- Eros' name, Thena's name, and Hala- nothing they said made any sense. She could only hear nonsense syllables and bursts of static. She subtly checked out her translator- was it malfunctioning? It appeared to be working fine, so she frowned until Eros ended the call, then she couldn't stop herself. “What language was that? Somehow, it completely bypassed my translator...”
Eros chuckled softly. “My people's original language. It predates all translators used nowadays, so none of them have the programming needed to interpret it. Comes in useful when we don't want to be eavesdropped on.”
Mar's lips twitched. “I suppose it would... is your cousin angry with you? For being here... I did hear you say Hala, and she didn't sound impressed.”
He shook his head. “Thena will be fine. She panicked when I didn't manage to visit my father as I told her I would. I just told her I ran into trouble and had to postpone. I'm healed, so no need to explain why I didn't make it.”
Mar nodded, understanding that he didn't want to worry his family now that his injuries were gone, but... “You all must keep a close eye on each other, if she realized so soon that you hadn't reached your destination.”
“Well, there are so few of us left, so we look out for each other. It's safer if at least someone always knows where we are, or where we're heading, in case anything happens.” His expression was dark now, so Mar cleared her throat, wanting to change the subject.
“Are you... alright now? Fully recovered, I mean, now you've slept.”
“Yeah.” His usual smile returned. “Batteries fully recharged.”
She stifled a laugh at his silly turn of phrase, then started when there was a chime from her door. Someone was outside, requesting to come in. She and Eros both whirled, tense.
“Are you expecting anyone?” Eros mouthed. Mar shook her head, baffled. Almost no-one visited her here, ever. Eros' eyes narrowed in concentration, and he moved closer to her so he could whisper in her ear. “No negative emotions... whoever it is just feels amused about something.”
“How... oh, right, you're an empath.” Mar tried not to notice the lack of distance between their bodies, or the feeling of his hot breath on her neck. She struggled to concentrate. “It might be Una. My neighbor. She sort of owes me for keeping a secret for her, and she thinks it makes us friends, for some reason.”
The door chimed again, and Mar sighed. “I better go and see what she wants, or she'll never leave. Umm... could you stay in here while I deal with her? I think the less people who see you here, the better.”
“Mm-hmm. Sure it's not just that you just don't want me to meet this friend of yours, that you'd rather keep me all to yourself?” Eros winked.
Mar hid her laugh, and smacked him on the arm as she strode from the room, her face burning as the bedroom door slid closed and she strode to the front of her apartment. She couldn't bring herself to actually deny Eros' words though. Una had a slight reputation for enjoying male company, and the last thing Mar wanted was her seeing Eros, thank you very much. She managed to pull a friendly expression on her face as she opened her front door, to reveal Una standing there, arms folded, her usual half-smile on her face. Mar nodded politely. “Una. Did you need something?”
The other woman shrugged. “Just wondered what you thought of the latest alert from 'on high'.” She gestured upward, to the higher levels of Hala, that housed the military, the elite Blues, and the Intelligence.
“Alert?” Mar's heart pounded. She hadn't noticed anything. Had Eros' presence here been discovered, despite what she'd done to prevent it?
Una nodded, her ink-blue hair falling over one side of her face. She brushed it away in annoyance, her cheeks flushed. “Some sort of stellar debris penetrated Hala a few hours ago, and now the Supreme Intelligence,” Una always made the name sound like an insult, “Has ordered an investigation. Everyone's crying Skrull, of course. Like there's absolutely nothing else it could be.”
Mar shook her head, as if agreeing with Una- and, in part, she did, her people had started seeing Skrulls in every shadow- but mention of an investigation had sent a chill down her spine. “I-investigation? What, of the upper levels?”
“For now, yes.” Una sighed, leaning against Mar's doorframe. “But when the Accusers don't find anything, you know they'll be down here next, throwing their weight around, telling us 'lowly' Pinks what to do- Mar, are you OK? You've gone pale...” Una stepped closer, worry in her purple eyes.
Mar edged away. “N-no. I'm fine. I should...” She made as if to shut the door, but Una's foot shot out, keeping it open.
“Oh no you don't.” Una's Pink face reddened with annoyance. “You did me a huge favour when you found my Cotati shrine, and never told anyone about it. You think I'm going to just butt out when it looks like you're in some sort of trouble?”
Mar sighed. Sometimes- like now- it seemed as if keeping the secret of Una's 'blasphemous' religion, worshiping the Cotati as their ancestors had, instead of the Intelligence, was more trouble than it was worth. “I'm not in trouble, Una, I haven't done anything wrong.” That, at least, was utterly true. Helping an injured friend- or whatever Eros was to her, she wasn't sure- was not wrong.
Una huffed. “You sure about that? We both know that the Accusers only see right and wrong as the Intelligence tells them to. And you know I'd help if you needed me to. I owe you, remember? If you'd blabbed my secret, I could've been executed.”
Mar sighed. How could she get rid of her? “Una, I'm fine. Really.”
“Mar, you're a terrible liar. And I suppose you're going to tell me I didn't hear you talking to someone a few minutes ago, before I buzzed to let you know I was here?” Una arched a brow, waiting for a reply.
She'd overheard her talking to Eros? Mar's mind whirled. Now what? She thought frantically, desperate for something to say to get Una off this subject, and opted for a complete about-turn. “So, are you going off world any time soon? Gathering more medicinal supplies from the border territories?” Her own words sank in, and she froze, mind now racing. Una had rights, as a medic, to go off-world and gather rare herbs as and when she needed to, and she was almost never challenged when she did so. And she did owe Mar a favor, she'd already admitted that. But, could she be trusted to smuggle Eros out of here without asking too many questions about who he was? And should she even think about this without asking Eros first? She wondered if he could hear them through her thin bedroom door... what would he think of this sudden idea?
Una snorted. “Nice try at distracting me, Mar.”
“I wasn't distracting you, I was just... considering something.” Mar looked at her steadily. “You said you owed me a favor, and you'd help me if I needed it.”
Una nodded. “Of course.”
Mar heard her bedroom door slide open, and glanced quickly back over her shoulder. Her body blocked the view of her home's interior, so Una couldn't see inside, but Eros stood in the bedroom doorway, his eyes narrowed. Catching Mar's eye, he nodded slowly, as if he'd guessed what she was thinking.
Mar sucked in a deep breath, caught Una's wrist and pulled her into the apartment, letting the front door swish closed immediately.
“Quiet.” Mar nearly snapped. “When are you next going off of Hala?”
“The day after tomorrow, but what's that got to do with my helping.... you...” Una's purple eyes widened appreciatively as she got a good look at Eros. She almost licked her lips, or it looked as if she did.
Mar, who had been mentally debating just what she should tell Una about Eros, since obviously the whole truth wasn't an option, had her whole thought process derailed by the sudden onset of a savage urge to claw Una's eyes out for looking at Eros that way. His coming over and lacing his fingers through hers calmed that urge- for now. Mar stifled a sigh at Una's raised eyebrows and the knowing look she now shot in Mar's direction. Taking a deep breath, she began to explain, choosing her words carefully, trusting Eros to stop her if she said something she shouldn't.
“Una, this is Eros. He's... a friend of mine.” No need to go into detail about their relationship, especially when they hadn't really defined it yet themselves. “He came here for help when he was hurt. Obviously, he doesn't have permission to be here on Hala, so I... we could use your help in making sure he gets away safely.”
Una was smirking a little. “Friends, huh?” Her eyes surveyed how close Eros stood to Mar, and their linked hands. “And he must've recovered pretty fast if he was hurt...” She winked, her tone implying that she thought Mar was making that part up- she probably thought it was an excuse, to explain away the presence of a lover.
Eros sounded uncharacteristically out of sorts as he addressed Una for the first time. “Will you help us, or not?”
Una hesitated, then nodded. “I will. There's no reason for anyone to be punished for needing help, or giving it. Or even just for visiting a 'friend'.” Here she winked at Mar. “I'm heading off Hala in two days. I'll bring some clothes by just before then. Since apparently you're in short supply of them," Here she eyed Eros' torn bodysuit and bare chest, "And I have a feeling you'll be too, ahem, busy to go shopping.” Another wink, and she let herself out of the apartment, calling back over her shoulder, “You've got good taste, Mar. Hang on to this one!”
Mar shook her head, groaning, and rolled her eyes. “She is unbelievable sometimes.”
Eros laughed, stepping closer, his hand sliding round her waist. “Well... it seems we've got a day or so to kill, and I'm completely healthy now. As no-one should interrupt us... where were we?” He bent his head and kissed her, but gently, his hands remaining on her waist, as if waiting for a signal of some kind from her. She stepped closer, pressing their bodies together, cautiously, her heart thudding, wanting this, wanting him, but terrified she would do something wrong. He lifted her with ease, holding her close and not breaking the kiss even as he carried her into the bedroom.
Mar-Vell shivered in remembrance. Even the memory of that time, all those years ago, still had a profound physical effect on her. Her eyes drifted shut, thinking back to those two days and nights, and the bliss they had shared, loving each other fully for the first time...
The medic Una is a real character from the comics. She appeared in Mar-Vell's origin, as a love interest of his. Obviously I've taken some liberties with that aspect, and with her appearance (my version is a Pink Kree with the hair and eyes of a Blue), but the rest- her occupation, her religion, and even her supposedly being a 'man-eater' are all attested in various versions of Mar-Vell's story.
Warning: this chapter is the first one that really needs the Mature rating. Hope it's enjoyable anyway!
Mar couldn't stop herself trembling as she lay in Eros' arms, her head on his chest. Naked and breathing heavily, they lay on her bed, perspiration coating their skin. What they'd just done... it had been the most incredible thing she'd ever experienced, but it also left her feeling more raw, exposed and vulnerable than she ever had before.
Eros' lips brushed the crown of her head. His arms were twined round her shoulders, holding her as close to him as possible. “Are you alright?” His voice was low, tender, as if he was worshiping her.
Mar bit her lip, rising up on one elbow to look at him. “I think so. I....” She shook her head. “Was I... good? You've probably had... I mean, known more...”
He kissed her softly, tenderly, silencing her words. “You were amazing.” He breathed in her ear, his husky tone sending shivers down her spine. Despite how sore and tender she still felt, his voice sent a fresh ache of desire through her. She leaned forward, intending to kiss him again, at the very least, still feeling dazed and dreamy from the aftermath of her climax, but froze when she heard a strange grumbling sound. Blinking, she looked around. “What...”
Eros' face was nearly as red as his hair. “Sorry. Guess, uh, I need to eat something.”
Mar realized the noise had been his stomach growling, and she couldn't help it- she laughed. It just seemed so surreal! “Sorry. I'll go see what food I have.”
Eros sat up. “Maybe I should-” His stomach growled again, louder.
“No. I'm the host.” Still giggling, she rolled off of him, grabbing one of the blankets to cover herself, and got to her feet. The second she tried to walk, though, the lingering soreness she felt morphed into a burning sensation, and she winced, barely stifling a cry of pain.
Eros was at her side in seconds, a sheet knotted round his waist, his hands on her shoulders, his forehead pressed to hers. “Breathe, love.”
“Is this... normal?” Mar gritted out.
“After the first time, yes.” Eros sounded apologetic. “It will pass. Just try to relax.”
She closed her eyes, blinking back tears of pain, grateful for the support he was giving her. Eventually, she managed to move, and shuffled into the kitchen. She prepared a plate of fruits and cheeses- an odd mix, but all that she had on hand. At least it was edible, right? She eventually made it back to the bedroom, to see that Eros had made himself comfortable on the bed again, sprawling against the pillows. He gave her a smile that seemed almost cautious, holding his hand out. Handing him the plate, she sat down, flinched, then squirmed towards him, moving as delicately as she could, hoping the soreness would wear off soon- it hurt a lot more than she'd expected, even knowing how her anatomy worked. Once she'd nestled back into Eros' arms, though, it no longer seemed so bad, or, at least, she could say it had been worth it.
They spent the remainder of that day curled up together, just talking, kissing, and holding each other. Just two lovers, who had all the time in the world to be together.
“Or that was how it felt, that day.” Mar sniffed, still remembering that afternoon, over twenty years ago now, with perfect clarity, as if it had been yesterday. Her too-brief time with Eros, and what had followed, were her greatest achievements, not least because for all these years, throughout numerous audiences with the Intelligence, she had successfully kept those thoughts and memories well buried. It had never found out, not even when interrogating her for her recent actions on Terra. It didn't know her deepest secret, about who she loved. And It never would. Not while she could still prevent it. “The Supremor will not destroy anything else beautiful because of me.” She vowed to herself in a whisper. “Never.” It would never get that secret out of her.
And, looking back to those times, as she often did, and thinking, reconsidering her choices, over and over, she came to her usual conclusion: that despite all the pain and grief that her affair with Eros had led to, despite what, in the end, she'd been forced to give up, she didn't regret any of it, and never would. She would choose it all again, if given another chance. She wouldn't change a thing about what they had had together.
“I'm not sorry for what we did.” She repeated, as she had throughout so many agonizing lonely nights, in years now long past. “I just wish there had been another way.” Not that either of them had known, on that day all those years ago, just what their passion would lead to...
Mar grimaced as she stood up too quickly, and her stomach churned in protest- again. She really needed to stop feeling so worried about Eros- her fear had been making her feel nauseous an awful lot over the last day or so. She knew it took weeks, at least, for a ship like Una's to get from Hala to the border worlds where she collected her medical supplies and herbs. And Eros had told her, privately, before he left, that he intended to slip away from Una's ship, and fly elsewhere under his own power, so that, even if Una was stopped by the Kree militia for some reason, he wouldn't be there, and she could honestly say she knew nothing about an intruder. From there, Mar knew, he'd be leaving Kree space, touching base with his family, and then he would be free to call her. It hadn't even been four weeks yet, and how was he meant to call her if he was flying through the vacuum of space? She was worrying about nothing. But still, maybe she should try and contact Una's ship, to make sure Eros had gotten out unscathed- though, to Una, he would have simply left her ship and disappeared. Setting aside the welding tools she was using, she stood- and clamped a hand to her mouth as her stomach lurched again. Her eyes popped, and she had to run to the nearest bathroom, where her breakfast made an unwelcome reappearance.
Mar rinsed her mouth with water and stared at her reflection in the mirror- pale, sweaty, with dark circles under her eyes. Was she sickening for something? She ran through her activities over the last few days- had she eaten anything that had somehow been contaminated, or worked with anything that could have carried harmful bacteria? She didn't think so, she was usually very cautious about what she came into contact with, but something was clearly wrong. Maybe she should go to a medical facility and get checked over...
Her comm beeped with an incoming message, distracting her. She clicked to answer, taking a deep breath, hoping she didn't really look as bad as she thought she did. She felt a twinge of disappointment when Una's holographic image popped up, instead of Eros'- well, what had she expected? She knew she wouldn't hear from Eros for a while yet. Why was that thought making tears spring to her eyes? She swiped them away, irritated with herself, and managed a smile. “Una.”
The other woman frowned at her. “Mar, are you alright? No offence, but even over a hologram, you look terrible.”
“Thanks!” Mar rolled her eyes. “I just haven't slept well lately- falling asleep early, but then I've had strange dreams. And I think I've eaten something that doesn't agree with me, that's all.” She folded her arms. “Did you call just to insult me?”
It was Una's turn to roll her eyes. “No. I'm just letting you know that your 'friend' slipped out while I was getting fuel at a small station. We weren't even on a planet, so stars know where he thinks he's going to go. But he told me to tell you, and I quote 'I love you. I'll call you soon.'” Una's expression was sceptical. “Mar, I know you probably don't want to hear this, but sometimes men only want-”
“He's not taking advantage of me.” Mar retorted firmly. “I know him better than that.”
“Sure. If you say so.” Una sighed. “You think you know best, just like all women who are head over heels.”
Mar was getting annoyed now. “Una, just because I asked you for a favor, doesn't give you the right to pass judgment on my personal life.”
“Fine. Whatever. I'll be back in a week or so, and we can talk then.” Una hung up before Mar could say that they wouldn't be discussing this further, thank you very much. One good thing had happened, though- while she'd been talking to Una, her nausea had ebbed, like it had never been there. Odd, but she wasn't complaining. It meant she could avoid an uncomfortable conversation with a snooty medic, anyway. And Eros was safely out of Kree space! Or, he soon would be anyway. Feeling a renewed sense of zeal, she went back to the lab and resumed her work. She couldn't keep a small smile off her lips, but it didn't matter- she only worked with a handful of low-rank techies, and none of them would notice, or care, if she was suddenly cheerful.
Despite the chill of the drizzle of rain that was currently falling, Mar stood at the dock, waiting for Una to disembark from her ship. She kept twisting her hands, resisting the urge to pace back and forth- that wouldn't make Una emerge any faster, nor would it change what was (maybe) going on. Since Una's call, two and a half weeks ago now, Mar's nausea had come and gone regularly, and her sleep cycle had gotten more erratic- she was tiring far too easily, and drifting off to sleep at the slightest opportunity. Which had been really memorable when she'd nearly burned a lab table to ashes! Explaining that to her superiors had been fun. She'd blamed it on staying up working for the entire night before, and had been let off with a stern warning. Upon heading home that day, she had done some research into her symptoms, wondering if she carried some rare disease. What she'd found had hit her like a ton of bricks, and she'd just stared at her datatab, unable to move or think. Pregnant. It was so utterly obvious, and yet, when she'd been with Eros, she hadn't even thought of the possibility. Why hadn't she considered it? Why hadn't he?
That ruined any plans of her going to a state-run medical facility, of course. Unwed mothers were shamed in Kree society, especially if they were Pinks. Add to that the fact that she couldn't ever name the child's father- if the Intelligence were to discover that one of its subjects was possibly carrying a half-Titan child, then any and all decisions would be taken out of Mar's hands. It wouldn't let such a potentially powerful hybrid grow up under any doctrine but its own.
Mar sucked in a deep breath, wiping raindrops from her face, as Una finally stepped from her ship. Don't think about that. She told herself firmly, trying not to shiver. You haven't told anyone, there is no way for the Intelligence to know. Besides, she reflected, it could all be a coincidence- her symptoms, and the fact that her monthly cycle had stopped, it didn't have to mean... “Oh, come off it!” She scolded herself. Who was she fooling? She knew damn well what those two things combined meant, she just hoped, in some way, that it wasn't really happening. What would Eros say when she got a chance to tell him? Would he be pleased? Angry? Would he want her to keep it, or not? What did she want?
The confusing tumble of thoughts circling round in Mar's head had tears running down her face by the time Una approached her, and straight away, the other woman's face creased in concern. “Mar, what's wrong?”
Her face crumpled and she dissolved into tears (even while ashamed of herself for acting such a fool.) Una's arms wrapped round her and she led her away, whispering meaningless comforting words as they got out of the rain and headed back to their apartment block.
Once they were inside Mar's apartment and had dried off, Una sat with her arm round Mar's shoulders. “Let me guess. He called, said thanks but sorry, he won't see you again?”
Just the thought made Mar choke up. What if Eros did say something like that once she told him? Neither of them had even discussed having children! “N-no.” She managed shakily. “I haven't heard from him yet. I know he's visiting family first, but... I might need to call him soon.” He'd always called her before, but reversing the comm signal would be easy enough. But should she really interrupt his visit with his family for this? It was important, to her at least, but what if he didn't see as a big of a problem as she did?
Una tensed, looking hard at her. “Mar, when you were with him, you did take... precautions, didn't you?”
Mar stared at the floor, shaking her head silently. How had she been so stupid, not even considering that?
Una shook her head in disbelief. “For a genius, you've been kind of naive here, Mar. And he didn't mention it either?”
Mar gulped back a sob. “No.” And why hadn't he thought of it? He was clearly experienced, he had to have understood the risk. But then, his people were nigh on extinct. What if he had wanted this, counted on it even, and to hell with what she might want? She hated to think of Eros being that cold, but she had to think through all possibilities now.
Una let out a long stream of profanity, mostly aimed at males and their deficiencies. “Does anyone know?”
“Then you need to call him. As soon as you can. Have him come back here- no, actually, since I just had to smuggle him off Hala, that's probably not smart. Arrange to meet him somewhere, then use some of the damned leave that I know you've never taken, and go sort this out. No-one has to know if it's dealt with outside the Empire.”
“Dealt with...” Mar stared at her. “You think I'm just going to...”
Una threw her hands up. “What else are you going to do, Mar? You don't seriously think he's going to marry you or something, do you?” She shook her head, giving Mar a pitying look. “If you asked my opinion, he's got what he wanted from you, and when you tell him about this, he'll run a mile. And even if he doesn't, what do you think will happen, a Xandarian man and a Kree woman somehow living happily ever after, when our peoples are at war?”
Mar blinked, then caught on. She nearly laughed. Of course, Una would assume Eros was Xandarian. He looked more or less like one of them, and Una wouldn't have seen any of his abilities. “He... he isn't Xandarian.” That was really all she could say. There was no way she could tell anyone else who Eros really was. Not without his permission. Another thought chilled her- how different was their DNA? She knew nothing about Titan genetics. If she did decide she didn't want to go through with this, and Eros agreed, would the usual methods of ending a Kree pregnancy even work?
Una scoffed. “Really.” She clearly didn't believe it. “Either way, before you do anything else, I should probably do a test, determine how far along you are.”
“Nearly two months.” Mar mumbled. “We only... it was one time.”
Una swore. “That is damned bad luck.”
Mar nodded miserably. If she'd ever thought of having children, she'd imagined it being years from now, when she had found a mate, or, more likely, been provided with one by the Intelligence, and in that fantasy, everything had been planned to a nicety. She'd never envisioned ending up in this mess!
Una, thankfully, remained silent after that, as she took a sample of Mar's blood and slipped back to her own apartment to analyze it, to be sure. Mar, left alone with her thoughts, swallowed hard, and went and grabbed the comm Eros had given her, hacking into the signal and reversing it before she had a chance to talk herself out of it. The sooner he knew, the sooner they could figure this out. But, telling him over a call seemed... inappropriate. This should be done face to face. She held her breath while waiting for him to answer.
Eros leaned against the wall of Thena's room, barely listening to his cousin as she lectured him about the danger of going somewhere like Hala. He knew the risk he'd taken in going there, but Hala- and Mar-Vell- had been the closest to him when he had escaped the Deviants. His cousin wasn't aware of that part of the story, though, and he certainly wasn't about to enlighten her. She would inform her father, his uncle Zuras, who would then tell A'Lars, Eros' own father, and Father would panic. Eros didn't intend to do that to him. Father had enough to worry about without him adding to it. He was fine, there was no need to make a fuss. Plus- here he suppressed a smile- he had gotten to see Mar, and... and that definitely wasn't something he regretted. Leaving her had been harder than he thought, and even now, he wanted to be back at her side. Or to have her here with him... That fantasy made his heart ache with longing. Mar, living with him, out of the hornet's nest that was the Kree Empire these days, safe. Living alongside his cousins.... Her presence would make the endless days of seeing the same people, over and over, less tedious, and he wouldn't feel obliged to go traveling across the galaxy as often as he did. He'd semi-settle down with her, and they could be happy here.
Except it will never be permitted. That thought hit him like a spray of cold water. Since Thanos had decimated Titan, the few survivors had banded together. The alliance with their cousins from Earth had proved their salvation, giving them vital resources, allowing them to survive, but there had been one unbreakable rule ever since: No bringing outsiders into our lives. They could interact with other species, and indeed often had to do so, but even telling anyone the truth was forbidden. Eros had broken that rule, and gladly, for Mar-Vell, and he didn't regret it. But his family would never understand. And so they could never know. Mar had to be his secret, and his alone. No matter how much he hated treating her like some shameful secret. Maybe, if he could speak to Father alone first, make him understand...
“Eros!” Thena snapped, her eyes flashing.
She rolled her eyes. “In case you haven't noticed, your comm's been buzzing for the past five minutes.”
Eros glanced down at it, and blinked. That was the channel he'd created solely for Mar to use, but he'd made it so only he could make contact. How... He hid a grin as he strode from Thena's presence. Of course Mar would figure out how to reverse the signal. But for her to have actually used it.... something had to be wrong. Was she hurt? In danger? What if, somehow, Thanos had found out that Eros had had contact with her, and had sent someone after her? If it was something like that, he would never forgive himself. Please, gods of Titan, don't let it be as bad as that. Thanos targeting them again was his and his father's absolute worst nightmare.
A feeling of dread came over him as he answered the call. He wanted to speak to Mar- was eager to, actually- but he couldn't shake the feeling that something bad had happened. Glancing around to make sure he was alone, he answered, speaking quietly, in Kree. “Mar?”
“Eros.” Her voice was thick, as if she were holding back tears, and his heart lurched. Had someone hurt or upset her? He'd kill whoever it was if she asked him to... “Mar, what's wrong?”
A pause. “I... can't tell you over a call. Can you come and meet me on Torfa? Within the next week. Please. It's important.”
Torfa? Eros frowned. It was a small refugee world, low-tech, just barely within Kree boundaries. Why ever would she have been sent there? More to the point, why did she want him there so soon? He'd like to flatter himself and think it was just that she couldn't wait to see him again, but he wasn't that vain. Mar had known he wouldn't be free for a while, so for her to ask him to come to her, urgently... He inhaled deeply. His father was meant to be heading out here soon, and Eros had planned on being here when he arrived- they didn't see each other nearly often enough, and he always enjoyed Father's company. But, if Mar needed him...
“Eros?” Mar's voice cracked, and with shock he realized she was actually crying. He clenched his fists. He literally had eternity to spend with Father. Mar's time wasn't as limitless.
“I'll be there. As soon as I can, I promise. Within the week.” He ended the call quickly, wishing he had said something more reassuring. But how could he when he had no idea what was wrong? Heading straight outside, he took off into the sky at once. He would have to fly full speed to get to Torfa in the time frame he'd mentioned, and there was no time to explain to his family that he was going, even if he could have told them why. He'd just have to contact Father, let him know he was safe, once he'd reached Torfa. The others could speculate all they wanted, he didn't care. As long as Father knew he wasn't in any danger, that was all that mattered. He didn't care what the rest of his family thought.
Right now, he had to get to Mar. He shot off through space, faster than a comet, leaving a trail of light behind him. The urge to get to her, now, and solve whatever was upsetting her, to put things right so she would be happy again, was a slow-building flame inside him. How dare anyone hurt her?! They'd be sorry, one way or another...
I have some basic knowledge of Titans from Marvel Comics, but any and all information about their reproduction that's mentioned in this chapter is entirely my own invention.
Eros, hurriedly 'shoving' the latest telepathic call from his friend Elysius from his mind, keeping his thoughts shielded as best he could, landed hastily near the largest settlement on Torfa- little more than a village, really. A flurry of dust billowed up when his feet collided with the ground, and as his inborn cosmic energy glow faded from around him, he saw many of Torfa's natives gawking and pointing at him. He took no notice. He had to work out how he was going to find Mar- she hadn't given him precise co-ordinates, and he was far from sure that he had time to scour the whole planet. What if she was in danger? He concentrated, reaching out with his other senses. Every person had a unique emotional resonance, and he was confident he would recognize Mar's, if she was near enough for him to detect. To his relief, he 'heard' her just a few yards away, inside what looked like a small one roomed shack, and she was alone. He also picked up on a deep sadness, punctuated by fear. Clearly something was wrong, but he had no idea what. He sighed in relief when she stepped into view, apparently unharmed, although her face was pale and drawn, she looked tired and her eyes were red. He was at her side in two strides, reaching for her. She held up a hand and took a step back, looking thoroughly miserable.
Eros blinked. “Mar, what's going on?” He looked around again, at the dismal planet, its residents clearly struggling to survive, grouped round small fires, many of them far too thin. He tried to cover his rising unease with a smile and a joke- it usually worked to some extent. “This is an odd place to choose for our next tryst.”
Mar's face tightened. “I chose Torfa because the radiation in its atmosphere interferes with comm signals. I need to talk to you, but I have to be certain that my people can't eavesdrop on us. This was the best way I could think of to guarantee privacy.”
Eros' heart constricted. This was going to be bad news, he just knew it. “Has something happened, was my presence on Hala discovered?” He thought he'd gotten away with it- if that other girl, Una, had said something, and Mar was in trouble because of him, he would never forgive himself.
Mar shivered, wrapping her arms around herself. “No. No-one knows about that. Yet. But it'll be obvious soon enough that I've been with someone.” She let out a bitter, humorless laugh.
Eros' growing worry made his next words sound harsher than he intended. “Mar, you're scaring me. What's going on?”
“You're scared?” Another bitter laugh, but now there were tears running down her face. Unable to stop himself, he reached out, putting his arms around her, flinching in shock when she pushed him away. Abruptly, she stared straight into his eyes.
“When we were... together, all those weeks ago,” Her words shook as she struggled with some emotion. “Did you know, then, that there was a chance I could conceive?”
If a meteor had fallen from the sky and slammed into Eros' skull, it would have left him less dazed than he felt in that moment. “You... how... what...” He spun away from her, shaking his head. This couldn't be happening! His hands trembled as he looked at her again, taking in the weight she'd lost, how drained she seemed, the pallor of her face. “Mar.... our races are barely compatible. The odds of a conception, without medical assistance... it's about a million to one. I never thought...” He went to pull her into his arms again, wanting to comfort her, no matter what. This time, she didn't push him away, instead collapsing against him and giving in to her sobs. Half-carrying her, he took her back inside the hut she'd emerged from. There wasn't enough room for them both to sit, so he cradled her on his lap until she calmed. They could talk when she felt up to it.
A shudder ran through him, as, unbidden, memories of how exhausted even Titan females became during pregnancy. It was difficult, and dangerous. They weren't a highly fertile people either, so hybrids of any species were all but unheard of. Not to mention, breeding outside their own race, with 'lesser' species, was, as a general rule, not done. His family, who were already annoyed with him for his vanishing act, and his refusing to say where he was, or when he'd be back, would not be pleased about this, to say the least.
He wrapped Mar in his arms, resting his head on her hair, soothing her as best he could. He'd protect her from them if he had to. But, protecting her from the unborn child, and the effect it might have on her.... was that possible? He had no idea if a Kree female would be able to carry a child of Titan blood to term. It was equivalent to asking a wolf to bear the child of a saber-toothed tiger. What could it do to her? Not to mention, in Eros' family, possibly in his very genes, an aberration could lay dormant. If this offspring of his had an appearance like Than- No. He told his paranoia firmly. That wouldn't happen. There would be no others like him. Eros' eyes closed for a second, realizing that now, he had no choice but to tell her the truth about Thanos, and his family history. She had to be told, in case this child was deformed as Thanos was. It was in Eros' bloodline after all... But what would she think of him once she knew the truth, that Thanos was his brother? He hated even thinking that to himself, these days. Inhaling deeply, Eros set that problem aside to think about later, letting the now-steady sound of Mar's breathing ground him in the here and now, while he considered the situation they were currently in. He knew the Kree had ways of ending pregnancies. Did Mar want that, and was she just waiting to tell him, or to hear his opinion on the matter?
What did he want? He shook his head. He had no idea. But, ending an unborn life, when his people were so scarce now... it didn't feel right, not really. But, in the end, that choice had to be Mar's, not his. He'd done more than enough, sleeping with her without even thinking of precautions. And yes, he hadn't realized this was possible, but he was still to blame. It would be well within Mar's rights to insist she didn't want this child.
But he would need to make sure she fully understood: the fetus was only half Kree, and removing or attempting to destroy it, if that was what they decided to do, could be incredibly dangerous- Titans regenerated rapidly. Any attempt to induce a miscarriage could be as fatal as the pregnancy might become. The last accidental Titan hybrid that Eros knew of, well over a century ago, had been discovered too late in gestation, and, starved of the cosmic energy his people sustained themselves on, it had died in the womb, the internal damage it left behind taking its mortal mother with it. A shudder ran through Eros and his arms tightened protectively around Mar. He was here, he wasn't too late- he hoped- and he would not let her die. He'd already lost his mother, his home, and the vast majority of his people. He wasn't going to lose Mar-Vell too. She would survive. No matter what.
Mar-Vell woke with a start, as the tray that delivered her minuscule meal clattered into her cell. She rubbed her eyes, trying to at least hazard a guess about whether this was the morning or evening meal. She'd been in a deep sleep, which would suggest it was morning, but then again... what was there to do in this cell besides sleep? At least, then, she could escape into her own dreams. Sighing, she pulled the tray closer, forcing herself to eat, chew and swallow, though the 'food' became worse each day, or so it seemed. It was a struggle to keep it down this time. She hadn't had this much trouble with food since her time on Torfa, after she'd told Eros what was going on and started getting over her fear and misery. The morning sickness seemed to worsen after he knew about her pregnancy, but what had really incited her nausea, initially, was the horror she felt upon learning the truth about Thanos...
Mar's mouth hung open in disbelief at what Eros had just (apparently reluctantly) told her. She stared at him, then her eyes flickered to the blurry, indistinct holographic image of Thanos she'd pulled from an old news reel, archaic technology, but all that Torfa had. The picture was hard to make out, but even distorted, she could see that Thanos looked every inch the monster he'd proven himself to be. She shook her head. “You and he... it doesn't seem possible. Brothers?”
Eros sighed, his shoulders slumped, his face grim. “I'm afraid we are, much as I wish it weren't true.”
“And this.... the way he looks. It's some kind of mutation?”
“Yes. We call it 'Deviant Syndrome' because he resembles one of them more than he looks like one of us Titans, but.... he is the only known case of the condition.”
“Ever?!” Mar was astounded.
Another nod. “We never did know why. Maybe some anomaly in our parents' DNA... it could just have easily happened to me.”
Mar's hand drifted to her stomach, almost unconsciously. “But... if it could be in your genes too... then this child...”
Eros could barely meet her eyes, it seemed. “Yes. It could happen to my offspring too. I don't know. I never even considered having children until now.”
Mar blinked back tears. Did he mean he didn't want this child? What would she do if he simply walked away? Many men did, she knew that.
As if sensing her mood (and he probably had), he took her hand, lifting it to his lips and kissing it. “Look, I want you to understand that this is in your hands, alright? I'm here for you, whatever you decide, whatever help you need. If you want to continue with this, and have this child, I'll do everything in my power to minimize the risks to you. If you tell me right now you would rather be rid of it, I'll understand, and the same applies. I will find a way to help you.” His eyes locked on hers. “I'm responsible for getting you into this situation, and I'm going to help you solve it. Alright?”
The utter sincerity of his words made Mar tear up again. He meant it, she knew that, and she took his hand, squeezing it, trying to convey her gratitude, while she tried to choke back sobs.
“I know,” She finally managed. “I know you will, but...” She sniffled. “I don't know what I want to do.” She shook her head. “Like you, I never even thought about having children any time soon, but now...” She looked at her free hand, still pressed to her stomach, tried to picture herself with a baby. And just couldn't. “I don't think I can bring myself to get rid of it.” Just the thought was making her shiver with revulsion. “But... if I go back to the Empire with an illegitimate child, it'll be taken from me anyway, and then, if it's discovered that the father is a Titan...” She gulped. “Even if I don't reveal your identity, the Supreme Intelligence won't let such a potentially powerful being out of its grasp.” Images of the cold, stark hallways of the boarding facilities for military orphans, run by the state, flashed through her mind, and she shuddered. That would be her child's fate within the Empire. Taken from her, never to be seen again, and raised on lies, to fulfill the purpose of the Intelligence.
Eros' face went from kindly to almost feral in a split second. “If we have a child, no-one, especially not some damned self-aware computer is taking him or her away from us.” His voice was almost a growl, his green eyes glowing with a disconcerting luminescence.
Mar just barely nodded. But did he know what he was saying? “You mean... we should just leave the Empire? I'll never be permitted to do that. And if we just run, I'll never be free.” She sighed. “I have a few months of leave that I can use up now, so we have some time before anyone comes looking for me, but eventually, I will have to either return, or be branded a deserter, and hunted as a fugitive.”
Eros kissed her, slowly and tenderly, making heat stir in Mar's body and making her forget what she'd been saying for a moment. “We'll find a way.” Eros murmured softly, his hands cupping her face. “Somehow.” Another kiss, and he stepped back.
Mar took a second to catch her breath, then struggled to concentrate. “I hope so... But for now, we need to be thinking practically. I'll need supplies if I'm staying here- food, clothing, medical devices- and I'll need to learn whatever you can tell me about your species' pregnancies and childbirths. I need to be able to at least estimate how long I'll be carrying. And if you need to go back to your family, I'll be safe enough here.”
He shook his head firmly. “I was agreeing with everything until you said that, Mar. I'm not leaving you.”
Immensely relieved, but trying not to show it, Mar sighed. “But... your family. Are you going to tell them where you are, then? From everything you've said, they'll worry if you just disappear for months and don't make contact. And comms don't work here on Torfa, I already told you that...”
“I can alert my people I'm safe telepathically if I need to. That won't be a problem. But I'm not telling them where I am for a while yet. I need to be here, with you, to make sure you and the baby are thriving, before I tell them. The last thing you'll need is any of my cousins showing up here, putting you under stress.”
Mar managed a tiny grin. “I'm sure I- we- would be alright being alone for a few days, Eros.”
He shook his head. “Not necessarily.” He took a deep breath. “I assume you know that my kind can sustain themselves on cosmic energy, and in fact that is often our only sustenance?”
“Yes...” Mar trailed off, puzzled, then it hit her. “The baby...”
“Yes. It's possible that, without that energy, the child could inadvertently harm you. I don't know for a fact that that will be the case, but if it is, I need to be at your side, so I can gather and provide the energy it- and you- may need. If not...” He was pale even thinking about it. “Until we're sure, one way or another, I'm not leaving you at risk.”
Mar sat back. “So basically, you're saying that I'm carrying a child that could end up being born with a physical deformity like Thanos, and may also crave a nutrient of sorts that I can't provide, and it could put my life in danger if it doesn't receive said nutrients from this cosmic energy of yours.” Suddenly going through with this doesn't seem like such a good idea. But even as she had that thought, her whole being shied away from the notion of destroying the unborn child. That was not an option.
Eros winced at her words, but didn't break eye contact. “Yes.”
She swallowed. This is an innocent child. My child, and Eros'. No matter which of us it takes after, or if it's born looking.... different, like its uncle. “And... will it have powers like yours?”
“Not exactly like mine, but yes. Odds are, it will inherit some Titan traits.”
Mar laced her hand through his, taking a deep breath. “Then I'm proud to be able to help to ensure the continued existence of your kind.” And, looking at this situation intellectually, without emotion, that was the truth: playing such a direct role in adding to the numbers of a species hovering near to extinction, was incredible. She was trying not to think of the terrifying image of herself holding a tiny, squirming, crying baby- it just didn't fit in her mind. Eros with their child, holding it, caring for it, she could picture easily. But not her, for some reason.
It's still early days, she told herself. You're just getting used to it. Don't panic about the future, worry about how to keep yourself healthy and strong in the here and now. Worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. It was far from her usual way of coping with her worries- normally she planned every eventuality to death, but right now, focusing on one thing felt like the only thing to keep her from drowning in her fears. At least now she knew that Eros would stand by her. That was far more than she'd had to hold on to over the past few weeks since she'd first found out about the baby.
She stood, pulling Eros with her, stifling a laugh as he banged his head on the hut's ceiling. “I think the first thing we need to do is find a better place to stay! Then I can pull some parts from my ship, put together some basic medical diagnostic equipment, so we can keep an eye on my condition...” Still discussing what needed to be done, she led Eros further into the dwellings on Torfa. Just take things one day at a time. She told herself firmly, silencing her mind's persistent doubts.
Still, she knew that eventually, she'd have to start thinking ahead. Eros' family would have to be told (the non-evil members of the family anyway), and Mar already felt uneasy about how they might react- what if they feared another being like Thanos being born, and decided it was too big a risk, to allow the child to be born? Would Eros be able to dissuade them, if that happened? And sooner or later, depending on how long the pregnancy took before coming to full term, they would have to make long-term plans about where they could go to raise the child in safety, far from the Kree's reach.
(And she wasn't even going to think about the horrors of labor and childbirth. Not until she had to.)
Mar-Vell turned over in bed, grimacing. They'd been staying in one of the few stone buildings on Torfa for the past three weeks, since Eros had joined her here. Most of that time had been spent cleaning dust, cobwebs and debris from the apparently abandoned place, making the place sanitary and habitable, with Eros doing most of the hard labor. He'd even essentially built a bed for them, fashioning it from a huge fallen tree nearby. Blankets and pillows had been brought from Mar's ship, obviously, and food and other supplies were bartered for daily from the locals. Yesterday, they'd tried some strange berries with a sharp taste, and Mar wondered now if that was why her stomach ached. Still, as she slid from bed, noting the position of the sun, and that Eros' side of the bed was cold, that she'd overslept again, she decided it was time to build some kind of medical scanner from parts scavenged from her ship, to check herself over, and make sure everything was alright with the baby.
Dressing quickly, wanting to find Eros so he could be with her for the examination, she gently massaged her stomach, hoping that would ease the pain- and froze. What the... Against her hand, her belly was clearly swollen, not an enormous amount, but definitely larger than it had been.... when? When had she last actively checked her figure? Narrowing her eyes, Mar began counting back the time that had passed since she had fallen pregnant. Three weeks here on Torfa with Eros, a week here alone before that, four days getting here from Hala, three weeks at home after our night together, before I found out... Eight weeks at most, allowing for planet-side time differences. By Kree standards, she should absolutely not be showing in any way yet. But Eros had told her that Titan regeneration could lead to faster fetal development, and often did in pure Titan babies. Mar shivered, her hand cupping the small swell of her belly. Could her Kree body, weak when compared to a Titan, endure the strain of a fetus growing at this rate? Heading outside quickly, she found Eros just heading back towards their house, with a stack of baskets in his arms. He'd probably been off trading with the locals for more food- since Mar's morning sickness had faded, about a week ago, she'd been hungry almost constantly. She had wondered, at first, just what Eros was trading to keep getting them supplies, but he'd told her not to worry, and eventually, her growing appetite had won over her unease- mainly because the rations she had brought with her were dwindling, and left her feeling faint with hunger when that was all she ate.
Eros' face lit up at the sight of her, as it usually did. Mar managed a weak smile in return as she stepped closer. The smell of fried meat drifted towards her, and her stomach growled, almost but not quite overpowering the painful stretching sensation. Then something nudged against her hand, and she jumped, gasping.
Eros was at her side in a second, baskets hastily set down and forgotten, face creased with concern. “Mar, what is it?”
She inhaled shakily. “I... I'm not sure.” This shouldn't be possible at this stage, it's too early! “I think... I just felt movement.”
Eros' eyes widened, and, carefully, he placed his hand over hers, on her stomach. His brow furrowed when he noticed the small bump. Then there was another, stronger nudge, and Mar tried not to wince- it felt so odd! Eros' arm wrapped round her shoulders, steering her back inside. “Come on. I think you should be resting. You look tired, and this,” he gestured at her stomach, “Means we need to be careful that you don't overdo it.”
Mar nodded- she was feeling low on energy, even though she'd only just woken up. “When you told me that children of your species could develop more rapidly, because of your ability to regenerate at will, I didn't think you meant this fast!” She shook her head as Eros guided her- firmly- back to sit on the bed. “If this was a full-blooded Kree child, I'd say I was already halfway through gestation, at least. Is this normal?”
Eros was frowning. “I'm not sure. I've never witnessed a hybrid Titan pregnancy firsthand. Once we've gotten some food into you, I think we should carry out some scans, find out exactly what's going on, if possible.”
Mar nodded. “I was thinking the same thing, before you got back. If-” Her stomach grumbled again, loud enough to cut off her words. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment, but Eros smiled fondly.
“I'll get the food. Wait here.” He dashed back outside. Mar sighed, settling back against the pillow, stifling a yawn. Where else would she go? Her eyelids were heavy- maybe she should just rest her eyes for a second...
“Mar? Mar!” Someone was shaking her shoulder, and she made a noise of protest, lifting her arm to push the hand away- she wanted to sleep!
“Mar, wake up!” The voice sounded nearly frantic, and Mar recognized it as Eros. Groaning, she pried her eyes open.
He was staring worriedly, his face pale. “Did you fall asleep as soon as I left?”
“Huh?” She felt groggy, trying to remember. “Yes?”
He shook his head, his face taut with concern. “My father contacted me telepathically while I was outside. He knows I'm here on Torfa. I wasn't as careful as I should've been. When I left space and entered the atmosphere, and landed here, the locals saw the energy I emitted, and noted it in their archives. My father wanted to know why I'm here. I stalled, didn't tell him anything yet. I wanted to ask your permission first. I grabbed the food I got earlier, at the market, and stopped at your ship, picked up a few spare parts we could use to put together a scanner. But I was only outside for about twenty minutes, and when I came back inside...” He swallowed hard. “It took me ten minutes to wake you. And you're white as a sheet.”
She reached out, hand brushing his face. “I'm alright, really. I just really need to eat. Did you say something about food?” Of course, they needed to talk about his father knowing where Eros was, that was important, but the strongest signal her body was sending now was FOOD. And lots of it. She felt as if she hadn't eaten in weeks!
Eros touched her face, mirroring her gesture. “You're cold...” Grabbing a blanket, he draped it over her, before grabbing a pastry of some sort from one of the baskets on the table. Mar blinked- how had she not noticed them? They were right in front of her! Still, she disregarded that in favor of stuffing the meat-filled pastry into her mouth as fast as she could- she was ravenous.
Eros, still eyeing her worriedly, came and sat beside her on the bed, tinkering with a handful of wires and parts, which Mar recognized from her ship. “I think we should do a scan now, so we have more information, before-” He cut himself off abruptly.
“Before what?” Mar managed, once she wasn't talking with her mouth full.
“...Before anything like this happens again.” Eros spoke without looking at her, and her eyes narrowed.
“Uh-huh. Do you want to actually look at me and answer that again?”
Eros sighed. “Father is insisting on coming out here. I got a long lecture on irresponsibility because I let Torfa's natives see some of my abilities. And apparently since I won't tell him what's keeping me here, he 'needs to ensure that whatever situation I have gotten myself into, it will not have long term negative implications'. And yes, he does really speak that way.” He sighed. “And, like as not, at least one of my cousins or friends will accompany him, for safety's sake.”
Mar snorted. “He's worried about long term implications? Well, he'll be disappointed then, because this,” she indicated herself, and her stomach, “Will certainly create those.” She must still have been muddled from sleep, because only then did the full meaning of his words hit her. “Your father is coming here to check on you. And not only does he not know about this child, or our relationship, he doesn't even know that I exist.” She didn't know whether to laugh or burst into tears. What if this man, A'Lars, Eros had said his name was, didn't like her? Or even hated her for putting Eros in this situation, keeping him away from his own kind? What if he thought she'd gotten pregnant deliberately, to trap Eros? She buried her face in her hands. “He'll hate me.” She stated flatly, her words muffled. Not to mention the opinion of her that any other Titan might form, meeting her while she was already carrying Eros' child. She'd look like such a tramp...
Eros pulled her hands from her face. “No, he won't. He might be disappointed in me, but I swear to you, I won't let any blame for this fall on you. Besides, he's a scientist, and a brilliant one, even by my people's standards. He will be able to provide more answers about the child and its development than I can. Trust me, everything will be alright.” Retrieving the makeshift scanner he'd pieced together, he pressed a button and held the device out over her stomach. “May I?”
She nodded assent, wanting to know what was going on with the fetus as much as he did. She kept her eyes on the air above the device, where the projected image would appear. A thin ray of light ran over her, then the scanner beeped, before projecting its results. She stared in amazement at the image in front of them.
“This... this has to be wrong.” She felt dazed again. No wonder her stomach was bulging already, if this was accurate!
Eros visibly gulped, but his eyes were shining. He looked... awed.
Because, depicted in the holographic image, blurring with each heartbeat and movement, was not one, but two tiny forms, clearly recognizable as babies already.
Mar could have sworn her heart stopped in that moment.
She was carrying twins.
Non-graphic description of labor and childbirth in this chapter. I have never gone through either experience myself, this is all based on things I have read, so sorry if there are any inaccuracies.
The now-familiar twist and nudge in her stomach woke Mar, and she reluctantly opened her eyes, knowing, more or less, what would happen: she would sit up with effort, Eros would start awake, she would eat as much as she could, to try and satiate her currently bottomless appetite, and she'd lie in Eros' arms, talking, until she drifted off to sleep again. That had been the routine for the past few days. She simply lacked the energy for anything else, even to get out of bed. She knew Eros was worried, but she had no more idea what to do about it than he did. Sighing, she looked down at herself. Her stomach had ballooned significantly, and her pregnancy was now glaringly obvious- she looked almost full term already. She ran a hand over the bump thoughtfully. “You two must be in a hurry to see the world...” What would they do if she went into labor? They hadn't had time to gather any supplies for the babies- Eros had proved very unwilling to leave her side lately. “Please don't be born too soon, little ones. We're not ready yet.”
As she'd thought, Eros' eyes opened as soon as she spoke, and he sat up, automatically slipping an arm behind her, aiding her in sitting up. Worryingly, her arms trembled as she tried to help, supporting her own weight. That was new.
Eros tensed as he noticed, and he regarded her seriously. “You still haven't gotten any energy back?”
“No.” She tried to smile. “I think your children are taking it all from me.” Her attempt at humor aside, she was getting really worried. The babies were developing so fast, she was tired all the time, and no matter how much she ate, she never ceased being hungry. What would happen when she really had no strength left, but her unborn children still needed to be provided for?
Eros inhaled sharply. “Right. I wasn't going to resort to this until I'd had a chance to ask my father about it, but he isn't here yet, and you're losing weight too rapidly. I don't know if this is smart, but...” He pushed her nightshirt up a few inches, and held his hand above her belly, as his hand began to glow with a white light. “I've been wondering if it's the cosmic energy our kind need that the babies are craving. You can't provide that, and that could be why they're draining you of all other nutrients so quickly.”
Mar nodded. That did make sense, but... “Could it hurt me? If you're putting an unknown energy into my body...”
“No. If it does what I intend, the babies will simply absorb it. And I won't use a huge amount.” He looked desperate. “But I'm worried about what might happen to you if I don't do something.” Still, his glowing hand remained where it was, not making contact with her skin.
Mar took a deep breath, glancing at her hand and wrist, that were definitely thinner than they used to be, as she placed her hand on his forearm. If doing this meant she might get some strength back, what harm could it do? Without improvement, she had no idea if she would be strong enough to give birth to these children. She had to trust that Eros knew what he was doing- she knew he'd never hurt her. “Go ahead.”
Gently, he placed his hand on her stomach, and the light pulsed faintly. Mar winced as both babies moved, kicking at the same time, but the glow around Eros' hand faded, and she felt... not satisfied, but she wasn't ravenous any more, and she felt a little more alert. She placed her hand on top of his, smiling as, with effort, she managed to sit up a little straighter. “Thank you. I think it worked, a little.” She cradled her stomach with her free hand. “I guess they're more like you than me.”
Eros looked ready to collapse with relief. He leaned closer, brushing his lips on hers, making her smile. “They can take after either of us, I don't mind. As long as they're healthy, and you're safe.” He 'ignited' his hand again, sending more energy inside of her, every few minutes. The babies kicked and squirmed, and Mar sighed blissfully, relaxing despite the frequent jabs to her ribs and bladder she was now getting from the babies. It was as if she could feel strength flowing back into her. Eros sent one more pulse of energy to their babies, then withdrew his hand, looking hesitant. “I don't know if I should keep doing this. It's making them move a lot more than they have been until now. If they hurt you...”
“It's working,” she soothed him. “I think that cosmic energy of yours is what's been needed all along, though how much they'll need, or how often, I don't-” A sharp pain twisted through her belly, and she winced, unable to stifle a cry.
Eros bolted upright, leaning over her. “What is it?”
“I don't know, I...” She tried to lean forward, to ease the sudden ache in her back, and abruptly felt dampness between her legs. Reaching forward blindly, she gasped when a flood of water drenched the bed.
His expression was tight with worry. “Your waters have broken.”
Her heart was pounding when she met Eros' eyes. “No, this.... this can't be happening, it's too soon! I'm not...” Ready for this! Her mind screamed. She'd barely gotten used to being pregnant. She couldn't already be giving birth!
Eros' face was ashen. “Dammit.” He ran a hand through his hair, mussing it. “The energy I gave them must've accelerated their development even more. I didn't think that would be possible...”
Mar gritted her teeth as another pain twisted through her lower stomach, breathing heavily. She struggled to stay calm. “Doesn't look as if it matters.” She gasped. “I don't think your children are going to wait any longer to be bor- ahhhh!” She doubled over, accidentally biting her lip as a wave of pain washed over her.
Eros shook himself, as if trying to wake up, then slid his arms under her, lifting her from the soaked bed. A spare blanket fell to the floor with the movement, and, using his foot, he managed to spread it on the ground before laying Mar gently on it. He laced his hand with hers, letting her grip his fingers as another pain came. He looked her dead in the eyes, speaking earnestly. “We can do this, OK? Just stay calm. Everything will be alright.”
“I might be more reassured by that, if you didn't look terrified.” He was wide-eyed, his hair a mess, and clearly had no idea what to do except hold onto her. Mar tried to laugh, but ended up gasping for breath. Was it normal for pains to be this close together? She'd thought labor took hours... though the thought of hours of this wasn't pleasant. On second thought, maybe it's better to get this over with as soon as possible. The pains weren't really that bad, after all. Nowhere near deserving of the agonized screams she'd heard from other expectant mothers on the rare occasions she'd helped in Kree hospitals. The pains were rising and ebbing, and Mar felt a sudden urge to be on her feet, doing something- they needed something to clean the babies with, fabric to wrap them in, some means of cutting the umbilical cords.... She was struggling to her feet, halfway there before Eros caught on and grabbed her shoulders, trying to stop her.
“What are you doing?!”
“I can't just lie there. I need to be getting supplies ready.” She was aware that this wasn't exactly rational, considering she was in labor, but she knew she wouldn't be able to keep still. So, despite Eros' sceptical look, she got to her feet, and began walking round their temporary home, leaning on Eros, grabbing what blankets and soft cloths she could find, and locating a sharp, thin knife, meant for slicing meat, among their cooking utensils. They hadn't had cause to use it, so as long as it was cleaned, it should be safe to use for the umbilical cords. When she'd found everything she needed, she continued pacing, stripping the soaked sheets from their bed, then tidying up any little mess that caught her eye. She wasn't sure why, except that she was too restless to be still. Every ten minutes or so, she had to stop, and breathe deeply, clinging tightly to Eros until the contraction passed. The time between pains lessened, and when they were less than five minutes apart, Eros stepped into her path. “Alright, enough. You need to prepare yourself now.” Firmly enough to allow no resistance, he guided her back to the bed, seemed to realize it was still damp, then led her to the blanket still spread on the floor, helping her to lie down.
The pains were twisting like thick chains in her abdomen now, so she didn't argue, instead removing her sleep shorts, and half-lying down, resting her weight on her elbows so she could see what was happening, to some extent. A heavy pressure built between her legs, and she unconsciously parted her knees, drawing them up towards her chest, feeling an almost unbearable urge to push, right now, despite the pain that was now nearly constant. Her head fell back, and she made a sound between a groan and a scream, as Eros knelt at her feet, looking pale but determined.
“Alright, I can see a head. Mar, you need to push now.”
Gritting her teeth, she obeyed, wanting to scream at the tearing sensation she felt as she did so. She'd never known pain like this! Agony continued to wash over her, almost blinding her, and she actually did let out a scream as the torture she felt rose to a sharp peak, then exhaled heavily as it faded in a matter of seconds, taking the tearing pressure with it. A high-pitched wail filled the silence left by her screams.
Sweat coating her face, she managed to look up at Eros, who held a tiny, blood-stained, wriggling form in his arms. He was staring down at the infant as if he'd just glimpsed a miracle. Moving like he was in a dream, never looking away from the baby, he came to Mar's side, and laid the tiny form gently on her chest. She inhaled shakily, feeling the warm weight of this tiny person, barely taking in the pains that had renewed. Scrunched up, red skinned and wailing, the baby was without doubt the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. Tears ran silently down her face as she craned her neck to get a better look. “A boy.” She almost breathed.
Eros nodded, tears on his face, his hand trembling as he reached to touch his son's little head, covered with fine hair, still wet from his birth.
Mar grimaced as the excruciating pressure returned, and this time began pushing without being told, sagging with relief when she felt the second child slide from her. Eros tore his eyes from their son, picking up the second baby, who was also crying, but more quietly than its brother had. He placed it beside its brother, and Mar abstractedly noted that this one was somewhat smaller, though they looked very alike- pale hair, red skin. They looked like ordinary Pink Kree. Or ordinary Titans. No sign of any deformities on either of them. She touched the face of her second child, smiling despite the soreness she still felt as the afterbirth passed from her, and her exhaustion. At least it wasn't the near constant lack of energy she'd been feeling while still carrying these two.
“A girl.” Eros' voice was choked as he got a good look at the second baby. “A son and a daughter.”
“One of each.” Mar said, her words slurring a little. She felt... dazed, almost, numb, like this was a dream and she'd soon wake.
Eros cleaned up the mess of fluids and blood as best he could, then came and sat beside her, letting her lean on him as she cradled their babies. Neither of them could stop staring at the infants nestling contentedly against her.
“Amazing.” Eros said, shaking his head. He kissed Mar deeply, like he was worshiping her and thanking her at the same time, then returned his gaze to the babies. He slid one finger into the baby boy's hand, grinning as the tiny fingers wrapped round his finger and clung on.
Mar was breathing deeply, unable to get enough of the sweet baby-smell that clung to both of the infants. They'd need to nurse soon, she knew that, but right now, she just wanted to hold them, feel their warmth and marvel that these two perfect babies were hers. Hers and Eros'.
Exhausted from labor, and safe in Eros' arms, feeling the warm weight of her newborn twins resting on her, Mar's eyes fluttered, and she drifted into sleep, trusting Eros to take care of them all, and wake her if she was needed. The worst part was over, and they had their family. They were safe. Everything would be alright...
Eros remained where he was while Mar slept, holding her close, and admiring his new family. He was amazed that he'd been so lucky, to have fallen in love with a woman who had willingly given him not one, but two babies, who were perfect and beautiful. He felt like he could stay here forever, as if the whole universe had shrunk to just this room and the four of them. It was the happiest he'd ever felt.
Until the door opened and a tall man in a blue robe, his platinum blond hair silvering with age, swept in, followed by a black-haired woman in a green bodysuit. That was when reality made an unwelcome reappearance, and Eros' heart sank.
The two visitors took in the scene- Eros reclining on the floor, holding a sleeping Kree woman, who was cradling two newborns- with visible reactions of shock.
Eros gulped, but couldn't move without risking waking Mar and the babies. He nodded politely, as if this was a perfectly normal visit, and nothing at all was strange about this, hoping they'd follow his lead. (Not likely.) “Father. Elysius.” He greeted them in a low voice, hoping he wouldn't wake Mar, or the babies. They needed sleep.
Father's eyes went to the babies, then Mar, in Eros' embrace, and then his gaze was boring straight through him. Eros winced. He knows. Somehow. And he didn't look impressed. Elysius just looked confused and wary.
Was there any way to explain this situation without looking like an utter fool, or starting an argument with them?
A strange noise, between a high-pitched howl and a wail, woke Mar from her sleep. She sat up, groggily. What happened? A small bundle in a yellow blanket lay at her side, and seeing that, her memory came flooding back. The babies! How long had she been asleep? What if one of her newborns needed something? The wail sounded again, and, seeing that the baby girl was sound asleep beside her, Mar looked around wildly. Eros was seated, cross-legged, not far away from her, leaning against the bed, cradling their baby boy, swaddled in an orange blanket. He was humming softly, though it was barely audible over the infant's cries, and he was gently rocking the baby. Mar got to her feet, carefully, not wanting to jostle or awaken her baby daughter, then all but ran to Eros' side, biting back a screech. She was so sore! The pain she'd felt after making love with Eros for the first time was nothing compared to this, but she forced herself to keep moving, to get to her still-crying son.
Eros smiled ruefully up at her. “Mar. How are you feeling?”
“Fine.” She leaned forward, peering at the baby boy's screwed-up red face. “What's wrong with him?”
“Hungry, I think. You've been asleep for about half an hour-”
“What?! Why didn't you wake me?”
“He only started fussing a minute or so ago,” Eros reassured her, as she reached to take the baby from him. Settling the tiny form in her arms, Mar found herself staring in awe again at the minuscule, perfectly formed features, even as the crying continued. She made her way to the bed slowly, shuffling rather than walking. She had to feed him, she knew that, but knowing something in theory, and doing it in practice, were very different things. What if he didn't latch on, or she didn't have enough milk, or the right sort, to provide the food he and his sister needed? She moved automatically, trying not to overthink this, sitting on the now-dry bed. (And how was it completely dry already? Her waters had broken all over it!) She sat back against the pillows, trying to relax, as she uncovered herself, and set about nursing the baby boy. After about a minute, he got the idea, and was suckling happily. Mar exhaled with relief- it was easier than she'd thought.
Eros, meanwhile, had scooped up the baby girl, and was crooning softly to her. Her misty-blue eyes were open, but she wasn't crying as her brother had been, Mar noted, as she absent-mindedly stroked the soft, downy, almost white hair on her son's head. The girl seemed content enough to be held, and was staring up at Eros' face. Could she see him yet? Mar wondered. Kree infants' eyes couldn't focus for at least a week after birth, but again, her twins' hybrid status made their capabilities unclear.
She must still have been tired, because only then did it register on Mar that any bloodstained towels, and any mess from the birth had been cleaned up, and the babies (and Mar herself) had been washed also. The soft blankets that the babies were now wrapped in, orange and yellow, were new as well- they weren't part of the supplies Mar had seen before their birth. She gave Eros a puzzled look. “You managed to, in half an hour, clean up this place, bathe the babies, clean me up, and find blankets from somewhere to wrap them in?”
Eros flushed slightly, ducking his head. “Not exactly...”
Mar's eyes narrowed. “What do you mean, not exactly?”
“Uh.... do you remember my saying, before everything happened so fast, that my father was coming to check on what I was doing here on Torfa?”
Mar started so violently she almost dislodged the nursing baby boy. “Your father- He's here?” She managed to gasp out after she had soothed the fussing baby, and he was nursing again. Her face burned with mortification. “Are you telling me your father walked in here just after I'd given birth, while I was asleep on the floor?” With blood, fluid and sweat everywhere, and me only covered by a thin sheet?
Eros sat down beside her on the bed, taking care not to jostle his daughter, holding the tiny baby as if she were made of glass, and Mar instinctively snuggled closer to him, needing to be close to him, even though she wanted to curl up under a rock and die from shame.
“Mar, it's alright, really. Well, he's furious with me, for not being 'careful'- and gods, was that an embarrassing conversation- and also because I risked your life, using cosmic energy to speed the babies' growth, as if I should have known that would happen, somehow- but he's thrilled to have grandchildren, really. He and my childhood friend Elysius, who was guarding him this time, absolutely fell in love with these two while they cleaned them up. Elysius went out quickly and got the supplies, blankets and such, and Father watched our little ones while I tended to you, and tidied this place up. While lecturing me, of course." He rolled his eyes. "They've gone back to our vessel now, for a while, to get more supplies.” He snorted. “Though I wouldn't be in the least surprised if they return with piles of gifts for the babies.”
Mar inhaled shakily. “And you're sure your father won't... think badly of me? It wasn't solely on you, you know. I should have taken precautions as well.”
Eros shook his head, gazing down at the baby girl, who'd just let out a squeak. An almost doting smile crossed his face. “Mar, I told you, the odds of this actually happening were incredibly slim. Even my father admits that. No-one needs to take any blame here. These two were an accident, but by far the best one that's ever happened to me.”
Mar smiled warmly. “For me too.” She stroked her son's tiny starfish hand, blinking back joyful tears as he seized her index finger, even as he still fed. “Not full yet, little one?” She whispered softly. Then something else Eros had said struck her, about his father. “Wait, you said your friend Elysius was here to guard your father?” She considered it. “Do Titan abilities weaken with age, or something, if your father requires a guard? I assume you meant a bodyguard.”
Eros' eyes widened, then his gaze flitted away from her. “Uh, no, our powers don't change...”
Mar frowned, covering herself as her baby son finished feeding, and eyeing his twin sister. Her daughter seemed happy enough to stay in her father's arms for a few more minutes, and Mar would feed her shortly. She wanted to figure this out first- Eros' evasive answer suggested he was hiding something, and that stung a bit- she thought they'd gotten past keeping secrets. “Then why would your father need guarding?”
Eros visibly swallowed. “Do you want to swap babies? Our little girl will need feeding too.”
Mar paused, then nodded, setting the boy on the bed, (which made him start fussing again) and taking the girl from Eros. Once she was feeding happily, and Eros was holding the baby boy, quieting him, Mar repeated her question. “Why does your father need a bodyguard, Eros?”
He winced, as if he'd hoped he had successfully changed the subject. “Well...”
Mar arched an eyebrow. “Yes?”
He ducked his head, like an embarrassed small child. “Er... I might have forgotten to mention that, back on Titan, before our world fell.... he was our people's leader.”
“What?!” Mar just stared at him. “Are you saying... your father was king, or ruler, of your homeworld.”
“Yes.” Eros was almost, but not quite, meeting her gaze.
“And, no doubt the survivors still view him that way, even though your home is gone, he would still be their leader. He probably ensures your people's safety, decides where they go, provides for them still...” Mar wasn't expecting a reply, she was just voicing her horrified thoughts. “With what happened to Tha- your brother, that would make your his heir...” She felt like all the breath had been punched from her lungs. “I gave birth to the next heirs of a royal family. You're a prince. And you just neglected to mention this?!”
The only word for Eros' expression was sheepish. “I... didn't think it was that important?”
The look Mar gave him in response showed him exactly what she thought of that assumption.
Mar chuckled to herself, remembering how stunned she'd been when she'd learned that part. 'Not important', indeed! She wondered if Eros had changed at all in the years since, if he still placed as little value on his title as he had back then. She wished with all her heart that she could just see him, one more time. She stared down at her thin, pale hands, faintly creased with wrinkles caused by age, and white from too much time without exposure to a sun.
Dreaming of seeing him again was foolish. He wouldn't even recognize her if he saw her now, she'd changed so much over the years! And he would not have, not one bit.
“His father was right,” Mar whispered, her heart aching as she remembered the brief, painful conversation she'd had with the older Titan, so long ago. “It was best to hurt Eros and end it quickly, rather than make him suffer by watching me age and die, while he couldn't. It wouldn't have been fair to him to continue our relationship, even if I hadn't ended up here.”
She didn't try to stop the tears this time- nobody would care if she wept while locked in this hellhole of a cell.
I wasn't able to find a canon explanation concerning the origin of the names Genis and Phyla, so I thought up my own backstory for the names. I hope it makes sense!
Mar watched, smiling fondly, as Eros deftly dressed their baby girl in the tiny white gown that had been part of a huge selection of baby clothes, dropped off by his friend Elysius, who for some reason had only stayed long enough to be introduced to Mar, fuss over the babies, drop off the gifts, and then leave. It was odd, but Mar supposed it was because Eros' father shouldn't be left alone on a foreign world, and as Elysius was serving as his bodyguard at present, it made sense that she should stay with him. Mar wasn't sure why he hadn't come along to drop off the baby clothes, and see the babies again, but she assumed there must be a good reason. Returning her attention to her son, she finished arranging the little shirt and trousers he was now wearing, brushing a kiss on his forehead and inhaling, loving the sweet indescribable baby-smell that clung to him and his sister.
“We really should decide on names for them.” Eros' tone was thoughtful. “But I admit, I've never really thought of what I'd call my children before now.”
Mar laughed. “Neither have I, if I'm honest.” She peered down at her baby boy's face as she lifted him into her arms. “What do you think, little one?” She nearly crooned. “What name would you like?”
The baby squeaked, cooed, and then, to her amazement, smiled up at her. She nearly gasped a laugh. “Eros, look!” Her own smile nearly split her face.
He glanced over, his hands still busily slipping the baby girl into her dress, but when he noticed what she meant, his eyes widened. He shook his head in amazement. “Smiling already...” He looked down at their daughter, stroking her face. “What do you think, are you going to smile as well? You don't want your brother to get too far ahead, do you?” His tone was jovial, making it clear he was teasing, but there was a gentleness in his voice that Mar had never heard before, as if he'd been trained in how to speak to babies. “Do I get your first smile, baby girl? Since Mama got your brother's. Can you smile for me?”
The baby girl cooed and waved her hand towards Eros' face, but didn't smile. He mock-pouted, making Mar laugh. She sobered a little as she spoke again. “You don't have any ideas for names? None from.... from your people, people that you... lost?” Her words kept trailing off, hesitant, afraid of upsetting him.
He looked down, shaking his head. “It's considered bad luck for my people, to give an infant the name of someone who died before their time.”
Mar bit back a comment about superstition, knowing that repeating her peoples' teachings, as if they applied to all other species, would be unfair (and cruel) and simply nodded. “I always liked the girl's name Phyla...” She ventured. It was a Kree name, a name that had originated as Phy-Larr, a renowned architect, who had supposedly lived in the time before the Intelligence. She was famed for designing many of the oldest structures on Hala. The name had mutated over time, as words often did, to the pretty but rarely used name of Phyla. And their children were half-Kree, so a Kree name for at least one of them wasn't wrong...
Eros smiled, smoothing the fluffy whitish hair on the baby girl's head. “Phyla...” He mused, as if sounding it out. “Phyla-Vell. I like it.”
Phyla cooed, as if she agreed, but Mar stared at Eros. “Vell? But... don't you want your family name used?”
He laughed. “We don't use family names like most species do, Mar. It's not as important when there's no danger of you dying and your lineage being utterly forgotten.”
“I suppose not.” A mental image of Eros, looking just as he did now, and two adult strangers, their faces still a mystery, standing next to a stooped, wrinkled, grey-haired version of her flashed through Mar's mind. She suppressed a shudder, and tried to force the disquieting thought from her mind. It wasn't certain that the children would be immortal, after all. They were only half Titan: the odds were fifty-fifty. And if they're not, then their father will have to watch them grow old and die, while he does not- STOP IT. She scolded herself, willing her emotions to even out before Eros picked up on anything.
It appeared to have worked, because Eros seemed lost in thought, his eyes on their son, who was falling asleep in her arms. “I had a friend, or an acquaintance really, once, long ago, in a distant solar system. It was just after my homeworld... fell. I was lost, injured, and a man saved my life, found me drifting in space, half conscious. He gave me shelter on his ship, got me back to somewhere I recognized...” He shook his head, shame on his features. “That time is a haze now, if I'm honest. I'd been flung light-years through space, with bad head injuries, and I couldn't find that place again if I tried. But I remember his name. Genis.” His eyes flickered back to their infant son.
It was like something just clicked for Mar when she heard the name. It was perfect. She smiled down at the baby boy. “Genis-Vell. It suits him.”
Eros nodded, his eyes shining as he came to stand beside her, so their children lay side by side, one awake, one asleep, both perfect. “Genis-Vell and Phyla-Vell.”
Mar leaned her head on his shoulder. “I hope they like their names once they're old enough to know them.” She'd known plenty of children, when she'd been at the Academy, who frequently complained about their given names. Extremely loudly.
Eros laughed softly, kissing the top of her head. “They were named with love, not for honor or some other cold reason. Their names are perfect, and they will grow up knowing that.”
Mar sighed happily, feeling the relief and reassurance she always felt in Eros' company wash over her. Everything seemed simple and easy when he was around. Maybe it was some unintended side effect of his abilities, but she didn't care, at least not right now. They were together, they were happy and things were peaceful.
A knock at the door broke the moment, and Mar almost jerked away from Eros as she would have if they were in Kree territory and she would be punished for fraternizing with a non-Kree. His arm slid round her shoulder, though, holding her close, as the door opened without them having called out 'Come in.'
Mar's heart sank as a man with silver-blond hair in blue robes, exactly Eros' height, swept into the room, with Elysius two steps behind him. Eros had stood up straighter beside her, and from that one small gesture, and the way the man's piercing green eyes (identical to Eros') swept the room, taking in everything, she knew this had to be-
“Father.” Eros' greeting was formal, almost as if he was uneasy, and Mar's stomach dropped into her shoes as the older Titan's eyes raked over her, as if she were being assessed and judged. She felt her face redden as she recalled that, the first time Eros' father, A'Lars, had seen her, she'd been unconscious, and filthy from giving birth- hardly a stellar first impression! She couldn't hold his gaze, and could only mumble a greeting, then focused firmly on little Genis' face, trying desperately to think of something to say, and having no luck.
What were you meant to say in this sort of situation? She'd been fine earlier, meeting Elysius- the Titan female had been friendly enough, and Mar had been able to relax, but this? This felt totally different. She was terrified of messing up this meeting, and of having A'Lars think she wasn't a suitable mate for his (royal) son, with her being just a commoner, and a Pink Kree at that, but as she stood there, face burning and tongue-tied, she realized he might already think that, simply because she had no idea what to say!
Eventually, Mar did manage to greet A'Lars in a semi-normal voice, and despite her churning nerves, the conversation that followed was relatively normal for this situation- he inquired about Mar's family, her life on Hala, how long she had actually known Eros, and (much to her surprise) he actually knew of her work in science, and almost praised the leaps forward she had made, though he did not hide his (and presumably his people's) distaste for the constant warfare that was the Kree way of life. He seemed to know a disquieting amount about the inner workings of the Kree government under the Intelligence as well, and offered up several astute observations about the flaws in their system, particularly about the caste differences between Blues and Pinks. No non-Kree should know so much, but Mar tried not to let that worry her- Titans were immortal, they probably all recalled a time before the Intelligence, and with that amount of lifespan, they had all the time they wanted to learn about other species. Eros chimed in here and there, making observations that made Mar and Elysius laugh, and had A'lars rolling his eyes, holding back his own smile.
Genis and Phyla began fussing for feeds at the same time, and Eros asked his father for some privacy, much to Mar's relief. The two Titans left the house, and as the babies nursed, Mar nearly sagged with relief, closing her eyes as all her nerves came flooding back.
Eros kissed the top of her head. “Are you alright?”
Mar groaned softly. “I just keep thinking your father must not think much of me. I acted like such a fool when he came in!” She closed her eyes in despair.
She felt Eros' soft sigh more than she heard it. “I'm sorry. I know he can be intimidating if you don't know him, and his title doesn't help.”
Mar couldn't help but pick up on the fact that Eros hadn't said that A'Lars liked her. Was it worth pointing that out? It might upset Eros, and besides, it wouldn't change the bare facts- that Mar was the mother of Eros' children now, and that couldn't be changed.
Eros leaned in closer, brushing his lips on hers in a gentle kiss, holding her in his arms as she cradled and fed their children. “It'll be fine once he warms up to you,” he assured her in a husky voice. “He already loves his grandchildren. It'll just take time for him to get used to you.”
Mar tried to smile, for once not fully reassured by Eros' words- she could see that he believed what he said, but time wasn't something they had an unlimited supply of. Right now, she still had a month or so of leave from the deep science division of the Kree military to use up, but after that, there would be people looking for her. She'd made a commitment to serve, years ago, and such things were hard to escape from. A'Lars, with his in-depth knowledge of how Kree society worked, had to know that. Would he want to risk the dwindling numbers of his own people just to protect her once the Kree began hunting her down?
But Eros had moved slightly, now trailing kisses down her neck, and she tilted her head to one side slightly, unable to hold back her breathy sigh of pleasure. The sensation was making it hard to hold on to her train of thought.
Baby Phyla squirmed, apparently done with feeding, and Eros, in one quick movement, took her from Mar and lay her in one of the bassinets that A'Lars had provided. Mar had no idea where he'd gotten them from on such short notice, but it meant the babies didn't have to sleep on their bed, in danger of rolling off, so she wasn't going to complain. Phyla fell asleep in minutes, satisfied now her belly was full. Genis followed suit, falling asleep mid-feed, and Mar placed him in the basket next to his sister's, washing with a damp cloth and covering herself quickly.
“I suppose we should invite your father for- oh...!” Mar let out a gasp as Eros moved to stand directly behind her, arms encircling her waist, trailing hot open-mouthed kisses from her shoulder to her jaw and back again.
“I asked them to give us an hour or so,” He whispered in her ear, pressing the full length of his body against hers suggestively. “The babies will sleep for at least half of that, and as I now have contraceptive tabs, I was thinking we could... take some time for ourselves...” His hand slid from her waist, down her hip, to press against her knee, then traveled back up her thigh. Mar felt herself tighten, heat pooling within her, and she pressed back against Eros out of instinct, feeling just how interested he already was, and smirking.
He did hesitate when she didn't reply though. “Unless you're too sore, or you don't want to...”
Mar considered. She had felt sore after giving birth, but it had eased considerably. She turned to face him, lacing her fingers through his, and peered up at him through her eyelashes. (Where she'd gotten the nerve to do something that coquettish from, she had no idea.) “If you promise to be gentle with me...”
“Always.” Eros' voice was intense, and the look in his eyes- heated, but also awed- sent a thrill through Mar as they tumbled onto the bed, a tangle of limbs and hands and kisses...
Eros was asleep, or so it appeared, when a gentle tap sounded at the door. Mar, who had been lying there simply admiring him as he lay naked in bed, covered to the waist by a blanket, turned at the sound, then slid from the bed and pulled her clothes back on as quickly as she could. She checked on Genis and Phyla as she crossed the room: both were still sound asleep. As she pulled open the door, she realized her hair was probably a mess from her and Eros' 'activities', and she had no idea if her clothes were creased or askew, but it was too late to change her mind. A'Lars stood outside, and Mar's heart sank. Dealing with him on her own was not something she felt comfortable doing. Inclining her head in greeting, she looked over her shoulder, thanking the stars that the bedclothes covered Eros (even if his clothes were all over the floor in plain view.) She made as if to go and wake him, assuming A'Lars wanted to speak to his son, but his hand on her shoulder disproved that theory.
With a jerk of his head, A'Lars indicated that she should follow him outside. He turned and strode away before she had time to refuse or agree, so clearly he expected to be followed. Gulping, she took one last look at her babies, making sure they were warm enough and properly covered by their blankets, before steeling herself to leave them, reminding herself that Eros was there, and he would wake if Genis or Phyla cried. She headed outside, her heart pounding. What could A'Lars want to talk to her about, alone?
She wasn't to immediately find out, however, as they walked some distance from the cabin before he spoke. Then, when he looked at her, she half imagined she could see his thousands of years of life shadowed in his weary eyes.
“This is somewhat awkward, considering the relationship between you and my son, but I feel I must apologize for his putting your health at risk the way he did.”
Mar bristled inwardly. “I'm sure he told you that we both forgot to take precautions, he never intended for me to become so ill, and I don't regret having my children, no matter how sudden it was.”
A'Lars shook his head slightly. “He should have known better. People tend to... lose their inhibitions around Eros, whether he is consciously using his gifts or not. He never seems to take that into account before acting.” He sighed. “I suppose I shouldn't be too harsh on him. He is still very young by our reckoning.”
Mar had to fight to keep her jaw from dropping. A'Lars viewed Eros as young? What in blazes did that make her in his eyes? Maybe I'm better off not knowing that.
“On a related note, are you well? I hope there is no additional discomfort or pain from the twins' birth?” A'Lars' eyes were on her now, concerned.
“N-no.” her face reddened slightly. “Nothing that I hadn't been led to expect.”
“So you will be well enough to travel soon.” A'Lars resumed walking, speaking without looking directly at her. “Have you thought of where you will go next?”
Something in his tone made Mar hesitate. What was this about? “Not really. Everything's happened so fast, Eros and I haven't had a real chance to discuss it.” She put a pointed emphasis on Eros' name, making it clear that she intended him to have a say in what happened next; A'Lars' words had suggested that he didn't intend for Eros to have any input, or that was how it sounded to her.
“What has my son told you of our... situation?”
Mar chose her words carefully, deciding it would not be tactful to mention Thanos by name. “Just that your people are scattered, living in smaller groups, since your home became uninhabitable.”
“Mm-hmm. There are a number of smaller dwellings that could be suitable for children, but none of them are remotely close to Kree territory.”
Mar felt A'Lars' eyes on her again, and had a feeling he was coming to the point of this conversation. She repressed the urge to shiver.
“I will speak plainly. I am well aware that the Kree view the children of those with military ties as, essentially, property of your government, but these infants are also my grandchildren.” He moved quickly, so he stood before her, eyes locked on hers. “I want to make it clear, I will not allow them to fall into Kree hands. So, if that was what you intended, through some misguided loyalty to the Kree, you need to understand now that that will not be happening.” His eyes were blazing with intensity.
Mar was gobsmacked for a minute, then anger took over. She inhaled deeply, and stood as tall as she could. “I assure you, the last thing I want to see happen is my babies taken from me and drafted into the military.”
A'Lars' gaze remained on her, steady. “I was hoping to hear that.” Here he paused, frowning. “But you will also be aware that the Kree will search for you, if you disappear, and that it is highly unlikely you will simply be permitted to leave.”
Mar's fists clenched. He was speaking her worst fears, but she tried to counter them. “I still have around two standard months before that will become an issue.”
“And what then?”
Her gaze dropped, unable to bear the scrutiny. “I don't know.”
A'Lars let out a soft snort. “Let me guess: Eros has been telling you it will all work out, but not provided any specifics about how and why.” He rolled his eyes. “That is his solution to everything, I'm afraid, and while that works for him alone, because he can charm his way out of most things, I think you are wise enough to know it won't be that simple now that there are two helpless children to consider.”
Mar's heart was sinking at his words, but, really, she couldn't deny he had a point about Eros. As much as she loved him, his attitude so far had been to provide general, blanket reassurances about their future problems, but no real solutions. She forced herself to speak calmly. “The only thing I am certain of is that my people can never know that Genis and Phyla exist, if that's at all possible. Half Kree, half Titan children? They'd never let them go.”
A'Lars nodded solemnly, agreeing with her. “I wish that weren't the case, you do know that? I would change that, for your sake and theirs, if I had the power to do so.”
She nodded, her eyes stinging. She noticed him giving her a long, considering look, and something made her take a step away from him. He opened his mouth, closed it again, and sighed heavily.
Something in Mar's chest tightened. I am not going to like this. The thought flashed through her mind an instant before A'Lars spoke again.
“Mar-Vell. I have noticed that you care deeply for my son. And I don't doubt you love those infants.” His every word was laced with sadness, but he held her gaze. Answer me one question: what would you be willing to give up to keep all three of them from harm?”
“Anything, obviously.” Mar could hardly believe he was asking that. As if there was anything she wouldn't do to keep them safe!
“And if I were to tell you that the best thing you could do, for all three of them, would be to leave them and simply return home?”
Mar went cold to the bone. “What?” It was all she could force out. What did he mean?
“Shall I tell you what will happen otherwise?” A'Lars narrowed his eyes. “You'll come back with us, clearly an outsider among our people. We may manage to conceal your presence among us from the Kree. Note that I said, may. You will have a few years of happiness while Genis and Phyla are small, but they will grow older, and they will notice that you aren't like us. That will eventually cause a problem. Especially when, in a remarkably short amount of time as we see it, you will age as all mortal beings do. The children will not understand why you are different, and this will hurt them. And it will hurt Eros deeply.”
Mar winced- that part at least had occurred to her before. She was in her late twenties now. In sixty years, seventy at the latest, she would be an old woman. That seemed a daunting amount of time away to her, but what was that to Eros- a heartbeat? A blink? “I...” What? What could she say to refute that, when A'Lars' words were the truth?
“I know my son. He lets his heart rule his head, he always has.” A'Lars' face was a picture of sorrow. “I don't doubt he would stand by you, no matter what stage of your life you had reached. I also know that if he had to watch you age and die, leaving him bereft, it would destroy him.” His expression twisted with grief. “He has lost so much already...” His words were choked, and he turned his face from Mar's for a moment. She was relieved; that gave her a second to blink back her own tears and swallow until the lump in her throat diminished enough for her to speak.
“I don't want that.” She finally managed, shakily. The idea of Eros, tied to her when she needed aid to stand, and to walk, and her hands were twisted and gnarled with age, her face lined with wrinkles, her hair thinning and white, and him looking exactly as he did now, and pretending to still be in love with her, when she looked old enough to be his mother.... him grieving when she died, and never letting himself move on, suffering alone forever... No. She couldn't let that happen to him. It would be too cruel. But, the alternative, what A'Lars seemed to be saying, was her leaving Eros now, and giving up her newborn children... how could she do that? Her lips trembled. “But... if I leave him now, isn't that hurting him too? And...” Tears spilled from her eyes. “My babies...” If she left, if she went back to the Empire now, the Kree would never know about Genis and Phyla. They would be safe, hidden, never dragged into the never-ending societal machine that churned out Kree warriors. As the children of a Titan royal, they would be well provided for, and she knew that Eros would love them more than himself, whether or not he got over her leaving him, but... “I'll never be able to see them again.”
A'Lars rested his hand on her shoulder, his face not unsympathetic. “I know I am asking the impossible; do not think I say this lightly. I only ask this of you because I know Eros won't have the strength to make this choice. I will not force you to do anything. I can only trust in my belief that you want what is best for your children, and for Eros. I won't speak to him of this. What you choose to do, and what you tell him, is down to you.” He walked away, head and shoulders bowed as if under an enormous weight, leaving Mar alone.
She put her face in her hands and wept. He was right. Deep down, she knew that. Her return to the Empire was the only way to be certain that the Kree wouldn't discover the twins, and that Eros wouldn't be utterly torn apart by grief when she aged and died, but actually acting on that, convincing Eros that she wanted to go home, (so she didn't end up driving a wedge between him and his father) and leaving her children behind forever.... Just thinking of doing it made her feel as if her heart were being torn from her chest.
But she would have to do this, for her family's sake. And soon, before she could talk herself out of it. The alternatives: Genis and Phyla dragged away, thrown into Kree military schools, never to know a normal, happy life, or them, and Eros, standing by helplessly, years from now, as she ailed in bed and died... Both scenarios were unbearable. Neither of those could ever happen.
She let out a choked sound somewhere between a howl and a scream of anguish. Why did it have to hurt so damned much to do the right thing? Why was everything in the universe so unfair, to tear love apart this way?
Eros was crouched between the two bassinets that held Genis and Phyla, perfectly content to simply admire them as they slept, occasionally stroking one of their soft downy heads, smiling every time either of them moved or snuffled in their sleep. He knew he probably looked a fool, but didn't care. Father and Elysius had gone back to their ship, after spending the afternoon with them, mostly just talking about and fussing over the babies, and Mar was taking a short walk, making the most of her time to get some fresh air, before Genis or Phyla woke and needed her, and Eros had to call her to come back. No-one would tease him for making doe eyes at the babies. Besides, who could blame him for wanting to keep gazing at such perfect beautiful children? And they were his, and Mar's. They had made these little angels. He shook his head slightly, in amazement. If someone had told him a year ago that he'd be here, now, watching his twins sleep, he would have laughed hard enough to crack a rib. Children, and a partner he loved enough to have them with, were not in his plans for his future. Now, looking at the babies, and picturing Mar in his mind, he knew he was the luckiest man alive to have them. He wouldn't change a single thing.
Phyla whimpered, squirming in her sleep, and ended up with one tiny fist pressed to her chin. Eros re-adjusted the blanket so she was covered properly, then cocked his head to the side as he noticed a piece of paper at the top of the bassinet, wedged between the foam mattress and the top of the basket, its corner just jutting out. He tugged it out, frowning. The paper was crisp, suggesting it was new, and it had clearly been placed carefully- easy to spot, but nowhere near Phyla, not posing any danger to the baby. Eros. His name was written on the front of the envelope, in fine, delicate handwriting. His eyes narrowed as he ripped it open. Something fell to the ground with a clunk, but he ignored that as he unfolded the thin paper, the writing smudged as if tiny drops of water had dripped on it intermittently. What was this?
I'm sorry, but I can't do this. This all happened too fast. I'm not ready to be a full-time lover, or a parent. By the time you read this, I will have left. I'm returning to the Empire, to my home on Hala. I know you'll hate me for this, but I hope you'll take care of our children, for their sakes. I just can't do that myself. I won't make things worse by contacting you again. I'm sorry.
Eros stared, blinking repeatedly at the note, as if its meaning might change if he waited long enough. He felt like someone had frozen all the blood in his body- he couldn't move, or breathe, or think. Mar had left. She'd turned her back on him, on what they had together, disregarded the babies and just left. Leaving him nothing but a note. Like what they had shared meant nothing at all to her. How, why, could she do that?! And to say she wasn't 'ready' to be a parent- well, neither was he! But he would never run off just because he was nervous! He was well aware this situation wasn't exactly ideal, but they could have worked something out, surely? Crumpling the note in his fist, he ran a hand through his hair in agitation. Maybe Mar was just anxious, and worn out. He could call her comm, the one he had given her, and talk to her, calm her down.
The thing that had fallen from the envelope glinted, catching Eros' eye, and his heart sank as he recognized it. Mar had left that com behind, deliberately, and he didn't dare hack into any Kree channels to track her down. There was too big a risk of discovery. He exhaled shakily, his throat tight, tears stinging his eyes. He loved her! Hadn't he told her that, or made it clear enough? Didn't his feelings for her mean anything? He had thought- no, he knew she loved him too. He'd sensed that, and how much she loved Genis and Phyla, from the moment she had seen them. So, why? Why would she do this?
Genis began to wail in his bassinet. No doubt he was hungry. Eros moved to his son's side, his movements wooden, his whole being numb. What was he meant to do now? The babies still nursed, how could he provide them with food without Mar? Picking Genis up and rocking him with one arm, he gritted his teeth and sent a message from his wrist com to his father's ship. He could hear Father's sympathy now, kind, just short of being condescending, when Eros explained what had happened, and it made him want to scream. He made an enormous effort to swallow his rage and frustration, focusing on Genis, still crying in his arms, and Phyla, now lying awake with her eyes open, looking placidly up at him. Something hardened in his heart. “No matter what happens, what your mother has done, I won't abandon you, my little ones.” He whispered fiercely, his eyes stinging with tears he refused to let fall. If Mar-Vell wanted to leave, let her! They'd be better off without a mother, especially one so callous and cold-hearted, in their lives.
Or that was what he kept telling himself, silently, when Father answered the call and Eros told him what was going on. A'Lars was silent for a while, then simply said he and Elysius would come over and help Eros prepare to leave, to go home. Eros agreed, speaking in monosyllables. Why not? There was nothing left to stay here for, now. And he couldn't bear to stay in a place he'd shared with Mar-Vell for longer than he had to. When they got home, and the twins were settled and provided for, then he could let himself grieve, and rage all he wanted. For now, providing for Genis and Phyla had to come first. He would never abandon them as coldly as their mother had. He'd be there for them, no matter what.
Mar-Vell knew she was attracting attention because her eyes were red and swollen as she walked the lower streets of Hala, heading for her own apartment, but couldn't find the will to care. She'd cried almost non-stop since leaving Torfa. Slipping that note into Phyla's bassinet before going 'for a walk' had been, without question, the hardest thing she had ever done, and it still felt as if her heart had been ripped asunder and left behind on Torfa. The words she had written for Eros were paltry, insufficient, and she knew that. She'd explained nothing about her reasons for leaving, resorting to the most pathetic of excuses, because if she had told him anything more detailed, or attempted to tell him face-to-face, he would have seen through her facade, and tried to talk her out of it. And he'd have found out that A'Lars had urged her to do this for his and the twins' sakes, and that would open up a whole other can of worms. This way, she hoped, Eros would simply be angry with her, but care for the twins, and move on with his life. He wouldn't have to go through each day, living as a hollow version of himself, with everything he loved torn away and out of his reach forever.
Tears were running down Mar's face as she stumbled into her cold, empty apartment, locking the door behind her and falling to her knees. “Eros... Genis... Phyla...” The words came out choked, rasped, the names that would echo inside her heart forever, but that she would never say aloud again. “I love you. More than anything in this universe.” She always would, even if she never saw them again. Even if they never forgave her, and hated her for abandoning them. She would love them until her last breath.
Even thinking about those dark days still hurt as if it had happened yesterday, Mar reflected, wiping her eyes. What had Eros told the twins about her, if anything? Had he convinced them to hate her as much as he surely did? Those early days on Hala, she'd had to pull off an acting performance worthy of a disguised Skrull, convincing people that she was fine, and working every day to bury memories of her family, praying each time she had to commune with the Intelligence that It wouldn't pick up on her secret. That, over the years, had been her greatest fear and biggest triumph- It had never learned about the children she had given birth to.
I wonder if their names are the same, or if Eros changed them after I left, she mused. She wouldn't blame him if he had, after the cruel way she'd left them all behind. Leaning back against the cell wall, she pulled her knees to her chest, wrapping her arms round them, letting her eyes go out of focus- there was nothing to see but white anyway. Maybe she did deserve this punishment, this cell. Not for trying to save the Skrulls, but for hurting the man she loved and abandoning her own babies. Perhaps this was the price she would pay, dying alone in here with nothing but painful memories, and no-one she loved who would mourn her. Dying somehow seemed better than this endless, changeless existence- the bright white space, the utter silence, and the meals. Why was she still holding on, trying to live? What did she have to live for, really?
Nothing, was the simple answer. There was no reason to keep going. She was never getting out of here. Die today, die in a week, a month, a year... nothing would change. Her shoulders slumped, her whole being radiating despair. She had nothing left. Nothing at all, because of her own choices and foolishness.
The door screeched, the sudden sound of the metal warping and breaking utterly deafening compared to the silence of the cell. Shadows and dimmer light flooded in when the door was ripped from the frame and... tossed aside? Mar squinted, trying to force her eyes, weakened from so long in bright white light, to adjust. Was she hallucinating? Because the figure standing in the doorway, looked, to her blurred vision, almost like...
“Eros?!” It came out in a gasp, and somehow, she was on her feet, limbs trembling from too long without use. She half-fell towards him, wanting to be near him, even though she was ninety per cent certain he wasn't really here, just in her imagination.
The arms that wrapped around her, holding her securely, but gently, felt real enough though, and slowly, Mar looked up at him. He looked exactly as she remembered, and tears sprang to her eyes. “I wish you were really here,” she whispered, afraid of breaking the illusion.
“I am, Mar.” His voice cracked a little as he examined her. She knew what he was noticing- greying hair, pasty skin, a too-thin frame, lines of age on her face. He probably barely recognized her! Cupping her face in his hand, he smiled despite his eyes brimming with tears. “Still the same blue eyes. I'd know you anywhere, just by looking at them.”
A shudder ran through Mar, as she realized this might just be real, not a dream or hallucination. “You're really here? But... how? Why? After what I did...” She dropped her gaze, unable to look at him. She'd believed for so many years that he hated her. Why didn't he? She deserved it, after all.
He held her closer, resting his head atop hers, his embrace careful, as if she were as fragile as their babies had once been. “Ssh, it's alright.” His voice darkened considerably. “My father finally deigned to explain a few things to me, about what he'd discussed with you- after over twenty years of keeping silent- and when I got through yelling at him for meddling in my private life, the first thing we decided to do was track you down. But I'll explain more when we get out of here. Come on.” Keeping one arm round her, he led her from her prison, and for the first time in a long time, Mar felt the stirring of hope.
“We?” Was all she could think to say, though, as Eros guided her out of the building and outside, where she blinked in the daylight that she had gone too long without seeing. “You and your father?”
They were approaching a ship of unknown design, that seemed to have landed right outside the building she had been kept in. Eros shook his head, smiling ruefully as he replied. “No.” He gestured towards the open hatch. Mar followed the movement, and her heart stopped in her chest. Two figures, a tall muscular young man, and a shorter slender girl, with platinum blonde hair and blue eyes, were staring down at her, concern and curiousity warring on their faces. She began trembling from head to toe, putting an unsteady hand to her mouth, scarcely daring to believe it. “Genis... Phyla...” She shook her head, unable to speak, but not taking her eyes from them, marveling at how beautiful they were, as they boarded the ship and Eros took the pilot's seat, to make a hasty escape from Hala. As they departed, she prayed to whatever higher power might exist. Don't let this be a dream. Please.
Eros had come for her, to save her. She stood facing her two children, her babies, for the first time in over twenty years. She could look into their eyes, reach out and embrace them if she wanted. But they were strangers to her, through her own actions. She shouldn't assume they wanted anything to do with her. So she let the tears fall, and didn't move, waiting for one of them to approach her, or not.
Phyla was the first to move, half reaching her arms out, then hesitating, looking unsure. Mar swallowed hard, then took a half-step forward, putting herself within Phyla's reach. “Phyla.” It came out like she was breathing a prayer.
“Mother?” Phyla's voice was small, like she wasn't sure Mar was real, but she stepped closer, slipping her arms round her. Genis, looking supremely awkward, followed suit, and that did it. Being free and safe at last, seeing Eros again, now holding her daughter and her son, her babies, in her arms after so long... Mar's face crumpled and she gave into her sobs, finally saying what she'd wanted to say for so many years, her words strangled under the weight of her emotions, but intelligible. “Phyla. Genis. I love you. So much. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Please, please, forgive me.”
Clutching them as if she'd never let go, she wept, hardly daring to believe that they were here, in her arms, not hating her, and she might finally have a chance to make up for how she'd wronged her children.
Could she really, truly, be getting another chance to know them?
So I've done a time-skip now- this chapter takes place several months after the events of the Captain Marvel movie, and I've done a change in POV. I'm not sure the title is accurate anymore, so I'm open to suggestions if you think it needs to change.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Phyla rolled her eyes as she increased her pace to keep up with her brother. This was the third planet in the Helgentar system they'd searched, chasing rumors and whispers, and she was a little fed up. “Genis, for the last time, this is a bad idea.”
He scoffed at her. “Please. As if you're not as curious as I am about this?”
She gave him a shove, annoyed. “Of course I am! But we told Father and Mother that we were going to Chandilar, where they first met.”
It was Genis' turn to roll his eyes. “And if we'd told them what we were really doing, they wouldn't have let us leave, you know that.”
“Maybe there's a good reason for that!” Phyla's voice rose slightly. “Mother still has nightmares of being held captive by the Kree, even though it's been over three years since we saved her. And you really think it's a good idea to enter- oh, sorry, trespass on Kree territory, because we heard a rumor that someone is using her name to fight against the Kree armies?”
“What if it's a relative of hers?” Genis countered. “It'd make sense, someone else in her family- our family- disagreeing with how the Kree do things. And if that's true, we can take this 'Captain Marvel' to Mother, let him or her know she's alive.”
“And if we're wrong, if this backfires?” Phyla narrowed her eyes at him. “What then? We could give away our existence, Father's existence..... there'd be no taking that back. If anyone knew that Titans still existed...”
Genis sighed. “I don't think it'll come to that.” But for the first time, he looked unsure.
Phyla shook her head. “We should have told Father, brought him with us. At least then we could talk ourselves out of trouble. Or, well, he could...”
That thought had both twins scowling a little. Although they were half-Titan, they only had limited abilities inherited from their father's species- increased strength, flight, and absorption and projection of energy. They couldn't heal at will like pure blooded Titans could, they had no abilities that were solely theirs, and they had no idea if they would be true immortals, or simply age at a far slower rate than Kree, or even age at a Kree rate. They were the first hybrids of their kinds, so there was no-one to test against or compare themselves too.
Looking around, in an attempt to get off the uncomfortable subject, Phyla squinted up and down the brightly lit streets. “I wish we'd tracked this 'Captain Marvel' down to anywhere that wasn't in Kree territory, though.” She shivered. “I keep imagining people here will figure out who we are and attack any second.”
“Really? Come on, Phy, no-one in the Empire knows that we exist, or even that our mother's still alive. You're being paranoid.” He sighed. “I'm more worried about what happens when we find this Captain Marvel and take them home with us. Mother and Father won't be pleased we came into Kree territory.
“Duh, no, really?!” Phyla smacked the back of her brother's head. “You only think of this now? You told me you had a story figured out!”
He waved her away. “I will- by the time we get home.” His face split in a grin. “Aha! That group of freed slaves back on Nadiir said Captain Marvel often stops at this bar, to gather news.”
Phyla eyed the shady-looking place- a shabby building, with broken windows, music blaring from inside. “So what, we just wait out here and see if anyone who looks like Mother shows up?”
Genis laughed. “No, of course not! We go in and ask if anyone knows this Captain Marvel, that's all. Say we have some news for him.”
“Wow...” A different female voice came from behind them, making both Genis and Phyla jump. They whirled, to see a blonde woman in a blue and red bodysuit, accentuated with gold highlights, eyeing them curiously, brown eyes twinkling, despite her clenched fists (giving off sparks) and battle-ready posture. Her lips twitched. “I hope 'he' doesn't disappoint you now you see 'him' in person.”
Genis' face turned crimson. Phyla cringed on his behalf, but stood up straight. “Are you... Captain Marvel? Named after Mar-Vell?”
The woman winced a little, hearing that name, but nodded. “My real name is Carol Danvers, but yeah, I'm known as Captain Marvel now. I'm always happy to meet fans, but... who's asking?”
Neither of them replied, though. They were too busy staring, their mouths hanging open. Carol Danvers? The woman with that name had been a huge part in Mother's brief time on Terra, but they exchanged stunned looks, not believing this could be her. How could that be? Mar-Vell still grieved Danvers' death.
“C-Carol Danvers?” Genis finally managed.
“Yeah...” She was now looking at them like she doubted their sanity.
“That... that's not possible.” Phyla finally managed. “Mar-Vell- our mother- said you were killed over six years ago, when the Kree discovered her plan to help the Skrulls and took her captive. Carol Danvers was a Terran. If that's really you, how can you be...” The famed galactic hero Captain Marvel, she thought but didn't say. Terrans were weak compared to other galactic species, primitive. None of them could survive off their home planet!
Carol stumbled backwards as if Phyla had struck her, her face suddenly ashen. “Your mother.... you two are... but...” She shook her head, like she was trying to wake herself up. Her mouth opened and closed a few times, like she was trying to form words, but couldn't. “Are you saying Mar-Vell's alive?!”
The end.... for now! I will resume this storyline in a sequel, as soon as my Muse co-operates. Thanks for all the views, comments and Kudos. Special thanks to Shelby for all her advice (and for listening to me whining LOL.)