‘Doctor, what’s going on?!’

Rory held on tightly to the central control system as the TARDIS pitched heavily from side to side, switches lighting up seemingly at random. They were moving- as far as that word could be applied to the TARDIS- but Rory had no idea where.

‘She’s a Trine-form, Rory!’ The Doctor shouted back. ‘I can’t believe I didn’t see it immediately!’

‘What does that mean?’ Rory exclaimed, exasperated.

‘Exactly what I said! Sander said it too: the Trine are psychically linked. If we find one, chances are we can find any other one, no matter where they are. So I’m taking us to see some friends of mine, see if I can arrange a meeting with a specialist,’ The Doctor smiled for the first time since Amy had disappeared. Finally, some forward progress!

‘We’re going to get her back, Rory!’

***************

Amy whimpered, a combination of humiliation and desire colouring her voice. Sander seemed so tall, standing over her as he was, his eyes roaming her body with intense interest. She had been in this position once before, on the day they had kidnapped her, but she hadn’t felt quite so helpless back then. It was the way he leaned over her, so confident and assured. The way the hand he was using to support himself over her brushed against her waist in a possessive manner.

The way his hardness nestled against her vulnerable, glistening folds, ready to invade her whenever he wanted to. Amy didn’t think she could stand another fucking, not in Nirvana, not with every sense pushing hungrily for every little touch or sensual pressure on her skin.

Sander closed his eyes as his head tipped toward the ceiling, inhaling deeply. This feeling… he had almost forgotten. It was intoxicating. Regardless of his higher motives, regardless of any empathy for Amy that may have been in him, this was enjoyable on its own merits.

She looked so good, with her hands tied above her head like that…

Sander slid his hips forward, pushing himself between Amy’s legs and into her defenceless pussy. He gritted his teeth as Amy cried out, the wave of sensation pulsing through both of them with enough force to weaken his knees and make him lean heavily against the bed. Even Mara whooped with delight and surprise, becoming unsteady on her feet as the mental link delivered Sander’s experience to her.

Sander set up a slow pace, pushing himself deeper into Amy and feeling every spasm of her muscles as he did so. The sensation, the pure pleasure and heat rebounded and multiplied by Lysithea’s presence was almost transcendent. He slid down, pressing their two bodies together, feeling the heat of her flesh against him. Amy gasped with pleasure.

A curiously heavy feeling filled Sander’s mind; by the drooping of Amy’s eyelids, he could tell that it was in her too. Something strange was happening, but in the heat of the moment it wasn’t possible to question it, or even care enough to want to try. Sander’s head dipped, planting a heated kiss on Amy’s breast, making her back arch against him.

He could feel her; beneath him, but also in his head. The dark colours and heavy despair of her mind lifted away like a curtain, revealing a throbbing crimson mass of lust beneath, but that was just colour. This close, with this unity of thought, Sander found himself able to see far deeper than he had been able to before.

Sander’s eyes flicked up to capture Amy’s; he knew immediately that, while he was looking into her, she was doing likewise. It was part curiosity, part an inexorable, unconscious gravity drawing them in, but neither could stop themselves from probing deeper into the other.

Stop it, damn it!’ Amy’s voice, hissing silently in his mind. Sander’s eyes widened.

Can’t…’ The thought went out automatically, before he had a chance to stop it.

I know,’ Amy’s mind whimpered back, along with a feeling of intense concern. They were so close together… it was inescapable.

Relax. Should be fine,’ Sander sent out another tendril of thought; dealing with this was hard enough without Amy clogging his mental processes with her fear.

A-alright…’ Her projection was shaky, and Sander got the message that she was nervous. ‘Hello…

Sander gave a tiny, internal chuckle. This close to her, everything fell away. All the anger, all the negativity, dissolved away. Revenge, kidnapping… None of it meant anything when another mind was open to you.

He was nervous, she was nervous, but they both drew closer to each other. They sank closer, doing so physically as they did so mentally. Sander could feel her thoughts, emotions and memories as clearly as though they were his own.

Sander…’ Amy’s voice twanged through his head, apprehensive and hesitant. ‘What happened to you to make you like this?

Sander closed his eyes, ‘I don’t think I can stop you from finding out. I don’t know whether this is part of the programme or not.

He could feel her in his mind, could feel his memories parading past her like a slideshow. He could feel her welling up inside him; the sum total of her life there for the taking. She was looking into him; could he be blamed for doing likewise?

At her core, Amy was remarkably attractive; sweet, good natured, intelligent… Below everything else was a steely resolve that left Sander no doubts about how long she would continue to resist him. Love for Rory, so deep…

In many ways, she was very like Elsa.

Sander winced at the thought; it made him uncomfortable. Amy could feel it, as deeply entrenched in his mind as she was. She shuddered as another memory of thirteen years ago flitted through her, as substantial as mist. Sander had such trauma in his past… It was no wonder he had snapped.

She wondered whether Rory would turn out like that, if he couldn’t find her.

Simultaneously, Sander thought the very same.

Both were pulled downwards, further into the other. Memories fell around them now, faster than before. Jumbled, mismatched images from each other’s lives. Sander felt his outline begin to blur.

He saw himself, walking the streets of Vesperia, like everything was normal. Beside him, a woman. Elsa. His Elsa… No…

Amy.

Sander, you are going to deep,’ Lysithea’s voice clanged through him like the tolling of a bell, shattering the parade of altered memories and sending him spinning back into his own physicality. Once again, he was leaning over Amy, still inside her.

‘You were in my memories,’ Amy said, out loud and unsteadily. ‘Like you’d been plastered over the spot where Rory should have been.’

‘You were in mine,’ Sander answered quickly. Unexpected warmth flooded through him, a tide of strange, alien affection for the woman beneath him. He leaned down to gently place his mouth over hers; it seemed right. Amy craned her neck, returning the kiss before breaking it with a gasp, nuzzling at Sander’s neck as he moved inside her.

‘What the fuck is this whole thing here?’ Mara deadpanned incredulously, eyebrows arching as Amy sought out Sander’s mouth for another deep, smothering kiss.

I was afraid this might happen,’ Mara turned to the motionless Lysithea as the alien’s voice spread through her mind. ‘It’s the main reason we don’t get many requests to service slaves. The connection gets stronger through sexual activity. That’s what we do here. Sander and Amy… Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that their minds merged, but they did go far deeper into each other than I would normally recommend for a master and slave pair, especially given the realities of your situation.’

‘What does all this mean?’ Mara asked out loud. ‘Short version, please.’

The term we use is entanglement. I pulled them out in time to stop any permanent damage to either psyche, but they both came out of it carrying just a little bit of each other in their minds,’ Lysithea’s head swivelled to look at Mara. ‘The plain answer, barring any psychic terminology, is that Sander’s now incredibly attracted to Amy, and vice versa. Is that short enough, Mara?

‘Right…’ Mara frowned, pouting without realizing it. ‘Can you do anything about it?’

‘Not me personally,’ Lysithea said out loud. ‘It’s really down to the two of them to figure it out, although they seem to be enjoying themselves right now,’ She gestured vaguely at the shuddering, moaning duo. ‘It’ll probably fade in time.’

‘Ooh, I like that probably!’ Mara clapped her hands together, voice filled with sarcasm strong enough to etch glass.

‘Entanglement is an imprecise process,’ Lysithea shrugged. ‘They might shrug it off the minute they leave this room, or they might fall into each other’s arms and never let go.’

‘And here I thought he’s supposed to be fawning over me…’ Mara murmured, her tone joking but the hardness in her eyes saying otherwise. ‘No, no, no…’

Sander and Amy’s lovemaking had wound down while Mara was lost in thought, the last shivering spasms of orgasm running through them as she pulled herself to her feet and circled the two of them, eyes soft and sparkling. Her gaze was inexorably drawn to the scar that dominated Sander’s shoulder. Well, she had to start somewhere…

As Sander slipped out of Amy’s glistening pussy, Mara grabbed his hand and pulled him away, giggling as she dragged him to his feet and separated him from Amy. She wore her most winning smile.

‘Sander…’ She purred, running her hand over his shoulder. ‘Tell me about your scar.’

His brow furrowed, his eyes glanced back at Amy, ‘What? I’ve already said I don’t want to talk about it…’ He trailed off.

Mara’s mouth curved wickedly, ‘Maybe I should just poke around in your head and find out myself,’ She pulled herself closer, her breath hot on his chest, ‘You seemed to like it just fine when Amy was doing it.’

Sander was silent for a moment as he tried to figure out if she was joking. It was so hard to tell, with Mara. He kept drifting back to Amy, so enticingly vulnerable in her ropes. The things he could do to her…

Looking over his shoulder, he saw her eyes glittering. He half turned toward her, then stiffened.

‘Mara, stop!’ He exclaimed, pushing her away as her presence loomed in his mind. She froze, staring at him with wide eyes as her heart dropped into the pit of her stomach. He looked angry, but only for a moment before he turned back to Amy, his features lighting up.

As Sander moved back to the bed, Mara closed her eyes and pushed her mind deeper. There was no time to think, to consider the best path to take. She needed to fix this, before things went too far. She could see his mind, the column of blue light rising in her mind’s eye.

She probed deeper, willing herself inside, and…

A dark, fiery figure rose in her mind, blocking out everything else, ‘Get out!’ It growled, causing Mara to stumble back and cry out in surprise.

Sander wheeled around, face frozen in anger, ‘I told you to stay out, Mara! What’s in my head doesn’t concern you!’

Anger was the wrong emotion to call upon. Mara knew that, but when it came, spurred by the hurt of his rejection, she revelled in it, ‘What the fuck do you mean? You’re the one who’s been trying to get all up in my business every chance you get!’ She snapped.

‘Was that a mistake, Mara? You don’t just go poking around in someone’s mind whenever you fucking feel like it.’

Mara clenched her teeth and raised her chin, eyes flashing with wounded rage, ‘But it’s good enough for Amy, yes? For the woman you kidnapped? I stick around for years, but you’ll only share with her?’ Her voice cracked.

Sander stood silent, shoulders squared and teeth bared. His mouth opened, anger forming the words for him, ‘I’m beginning to think that it was for the best.’

He moved, storming out of the room. As he passed her, Mara’s fists clenched and she almost moved to stop him, pausing at the last minute.

‘You’re just like all the others,’ She whispered bitterly, just loud enough for him to hear. ‘You are exactly like him.’

The door closed. Mara’s eyes fell to the floor. She stood motionless.

There was stillness, and then, as if nothing had happened, Mara raised her head and sighed. Her hand rose, with the slightest, well concealed suggestion that it was wiping away tears.

‘How disappointing…’ Mara sighed, a tiny, fragile smile cresting her lips. ‘Ah, well; come here, Amy.’

She slid down next to Amy, golden hair falling around her like a curtain. Her mouth descended, kissing Amy deeply and with desperation-edged verve. The unspoken tension was like electricity between them, conflicting with the growing lust that Lysithea was multiplying.

Amy didn’t know how the infighting between Sander and Mara would affect her, but she doubted it would be good. The moment Sander had left the room that strange warmth she had felt for him had left her, leaving a momentarily gaping hole in her heart. It quickly healed, and she was nominally back to normal, but it was disturbing when it left her. Now that it was gone, she could see how ridiculous it was, but in the moment, she…

In the moment, she had, against all logic, loved him. How weird.

Mara was practically attacking her, mouth hungrily latching onto her flushed, prickling skin like it was her last meal. It was so clear that she was just distracting herself to avoid talking to Sander, how could she possibly be fooling herself with this act?

Still, Amy cried out in ecstasy as Mara’s tongue flicked at her nipple. That Field was still up, inter-group conflict or not. The heat was rising, she would react to Mara’s touch. She would scream, and beg, and do whatever Mara wanted. Nothing changes.

******************

Sander sat with his back to the wall, Theros’ sunlight caressing his bare skin with its warmth. He was glad; it wouldn’t have been good to have to retreat back inside because he had been caught in the cold without pants.

He frowned. Back in his right mind, Sander felt entirely self-conscious about what had happened between himself and Amy. In the moment, there had been no difference in his mind between Amy and Elsa. The two had been the same. Now, with the moment dead and gone, the guilt of even thinking that was overwhelming. Elsa had been his motivation; how could he have muddled that?

But he was back to normal now. Amy was… They were both back to normal now.

But Mara… He shouldn’t have said that to her. He felt bad, but she had tried to enter his mind. You don’t just do that. There were things in there he hadn’t shared for a reason. They were uniquely his, the last remnants of what was precious to him. They were not to be pried apart and analysed for Mara’s amusement.

That was the problem with anger; it never lets you back down, even if you know you should.

Oh, my…’ Sander stiffened as Lysithea’s voice reached into his mind and laughed. ‘It’s a pity that you and Mara are fighting, Sander.

Lysithea?’ Sander projected. ‘I thought you said you weren’t going into my head anymore.

I can see that the both of you care, deep down,’ Lysithea went on without stopping. ‘But neither of you will make the first move? Too bad. If only the two of you had… I don’t know, a way of reading the other’s mind? Would that work, I wonder?’ Sander hadn’t thought that it was possible for a thought to poke him in the chest, but Lysithea was giving it a damn good effort.

I get it…

Somebody has to make the first move, Sander Hackett. Mara won’t. I’m wondering why you haven’t yet?

Alright! Fine, I’m going!’ Sander tried to think exasperated thoughts. He stood, and experimentally flexed his mind along the connection. He could feel Mara and Amy, even from this distance, but they were doing naughty things. He actually couldn’t tell which was which; their thoughts were so similar. Naughty things. He felt his knees go weak and his eyes slide skyward; even out here things felt pretty intense.

‘God damn it…’ He sighed, closing his eyes. He would have to go back in there. It was the only way.

****************

The Doctor lurched to one side as the TARDIS came to a stop. Before Rory could even recover from the same shuddering landing, the Time Lord was already opening the doors and stepping out into a deep pool of shadow beyond.

‘Right!’ The alien snapped. ‘Let’s get this over with.’

‘Right!’ Rory affirmed. ‘Right? What are we doing?’

The Doctor ignored him as he was swallowed up by the shadows. Rory momentarily contemplated just how many bad things happened in the dark before following him; whatever was out there couldn’t possibly be worse than never finding Amy.

‘Viral, I know you’re out here!’ The Doctor yelled. ‘You can’t hide from me. Well, I suppose you could, but I’d just keep yelling at you! I’ve got time, and-‘

‘Don’t get distracted, Doctor,’ Rory followed the sound of the Time Lord’s voice through the swimming blackness, groping his way into the same dim circle of light that the immortal now occupied.

‘Yes, right…’ He nodded. ‘Viral!’ The Doctor squinted, casting his eyes through the inky shadows as though sheer energy would illuminate the way ahead.

‘I am here, Time Lord.’

Rory stiffened as something in that unseen voice raced through his mind and repeatedly pressed his “Primal Terror” button. It was a deep, ageless voice that spoke with tectonic deliberation and sweeping malice. It sidled through the darkness and right into his brain.

‘What the hell is that?’ Rory hissed, hoping fervently that whatever it was, it couldn’t hear him.

‘The Earth-Clan will be silent,’ Something shifted in the shadows, the vague suggestion of an immense, craggy pincer becoming visible for a second. ‘I do not have business with it.’

‘No, but you do have business with me, Viral,’ The Doctor said coldly, eyeing a patch of gloom that Rory assumed was playing host to whatever the hell Viral was.

‘Yes, Gallifreyan,’ Viral rumbled. ‘I do. You want to find the woman with the red hair. I can help you.’

Rory opened his mouth to ask the obvious question, but the Doctor’s cool glare silenced him. When the huge shadowy monster demands silence, it’s best to acquiesce. His hands balled into fists as, once again, he was rendered completely useless while the Doctor found his wife for him.

‘We know she was with a Trine-form recently,’ The Doctor said, addressing a volcanic rumbling from the dark, as though two huge stones were rubbing together. ‘Psychically connected, even. That should be enough for you to go on, right?’

Viral opened its eyes, two circular yellow lights shining brightly in the blackness. With this added illumination, Rory could more clearly see the vast carapace of the monster before him. He didn’t think it was possible, but he stiffened further, Viral’s eldritch gaze swinging momentarily to him, which didn’t help matters.

They were standing on a stone platform hanging over a pool of infinite darkness, in the middle of a cavern. Behind them, the TARDIS sat at the end of a pathway covered thickly in dark, earthy-smelling dirt, seeming altogether too far away.

Viral hung from one curving rock wall, a huge, shifting shell of living stone with multiple pincered legs scuttling constantly across the cavernous surface. Rory was in no doubt that the chaotic form in front of him could crush both himself and the Doctor with negligible effort.

‘It is,’ Viral growled. ‘I can find you the Trine-form. But it will be costly; do you have payment for me, Doctor?’

‘Oh, come on, Viral…’ The Doctor said with a winning smile. ‘We’ve worked together before. You know me-‘

‘I do, Doctor,’ Viral affirmed. ‘Which is why I know to obtain payment in advance.’

The Doctor’s grin turned sheepish and he cast his eyes down to avoid the penetrating spotlight of the abomination’s eyes. Rory fought to stop the horror mounting in his gut from appearing on his face; the Doctor had met this thing before? And he had come back? What kind of business did Viral do, that he was so unavoidable?

He fished in the pocket of his suit, producing a tiny object that glinted in the dim light, ‘A white point star, Viral. The last white point star, in the entire universe. And this one’s got some history; I stole it from the Master, back when we last-‘

‘I remember, Gallifreyan,’ Viral interrupted again. ‘Your tribute has stood witness to important events. This is good, but I require more. I require my standard fee, in addition to this pleasant trinket.’

‘Viral,’ The Doctor began pleadingly.

‘You are betting with no cards in your hand, Doctor,’ Viral cut him off. ‘I will dictate the terms, if you wish to see Amy Pond again.’

Rory almost said something at that, but the Doctor anticipated this and put up a hand to silence him. The expression on his face grew dark, his eyes glinting harshly.

‘You know, one of these days we’re going to have to talk about this whole arrangement you have, Viral,’ The Time Lord growled. ‘You don’t want to be the being standing between me and my friend.’

‘And you don’t want to be the being that threatens me, oh Oncoming Storm,’ Viral hissed. ‘Especially not if you wish to leave here with your other friend, instead of just leaving in pieces… Five years, Doctor. My final offer.’

There was a moment of silence as the Doctor thought, his mind wheeling desperately for an alternative and, to his eternal frustration, finding none. He hated being trapped, but Viral was the only one who could help here; even he didn’t know what it was, only that its unique talents came in handy for situations exactly like this one. If only the price wasn’t always so steep…

He threw the gleaming white diamond onto the ground ahead of him, and said in a flat voice, ‘Fine. I accept. Now tell me where I can find the Trine-form.’

Viral’s heavy head tilted to one side, a deep, fiery noise issuing from it that might have been laughter, ‘Oh, you are going to laugh when you hear this…’

***************

Mara’s fingers slid deeply into Amy. She squealed, quaking against her captor as she tore another orgasm from her tender body. Whatever it was that Mara was thinking, she was really being mean about this.

Amy screamed, the edges of her perception fraying away to nothing as another heated blast of pleasure drove her breath from her lungs and burned into her senses. After countless intense climaxes, each orgasm was like lava in her veins.

Mara’s tongue burned blazing trails down her stomach and over her hips, nuzzling at the graceful, curving flesh. Amy writhed beneath the blonde’s skilled tongue, sinking deeper into the fires of ecstasy. Mara’s teeth captured her aching clit, flicking it with her tongue as fresh juices spilled against her chin. Two fingers joined the oral assault, sliding deeply into Amy’s hot, slick hole. She tumbled over the edge again, screaming out her agonized climax for everyone to hear. Her mind was blasted away by her body’s insistent want.

‘Please, Mara! Stop!’ Amy’s mouth was barely able to form the plea before her throat was hijacked by another weak moan. She could no longer control herself; her hips ground against Mara’s mouth, her thighs doing whatever they could to wrap around her neck. It was hopeless, she was being swept away on a tide of golden light. Even the feeling of Mara’s long hair brushing against her legs was an unbearable pleasure that made her muscles tighten. Amy couldn’t take much more of this…

And yet Mara persisted, burying her rejection under layers of desire and the shared feeling of fulfilment she was getting from Amy. She was silent, rejecting every desperate, shrieking plea from Amy, every one of her probing, unsteady thoughts, keeping the barrier between their minds strong through sheer force of will. Neither of them heard the door open. It took Sander’s hand on Mara’s shoulder before she even recognized that they were no longer alone.

‘What? Oh, it’s you,’ Mara said, hoping desperately that her sadness was fully masked behind steely defiance. ‘What do you want?’ She said sullenly.

Sander shook his head and moved his hand from her shoulder, grabbing her own hand and enveloping it in his. Mara’s eyes widened.

He pulled her off of the bed, pulled her away from an increasingly relieved Amy. He dragged her out of the room, his grip on her wrist allowing no resistance, his face grimly determined and silent in the face of Mara’s questioning.

‘What do you want, Sander?’ She yelled as they made it outside, fingers of sunlight casting their skin in warm orange and deep red. ‘Didn’t you disappoint me enough back there? Wanted to keep proving how much of an ass you are?’

‘Shut up,’ He said quietly, his eyes closed. ‘Just this once, Mara. Let someone else have the last word.’

‘What the fuck are you-‘

‘Mara, I had to rehearse this whole thing before I went in to get you. If you keep interrupting I’ll fuck it up, I’m sure of it,’ Sander didn’t meet her fiery gaze. ‘Just let me do my thing, alright?’

‘Fine. Whatever,’ Mara crossed her arms over her chest defiantly.

‘Nice of you. Appreciate it,’ Sander deadpanned, turning his back on her. He sighed, and opened his eyes for the first time since coming out here. A thrill of anxiety went through him; he hoped that this would work.

He grinned, ‘Oh, no!’ He said flatly. ‘I have turned my back, thus leaving myself open to any person who might be behind me,’ He tried not to laugh as he injected absolutely no dismay into his acting. He could practically feel Mara’s confusion boring into his back. Time to turn it up a notch.

‘With my back turned like this, any woman who happened to be behind me would find it remarkably easy to read my mind, assuming that she had that ability. I would never know!’ It was becoming harder to contain his laughter. Behind him, Mara smiled despite herself.

‘And what am I doing, thinking about the origin of my mysterious scar? What a potential olive branch this would be! It is a pity that Mara-‘

‘Jesus! Shut up, Hackett!’ Mara giggled. ‘I get it!’

She laughed again, and Sander snorted with laughter himself. She reached out to hold his hand as she closed her eyes and reached out to touch his mind. It was all there, on the surface, waiting for her.

Sander’s memory filled up Mara’s mind’s eye, playing out for her as though she was there. Her first reaction was to marvel at how young Sander looked, back in his halcyon days when he ruled Vesperia.

Her heart sank as she realized what day in his life this must be. Somebody was about to die.

As if in fast-forward, the face of the Doctor, two regenerations prior, flitted through Sander’s office. She had seen this footage before; Sander had gone to some trouble to procure it from the ruins of his office so he could relive his greatest defeat over and over. But this was from his perspective; she could feel his panic as everything failed and the people took back control of the planet. In one stroke of that sonic screwdriver, the Doctor had torn Sander’s life apart.

Like any memory, this one was patchy, and skipped around. Sander squeezed her hand tighter as the next segment started. Mara could feel his cold, terrible emptiness open back up like a mortal wound. She remembered him talking about this moment, just once; quietly, and only after he had been drinking.

It was the worst kind of tragedy; Sander had discovered his wife’s body through the opportunistic lens of a news camera, trained on the open rioting that had preceded his fall. Mara could feel his eyes opening wide as though they were her own, could feel the prickling, helpless tears that fell. She could feel the muscles in his face shifting in abject despair, feel his hands shaking. Worst of all, she could feel his soul being scooped out, piece by piece, as the cold mechanical camera zoomed in on Elsa’s bloodied body.

The rage came and threatened to overwhelm him, but Sander was smarter than to allow that, even in his darkest hour. He forced himself to remain cool, putting aside everything dark that welled up inside him and leaving only his intellect. She could feel him running to his private shuttle.

Only when he was safely off the ground did he let his grief engulf him. He bowed his head low, eyes staring emptily at the control panel, hands limp by his sides. The memory skipped forward again; Mara got the feeling that Sander didn’t do much during this period.

A warning klaxon sounded. Sander barely had time to move. His screens showed that an anti-air missile had been hacked; his shuttle was the target. Someone on the ground didn’t want him escaping. Mara could feel his resolve building, spreading through him, strong as steel. He would survive.

The shuttle bucked, with the sound of screeching metal bubbling under the explosion. The hull shattered inwards, sparks and white hot shards of metal spinning into the cockpit. There was the horrifying organic thud of shrapnel hitting flesh.

Sander screamed in a loud, raw voice as the molten metal sheared through the skin, flesh and bone of his shoulder. In the present, Mara had to stop herself doing the same; she could feel the pain deep down in her bones, so real and so present and so all consuming… She lowered her head, breathing hard.

Sander’s forehead slammed against the cold metal control panel as he blacked out, just for a moment. Blood, hot and sticky, dripped down his neck to slicken the floor. His eyes flicked open, vision strobing on and off, so dark.

‘Oh, fuck this…’ He wheezed through the pain, struggling to his feet. Every movement was a monumental effort; his analytical mind catalogued the damage. Severe burns, shrapnel embedded in the bone of his shoulder blade, deep lacerations, clothes melted and fused to the wound, blood loss worsening by the second…

Not good.

The shuttle had crashed while he had been unconscious; the fact that he had survived at all was a miracle. Leaning heavily against the wall, oozing a crimson streak against it as he moved, Sander struggled along to the aft. Sunlight streamed through the hole in the hull, and by yet another miracle the medical kit had remained intact. Sander struggled with his shaking hands to open it.

The memory skipped again, stopping off to detail the fresh rush of agony as Sander pressed the nozzle of a can of antiseptic gel against his wound and pulled the trigger. The gel would harden upon contact with the air; stopping the bleeding and staving off infection. A good start, but no less unpleasant because of it.

A shadow passed over the light spilling into the cockpit. Sander’s eyelids drooped into his usual irritated scowl. He turned, slowly, to eye the gun being waved in his face. There were no words exchanged between the two of them, the former dictator and his attacker. What would be the point? Everyone on Vesperia wanted Sander Hackett dead; if this man did it here, anonymously, who would care?

And at that moment, Sander wanted everyone on Vesperia dead. His wrath flooded through him, and his blood boiled with it. Sander welcomed the beast into his heart with open arms.

It only took a moment. Even in his memory, Sander’s disbelief at what he had done flowed through the scene like subtext. He leaped, howling wordlessly. In his third miracle of the day, the gun didn’t go off. Sander bore his former subject to the cold steel floor of his ruined shuttle and slammed his head against a nearby bulkhead until he stopped moving. Sander’s eyes were cold and empty.

With a rush, Mara pulled herself out of Sander’s past with a sob, stumbling away from him. He stood, silhouetted motionless in the sunset, not daring to look at her.

‘So that’s where I got my scar,’ He said quietly. ‘It goes on like that for three days or so, but you get the idea.’

‘My god…’ Mara breathed. A moment of silent stillness seemed to stretch on like an eternity between them before Mara regained her senses and rushed over to him. She grabbed his arm and pulled him to her, his arms limp and unresisting at his sides. She hugged him tightly to her.

‘I’m sorry. I didn’t know,’ She sobbed, burying her face in his chest.

‘How could you know?’ Sander said in a hollow voice. ‘I never told you.’

‘And then you did,’ She said. ‘Why?’

‘Because that’s me,’ He said. ‘That’s who I am. Besides, somebody needed to take the first step.’

She looked up at him, saw him smiling back at her with haunted, liquid eyes. She tried to summon the energy to grin at him, the way she always did, but she couldn’t. So she laid her head against the bare skin of his chest, and sighed.

‘All right. You’ve made your point,’ She said softly. ‘Come inside and see my damage, then.’

‘What?’

‘I’ve seen your past. Now it’s your turn. It’s a grand fuckin’ trust exercise, right?’

‘You’re sure?’ He asked softly.

‘Yes, damn it! Don’t give me the time to actually think about it!’

His hands took their position at the small of her back, drawing her closer to him. He closed his eyes and lowered his head so that it rested in the soft hair on top of Mara’s head. He reached out with his mind.

Like before, it was hard to perceive the interior of Mara’s brain. Every thought existed with such intensity that it was like looking into the sun. He had gone deeper than before, but it hadn’t gotten any easier for Sander.

The gold light that represented her thoughts spiralled up into the darkness, spilling motes of light into the air beyond. If he pressed, Sander found he could open a hole through into the eye of the storm. Something inside turned, something dark and vaguely humanoid. He could feel her sadness and anger draped heavily over it, but it was impossible to see clearly. Who was he?

Sander blinked, pulling out. In rapid internal monologue, he questioned whether it would be appropriate to ask Mara about what he had seen. How would she take it? Would she get angry? Now wasn’t the time to risk anything and screw up, so-

Just ask her about him!’ Lysithea’s voice drilled into his consciousness, exasperated beyond belief. ‘Good lord, I’ve never had to work this hard to get two people who cared this much together!

Sander shook his head, ‘Who was he?’ He asked gently, running a finger down Mara’s spine. She shivered and wiggled against him.

‘Him? Walker Ichihara. He’s… my ex, I guess,’ Mara sighed, shifting uncomfortably. ‘I don’t often talk about him.’

‘You don’t have to, you know.’

‘No, no, I invited you in. I’ll spill,’ She said delicately. ‘Walker and I… we were together for a long time. He’s like me, Y’know? All sort of weird and twisted up inside. We used to do all sorts of crazy stuff together.’

Sander looked away, ‘Yeah, you don’t need to tell me about that…’

‘True,’ Mara smiled. ‘The point is, it didn’t work out. Walker was crazier than I knew.’ Her eyes grew dark, and she glanced sidelong out at the ocean, ‘Turns out, Walker Ichihara was a highly prolific serial killer.’

‘What?! You’re kidding!’ Sander said, taken aback.

‘I wish, Sander. I really do, because at the time I had no fucking idea, and he was doing it in, like, the next room over from me.’

‘That’s not… good,’ Sander finished lamely, squeezing Mara’s hand in what he hoped was a supportive manner.

‘That’s one way of putting it,’ Mara eyed him. ‘We had been living together for a while, but the place was registered in my name. When the law finally caught up with him… He skipped the planet, leaving all his evidence in an apartment that doesn’t have his name on the lease.’

‘Oh.’

‘I ended up running. I had to. I wasn’t exactly clean myself, although nothing as bad as Walker,’ Mara said ruefully. ‘That’s how I ended up on Myriad when you were first there. It was pretty bad, trying to find my way in that place.’

‘Did you love him?’ Sander asked, almost afraid of what the answer could be.

‘Yes,’ Mara sighed. ‘Once. I was stupid like that, once upon a time.’

Sander frowned. It wasn’t so often that he found himself in moments like this. He didn’t really know how to react, but with the wave of affection that swept through him, it didn’t really matter. His hands slid up her back to encircle her shoulders, drawing her in as close as possible.

‘Look at us,’ He laughed, kissing the top of her head. ‘Damaged goods. It’s dangerous, the two of us being together.’

Mara grunted, ‘Yeah, we wouldn’t want to spur each other into doing something illegal…’ She smiled pointedly.

‘Ha. Yeah, that’d be bad, huh?’

‘Mm… ‘ Mara pressed herself against him, the heat of her body so wonderful. She turned in his arms, so that the soft curve of her back pushed against his chest.

‘And you say we wouldn’t be good together…’ Sander chided, circling a finger around her navel. She giggled softly in return.

‘You’re looking better every day, Hackett…’

Sander chuckled, rocking gently from side to side. The two of them swayed, the moment of serenity seeming to stretch out for eternity. Beyond them, the perfect mirror ocean spread out like a silver plain, reflecting the roiling clouds above. Their breathing slowed as they stayed in the silent peace, merely enjoying the other’s presence.

Sander’s finger continued to trace the edge of Mara’s belly button, the soft skin quivering at his touch. Absently, almost without thinking, Mara reached up, gently took hold of Sander’s wrist. She guided his hand down, sliding over her stomach and between her legs. At her urging, his finger slid inside her, drawing a tiny moan from Mara’s throat.

For mere moments, Sander’s finger moved inside her, making Mara shudder with pleasure. Slowly though, Sander’s eyes opened, and he furrowed his brow. He pulled out of her, raising his arms to hug her across her collarbone.

‘Sander?’ Mara glanced over her shoulder at him, her voice carrying a hint of disappointment. He sighed.

‘You still aren’t ready. I get that,’ He said, smiling wistfully. ‘Ruining a moment like that with your naughty bits… Your heart isn’t in this to win it yet. I’ll wait, though. If today’s proven anything, it’s that you’re worth waiting for. Maybe when this is all over-‘ He froze with a sudden intake of breath. In his arms, Mara’s eyes widened.

The question hung in the air between them like the poised blade of a guillotine. “When this is all over.” When would this be over? And how would it end? There were only two ways…

‘Sorry…’ Sander breathed in Mara’s ear.

Mara spoke slowly, carefully, as though each word needed to be forcibly pulled into being, ‘I think… I think that when we kidnapped Amy we crossed a line that neither of us realized was there. I don’t know about you, but I-‘

‘I know about me. I like her too,’ Sander mused, his voice troubled. ‘But it’s a little odd that you do; you’re not exactly the type of person who likes other people to begin with, and some of the things you do with her-‘

‘Hey! You were there too, Hackett,’ Mara grinned. ‘Just because I get a little rough with someone doesn’t mean I don’t like ‘em. I mean, she always got off in the end, eh?’

‘Hmm,’ Sander sighed absently. ‘What the fuck do we do with her?’

‘That’s up to you, boss,’ Mara said gently. ‘It’s always been up to you.’

Sander stood silent for a long time, clinging to Mara as though she were a life preserver. When the words finally did come, they carried the note of unbendable resolve.

‘I don’t know how this is all going to play out. We may both be dead when it’s all said and done. Or Amy might. Or the Doctor. But it’s going to cost someone dearly, that’s a certainty. This is a high stakes game we’re all playing, whether we knew it when we started or not,’ Sander lowered his head and sighed. ‘But I don’t regret any of it. Not a second. Everything I’ve done… This is my life now. I have nothing else but my revenge…’ He trailed off. Mara’s hand had slipped into his own.

‘Untrue,’ She whispered, just on the edge of his hearing. Silence descended.

‘Thank you,’ Sander said thickly, bending low to kiss Mara’s cheek. This moment; both would have been content with staying like this for a while longer, but…

‘Isn’t this a touching scene?’ Lysithea’s smiling face poked out through the doorframe. ‘I’m glad it worked out alright for the two of you, but your time is up. Do you feel you used it wisely? Did we learn something today?’

‘Do I detect a patronizing tone there, alien?’ Mara said archly. She stepped out of Sander’s embrace, but her hand never left his. ‘Aren’t we paying you?’

Lysithea nodded, ‘Yes. For the psychic linkup and use of the Amplification Field. The patronizing is a gift from me to you.’

‘Well all right then,’ Sander grinned. ‘We’ll get out of your hair. Mara, why don’t you go untie Amy? I think it’s time to get off of this rock, anyway.’

Mara searched Sander’s eyes with a smile, the sunlight spinning off of him making him seem luminous and alive with energy.

‘Alright, boss,’ She said, walking away. ‘Homecoming, huh? Vacation’s done? All fuckin’ right. We have some serious work to do anyway, right, Sander?’

‘Oh yes. There’s much to accomplish,’ He smiled brightly, with his entire body. ‘Much to do…’

An idea occurred. Sander snapped his fingers, ‘Hey, Mara! We should track down this Walker asshole so you can deck him! Sound good?’

‘Fuck yeah!’

To be continued…