Deanna hurried toward the captain's ready room. Nekal brought back too many feelings she thought had been dealt with after Nevek's death. Somehow she believed, irrational as it might be, she might have prevented it. She shouldn't have blurted out the duplicity she had sensed in the traders who were to transport the "cargo," but found a way to delay until she could speak to Nevek privately. Although Nekal looked only superficially like Nevek, his reactions reminded her of the Romulan sub-lieutenant. Deanna shook her head, trying to sort out what she would tell the Captain as she arrived on the bridge.
"Come." He was seated behind his desk, reading something on his personal terminal.
"Sir, I have a preliminary report to make." He looked at her expectantly. "I spoke to Commander Nekal in Sick Bay. I could sense nothing that suggests he lied about his defection to the Federation."
"Good. Were you able to find out if he has any psionic abilities?"
"I believe he does, sir. While we spoke, I felt someone probing my own shields. Since I know of no other telepath nearby, I can only speculate he does indeed have similar capabilities as the Vulcans."
"Thank you. I realize this is difficult for you and appreciate your efforts. You need not contact him again unless there is some problem."
"I can't do that, sir. I promised him I would be available if he needed me."
"Do you think he will avail himself of your services?"
"I don't know. I also got the impression he is greatly disturbed, but what the cause may be, I have no idea." She wondered if the young woman from the Farnaz might not be the cause, but that was only a guess.
"Very well, keep me posted if anything changes." He turned back to his terminal, adding absently. "Oh, yes Counselor, Captain Madison has authorized his junior medical officer to transfer aboard the Enterprise immediately. If possible, could you and Dr. Crusher could meet her at the transporter room one in fifteen minutes."
"Yes, sir. I have no one else scheduled this afternoon. I'll let you know what she has to say."
"Thank you. Until later, Counselor." He looked up, giving her a thoughtful look as she left.
Nekal and Beverly met her in the passageway just outside the transporter room. Intense joy and longing seemed to burst from the Romulan, making Deanna grin.
"Counselor." He motioned for her to precede him.
"I take it you're looking forward to seeing Lt. Macahan again?" Deanna whispered to him, but lost his response when Beverly nudged her to be quiet as the pad lit up and shimmered.
A pale young woman in Science blue and carrying a shoulder bag, materialized. Before she could descend, she collapsed on the pad. All three officers hurried to her side, Nekal reaching her first. The doctor ran the tricorder over the unconscious form, then touched her comlink.
"Medical, send an emergency team and stretcher to transporter room one, stat!" She frowned at the readings.
"Is she ill?" Nekal asked, a look of fear passing over his face. Deanna sensed he had not known of Lt. Macahan's condition. Perhaps he wasn't a telepath.
"I don't know, Commander, but I'm getting some very odd readings on this tricorder."
"She has not taken care of herself for some time, I fear. I am not certain of the time prior to my arrival. But I know for the last two weeks she has not eaten or slept well." He reached out to brush away a lock of hair from Elise's face. A gesture, Deanna realized, both infinitely tender and intimate. So, that was how the wind blew!
The medical team rushed in and shortly they were on their way toward Sick Bay. Deanna tried persuading Nekal he would be best leaving Dr. Crusher to work alone.
"No! I must be with her when she awakens." His eyes flared with anger at her suggestion.
"Dr. Crusher will notify you when she regains consciousness." When he began to protest, she took another direction. "Besides, you'll only be under foot. I know somewhere we can go near Sick Bay." At his resistance, she said, "I promise you. I will ask Dr. Crusher to call if there is any sign Elise is coming to."
He stared intently at her for a few moments, as if weighing her words. Reluctantly, she allowed her shields to open. Beyond the background "noise" of the crew, Deanna felt a powerful presence reaching out to find the truth within her. She gasped at the contact, as light as it was, then felt it retreat.
"Very well. Forgive me for doubting you. Take me to this place." He seemed resigned now.
In the company of the guards, Deanna led him a few doors from Sick Bay to a room usually reserved for personnel waiting for patients.
Elise groaned, her head feeling it would burst at the slightest noise. She remembered transporting from the Farnaz, seeing Nekal, two women officers, and the ubiquitous security guards, but things got fuzzy from there. At the quiet sound, Dr. Crusher went to her side.
"Hello. How are you feeling?" She smiled down at her patient.
"All right, I suppose. What happened?" Turning her head, Elise tried to look for Nekal, but the movement made her head pound worse. She winced involuntarily.
"Headache?" A tricorder pointed at her head.
"Yes, the worst I've ever had." Wouldn't they let him see her?
"Seems you've pushed yourself too hard. You're anemic, dehydrated and somewhat malnourished." Dr. Crusher listed the problems without losing her smile.
"Are you going to keep me here?" She wanted to find Nekal.
"Just until we get your vital signs stable. I'm surprised you were able to make it to the Farnaz's transporter room. Commander Nekal told me you haven't taken very good care of yourself lately."
Elise burst into tears, despising the weakness she felt. Suddenly, he touched her, as if her release had reached out to him.
**Beloved, I am here. I will soon be with you in body as well as mind.**
*Come to me, I need you.*
He was near, she could feel it, but she wanted more. She wanted to feel him next to her, his comforting presence beside her in every way.
Beverly observed her cessation of weeping and abrupt internal concentration. She had seen enough bonded Vulcans to recognize the signs of a link. Nekal? Elise had told her she had a Vulcanoid ancestor, but how had a Romulan commander and a Starfleet junior medical officer gotten together? Usually such a tie was established early in life, between two with strongly similar antecedents. Elise displayed no external signs of her mixed background. She bled dark red blood, had rounded ears and curved, human eyebrows. Only by laboratory testing had the distinctive T-negative blood type and ribosomes common to Romulans, Vulcans and Klingons shown up. The doctor shook her head, touched her comlink and notified Nekal that Elise was awake. He sounded unsurprised, his reaction confirming her suspicion of telepathic bonding.
Within moments, Nekal stood beside Elise's biobed, holding her hand. Deanna joined the doctor, pulling her aside so they wouldn't be overheard.
"Beverly, I believe they're bonded." The Counselor whispered, forgetting the Romulan's acute hearing.
"I know. Shortly after she awoke, she was crying. She stopped abruptly, as if someone had spoken soothing words to her, and her face..." Beverly frowned. "But I have no idea how it could have happened."
"I don't know either, but I would venture to say it's part of that business on the Farnaz." Deanna glanced over at the couple, remembering another kind of bonding, one that had never completely been severed.
As if her thoughts conjured him up, Will Riker entered Sick Bay. He made directly for Beverly and Deanna, glancing briefly at Nekal and Elise.
"What's the situation, Doctor?" He also spoke *sotto voce*, as if he sensed the other two needed to be left alone.
"Well, besides acute exhaustion, dehydration and mild malnourishment, she's fine." A wry grin flitted across her face. "At least, physically. Emotionally, I'd say she's pretty torn up." She turned to Deanna. "What do you think?"
"I'm afraid I have to agree with you. Something or someone has put Lt. Macahan through a terrible ordeal." Deanna saw Will glower at Nekal and put a hand on his arm. "Will, he's not the problem. If anything, he's held her together up to now."
"What do you mean?" He turned back to her.
*Remember, Imzahdi? How much we depended on each other for support. They are bonded also, but more as the Vulcans are tied, than our link.*
"Oh," was all he had to say, his brow clearing. Then he thought of something else. "Doctor, when will she be able to answer some questions?"
"It'll probably take a few days at least before she's in any condition to do more than rest. She doesn't need any physical or emotional strain right now."
"What do I tell the Captain?"
"Tell him, three days minimum."
"Very well, but in the meantime, I'd like to talk to Nekal."
"I'll be done with his exams today. As far as I can tell he's in good health. I'm hoping Lt. Macahan can give me some background on what happened while he was on the Farnaz."
"If you find out anything, let me know. The Captain has an interest in the situation on that ship. They're due to leave tomorrow, so the sooner the better."
"I'll do my best, Commander."
Will nodded, leaving Sick Bay to report to Captain Picard what he had found.