*Elise ran toward him through a dense and pungent atmosphere. Steamy vapors pulled at her flying hair, molding the tunic to her body. Two red suns shone down on the rocky alien terrain. The man's figure grew nearer. She approached and he reached out to her. Some mystical allure called her to him, as always.
She stood before him, her breathing harsh, the blood surging in her ears. Her eyes devoured his features. Fine black hair fell straight across his forehead. His dark eyes beneath wickedly slanted brows peered into her soul and spoke of sorrows and longings she tried to place behind her. She reached up and touched the soft points of his ears to see if they were real.
Her mind told her she dreamed again, yet she hungered for it to become reality. Aware of him in her subconscious, she understood his origins. His race descended from Vulcan, but he did not come from that planet of suppressed emotions. The raw passion behind this man would be unacceptable to his distant cousins. Romulus called him son; his world and people, declared enemies of the Federation. He should be her enemy.
He took her in his arms again, his lips seeking hers. Every fiber of her being yearned for him, sought to mold itself to the fire emanating from him. His voice echoed in her mind.
//So cool. Let me quench my thirst. Let me plunge into your depths, beloved one.//*
Elise sat bolt upright, her skin shining with perspiration, heart drumming. God, what a dream! She still tingled as though he had actually touched her. She hadn't read or watched any fiery romances lately. Where did these weird, erotic visions come from? They might be short, but she awoke tormented and puzzled.
Over the last week she had repeatedly dreamed this fantasy. Ever since orbiting Timor, whenever she slept, she saw the same intense vision. She even found herself daydreaming about it. Throughout her life the same landscape and man had come to her, but never so often and never so sensual in context.
Maybe her dreams had increased because of the close proximity to the Neutral Zone. She remembered learning from Dr. Kushari on Alpha Centauri VI about the world she saw at night. Then and now, she wondered why she kept fantasizing about someone from such a hostile culture.
"Lights." She couldn't go back to sleep. She felt wound up tightly, like an ancient, brittle clock spring. Rather than toss and turn, she could put her time to better use in finishing the monthly report and getting ready for tomorrow's expedition to the planet's surface.
Elise groaned when she looked at the chronometer...0300. Boy, she would be in great shape today. Three hours of sleep. She took another sonic shower before getting dressed, feeling the need for cleansing.
Elise found sick bay in an uproar. Medical personnel in decon gear scurried around, cleaning and scrubbing the table and equipment where a patient had lain. The decontamination chamber's lights blinked. Dr. Mosier must have ordered whoever had been injured into isolation. He ignored Elise, scowling at the patient's readings. She stopped Phyllis, one of the nurses.
"What happened? Why didn't you wake me?" The poor woman didn't get to say a word before Hillary waltzed over to her, a smug expression on her face.
"Nothing you needed to get up for. Just a Romulan whose plasma drive blew up and exposed him to radiation. That's all. And you wanted excitement? Here it is. In the flesh." She gestured to the decon cubicle, then sashayed back to Dr. Mosier's side with a smirk for Elise's rigid face.
"Oh, that hussy! Someday..." Elise murmured under her breath. Those two seemed attached at the hip. Mosier moved away from the chamber and spoke loudly.
"All right everybody. The excitement's over for now. Macahan you've got the duty. Johnson, Sorev and Dominguez are your assistants. The rest of you can return to your quarters until 0800. That's five hours, people. Get some rest." He turned away, catching Elise's stunned expression.
"What are you looking at Macahan? Get busy. This guy's got another forty-five minutes in the chamber before you can start working on cleaning him up. Get surgery set up in case he needs something sewn up inside."
"Yes, sir." He trusted her to work on the patient? Why hadn't he taken care of him personally? Hadn't he even run him through the mediscanner to check for internal injuries? *What shoddy workmanship,* she fumed.
Under lowered brows, she watched Hillary and her boss leave together after the rest of Medical cleared. Someday his attitude would get him in trouble. She braced herself for the work ahead, then turned to Johnson and Dominguez, her operating room nurses.
"Set up diagnostic table two, it's closest to the chamber. Calibrate for a meld of Vulcan and Klingon physiology."
Elise kept updated on new discoveries with a near religious avidity. Compliments of the Enterprise's Dr. Crusher, within the last three years Starfleet had discovered elements of Romulan physiology, an odd combination of the two disparate races' ribosomal patterns.
While the two men prepared the room, Elise had a few moments left before they moved the patient. Curiosity got the better of her. After all, she joined Starfleet to work with alien beings. She scanned Dr. Mosier's notes and listened in as Dominguez told Johnson how the Romulan had arrived.
Asylum. Maybe things had begun to change in the Empire. Rumors had it an underground movement surfaced to cease the hostilities between the Federation and Romulan peoples. Perhaps they could finally understand more about these formidable, and somewhat mysterious foes. From her standpoint, simply having him here to learn further about their anatomy and physiology made any risk worthwhile.
She moved next to the chamber's viewing window, her eyes drawn to the wounded man's profile. Blackened by smoke, bruised, cut, and unconscious he didn't appear dangerous. Still, the security team hovered outside. Because of his injuries and the angle of his head, Elise had difficulty seeing his features. As if her scrutiny had called him, he turned his head, opening his eyes.
You are here. At last I can look upon you in person. I only wish the circumstances could have been better. I would enjoy your touch. The words echoed in her mind. His lips had not moved.
Startled, she recoiled as if struck a blow to her solar plexus. The man in her dreams lay just beyond the metal and plastiglass enclosure. Returning to the viewing window, she watched his eyes close, a half-smile on his lips. Good grief, had she gone mad? How had he done that? She knew Vulcans could contact those they mind-melded with, but they knew so little about Romulan capabilities. Besides, she'd never laid eyes on him. Well, at least they'd never touched before.
"Doc, time's up. We're going to unseal the chamber and move him." Dominguez looked at her questioningly. He called her three times and finally tapped her shoulder before Elise reacted. How long had she been standing there, watching him?
"All right. Let's get him cleaned up after we get him on the table." She helped the team transfer the patient smoothly, placing the diagnostic monitor over his body. Elise looked at the readings and tried to put the strange episode out of her mind the best she could. Doctor mode, she reminded herself. Get objective.
She ran the tricorder over him and found bruises and scrapes over the left side of his body, but no major internal damage. Greenish blood oozed from cuts on his left forearm and brow and a darkening of skin pointed to first degree burns on his face and hands. While glad to find no major trauma so far, she felt frustrated at the lack of data on Romulan biology. What might be normal for a Vulcan could be all off for a Romulan. She sighed, pushing her unruly hair out of her eyes. Desperately, she wished Dr. Crusher were available to answer her questions.
"Well, Macahan, how's our patient doing?" Dr. Mosier appeared at her elbow, startling her.
She told him of the findings, but he didn't seem impressed. Why couldn't this have happened near someone who knew more about Romulans?
"Very well. Keep an eye on that blood count, Macahan. Get him patched up so the Captain can talk to him." He eyed her speculatively as her attention seemed fixed on the man laying before her. "You can handle this, can't you?"
"Aye, sir." She flushed, embarrassed and angered he had caught her gawking at the patient.
"Good. I'll see you in a few hours then. Call me if anything untoward happens."
Elise barely noticed he'd left. While Dominguez and Johnson removed the scorched, torn uniform, she gently washed his burned face. She could have ordered Sorev to do it, but she wanted to study him closer. Yes, those were the same black brows from her dreams, the same tantalizing lips. Long, thick, dark eyelashes curved above high cheekbones. She watched his quick pulse throbbing at the base of his neck, the steady rise and fall of his chest.
Why was he unconscious again? The monitor showed no concussion, which surprised her. Dominguez said the explosion threw him around just before transporting. Perhaps he put himself into a healing trance similar to the Vulcan technique. Irrationally, she wished her crew would leave -- that he would wake up again and tell her why he'd invaded her sleep over the last week. Who was he and why did she feel like this?
She forced herself to concentrate on her work. Automatically, she closed his lacerations, sped contusions along in their healing and finished all she could do. Her bleary eyes picked out 0500 glaring out from the chronometer's display. The others left an hour ago to sit in the office area. She assured them she didn't mind staying with him.
Although there were bioalarms on the beds in case of critical vital sign changes, Elise felt having someone present with a patient was important. Another glance at the chronometer showed the time to be 0510. A jaw-popping yawn hit her; a reminder that she hadn't slept much the past week. Her eyes slid to him, fatigue making them feel as if she'd been in a Martian sandstorm.
*Yeah, and you are partly responsible for that, my man.* Her exhaustion whispered she could sleep forever. She would just rest her eyes a moment.
*Warmth. Where was she? Ah, there. Safe here.* No one would hurt her. Seductive whispers. *Come. Join me. This bond is sound. Even as you were born, you belonged to me. Do not be afraid. I could never do you harm.*
Her eyes flew open. Slumped over the edge of the biobed, her head lay touching the Romulan's arm. Dazed and half-asleep, she wished she knew his name.
"I am Nekal, Elise. I have been looking for you." Warmth and compassion seemed to flow from him as he met her eyes. His voice and gaze swept over her, rich and dark with promise.
Here lay a dangerous man. Just like Ramon. She knew he would hurt her like all the rest. She sat up, putting on her best "doctor" facade.
Despite the outward quietness of his face, amusement lurked for a moment in his eyes. Elise straightened at the look.
"Well, how are you feeling, Nekal? I suppose I should ask your rank?"
"To your first question, I have been better." His eyes closed, pain flitting across his face. She brought the tricorder up to see if he needed medication, but he shook his head.
"For the second, rank no longer holds any meaning for me. I have stolen an allied Musiiqw ship and fled my homeland. I could no longer tolerate the war-mongering, hate-filled ruling class of Romulus." He smiled at her serious expression. "But it was not all that drew me here."
Her face flamed at memories of her dreams -- her tongue suddenly glued to the roof of her mouth. She cleared her throat, making an attempt to stay professional.
"Perhaps I should let the Captain and Dr. Mosier know you're awake..." Her voice trailed off as Nekal took her hand.
"No games between us, my dear. I have had enough of those to last me ten life times. When things have settled, I will tell what I know of this thing between us." The heated power in his fingers seemed beyond any Elise had ever felt before. Her entire body seemed to vibrate at the touch.
"Please. This is enough to make me wonder if I've lost my mind." What little I have, according to Dr. Mosier.
"The older medical officer does not appreciate your talents. Do not let him belittle you."
"Did you read my mind, or what?"
"We are linked. Have you not felt this? Even before you began to remember dreams, I knew of you, followed your path, experienced your joys and sorrows." At her startled look, he gently squeezed her hand and smiled.
"Yes, I know of your pain. The young man did not know what he threw away. I will not be so foolish." He touched her mind, evoking images of their bodies entwined in passionate mating. *And I will bring you greater pleasure.*
He allowed her to pull her hand away and rise. Elise's cheeks burned. She could not look at him. This situation seemed to border on insanity. A stranger, an alien, he shouldn't know what happened in her life, how she felt. There must be an explanation, but what could it be? Some strange bond had tied them together, a human and a Romulan.
He said he had known her from her birth. Her mind whirled with thousands of questions. She had no explanation for what she experienced. More important, how would she ever account for this to anyone else if they found out?