Nekal knew the captain still did not trust him. Though allowed access to most of the ship without an escort, he sensed he watched most of the time. Ruefully, he admitted to himself he would have felt the same. Soon the Farnaz would depart Timor for Starbase Twelve where he would be questioned further then transferred to another ship bound for Vulcan. Desperation tinged his voice as he spoke to Elise.
"We must take each hour given. No one knows the future. Do not deprive us of this now because you fear forthcoming loneliness." He raised his hand to touch her wet cheek. "Tonight is ours. Only the Creator knows how many we will have. Enjoy what he has given us."
Elise's eyes closed and her face tilted toward his, seeking his touch. He saw images swirl behind her eyelids and felt the tongues of flame lick at her body wherever he touched her. Her excitement fed his own until the pleasure was nearly unbearable. She seemed hardly even aware when he picked her up, carrying her to the bed. Protesting when he broke the embrace, she opened her eyes again as he unsealed her tunic.
"So lovely." Through her eyes he saw his own, like twin green infernos, blaze with his desire as he moved the cloth aside. No one, even Ramon, ever looked at me like he does.
Nekal sensed her fever pitch arousal, the wanting to see and feel the flesh she had gazed upon from afar for so many years. With joy he gave her what she desired and needed. Slowly he disrobed, tantalizing her until she reached up to pull away his tunic. Her eyes drank in the smooth-muscled body before her. A scar here and there suggested his had been a life full of physical dangers. He caught Elise's thought that she had never seen anything so beautiful in her life. Her wonder stunned him, for he felt the same about her.
He came to her then, completely melding his flesh and thoughts with hers. Where did one end and the other begin? Elise caressed skin so hot she would have worried about fever in a human. She marveled at his soft, fine hair as she reached up to caress his face and neck. Her hands reveled in the sensation of rippling, corded muscles flexing beneath them as he loved her. Lips as soft and warm as sun-kissed velvet pressed hers, inviting deeper exploration.
*Incredible. More than I ever expected. I will always be yours and you are mine until the universe is no longer.*
**I've always been alone. Now I know I'll never feel that way again. No matter what happens we are a part of each other.**
Then rational thought was no longer possible as passion overwhelmed intellect. The red-hot volcanic fire that burned for two hours in Elise's chamber would smoulder long after the encounter.
Elise found herself distracted at the most inconvenient times. She kept remembering things like the heat of his body above and within hers, the pulse of his lovemaking, the incredibly seductive experience of sharing as her own, another's sexual climax. Concentration on mundane tasks became very difficult.
The ship left Timor two days later, bound for the Starbase. Nekal came to Elise each night during the trip... talking... sharing... giving of body and mind. She began to rely heavily on him. His wonderful hands massaged away her physical aches, while his mind soothed her psychic wounds.
Both lived in a sensual haze for the remaining time they had together. If she had been thinking straight she would have noticed the speculative looks directed at her by the Medical staff. However, Elise's deep absorption in the Romulan made her fail to realize what was going on around her. She didn't want to even contemplate what life would be like when he left.
For leave he must, and she would remain, alone and lonelier than ever before. No matter the link was firmly in place, she wanted him, physically, not just the tenuous mental thread between them. The last night was difficult for both. Elise had traded duty again, working back to back shifts to have the night free. She looked and felt exhausted.
"Are you sure you want me to stay?" Concern at her worn appearance pierced him. He wished he could take her with him. He had wanted Elise for so many years it seemed impossible he could find her. Somehow fortune had been on his side when he fled the Empire and found her. Was it only to lose her again?
"Yes! We'll reach Starbase Twelve about 1000 tomorrow." Elise clung to him. What was she going to do without him? Even burying herself in work wouldn't help. "Love me. Give me more memories to carry me through."
Holding her tightly, Nekal flooded Elise with his every thought, wish, need and emotion. At last she knew he felt as she did... bleak and desolate to be forced to part. He gave her recollections of his great-uncle and she showed him pictures of her great-grandmother. Somehow it didn't seem so strange now that Janet Macahan had fallen in love with Torsal. If he were anything like you my love, she had to want him.
Framing her face in his hands, Nekal placed teasing kisses over her eyes, nose and finally her mouth. In their haste to feel each other's skin, they haphazardly discarded their clothes. The fear of losing each other drove them to love at a feverish pitch. Soon they moved in the timeless, universal dance of passion shared by many others of their races.
In the gentle afterglow, they spoke quietly as they lay in one another's arms. A sense of unreality pervaded their world. All that existed was the here-and-now... no past... no future. Until, drifting into sleep, a disturbing thought occurred to Elise. Reminded upon reporting her contraceptive implant replacement was due, she had shrugged it off, then completely forgotten about it. She hadn't planned on beginning a relationship. That had been six months ago.
Elise lay quietly beside her lover, torn between fear and joy at the possibility she might be carrying Nekal's child. Sleep became the last thing on her mind.
Within hours of reaching Starbase Twelve, Nekal was escorted to the Captain's ready room. He fought his concern at the action, determined to appear calm before the man. Still, he could not help the icy talons of fear that gripped his gut as he approached a seated, glowering Captain Madison at his desk.
"You wished to see me, Captain?" Despite civilian clothes, years of military discipline held Nekal at attention before the other man.
"Some disturbing information has reached my ears, Nekal. There have been accusations of attempts to subvert a crew member." Madison glared at the Romulan.
Opening himself, Nekal listened to the thoughts of the man before him. Trouble... that's all this guy is. I wish I hadn't bothered having him transported, had just let him go up with the ship. Alarm shot through the Romulan.
"I do not know where this information has come from, but believe me, Captain. I have done nothing of the kind." He instinctively knew someone had put the relationship between Elise and himself in the worst possible light.
"That's why I called you here. I want to know your side of the story. Tell me what possible interest my junior medical officer might have for you." Captain Madison demanded tersely. "Everything Ensign Hilary Fielding told me smacks of either espionage, treachery or a desire for revenge. I wouldn't have believed her wild tale if Dr. Mosier hadn't confirmed it."
Nekal wondered what this Hilary person had told the captain.
"What occurred between me and Lt. Macahan is of a personal nature. I have made no effort to turn her from the Federation." Anger began to build in his eyes as he thought of the spitefulness of Elise's coworkers. "You, of all people Captain, should understand. I do not want any part of my homeworld or its government. I would hardly try to convince anyone else to join them, feeling as I do."
No diplomat, Madison gave a derisive snort before he replied. "Personal nature, indeed! I don't trust Romulans as far as I could throw the whole bunch of you. Macahan and you were reported in several areas I would never have allowed you near. Still, I don't have anything definitely incriminating." He glared at Nekal, then continued his tirade. "Guess I can't condemn you for trying to protect Macahan. I'll have to have her watched closely once you leave. Just to make sure you didn't plant a suggestion to foment mutiny or sabotage the ship."
"Captain, your concerns are unfounded. I realize you may have experienced what you speak of, but I assure, nothing of the sort has occured between Lt. Macahan and myself." Nekal could only imagine what past sins his countrymen had visited on Captain Madison to stir such hatred and suspicion.
"Very well. However, please refrain from making any contact with her after your departure. I don't need my crew getting disturbed by any strange incidents." He waved Nekal away with this cryptic utterance, turning his back on him as if putting him from his mind.
The former Romulan officer gave a short bow and turned abruptly, following his escort back to his quarters. There, his guards instructed him not to leave until the ship arrived at their destination. Nekal brooded over his conversation with Captain Madison. He feared Elise's life onboard would be worse than before his arrival.
"Why can't I speak to him?" Elise was near tears. All access to Nekal had been restricted to Security and Dr. Mosier.
"Sorry Lieutenant, Captain's orders." The guard refused to meet her eyes.
Elise wondered what they weren't saying. Angrily, she stomped to the turbolift. To her dismay, as it opened, she found both Hilary and Dr. Mosier inside. Then she decided she'd try to find out what was going on.
"Dr. Mosier, I'm glad you're here." She watched his eyebrows climb. "I've been denied access to the Romulan. Do you have any idea why?"
"I'd think that would be rather obvious, don't you, Lt. Macahan?" Hilary spat out.
"Excuse me. I was speaking to Dr. Mosier. Or have you taken over for him?" Elise's fury spilled over. She would not take the sly innuendos and put-downs anymore. "Well, Commander Mosier? Why have I been shut out?"
Hilary gasped at her audacity while the senior officer sputtered before he could make any intelligible sound.
"Lieutenant, I could have you up on charges of insubordination." He finally managed. "That wouldn't help you any right now."
"What do you mean, 'right now'?" She ground out. "You haven't treated me decently since I came onboard. I've worked harder than I did during my internship and for what? To be insulted and ridiculed in front of people who are supposed to be my subordinates. What kind of doormat do you think I am anyway?" Oh yes, she was on a roll, all right and her head might be too, if she didn't watch it.
"Well, Miss High-and-Mighty Alien Expert, you played footsy with the wrong person." He gloated. "You should have left the 'research' on Romulan physiology to the real experts at Starfleet. I'm sure you're aware there are regulations against becoming so cozy with the enemy."
"What! Nekal is not the enemy. He's defected, sought asylum. Besides, your comments aren't worthy of a senior Starfleet officer." How could someone so opinionated, bigoted and insecure have gotten so far? "I'm going to the Captain. This has gotten out of hand. He needs to hear what I have to say about what's gone on."
The lift doors opened and Elise left, uncertain where she was in her distress. Quickly she found her way to another lift and went to the bridge to find the Captain. How had matters gotten so far out of hand? What she did in her off-duty time was her own business. She hadn't compromised security. If anything, she had helped the Federation by obtaining valuable information about Romulan society and physiology. Something smelled of garbage in this situation and she feared being compacted with it.
Before reaching the bridge, she contacted the Captain.
"Sir, this is Lt. Macahan. I need to speak to you."
"Is this urgent, Macahan? I have reports to file." He sounded exasperated.
"This can't wait, sir. This is a matter of life and death." Mine, she thought.
"Oh, very well. Meet me in my ready room in five minutes. Madison out."
Elise arrived on time, requested permission to enter and was brusquely told to enter. She found the captain sitting behind his desk with an annoyed look.
"Well, what is so urgent it can't wait until after we arrive at Starbase Twelve?" He scowled at her, making Elise wonder what she had done to him.
"Sir, I have been on board over six months and since reporting I have had nothing but harassment from my superior. I tried to resolve it at my level but with little success. I'm here now for two reasons." She took a deep breath and hurried on when she saw him sigh. "Just now, in the lift, Dr. Mosier made extremely disturbing insinuations about my loyalties. Also, I found earlier that I've been denied access to our guest. Could you tell me what is going on?"
"Frankly Lieutenant, it might be wise if you put in for a transfer. Mind you, I have nothing concrete, but there have been allegations that you are a Romulan sympathizer. That you are aiding and abetting in a plot to gather information and sabotage the Federation." He cleared his throat nervously before continuing. "You've been seen with the Romulan in unauthorized areas. You could be charged with being an accessory to espionage. If sufficient evidence is discovered, you will be tried by courts-martial."
"Why? Where did you get this information? The only places Nekal and I went were the holodecks, lounge and Medical. How could those be off-limits to him?" Someone had really done their dirty work on her reputation and possibly her life.
"There is also the matter of the contaminated specimens and missing logs from Medical." He continued, ignoring her. "The valuable loss of time and official records could be construed as an effort to undermine this mission. Do you know anything about this?"
Elise stared at him in horror. She told Dr. Mosier about the specimens and logs; had done everything in her power to correct the problem. Now someone told these vicious lies to the Captain.
"Well, Lieutenant? What have you to say for yourself?"
"Only this, sir. I reported those incidents to Dr. Mosier as soon as I found them and volunteered to return for more specimens. I've done nothing wrong." A slight quiver betrayed her anguish.
"What of your relationship with the Romulan?"
"Sir, that is strictly personal and has nothing to do with Federation policy, procedure or anything else official." Rage warred with terror in Elise. How could someone trump up such absurd charges? Did Hilary and Dr. Mosier hate her so much?
"I suggest you keep your 'personal' relationships off this ship. Especially if they are with the enemy." He shifted in his chair, returning to his log. "Again, I suggest you request transfer. Preferably to a nice, safe, isolated area where you won't be tempted further."
Elise stood shocked, feeling like she had been phasered. Was she dismissed? He seemed totally unaware of her presence.
"With your permission, sir?" She finally said, wanting to escape.
"What? Oh. You're still here. Yes, yes, go ahead." He dismissed her like an annoying insect. Elise chewed her lower lip in dismay. She had to ask him one more thing.
"Before I leave sir, I want to know if I can see Nekal one last time before he goes?"
He looked up sharply, his gray eyes piercing her, as if he could see into her soul. Did he know just how dear the relationship was to her?
"I suppose there's no harm in one last visit. Limit it to an hour Macahan. We reach Starbase in two." She nodded her thanks after he contacted Security and left.