AN: This is just a little interlude that takes place between the actual ending of Sacrifice Theory and the beginning of Subtle Threat, both by Solain Rhyo. Reed is an original character. Yes, he dies in the 'alternate' ending of Sacrifice Theory, but he lives through the ACTUAL ending. So there's no confusion. ;) Thanks for reading! --Chocobo Goddess

Reed Weyland considered himself to be a patient man.

He had to be, in his business; sometimes one had to wait months, even years for a new venture to pay off. Discoveries happened only so often, breakthroughs even less. Fortunes matured on set schedules. Stocks went up and down, and it could take half a lifetime for one to gain back what one put in. Reed knew more than anyone how important patience was.

Still, he found himself facing this latest situation with an intense anticipation; a jittery, nagging desire to get to the next stage now filled his every waking thought. Wake up, he willed the form on the table before him, Wake UP already.

Reed had reason to be impatient. He needed Alexa Woods to wake up before the creatures returned, and he needed to know as soon as possible just what she remembered. Dr. Taves, his personal friend and preferred scientist in matters this sensitive, insisted that Ms. Woods's memory might be completely affected by the trauma of the grenade that had sent her into this coma. She might remember nothing at all; she might remember the wrong things. Reed fervently hoped, prayed that she remembered the right things. He had plans that relied heavily on her mental state when she woke.

If she woke. Four weeks in a coma, nearly fully healed of her injuries save some nasty bruises, and she had yet to indicate that she would open her eyes. Reed and Taves and the whole damn compound were operating on borrowed time. Sooner or later, the monsters would return to claim her and their fallen comrade, and Reed would have to be ready. He could only attain that state if Ms. Woods--no, Lex--helped him.

He laughed to himself, ruefully. It was unlike him, Taves had said on more than one occasion, to be so focused on one person, to let all his plans hinge on such an unstable pin. Taves did not understand how Reed Weyland gambled, however. He knew how to stack the deck in his favor; all he now required was for Lex to wake up, for her to be convinced that he was on her side, that he just wanted to help her, that he cared about her.

After that, it would be easy. Gain her trust with a few seemingly careless words here, a gesture there--she would fall for him and his plan all unknowing of the history they actually shared, the one where he had repeatedly tried to force her to submit to him, bend her to his will, always failing.

He would not fail this time. He had too much at stake, and far too much to lose now. There were the monsters, first of all; they were powerful beyond his wildest dreams, possessing great weapons and exquisite armor. He wanted those things, that technology, and if he had to kill the creatures himself, he WOULD possess them.

Secondary, though more importantly in many ways, was Lex. Lex, who alone of all the people he had ever met, fought him with everything she had. Even after all the pain she'd been through, the things he'd tried, the physical and psychological fights they'd had, she still fought him. She fought even now, struggling to stay one step ahead of death, and therefore ahead of Reed. She was fascinating, intoxicating, a true warrior in every sense of the word. Reed wanted that ferocity, the sheer will to survive that seethed under her nearly perfect skin and its delicate coffee-with-cream color.

Skin that was irreversably scarred by the mark the one monster had made on her face, the swooping lines that meant something to them both. Jealousy flared in him and was quickly tamped down. He would leave his own marks upon her later, marks that he could only hope would overshadow whatever bond she shared with her monster. She would forget everything but him, would finally acquiesce to his power, his--dare he even admit it--desire.

If only she would open her eyes.

"I'll be right back," Dr. Taves said, startling Reed. The doctor waited by the door with a knowing look. He was privy to everything Reed knew; if there was anyone Reed called a friend, Taves was it. He barely suppressed a smirk at Reed's poorly-disguised study of Lex, a study he'd witnessed nearly every day for the past few weeks. "Don't touch anything."

Reed grinned back. "I won't," he promised, turning back to Lex when Taves closed the door behind him.

Her eyes moved under their lids, seeing some dream or nightmare in her deep sleep. Reed saw her lips twitch as if she was trying to speak, and automatically he moved down to hear her.

Her murmurs were incoherent whimpers whose tone spoke of something frightening going on in her mind. Was she remembering something real, or dreaming of something imaginary? Reed wished he could see inside her mind.

Over the past few weeks, Reed had observed Lex's progress from the safe distance of her bedside, across the room, through charts and graphs and medical reports. From this angle, however, he was able to see every nuance of her skin, the faint mark of what must be a childhood scar on her chin, the smattering of freckles that he'd never noticed before. They fascinated him; Reed thought he'd learned everything about Lex. To find that there was something he hadn't known made him wonder if there was more to discover. He nearly shivered in anticipation.

Her eyes finally stilled, her lips ceased their restless, meaningless murmur. Reed watched her a while longer, searching for any other details he might have missed.

He knew it was risky, but he also knew she had to be the one to help him trap the remaining monsters. She would want to, he would make sure of that. And when he had what he wanted from them, when the monsters were gone, he would turn his attention fully upon breaking Lex--or breaking her in.

She made him want her, like an ingenue who had no idea of the effect she had upon the men she met. She was beyond any average life that could be bought or sold; she was pure power and strength and he wanted to tap those qualities until he found their source. Then he would channel them into their best uses, the same way he did with the oil his father's company had been built upon.

And then, beyond that--well, that remained to be seen.

Lex sighed, and Reed gazed at her through heavy-lidded eyes. "I hope," he said softly, his breath fanning the fine hairs at her temple, "I truly hope you are everything I think you are." He had to clench his hands at the side of the table to keep from touching her, though he bent closer, just enough to brush his lips across hers. "If you are, beautiful Lex, then I finally have something to look forward to for once in my life."

He didn't really expect her to reply, of course, though he remained close some moments more. Reed sighed, stroked his thumb over her unresponsive lips, and straightened. He had too much to do, and there would be plenty of time to linger with her when she woke.

"Sleep well," he said to the silent room, then turned and left, already thinking about the remaining preparations he had to make.

He was gone before he could see the shimmer in the air by the table, the hulking shape that appeared with a chittering hiss. It took a single step in the direction Reed had gone, then moved back to the table. It bent to check her for harm, and, finding nothing new, grudgingly rose.

Satisfied that the comatose woman was in no immediate danger, the watcher drew up its invisibility once more and took its previous stance in the corner. For just a moment, the air rippled around it, and then all was still.

Lex slept on, unaware.