An Abe Sapien story by Tina Price. The arrival of a new BPRD agent sparks a new alliance and puts into motion a series of events which may well put right a romantic wrong.
Disclaimer: Abe Sapien, Hellboy, Liz Sherman and all characters therein are the property of and Dark Horse Comics Group and the Warner Brothers Entertainment Company.
Author's notes: In this story, Abe is more in line with his comic/animated persona, being a highly skilled and the most trusted of all BPRD operatives as well as more human in his interpersonal relationships. He is also able to breath out of water for extended periods of time so long as his gills do not dry out, but retains some particulars from the movie version such as psychic ability. The BPRD is set up as in the movie version. Profiteor: Latin to declare oneself.
Rating: This story is rated M, for sexual situations in later chapters. The NC-17 rated version is available at my website. As always, constructive criticism and advice are always appreciated!
Part 1: Stressful Secrets
It was a cool autumn evening, not long after nightfall when Hellboy went in search of his best friend. Abe had been conspicuously absent from the mess hall most nights the last few weeks and when he did show, he arrived late and left after a short while.
He'd let his friend be for this long only at Liz's insistence that he first wait him out.
"You know how introverted he sometimes gets," she'd said. "He feels things differently than we do and he seems to prefer being left to work things through on his own. Don't push him, Red."
But Abe hadn't even been himself when they'd gone out on missions and just yesterday he'd barely spoken at all, even after Hellboy had teased him mercilessly. He had a feeling deep down in his gut that things were very wrong with his friend. He'd done things Liz's way; now it was time to do things his way!
He reached the heavy doors of the library and pushed them open. Taking a step inside, he froze and gaped at the sight that met his eyes.
Abe was floating listlessly in his large tank, curled in a fetal position and drifting so that he continuously bumped gently against the glass.
He didn't seem to care.
Hellboy moved closer and sighed, noting that his friend's usually colorful skin had faded to a sickly gray.
"What's wrong, Blue?" he asked quietly. "I know you can hear me; come on out here and let's talk."
Abe shook his head, but didn't open his eyes. "I'd rather not, if you don't mind."
"You haven't joined us for dinner in days," Hellboy said. "Everyone is worried sick about you. Besides, we miss you, fish stick. At least put in an appearance."
Abe sighed, bubbles escaping his gills. "I know you all mean well, but constantly hearing your concern in my head is... becoming very difficult to bear," he answered, his voice pitched low and barely audible.
"Then let's go for a walk; just you and me," Hellboy cajoled. "Come on, Blue; you haven't been out in a while and it is a beautiful evening."
Abe's hand came out to steady himself against the aquarium's glass even as his eyes opened, his dual lids blinking rapidly. He unfolded his body and finally focused on Hellboy's face.
"All right, Red," he said. "I'll walk with you."
"Well, alright!" Hellboy quickly took the stairs to the upper level even as Abe swam to the surface and met him in time to grasp his arm and haul him out in one quick motion.
"Don't forget your coat and scarf," he cautioned as Abe moved to pull on the top to his wet suit. "As much as I'd like to see you get your color back, I don't want you turning blue from the cold."
Abe offered him a small smile and nodded as he moved off to collect the required outerwear.
It was early November and most of the leaves had already dropped from the trees, yet here and there brown crisp ones fluttered to the ground.
Hellboy stopped on the gravel path at the rear of the complex and lit a new cigar as Abe stood downwind, hands thrust into his coat pockets, eyes turned downward beneath large, water-filled goggles.
Hellboy watched him as he puffed his cigar to life.
With his gills, eyes and head all but hidden beneath an over sized hooded parka, Abe was nearly unrecognizable, but his outerwear did nothing to conceal his troubled stance. That was the thing about Abe; he could be hard to read unless you realized that his body did the talking for him.
Tonight he was both stiff and silent.
With a sigh, Hellboy resumed his unhurried walk towards the wooded, relatively private back of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Development, which was both their home and their employer.
"Come on, Blue, talk to me," he grumbled. "You'll feel better for it."
At that Abe's head came up, his eyes reflecting the glow of the far off complex lights in an eerie, gator-like way, despite the goggles covering them.
"I can't," he said, almost too softly for his friend to hear.
"Why not, Blue? You afraid to trust me?"
Abe shook his head. "No, it isn't that, Red. You know better. It's just that whatever I might say could be construed as a breech of someone else's privacy."
Hellboy came to standstill and he fixed his friend with a piercing stare. "Girl troubles? You kidding me?"
Abe seemed to bristle, finally shaking off his apathy. "Why must you always connect all problems with women?"
"Because, Blue... when there's something not right between two men it usually doesn't become a huge problem and even if it is, it's never a secret. You seem to have both a problem and a secret; therefore there's a woman involved." Hellboy puffed heavily on his cigar and shot Abe a smug look.
Blinking rapidly, his mouth quirking, Abe shook his head and then shrugged. "OK, I'll allow for that strange line of reasoning," he said, then sighed heavily. "But I still cannot tell you what is troubling me."
"What; afraid I'll think less of ya?" Hellboy jibed.
"When he answered, Abe was very serious indeed, "As a matter of fact, I fear you would. Believe me; it would be best not to involve anyone else in this matter."
"Not even Liz?" Hellboy asked.
Abe shot him a sudden, sharp look. "Especially not Liz!" he answered, too quickly.
Hellboy chomped on his cigar. "So, still carrying the torch for her, eh? Afraid she's gonna find out about some other gal? Well, I got news for ya, buddy; she's already got her suspicions. Ya can't hide something like that from a woman for long."
"Suspicions?" Abe actually stuttered the word.
"Yeah. She thinks that something is going on with that new agent; Meyeul. Ya know she's married, don't ya?"
Abe nodded. "Yes. I know that. You know that. Everyone knows that."
"Hey! No need to get sarcastic!" Red thought furiously about how else he might draw the truth from the tall, lithe chimera. Unfortunately, before he could reply, both of their com units went off, signally a job.
Without a word, they both turned and ran back towards the building.
The call turned out to be nothing more than a minor shade demon. In the end Abe's presence was not required and Hellboy was soon departing with his usual contingent these days; Agents John Meyers, Miriam Meyeul, Terrence Conyers and Salvatore Bastiani.
As the group exited the conference room, Abe managed to intercept Agent Meyeul by stepping gracefully between her and the doorway.
"Miriam, a moment please," he pleaded.
She stopped and gave him a wary nod, looking him up and down as she sometimes did.
At those times he picked up a mix of guilt and admiration from her. She liked the way he looked and found him far more attractive than her sense of propriety allowed. Such feelings from her only made his own that much harder to deal with. He automatically started to reach out to her, wanting a deeper connection, but then realized the folly of it and lowered his hand.
"He's bad tonight," he managed to say and nearly cringed at the wave of fear that the agent suddenly projected. "Maybe you could find a way to stay out late once the mission wraps?"
"You know that's not possible, Abe," she said, her expression grim. "I have no choice but to return when Hellboy does."
He stepped nearer and studied her face, moved by her beauty as well as her inner strength. "I fear for you," he said softly. "This cannot go on..."
She grimaced. "He is my husband, Abe. He has the right."
He shook his head and began to tremble uncontrollably. "No he does not! Miriam, don't you see this?"
As he made to take her arm, she stepped to the side, avoiding him smoothly. "I've told you before; stay out of it. It isn't your business and does not concern you."
He wilted, his shoulders sagging in defeat. "It is my business, Miriam. I've been trying not to make things worse for you by telling you, but…"
She looked stricken. "If you're going to tell me you have feelings for me, please don't!" she said quickly.
He shook his head and dropped his eyes to the floor. "Then I will not say it, but that was not my intent in the first place."
"Then just spit it out," she sighed. "I really need to go..."
"You know what I am. You know my abilities…" He trembled, his color fading to a gray while his eyes remained glued to the floor. "When it happens…"
"Oh dear lord!" she exclaimed, her eyes widening. "Are you telling me that you feel it?"
He nodded and finally lifted his eyes to meet hers.
She too had gone a grayish color and her eyes were welling with tears. Worst of all, the overriding emotion he felt coming off her in waves was shame.
With a gasp that sounded like a sob, she turned and bolted out the door.
Just like that she was gone.
In his office, Thomas Manning, Director or Operations, clicked off the video feed from the conference room and sat back in his chair. Then he leaned forward steepled his fingers and sighed.
"So that's it," he breathed.
The staff physician who specialized in treating Abe had informed him over a week ago that something was severely stressing the aquatic agent.
Now Manning might not give a fig about Hellboy, whom he saw as a giant pain in the ass, but Abe was another matter entirely. Sapien was the organization's oldest, most trusted and valuable agent.
And so he'd kept his eyes open and monitored the fellow.
What he'd learned tonight was nearly enough for him to completely solve this little mystery. All it would take was a bit more evidence.
He suspected that correcting the problem once he identified it was going to be the tricky part.
Accessing the FBI's encoded files via his computer, he brought up the last two weeks of digital recordings from two specific BPRD cameras.
An Intolerable Situation
It started sometime after two.
Abe awoke in his tank to a now-familiar feeling of dread that quickly turned to pure terror. Rolling into a ball, he wrapped his long arms around himself and prepared for the onslaught.
When it came, he found that he was not nearly as prepared as he had thought. It always surprised and shocked him to his very core how visceral and raw the emotions were that consumed him.
As bubbles escaped his lungs, the product of his stifled screams, he began to thrash and flail.
Mercifully, as the event reached its inevitable conclusion, he blacked out.
"What in the Hell happened to him?" Hellboy growled the moment he entered the medical bay. His friend was floating quietly in his isolation tank looking very much the worse for wear.
Liz had entered the room ahead of him and was clearly beside herself. "My God!" she gasped. "He's nearly colorless!" She was all but embracing the tank, her hand pressed against it nearest his floating body. "Abe! Abe, honey, can you hear me?" She pleaded, yet received no response; not even a twitch.
Hellboy pulled her away and put an arm around her shoulders, then turned to glare at Manning and Dr. Nagata, Abe's physician.
"Well?" he snarled.
"Many fish lose their color when they've been stressed to their limits," Nagata said. "Abe has been under some kind of enormous emotional stress lately and I fear it's going to kill him unless we put an end to it."
"Come on Doc, you can't die from stress; at least not that quickly or without a heart attack or something!" Hellboy groused.
"You and I cannot, but I assure you that Abe might. As his best friends, you two ought to know better than anyone that he has, for the most part, a serene disposition. Many things that bother you or I tend not to bother or upset him. But I suspect that the right trigger; something beyond his control, perhaps something psychic, brutal and prolonged… would put him in a state of such stress that it would affect him physicall. It would be very difficult for Abe to weather such a thing, especially if the emotions conveyed were foreign to his nature." The doctor sighed. "Anyway, that's just one possibility. I really cannot say for certain what has been stressing him and he's refused all opportunity to discuss it."
"He won't talk to us about it, either," Liz said, wilting against Hellboy. "He's never kept secrets from me before..."
Manning suddenly pushed away from the wall he'd been leaning on. "Fortunately for all of us, I have discovered the problem," he said, surprising the two agents. "Yes, I'm well aware that neither of you like me much, but you should both remember that I was put in charge of this operation for a reason. Despite your poor opinion of me, I do have my strong points."
"So, ya gonna tell us what's wrong with Blue or not?" Hellboy challenged.
"Not." Manning smiled humorlessly. "There was a very good reason why Abe chose to keep this to himself. Unfortunately for those involved, he's too valuable a team member to allow this risk to continue. Like it or not, those responsible will be confronted."
As the others made to protest, he held up his hand. "If there is a reason for you to know more, then you will. Otherwise, you can just remind yourselves of the danger in being too curious, got it?"
Just then Agent Meyeul entered the room and gasped when she saw Abe.
"No…" she moaned.
Manning turned towards the others. "Doctor, perhaps you could take Liz and Red here into the other room and fill them in on Abe's current status while I have a little private chat with Agent Meyeul?"
"Of course, Sir." Dr. Nagata indicated the doorway. "If you two will follow me?"
Liz moved forward and again placed a hand on Abe's tank as she whispered something to him. Then she followed the others from the room, throwing one last, measuring look Meyeul's way.
After they'd gone, Manning turned to face the remaining agent. Meyeul was clearly quite upset; and well she should be, he thought to himself. "We have something very serious to discuss," he announced. "I want you and that husband of yours in my office in ten minutes."
She nodded; her face pale and drawn.
"Would you prefer me to have him fetched by someone else?" Manning asked, suddenly looking apologetic.
"No thank you. I should probably do this myself."
Placing her hand on the tank, she whispered something and then quickly left the room.
Manning was wondering what she might have said when Abe suddenly spoke.
"She said that she was sorry," he said weakly, barely able to open his eyes.
"Don't you worry, Fish Stick," Manning soothed. "I know what's going on and it will be resolved as quickly and privately as possible.
"Please be careful," the aquatic man whispered, appearing to be regaining his strength. "Protect her…"
"That's enough of that, Abe. You know very well that I'll do my best for her..."
Soap Operas are Nothing!
Miriam Meyeul hurried down a back corridor in a state approaching a full-blown panic. Added to that was a tremendous guilt over Agent Sapien's condition. The poor thing had been trying to tell her that her problems were destroying him as well.
Stopping for a moment in a dark, little-traveled hallway, she leaned against the wall and gave in to the tears she'd been holding back.
She allowed herself only a minute, as she always did and then wiped her face and continued on her way.
Her destination was the guardroom where her husband and his company could be found. They were all ex-military; not your average security force by any stretch of the imagination. Most had been involved in special ops and therefore most of them were pretty messed up, her husband included.
Miriam wasn't certain exactly what would happen to them in Manning's office, but she did know that there was a huge potential for a devastating outcome. She would have to use every precaution in dealing with Craig if she wanted both Manning and herself to ever leave the office alive.
Just then she made the final turn and found herself standing outside the guardroom. She'd already passed through several heavy security doors and now confronted one that wouldn't even admit her.
With a gulp, she reached out and pressed the buzzer.
Within seconds a camera zoomed in on the identification badge she held up and a disembodied voice rang out, "What is it?"
"The director would like to see Sargent Meyeul in his office immediately."
There was a pause and then her husband, Craig, stepped out. Shooting her a withering look he quickly headed down the corridor, forcing her to scurry to keep up.
It was only when they were well away from the guardroom that he scowled at her and asked, "What's he want?"
Somehow she kept her voice steady when she answered, "Agent Sapien was taken very ill last night. I think it has something to do with us..."
"Us?" He shot her a truly puzzled look.
"With what you did to me; what you always seem to do when you get angry at anything."
He stopped and shoved her up against the wall, leaning brutally on her chest with his elbow. His voice was a dangerous hiss, "And how would that affect the fish guy? Have you been telling him, Miriam?"
She shook her head. "He's psychic, Craig. He's been picking up on it since we moved in and you went back to your old ways. I didn't realize until he began warning me when you were in one of your moods."
"I begged him not to tell anyone; that it would cost us our jobs and make things worse and I know he hasn't talked, but yesterday he was trying to tell me that it was damaging him... and I just didn't listen."
"You should have told me this!" Craig's face was now pale, fear having replaced anger.
"I couldn't risk having you beat me for it," she hissed, now growing angry herself. "Now a top operative is out of action and I have a feeling that Manning has somehow guessed. What are we going to do?"
A wicked grin split Craig's face. "He has no evidence, has he? He won't be able to find any, either, will he? The worst he can do is reassign us."
"I like it here," she said. "I don't want to give up my position. If you get reassigned, I want to stay."
"Where I go, you go." Craig forced a kiss on her. "That's always been the deal, babe. You know what will happen if you break the deal..."
He suddenly straightened, allowing her off the wall. "Come on. Let's get this over with."
Miriam rubbed her chest and then followed after him.
"Blue! Listen to the doctor; you shouldn't be out of the tank until you're stronger!" Hellboy pleaded with his friend, but Abe seemed to be having none of it.
Some color had returned to the amphibious man, who was currently struggling to hoist himself out of the medical tank.
"Red, I'm coming out whether you help me or not, but I'd much rather have your help," he stated in his usual, calm way.
With a sigh, Hellboy reached up and hauled him out by an arm.
"What's this all about, Abe?" Liz asked, putting an arm around the slight man while he tottered unsteadily. Dr. Nagata rushed over and got a stethoscope on his chest while Abe was too busy acclimating to gravity to care.
"You do seem to be recovering," the doc said. "At least your heartbeat is stable again. I know you're as stubborn as your friend here, so I leave it to you to decide what you can or can't do, but I want you back here tonight for monitoring at the first sign of trouble, understood?"
Abe nodded to him and was surprised when Liz steered him away from the others.
"Blue..." she began, clearly struggling to find words.
She didn't need to. He read her more clearly than he ever had before. Embracing her while making it look like he was leaning on her for support, he whispered near her ear, "I know, Liz. I know how you feel, even if you don't."
Then he gently extricated himself from her, took her hand and spoke so that the others could hear him, "I know you and Red want to help and I know it hurts you not to know what is hurting me, but there are some things we all have to face by ourselves and this is one of those things."
He released her hand and took a few steps towards the door, but spoke to her directly; mind to mind, "As for your concerns regarding Meyeul; the fact remains that you chose Red, Liz. So long as that remains the case, you can have no say in my personal endeavors."
Liz bowed her head; the only indication that she'd heard him and he moved to the door before addressing them all, "If you'll excuse me, there is something I must see to."
And with that he was gone.
The agent and the security guard stood at attention in front of Manning's desk as the man stared at them from over the top of his steepled fingers.
"I'm going to cut to the chase," Manning said with a sigh, leaning back in his chair and frowning deeply. "Agent Meyeul, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your husband has been abusing you. Such actions are in violation of both the law and our tolerance as an organization..."
"This is an outrageous claim!" Craig interrupted. "Sir, I think I better warn you that unless you have absolute proof, that I will exercise my rights and seek restitution!"
Manning smiled with all the charm of a shark and gestured towards Miriam. "Please step forward and roll up your sleeves for me?" he asked.
She did as she was bade and somehow managed to keep a blank look on her face when Manning gasped. It was clear that he was shocked at the fact that she bore not a mark of the last night's beating.
"You see, sir?" Craig chirped smugly. "I never laid a hand on her."
Manning shook his head. "I had hoped we wouldn't have to resort to this, but what the hell..." He pointed at the wall behind them, where a large screen had dropped down form the ceiling. "You are each guaranteed privacy here at the bureau except in cases where there is probable cause. If you read the fine print in your contracts when you signed them then you know this."
He stood and stared right at her. "Since Agent Meyeul refuses to make a complaint against you, I normally would have no choice but to let this go... except that, in this case, there is another victim involved."
"What the hell are you talking about, sir?" Craig snarled.
"I'm talking about Special Agent Sapien of course," he replied, again giving Miriam a piercing look. "He is without a doubt our most valued and trusted operative. I cannot allow something which is endangering his life to continue and your beating your wife is such a something. He feels every blow you land on her. He's psychic, you see..."
Reaching into his pocket he produced a remote and in the next second Miriam saw her last meeting with Abe in the conference room appear. She groaned as Craig watched the video and then shot her a murderous look.
"And that would be my probable cause," Manning stated dryly as the recording ended. "Now for the evidence."
A new image came up on the screen; a split image of Operative Sapien's tank and of...
"Oh please no..." she breathed, feeling sick when she recognized their own bedroom.
"Sorry Agent," the director mumbled as the split images showing synced time tags began to move.
In the bedroom Craig was clearly seen punching, slapping and choking her while in his tank Abe recoiled and reacted to each blow as though they had been landed on him.
In the bedroom she was quickly a bloody, bruised mess, her cries ceasing as she lost consciousness. In his tank, Abe went stiff and then also lost consciousness, floating limply in his tank as what was left of his color faded and a thin cloud of blue blood blossomed from his nostrils.
Manning stopped the playback there. I don't think any of us wants to see what happened while you were unconscious, Agent," he said grimly. Then he turned towards Craig. "This surveillance footage lives in the FBI mainframe, Sergeant. It can never be erased or removed by us mere mortals, nor can you or anyone you know access it. It is proof irrefutable of your crimes; assault with intent to kill or to inflict serious bodily harm and rape."
"She hasn't got a mark on her!" Craig yelled, his temper quickly getting out of control. "You have no case!"
"I'm afraid that I must correct you," came a voice from behind them.
They turned to find Agent Sapien had entered the room.
Abe stared at her husband, a man he'd never actually met before and his color began to change again, growing dark, his markings standing out vividly. In seconds a brilliant yellow orange had bloomed over his gills and his jaw.
Miriam instantly realized that she was seeing a territorial display. It was a visual warning to either an enemy... or a rival.
"I am a witness," Sapien continued. "And worse yet, I know what is in your heart; I know what you are thinking and I know everything you've done. My testimony would be damning indeed. I suggest that you let the director finish what he was about to say."
Moving forward, he placed himself between Craig and her and then gave her a searching look even as she heard him speak in her head.
"Fear not. I see what Manning is about to do and you will, I think, find it acceptable."
She nodded slightly and then dropped her eyes to the floor as Manning spoke.
"You have two choices, Sargent," he said. "Arrest with a very long prison term or you can divorce your wife and never go near her again, in which case you will be allowed to keep your rank and your position here."
Miriam gasped and stared at the director in shock.
"Come now, Agent," Manning chided. "I know your religion. I know this is the only way; that you have no say in whether you remain married or not, while he can literally dump you on the spot." He looked at her husband again. "Well, Meyeul; what will it be?"
"There will be no reprisals? I will maintain my rank?"
"All will be as it is now except that you are never to contact Agent Meyeul again. Is that understood?"
Craig nodded and then turned to face her. "I divorce you," he said. Then in a louder voice repeated, "I divorce you. I divorce you."
She nearly fainted in relief.
"I'll have the proper paperwork taken care of," Manning added. "I don't think I need to tell you what will happen to you if you ever raise a hand outside of combat situation again, do I?" he added dangerously.
"Then you're dismissed, Sargent."
Craig left the room without another look back.
It seemed all so easy... too easy, she thought. He would find a way; some way to kill her even if it meant his own death. The room swam as she nearly fainted and then a rough hand grasped her arm and propelled her into a chair.
"Take a few deep breaths," Abe suggested.
"Just a few more things and the two of you can go get some much needed rest," Manning said, moving to stand near them. "Abe, I'm putting her in your care. From now on she is assigned exclusively as your senior Agent when you're on assignment. I expect you to keep her safe when she's here at home, even as she will guard your back in the field. Is that amenable to both of you?"
"Yes sir," they both said at the same time.
"Good, because I'm not giving you a choice," Manning spat. "Now get out of here and try to give me some peace for a while!"
"Come along Miriam," Abe took her arm and gently coaxed her to her feet.
She rose and followed him blindly, in a state of shock. It seemed as though she were walking through a fog, as though everything was a dream...
"Oh no, it's quiet real," Abe chirped as they turned a corridor and headed for her room.
She focused on him then and saw that his color had faded to a more normal tone. He seemed to be completely recovered.
"I feel better knowing that this is over," he explained, and then asked, "Did I really put on a display in there?" He blinked rapidly at her and at her confirming nod he smiled. "I had no idea that I could do such a thing. I guess I had better be careful and learn to control that; I wouldn't want to give away my state of mind at an inopportune time."
Miriam stopped moving and cleared her throat. "So which was it?"
"You mean enemy or rival? I heard your thoughts quite clearly at the time, you know."
She nodded. "I know. Which?"
He remained quiet for some time, his eyes studying her frankly and then shrugged. "It was a sign of aggression; I really dislike that man and would have welcomed the chance to take him down," he admitted. "We can discuss this more at some future time. Right now we need to get going; you're about to fall down and I'm not doing so well myself."
She balked. "It isn't over, Sir," she whispered. "It's only just beginning. He will not allow me to live."
Abe's color paled slightly again. "I felt that earlier from both of you, but you are under my protection now and you'll find that I am quite good at what I do."
Again he studied her intently as she struggled to control her emotions; she was perilously close to breaking down. Any kindness from him now would undo her.
Being psychic, he obviously realized that, because he did something so simple and yet so heartening that she was able to keep her composure; he took her hand, gave it a gentle squeeze and began to lead her down the corridor after him.
A short time later they arrived at the door to her quarters. Abe let go of her hand and wasted no time in punching in a series of commands at the security keypad. Then he paused and turned towards her.
"Miriam, please enter a new security access code for your quarters," he said, stepping aside and gently guiding her to the keypad with a hand on her shoulder.
Her mind froze and for a moment she couldn't think what to key in as a code, but then it came to her. She quickly typed out the word, FREEDOM and at the small smirk that creased her companion's mouth, she knew he'd picked up on it.
"And very appropriate it is, too," he said softly.
The door opened after she retyped the new password and she hesitantly entered with Abe right behind her.
She looked around the room as memories flooded her. A few; a very few, were good ones. Somehow she put them from her mind, conscious of the strange man who stood beside her. These were not for him to see; he'd seen enough already.
"Enough to last a lifetime," he said sadly, from just behind her. "You are young, though and you will no doubt meet someone who will replace such memories with ones worth having."
Tears began to roll down her face. "You've been so kind to me," she said aloud even as she wondered why she couldn't have met someone like him earlier in her life.
"I did nothing; 'twas Manning who put the puzzle together and found a solution," Abe replied, leaning closer.
Suddenly confused and self-conscious, she all but jumped away from him and began moving things around, picking up Craig's belongings and piling them in a corner.
Again Abe gently took her hand, stilling her efforts. "You're in shock," he stated as he led her to the bed and made her sit. "There will be time for sorting later. Right now you need to try to rest."
"I can't," she said, staring down at her hands, which she was wringing in her lap. "I don't think I'll ever sleep again. It isn't safe…"
"It's perfectly safe right now," he answered, kneeling beside her. "I'm right down the hall and I will be here immediately should anything frighten you. Besides, as you saw, your quarters are now yours alone and secured against unwanted visitors." He cupped her chin and lifted it so that she met his eyes. "You're strong. You will do well. Will you try to rest if I leave you for a time?"
She nodded; unable to speak when his gaze seemed to hold her own captive.
At her thought, he smiled slightly and broke contact, rising gracefully to his feet. "I am in dire need of my tank," he whispered. "I'll be back later on. Don't open the door for anyone else." He moved to the door and looked back at her. "In the meantime, if you need me, just call out."
He exited as she pulled her legs up to her chest and hugged them, all the warmth in the room having left with him.
Abe hurried down the hallway to the library; the fastest way to gain entry to his tank and wasted little time in climbing the stairs and diving in. He took several delicious, deep gulps of water, forcing the stream over his parched gills and relaxing as his dizziness and discomfort passed.
If only he'd had his re-breather handy when he'd climbed out of the med tank; then he could still be keeping a watch over his newest team member.
He knew that she was about to crack. He could literally feel it. Humans felt emotions so strongly; so much more strongly than he seemed to. This was neither wrong nor right; it simply was. He knew this from years of association with them as well as from all the literature he'd consumed.
He'd once mentioned this to Liz and she had given him a pitying look.
"You will feel it one day," she'd predicted. "I only hope that when you do, that it doesn't destroy you. You live behind glass. You live your life by proxy; by feeding off the emotions around you, but one day you will feel them first hand. You won't be able to tune them out or hide from them, Abe. All I can say is that you better be ready when it happens."
Abe shivered in his tank. The memory of her words caused him a moment of sadness and a deeply felt sense of injustice. Liz never knew that her words had come home to roost the night she'd announced her intentions to pursue a relationship with Red. His heart had twisted within him and he'd been unable to eat for days afterwards. Even now, seeing the two of them together caused him terrible pain and even guilt; after all, should he not be happy for his friends?
Compounding things was the fact that more often than not, he and Liz were still paired on assignments, which put them in each other's company for long periods of time. Their mutual affection and attraction always surfaced then, raising up his hopes only to squash them completely once they returned to headquarters and he saw Red waiting for her.
With a sigh that made bubbles escape his lungs, he sank to the bottom of the tank. The worst thing of all about losing Liz was that she did love him. He could feel it radiate from her every time she looked at him. Sadly, she'd ultimately chosen Red because she felt he had more to offer her romantically and only Abe's own pride had prevented him from proving her wrong.
Closing his eyes, Abe finally managed to sleep, exhaustion having caught up with him.
Next Up: Hidden Truths