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 breathe 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.

Profiteor 3: Brave New World

They landed at the main airport in Merida, Mexico five hours later.

Liz and Miriam plastered themselves against their respective windows and took in the scenery as the jet was towed to a private hanger where they would transfer to a private limo.

It was only as the hanger loomed ahead that Abe exited the jet's rear room and made his way back to his seat beside her. One glance at him and Liz had to remind herself not to stare.

He'd changed out of his pants and utility vest and was now wearing his form-fitting mid-thigh length scuba pants and top along with rubber sandals and fingerless gloves. His utility belt sat low on his slim hips and he'd thrown on a baseball cap. His small overnight bag was slung under one arm, rolled up diagrams of the resort and surrounding Yucatan area sticking out of the side pockets.

The mellow glow of the sinking sun shone full on him through the small jet windows and made his skin glisten, showing off the lines of his musculature, even beneath the swim wear.

"You should have waited until we were in the hanger. You're missing the scenery," she somehow managed to comment in a normal voice.

Smiling secretively, he took his seat. "We'll see the countryside together from the limo," he said quietly.

She nodded. "What's so amusing?"

"You," he chuckled. "You certainly know how to stroke a guy's ego."

She frowned as a blush colored her face. "Yeah… well I also seem to be pretty good when it comes to destroying a guy's ego," she grumbled.

"Hey," he said, leaning over and trapping her with those huge, reflective eyes. "It's forgotten. Everyone makes mistakes, Liz. The important thing is that we learn from them."

"Yeah," she sighed, relaxing. Then she patted his hand, where it sat upon the armrest between them. "I don't deserve you…"

"Yes you do!" he quickly corrected her, making her laugh.

The ride to Lost Seal Resort was uneventful and relaxing.

Abe found himself impressed by the beauty of the area they traveled through, wistfully wishing that he had the option of just getting away whenever he wished. Still, he was here now and as luck would have it Liz was both with him and unattached. It was enough and he knew he should count himself fortunate rather than wishing for more.

After all, that way lay madness… and the potential for bitter disappointment.

Thirty minutes later they pulled in through the Resort gates. Their first look at the place was an eye-opener; it was almost unbearably beautiful.

"Eden," he commented, wide-eyed as stopped in front of the main building.

Liz and Miriam nodded agreement, still gaping at the lush foliage and flowering tropical plants as the last of the sun's rays glimmering on the gulf just beyond the palm trees.

The limo driver got out and as he opened their door, the sounds of birds and low tropical music accompanied by the heady smells of food and blossoms assailed their senses.

Abe exited first, helped Miriam out and then offered his hand to Liz. He held on a bit longer than was necessary after she gained her feet and had the satisfaction of feeling her give his fingers a quick squeeze before he released her.

They turned to face the building as two men and a woman, all in suits stepped out to greet them.

The man leading the way shook Abe's hand. "Hola! I am David Munoz Casañas, the general manager of Recurso Foca Perdido," he announced as he greeted them, warmly taking both Liz and Miriam's hands in turn. He was a tall, thickset man with gray hair and appeared to be in his late forties. "Please allow me to introduce our evening manager, Maria Pena Vargas and our daytime manager, Ricardo Ruiz Castillo.

Pena Vargas was a tall, slender woman with long dark hair twisted up and pinned on her head while Ruiz Castillo had light brown hair and was of medium height and build. The two of them appeared to be in their mid thirties and each in turn greeted their guests with a handshake and words of welcome.

Abe introduced himself, Liz and Miriam.

Once all the introductions were finished, Munoz Casañas gestured towards the doors. "Please accompany me inside," he said. "We've no guests at this time other than yourselves. After the last disappearance yesterday we just couldn't risk it." He smiled, but it was a pained expression. "You may be the only guests, but we remain on minimum staffing and we can see to all your needs. In fact, we have a wonderful buffet laid out in the restaurant. I hope you're all hungry?"

"Who wouldn't be after smelling the food?" Liz commented. Abe and Miriam nodded in agreement.

Pena Vargas beamed at them. "Our chef is the best in the Yucatan, as you'll see for yourselves. We, the staff I mean, are all very happy that he agreed to stay during this emergency."

They passed through a beautiful, marble lobby where the woman at the desk watched them with interest. Abe could feel both her curiosity and fear when she looked him over. No doubt, the remaining staff would find him just as strange.

Taking a right turn at the desk, they then entered the main restaurant through large French doors.

The restaurant's rear wall was made up entirely of French doors, all of which stood open revealing a slate floored outdoor dining area beyond. Just before the doors a large buffet was set. The chef stood just behind it ready to instantly cook up anything else they might want.

One look at the spread and Abe was hard pressed to think of anything else he might want. The layout was impressive and included everything from vegetable dishes and sides to freshly steamed or broiled seafood. The chef was currently finishing some tropical kabobs on the indoor grill.

"Please, help yourselves and then select a table on the patio." Munoz Casañas gestured for them to line up in front of the staff.

Abe immediately went for the steamed fish and broiled shrimp and scallops, then added some green vegetables and fried plantain to his dish. He waited as Liz and Miriam completed their own selections and then the three of them headed outside.

He made for a table at the edge of the patio on the right, where they could enjoy the view of the tiki torch lit gardens and the gulf waters beyond. He took the seat facing directly away from the building, knowing that his keen eyesight would allow him to spot anything unusual in the foliage long before any of his companions did.

Liz took the seat directly to his left at the large, circular table while Miriam likewise sat on her left. That put Miriam in the hot seat; the most vulnerable location with her back to the grounds. She was the perfect agent to sit there and if she'd intentionally chosen the position, then she was going to turn out even better than he'd imagined.

The resort managers soon appeared and sat on his right, leaving a seat unoccupied between them.

"Who is Key MacKalin?" he asked. He'd pronounced the name phonetically, which was how he sometimes picked up such things from other peoples' minds. Yet, when the general manager spoke he instantly knew the correct spelling, no doubt due to all the times the man saw the name on paper.

Rather than flinching in surprise as the other managers had, the general manager smiled and nodded. "You are very good, as my government said you would be," he replied. "I told the staff to say nothing and yet you still know who is to join us."

Abe nodded and at Liz's questioning look offered a bit more information. "His name has been floating through the thoughts of every staff member in the area," he said. "Especially the women."

Munoz Casañas sighed as both his managers rolled their eyes. "I am not surprised. In answer to your question, Cè MacCallen is the owner of Recurso Foca Perdido. He is a Scotsman who inherited money and traveled to this area as a young man ten years ago. Soon after, having fallen in love with this place, he purchased it and turned it into the exclusive and well-respected money maker it now is."

"He's a good man," Pena Vargas added, "But very disruptive to both staff and guests, which is why he rarely makes an appearance in public."

"You're not telling me that you're immune to his charms?" Abe asked, implying that he knew better.

"Perhaps not," she answered honestly. "However, I am very happily married and so I am able to shrug off this strange magnetism he exudes."

"Don't get us wrong, Agent Sapien," Ruiz Castillo added. "He does not intentionally cause trouble; he is, after all, a shrewd businessman. In fact, he goes out of his way to avoid causing a disturbance. It is only that there is something about him that draws the ladies, so, even though he lives here, he keeps his public visits to the dead of night or during off seasons whenever possible."

"He also has a medical condition that prevents him from being in the sunlight," Munoz Casañas added. "Which is why he insisted I apologize for him not having greeted you on your arrival. He should be here shortly." Then the man leaned forward. "I think that you will find you two have a few things in common," he laughed.

"Well, certainly not the ability to draw woman," Abe joked, making them all laugh; all except Liz, who looked down at her plate. He immediately picked up on the fact that she disagreed strongly with his assessment of himself.

Just then the waiters arrived to fill their water and wine glasses. Feeling a bit like celebrating, he actually indulged in a small amount of Vinho Verde, a light, young white wine he'd discovered he could tolerate, enjoying it immensely with his meal.

They all chatted about inconsequential matters as they ate and were nearly through with the meal when Abe felt a disturbance ripple through the main building.

"You're man is here, I think," he announced, knowing very well that he was correct. The sudden feminine yearnings he was deluged with could mean that no other person but the owner had arrived.

He kept his back to the building but saw Liz crane her head around along with everyone else.

"Ah, you are correct," the general manager said. "He is collecting his meal." He then quickly turned his attention to the female B.P.R.D. agents, apparently keen on observing if they too would be affected by MacCallen.

It was then that Abe noticed the discrepancy. "How very odd," he whispered to Liz under his breath. "I cannot pick up anything at all from the approaching owner."

She looked startled and then did a double take as the man reached the table.

From Miriam, Abe picked up a very startled, almost painful reaction to the man's beauty. Liz reacted as well, but not nearly as strongly. From her he felt appreciation for the man's looks coupled with curiosity; nothing more.

He stood, along with the other men and finally looked at the man named Cè MacCallen.

The resort's owner appeared to be in his early thirties, but he had a timelessness about him that made all guesses as to his actual age difficult at best. His skin was as pale as any he'd ever seen and perfect; not a freckle nor blemish of any sort marred it. The man's hair was glossy and black as night, his nose large, but well shaped and his jaw strong. His eyes, though, were his most striking feature. They were very large, dark and expressive. The long black lashes that framed them made them look that much larger. Abe could see everyone at the table reflected in their depths, himself first and foremost.

Those eyes seemed to drink in light and they gave the impression that they missed nothing. They were currently looking him over in an appraising manner. Indeed, he picked up a stray thought from Liz; she could feel the tension as the two men sized each other up.

And although MacCallen stood perhaps an inch or two shorter than himself, he was well muscled; two hundred ten pounds at least. Then the man smiled warmly, revealing white, flawless teeth and held out his hand.

"Agent Sapien," he greeted him with a mild Scottish brogue. "It is an honor to meet you, sir!"

As Abe moved to take the man's hand, he received quite a shock; MacCallen's fingers were webbed like his own. Hesitating only a fraction of a second he took the man's hand and squeezed it as they shook, expecting to finally pick up something concrete about him. Instead, he received only flashes of the ocean and the beach.

"Likewise, Mr. MacCallen," he responded. "I must admit that I find you to be as interesting as I daresay you find me. Tell me; do you think we may be related?"

The man's grin grew larger. "All things are possible; I believe it as surely as those in your Bureau do... and please, call me Cè."

Their hands parted and Abe indicated Liz. "Please allow me to introduce Agent Elizabeth Sherman."

Cè took her hand and kissed it gallantly. "A pleasure," he greeted her. "You and your senior agent make a wonderful couple. Believe me; I can see these things."

Both Liz and Abe reacted visibly to the man's blatant revelation of his psychic abilities. There was no other way he could have known of their budding relationship.

"Can you read me as well?" Abe asked the man as Liz quickly pulled her hand away.

Those large eyes fairly sparkled as he looked back at Abe. "Not at all, sir and I trust that you cannot read me either."

"What leads you to guess such a thing?"

"It has been my experience that two psychics can either read each other or neither can. Do not ask me why it should be so. I only know what I have seen and I cannot read you, therefore I guessed that you had the talent as well."

Abe pulled off one of his gloves and held up his hand for the man's inspection. "It is not all we seem to share," he replied.

"Aye." Cè nodded with interest. "I think that perhaps you and I must take the time to discuss this once the emergency is over." He turned to look at Miriam then and did a double take. "And who do we have here?" he asked, moving around Liz's chair towards the other female agent. As he did so, he stumbled, but recovered quickly and bowed to her.

Abe picked up startled thoughts from the three managers. They had never seen the graceful owner in a clumsy moment before. He filed it away for future reference but then noted something which unsettled him greatly; Miriam and Cè were practically consuming each other with their eyes. He could clearly read the night manager, Pena Vargas, as she noted that she'd never seen the owner so taken with a woman before.

He quickly moved forward. "This is Agent Miriam Meyeul, the newest member of our team," he introduced her.

"Miriam," the pale man breathed, kissing the back of her hand. "Your name translates in Hebrew as Sea of Bitterness and I can see that so far it has been so for you, but I think that is all about to change..."

"How so?" she asked, her eyes never leaving his.

"Because you have found me," he whispered, only just loud enough for her ears.

...But Abe picked it up second hand from his junior agent's mind and it alarmed him enough that he broke up their little tête-à-tête by addressing the owner, "It has been a very long day for us already and we've much yet to accomplish."

Cè straightened immediately, gently releasing Miriam's hand. "Yes, of course," he said, clearing his throat. "Please forgive my lateness in greeting you and holding up your meals. Please, eat! Enjoy it fully, but leave room for dessert. You won't want to miss the crème brûlée!" He walked around the table and took the remaining seat.

As they began eating, Abe asked how it was that a Scotsman found himself a permanent resident of the Yucatan.

Cè explained that he'd married young; to a woman he adored who was the sole heiress of her family's fortune. Her entire family had perished in a helicopter crash when she was a young girl, she having escaped their fate because she'd been home ill with the influenza. She'd died only two years after they'd married; drowned in the sea trying to swim out to him. He'd been devastated, yet rumors had circulated that he'd perhaps killed her for her money, despite that there'd been witnesses to her foolhardy final act.

"So, at the tender age of twenty three, I found myself both a widower and a villain to boot, not to mention quite wealthy," the owner sighed. "I'd always wanted to see something of the world, having lived all my years on the northwest coast of Scotland. Although my native land is beautiful, I found myself fascinated with other places and cultures I saw on the television and I wasted little time in getting away and leaving the rumors behind me. I want no notoriety, yet as you've no doubt already heard, I have a very hard time just blending in. I traveled to several different faraway countries but when I landed here, in the Yucatan, I fell in love with the place. It is so different from home. I love its warmth and the tropical lushness, not to mention the local seafood."

"When I swim in the sea here, I feel at peace. It is home," he finished. "I purchased this resort and I've lived here ever since."

"Why did you name it Lost Seal Resort?" Miriam asked.

Cè looked surprised. "Did ye not know then? There's a gray seal that makes its home here and more lost no sea creature could possibly be, hence the resort's name."

Abe was certainly surprised by the news. "A gray seal? Really? How could it possibly have found its way here and how can it survive in such warm waters?"

MacCallen shrugged. "The current consensus is that it must have escaped from a gulf aquarium or zoo, although none of those we phoned would admit it. Either that or it may once have been someone's pet and been set free. It survives because we feed it, for it cannot find its natural foods here and the fishing is poor due to the warm temperature of the water."

"Where is it?" Liz asked.

"He keeps to the beach and the water," Cè replied. "Sometimes he approaches this patio, looking for handouts, but he's a friendly creature and seems to enjoy swimming with the guests."

"He's under protection from the local authorities as well," Munoz Casañas added. "He's our good luck and I've no doubt that if it weren't for him, many more of our guests may have met unfortunate ends."

"Has the seal saved people then?" Abe asked.

"Aye," the owner answered. "He's been credited with saving quite a few. I'm certain that you've read the reports we sent about our... woes. Once we've finished our meal, we'll adjourn somewhere more private so that we can answer any remaining questions you may have."

Abe nodded and they all went back to eating; only occasionally breaking the silence to ask polite questions of each other. Yet, he still felt uneasy as he noted Cè's unabashed interest in Miriam. Several times he asked her questions about herself and after everyone left the table to fetch their desserts from the buffet, they made a point of sitting beside each other.

"Aren't you going to get any dessert?" Liz asked him, as she returned with a helping of the much touted crème brûlée.

He shook his head. "Watching you enjoy yours is enough for me," he whispered, leaning in close. The truth was that heavy foods or desserts made him quite ill, nor could he tolerate milk products. The meal and wine had been enough for him, but he did indeed get secondhand pleasure out of Liz's obvious enjoyment.

And, God help him, she knew it, too; Liz smiled seductively at him as she slowly slid a mouthful of the creamy dessert off her spoon and then licked it clean. He felt his gills grow hot and knew his color was changing. "You have to stop teasing me like this," he pleaded silently with her, willing her to hear his thoughts.

With a disappointed shrug, she did as he asked and ate the rest of her sweet in a no-nonsense manner that left him disappointed at having made such a request.

After finishing their dessert and coffee or tea, they were all shown to the main conference room on the opposite side of the main building.

Abe wasted little time in pulling out his files and spreading them upon the table. "We have several of your 'incidents' on file," he began. "What I need from you are more specifics. Was there anything at all that connected those who were killed or went missing? I can see that they were not all the same nationality; what I cannot see is what they did here in the time before they became victims."

"Did any of them frequent the same places?" Liz asked. "Did they engage in the same activities? Anything at all you can think of would be helpful."

"We've already thought long and hard about this," Cè replied. "And there were two things that all the victims had in common; they were all housed in the same set of bungalows, near the northern end of our property and they all liked to swim."

Liz and Miriam both looked right at Abe.

"Well, that makes me the likely decoy then," he said, wryly.

Together the group went over the list of each occurrence looking for more details. Several people had been found dead, smothered either in their bungalows or outside them. A few had been found drowned in the series of ponds which were actually interlinked, deep underwater caverns. The rest were never found, with some having gone missing over a month ago.

Twenty minutes later, they agreed that they'd covered everything that they could think of and the meeting came to an end.

As everyone stood and gathered their things, Cè offered to see Miriam to her bungalow.

Abe paused in his gathering of his files and watched intently as his junior agent considered the request. To his relief he picked up her mental battle as suspicion warred with desire and resulted in indecision. The woman might find the resort owner both fascinating and attractive, but she was smart enough to know his influence on women might be the cause. She was also well aware that in the mystery they were investigating, no one was above suspicion.

"Go on ahead," he finally said, saving her further mental wrestling. "Liz and I have a few minor things to see to anyway.

Cè held out his arm, which she took with a grateful nod towards her fellow agents. "Good night, then," she said as they exited the room.

Liz walked up to stand beside him. "Was that wise?" she asked in a low voice.

"I've no doubt that she'll be safe enough," he replied. "Besides, I was thinking that you might enjoy allowing me to walk you to your accommodations."

She smiled at him in a delightful way and handed him the rest of the papers. "Good idea," she smirked.

Together they bid the others good night and left the building.

Trusting the resort's owner to at least see Miriam safely to her bungalow, Abe offered Liz his arm, as men had once been gallant enough to do and seemed quite pleased when she took it without hesitation. "Shall we?" he asked.

"Mmmm-hmmm," she replied, and then smiled back at him. His arm was smooth and cool to the touch and she had a hard time resisting the urge to run her fingers over the fin that extended the length of his forearm.

As soon as they were outside and the lush, tropical smells assailed her nose, she sighed. Working or not, she was happy about their growing closeness and even happier that they had the chance to enjoy the pleasure of the resort together. Maybe, just maybe, luck would be on their side and they could solve this mystery quickly, then spend some private time together before the grind of work again took over.

Abe steered her down a paved pathway that led in the direction of the water and she realized that he must have already memorized a layout of the resort.

He blinked down at her, his eyes reflecting the meager light from the tiki torches like a cat's. "I did memorize it," he said. "All three of us have bungalows sharing a semi-private pool. Miriam's is closest to the beach, yours closest to the resort and mine between the two and set close to the surrounding natural area."

"So, they gave you the most dangerous one; the one that the guest, Mr. Jayna disappeared from yesterday?"

"Of course and I wouldn't have it any other way," he smirked. "Ah, here we are!"

She looked ahead to see that they were standing in front of a charming, thatch-roofed bamboo shelter complete with shudders, a front porch and wooden blinds. Tropical foliage had screened it from view until she was right on top of it.

Pulling her electronic card out of a back pocket, she inserted it in the modern door lock and let them both in. "Wow..." she breathed, looking around. The rafters supporting the thatch were high and clearly visible, with long strutted ceiling fans that hung down and moved the cool air. The floor plan open, with tiled floors and tropical rattan furnishings. There was a nice, well-equipped kitchen, a dining area and a living area with a huge projection HD television and stereo. Beautiful rugs, artwork, recessed lighting and knickknacks completed the decor.

"It's lovely," Abe observed, in his usual understated manner. He walked to the sliding glass door in the dining area and checked the locks, then opened it. It opened onto a tiled patio and beyond, less than fifty feet away, was the pool.

Liz joined him in the doorway. "Which way to your place?"

He pointed to the left. "It's right there, partly screened by the brush." Then he pointed to the right. "You can see that Miriam's accommodations are close at hand."

She looked and sure enough, the other agent's bungalow, was nearly as close to the pool as her own. The lights were already on.

"I hope that she's behaving herself around Cè," she muttered. "There's something very strange about him; almost as though he's been charmed to attract women."

Abe nodded in agreement, but then gave her a measuring look as he stepped closer. "You didn't seem to be very affected."

She turned towards him, suddenly realizing just how close he was. "That's because I don't find him nearly as attractive as I find you," she breathed, her heart hammering in her chest.

Then his hands were gripping her upper arms. Her breath caught in her throat as her eyes locked on his mouth. Her heart skipped a beat as she remembered the last time their lips had met; how delightful his kiss had been, even if it had been meant as the breath of life. She'd been about to drown...

"The things I have to do to steal a kiss from you..." he whispered. Then he was bending towards her, one hand moving up to tangle in the hair at the back of her head in order to hold her still. Her eyes closed as she felt cool lips slide over her own. He was truly kissing her this time, his mouth moving gently over hers. She groaned when his small, chisel-like teeth nipped her playfully and his tongue soothed the small sting.

When he ended the kiss and released his hold on her hair, she opened her eyes to see him regarding her with an expression of wonder. "Liz, you don't know how long I've wanted to do that," he breathed. "And it was every bit as wonderful as I'd imagined it would be."

"Then do it again," she pleaded.

He'd been breathing quickly, but now he took a deep breath and let it out slowly, his gills, a vivid orange color, flaring. "I long to, but now would not be the best time," he said, regret evident in his voice. After brushing her cheek with the back of his hand, he turned away and began to shut the sliding door.

Unable to help herself, she wrapped her arms around his waist from behind and rested her cheek in the valley between his shoulder blades. As his arms came down to pin hers in place and his hands covered her own, she began kissing his back, thrilling at the way he tensed beneath her cheek. Then she licked at the delicate membrane that ran from his spine to his upper left arm.

He trembled and when he turned his head to the side to look back at her he was blinking rapidly, his color high, his markings vivid; clear signs that he was excited.

"I think that we should make time for each other when we can; you know how difficult it is for us to get a break," she murmured, disagreeing with his assessment of the situation.

"Liz, I'd like to throw caution to the wind; God knows that this is like some wonderful dream that I'm afraid I'll wake up from, but..." he husked, his voice pitched lower than she'd ever heard it. "I don't want to move too fast, not after what happened last time."

"But you can sense how I feel now," she whispered. "Can't you?"

He took a deep breath. "It seems as though you aren't even thinking of any of the questions that so consumed you the last time we danced this dance."

"That's because this time around the answers to those questions don't really matter anymore," she whispered, standing on tiptoe to nibble at one of his gills.

Abe shuddered, as her mouth gently tugged and sucked at his sensitive lamellae and she distinctly heard his teeth click together as he snapped his jaw closed and leaned his head back giving her better access. After a few seemingly endless minutes of her attention, he was drawing in ragged breaths, his mouth gaping open once more.

His hands suddenly clamped down on hers. "Let's get this over with," he growled, breathing hard.

"Get it over with?" she asked, startled, as her mind jumped to the obvious wrong conclusion.

He chuckled raggedly. "I didn't mean... that. I intend to take my time when we get to that point." Turning slightly, he threw his right arm around her shoulders and pulled her forward against his right side, his left hand cupping the side of her face so that he could lean in and nibble at her neck.

"Oh Lord, Abe..." she groaned.

"Just Abe," he corrected, lifting his mouth away, not having lost his sense of humor. His left hand moved to capture her right one and slowly guided it, palm down, over his abs and under the waistband of his scuba trunks. "I was speaking of the necessary anatomy lesson. You've waited a long time for the answers to your questions and it occurs to me that it would be best for both of us to get this out of the way."

"You don't have to..." she began to say, trembling uncontrollably.

"You've earned those answers, Liz," he groaned. "Besides, your curiosity is driving me to distraction!"

Then even more slowly, he slid her hand lower. "I may not be put together like a human male, but neither am I as sexless as a fish," he whispered between nibbles, his breathing becoming shallower, quicker, even as her own was. His hand, forcing hers to explore him, was arousing them both almost beyond reason.

Stilling their hands for a moment, he paused to regain his composure. "Think of it this way; why would I be designed along the lines of a land based mammal when I'm aquatic? My body temperature is low enough that my testes don't need to be kept outside my body. It makes sense that they be located where they are best protected and insulated from my cold environment, which is why they are located internally, near my kidneys," he explained.

He slid her hand down over his pubic bone and slightly further, until there was no longer any doubt in her mind that something did indeed seem to be missing.

"You know enough about dolphin anatomy, Liz..."

"I think I understand," she panted. "Do... do you have control over when it makes an appearance or is it purely reflexive?"

"Reflexive," he gasped as he guided her searching fingers over a horizontal slit located down below his pubic bone. He pressed her hand harder against him, rubbing her fingers over his genital groove until, with a grunt and an uncontrollable buck of his hips, Liz suddenly found her fingers wrapped around something hard, thick, silky and oh so very warm. She nearly jerked her hand away in surprise, but he held her fast.

There was a moment of stunned silence, both of them breathing heavily, while her brain caught up with what she was holding. When it did, a long moan escaped her. As impossible as it seemed, he grew even harder. He made no protest as she began to slowly stroke him, overcome as she was, with a desire so strong that it seemed to turn her legs to jelly.

Their eyes locked, taking in the naked lust written on each other's face seconds before their mouths crashed together. They each seemed to be fighting for the right to utterly consume the other.

His other hand briefly made its way down between her legs before he gasped, then withdrew it, tightening his other hand over her own and stilling it, to their mutual disappointment. "We have to stop," he panted, removing her hand from his trunks and gazing at her through eyes narrowed with desire. "Now is not the time..."

She wrapped her arms tightly around him in reply, pressing her belly against him and stretching to nibble at his neck.

"God, Liz, you have to stop thinking such things," he groaned, then gasped as she nipped him some more.

"And what am I thinking?" she challenged.

"That you are pleased with me," he husked. "That, rather than think me odd, you actually find me more attractive than ever." He paused to suckle her earlobe. "...That you want me to take you right here, right now and completely..."

She placed a hand over his mouth. "Shhh... Gentlemen shouldn't give away too much," she cautioned.

"I really should go now," he husked. Giving her a quick hug and a peck on the lips, he let himself out the glass door.

Liz watched as he disappeared into the darkness. "I hope that the water in that pool is cold," she muttered, a lopsided grin on her face. "...Real cold; I really need to cool off!"

Abe had to fight the urge to run to his bungalow, so strong was the adrenaline rush of joy that gripped him, yet somehow he managed to keep some sense of decorum.

Reaching the door, he let himself in and flicked on the lights, surprised to find that the decor in his place was quite a bit different than that of Liz's bungalow. For one thing, it seemed to have a more masculine theme. He had to admire the thought that the resort had put into making each place unique.

Placing his card key and cell phone on the small table near the entrance, he shucked his scuba top and sandals, then checked to make certain that bungalow was secure. Only then dis he move into the bedroom, where he threw himself backwards onto the bed with a heartfelt sigh.

Liz had been... she'd been... unbelievable, incredible; everything he'd ever wanted. And her thoughts, her desire for him had been more than a match for the desire he felt for her.

Could it be that he'd found true love at long last; that this time, finally, he might win at love?

He was still replaying the last few passionate minutes with Liz over in his mind when his cell phone rang.

Perfect timing, as usual…

With a sigh and reminding himself that patience was a virtue, he crossed back into the main room to answer it.

"Hey Blue," came a familiar voice.

"Red," he replied. His friend's voice acted like a dousing of ice water, bringing him back down to earth. Still, he was glad to finally hear from Hellboy. "How are you doing?" he asked.

There was a sigh followed by, "Oh... not so good. I'm guessing that I don't need to fill you in on the situation."

"No, and I hope that you know that I had nothing to do with it," he replied.

"I don't blame you, Blue," Hellboy answered. "I know it was Liz's decision, but it's still so hard to take. There was a time when I really did hope that we'd always be together."

Abe sat on the edge of his bed. "I'm glad you called. I was worried about you," he admitted.

"Don't be; you know I can take care of myself," Hellboy groused. Then he sighed and fell silent.

"Do you know why Liz left, Red?"

"That's just it; I'm not sure that I do! It could be any number of things or maybe a combination of all of them. All I know is she's been pining for you the entire time she was with me. Maybe, in the end she decided that you were the right guy and that she made the wrong decision."

"It's not that simple," Abe sighed. "The point is that you might have been very happy with your relationship, but she may never have felt fulfilled. If you ask me, I think it makes a very strong case for not just rushing into a physical union with someone."

"Yeah, well that's easy for you to say, Blue," Hellboy huffed. "It's not like you've ever really had a woman begging you to take her."

Abe felt himself bristle at the comment but managed to keep his voice even. "There have been one or two times over the years," he admitted.

"Really? When?" Hellboy sounded very surprised.

"There were a few missions and it had nothing to do with love," he replied. "But you didn't phone to talk about me and as far as your statement goes, as I recall, you were the one doing all the begging. She was always somewhat lukewarm with you, but perhaps your need, your enthusiasm for her led her to think that it would be nice if things could work out between you two."

"So you're saying that I convinced her that she could fall in love with me?"

"Could be."

"Huh..." There was a long pause. "You may be onto something there. She never really acted enthusiastic, you know? She was always very neutral about everything." He sighed deeply. "You have no idea how that wore me down, how I kept looking for her to suddenly brighten and be happy, really happy. It never happened and slowly she began to drift away. I've felt this coming for a long time..."

"That couldn't have been easy," Abe replied. "I'm guessing that was why you started to withdraw in turn, why Kate's return had such a big impact."

"I never did anything inappropriate with Kate!"

"I'm not saying that," he explained. "Just that it left Liz not only uncertain of the two of you, but lacking the attention that kept her with you to begin with. She, in turn, saw you happy when you were with Kate, she saw you getting the attention she couldn't give you and which you needed." Abe shrugged. "We could surmise all day long, but in the end I think Liz was right; you and she were not meant to be a couple, no matter how much you wished it were otherwise. Red, it really does take two to tango. Now the next question is; can you accept that?"

"I'm trying," Hellboy replied. "But it's hard, so very hard…" There was a long pause. "Blue... you're my friend and well... I would never hold anything against you."

"Thanks, Red." Abe smiled in relief. "It's good to know that you're not going to pound me into a pulp."

Hellboy snorted. "Yeah, well, if you hurt Liz, I may. Take care of yourself, buddy boy!"

With a sigh, Abe clicked off and placed the phone on the dresser before making his way outside and heading directly through the foliage via a path which led to the beach.

In a short while he was standing on fine white sand and looking out over the gulf. It was a beautiful night; perfect as a Hollywood sunset and the moonlight on the water nearly stole his breath away.

With a joyous whoop that was quite uncharacteristic of him, he ran up an outcropping of rocks and dove in.

Abe made his way towards the shallows after a long, delightful excursion out into deep water. He realized he'd been gone longer than he'd intended when he caught sight of the moon and noticed how far it had traveled through the night sky.

He'd been on the water for two hours at the very least; not a good thing when the rest of his team thought he was nearby and easily reachable in case they needed him.

With a sigh, he started crossing the beach towards the foliage when he suddenly felt it, a wave of such malevolence that his fins stood on end and he felt a chill travel down his spine. It was coming from the area of the path he needed to take in order to return to his bungalow.

Backing up a short distance, he scanned the greenery and tried to pick up more information on whatever was so angrily watching him. He soon gave up, unable to either see or sense anything of use.

Instead, he began walking down the beach, close enough to the water to take to it if need be. His intent was to find another path or road and take a more roundabout way home.

The malevolent force followed him, growing ever angrier until he stopped and drew his gun. He doubted that the thing he sensed was mortal, but it never hurt to be prepared… just in case.

Twenty minutes later, he was both frustrated and out of patience; regardless of how far he wandered, the being refused to give up stalking him. He was truly beginning to worry about the rest of his team; it seemed that he was being toyed with and intentionally kept from them.

As a last resort, gun still in hand, he broke into a run and headed back the way he'd come. Perhaps he could out-distance it and reach the path to the bungalow first.

Minutes ticked by as he felt the creature fall further and further behind him. By the time he reached the trail header, he could no longer sense it and made the decision to risk entering the foliage.

Continuing his headlong rush, he approached the only fork in the trail without incident.

That's when his luck ran out.

He skidded to a stop as something parted the fronds and stepped out further up on the path he needed to follow.

It appeared to be an old man of averaged height, but Abe instantly knew it was anything but, for it looked like a drowned corpse. It's belly and limbs were bloated, its skin a sickly gray-green and its eyes a filmy, liquidly gray. Dark green kelp entangled its head, hanging like hair about its shoulders and it was lit with a phosphorescent glow.

As he watched, another wave of malevolence hit him and the creature raised one hand to point its long, horn-like finger at him. An evil laugh reverberated through the air.

That was it; apparition or not, Abe lifted his gun and shot the being at least three times as he headed down the secondary path at a full run...

The path went on another hundred yards and then made a sharp left, but he kept on running straight ahead, through the underbrush and right up to the edge of the large pond he'd spotted.

Turning a one eighty, he came down on one knee and trained the sights of his gun on the path he'd left.

There was no sign of the creature, nor any psychic trace. Still, he remained on guard as he caught his breath. He was just about to stand when he glimpsed movement behind him, from the lake…

With a bellow, the creature rose up out of the water and caught him in a bear hug from behind. His gun discharged one more time as he reflexively pulled the trigger and then he was dragged below the water line.

Finding himself in his true element, a sudden calmness settled over him even as he began to wrestle with his foe. The malevolence was back, hitting him with waves of psychic hatred as the apparition, now solid as any living creature, pummeled him and pulled him deeper.

The thing was strong and Abe found himself in a true battle of wills as he fought to free himself. Still, he had confidence that he would quickly rid himself of his attacker; he had a knife hidden in the back of his belt.

It was as he reached back for the weapon that his foe got the better of him; the strange kelp that clung to it began to wind around his head, covering his gills and tightening to seal them closed.

He flailed, the knife forgotten as a most unpleasant sensation began to overcome him; suffocation. He had little oxygen stored in his lungs and he would quickly drown without the use of his gills.

As if sensing this, the creature laughed most unpleasantly in his mind.

With little time to waste, Abe kicked powerfully, throwing his entire body into the task of moving to the surface. The kelp was now wrapped tightly around even his nose and eyes, but he knew which way was up and focused his will on reaching the air.

He succeeded, briefly breaking the surface and drawing a few quick breaths.

"Liz!" he bellowed.

Then he finally panicked, thrashing without thought as he was again pulled below the surface. This time even more kelp ensnared him, wrapping around his arms and legs and restricting all movement as he was pulled quickly down to the depths.

Liz heard the gunshots the moment she surfaced. She'd only just entered the swimming pool a moment beforehand, diving into the deep end and hoping that perhaps Abe would hear her splashing about and join her.

"Abe!" She cried out, immediately knowing in her bones that he was in danger. She could feel his anxiety twisting around in her head.

Despite her training, despite a history of the two of them constantly being thrown in the midst of life or death situations, a deep panic suddenly gripped her; making her shake with reaction as her adrenaline surged. She briefly thought about retrieving her gun as she hoisted herself out of the water, but felt it would take too much time and instead headed through the brush in the direction of Abe's bungalow.

Fortunately, she was guided in the right direction when another shot rang out, followed a short while later by his urgent cry of "Liz!"

She moved faster, her legs eating up the earth beneath them until she reached a fork in the path.

Barely slowing down, she took the route to the left, away from the beach.

Back in her bungalow, Miriam had also heard the gunshots. She flew past the pool to Liz's place but quickly saw the wet trail leading from the edge of the pool towards the foliage and knew her fellow agent was already on the move.

As she started off in the same direction, she was brought to a sudden halt as a large bull seal suddenly flopped its way into the pool area. Her first instinct had been to raise her gun when she'd seen movement, but now she slowly lowered it.

She and the seal stared at each other. Continuing on towards the path would mean getting closer to the seal, but she really didn't have any time to lose. Besides, she'd quickly heal if it managed to bite her.

"Sorry guy!" she yelled, making for the path at a run. "Don't have time to stay and exchange hellos!"

The seal watched her as she scooted past it, but then it began to follow.

"Oh, you gotta be kidding me…" Miriam groaned when she realized what it was doing. Uncertain of the beast's motives and wanting to put more distance between herself and it, she ran faster.

Liz came to a standstill when the path turned sharply away from a pond that was just barely visible through the foliage. Abe was in that water; she just knew it! Carefully, she crept closer, taking care not to make much noise.

The moonlight through a break in the trees showed Abe's footprints and a place where he'd been kneeling on one leg in his favored shooting pose. Closer to the water, there were deep gouges in the wet earth, made by the feet of an unwilling person being dragged to water.

A slapping noise got her attention. Someone was running down the path in her direction.

Ducking behind a tree trunk, she waited in the shadows, ready to fry anything evil that showed its ugly head.

Seconds later Miriam came into view.

"Meyeul!" she yelled, as her fellow agent began to follow the curve away from the pond. "Get down here!"

Miriam did just that, but gave her a strange look as she bent over and caught her breath.

"There's a seal following me!" she panted.

"Never mind that now!" Liz snapped. "Abe's down there somewhere, and he's in trouble! We've got to do something!"

Miriam turned to look at the surface of the pond just as a cluster of bubbles broke the surface.

At the same time, Liz felt as though something vital inside her had suddenly been switched off. "No!!!!" she screamed, wading out into the water.

Miriam grabbed her arms and stopped her. "Wait Liz!" she reasoned. "You can't go in; if something has Abe, it'll get you too!"

Panicking and unable to hear reason, Liz struggled and then began to flame, burning the other agent everywhere they touched.

With a cry, Meyeul fell back, but just then they both became aware of the sound of something big and ungainly crashing through the underbrush.

A huge, gray seal bull bounced right between the two of them and made a single splash before it slipped beneath the water.

The shock of it was enough for Liz to regain her senses; her flames instantly died out and a terrible guilt welled up within her at the sight of the third degree burns on Meyeul's arms and hands. Some of the other agent's clothing had melted to her skin and her hair was singed.

"Oh my God…." She managed to choke out before throwing up in the surrounding greenery.

"I'll be all right," Miriam said between clenched teeth. "Liz, trust me; I'll be right as rain in just minutes."

Liz wiped her mouth and nodded, understanding but not feeling any better for it. Despite the other agent's assurances, the wounds had to be unbearably painful, for Miriam's face was white and she was shaking uncontrollably.

Falling to her knees in the brackish water, Liz also began to shake, but from a feeling of utter helplessness. She had no way to reach Abe, she'd severely injured Meyeul through sheer carelessness and to top it off there was a gray seal lurking in the same water as her partner.

Her heart was beating so fast that she felt faint. What could they do? What could she do? Standing upright she took a deep breath, ready to dive into the black water; better to at least die trying to save him...

"Look!" Miriam shouted, pointing.

The water was stirring. Then it began to churn angrily...

To be continued...