PhaHks

I/IV

NOTE: I decided to gather copies of all my other stories out there and post them on my /geelady site also 'cause I want all my babies under one roof.

by GeeLady (GenieVB)

TITLE: "PhaHks" (An X-Files/Star Trek Universe Crossover)- Prologue.

AUTHOR: GeeLady

RATING: NC-17. MATURE Language, violence, sexually explicit scenes, slash-rape, adult situations.

SPOILERS: Folie A Deux, The End

THANK-YOU'S: I thank this Mulder/Torture Site maintained by SMILEY! (everything

else I did on my own). This story is free for archiving anywhere with my full

permission and gratitude.

SUMMARY: MT/MSR. Mulder is abducted - for real - and returned eight years later.

DISCLAIMER: The X-Files series, movie, characters, and related props: guns, ugly

ties and sunflower seeds are all the property of Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen

Product- ions and the Fox Network. I don't want any credit, fame or fortune from

X-Files, I only want to write about your show and characters to entertain myself

and others. Also, Star Trek and its Universe are owned by Gene Roddenberry and

his heirs and Paramount and not me, I don't want any fame or fortune from any of

YOUR stuff either.

"PhaHks" - Prologue.

"Impounded."

Startled, "What?" she asked.

"His vehicle wasn't at his apartment because it was impounded Friday night,

Agent Scully."

It was Sunday.

"Why? What's happened, sir?"

"Sit down." F.B.I Assistant Director Walter Skinner directed her to a chair

opposite his desk with a wave of his hand. "That's the question of the day."

In other words, he thought, nothing new. "It's why I'm here so early in here on

a Sunday, Agent Scully." He leaned forward, slumping, as if his head had

suddenly grown very heavy. It was an unusual posture for him and she noted it.

"And now that you're here-"

"-Sir, what is going on? I wasn't able to reach Mulder all weekend - "

"I tried to contact you about this late Friday." Skinner interrupted. "Where

were you?"

"Oh. I'm sorry, sir. I was...at my godson's until today. I, uh, I didn't have my

Cell' with me, I'm..." she twitched her eyebrows, an ironic, facial shrug, "I've

been leaving it at home so Mulder,...I mean, when we have no current case,...so

my weekends off are weekends off."

Skinner nodded. There was no accusation in his tone, "You couldn't have known,

Agent Scully. But something has happened. We don't yet know what." He handed her

a thin manila folder. "The investigation began Friday night."

Pulling a lock of her red hair back behind one ear, Agent Scully read the police

report contained within. There wasn't much and she was aware that Skinner, of

course, knew it contents but she read aloud anyway:

""Vehicle registered to Fox Mulder found abandoned just off "I-90" approximately

four A.M. this morning..." She closed her sky-blue eyes and opened them again.

"No signs of forced entry, but passenger-side door ajar. Identification,

cellular and weapon discovered in glove compartment. Exterior and interior

dusted, no prints found other than owners. Overnight bag in trunk.."."

She looked back to her boss. "There's nothing here indicating robbery? No blood

found, no trace evidence, nothing indicating that anything of a violent nature

occurred?"

"No." He shook his head. "But his car was found with the engine running. No

witnesses to his prior activities," he finished paraphrasing the report for her.

"No other tire tracks on the shoulder, no "suspicious activities" seen by anyone

on the road that night. No calls made from his cellular since Friday evening,

and that one was to his mother in Chilmark."

"She knows he's missing?"

"Yes but she can't tell us anything. From his call to her, he was on his way

there. She expected him around ten P.M., only he didn't arrive."

"And knowing his mother, she wouldn't worry right away. Um,...Mulder's been

known not to keep appointments."

Skinner sniffed in agreement, having himself butted heads with the Agent in

question. Mulder was the most talented, most risk-taking, most bullet-prone and

altogether most frustrating agent in his department. Had he been a road sign, it

would have said: "WARNING! HAZARD!"

"As far as local police and the Department are able to determine, Mulder went

straight from work to home and then we assume on to his mothers. If you can

offer us any insight into this, Agent Scully, anywhere he might have gone, his

habits outside of work, the Bureau is all ears. They have the official

investigation and I myself will do everything possible but I'm leaving the

un-official inquiries up to you. You'll have full access to the case."

Scully winced. Mulder had been reduced from valued partner to "the case".

Skinner was still speaking. "You know more about him than anyone."

Scully peered across the desk of her boss. What he meant was that he knew she

was worried and that she had leave to do what was necessary to find him, but not

necessarily the obligation to let him in on the details.

She was grateful for his between-the-lines encouragement. Walter Skinner

sometimes - often - came across as a stern and uncompromising man in his glasses

and starched, white shirts stretched tight over military shoulders.

But where strangers might see only a stiff disciplinarian, she saw much more.

Had seen it, often. Firmness and by the book attitude - yes - Skinner was a

master at that. But A.D. Skinner, behind his gold-rimmed glasses and pursed

lips, showed genuine concern and consideration for those under his orders. He

worried about his agents, he cared about them. And for that, almost to a man, he

inspired loyalty. His agents respected him. More than that, they liked him.

"Yes, sir, thank-you. I'll do my best. I think I'd like to start by visiting the

spot where his car was discovered."

Skinner dropped his official face for a moment and rubbed the bridge of his

nose, nodding. "I am sorry Agent Scully. I'm sure something will turn up soon."

He thought Sometimes Mulder's a thorn in my ass but he's MY thorn and it's MY

ass!, but what he said was: "I hope Mulder's all right."

"Yes, sir, so do I."

But the spot was just a spot on a gravel road about two hundred feet off the

highway. Just a road by a hill where bushes quivered in the afternoon breeze.

Later, checking out the forensic team's results on his car, she learned they had

found nothing further, no clue to his whereabouts or why he'd left his car

behind. Or (another idea and the more likely hypotheses, she'd decided) why

"they" had taken him, leaving the car.

Disappearing without a trace was not scientific but, thus far, it applied.

Scully kept up the investigative inquiries, pursuing all angles, every

possibility, anything. She even enlisted the talents of Byers, Langly and

Frohike, Mulder's weird but endearing friends and publishers of The Magic

Bullet, a little back-alley rag that spouted the latest C.I.A. conspiracies,

U.F.O hot-spots and what-not.

Their inspirations turned up nothing.

Trouble had always hung around Mulder like a bad odor, yet, even their forays

into danger she began to miss. A good, frustrating, convoluted case had with few

exceptions brought out the best in both of them. A few adrenaline pumping

almost-being-killed's thrown in? Even better.

Death, faced together, they conquered.

Disaster had been their best friend and their worst enemy.

But now the enemy was unknown. Days added up into weeks and then months.

Two enemies: the UNSUBS

And time.

As one of her colleagues assigned to "the Mulder case" had elaborated, "Time's a

killer," then, callously disregarding that she was within earshot, "the longer

Spooky's missing, the more likely it is he's dead."

Before long, summer had left.

Fall came and went.

Then winter with its inevitable drizzle drifted in, depressing her in its

insistence on smearing everything in grey. She loathed its proclamation because

it matched her spirits.

When another new Spring arrived the fresh growth mocked her because she could

not share the beauty of it with him. Could not, while on a case with him, stop

the car and enjoy a few moments smelling the breeze beside the road as they

stretched their cramped legs.

They could no longer park at a roadside gas-station restaurant, sip bitter

coffee and watch each other eat. She especially missed seeing him struggle with

the white powdered sugar that coated his chin after he wolfed down two or three

donuts.

Could no longer fall asleep in a seedy motor-Inn, knowing he was just a door

away. Couldn't look forward to breakfast and his morning highs, his mouth moving

too fast for her to follow as he summed up what he'd been thinking about all

night over their current case.

Couldn't watch him spill coffee on his tie.

The good stuff.

Summer came around again but to her it was ugly and infuriating. She didn't

think anything should be colorful or pretty or alive because it was like a

betrayal. The world didn't miss him and it should have.

She missed him.

Missed almost everything about him.

Had never told him.

They had each, rarely, ever broached the subject of their mutual respect and,

even less so, their trusted partnership. Their valued friendship, jointly

cherished, had not once been spoken of openly. They had sort of taken each other

matter-of-factly. He was her partner and she was his. They fought for each

other, protected each other, cared about each other. Nothing had needed to be

said.

Certainly not the unspoken, stronger feelings because that was an un-chartered

deeply running current. At least in her.

It had remained, in the end, untouched.

He had given her signals, more than once. She had chosen not to respond. So as

not to, she had thought, endanger the working bond they shared, the professional

chemistry that had made them a superb team. Not responded to his small sometimes

two-meanings touches with any of her own however much she'd wanted to.

In fact, sometimes she'd played cool and amused. Always he had laughed it all

off as part of their little clown act.

It even sounded like they belonged in a troupe. "Scully N' Mulder".

Jokes.

Sometimes his eyes, though, would be thoughtful afterward. Unsteady. Puzzled.

Worried.

Hurt.

Scully thought, not for the first time since he'd vanished, that Regret was a

living, stabbing bitch and she was sticking it to Dana Scully but good.

She remained with the X-Files with regular forays into pathology at Quantico.

Eventually, most of her week was spent there. But she made sure that at least

one full day and several evenings were taken up with the X-Files. Not that there

was much to do there. Fewer and fewer cases of the paranormal flavor came across

her desk.

A few she solved. None about abductions.

Mostly missing persons where the circumstances seemed unusual. She requested

302's and usually got them. Traveled a little but not like before. Kept expenses

to a minimum and generally pursued her cases as she saw fit.

Nobody bitched.

Certainly the tiny basement office was no expenditure to the Bureau since she

was already on the Quantico payroll.

Spooky's old domain wasn't exactly up for grabs.

Days became routine.

She kept the X-Files department active but she suspected Skinner allowed it out

of indulgence to her and her value as a versatile agent and not because he

believed, as she did, that Mulder would be returning.

After the fire, the place had been redecorated. Whatever had been salvageable

had been rescued and re-filed, re-stacked, repainted.

New desk.

New department head.

It was lunch hour and she seated herself at her usual spot. A table by the

window at a quaint little bagel nosher (not where she and Mulder used to go),

within walking distance to work. It was where she occasionally met her mother on

weekends unless she was away on a case which was happening less and less.

The waiter (the place employed waiters in cute little bow ties and shiny shoes)

brought coffee.

Scully's thanked him absentmindedly, her thoughts on a case just weeks prior to

Mulder's disappearance.

"Scully, you're my one in five billion."

Mulder had said that to her. Lying in a psyche ward, strapped down, at the mercy

of an unknown, unseen killer. Some monster that had terrified him. Frightened

him enough that he began to pursue it. Believed it enough that he had risked

chasing that belief as far as right into the A.D.'s office, screaming out his

accusations of "It" hiding in the light and infecting the innocent.

No one else had believed him.

Certainly not the Assistant Director, bruised from having to have pinned Mulder

to his desk. Certainly not the EMT's who were summoned to come and strap Mulder

down on their roll-away, plastic sheets gurney.

Certainly not his partner, Scully thought. But it, Mulder, the whole thing, had

sounded so totally OUT THERE. His claims, the ravings of a genius mind finally

spiraling down into madness. SHE hadn't believed him. Not for a minute.

Not this! she had thought and, later, was forced to ask herself: why not?

All those other cases with Mulder threading together some bizarre theory of

human sized sucker worms, moth-men, vampires,

pituitary gland sucking voo-doo spirits...Scully had a quite a list tucked away

in her brain. Some of the strange she'd seen with her own eyes and had no better

theories to account for them. No way to validate their existance yet no evidence

to invalidate Mulder's conclusions.

But a zombie-making, mind-controlling monster-man right out of Stephen Kings

closet of BOO's?

But along "It" had come.

A monster, (disguised as a man of course), working for - of all things - a vinyl

siding company. A monster that "hid in the light", chomping on its employees

necks, turning them into zombie slaves and mastering them through mental

telepathy.

Whoa-whoaWHOA! Mulder??, had been her first thought.

In the face of his Mulder-normal voice and paper-thin circumstantial evidence,

he had scared the shit out of her.

So, Holy shit! is he kidding or is he (my god) losing it?, had been her second

thought.

Didn't believe him. At first, didn't even consider it.

Her partner of five years, labeled as a delusional schizophrenic, had been held

down, sedated, and transported away in a quiet ambulance while half of his peers

had watched, shaking their heads and whispering among themselves "See? I told

you so.", "I knew he was NUTS, but geez...", "Didja hear? Ol' "Spooky" just did

a swan dive off the deep end.".

Days prior to his undignified exit from Skinner's office, Mulder had come to

her, his partner, for assistance, for her medical expertise. His request, said

calmly, rationally, even nicely. "If this is, as you say, all in my mind, I

would really appreciate you helping me prove that."

Spoken quietly or not, it had been a plea.

And what had she said or done?

Nothing.

Well, not NOTHING...

She had dismissed his claims as the work of an overworked mind, one that had

fallen under the empathic spell and insistence of a lunatic.

The other nothing she had done was to adamantly refuse to help him prove or even

disprove the claims of his own eyes by performing a simple autopsy, even when,

two days previous, he had in their shared office, so calmly, begged her to help

him.

Begged her.

"If this is all in my mind,..."

Later staring down at him in a psyche ward, seeing firsthand his desperation,

she had mouthed some patronizing garbage, expressing her hope that he'd "come

out of it".

Helpless to help himself, laying there, restrained and drugged, he'd pleaded for

her help again. After five years together, she had stood there with her arms

crossed, knee-deep in his humiliation...

...and then had said NO!

"I'm ashamed." Scully said to the room, empty of her partner but still full of

his life. She'd driven all the way to work on a Saturday. And this room had him

written all over it.

But there was no absolution here.

But, of course, he had forgiven her immediately. Hadn't even mentioned it.

At least she could take some comfort in that she had come through for him in the

end.

Just short of too late.

Even that day when she'd refused him, his eyes had not accused.

She missed those eyes, whether wide-eyed at a light in the sky or still and

sleeping. Eyes that could be so terribly sad and then, in seconds, playful.

She missed it all.

His chewed up pencils still littered the office. If she used her imagination,

she could picture him sitting at his desk, reading, chewing his lip with his

gleaming white, slightly crooked incisors inside that long angle of jaw.

Nature was frivolous.

She knew of male agents, some with whom she occasionally consulted, who spent

hours in the gym, on the track and in front of the mirror trying vainly to

achieve what her partner had been given by genetics.

Ironically, Mulder had on occasion used his various charms to woo a difficult

witness of the female persuasion when it suited his ends.

Or use those same good looks and charm to piss them royally off if THAT suited

his purpose; if it meant getting at the truth.

And he was good at it.

Nothing like a sexy, handsome man staring down at you and speaking to you in a

tone of voice that said you were beneath him. Like you were nothing special.

Like your tits were too small and your hole too loose.

Like, under any other circumstances, he wouldn't have given you the time of day

never mind a roll in the dark. It almost never failed to make the woman hiss and

bare her claws.

And sometimes such tactics brought out the truth.

Mulder was a psychologist, after all. Anger often made people say exactly what

was on their mind.

But it depended on the witness and what he needed from them.

If you were a victim, he was gentleness itself. Sometimes he didn't want

anything except to ease their hurt.

Scully's thoughts left the psychological for the physical.

She realized that now and then he must have given in to his bodies biological

urges and had company overnight in his infrequently slept-in bed or spent a

night away from home in someone else's. When, where, how often or with who she

had not known nor had she wanted to, private speculations aside. (Bar pick-ups

perhaps?) But to her knowledge Mulder had never resorted to prowling for a

streetwalker in order to satisfy whatever were his sexual aches. It hadn't fit

the Mulder she knew.

He simply would NOT HAVE DONE.

Mulder, with his "Yes Ma'am"'s, and "No Ma'am"'s, his "Yes, please"'s and

"thank-you"'s, and his, in that unaffected, natural grace, standing whenever a

lady, young or old, entered a room all bespoke breeding and manners not

customarily found among the fruit of his generation. Mulder had picked up some

of his male graces during his Oxford days, but Scully knew that was not the

whole story. And good manners could certainly not have been beaten into him, no

matter how hard his father had tried.

Part of his tenderness must have come from endurance. Abused kids often grow up

to be abusers themselves. Not so in Mulder's case. Quite the opposite. She'd

known him as a gentle spirit though Scully suspected that underneath had existed

a steel core, forged under fists and angry words, which had finally emerged with

a determination to be anything BUT hard and impenetrable. NOT like father, like

son.

No. Mulder was a born gentleman. And a humanitarian. People always came first.

Innocents were cleared, victims comforted, THEN justice met out upon the

evil-doers.

All that and good looks too despite a nose rather too large, teeth a little bit

over bitten, chin a wee bit receding, hair the slightest bit unruly, forehead a

touch too high. Somehow out of that cauldron of slight imperfections, nature had

cooked up a face that stopped women in their tracks in order to take a second

and then a third look.

Then, just to top it off, it had dolled him six feet-one inch of lithely molded,

tight masculinity that just made women gooey.

Drop-dead gorgeous had sprung from mish-mash.

He'd known of his affect on women and even of the jealousy his looks had incited

among his male peers. She knew he had been well aware of it, in fact. But the

thing was, he just hadn't cared. He'd been far too mind-focused and driven by

his perpetual work to have taken any of it seriously. Of what he had not been

aware, she mused, were the hungry looks from certain male associates who'd

stared after him, their eyes resting upon his back a trifle too long to have

accounted for mere "Spooky" curiosity. Wistful visual touches that spoke their

disappointment in the common knowledge of Mulder's heterosexual preferences.

No, Mulder would never have had to resort to a prostitute. There had been plenty

of available sex-partners at the Bureau all too happy to have accommodated him.

Women, at least, who'd had no reservations about making their interests crystal

clear. But beyond a tolerant wink, Mulder had never shown the slightest

inclination to accept.

Scully disciplined her thoughts. They kept drifting into past tenses.

Despite his video collection of unspeakables, Mulder was old-fashioned.

Consumed by his work.

And, despite persistent gossip to the contrary, too much of a professional to

romantically entangled himself with a workmate. Too risky in his view. Such

liaisons could interfere with his time sucking workload and his personal quests,

the sole focus of his life.

Each partner with no entanglements. Each busy with work.

With each other.

But one warm evening, on their last case together before his disappearance, all

her set assumptions regarding her deep water partner had been dashed to little

pieces.

Before the vision of his hand been held in the tenderness of another's, she had

stood stunned. For a second only but long enough to have tipped her from her

foundations.

Her mental Mulder files had lay scattered at her feet all because of one moment

and a name from the past:

Diana Fowley.

What had she been to him? And what was he becoming to her now?

Mulder, who wore his heart out in the open for all to see, who had shown

tolerance even to those who had hurt him, who so endearingly wanted things to be

right in the world, had suddenly been captured by an old love out to rekindle

his old flame, which fire was not burning for Scully.

In a split second, the length of time it had taken her to keep walking down that

cool hallway and not disturb them, Scully had felt like she was losing the part

of her life that suddenly was too precious to lose. The part she'd had, up to

that point, taken for granted.

Except for those atrocious ties.

Margaret Scully was worried.

"Dana, I want you to talk someone."

It was Sunday.

Bagel Bistro Brunch day. It was their interpretation of "New England".

Dana Scully played with her half-eaten peach crepe. Kippers were gross.

"Mom, don't."

Margaret leaned across the table, forcing her only daughter to look at her. "I

know how things were. I'm not blind. I wasn't to Fox and certainly not to you.

This isn't healthy. What if-"

"There are no what-if's yet. We don't know anything."

"I know. Dana, I know."

Dana sighed heavily at her mother's worried expression. "Mom, why couldn't

things have been simpler than this?"

Why couldn't she be out in the world and feeling all of it? Instead of inside

this transparent bubble that went everywhere she did. It kept out the freshness

of life.

If she tried...if she stretched out her arm, her finger-tips almost brushed the

inner edge of it. Almost. Not quite.

Like being with her mother. Just so far. No farther.

"What did you mean, Mom?"

"About...?"

"About being not blind to him?"

"You're so smart, Dana, but somehow it escaped you. It was there on his face

every time I saw him look at you, and in his voice. I knew the day you

disappeared."

"Mom, Mulder cared about so much. He fought for everyone who was close to him.

It only makes sense he would fight for me and-"

"Dana," she took her hand, "he was insane with grief." She slipped a cardboard

business card across the table to her daughter. "I want you to promise me you'll

go."

Dana understood the unspoken message. Margaret didn't want her daughter going

that same road.

She took the card and read the name. Another therapist. She had half a dozen

others just like it in her purse. Concerned colleagues, sincere friends, all

trying to help.

She didn't want help. She wanted to keep her own counsel and if that meant

crying every night in the shower and eye drops afterward, well then, leave her

the fuck alone.

But this was her mother, who had cared for and respected her partner. Who cared

for her.

"Okay. But I won't promise to continue."

At least the shrink was one not connected to the Bureau.

What the hell.

He record would be remain spic' and span.

"I see by your file that during your time assisting Agent Mulder in the X-Files

Division, you've been through a great deal. The loss of family members, your

life threatened on more than one occasion..."

"Yes."

"And now Agent Mulder has disappeared."

"Yes." Scully shifted as her private therapist adjusted her bifocals.

"Do you think Dana?...is it possible that you're feeling anger towards your

partner?"

"Anger? No, why would I be?"

"From things you said to me on your first visit. Because he's gone. Whatever the

circumstances, he's effectively exited from your life. Very suddenly. It can be

like a death, Dana. Sometimes, it can be harder, the not knowing."

"I understand what you're saying, but I'm not feeling anger towards him. Not at

all."

"Tell me what you are feeling. What brought you to me today?"

"I'm feeling...um, I think it's f-fear."

"Why?"

"I don't mean fright but,.. I don't blame Mulder. I don't blame him at all,

whatever's happened to him, it wasn't his choice, I know that for a fact." She

avoided a direct answer.

"How can you be sure?"

"Because I know him, Doctor Bryant. We worked together for five years. He has

occasionally gone off without a word, but not for this long and...and never like

this. There was no message from him on my computer."

"Is that what he usually did when he knew he would be away for an unusual time?"

She nodded. "Or when he was embarking on something a bit dangerous and wanted to

protect me, which he sometimes did."

"I see."

Scully thought that she did not see. Not really.

"Describe this fear. What do you mean by that? What kind of fear?"

Scully swallowed and took a breath, steeling herself.

"Mulder helped me through...things. We supported each other. I've made my own

choices and have lived with the consequences of those choices, but...I - he,

now, I don't - ." she wavered, halted.

"It sounds like you had an especially close partnership. From what you've

described, am I correct in saying you were more like family than workmates?"

"Yes. I feel like I've lost another member of my family and the fear is...that I

won't be able to handle it. I feel," she tried to find the right word,

"unstable, somehow and not just because he's missing. I'm a strong person,

doctor, but, I suppose I just learned to rely on him." She looked at her folded

hands. "More than anyone."

"Now you feel...?"

"I don't know. I am angry that, after a year of intensive investigation, we

still know nothing."

"How would you describe your relationship with Agent Mulder, other than in the

work environment?"

The doctor listened to the half answer.

"Friends. Mulder - whenever my ship was sinking, he was my life-boat, helping me

to...back to shore so, for me, the missing is easier than the knowing."

Liar.

"Are you sure about that?"

No! It was harder. God - how hard it was! to wait and know nothing. So this is

what it's like.

Twenty-five years. That's how long Mulder (before he became among the missing

yet hoped for himself) had waited for Samantha; how long he'd kept the candle

for her burning in his heart; the lantern to his road.

The hope.

Hope was being a prisoner. It was chains to the past and one tiny window to the

future. It was everything in ones world reduced to Someday.

And it was so cold.

That was the hardest of all, the most painful, keeping the hope warm and the

heart from turning into a tiny, painful block of ice.

She'd always thought that, though he'd been brave to have continued waiting and

hoping, he'd also been unwise. Better to put it behind oneself and move on,

she'd always silently believed.

Presumptuousness. Now she understood all too well what it was like to have a

treasure - a loved human being - taken from ones life; vanish without words or

warning.

Samantha had been missing for twenty-five years and he had still believed.

Things like these, she realized, cannot be left behind. They are precious cargo,

carried forward, willingly, desperately, under bowed shoulders and aching back.

Though they become heavier, they are kept close, perpetually embraced while

hurting like fucking hell.

Melissa, her own murdered sister, had been dead for three years. But at least

she could go and place flowers at Melissa's grave and weed around the head-

stone. Scully had had an ending. She'd had anger and acceptance. Grief then

closure. All those things in which she'd been able to indulge, those movements

that enable the survivor to live on and find equilibrium again. A struggle, yes.

But mostly good memories now.

Mulder had been less fortunate. His sister, at the time of his own

disappearance, had still been just a hope for him. A twenty-five year old ache.

He'd been much stronger than she had given him credit for. So very, very strong

to have carried the pain all that time. Despite all the promises she'd made to

herself in that regard, she felt unequal to the burden.

Scully came back to the doctor's office and realized she hadn't answered. Put

her hand to her mouth, spoke through it. "I don't know if I can stand to lose

him too,..." Her fingers trembled. Very softly, "...especially him."

The grand-mother-turned-doctor nodded her white head. Said kindly, "It's been

over a year. Have you considered the possibility that he might be - "

"- Dead?" I can't believe that. Not yet. I still have hope, of a form."

"I wonder: have you gone on with other aspects of your life?"

"I'm not sure what you mean. I have the work."

"The X-Files?"

"Yes."

"But what about your personal life?"

Had things turned out differently, she might have enjoyed that. But a woman

named Diana Fowley had suddenly, without warning, been shot like an arrow back

into her partner's life, passing through her like she wasn't even there,

metaphorically ripping her heart to pieces.

After the first day, after the first shock of learning about their previous

relationship and after seeing them working in tangent sans any sign of renewed

spark, her worry had almost faded right away. Almost.

But it had bothered her to find out that Mulder had a past; one other than

College days Phoebe Green. She felt stupid that she had thought that way. Of

course he has a past, she'd mused, you've been with him only five years. Prior

to that the man had lived most of his life without knowledge of your existence.

Then another shock.

The sight of Agent Diana Fowley holding Mulder's hand in both of hers so

tenderly, so much as if she had a right to do that, as if he somehow still

belonged there, had left her in a kind of limbo. The "I'm angry, scared and hurt

and I don't know why" kind of paralysis.

But she'd quite quickly figured out why. Quite thoroughly why. And that had been

another kind of shock.

Somewhere along the line, unconsciously maybe and un-acknowledged, where before

had lived in her respect, friendship, admiration, caring and professionalism,

now dwelled contentment, comfortable possession, emotional intimacy, desire.

Tender feelings.

Love.

Deep inside her.

The sudden surfacing of those intense feelings had left her confused.

Until that day, she'd been cuddled inside the complacency of what they had,

forgetting that he was a separate being who had a past and future and both might

not include her. The stark sight of Mulder with someone else, someone who just

could, eventually, replace her in his life center, which is where she'd always

assumed she sat, had left her mute. In mental shock. Not only from seeing his

one hand buried inside Diana Flowley's two, but by her own overwhelming

emotions.

None of this she could articulate to the soft spoken doctor across from her.

Because she still had never spoken of it openly. And she wanted it to be him who

heard it first. Only it was too late. Maybe.

"It's become the same." she finally offered.

"How so?"

"When I first joined his Division, I came because it was my assignment and I

stayed out of duty. I was still somewhat "green" in the Bureau and I stayed

because I was determined to do the job I was given and to do it to the best of

my ability. Soon, I stayed because I found the work fascinating," She smiled at

memories too impossible to share with the psychologist sitting opposite her,

"albeit a little out-of-the-ordinary. We worked well together and the work

became ours."

Scully paused.

The doctor could see the hesitation. "Everything you say here is strictly

confidential, it stays in this room."

Scully nodded, hesitated, then decided and continued. "Then I stayed because of

him."

"But now? Now - why do you stay?"

Scully was glad the doctor had blipped over that last bit of confession. "If I

didn't, it would be like giving up on him. I can't do that. I won't."

"You're keeping the X-Files alive for the day he comes back, is that it?"

"I suppose so. It sounds irrational, but I've exhausted every lead, there's been

no word - it's all I can think of to do now. I owe him that."

"It's not irrational." The doc scribbled on the notepad on her lap. "The

official investigation is closed, is that right?"

"Yes, but I've continued unofficially since then."

"Were you and your partner intimate?"

So the doc hadn't blipped over it. From her first session with Doctor Bryant,

Scully had learned that the doc liked to spring tough questions when she wasn't

looking, to catch her off guard and get at the truth. Scully's heart beat

loudly. She was sure Bryant could hear it.

"No."

"Were - are - your feelings for him still strictly professional?"

"He's my partner."

Where Scully had said "partner", the doctor had heard something else, something

that spoke of desperate hope and terrible regret.

"If Agent Mulder had not gone missing, do you think it would have become

something more than that?"

Scully looked down at her hands clasped in her lap. "No. Um - I don't know, I

can only speak for myself,...I, I can't answer that."

"That's all right. I was wondering because of the depth of your mourning." She

held up a hand at her patient's start. "Even if he is merely missing, you are

displaying textbook mourning processes and its intensity indicates to me that

you were extremely close to each other. A depth of feeling that you haven't

spoken of, at least to me. So close, Dana, that it has left you in a very

vulnerable state. My concern is how you are coping and will cope should Agent

Mulder not return or should the worst occur and it's discovered that he has

died."

Scully paled at the suggestion. "He's not dead." Saying it to re-enforce her own

belief. To make it real.

"Here's why I'm concerned Dana. What will you do if he, indeed, never returns?

It is something you might have to face. Have you even considered the

possibility?" Her patients answer would determine if the Agent Scully would

require short or long term therapy.

Licking her lips, "I plan to..." Scully looked out the window. Yellow afternoon

sun stopped at the pane and refused to warm her or obey the doctors desire to

color her spirit with anything other than greyness. Inside her, cold black and

white remained.

"...for now I plan to keep faith."

Doctor Bryant nodded to herself. Long-term.

One year became two, three, then four, speeding by faster and faster.

And before Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully MD., could count them off:

Eight years.

She had tried to be practical about it but then realized that was just another

kind of weakness. What did her partners disappearance have to do with practical?

For that matter, what did Mulder?

She tried to grieve and couldn't. He was not dead, she told herself. But her

resolve was weakening whether she would ever discover what happened or where he

was.

If she would ever see him again.

But she did keep her faith those first years that something would materialize to

show her the way to a discovery and, finally, to bringing him home.

Something that would rewind time so his absence and her heart-sickening failure

would all reverse, traveling backwards and backwards until it all the years of

no Mulder ceased to be. Until she could laugh at his stupid jokes again in while

he propped his big feet up on the desk.

She kept the faith but no dark, handsome partner appeared in answer to her call

to God. No new information jumped out at her from her e-mail, no anonymous phone

calls woke her from slumber with a mysterious tip to lead her to him. No one had

stumbled upon any remains or bones that proved to be his. As terrible an end as

that would be, at least she could feel like she'd done something other than fail

him. At least she - they - could lay him to rest, cry for a last time and get on

with the guilty business of living.

No trace.

Faith, being the assured expectations of things hoped for though unseen, was a

fragile thing.

Both Mulder children were gone now, disappearing twenty- nine years apart. The

sudden tearing away of them had left aching, frayed holes in the lives of some.

"Presumed dead" began to be uttered during the seventh year of his absence, each

time cutting another wedge out of her heart. But, once spoken, it had

accelerated the weakening of her faith, fading it throughout that eighth year

until it, too, disappeared. Quietly. Until it died.

That year, though faith was forsaken, she hoped that maybe brother and sister

had been rejoined, somehow, somewhere in life.

Or in death.

She hoped they were happy.

"PhaHks" - Part I.

He dreamed of light. Just for a second.

He dreamed it, but not as a blind man would dream. Not as something that could

only be, through the mind-sight of perpetual black, imagined.

No, with his open seeing eyes, he saw it. This light had form, controlled motion

and heat.

And it had given him pain and then.

Fear.

But first the dream had allowed him one quick lung full of mountain air.

Later when he awoke that crisp, pine-scented coolness that had filled him was

all he thought about.

Just getting it back.

When he awoke, he dreamed other things.

Stink.

He smelled it but was afraid to open his eyes because the last time he did, he

was still in the dream but the dream had changed. It was a nightmare now and he

couldn't move. And he couldn't rid his nostrils of the terrible stench that

assaulted them with every breath. Now and then he gagged from it and bits of

drying puke dotted his naked abdomen. Sweat and feces, pungent damp fur, rotting

teeth. Smells upon smells, a thick quilt of reek that draped over him no matter

where he turned his face.

When he awoke, he could smell his own urine and body odor. He'd peed himself

more than once since the dream had ended and the nightmare begun. Soon, because

he'd been holding back for hours, he would again be adding his own bowel

excretions to the slickness under his legs and buttocks and the purifying stench

would grow worse.

Still he did not open his eyes. But his teeth chattered and gooseflesh covered

him. And the pain in his empty belly and the sticky dryness of his throat kept

reminding him that he was real.

And that maybe, even though he'd kept his eyes shut because he must be dreaming,

this was too.

"Commander Veexow."

The Junior Navigator swivelled in his seat and straightened, holding himself at

strict attention.

The female Commander, seated in the center of the her enormous ship's bridge,

indicated for him to speak with a single nod, not looking at him.

"We have the wayward vessel, Commander. Three light years ahead, directly on our

course." he reported

"Excellent. We shall have to teach these "traders"" - the word was laced with

bemused contempt - "a little lesson in the decorum and proper respect befitting

their liberators. Bring us along side them and prepare an armed infiltration

unit. I want to see what sort of cargo they're trying to smuggle this time."

The Junior Navigator turned back to his instruments. "Yes, M'Lady."

He knew he was awake because, when he turned his head, he was certain he felt

wall against his cheek. Perfectly smooth and cold. But he wanted to know so he

opened his eyes to see and started to pant in terror when everything remained as

dark as it had been behind closed lids. He clenched his teeth and squeezed fists

to his temples, hoping to force himself elsewhere through pain and pressure. A

whine of terror escaped his lips and was answered with a sharp blow to his face.

He knew he was awake because it had hurt and he could taste his own blood. Then

he felt something else between two of his bottom teeth, managing to unclench a

fist in order to pull it out.

A long, coarse hair.

He retched again, covering himself in his own foul-smelling bile.

He knew he was awake when he tucked his freezing, cramped legs under him,

leaning slowly forward and down until his forehead rested on the floor, slimy

with all manner of fluids. The muscles throughout his body screamed to stretch.

But he wanted to burrow into himself and so bury what was happening, whatever

that was. A tiny, shivering ball was as far as he wanted to venture into this

reality-cum-nightmare.

"Take this creature and execute him!" The Commander released her hold on the

throat of the ugly little alien, ignoring his protests and pleas for mercy as he

was dragged away between the bulk of two of her guards.

The Commander waved an arm to three other guards waiting nearby. "Deliver them

all to the nearest penal colony and let them figure out what to do with them,

except for that one."

The tallest guard followed her pointing finger to the white, hair-less creature

huddled at the far end of the Trader ship's cargo hold.

Seeing his puzzled frown, she dared him to speak.

He didn't.

"Have my doctor clean him up. Put something warm on him first." Was her last

order as she strode away. "Yes, M'Lady" she heard as she marched down the

corridor.

She didn't have to tell them what to do with the rest of the Trader ship's crew

nor with the ship itself. The captured smugglers would also be left at the penal

colony and a skeleton crew of her own kind put on the vessel who would deliver

it to her home world. She needn't concern herself with such details for she had

a well trained and loyal crew including a wide variety of personal staff there

solely to provide for her every need.

She knew she was taking some risk, keeping this one being behind, but he would

surely have died if left any longer with the other hapless creatures. And, she

felt some excitement at the thought for he was a rare find. No, not a rare find,

an impossible one. Although she'd been against the Extermination Judgment, she

realized the necessity - even the logic - of it.

Her people had once before underestimated this species and had almost become

subservient to them because of it. And her people would have died in such a

position. No, the Extermination Judgment had been the perfect answer.

The Commander transported herself directly to the bridge of her own ship and

spent some time taking care of ship's business and communiques with the Home

world as well as making some special arraignments regarding her personal

quarters. Then, duties completed for the time being, she exited and made her way

through extensive corridors and companionways to the other end of the ship.

That her large and lavish quarters were on the opposite end of her vessel was by

design. The bridge was most often the preferred target in a battle and if by

chance the ship was taken by surprise with her off the bridge, then she would

have a better chance to survive and battle again. Commanders of her caliber and

experience were highly valued. Besides, she relished the privacy.

Now that she'd made the decision about her find, questions would have to be

answered. Where did he come from?

She smiled. Perhaps she'd made a miscalculation. After all she'd only been able

to make a quick visual inspection, perhaps this wasn't the genuine thing.

She pressed a crystal stud on her thick, jewel encrusted bracelet and spoke into

it for a moment. She didn't wait for a response from her physician. He would do

as she asked immediately and bring her his results when he was done. "And",

speaking aloud to herself, her mouth twisted in annoyed fondness, "he'll wish to

give me all the usual cautions and warnings but, in the end, keep his mouth

shut."

She was fond of her doctor. He was intelligent, insightful and could read her

with a glance. Yet he was also fiercely

devoted to her. He'd never contradicted her among the crew nor displayed the

slightest ambition other than remaining her physician, of which privileged

position his attitude bordered on obsession. He was exactly what she required in

a personal therapist. In no other duties among the crew could one get as close

to the ship's commander. So, to none other than the physician was the commander

of a ship more vulnerable. How simple it would be to eliminate a dissatisfactory

leader than to have her doctor slip her something lethal. But she didn't have to

worry. She was rich, powerful and generous to all who proved loyal.

She frowned as she ordered and was delivered some soothing tea mixture, her

favorite. It reminded her of home.

She had been born, of rich parents, near the shores of Rehmu Plain, not a true

plain but an inland ocean so-called because of its eerie stillness that spoke of

its extreme depths, shortage of inlets and outlets and that it was surrounded by

mountain vistas the awesome beauty of which would suck the breath away of any

planetary traveler.

She shook her head. She could be so sentimental. Six more tours of duty and she

could retire at the reasonable age of one hundred, nine years old. Middle age

for her species.

She lay back on her many cushioned divan and stretched out, but she was not

relaxed as her mind turned back again to her most recent problem. Really, what

possessed me? she thought. What am I to do with him?

At the sounding of her door, she knew who it was and sat up quickly. "Enter

Rhengar."

Her physician entered, carrying a small device she recognized as his portable

medical unit.

"Dear M'Lady."

She smiled at him, about the only crew member she ever

did, at his handsome youth and at his usage of "Dear".

He is fond of me, (she thought), and I must be of him or I would never allow it!

He was about to speak further when she held up one bejewelled finger. "Wait."

She stood next to him.

"He's pure, isn't he?"

His nodded his head once. "Yes, M'Lady, no physical indications what-so-ever of

intermix."

"I knew it." Suddenly she was highly excited but managed to control her emotions

and kept her features smooth. She turned from the doctor and paced before him.

He cleared his throat.

"Speak." she said.

"I have him sedated, M'Lady. What do you wish me to do with him?"

"Clothe him. Then bring him here." What was she doing? she wondered. As yet, she

was uncertain.

Rhengar raised one eyebrow but left to carry out her instructions.

Though he wouldn't have said so, she knew he didn't agree with the idea but she

didn't care about decorum, she wanted to see this creature up close. How many of

her generation had? Few. Probably none.

She was excited. It wasn't often she indulged herself but this was too great a

find to just toss aside. Thank gods she had inspected that fifthly cargo hold

herself. Most commanders would have left it to underlings to do so, such tasks

being delegated to the lowest classes. But she had never been one to follow

stuffy tradition, or even orders from the High Command if they didn't completely

suit her. She had enough power and influence to do almost as she pleased.

But then, though battle ready at all times, her ship was, strictly speaking, not

a war ship. It was one used for patrolling, inspecting, surveying, generally

keeping things in order in their now vast realm of the galaxy. It was the kind

of ship she'd wanted: clean, well-staffed, luxurious.

Might as well have as many amenities as home if one was to spend years away from

it.

Her mind quickened at the thought of her new found curiosity. What did she

really know of these creatures? Only what she'd read and learned through old

texts, gossip and propaganda.

She couldn't wait to see him up close. She was certain that none of her

generation, other than Council appointed scientists who kept cloned whole and

partial specimens for research purposes, had ever seen a whole pure-strain

human. Much less a living example!

Her door chime sounded once and the door opened.

Rhengar pushed the creature ahead of him and through the entryway of M'Lady. He

waited for instructions, somewhat anxiously. She caught his expression. "Don't

worry Rhengar, I could kill this creature with a single blow if the need should

arise. You may leave."

He bowed and left.

She turned to take her first close look.

And was disappointed.

The creature seemed catatonic as he stood there, swaying ever so slightly, not

looking at her, not speaking, not moving, not doing anything but staring at the

floor. Rhengar had had the foresight to dress him, not in rags, but in something

befitting one who was to meet his liberator, loose fitting but clean white shirt

and leggings. There were no fasteners or strings on any of the material.

Nothing the creature could use as a weapon.

She approached slowly, but kept her distance.

The creature's eyes widened slightly at her approach and his respirations

quickened. She could see the pupils of his eyes dilate in terror. Well, she

asked herself, what did you expect? That he would get down on his knees and

bestow his eternal thanks and devotion?

As she approached the creature shut his eyes which annoyed her, she'd wanted to

see them up close. But he's afraid of you, she thought, he wants to block you

out.

"You should be a-fraid." She said, speaking - a bit stiltedly - the now little

used common tongue of his to all intents and purposes extinct species. He didn't

respond but he opened his eyes and looked straight at her, at her eyes,

something she never allowed but from her own doctor.

She drew in a breath at his insolence but then reminded herself that he probably

knew nothing of her or her rules, or anything else for that matter.

She stepped closer and though his gaze never wavered, she could see he was still

terrified.

"You should be afraid." she repeated. "I am Romulan High Commander Veexow but,

unless you give me a reason to do so, I will not harm you." I certainly didn't

go to all this trouble just to kill you myself, she mused.

His eyes - what was it? - yes! She saw it.

Distrust!

Absolute naked distrust mixed in with that ever present terror. She put a hand

to his face and he flinched at her touch, actually backed up a step. His

respirations increased until he was almost gasping for air. Alarmed at his

reaction, she stepped closer. He seemed more terrified than reasonable.

Surely he finds my quarters preferable to where he was, she thought. She could

not understand his thick fright that emanate from him in vibrations she could

almost feel on the surface of her skin. She could smell his fear over and above

his other not unpleasant scent as she stepped close to him and as he backed

away. This series of small movements continued until his back was against a

wall, one which hung with the woven mural of the shores of her families land.

Now she was inches from him and he stopped breathing for a few seconds, which

startled her a little. Then he started again and she relaxed. For some reason,

she wanted to understand his eyes, not just the color, which she couldn't place

but what they were saying because for the present at least he either wouldn't or

couldn't speak.

Perhaps he can't? she wondered. Perhaps he is brain damaged. Perhaps mute by

birth?

But she peered at his other-worldly colored irises with her own black ones and

knew there was intelligence behind them.

She smelled him again. Her doctor had had him thoroughly scrubbed but not

perfumed. She smiled inwardly at that. Rhengar knew exactly what she wanted,

always. What a treasure he was! If their classes had been the same, she would

have taken him as mate in a single heartbeat. But - she sighed and moved away

from the uncooperative human.

"So, you won't speak, is that it?" she turned to look back at him, his scent

lingered on her, still filled her nostrils. It had an alien taste.

But she kept her back to him, showed him that he was inferior and property

through indirect address. She was pleased to hear him continue to gasp in fear

as he listened to her speak. She heard his unshod feet shuffle as he moved

slowly along the wall behind her. She was not alarmed by it, there was nowhere

for him to go.

"Well, if I was in your position, I would certainly have questions."

No response.

"Shall I ask them for you?" she asked after a pause.

"Shall I voice your question?" she asked again, and turned to watch him. He

walked sideways, around and behind her desk but always facing her, watching her.

He moved well, she decided, approving the easy grace of his step. He was tall,

as tall as she but not thickly muscled, rather delicate in fact. The texts had

stated that such was the norm for his species and though this male's form was

long and well proportioned, he was over thin.

Too thin for health. His ordeal on the Ferengi ship no doubt the cause for his

gaunt appearance. He needed fattening up and she would have to arrange for some

appropriately nutritious meals for him if she ever wanted to see him as he ought

to look.

She weighed matters in her mind as she followed his movements and those matters

were serious. There were risks in what she was doing. How was she too keep him?

At least long enough to learn something of him and his kind, their most infamous

enemy and greatest conquest? How keep him hidden and safe while she did so?

Only too soon, she knew the rumors would fly. No matter how loyal her crew and

staff, there would be talk and the news of him would reach the ears of those who

would not merely frown but seek his extermination as a risk to the Romulan

State.

She was excited by this incredible find and puzzled by it too.

Where had the Ferengi's found him?

She must arrange for the imprisoned Ferengi crew to be interrogated on that

point.

They had been delivering this human to someone. A pure-strain that was to have

become someone's property, a human that had no business being alive.

The last known specimen had been put down in a Romulan Laboratory more than

fifty years ago, yet this one was relatively young. She estimated no more than

thirty earth years.

She remembered learning of their short life spans from what little knowledge

remained of their species, creatures she had always been curious about, and if

her estimate on this ones age was accurate, it meant he had already lived an

entire third of his life!

By comparison some Romulans had reached the three hundred mark.

Yet at one time the humans thrived while we nearly became an afterthought.

She contemplated her people and how they had won their greatest power. Pondered

the implications of what they had done to achieve it. There were always

unforseen consequences, sometimes millennia away, but consequences that would

eventually be played out.

What will be price for what we have done?

But for the present she ignored the thought of it. Uncharacteristic of her, she

knew, but non-the-less.

I want to learn about the extinct humans. I want to learn of this human. She

smiled at herself. I always get what I want.

"I believe my first question would be," she continued, ""Where am I?"."

His strange orbs glanced at her but he said nothing.

"I know you can understand me. I see it in your eyes. What is that color - your

eyes? What do you call it?"

He stopped, rested against the bulkhead, leaning forward with his hands on this

thighs, slumping, as if his short walk around the room had sapped all strength

from him. As though he were ill.

She rose and approached him. Not too close. "Is it your breathing?"

He shut his eyes and breathed slowly in and out. It seemed to be great effort

for him, that one involuntary physical action.

"I cannot help you if you will not speak."

He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes as a spasm traveled over his

body from bottom to top.

She quickly retrieved the medicine the doctor had left and set the instrument to

deliver a small dose. But when she approached, he deftly avoided her touch by

moving to other side of the room, all but stumbling to remain at a distance.

It made her angry and unsure. Flustered. What was she to do? "This will not

harm. It will calm you."

Her patient inquiries resulted in his gasping and falling to his knees. He

seemed to be shaking all over, burying his face in his hands.

Then, to her amazement, she realized he was not having some sort of fit, but was

laughing.

Not from joy.

His expression seemed to her to be one of hysteria. When his hands came away

from his face, she actually stepped back. Though unafraid she thought it

possible he might be infected with some sort of viral agent and she had no wish

to contract it.

His brows were drawn together over rounded eyes that held that same unreasoning

fear she'd seen before.

And then, they shut and from between the lids, wetness appeared and flowed.

She watched, fascinated. The Texts also contained information regarding this

phenomena; that, when a human experiences fear or sadness or pain, their eyes

actually shed water. Extraordinary to see!

He was on his knees now, slumped over, cradling his head in his arms.

She wondered which it was: fear? Sadness? But he looked like he was in pain.

She moved closer again, determined to administer the dose without having to

summon Rhengar again. She was becoming more than a little concerned regarding

this human's state of mind.

This time, however, he didn't run. He didn't move from his spot on the floor.

She had not considered, as her arm reached to touch the instrument to his

exposed forearm, that her rare zoological specimen might be tainted. If that

were the case, she would have no choice but to destroy him. She was taking risk

enough as it was but an uncontrollable study would be too much.

When she was a centimeter away, he raised his head and with red-rimmed eyes,

whispered hoarsely: "Why are you doing this?"

Shocked, she didn't answer for a few seconds. Then, "You are ill."

He shook his head. "No. Where am - is...is this hell?"

Not understanding the reference. "Hhell? Is that a planet?"

He slammed his fists on the carpet. "STOP IT!" It came out as voiceless,

high-pitched croaks. Suddenly, he was up and charging her, hands clasping around

her throat.

She'd been unprepared for the burst of violence and his thin frame had

sufficient velocity behind it to throw her off balance.

But not for long.

Deftly, she wrenched his hands from her neck, twisting his arms, first one then

the other, around and behind him, far up his back. Then, with a vise-like grip

and sheer brute strength, she forced him slowly to his knees.

But she didn't stop there. She pushed him forward until his right cheek was flat

against the deck. There she held him, his legs bent underneath, knees spread far

apart, immobile until he stopped struggling.

She held him longer, until he stopped gasping in rage.

Longer, until his breathing slowly returned to normal.

Longer.

Until she felt the tension leak out of his back muscles.

And longer.

Until she felt him relax completely. Until she knew he had given up.

And then to defeat him further, she held him there to prove to him that she was

the more powerful. It was necessary to remove all doubt on that point.

When she saw the wetness appear at his eyes once more, she leaned in and spoke

into his ear.

"Now you see how it is? Now you comprehend, human? What I wish is what happens

to you. What I desire for you. You understand, so hear me very clearly: If you

ever raise a hand to me again, if you ever look me in the eye without my

permission, if you ever again raise you voice above a respectful monotone, I

will have my Centurion Guards execute you the next minute."

She put her mouth right next to his ear so he could feel her breath. "Do you

understand?"

The man under her made small wheezing, coughing noises, she was hurting him. But

he said nothing.

"If you do not answer me, I will kill you right here, right now." And to prove

she was serious she forced his left arm higher up his back, unnaturally high, in

one lightening quick motion, until she heard it snap.

He cried out.

She whispered very, very softly, "Do you understand me now?", her lips touching

his earlobe.

His mouth opened. A faint and scratchy "Yes.".

She realized she was restricting his breathing and eased up on her hold, then

let him go completely, stepping up and back.

He lay unmoving. After a moment or so, he let his still functioning right arm,

which she knew would even be sore, slide off his back. Then he moved his other

arm, now appearing to have an extra joint in between wrist and elbow, his face

twisted in pain. Moved it more slowly, groaning. But he forced it down to rest

on the floor. It took him longer to get his feet under him, and cradling his

broken arm with his good one, he moved to sit on the divan.

"No!" She ordered. "You have lost that privilege." She pointed to a spot on the

floor by a wall where several large tawny colored cushions were placed. "You may

only sit there now."

He moved without protest, and seated himself, resting his forehead on one knee,

with his injured arm laying on the inside thigh of his other leg. He panted.

She knew he would be in considerable pain, but he needed to learn and the sooner

the better. "I will call my doctor and he will repair it, and you will behave

for him."

He nodded his cooperation and lapsed into silence but for his accelerated

respirations.

When Rhengar arrived, he repaired the human's injured limb with practiced skill.

Afterward, the human seemed quietly astonished at the doctors handiwork, his arm

being fully mobile again though quite swollen. He bent and flexed it, testing

its range of movement and threw a grudging look of gratitude to the physician,

nodding once.

The doctor coldly ignored him. He did, however, seem annoyed to be making his

third trip to his Leader's quarters as a healer inside of a few short hours. He

gave a respectful nod of his head to her before departing, one eyebrow on the

rise indicating his unspoken opinion of her questionable choice of company.

The Commander's attention during the doctor's healing visit rarely strayed from

her human charge who, after the doctor's departure, wrapped his arms around his

legs, still favoring his left one, and seemed to fall into a doze.

It was just as well as she wanted quiet time to seek out some information on

him.

Seating herself at her work station, she called up from her computer any data on

the human species. There she found little on the species itself, a few facts on

physical characteristics, brain capacity, average mental ability (not

impressive). But almost nothing on their culture, religious beliefs or natures

in general.

Politically, she found a bit more. They were instinctly territorial, yet charged

with an almost fanatical need to explore, colonize and infiltrate every small

corner of the galaxy. And to insinuate themselves into almost every culture they

encountered, doing so almost effortlessly.

She re-read some of the history.

Incredibly, once a planet had agreed to the presence of the Federation, before

they knew it (despite the Federation's so-called Prime directive), they were

blending with them, having babies with them and, soon after, thinking like them.

Human/alien hybrid colonies had sprung up one after another until they were too

numerous to count.

No wonder the Romulan Old council had become alarmed!

And the humans seemed to accomplish it all casually, without war or threats or

promise of wealth. Species seemed to, with few exceptions, embrace them as long

lost family. Then had come marriages and children in the millions.

Then billions.

And the human birth-rate! A single healthy female, capable of pregnancy as young

as twelve earth years, could produce in a normal life span forty to sixty

offspring.

Ten times the birth rate than that of Romulans.

Short life span or no, these humans had been on their way to filling the galaxy

with their kind and with their hybrid offshoots.

The Humans had gone on increasing while the Romulans, stiff in their desire to

remain pure, had begun a gradual decline. Until the danger of them fading to a

black dwarf in the kaleidoscope of the galaxy had become all too real.

When the Romulan Old Council had learned of Romulan/Human hybrids (some even

living on the home world!), they took to secret meetings to discuss what was to

be done.

Even as the politically pacifistic Romulan First Party at the time debated for

peace with the Federation, The Old Council and other factions protested and

plotted otherwise. Their Fleet was still a formidable one, and if they broke the

treaty of non-aggression with the Federation and struck, they had at least as

good a chance of winning as losing. Particularly with their cloaking technology

and the kamikaze attitude of their forces, who were itching for a battle.

It had depleted their war ships and bankrupted their economies but they had won

that first and largest battle. And they won more than they lost of succeeding

battles fought throughout the quadrant.

Until the human forces had been decimated.

And, like the Romulan Council had predicted, once those Federation associated

worlds realized their Federation protectors had gone down in defeat, they

withdrew their own ships and armies, unwilling to face the Romulan hordes for,

if the powerful Federation of Earth could be taken, how could they prevail?

The rest was history.

The human home planet had been devastated, left bathed in radiation lethal to

all but the most hardy of species.

The hybrid colonies were allowed to exist only if strict obedience to travel

restrictions were honored. And only if all laws regarding reproduction were

followed. In other words, no more human or human/alien offspring allowed. That,

coupled with germ warfare in the product of a swift acting and lethal virus

engineered for pure-strain human DNA introduced into the atmosphere of all human

or hybrid colonies, had taken care of the rest.

It was then declared that to be human, marry one, breed with one, transport one

or grow one in a laboratory was strictly prohibited on penalty of death.

The Romulan Empire had risen and become the liberators of all the galaxy,

declaring themselves as the New Law- givers.

Veexow read the old texts and studied her sleeping example.

He hardly looked like an insidious threat. Sick, weak, alone. His existence from

moment to moment held in her hands, his welfare resting on a word from her

mouth.

In fact, he did not look well at all.

She went to him, not touching.

He appeared to be sleeping. A thin film of sweat coated his face.

"Human." she wanted to rouse him. He needs to eat, she thought, a gap in the

side of his thin tunic displaying the faint pattern of his rib-cage.

He didn't wake, even when she placed two fingers on his forehead in order to

lean his head back. His skin had a grey pallor. She speculated that was probably

not a healthy sign. Neither the dark half-moons beneath his eye sockets.

But she could only guess otherwise. Was he feverish? But to her naturally hot

body temperature, he felt cool.

Again she summoned Rhengar and he appeared momentarily.

"Rhengar, I believe this creature is ill."

Rhengar joined his Lady, crouching before the alien. He pressed his instrument

to his patient's neck and Veexow heard the instrument hiss as the drug entered

the human's bloodstream.

"This is an instant anesthetic. It will keep him out for a few moments while I

examine him. I would like to move him over there." Rhengar gathered the creature

in his powerful arms and lifted him as if he weighed nothing, carrying him to

the divan.

Veexow followed closely. "What is wrong with him?"

Rhengar passed his instrument over the prone being and studied the results. He

sighed. "I don't know, M'Lady. I have no training in human physiology. But my

instrument can detect no foreign agents nor any known" - he emphasized known -

"infections. I am forced to conclude that it is simply exhaustion. Without a

detailed autopsy on this creature, which I cannot do because he is alive, I can

say no more. Whatever medical knowledge of the species that exists is archived

and guarded under Romulan Purity Control. Other than perhaps rest and food, I am

able to recommend nothing."

"Do you think perhaps he has fever?" She asked.

"That is possible, but again I am uncertain. I do not know what his normal body

value is, but he does feel warmer than the last time I examined him."

Veexow found his lack of knowledge, and her own, frustrating. For him to have

survived this long, especially under the conditions in which she'd discovered

him, only to watch him die now made her feel helpless, not something she was

accustomed to feeling.

He could be dying right now and all we can do is sit here and watch!

"Well, leave me some more injections, then I have something to at least keep him

calm if he becomes agitated again."

"As you wish, Dear Lady."

Rhengar put his instruments away and rose to leave, bowing to her.

"Rhengar!" She called after him, standing to face him when he paused before the

door. "Thank you."

He blinked at this rare display of gratitude. His face was gentle. "Dear M'Lady,

anything for you. Always." he bowed and left.

Veexow became even more concerned over the creature's deterioration during the

next several hours. His jaw was slack, his body suffered tremors and in

conjunction with them tiny bumps on the surface of his skin would periodically

appear and then disappear. She found it as alarming as she did fascinating,

noting each little fact, storing them away in her excellent memory.

Twice he opened his eyes and looked at nothing, or possibly at her but the gaze

was unfocused.

Veexow left him there, after preparing some makeshift straps to keep him down,

and that night slept in her anti-chamber.

At her habitual hour, she awoke and, after some quick attention to Romulan

hygiene, she checked on him.

He hadn't moved but her soft rustling in the room roused him and his eyes

opened, blinking. They appeared clear and lucid. Whatever had been making him

ill the previous night had now abated.

She moved to stand over him. "You appear very much better."

Then went to her work station, ordering up some food, enough for two. Then

added, "I thought you were going to die, human."

"Not quite ready for that yet." he answered weakly.

She turned, surprised to finally have elicited a whole and reasonable sentence

from him.

His voice was cracked and strained. He coughed.

"You sound worse, however."

"Thirsty." he managed to get out.

Frowning at her own lack of foresight in giving him no fluids at all during his

fever, she obtained a cup-full and, one hand supporting his head, put it to his

lips. He drank it all.

She let his head fall back and he closed his eyes, that one action seeming to

have sapped what strength he had.

She noted the bruising that had developed overnight on his newly repaired limb.

Angry looking, dark purple discolorations on his forearm. She felt the tiniest

pang of regret over having to have done it.

"You need to eat. " she said. "I've ordered food. If you remain docile, I will

let you up and you can eat."

He repeated it. ""Docile"?" He sounded annoyed but tried to sit up. "Yes, I'll

remain "docile". Are you going to untie me?"

"The food is not here yet." She reminded him, not about to allow him freedom

simply because he asked for it.

He sighed. "I need to get up for another reason."

"What?"

"I have to use the bathroom."

"The bath-? Oh, yes." She unstrapped him. She hadn't thought of that before

bringing him here and now she really had no choice but to let his use hers. She

didn't like the idea.

"It's through there." She said pointing.

He managed to get up on shaky legs, swaying a little.

"Are you able to walk?"

"I'm fine." he answered.

She knew it was a lie and understood the reason behind it. She was no fool. He

was studying her as much as she was him.

He was communicating now in order to learn of her and her weaknesses. Seeing

when and how she would let down her guard. This was a territorial,

kill-for-freedom human. He would not accept his captivity this easily. Also he

wanted her to believe that he was fine, that he required no more close care or

observation. Or drugs.

No, he was not docile. He was a human.

But she was a Romulan.

When he came out, he looked puzzled.

"What?" she asked when seeing his expression.

He glanced at her, or rather, her feet, since he remembered her strong armed

insistence that he not look her in the eye.

"I've never seen a bathroom like that. It's...a little weird."

When he offered no more explanation, she was disappointed. She wanted him to

keep speaking, wanted to establish communication and begin to learn. But he fell

silent again.

He paced a little, looking at her murals and the few personal items in a locked

display case (made of non-breakable polymer) that seemed to hold his interest.

When the meal arrived, she placed a portion of it (the cultured meat) in a

earthen cast bowl (nothing made of metal for him), saving the vegetables for

herself. She placed it on the floor beside the cushions. It was a clear message

that was his spot now. He was to expect no private room. He realized he was to

have no privacy, in fact, other than trips to the Head.

Sitting down cross legged, he began to eat. Ravenously she noted and thought,

Starvation does that. The Ferengi deserved his execution.

"The Ferengi's are not known for their generosity. I am surprised that any of

you survived. I'm also curious how you came to among their contraband." He

contemplated her words, looked at his empty bowl. Swallowed.

Shook his head, eyes shut tight.

He could feel a headache of immense power building deep in his brain. It was the

hunger still gnawing at his insides, or the stress of what was happening or his

own fear that he kept beating down into numbness. Probably all of it, he didn't

care, only that he felt very tired and didn't want to acknowledge anything.

He lay on his side and curled up, crossing his arms, wincing because his left

arm ached. That he had a soft cushion was his world.

Said to her, "I don't know what you're talking about." Sleepy.

She wondered if he was perhaps imbecilic. "The ship you were on of course, where

you were discovered." She tried again.

"Lady, I don't know where I am right now much less where I was."

"You must have lost your memory, Human."

He looked longingly at his empty bowl, sitting on end like the rest of the room.

It'd been tasty but it hadn't filled him. His stomach growled. He had no energy,

however, to try and bargain for more.

"I never forget anything except my postal code, Whatever."

She didn't understand. "But you insist you do not know where you are."

He wished she would just shut up, he was helpless to keep his eyes open. Felt

the powerful pull of slumber.

"I insist I'm either dead and Satan is a woman, which isn't much of a surprise

when you think about it or I'm having this really twisted dream because I ate

too much take-out before bed."

She narrowed her eyes, trying to sort out his words. Most she understood, but

there were references that seemed to have meaning to him but left her at a loss.

She could see he was fast dropping into sleep, again denying her opportunity to

learn of him.

"You intrigue me, human."

"Y'know, I've-name." He mumbled.

"Tell me."

"Mulder."

She considered. "Very odd. Do you have another?."

"I've been called Asshole now and then."

"Sounds Andorian. Insufferable creatures."

"Fox, then. Happy??"

"PhaHks?" She hollowed out the short "o" sound, making it come out as a deep

throated "awe", and lengthening the "s". on the end. PhAWE-Kess.

"Fox."

"PhaHks." She said again, with still the yawning vowel. "Klingon phonetics, I

prefer it."

"T'rific. Can I go to sleep now? I'm hoping that when I wake up, neither of

us'll be here and that'll generally settle the name problem."

"You may."

He sighed heavily. "Thanks for the food."

She blinked. Her intrigue for the human - for "PhaHks" - grew.

When he next opened his eyes he was disheartened to find that he was still

sleeping on the floor of the mutant woman's house. Or that he was still in the

dream of being in the mutant woman's house.

Whichever.

But his arm really ached badly for just a dream. And he still felt really bad.

He rubbed under his shirt, found his ribs. Somewhere along the way he'd

misplaced about twenty-five pounds. But at least Freak girl was nowhere to be

found.

He strolled casually around, walked through the six rooms. Found her bedroom. A

large oval bed but, as far as he could tell, no cabinets or chest-of-drawers

anywhere. The walls had a metallic sheen broken up by the few splashes of color

from where she had pictures and the huge murals woven from some kind of cloth.

He peeked into every cubbyhole, but there was little else to see.

Other than a narrow couch and comfy cushions, the place was spartan. Her

decorator must be impotent, he thought, just no "oomph".

But within the jokes he told inside himself, the unwanted fear, craving

attention, kicked at his guts. It kept shouting to be heard: If, IF this was

real, he had no fucking idea where he was, who the Vampire-wanna-be was or how

he was going to get out of it.

He tried not to think that if THIS was real, how he got there must have been

also.

The thought passed through his mind, just for an instant, that maybe he'd gone

nuts and Scully'd had him committed. That this was just a nice, soft cell and

Ms. Forehead was his delusional dominatrix. A green dominatrix too. Too many

XXX Vid' nights, Mulder

But his arm sure looked bad and he did remember it being broken and he did

remember Doctor Forehead fixing it by waving some kind of little magic wand to

and fro.

After trying the nearly seamless door and finding, not surprisingly, that it

wouldn't budge, he stopped his circling at her desk, seating himself in her

swivel chair. It molded to his buttocks.

The computer screen, set flush onto the desk's top was black. He pushed one

button after another, but nothing happened.

"I have you locked out."

He looked up, his stomach turning to jelly. He quickly vacated her chair,

walking away from her desk and her.

She had entered the room silently and he wondered how long she'd been standing

there watching him.

"There's no need to flee. Besides, you've nowhere to go."

"I'd rather decide that for myself." he muttered.

Just the same, as she circled him and moved to her work station, he kept his

front to her. Felt stupid that his heart was pounding. But then, she had broken

his arm as easily as he opened a beer.

The false feeling of bravado that he'd managed to summon while alone for those

few minutes rapidly bled away, leaving him feeling hollow.

But at her mention of him having nowhere to go, it was quickly being replaced by

anger.

Fuck it! "Who are you?"

"I've told you, I'm High Commander-"

"ENOUGH! with the alien-joke-on-Spooky crap! I want to know who you are why

you're keeping me here." His tone was agitated but he was not yet shouting.

"Mind how you speak to me." she warned.

He walked to he desk, thrust out his good arm.

"Here! Break the other one, but I'm fed to the teeth with this bullshit!"

She sat down elegantly, felt how his body had slightly warmed the seat.

"Be grateful that it was I who found you, because any other and you would be

dead."

"What the hell's that suppose to mean? Does talking in riddles give you people

hard-ons? What the hell do you want from me? Where am I?"

He could feel days of suppressed anger balloon like a lava dome. Any second now.

Any second and he wouldn't give a shit if she broke his neck.

"Stay calm, PhaHks. " she said steely.

"Fuck calm!" he leaned over the desk, looked straight at her, eyes to eyes and

all. "I want to know why you're keeping me here. I want to know what's going

on."

"PhaHks!" She stood, had something in her hand.

He looked at it. Some kind of weapon.

"What's that? Are you going to shoot me? Well, go ahead, DO IT! I don't care,

a'right? I want to know why I'm being held here," He pounded the desk with his

fist, "and I want to know RIGHT. NOW!"

He didn't even see the beam of light burst from the object that sent him flying

two meters beyond the desk, landing hard on his back. He was unconscious before

he hit deck.

She slammed the device, now deactivated and harmless, down on the desk. She

hadn't wanted to but he'd left her no choice.

Rhengar was right, he was human. He was too volatile, too difficult to control.

He is what I should have expected.

She went to him, leaned over. His breathing was shallow but regular. She would

have no choice but to euthanize him now. That or keep him drugged or in a cell.

She touched his neck just below his jaw line, felt the bristle of his several

days growth of beard (another feature that Romulans did not share with humans:

facial hair), suddenly feeling a tiny throb of movement beneath his skin.

She started. The human heartbeat can be felt almost throughout the human body.

In the neck, the fingers, the pelvis, the feet.

She recalled the bit of trivia from what scattered knowledge still existed on

the creatures. It must have something to do with the pressure under which the

blood traveled, she theorized. Slow heartbeat but blood pumped under pressure.

A pressure of equal force in a Romulan would cause multiple aneurism,

hemorrhage, internal bleeds followed by a quick death.

She touched his face, the temple. Paused. Well, if he was to be put down anyway,

she may as well learn all she could, though this is not the way she'd

envisioned. Not how she'd wanted it.

She moved her fingers to the set-points and concentrated. Shook off the feeling

that what she was doing was, technically, mind rape. A violation one Romulan

would never perpetrate on another.

But this was no Romulan.

She sounded the depths of his subconscious easily enough, gently sidestepping

the natural barriers. Located his memories of recent events as seen through his

eyes. Felt his terror strewn with confusion mixed with anger dashed with

curiosity, and all of it riding upon pain and hunger. And blankness where he'd

been aboard the Ferengi vessel. A blankness that was fear of looking too

closely.

Deeper and that blankness became clear.

She shuddered at the naked memory of his ordeal aboard that ship among the other

violated creatures selected for sale into slavery, zoo's (which is what he must

have been gathered for - a rare specimen), or research.

That was a question she wanted answered: where had the Ferengi's obtained a

living human being when they were suppose to be extinct?

It was not inconceivable that, in the thousands of inhabited worlds within the

broad domain of the Romulan Empire, a few scattered human remnants remained

despite the Extermination procedures. If so, the Ferengi's knew the location of

at least one colony.

The next, deeper subconscious level might hold her answers and she probed. Met

real resistance now. He stirred under her mind link and she applied a useful

technique that fooled him into calmer brain waves. Deep sleep patterns that she

could control.

It would be easier now, she could explore as she wished, did so for a moment or

two, those deeply protected archives. Learn of...

Her eyes snapped open.

She gasped, releasing her touch.

Sat back, severing the connection to her unconscious prisoner.

She was swimming through his memories, kicking her way through the unexpected

that had surrounded her own independent thoughts and self. Reached the surface.

Her mind was thick with his visions of home and life and people and times.

She leaned back on her heels, hating what she had just done, but now satisfied

that she had decided correctly. Knowing the answers, now, as well, meant more

decisions.

She felt ill.

Pitiful.

Even a Romulan commander could sympathize.

He knew nothing!

This sick, perhaps dying human, was why the Ferengi ship had run. He was why

their commander had so desperately tried to bargain with her.

They knew.

As now did she.

Illegally obtained dangerous species.

So illegal, so contrary to enforced law, so dangerous to all established code as

it now existed that the sentence of death would have been declared upon the

entire vessel's crew.

Just carrying the knowledge of him was deadly.

Their asking price for PhaHks must have been enormous.

She knew everything.

Why he had no knowledge of her or anything of her people. Why the terror, the

confusion. The reasons he was so tormented.

He was not to blame, did not realize. Could not.

She would not kill him now, even though Romulan law stated she must. It would be

immoral. Father raised no fool but neither did he raise a murderer of the

innocent.

No. Though it was a fools errand she was undertaking, she'd not deviate from it.

Should I be so sure of myself? Even with this? I would have been better off

just sending him to the Penal Colony as well.

But she knew she could not have done. And she was glad she had not.

He was just too rare, too unique. Innocent of any crime against her people.

Veexow studied the pale face, oblivious to a fate that was being decided for him

beyond his control and without his knowledge.

But all he was guilty of was being human. Something he could hardly have

prevented or changed.

And not only being human, but one from another time where her ship, her power,

her laws and life meant nothing at all.

Staring at the stark reality of him, the Extermination came under question. It

made no provision for procedures against ancient humanity.

To condemn him to death for being born as he was, one from his own world and

time, would be a crime against a Higher Law.

But there were difficulties. Somehow she had to get him off the ship. Elsewhere.

Anywhere where he'd be safe until she could figure out what to do with him.

Until then, she was in as much danger as he.

But there was really only one possible location. Her doctor would think her mad.

"Rhengar." She ushered him in.

He came and sat where she indicated with a wave of her hand.

She seemed preoccupied but he waited patiently for her. Taking her time was

M'Lady's privilege.

"Rhengar," she began, "I have applied for early retirement. I've asked to be

rotated to Romulas and serve my last few months there while I await the decision

of the High Command."

Rhengar was thoughtful. They would agree. One of the most powerful families on

the home world? To any reasonable request from her lips, the High Command would

grant permission. Yes. They would certainly agree.

"I see, M'Lady. How can I assist you?"

She looked at him pointedly. "You can accompany me and remain in my service as

my personal physician in my family home, on our land. Will you?"

He was taken somewhat aback. "You are generous, M'Lady. You know nothing would

please me more. What may I ask, is the condition?"

She nodded, smiling at his astuteness. "One would think you were telepathic

without the benefit of touch, Rhengar, but no matter. Yes, there is a condition.

You must help me to transport PhaHks, the human, there undetected. I have a

personal emergency transport pod. Together we could engineer a dampening field

within to conceal his life signature."

"May I ask why, M'Lady, you want this human kept alive? It is a great risk you

take."

"Yes, you may ask. My reasons are my own. But to be fair to you I will tell you

that I have discovered certain knowledge of this human that prevents me carrying

out his termination with a clear conscience."

When Rhengar didn't answer immediately, she went on. "I know I am asking you to

take risk with me. If he is discovered, I will take full responsibility. I doubt

the punishment for me would be too severe,-"

He nodded again. She knew of her families power in the High Command.

"-I would possibly lose my ship, rank and position, but not my life and not my

family wealth. But PhaHks would certainly be killed. I could not allow the same

for you. You would be safe."

His expression of polite attention wavered. Beneath his blonde eyebrows, passed

a flicker of insult. "I would never undertake risk in your behalf and then deny

my involvement, Dear M'Lady. I'm sure you know that."

He paused. What would his life here be like without her to serve? He knew it

would be very empty indeed. Curse affection! Curse his heart taken with an

extraordinary woman. "But I will take the risk."

"You are a great comfort to me, Rhengar. You always have been."

He said sadly, "If that is all I can be to you, M'Lady, it will have to do."

She fidgeted. "We will need to begin as soon as possible. Can you prepare an

anesthetic that will be put him deeply under, so that his vitals are slowed. It

would help conceal him from the import scanners."

"I will begin work."

"Two days." she said.

ROMULAS. FIRST YEAR

The bed was hot and uncomfortable and he was sick.

And tired.

Sick of waking up in strange places with stranger people. Tired of feeling soft

and heavy from drugs or weak with pain.

It was getting mighty old.

But PhaHks forced himself to move off the flat bed; an odd one, very low to the

ground so he had to kind of roll off and push himself to his feet.

Just managing to keep his balance, he glanced around at his newest cell. White

marble, it looked like. One small ornate table. One padded chair. Both ordered

out of "Really, REALLY Rich R Us" catalogue. Hand carved, he guessed.

The only other stick of furniture was that delightfully functional floor mat,

better suited for wrestling than sleeping.

The door was flush against the jamb and no handle in sight. It, too, appeared

hand-carved but shined like porcelain. He touched its surface. Wood.

The next few seconds were series of blurred photographs in his mind.

But the door opened while he was standing just to its side. Through proceeded

two arms carrying a flat tray with a bowl of something he could only assume was

edible.

But he sure as hell wasn't going to stand there and ask. Never the easy way.

He clasped together both fists and brought them down on the head of whoever was

holding that tray. Didn't give a damn who, either, because the door was open and

that sole exit meant escape.

His Quantico training had taught him well. Find an opening and take it.

The tray and its holder fell but didn't, unfortunately, stay down long.

As his made his dash for freedom, a lightening fast hand grabbed his ankle and

sent his timbering. Then two hands clamped around his upper arms and threw him

around back in the direction of the room.

His subdue-er hadn't counted on his countermove, however, and PhaHks used that

momentum to continue his spin and finished by locking his own arms around his

attackers neck. He got in one, controlled uppercut to a nose and felt blood

spill over his fist.

No time to relish the small win as his opponent drove his own hydraulic fist

into PhaHks' side.

It knocked the breath out of his lungs and his feet out from solid ground. He

went down holding his cracked rib. Every breath was a knife.

"Try that again and you will certainly die."

Hellbitch's voice. Vampira. Gothic drag queen.

PhaHks didn't bother looking up or even acknow- ledging her. His hand hurt like

hell - snapped bones usually hurt - and he examined it critically. Tried to

keep breathing. His fingers were not stained with red blood.

The Bitch's blood wasn't blood.

Blood isn't green. Unless...

"JEZ-UZ!!"

He was on his feet then, and across the room before his brain registered the

movement. Dizzy, he looked at his fingers. Wiped them thoroughly on his

pant-leg.

Now he was staring at her. Her nose was bleeding though stopping quickly. She

wiped at it with the back of one clawed hand. Long, painted, predatory nails.

Veexow wiped and watched the human at the other end of the room. Why the sight

of her blood, alien or no, would have caused such terror in him, she didn't

know. But he had given up the fight early on.

Across the room is where he stayed, covering his mouth and nose with his hands

and staring at her as if her very essence was poison.

She could punish him severely for attacking her. Should. But he was staring at

her, pupils wide, and so she choose an alternative.

"There are many creatures..." She spoke very softly, hoping to calm him,

"...many varieties of life, everywhere, PhaHks."

He stared, warily, sucking air through fingers. But at least he was listening.

"Most of them bleed, including myself. I won't hurt you."

PhaHks listened. The first time he had encountered green blood - a big-ass,

ugly, alien, killer's green blood - it had choked and blinded him. The second

time - another alien mercenary - it had almost killed him.

Not hurt?? "You broke my fucking arm!"

Veexow nodded in understanding. A broken arm. Drugged down. Locked up. So why

trust?

Reasonable, his attitude. But certain facts remained indisputable and those were

that he was alone in her century and not entirely safe. And he would have died

if not for her discovery of him in that filthy Ferengi cargo hold.

So, somehow, trust must come.

"Where am I?" He asked her. Eyes were still scared but he was calmer and

listening. And angry too. She knew he had a right to be.

"You're safe."

"Who are you? Why are you keeping me here?"

Again, reasonable questions. "Someone you can trust."

He huffed at her, his expression absolute disbelief. "I can count on both hands

the number of times I've heard that, and it turned out to be a lie."

Veexow, at the time, had wondered if her punishment on his arm had been too

forceful to bring home her point. Now she regretted it.

Always with this human, there would be doubt, Rhengar privately had said to her.

There would be the continuing question of how much would be too much? How far

would be too far? They knew so little about them. Humans. Physically delicate,

yes. Emotionally fragile? Possibly.

Of one thing she was certain, they were more stubborn than Romulus' High winter.

To have survived his abduction by the Ferengi's...

"Please sit down, PhaHks. I can tell you some things. But I think you need to

rest, too. And aren't you thirsty? Hungry?" Her voice was liquid honey and it

had the desired effect.

He moved to his mat and slumped but told himself it was only because he was

groggy and weak.

"Where am I?" he asked, calmer.

"You are here in my home. Fighting me will not alter that and it was necessary

to bring you here to keep you safe. You may not like it but you could be here

for a little while. And despite what has happened to you, I cannot tolerate

attacks upon my person."

She moved toward him cautiously. "You need that hand looked at." And, ever so

carefully, she touched it. She turned it over, palpitated the fingers, making

him wince.

"Definitely broken." Touched his injured side. Cool skin over ribs. He was

underweight. "And this."

"I had to give it the college try." He said. He was pale and shaky.

"I will summon the doctor."

PhaHks nodded, suddenly very sleepy. Shock. Experience

"We all have enemies, PhaHks." She said. "I'd prefer it if you and I are not."

He didn't bother responding.

After Rhengar repaired his broken fingers, Veexow had food delivered to his

room. He ate, used the Head. Slept.

Later, when she returned, the gentle creature who had stroked his injured hand

had been replaced by "Commander" again and she was all business.

He asked her why he was locked in and she told him

quite bluntly that since he was not trustworthy to behave in a civilized way,

neither was he trusted to walk free.

Yet.

His scope of freedom, she explained, within her "Family home" depended upon him

alone and then she left him to think about it.

For many days she let him consider her words before one day she simply unlocked

the heavy doors, swinging them wide.

He had almost been too afraid to move. She'd opened the doors but had not given

him permission to leave. Was it a test?

But it was only minutes before his inclination to step outside his little prison

overcame his worry.

PhaHks exited and found himself in a larger prison. Much larger. Prettier too,

with rooms upon rooms, many like his, some different.

So many rooms connected by cool corridors he nearly lost his way once, but he

backtracked and found his direction. For some reason, as much as he hated them,

he wanted to be sure that he could find his way back to his "bed" and his own

bathroom.

It was the only privacy he was allowed. It was the only spot in this place,

wherever it was, that in theory, was his.

That first day exploring (and finding no exits to outside which was his true

objective), he was surprised to find an enormous circular hall. It looked like

something out of the glory days of Rome or Greece. Polished, stone floor

surrounding rows of pillars the girth of ten men and as tall as five stories.

Later Bitch explained that each pillar represented a generation of her family,

upon which was written the names of all in that generation and some of things

they had done.

But looking at it now, all he could think was that the Bitch must be richer than

Bill Gates.

On impulse, he started to run.

That day, he ran the circle of that hall until everything hurt. All his pent up

rage, fear, and frustration manifesting themselves as a primal need to vent

physically.

When his body told him to stop, he ignored it and ran harder, faster until he

had no choice but to collapse against a low ledge by the outer wall and pant

until his breathing calmed.

It had made him feel slightly better, less strung like a piano wire. Less

wanting to smash something to bits. Or kill something.

After that, he ran every day, sometimes twice a day or more, depending how wired

he was and depending how much he allowed his thoughts to stray into dangerous

territory; like where in the world he was and how to escape.

Weeks of exploring turned into months until he knew every corner and turn in her

rich prison-castle.

Vampire lady visited with him once per day in his rooms or came to watch him

run. She spoke with him (he rarely answered), had meals delivered to him, but

left him alone otherwise.

He asked questions, she answered them halfway. He'd get angry and shout and

sometimes attack. Try to hit. She'd hit back much harder. He never won those

discussions.

Occasionally, she had her doctor examine him, which he bore silently. Resentful

of the indignity of being stripped naked in her presence while Doctor Ears

checked his vitals with his little buzzing instruments, sometimes making

comments about how much weight he had gained, muscle compared to fat tissue.

They never seemed to think to ask him. He was nearly back to his regular 165

pounds and leaner than when he was in college. Running so much now, he'd toned

up, his shoulders now filling out the boring clothing she'd provided; the button

less white loose shirt and fly-less "leggings".

Okay, he considered, so he was a lab rat. Or a curiosity, or something to

relieve her boredom.

But just what the fuck was she?

Running, however beneficial, and eating, however necessary, were not enough in

themselves to constitute a "life".

It grew harder each day to retain his tenuous hold on reality, especially this

reality.

His days did not go by in a blur but rather a series of stills.

Dead lifeless hours with nothing else to relieve the routine of restless sleep

filled with new and changing nightmares (or the mercifully drugged, dreamless

stupor Doctor occasionally inflicted on him. He had ceased asking why).

If they were brain sucking vampires and he food, what the hell did it matter?

Nothing changed the staring and staring of the maidservant when she would bring

his wake up meal.

Nothing stopped Vampira's visits, which were becoming more and more like

brain-picking sessions and less like conversation.

What did they have to talk to each other about anyway?

Questions and questions, every day the same fucked up questions. Or, when she

received no answers, fucking new ones.

Nothing could stop the bouts of depression that had been growing worse and

worse, making him not rise from his bed as before, not look at the Bitch from

Hell when she came with her questions.

But he didn't speak to her. Didn't eat.

Once, he even prayed to God to wake him up or, if he was awake, to send him

home. Or at least kill him. God hadn't answered him of course. It was the

prayer of a unbeliever anyway, he'd thought later.

He was fucking terrified.

Weeks - months - worth of fear, all settled into a painful fire in his stomach.

Eating hurt.

Each new day he wondered if it was the day he'd end up nuts. He fought insanity

as it lapped at his reasoning, tickling him with how easy it could make

everything if he would only let it.

He didn't think he'd stepped over into real psychosis, not yet. But was walking

the deadline for sure. Probably crazy. Maybe not quite ready to embark on a

career of drooling in a straightjacket, but was fairly certain he'd tried it on.

It would fit.

No doubt about it.

Seeing him dropping weight again and his lethargic attitude caused his Jailer to

visit him more frequently, not the end he'd been trying for.

But she was less talkative which suited him just fine. She brought him his food

herself, which suited less but he said nothing. The maidservant a female youth,

would set the tray down, stare for a few seconds and leave. She would leave him

alone at least.

Hellbitch would preach at him to eat, sometimes with a warning that if he

didn't, she have him force fed.

Those times when his appetite refused to cooperate, he'd pretend to eat,

breaking the gross bread into bits, nibbling, pushing the chunks of whatever

around until the whole mass would turn the stomach of a blowfly.

Mostly he just blanked out and waited out the day. Too much thinking made his

head ache and awakened the fear in his gut.

The thought occurred to him once:

What if, one day, you woke up and all the unbelievable things of the world -

monsters, vampires, demons, UFO's, aliens - came true?

And you were there, in it?

Not willing to accept the answers, he'd put it out of his mind for good. It

danced around his subconscious here and there but was never allowed center

stage.

All those years and now: Truth. Just. Terrified him.

He'd do jerk-off surveillance 'till social security if it meant getting out of

this.

Hellbitch could shove her questions straight up her yellow ass.

He hated and feared her. Mostly hated but too sick with paranoia to do anything

about it.

His weight dropped sharply.