Disclaimer: I don't own Enterprise, nor Star Trek of any kind. Did you honestly think I did? I feel obligated to acknowledge Jamille Shane for her idea of the Syrannite/V'tosh ka'tur divide on Mirror Universe Vulcan. Ma'am, I hope you don't mind me borrowing that idea for a little while.

He opened his eyes and saw a blank stretch of wall before him. The floor was made of dull brown stone, and the corridor he was in was less than fifteen feet in length. His head was throbbing, and an attempt to sit up made the world around him spin, forcing him to lean back against the wall.

He passed a hand over his eyes and breathed in against the dizziness that threw him off-kilter, finding that despite the less-than-satisfactory transport down here, he was relatively unharmed. But he frowned in confusion, noticing the distinct lack of guards. And why had he been beamed to a hallway of all places? Was the transporter chief that incompetent?

He turned his head and was going to close his eyes for a moment when he saw a very young Terran woman enter the hallway, her eyes focused on a PADD in her hand. She glanced up at him and stopped mid-stride, and her previously neutral expression turned to one of worry and concern. She ran to his side and knelt down.

"Are you all right?" she asked, her voice soft, warm, dripping with concern. It wasn't what he would expect from a Terran, even one her age. She had lively hazel eyes and black curly hair that was currently pulled back into a low ponytail. Her skin was lightly tanned and her nose was slim; her lips were pale pink and slightly parted in shock.

"I am...adequate," he murmured, letting a tiny smile grace his lips and warm his eyes. The Terran girl frowned slightly before returning his gesture with a grin of her own. Her already lively eyes glimmered with surprise and happiness, but he could sense the nervousness emanating from her, quivering in the air like heat rising in the desert.

"I was overcome by dizziness for a moment," he explained casually, hoping she didn't know why he was here and turn him over to the guards.

Her eyes clouded with worry again. "Should I go get a Vulcan doctor?" she whispered, half-rising to go fetch one. He was surprised and endeared by her willingness to help him, and he found he did not want her to go. Besides, he needed information. The last few hours before he was transported were still burning in his mind: the assassination attempt on Captain Forrest, the pain booth, his acceptance of his death. So many females had been killed or sold as slaves that on his side of the planet, those who gravitated toward the V'tosh ka'tur interpretation of Surak's teachings, there were so few mates left, and he knew within the year he would be dead anyway. No Terran would ever go near him, and fraternization between non-Terrans was highly restricted as to not encourage rebellion. He had been transported to the outpost at Dekendi III for further questioning, more torture. And now he was sitting in this hallway with this Terran girl; he unintentionally breathed in her scent, then suppressed a gasp. She smelled warm and sweet and spicy, and the scent of her hair made delicious tingles race down his spine.

Suddenly, he remembered that she needed a reply to her question, and he shook his head at her. "A doctor is unnecessary. Please, sit, Ms...?"

"Hardister," she said, slowly sitting down and relaxing her shoulders. "Lucy Hardister. My dad's with the human contingent."

Human? That word was barely ever used, and only then as a derogatory term (as if any alien dared say such a thing to a Terran!). And yet she had said it like it was the most natural thing to say.

She frowned slightly at him; her nervousness had increased, and he furrowed his brow for a moment, trying to examine her fear. Even for a Terran, she was easy to read, and after a few seconds, he discovered she did not fear getting caught speaking to him. No, she feared him. Amazement clouded his senses until he blinked and let another small grin lift the corners of his mouth.

"Lucy...you have a lovely name, Ms. Hardister."

She blushed and glanced at the floor, pleasure slowly creeping into her eyes.

"Thank you," she whispered, tucking a stray piece of hair behind her ear.

"May I inquire," he said conversationally, sitting up straighter and fully focusing his attention on her, "what are you doing here?"

"Well, I'm going to major in xenobiology when I go to college in two months. My dad got me this textbook," she held up the PADD she had been reading earlier, "and I've been coming down here every day during lunch hour to read, 'cause I never see anyone down here. I've also been going to the open lectures, and the Denobulans have been nice enough to let me shadow them."

His mind was whirring: this Terran girl, who he saw was little older than seventeen, spoke to him with awe and caution he had never heard from her species. She had just informed him that he was most likely at a conference, obviously medical or scientific in nature, and that Terrans, Vulcans and Denobulans were all in attendance. It amazed him that this girl thought highly of the smiling, friendly aliens from Denobula, but what of his people? And what about the outpost?

"Have you seen the Vulcan contingent, Lucy?" he asked, assuming, for the moment, that the transporter chief had simply gotten the coordinates wrong and that he would be handed over to the authorities at any moment. But in the meantime, this Terran was friendly and agreeable, an unexpected but pleasant surprise in this cruel universe.

He called her by her first name automatically, and his intimate mode of address was not lost on her. Surprise flashed across her eyes, followed by confusion, fear, and finally pleasure.

"No," she said slowly. "My dad said to stay out of the Vulcan section."

"Why?" he asked, making sure his voice was collected and calm. She frowned at him.

"Well, you know. Like you guys need a human teenager in your way," she muttered, saying the words human teenager with a cold and derogatory voice, as if she had heard the term said to her that way several times and adopted such a manner of speech herself. Had his people coldly dismissed this girl from exploring their section, of learning from them? On who's authority? Did her father not complain? Or perhaps her father feared the Vulcans as much, or more, than his daughter? His mind was whirling with possibilities, and he gazed at Lucy with barely concealed astonishment.

She was staring at the floor; perhaps his silence had unnerved her. His instincts told him to reassure her, to connect with her, lest she leave him here alone or turn him over to the guards. He had to keep her here, keep her close, then, if necessary, make his move at the right moment.

"Why are you studying xenobiology?" he asked, once again focusing his attention on her.

The red flush returned to her cheeks, and he watched in fascination as it spread over the planes of her face and over the curve of her nose. "Well," she said softly, "I've always thought alien biology was fascinating. Dad's always going on about the Vulcan nervous system or Denobulan lymph nodes, and I've decided to look into the subject."

He graced her with an indulgent smile, but only let the corners of his mouth drift upward by a millimeter. "Is this your first time here?" he asked pointedly. She frowned.

"You mean on Dekendi III or at an Inter-Species Medical Conference?"

So the conference was medical in nature, and he was truly on Dekendi III. Was the Terran outpost nearby? And what was the Inter-Species Medical Conference anyway? He had never heard of such a thing. "Both," he replied, raising an eyebrow. She bit her bottom lip for a moment, then opened her mouth to speak.

"I'm new to both. This is my dad's third time at the conference, but neither of us have been to the Dekendi system before."

"And what do you think of the planet? Have you met the inhabitants of this world?"

She grinned. "The planet's lovely and the locals are really friendly. Just yesterday, Dad and I were out to eat at a restaurant, and one of the waiters said I was charming, that I reminded him of his daughter, and he gave us free dessert. They're all so nice."

She spoke as if she didn't expect such a thing, that such kindness from the Dekendi was a pleasant surprise, not anticipated favoritism. What had happened to the cruel and terrible universe he knew? Had some parasite or telepathic influence suddenly made all the Terrans friendly, helpful, compassionate even? Was this conference center on Dekendi III a secret stronghold of unity that the Empire was unaware of? What in the name of Surak was going on?

Lucy seemed to realize they had been sitting there for a good fifteen minutes, and she suddenly frowned. "Are you sure I can't go get a doctor? Do you feel better?"

He gracefully got to his feet and smiled down at her, counting himself incredibly fortunate to have come across her. She had already supplied him with plenty of information, giving it away freely, but he needed answers to bigger questions that he could not ask aloud. In the depths of his soul, he yearned for much more from her than just information. Perhaps, if they were compatible...was such a thing possible between a Terran and a Vulcan?

"I am well, Lucy. If I may?"

He held out his hand to help her to her feet, and she took it without hesitation, the most endearing expression of trust shining in her eyes. Her naivete would be her downfall; how could she be so trusting of him? From whence did this young woman spring? What oasis of love had she fallen from? And how was it that he was so fortunate to have the universe bless him with such a loving little lamb? Beautiful, ignorant, lovely Lucy! Would it not be logical to protect her from her own innocence? To teach her the truth of things and show her the universe for what it was? Such a lovely, blushing blossom needed a strong man to care for her, cultivate her beauty and talent, turn her into the lovely flower she would soon become. But first, there were things he needed to know.

He pulled her to her feet and used her momentum to draw her close. With a gentle shove, she was up against the wall, and he crushed her to it before she could move. Her confused gasp was a delight to his ears, and he offered her a gentle smile as he raised his right hand to her face; he touched his thumb to her chin, his forefinger to the top of her cheek, and his middle finger to her temple. Her warm, hazel eyes blew wide with fear, and he couldn't help but stroke his left hand down her arm, soothing her. His lips twitched further upward.

"This will be much easier on us both if you relax, Lucy," he purred, raising his left hand to cup her cheek. "I do not wish to harm you."

Despite his warning, she struggled valiantly, forcing him to press his body more firmly to hers, securing her against the wall. He held her fast with ease, and her struggle was for naught. He leaned in close.

"My mind to your mind," he whispered, gazing deeply into her fearful eyes. "Our thoughts are merging..." Indeed, it was as if a window had been opened before him, letting golden light shine down into all that he was. He eagerly moved toward that window of light and touched her mind. It was hard to enter at first, as she was still struggling, resisting, and it felt as if a thin wall of water separated him from the light. But he shoved through it and was dimly aware that a gasp had escaped her. He ignored it and stepped over the low threshold into her thoughts, and then he began to sift.

"Our minds are one," he breathed. She let out a pitiful whimper, and he responded by gently caressing her waist and hips.

Every thought, every memory was like a string of golden light, and when he touched each one with his essence, they glowed, and images flashed before his eyes: the first birthday party she remembered, the last day of school in the third grade, her brother at a sporting event, her and her mother walking along a beach, hand in hand.

Her childhood was pleasant, but did not tell him anything of use. But as he moved on, one memory caught his interest. She was in the fifth grade, and she was watching a documentary on First Contact. He pressed forward to examine the memory more closely, and there was a flash of light before he saw himself sitting in a classroom of children. The room was dark but for the projector and the flashing screen. He watched in fascination as Vulcan anthropologists were interviewed alongside Terrans, and the scenes before his eyes did not match up with the world he knew. First Contact with the Terrans, according to the film, was peaceful, beneficial to the human race, and he watched them expand their knowledge and their technology with the help of his people. The Vulcans were not slaves, no...they were counselors, teachers, mentors. The Vulcans had the upper hand in her memories, not the Terrans.

Transfixed, he pulled away from the memory and examined others: a small section of xenobiology in her science class in freshman year of high school, prompting a yearning for more knowledge; meeting her first Vulcan that summer, a visiting doctor in the clinic her father worked in; reading a textbook on Vulcan physiology; watching a informational video on Denobulans; watching her father with envy as he left for his second Inter-Species Medical Conference her junior year in high school.

She was shaking now, but he didn't want to break the connection with her to check on her physical condition. He was confident she'd recover from this, and after all, he did give her fair warning not to struggle. She chose not to heed him, and that would only make things harder on her. A moment's concern about Pa'nar Syndrome was quickly cast aside; the disease was only contagious among Vulcans and was easily cured by an experienced melder. It was illogical to worry about her, and he told himself again that she would be fine. He continued to sift, looking for anything of worth, anything to confirm that he wasn't hallucinating. How could such a world be possible, where Vulcans teach Terrans the secrets to space flight, where Vulcans lead Terrans on a journey of exploration, not conquest, where Vulcans and Terrans and Denobulans and other species are considered equals? The universe had blessed him beyond measure!

A memory caught his interest, a fairly recent one, only about a year old. It wasn't the situation that intrigued him, rather the emotions behind it. Lucy was meeting another Vulcan at her father's workplace, this visitor much younger than her first, an attractive male with dark brown hair and warm brown eyes, lean and tall, but with muscles in all the right places. Her father had informed the Vulcan that Lucy held an interest in xenobiology, but her interest that day was in a much more...intimate form of the science she wanted to study. He searched her thoughts from the occasion, a warm spring of lust rising in his chest as he watched the young Vulcan through her eyes, felt the heat pool at her thighs as the male unexpectedly glanced her way, watched her match his gaze with a heated one of her own. Lucy was very attracted to the man, and although she had never realized it, the male was intrigued by her as well. He could see it in the man's eyes, the curiosity, the thrill of mystery, the beginnings of instinctual lust. The thought made his blood roil; no man would look at her with those emotions behind his eyes! Lucy was his, his alone!

She had gasped again when he accessed that memory, and he took heed this time, pulling back enough to gauge her emotional reactions. She was still terrified, and furthermore she was embarrassed that he had found an instance of her lust. But did she not see how experiencing the carnal pleasures of desire was freedom in and of itself? Could she not feel the thrill, the excitement of imagining what might happen next, that lust for another may lead to the most exquisite fulfillment known to humanoids? He pulled away completely, having completed his search for answers. He was ready to implement the next step of his plan.

Her tanned skin was pale now, her waxen cheeks tear-stained and her eyes wide and glistening with more unshed tears. He gently brushed away the wetness shimmering on her soft skin, and he smiled at her, pleased with the essence of her that still lingered with him, eager to let her feel all that was him. He quickly wrapped an arm around her when he felt her knees begin to weaken, and he gently pressed her against the wall, his weight holding her steady.

She was trembling, but his prize was far beyond resisting him now. He quickly brushed his lips against hers and spoke to her in a low, soothing voice.

"Again, I must ask you to relax, Lucy. Don't worry, this won't hurt."

He had not removed his fingers from her psi points, and he shifted them only slightly before he made his next move. Slowly, as to not hurt her (she was only Terran after all; their nervous systems were more fragile than Vulcans), he poured his essence into her, let his own ruddy light intertwine with her golden threads of thought and memory. It made a beautiful display, and he paused for a moment to admire the aesthetics of their minds becoming joined. He whispered the ancient words to her and smiled to himself as she whispered them back, as the words were drawn from her like blood from a vein. Deep into her psyche he cast himself and his being, and once he felt himself tethered and secured, he withdrew and gazed down at her in pure satisfaction. So Vulcans and Terrans were more compatible than the Empire would have them believe.

Her eyes were closed now, and she was panting, perhaps on the verge of hyperventilation. He quickly raised his hand and tried to project calm into her, and it seemed to have the desired effect. Her breathing eased and she relaxed against him, collapsing into his chest. It felt so right to feel her pliant body melt into his, and he gently lowered her to the floor so she could recover.

She was barely maintaining consciousness, her eyes fluttering open every once and a while, only to droop after a few seconds. Her color was returning slowly but surely, and he stroked her cheek with two fingers, relishing the foreign coolness beneath the warmth of his hand. His Lucy, his a'duna, parted and never parted, she who was to be his wife! The thought enthralled him, and he watched in amazement as she leaned into his hand in her half-awakened state.

But his joy was short lived as he heard voices and footsteps approaching. His search of her mind had informed him that his clothing would stick out at this conference; surely his people of this universe would question his attire. He had been stripped of his Starfleet jumper, and he had no formal robes nor any suit to blend in with the Vulcans here. If his attire did not raise eyebrows, him carrying an unconscious woman would certainly cause the authorities to apprehend them.

Even as apprehension at getting caught here clouded the edges of his mind, he could not deny the joy of his new-found freedom. He was no longer a slave, and with a little ingenuity and cunning, he could escape this world and make a life anywhere in the universe. And Lucy...his Lucy would be at his side, his lovely, vulnerable, innocent little a'duna. Already he was relishing the feel of her in the back of his mind, and he found her essence intriguing. He looked forward to exploring her, and instead of feeling dread at his impending pon farr, he instead felt excitement.

But the voices were getting closer, and looking around at the hallway, he spied a door that presumably led to the outside, if the smell of fresh air was any indication. He quickly glanced at Lucy, still leaning heavily against the wall, and he leaned in and whispered in her ear.

"Forgive me for abandoning you, a'duna, but I must leave. However, I will not be parted from you long. I will return for you, and in the meantime, I will find you in your dreams."

He kissed her swiftly on the lips and hoped that she received the care she deserved, the attention he could not bestow on her at the moment. But one day soon...

He ran to the door and quietly exited the building, slipping into the shadows of the deepening afternoon, escaping into the oblivious crowd.