Title: Immortal Beloved

Author: Rose of the Vortaphiles (SilenMusic@aol.com)

Summary: A story of how Weyoun and Keevan meet and fall in love, but then the terrifying events that follow. . .

Disclaimer: All Star Trek elements belong to Paramount, but the creation of this story’s incidents, the characters of Jelrin & Norela, some histories, certain objects/places, blah blah blah, are by me. I am not making any kind of profit from this story and there is no harmful intent towards anyone in it.

Archiving: Ask me first, but I’ll most likely say yes.

Rating: R for some graphic violence and mild erotic scenes.

Feedback: Yes, in lots o’ detail!

Note to the reader: The beginning takes place a little before the episode “Ties of Blood and Water” on Kurill Prime. Also, I’ve done some mild tweaking and made the prisoner exchange in “The Magnificent Ferengi” successful; the events that take place after that is vital to the main plot. Other than that, I’ve stayed true to the canon timeline of the show.

More notes: I started this story around February 1999 and finished on February 12, 2001. It wasn’t literally that long; I just started and stopped occasionally. Thanks to all the Vortaphiles who have given me feedback about my story: you know who you are. :) And much thanks to Christopher Shea, who breathed life into Keevan and made him a truly amazing, unforgettable character.



Immortal Beloved

by Rose of the Vortaphiles, 1999-2000

There’s a pain
A famine in your heart
An aching to be free
Can’t you see
All love’s luxuries
Are here for you and me
And when our worlds
They fall apart
When the walls come tumbling in
Though we may deserve it
It will be worth it.

--lyrics from “Halo” by Depeche Mode



The door chimed, startling Weyoun out of his reverie. “Enter!” he called. He hadn’t expected the Founder this soon. Hastily, he put the finishing touches on his report and walked over to the doorway, his head bowed slightly in reverence to greet his god.

The door swooshed open and standing at the entrance was not the Founder, but another Vorta. Weyoun looked up and was immediately captivated by who he saw.

The young Vorta was dressed in standard attire consisting of a dark brown jacket opened to reveal a chocolate silk shirt, completed with matching trousers and short boots. The outfit flattered his tall, lithe figure and enhanced his creamy complexion. He carried himself proudly, a look of arrogance on his handsome face. He had a straight nose, pouty lips, elegant neck, and slightly wavy black hair. And his eyes. . .they were the most unusual--yet striking--shade of purple Weyoun had ever seen. Unlike most other Vorta, who had pale lavender irises, this man’s large eyes were like liquid amethysts, complemented with long, dark lashes.

“The Founder was called away on urgent business so I came on my own,” the Vorta said in a sensuous, velvet voice. He cocked his head and stared quizzically at Weyoun. “May I come in?”

Realizing that he had been standing and gaping at his visitor for quite some time, Weyoun blinked and chuckled. “Oh, of course! Where are my manners?” He gestured and the Vorta gracefully stepped inside, his hands clasped behind his back. The young Vorta studied his plain surroundings before turning back around to gaze at his superior. “You must be Ambassador Weyoun.”

“Yes, I am. And you are?. . .”

“My name is Keevan. I was cloned just a few weeks ago and was told that you would have further current information on the Cardassian alliance. I also need to be briefed on some Federation intelligence reports. I am a Field Supervisor and my first reconnaissance mission is in a few weeks. ”

“Ah, congratulations on your new life as a Field Supervisor! Wait here and I’ll get those reports.”

Keevan smiled and Weyoun thought he would melt into a puddle on the ground. He had a feeling they would have an excellent working relationship. . . . He went to his study and retrieved the appropriate padds. Bidding the young Vorta to sit down at a table, they started to go over the information together.

After about an hour of studying statistics and reports, Weyoun found it increasingly harder to concentrate on the task at hand. His mind kept wandering and all he could think about was how _beautiful_ Keevan looked and how much he wanted to kiss those tender lips and caress the creamy skin. He was confused with his feelings; he had just _met_ this young man and here he was daydreaming about him and wondering what his skin felt like! Observing his guest, he took an immediate liking to Keevan’s personality: he was highly intelligent, resourceful, charming, elegant, and even playful.

A clearing of the young Vorta’s throat interrupted Weyoun’s thoughts.

“Ambassador,” Keevan said softly, placing down a padd on the table. He gazed at him in concern. “We can continue reviewing these tomorrow. You seem to be. . .distracted.”

Weyoun sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I apologize; it’s been a long and tiring day. And please, call me Weyoun.” He smiled. “Perhaps we could discuss them over lunch tomorrow? At 1300 hours?”

“Yes, that would be most agreeable, Weyoun.” Keevan’s voice sounded like a soft purr and the ambassador delighted in hearing his name roll off of the young Vorta’s tongue. “I’ll meet you over at the replimat. Until then, good evening; it has been a pleasure meeting you.” They both rose, Keevan canting his head in a token bow, and Weyoun showed him out.

After the door closed behind Keevan, Weyoun leaned against the wall and sighed, somewhat bewildered.

Had he just fallen in love?

=/\=

“So. . .tell me about your progenitor.”

Keevan looked up from his frosty glass of rippleberry juice. “What prompted this new line of questioning?” he asked with a slight smile.

Weyoun and Keevan were seated at a quiet table at the replimat. Keevan was idly stirring his drink with a _tilovan_ sugar wand, and Weyoun’s kava nut pie lay half-eaten on the table. Neither one of them were terribly interested in continuing the discussion of last night’s Dominion briefings. Somewhere along the way, the conversation had started to slip into topics of a more personal nature.

Ever since last night’s briefing with Weyoun, Keevan could not stop thinking about the other Vorta. When he had first met Weyoun’s gaze, he felt a strange connection with him. Normally, he would have adopted his usual aloof exterior and hidden his true emotions behind an air of cool detachment in his dealings with anyone. But Weyoun. . .there was something different about him, something that told him that it was all right to open up to him, to trust him.

Besides being unusually comfortable in the presence of a person he had just met, Keevan also felt something else: attraction. It startled him to realize it; he never expected to be romantically drawn to anyone. Weyoun had beautiful lavender eyes which could make his expression quite mournful, a trembling quality in his voice which made it immediately endearing, and he was extremely charming and quick to smile. Keevan had never before encountered another Vorta with such a unique combination of pleasing traits. But then again, he was only a couple weeks old, practically fresh out of the cloning facility; he was familiar with only a few of his fellow Supervisors. He wondered if the original Keevan had such a strange longing for someone.

*Longing? Do I truly desire Weyoun? We’ve only just become acquainted, yet--*

Weyoun chuckled, the pleasant sound interrupting Keevan’s train of thought. “Our progenitors determine what their future clones are like in terms of temperament, abilities, and appearance,” the ambassador said. “I was just wondering about your history. It’s very beneficial to know more about the person with whom you are dealing with.”

Keevan leaned back in his chair and folded his hands on his lap. “What would you like to know about the original Keevan? You have all the information you could ever need from my psychographic profile.”

“True, but I know there are some aspects that probably aren’t included in there. For instance--artistic abilities. The Founders deemed that those be excluded from a clone’s genetic makeup.” Weyoun’s brow furrowed a bit. “Sometimes I do question their decision on that particular subject. What would it be like to appreciate art or play a musical instrument? I honestly don’t see the harm in retaining those traits.”

Weyoun looked sad for a moment and Keevan caught himself feeling. . .what--sympathy? It was almost a new feeling for him for he had felt nothing but a sense of superiority and contempt for those around him. Weyoun, however, seemed to evoke unique emotions in him.

Keevan smiled and spread his hands. “Perhaps the reason was that we would devote all our time in serving the various facilitative aspects of the Dominion instead of worrying about what colors go best with what, or when to squeeze in time to practice for the next recital.”

“Or be seduced into giving up information,” Weyoun said without thinking. He caught Keevan staring at him curiously. Did the young Vorta think that he was referring to him? How did Keevan manage to always catch him off-guard or trip him up? He attempted to brush it off. “These Terrans place too much emphasis on physical appearance. That’s why it’s so easy to deceive them. Look at Eris.”

Keevan smirked. “Poor Captain Sisko must have been shocked to find out that she was not at all what she seemed to be.”

“Very.” Weyoun agreed. “But, returning the to subject of aesthetics: at least we have retained our sense of appreciating our own kind. Not that it’d be a distraction, of course,” he added hastily.

“Of. . .course.” Was Weyoun flirting with him? Keevan wouldn’t have minded if he did. There was something about the ambassador that was enticing. . .perhaps it was the interested way he gazed at the person whom he spoke with, his unassuming yet authoritative presence, or the gentle sound of his voice. He also noticed that Weyoun was more nervous than the night before--unusual since the Vorta were an extremely confident species; not many people unsettled them easily. He decided not to jump to conclusions about Weyoun’s odd behavior.

“Let me see. . .the more personal details concerning my progenitor,” Keevan mused. “Ah, I will tell you this interesting tidbit. I recall that he had a most distinctive ability for singing. He was born into a family of musicians in Drenkantha. He could play the _vilondron_ quite well, but voice was his primary interest. Music was a secondary pursuit to his parents, but to him it meant everything. He worked hard, entered and won many competitions, and eventually rose to the next level to become a professional singer. Once, he had the great honor of being asked to perform at the Pelanora Concert Hall.”

“I can believe it with that voice of yours,” Weyoun said admiringly. Pelanora was a province famed for producing the most well-trained, gifted musicians. To be raised outside of that province and be requested to perform at their prestigious concert hall without going through the rigorous auditioning was quite an honor indeed. “It really is quite fascinating,” Weyoun continued. “You have this--purring quality to your voice that gives it a unique edge. It seems like you would have a natural musical talent.” He stopped, a hint of pink creeping into his marble cheeks. “I--I hope you don’t think that I am currying praise to be in your favor. It’s the truth.”

Keevan stared at him, surprise on his face. “No--you don’t sound that way at all.” Weyoun was trying to get _his_ approval? This was something unexpected. It did make him feel special to know that Weyoun admired him so much, but why? He had only known him for a couple hours. All of a sudden, he felt extremely self-conscious of speaking. “Thank you, Weyoun. I’m very flattered by your compliments. What you think means a lot to me.” He stopped himself for a moment: he didn’t mean to reveal so much of his feelings like that. “But, let us continue. My progenitor had a brilliant mind as well as other traits you know about. Both the Terapha Genetics Commission and Ging’Vari War Council took notice of him--and you know it takes a lot to impress them--brought him in for testing, and finally asked if he would donate some genetic material for use in the Dominion. Greatly honored, he agreed, and after Ging’Vari obtained necessary clearance with Terapha--” He made a grand gesture. “Here I am. The original Keevan himself had no wish to participate in military affairs. He stayed with his music. The last I heard of him was that he was doing a tour in Orosinco. I can remember all the songs he sang, but I’m afraid I can’t reproduce them as well as he.” He smiled ruefully. “You are right. Thinking about this suddenly made me realize how much I wish I still retained some aesthetic ability.” He took a sip of his juice, refreshing himself. “And now, what are the more intimate details of _your_ past history?” As he leaned forward, his fingers accidentally brushed against Weyoun’s. Weyoun jerked back as if he were given an electric shock. Keevan was startled by the reaction. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. . .nothing. I was just, uh. . .” Weyoun shook his head. “Never mind. It’s nothing.” Hesitantly, he reached out and clasped Keevan’s hand. “There, you see?”

His skin feels so soft, Keevan thought. Weyoun’s touch brought an unexpected thrill of pleasure through his body. Cautiously, he let his other hand cover Weyoun’s and felt the other Vorta shiver almost imperceptibly. Suddenly realizing that he was probably being more than a bit bold in holding the hand of the ambassador of the Dominion in front of all these people, he gave it a gentle squeeze before releasing him. “What are you afraid of?” he asked softly. He could still feel the warmth of Weyoun’s hand lingering on his and he longed to touch him again. “Am I making you uncomfortable? I can leave now if you wish.”

“No!” It was almost a desperate shout. “No,” Weyoun repeated more softly. “Please--stay.” He shook his head. “I don’t know why I did that. I’ve been jumpy lately, all this excitement and new responsibilities from being appointed Dominion ambassador. You understand.”

Keevan nodded, not saying a word.

Weyoun smiled nervously and let out a deep breath. “All right, so it’s my turn, is it?” He prodded at the half-eaten pie with his fork. “My progenitor was selected because he was exceptional in public relations, a natural leader. He could talk you in or out of almost anything he wished. He was extremely sociable, easy to get along with, very much a people person; of course those are desired traits in an ambassador. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any particularly outstanding artistic or musical abilities. Politics and governmental deception intrigued him more, therefore being a diplomat was the most logical role the Dominion could assign him. However, he did dabble in poetry every once in a while; he wrote some very lovely poems. I believe he even had some published in a literary collection. And as for myself, I am presently in my fifth incarnation.”

“Fifth? How did the others die?”

Weyoun grimaced. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather not talk about that right now. You’ll learn quickly that some of us clones are a bit sensitive on that particular subject.”

“I apologize. I didn’t mean to cause you discomfort.” Keevan straightened up confidently. “I intend to live out each and every one of my incarnations as long as possible.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” Weyoun smiled. “If someone as skilled as I am is already in his fifth incarnation then I don’t think you’ll fare much better! Remember, I was a Field Supervisor just like you not too long ago before being promoted--I know what I’m talking about!”

They both laughed. It seemed to Keevan that Weyoun was finally beginning to relax. He was beginning to like the ambassador more and more. “It seems like you’ve had more than your share of interesting experiences. I would love to learn more about you. You are a very. . . intriguing person.”

Weyoun opened his mouth to respond, but he was interrupted by a sudden chirping noise. With a sigh, he tapped a small device attached to the inner lining of his jacket. “Forgive me, but I must go. I’ve just been reminded that I am to report for an excursion to the Alpha Quadrant to pay Deep Space Nine a visit. It seems that the Dominion will be working closely with our new ally, a Cardassian named Gul Dukat.”

Keevan smiled as they both stood up. “I understand. A Vorta’s work is never done. I enjoyed meeting and getting to know you, Weyoun. Perhaps we will run into each other in the future.” Something inside him was disappointed. He wanted to see Weyoun again, but technically, he had no need. He wanted to pursue something other than business with this man--a friendship, perhaps even something more. He was afraid to ask; Weyoun would probably think he was trying to manipulate his way up the chain of command. Suddenly, an image of himself passionately kissing Weyoun popped into his head. He blinked: where had that come from? He had to restrain himself from simply taking the older Vorta in his arms and burying his face in his hair. He clasped his hands behind his back in order to hide their sudden trembling. What _did_ he want from Weyoun?

“Actually. . .I have a proposition for you on that matter,” Weyoun said. “Would you like to set aside some free time each day to meet? You still have much to learn and I would enjoy teaching you.” He gave him an almost shy smile. “I like being in your company as well. I find that you and I have many interesting topics to converse about.”

Keevan’s lips parted in pleased surprise. This certainly was a positive turn of events. Now he wouldn’t feel so awkward in trying to make up excuses to visit him. “I would be delighted.” He saw Weyoun’s eyes light up with child-like happiness at his reply. “I’ll take a look into my schedule and see if my duties will permit me. If they don’t, then I will definitely somehow find a way to make accommodations for you.”

Weyoun clapped his hands together and grinned. “Then it’s settled! As soon as you figure things out, come see me and we can arrange a time at your convenience.”

Keevan watched as Weyoun walked away, an almost palpable aura of joy emanating from the ambassador. Keevan smiled to himself as he took his tray and glass to the recycler. He sensed that the next few days were going to be much better.

=/\=

Hours became days, days became weeks, and weeks became months. Weyoun was falling deeper and deeper in love with Keevan with each moment they had together. Their daily conversations became longer and more comfortable, less business-like and formal. It was no longer an innocent friendship on Weyoun’s part, but full-blown passion and longing. Whenever Keevan was around, the normally articulate ambassador became clumsy and tongue-tied. He couldn’t understand why he desired Keevan so much; there was something about the young Vorta that was extremely alluring. It wasn’t just Keevan’s seductive beauty and velvety voice, but his personality, too: exceptional intelligence, cunning, and deviousness were very appealing traits to Weyoun. In all his incarnations, he had never met such a unique Vorta as Keevan. They never ran out of things to talk about; Weyoun even had to keep track of the time or they both would have been late for their duties. Keevan looked just as reluctant as he while finishing up their daily meetings. Every time Keevan smiled at him or gave him a friendly touch, Weyoun wanted to melt into his arms. He often wondered what it would feel like to be pressed against Keevan’s warm body, to plant kisses along that elegant throat, to touch and caress those slender hands.

And he wasn’t sure, but he sensed that Keevan was attracted him, too. There were times when he had caught Keevan gazing at him with those beautiful amethyst eyes for a moment longer than was necessary. The young Vorta’s speech seemed to be laced with provocative double-entendres. Weyoun desperately wanted to tell Keevan that he was in love with him, but didn’t want to make a spectacle of himself if Keevan didn’t feel the same way. He didn’t want to force Keevan into thinking that he had an obligation to do “favors” for his superior, therefore making their relationship uncomfortable and agitated, eliminating all possibilities of mutual love in the future. Weyoun had taken many risks before, but love was a new and alien concept for him; he was either too busy or never found anyone he really connected with. But then he remembered the odd feeling that had sparked through him the first time Keevan touched his hand: it was as if he had undergone a sort of soul recognition.

Keevan, too, was starting to fall in love with Weyoun, but he had the some of the same reservations that the ambassador had about confessing his love. He didn’t want Weyoun to think that he was trying to seduce him into giving him a higher position. He was developing a genuine affection for this man, something that he never expected. Or, perhaps his feelings were a simple infatuation, an admiration for someone who had such common interests and a unique way with words. Keevan knew that he himself was a physically attractive individual, but he sensed that Weyoun did not merely lust after his body: the older Vorta genuinely enjoyed his company. Keevan had never been desired before and these emotions were confusing, yet pleasant at the same time. He once toyed with the idea of telepathically scanning Weyoun to confirm any amorous feelings, but then decided against such an invasion of privacy, however discreet. He wanted Weyoun to speak the words of acceptance or rejection from his own mouth.

Keevan’s quarters were located in the same section as Weyoun’s. Each night he passed by Weyoun’s door, he would stop and stand there for a moment, staring at it longingly. Neither one of them had invited the other to his quarters, not even for a friendly chat. Keevan wondered with some amusement if it was because they would jump each other like crazed voles if they were given the chance to be alone in private together. He reasoned that the situation was probably not far from reality; they both seemed to be holding back. He wasn’t sure of what to do: let this curious “relationship” of theirs play out for a little while longer, or try to subtly lead Weyoun into speaking his feelings. He often spent hours trying to come up with a solution. One of them had to say something sooner or later. It was simply a matter of who would make the first move.

=/\=

The door chimed just as Weyoun slipped under the covers of his bed. He frowned. Who could be visiting at this time of night? He was tired and annoyed, but climbed back out of bed to answer the door.

Keevan was standing at the entrance, startled to see the ambassador in his pajamas. “I’m sorry for disturbing you,” he began quickly, “but I just had to come by and thank you for all the guidance you’ve shown me these past weeks.”

“Oh.” Weyoun stared at him. He thought it odd that Keevan would visit at this hour to tell him a simple thank-you; it could certainly wait until morning. He sensed that thanking him wasn’t the only thing he had on his mind. Hope sprang in his heart. “Uh, please, come in.”

Keevan stepped inside. Weyoun walked over to his sofa and sank down in it; he was too weary to keep up a professional image in front of someone so familiar like a

*lover*

good friend to him after all these months. To his surprise, Keevan sat down right next to him instead of in the adjacent chair. Keevan was so close that Weyoun could feel his body heat. Involuntarily, he sat up straighter and scooted slightly away. Keevan looked so tempting that he was afraid that he would lose control of himself. “Well, then,” the ambassador said briskly, clearing his throat. “Continue on.”

A faint suggestion of a smile tugged at the corners of Keevan’s mouth as he noticed Weyoun’s movement, but he didn’t say anything. “I’ve been reviewing the notes from our recent sessions and I’m very grateful for your advice and direction,” he said. “You don’t know how much this means to me--to have someone to look up to, a mentor, a friend.” He tilted his head slightly. “We. . ._are_ friends aren’t we, Weyoun?”

“Yes, of course.” A myriad of thoughts were racing across Weyoun’s mind. What did Keevan really want? Why didn’t he simply say what he had to say like he normally did? “Why did you choose to this hour of night to visit?” he asked abruptly. “You could have waited until morning.” Seeing the crestfallen expression in Keevan’s eyes, he hastily apologized. “I didn’t mean it that way. It’s just that I thought--” Weyoun stopped himself. He didn’t know _what_ he was thinking right now, so distracted was he by Keevan’s very presence. “Never mind, forget I said anything. I’m babbling; I’ve had a long day and I’m very tired, that’s all.” He couldn’t help but admire Keevan’s perfectly sculpted features; the fullness of his lips, his delicate jaw, the elegant curve of his neck, his well-defined nose, and his hands with their long, slender fingers all seemed to be carved out of flawless marble. And his eyes. . .he could just lose himself in those amethyst pools. . .

A puzzled expression passed over Keevan’s face. “You’re staring at me.”

“Oh.” Weyoun quickly looked away. “I’m sorry.” He couldn’t even focus on business matters without becoming enraptured with Keevan’s beautiful velvety voice. He didn’t know how long he could go on without telling Keevan of his true feelings for him. It was almost hurting him to keep his emotions bottled up inside.

“No--don’t be,” Keevan said. “I was simply making an observation,” he added. “You’ve just been doing a lot of that lately. Staring at me.”

Weyoun was caught off-guard; Keevan certainly was frank, but then again, he should’ve expected that from him. “It’s an unconscious habit. I like to look into the eyes of the person with whom I’m speaking to, you know that.”

“So do I, but you’re not merely paying attention to the words I’m saying, are you?”

Stunned, Weyoun could not speak, but sat frozen with almost fearful trepidation. He was shocked once again when Keevan reached out and gently took hold of his hand in both of his. The young Vorta’s touch was warm and caressing and Keevan was almost trembling as much as himself.

“I have a confession to make,” Keevan said softly. “I meant it when I thanked you for assisting me in my duties as Field Supervisor, but as you may have guessed, that’s not the real reason I came here. I couldn’t stand another minute without telling you or waiting until the morning. This was also the time I knew that we would have complete and uninterrupted privacy.” He hesitated, then drew in a deep breath. “I don’t know how to say this without sounding brazen so I’ll be forthright. I’ve felt that our relationship has reached another level, Weyoun, beyond merely platonic. I want to be more than friends with you.”

Weyoun’s heart almost skipped a beat. “Keevan--”

“I’m in love with you,” Keevan blurted out. Suddenly flustered, he backpedaled, letting go of Weyoun’s hand. “If I am overstepping my boun--”

Weyoun cut off his words by leaning forward and sealing his lips with a kiss; he had been keeping his anticipation in check for too long. Keevan started at the gesture, but then he closed his eyes and returned it eagerly, sensuously. Tentatively, he put his arms around Weyoun's neck, pulling him closer.

A pleasant tingle flowed through Weyoun at Keevan’s touch, and he responded by wrapping his arms around the young Vorta’s slim waist. New and exciting feelings he had never felt before flooded through him, overwhelming his senses. Keevan felt so warm and solid against him and he smelled so good; he wondered if he weren’t simply imagining all this. He broke off the kiss and boldly ran his tongue along the length of Keevan’s throat, causing the other to gasp and groan, involuntarily pressing closer. Weyoun grinned as he felt Keevan shiver with pleasure; this was certainly no hallucination! Then a thought struck him. What if he was taking this too fast? What if Keevan had only meant to confess his feelings and then see how they would continue their relationship the next day? Reluctantly, he pulled back a safe distance, but let his hands linger on Keevan’s waist. Keevan stared at him with confused dismay, lips slightly parted. Weyoun touched a trembling finger to those soft lips. “Do you really want this? We could pretend this never happened and I won’t hold anything against you for it.” He hoped the latter wouldn’t be the case, but even though it would leave his feelings utterly crushed, he would respect whatever decision Keevan made.

“Yes, I want this,” Keevan answered breathlessly. His amethyst eyes shone with hunger, with love. Greatly daring, he leaned forward and gently rubbed his cheek against Weyoun’s while pulling him back into an embrace. Weyoun’s touch opened up so many needs and desires within him; it seemed like he would never be able to get enough of it. “I don’t want to wait anymore. We’ve been hiding our true desires for too long. I want to make love to you and I know you want to make love to me, too.”

“More than anything,” Weyoun replied, caressing his face.

“But. . .I _am_ slightly nervous.” Keevan lowered his eyes and blushed. “I’ve never. . . been with anyone before.”

Weyoun cupped the Keevan’s chin and lifted it up. “Don’t worry; I haven’t, either. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. But I know enough about it to lead and show you what it is like. I’ll try to make it a wonderful experience for both of us.”

Taking Keevan’s hand, Weyoun led him into the bedroom. They stood near the bed, facing each other, and exchanged another passionate kiss. Without a word, Weyoun started to help him out of his jacket, tunic, and trousers, and then he himself was unclothed. When Keevan shrugged off his shirt, Weyoun momentarily caught his breath, so smitten was he by the young Vorta’s perfect, creamy skin. He brushed his lips over the beautiful curve of a silken shoulder and Keevan tilted his head to the side, allowing him access to the tender skin of his neck. Almost reverently, Weyoun’s hands began to explore his body: they stroked his strong back, fondled his firm backside, caressed the warm, quivering flanks, slid over slim hips, rubbed the flat belly, and then traveled up his sides to glide over his smooth chest. He ran his fingers along the elegant curve of his ear, tracing the sensitive ridges.

Keevan was trembling with anticipation and desire. His eyes closed and he moaned softly, pressing his naked body insistently against Weyoun’s, panting heavily against his neck. “Weyoun, please. . .”

Weyoun kissed the delicious arch of his throat before gently lowering him onto the bed. “Computer,” he said softly. “Lights off.”

Skin against skin, heart against heart, they became one in the darkness.

=/\=

The dawn broke into a glorious morning over Kurill, painting the sky with rich hues of vermilion, purple, and gold, but most of the Vorta people were oblivious to the aesthetic beauty of it. And two particular Vorta were oblivious to everything but themselves.

Weyoun was the first to awaken, yawning and blinking the sleep from his eyes. He looked down at Keevan’s slumbering form, a smile touching his lips. The young Vorta never appeared so innocent and vulnerable; one arm hugged Weyoun possessively to his side, a long leg entwined with his, and an almost blissful expression was upon his face.

Carefully, Weyoun brushed the tousled curls of black hair from Keevan’s forehead. He couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have such a wonderful friend and beautiful lover by his side; their lovemaking last night had been slow and sweetly passionate, everything he had imagined their first time to be. In the past months, Keevan had brought so much happiness into his life; his smile was a relief to see at the end of the day after the grueling dealings with his administrative duties and acerbic exchanges with Dukat. And now, they were finally lovers. . .it was like a never-ending dream.

Keevan slowly stirred to wakefulness, sighing deeply and contentedly. When his large eyes opened and gazed up into Weyoun’s face, he smiled. He nestled closer against Weyoun’s warm body, nuzzling his neck. “Good morning, my love.” He breathed in his uniquely spicy scent and sighed again. “Mmm, ‘my love’--another title to add to your list.”

“Good morning.” Weyoun stroked his cheek and tilted his head up for a kiss. “You were wonderful last night. How would you like to wake up every morning like this?” He made a sweeping gesture at themselves lying on the bed.

“The day would certainly start on the positive side,” Keevan replied. “I’m sure I could get used to this routine.” He laid his head against his lover’s shoulder, closing his eyes. Again, Weyoun was in awe of the young man’s beauty; he thought he would never grow tired of it. His fingers touched his long lashes, traced the full lips, and then stroked down his sleek back; Keevan’s skin felt like warm silk. Keevan arched beneath his touch like a cat, a purr of pleasure rumbling from him. Weyoun took the opportunity to plant a kiss on the tender hollow of his throat.

“I don’t want to go to work today, Weyoun,” Keevan mumbled sleepily. He gave Weyoun’s cheek a licking kiss and ran his hands down his arms caressingly. “Let's stay here all day.”

“And how are we going to explain it to the Founder?”

“Simple. Just tell her, ‘My profound apologies and forgiveness, Founder, but we can’t attend to our normal duties today. We’ve decided to spend the rest of the day making wild, mind-blowing love to each other. Keevan’s still young and has a lot to learn, you know.’”

“Now who would’ve thought that one night of passion would turn you into a mricrag panther in bed for the rest of your days? And I suppose the Founder will accept that explanation without strangling me to death on the spot?”

“Why not? It’s the truth; it’s not as if you’re lying to her or turning against the Dominion. You’re helping a fellow Vorta learn more about certain new procedures, that’s all.”

Weyoun caressed the bridge of Keevan’s nose with the back of his finger. “You are an irresistible troublemaker.” All of a sudden, insecurity pinched him awake from his daydream. “Keevan--I meant every single thing I said to you last night. I love you. You truly don’t regret what happened?”

Keevan pushed himself up on an elbow and gazed at him solemnly. “No, not at all. If I had had _any_ doubts at all, then I wouldn’t have even considered coming to your quarters in the first place. In fact, this will be the one event that I shall remember with immense clarity and treasure always.” He caressed Weyoun's face softly. “I love you, too. You may not know it, but I’ve felt this growing connection between us, that we seemed almost destined for each other. I’ve desired you more than you could imagine; I was just unsure whether or not it would be wise to express my true feelings. I didn’t want our business relationship and friendship to grow awkward. I consider myself very fortunate to know you, Weyoun: I would like to continue our new relationship as lovers, yet still keep the old one as friends.” Then he gave him an impish smile. “You’ll. . .have me, of course?”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Weyoun chuckled, amazed that Keevan had echoed his own previous inner doubts. It’s so strange how a friendship can turn into something so much more, he mused. And what were the chances of meeting someone who is so intelligent _and_ exquisite? Smiling, he gave his lover an affectionate hug. “All right, you little _rudari_, shall we have breakfast here or at the replimat? We have a long day ahead of us.”

Keevan stretched luxuriously as he yawned and Weyoun admired the sinuous movement of his lithe and graceful form beneath the sheets. Keevan’s slender hand idly caressed his lover’s lightly-muscled chest. “I would much rather stay in bed,” he purred. He grinned slyly as he slid seductively atop him, lightly pinning his wrists to the bed, his thighs resting on either side of Weyoun’s. “I can think of much more. . .interesting morning activities than breakfast.” He gave his collarbone a playful nip.

“Oh?” Weyoun said with mock seriousness. His breathing came marginally faster. “What do you have in mind?”

Keevan gave Weyoun’s ear a long, slow lick, eliciting a moan from the ambassador before he whispered, “Why don’t we find out?”

=/\=

Weyoun and Keevan’s relationship warmed quickly as they bonded from the start. Weyoun gave Keevan access to his quarters and vice versa so they could visit each other any time they wished. The lovers were inseparable, but continued to maintain a standard air of professionalism in front of their peers and the Founders. The true nature of their relationship remained a secret. Still, there were those--especially empaths who could not help but pick up the hidden emotions of others--who could sense that the two Vorta had a unique connection that carried on beyond mere friendship. Weyoun and Keevan learned more and more about each other everyday until there were almost no secrets between them. Their quarrels--what few they had--did not last long and each forgave the other quickly.

Keevan turned out to be an extremely affectionate lover. He was gentle and considerate, his aloofness and unsettling charm reserved for his peers and adversaries. Vorta were extremely sensual creatures, particularly receptive to touch as well as hearing. Weyoun was delighted to find out that Keevan loved touching as much as he did. When Keevan and Weyoun were together in private, they almost always found some way to keep in physical contact with each other--hugging, holding hands, loving caresses, or a tender kiss. Keevan found it endearing that one of Weyoun’s favorite things to do was to embrace him from behind and rest his head against his back.

The couple made love often, their techniques ranging from tender and gentle, to steamy and fierce. Keevan was a quick learner and a natural at the art of seduction, his erotic torments leaving Weyoun breathless and aching for more. Each gave and took equally, although Weyoun enjoyed pleasuring Keevan more because he loved to watch him writhe beneath him, so beautiful in his ecstasy. Before Keevan walked into his life, Weyoun never imagined that this kind of joy was possible.

Weyoun thought of this scene with a grin as he made his way to his quarters, looking forward to taking a break from his demanding tasks and just spending some quality time with his lover. And knowing Keevan’s fondness for naps, he was not surprised by the sight that greeted him when he entered the living room.

Keevan lay asleep on his side on the sofa, knees slightly bent, head pillowed on one arm, the other folded against his chest. His lashes were a dark contrast against the marble skin. His lips were slightly parted.

Keevan loved to sleep and Weyoun loved watching him do so. Weyoun never reported to his duties without at least giving him a kiss or giving him a caress every morning. Keevan would smile and shift in his slumber; somehow, he always knew about Weyoun’s gestures without waking. He often took naps after he was off duty so he would be more refreshed to carry out his other tasks and write reports.

*He must especially tired today if he’s still sleeping through the end of my shift,* Weyoun thought, amused. Shaking his head, he took a light blanket from the bedroom and draped it gently over Keevan’s slender form. Keevan mumbled in his sleep, snuggling into the newfound warmth.

Weyoun gazed at Keevan lovingly, wanting to cuddle with him and tell him about his day yet unwilling to disturb his rest. But he could not resist the urge to touch him; his lover looked so beautiful. He knelt down quietly and reached out a hand to gently stroke his hair. The dark curls felt silky soft beneath his fingers.

At the touch, Keevan’s amethyst eyes opened halfway to look at him, then closed again. He smiled and sighed in contentment.

Weyoun chuckled, kissing him on the nose. “Slacking off, are we?”

Keevan rolled his eyes and gave Weyoun’s cheek a caress. “I am _not_ shirking from my duties.” He stretched lazily like a cat. “I was just taking a nap, that’s all. A man has a right to rest a bit from a hard day’s work, hasn’t he? And continue on with what you were doing; it feels nice.”

Weyoun obliged him. “I didn’t mean to wake you, love.”

Keevan sighed. “It’s all right. I was about to get up in fifteen minutes anyway.”

“Too bad this sofa isn’t wide enough to accommodate the two of us lying down or I’d join you.” He nuzzled the crook of Keevan’s neck, taking in his scent.

“I have a solution to that problem,” said Keevan. “Why don’t you lie on top of me? We can take a nap together.”

Weyoun smirked. “Are you sure that sleeping is the only thing on your mind?”

Keevan gazed at him seductively. “That depends on how you define the phrase ‘sleeping together.’”

“You are insatiable!”

“I could say the same for you. I didn’t get much sleep last night thanks to you.”

“I certainly didn’t hear you raising any objections to it.”

“Mmm, well, you did a very good job of keeping me. . .distracted.”

“So do you prefer getting a good night’s rest or a good night’s--”

“Don’t make me choose between those! It’s not fair!”

“Well, if you want to sleep at night, perhaps we should take our pleasure during the day.”

“And just how are we going to find time for that?”

“We’ll find a way.”

“Making love at odd hours. . .an interesting change of pace.”

“Of course, I don’t mind our normal routine. _I’m_ certainly not bored with it.”

“Neither am I. It’s just that I like to get my sleep, too.”

“I’ll let you rest tomorrow, how’s that? You know you want me as much as I want you.”

“I have a better suggestion. I think it would be much more thrilling and satisfying for both of us if I simply. . .performed for you and not let you touch me. Keep it up for a day or two, maybe even try a week. The release of tension afterwards would be _that_ much more pleasurable, wouldn’t you think?”

“Gods, don’t you get started with those ideas. You know how it affects me if I just hear about them! And with that voice of yours. . .ooh!”

“I was only teasing.”

“An art you are annoyingly good at.”

“Or maybe I should go ahead and carry out my insidious plans tonight. . .”

“Keevan. . .”

“But I guess we shall see. Very well, back to my offer: would you like to sleep with me or not?”

“You know the answer is always going to be yes.”

At that, Keevan shifted onto his back and Weyoun moved to lie on top of him, covering them both with the blanket. Keevan wrapped his arms around his lover as Weyoun rested his head on the young Vorta’s chest, closing his eyes. Weyoun sighed deeply as he listened to Keevan’s heartbeat; there was almost nothing he liked more than falling asleep to the sound of it. It was also familiar and reassuring to feel the gentle rise and fall of his chest in time with his breathing. “Mmm, you feel so warm,” he mumbled drowsily.

Keevan freed one of his hands to lightly massage Weyoun’s neck. He felt him relax beneath the ministrations. “Half an hour of peace and quiet then?”

“Agreed. I’ll tell you about my day later.” Weyoun snuggled up closer to Keevan by putting his face against his lover’s neck. He gave him a light kiss.

Keevan purred, tightening his embrace around Weyoun in a brief hug. “Computer--reset sleep alarm to sound after thirty minutes.”

Cocooned in each other’s warmth and presence, the two lovers fell fast asleep.

=/\=

Keevan let the various padds and bags he was carrying drop carelessly to the floor when he came home one day. “Ugh!” he cried, throwing his arms in the air.

“How was your day?” Weyoun inquired. He went over to pick up Keevan’s things and placed them on the table.

Keevan made a disgusted sound and shook his head. “Exhausting. I had to oversee the training of my new Jem’Hadar troops. One of the men--Remata’Klan is his name--was a bit more. . .shall we say, outspoken than the others. Judging by his excellent leadership skills, he’ll move up in the ranks quickly, but for now, I’ve appointed him as the Third.”

As Keevan continued with his synopsis, Weyoun astutely studied his appearance. The way he held himself. . .he was not quite as straight-backed as usual and it looked like he had bodily aches. He detected the underlying tone of weariness in his melodic voice, noticed how his eyelids were beginning to droop with drowsiness. Then he suddenly grinned, a brilliant idea striking him. “I know the perfect solution to get you to relax and take your mind off things,” he said cheerfully. “Even if it’s only for a little while.” He led him to the bedroom. “Now, we’ll have to get these off.” He started taking off the young Vorta’s clothes. He was in no hurry. Keevan was too tired to protest and dutifully assisted him until he stood nude before his lover, almost asleep on his feet.

Weyoun swept an admiring glance over Keevan’s beautiful body before coaxing him to lie down on his stomach. “You just relax, my love, and I’ll take care of everything.” He gave his curvaceous ear a swift peck. Keevan buried his face in a pillow, heaving a semi-exasperated sigh. All he wanted to do was sleep for a couple of days and forget about his silly Jem’Hadar unit and being a Field Supervisor.

Reaching into the drawer, Weyoun took out the little of jar sandalwood lotion he had purchased in a shop earlier in the day during his break. After stripping down to a pair of underpants, he straddled Keevan’s prone form. He took the cap off of the container and poured some of the contents into his palms, rubbing his hands together to warm it up. “Computer--lower light intensity by sixty percent.”

Keevan’s weary voice arose from the bed. “Weyoun, whatever it is you’re planning I’m not really in the moo--ohhhhh--” he moaned suddenly as he felt strong, gentle, slippery hands start to massage his neck and shoulders. His eyes rolled back in his head, delicious shivers running through him. It felt so _ good_. He practically melted under his touch.

Weyoun smiled as he felt his lover’s body instantly relax beneath him. “Keevan, you are so tense!” His hands firmly stroked Keevan’s back with circular motions, working out various knots and kinks in his muscles. The spicy scent of sandalwood filled the room. He loved the feel of his smooth skin, the warm and pliant flesh beneath him, loved knowing that this luscious being was _his_. Slowly, he kneaded the taut muscles of his shoulders and arms, rubbed his calves and thighs, and caressed his firm buttocks. The gestures were purely meant to soothe with no sexual overtones. Keevan’s occasional gasps and rapturous moans let Weyoun know he was doing his job properly and with evident success. The young Vorta’s creamy skin glistened with a pearl-like sheen as the lotion soaked in.

Nearly an hour had passed as Weyoun started to finish up, gently running his hands over his lover’s body, checking for any possible sore spots he might have missed. By this time, Keevan was half asleep. The older Vorta chuckled as he carefully smoothed out a small knot in his lower back. “What do you think?”

Keevan let out a long, relieved sigh. “Well, I can definitely say that ‘I like this’ is an understatement!” He arched in pleasure as Weyoun rubbed him down. “You are incredible! It’s definitely. . .the perfect solution. . . .I should like to think--could you massage a little further up please ah yes, that’s it, right there--I should like to think that you could. . .add this to our daily routine. It’s quite--mmmm---satisfying. . .”

“Consider it done, my dearest.” He leaned down and kissed him on the cheek. “After all, you should have _something_ to look forward to at the end of the day.”

At that, Keevan shifted position to lie on his side and Weyoun slid off, coming to lie beside him. He gazed at his lover thoughtfully, his voice lowered to a soft whisper. “Weyoun, at the end of each day, the one thing I truly look forward to is being with you.”

=/\=

Eris drummed her fingers on the glass table as she waited for him. Keevan had said that he needed to tell her something important about Weyoun and she had been anxiously waiting since two hours ago. She knew he had grown quite fond of the Dominion ambassador ever since he met him and that he wanted a relationship beyond ordinary friendship. She and Keevan had become fast, close friends; she taught him everything she knew about undermining the Federation and he offered clever ideas of his own that not even she had thought were possible. Being the first Vorta to ever infiltrate the Federation, Eris was high-ranking and respected among her peers. Her field experience made her a valuable agent as well as advisor to newly-cloned Vorta, specializing in telekinetic strengthening training. Though some females wore shoulder-length hair pulled back and dressed in slightly revealing clothes in an attempt to distract male adversaries, Eris preferred her hair cropped short so she would not have to worry about it falling into her face and favored dark, standard attire. Her large eyes were the palest shade of lilac crystal, almost clear, making her expression one of constant surprise upon her oval face.

The door finally chimed. “Come in!” she called.

Keevan stepped across the threshold as soon as the door slid open. “I apologize for my tardiness; I had to accompany the Founder on an errand.”

“That’s understandable; serving the Founders will always come first.” She gestured to a chair directly across from the table. “Have a seat.”

The young Vorta walked over and gracefully sank into the chair. Gazing at Keevan, Eris remembered the first day she had met him and recalled his personal history. The Terapha Genetics Commission had chosen him as a prime candidate for cloning because of his gifted intelligence, wily cunning, and quick-thinking skills; he could find unexpected solutions in seemingly impossible test situations and scenarios. His exceptional telepathic abilities and strikingly handsome features were additional, favorable traits. At the age of fifty-seven --roughly the equivalent of twenty-six human years--he was one of the youngest initiates to ever be accepted by the Commission. His curious affinity for anthropology made him a favorite for the Founders to send on diplomatic and spy missions.

“Eris, I have the most delightful news on the progress of Dominion expansion,” Keevan grinned broadly, interrupting the female Vorta’s musings.

“I thought you were going to tell me news of Weyoun,” Eris said with a lopsided smile.

Keevan waved his hand. “I’ll get to that in a moment, my impatient friend. As you know, the Dominion is in the process of formulating an alliance with Cardassia. We’re sending many of our enforcements through the wormhole to be stationed in their space; no one knows the truth about why we’re doing what we doing. But during a briefing today”--he paused dramatically-- “I found out that we are planning to take over the entire Alpha Quadrant! That’s why we are building numerous ketracel white production facilities, cloning facilities, and shipyards over in Cardassian space. Of course, the Dominion would like for this to occur gradually and discreetly, but if the Federation suspects anything and attempts to stop us in any way, we’ll immediately launch a full-scale assault. If we do, Weyoun is not only going to be the Dominion representative, but practically commander-in-chief next to the Founder; Gul Dukat is simply a figurehead in our plans.” At the mention of the ambassador’s name, a look of adoration passed over his face.

The expression did not go unnoticed by Eris. “Well, it’s good to know that we are making such progress. We’ve conquered so many worlds and have many others allied with us; it should be a matter of time before we add the defeat of the Federation to our list of victories.” She leaned toward him. “And now we come to the true high point of our meeting: what did you want to tell me about Weyoun? I know it’s not just the fact that he has the probability of being promoted to such an important status.”

“Actually, it’s about Weyoun _and_ me,” Keevan replied softly. He stared at her sternly. “Promise me you won’t breathe a word of this to anyone.”

Eris sat up a bit straighter. “I promise. You know me better than that.”

“Well. . .” He blushed, shyly gazing down at the table. “We became lovers a few weeks ago.”

Eris’s eyes widened in amazement. “Keevan. . .well, I--I must say!” She laughed. “This comes off as quite a surprise! How did you manage to keep this all under wraps without telling anyone, even me?”

“Everyone has their secrets, dear Eris, especially the Vorta,” Keevan said smugly. “We excel in the art of dissembling. You of all people should know that, pulling off that helpless fugitive act with Captain Sisko as you did a few years ago.”

Eris swatted his arm at the praise. “Oh, stop it, you charmer. It was perfectly natural that he’d fall for it since it was first contact; humans are so gullible they’ll believe everything at first glance. Now if that obnoxious Ferengi didn’t find out the truth about my fake telekinetic suppression collar, I’d probably still be on DS9 now, gleaning secrets from right under their noses.” She reached over and clasped his hands in hers. “Anyway, concerning you and Weyoun: I’m very happy for you and you have my full approval and unconditional support.”

“Thank you. I wanted to tell you earlier, but I thought it best if I were to wait a while longer to see how things worked out.” Keevan’s expression grew wistful. “Weyoun cares for me deeply. I see the love in his gaze, hear it in his voice, feel it in his touch. When we make love, it’s not just about physical gratification; it’s something far beyond that. It is as if we become a single, harmonious being with no beginning or end, with our thoughts merging together as well--probably the closest thing to the Great Link we’ll ever achieve as Solids. It’s a wonderful feeling, Eris.”

Eris smiled. “I’m sure it is.” Her young friend had so much more to learn and Weyoun would be a great asset to help him along his journey. Theirs was the ideal partnership: the wisdom of numerous incarnations tempered with proud and independent ambition, and further fused together with love. Rising, she patted him on the shoulder. “Let’s go eat lunch. We can talk more then.”

=/\=

Borath heard soft footsteps pad into his office near the lab. He looked up and saw the familiar figure of the Dominion ambassador walking in.

“Ah, Weyoun, what a pleasant surprise!” he said. He put the padd that contained the results of a human neurological analysis down on his desk. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m here to talk about Keevan.”

Borath perked up. He had been responsible in advising a newly-cloned Keevan on the fascinating aspects of anthropology and psychology. The young Vorta was one of his best and most devious students; the scientist had gradually come to care for him deeply as a son. In some aspects, Keevan reminded him of himself; defiant, arrogant, ambitious, willing to follow his own path. They sometimes conversed together whenever the opportunity presented itself.

“All right, have a seat.” The scientist gestured to one of the soft chairs that were in front of his desk.

Borath had a large nose and gray-violet eyes set in an angular face; his irises darkened to a deep purple when he grew angry. He had a slightly disdainful air about him, looking down upon others, and once even dared to boldly question a Founder’s decision. When the Female Founder had ordered him to terminate his experimentation on the reaction of Sisko and his small crew to a simulated Dominion invasion three years ago, he had been sorely disappointed; it had been a fascinating and engrossing project while it lasted. As a successful behavioral scientist, he was given ample time and resources on his various experiments. His techniques and results had proven time and time again useful and informative to the Dominion.

“How are you?” Borath asked casually as Weyoun settled himself in the chair. The two Vorta were long-time colleagues and confided much in each other.

“I’ve just finished my meeting with Keevan. The Founder wants me to compile some psychographic profiles on our Cardassian friends, but I have time to drop by for a chat.”

“Ah, how thoughtful of you! By the way, how was your initial briefing with Keevan anyway? You never really talked about it, but it seemed like you were pleased with him and I know how hard it is for someone to impress the great Weyoun.”

“The briefing was very routine, thank you. Keevan. . .” Weyoun spoke the name with a sigh. “We have so much in common: he’s so interesting to talk to. He knows how to make me feel better after a difficult day, and he’s an overall fascinating and intelligent young man. He will be a most valuable asset to the Dominion. I very much look forward to continue working with him in the future.” He glanced at the scientist, then uneasily shifted his gaze away.

Understanding dawned in Borath’s eyes. He recognized all the subtle signs. “You’re in love with him, aren’t you?” he asked softly.

Weyoun grew flustered and lifted his chin. “What are you talking about?” he said indignantly. “Our relationship is strictly professional.”

Borath waved his hand dismissively. “Oh, come now, Weyoun,” he snorted. “Don’t play games with me. You may be the master of deception, but you cannot fool someone who has devoted his whole life to the study of behavioral psychology _and_ is your closest friend. You are in love with Keevan. ”

Weyoun opened his mouth to protest, then closed it. For the first time in his life, he couldn’t think up a falsehood to explain himself. He looked away uncomfortably. “It is more than that,” he admitted quietly. “He is my lover.”

Borath leaned back in his chair thoughtfully, lacing his fingers together. A heavy moment of silence lapsed before either one of them spoke. Unbeknownst to most, the Vorta did not _completely_ lack a sense of aesthetics; to reveal that true Vorta appreciated the exotic beauty of their own people and were quite proud of their rich, artistic and musical culture would be a tactical error. Clones simply did not require such impractical traits, but they did retain some sense of beauty. And in Weyoun’s case, it appeared that he had retained enough to seek a lover.

“It could be dangerous, Weyoun,” Borath finally sighed. “Having a consort during wartime is hazardous. One of you could be abducted by the enemy and be held as ransom for valuable information.”

“I know the risks,” Weyoun replied, looking down at his clasped hands. “That’s why I’m not telling anyone about my relationship with him except you; it won’t be public knowledge. I know I can trust you.

“All my life, I’ve always felt there was something missing. . .I didn’t feel complete. Then, I met Keevan and we connected in a way that I’ve never felt before with anyone else. We were friends at first, but that gradually grew into something more. Silly as it may sound, he is the missing piece of my puzzle.”

Borath smiled. “Ah, to think you have chosen my own little one to be your lover. . . .” Then, his expression darkened and his tone turned deadly serious. “You _will_ accept him for a lifemate, won’t you? If you ever hurt Keevan--”

“All your fears are unfounded, Borath,” Weyoun interrupted smoothly. “Of course I will take him as a mate; there’s nothing else I want more in the world. I know you love him like a son so I’m relieved I have your approval.” He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and placed his chin in his hands. A look of longing entered his eyes.

“The real question remains: will _he_ take _me_?”

=/\=

Weyoun and Keevan walked hand in hand along the black sand shores of Kurill Prime. The planet’s twin setting suns turned the white foam from the ocean’s turquoise water to peach. Five moons began to peek over the horizon. Crimson-tailed sea petrels and Poclavian gulls rode the wind currents, their fluting cries filling the evening air.

Every opportunity during the sunset, the couple would walk out onto the beach, pick out a favorite spot to sit, and simply enjoy a peaceful moment together. It was a treat for both of them, a chance to get away from the cares of the imminent war, the petty squabbling between races. . .and the presence of their gods. Not that they had any less reverence and devotion for the Founders than any other Vorta, but ever since they became lovers, privacy was a rare and precious thing, not meant to be shared openly with the all-seeing eyes of a higher power.

The Vorta settled down on a level spot of sand. Keevan drew his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms about them. Weyoun put an arm around his love’s shoulders and the two snuggled close to each other. The wind playfully whipped through Keevan’s hair, blowing the thick black curls into disarray. Keevan shook his head, trying to tame them into some semblance of order. He drew in a deep breath of the salty air and exhaled it with a contented sigh. “Ever since we started to take these walks, I’ve been wondering about something,” he said.

“What’s that?” Weyoun asked.

“Would all of this mean more to us if we could appreciate beauty?” Keevan scooped up a handful of black sand and let it sift through his fingers. “Sitting on this beach, I mean. Looking out at the colors of the sunset and the sea. In learning from geography and hearing from natural Vorta, our world supposedly has one of the most wondrous and well-preserved environments of any planet in the Gamma Quadrant. I bet Kurill could even rival Risa.”

“Not to me. I see all the breathtaking beauty that I want right here,” Weyoun said, stroking Keevan’s cheek and giving him a kiss.

Keevan smiled into the kiss. “Seriously, Weyoun.”

“I _am_ serious. You would outshine everything even if we did have a normal sense of aesthetics.”

“Oh, you’re just saying that.”

“Keevan. Have I _ever_ said anything to you that wasn’t true?”

“Um. . .”

“Ha! So there!”

“You didn’t let me finish! Let’s see. . .ah, there was that one time when I came to visit you in your quarters during one of my breaks. I was about to walk in when you came sprinting to the door and wouldn’t let me in any farther, remember? You said you were fixing the decor of your quarters, or something or other, and told me to come back later. I said that I wouldn’t mind the mess, but you shooed me out! When I came back at the time you requested, it had appeared that you fixed this luscious dinner for the two of us complete with candlelight and a bowl of blue hufna floating lilies on the table. Now, my point in recounting this story is to show that you lied to me that time! You said you were rearranging your quarters while you were really making authentic Vorta cuisine!”

“That wasn’t lying; it’s called a _surprise_!”

“Sure, whatever you say.”

The two Vorta laughed. Weyoun licked Keevan’s ear and the young Vorta nuzzled his lover’s neck. It felt wonderful to be able to laugh and joke around. Most Vorta were playful and loved to release tension with friends and loved ones after being serious in front of others all day. In this relaxed and happy moment, Weyoun decided that it was the appropriate time to carry out his important task. Almost shyly, he handed Keevan a small selarien maple box he took out of his pocket. “Here, this is for you.”

Curiously, Keevan took it from his hand. “What is it?”

“Open it and see.” He watched his face carefully, chewing his lower lip in anticipation.

Keevan opened the little box and gasped slightly when he saw the contents. Nestled on a bed of black velvet was a _taeyonin_, a choker that had the same symbolic meaning as the Terran wedding ring. A sparkling drop of tanzanite suspended inside a delicate silver wire sphere hung from an elegant silver chain. He held it up in wonder; the beautiful pendant caught the rays of the setting suns as it spun on its chain, brilliant colors glittering off the facets. “Oh, Weyoun. . .” he whispered in awe. It was not the beauty of the necklace that rendered him speechless, but rather the true meaning behind it.

“I chose this particular gem because it matched the color of your eyes,” Weyoun said, smiling. He took Keevan’s hands in his own and placed them against his fluttering heart in the traditional gesture. “Keevan, I love you so much; I want to share every waking moment and every night with you. I don’t want anyone else but you. I want to be there for you whenever you are in need. And so I ask you this: will you be my lifemate?”

It was not a decision to be taken lightly. Before the wondrous technology of cloning, the Vorta mated for life; unlike many other races, the emotional as well as telepathic bonds established between couples were deep and strong. Partners were chosen with extreme care and often knew each other for a long period of time; some had even spent their entire lives looking for the ideal mate. Promiscuity was almost unheard of in Vorta society. If a mate died, the other often remained widowed for many years, rarely taking on another lover; they were forever faithful to their first love. It was rare for clones to take on mates, but if they did, they adhered to the same traditions and faithfulness without wavering in their devout loyalty to the Founders.

Keevan had neither second thoughts nor hesitation about his decision. His amethyst eyes shone with quiet joy. “Yes, my love. I will be your mate.”

Without another word, Weyoun gently took the choker from Keevan and clasped it about the young Vorta’s neck. It was a perfect fit. He drew back and admired the way the jewel twinkled, how the chain threw back little silver stars of light around his elegant throat. Reaching out, he embraced him tightly, almost jumping up and down with excitement. “My mate,” he laughed happily. “Keevan, my lifemate!”

=/\=

Sunlight filtered in through the light canopy of trees in the Garendria Forest. A kendra sparrow sang an occasional song and quiros mice scurried from tree to tree. The earth smelled of fresh rain and woodsy plants. Flowers blossomed, adding splashes of color throughout the verdant landscape. Rippleberry vines entwined trees, their blue-green fruit scattered amongst the leaves.

Weyoun walked softly along the forest floor, calling for Veea. Veea was one of the few Founders who chose a name for herself. She was unusually kind and generously praised all the Vorta who served under her. Weyoun sometimes wished he had been assigned to her instead of his current aloof Founder. She was the most beloved of all the gods for her benign nature. . .and she was often requested to perform Vorta marriage ceremonies.

The ambassador had made plans to travel here for he knew that Veea loved the beauty of the forest and enjoyed frequenting this area, assuming the varied forms of indigenous plants and wildlife. He was so excited; Keevan was going to be his new lifemate! Never in his lifetime did he think he would come searching for Veea and ask her to do a marriage ceremony.

He pushed aside a branch that was hanging in his path. “Founder?” he called. His eyes scanned his surroundings. “Founder, are you here? I need to talk to you!”

He heard a sound behind him and whirled around. He gasped in amazement as he saw one of the trees melt into a shimmering, tawny golden column, and finally morph into the familiar features of a female Changeling.

Weyoun bowed his head slightly and held open his arms. “Founder, I am honored by your presence.”

Veea strode gracefully towards him. “What is it that you need me for, Weyoun?”

“Founder, if I may ask a favor?” His voice trembled slightly with nervousness. “Would you do me the honor of performing a Vorta marriage ceremony?”

Veea smiled at him. “Certainly. Who do you want me to perform it for?”

Weyoun thought he would faint from excitement. “Me. It’s for Keevan and me. We wish to have it in five days on the shores of the Sargathain Sea at dawn. We’ll be waiting in the vicinity.”

Veea nodded. “I will be there. You and your chosen make the necessary preparations.”

Tears of joy shone in his lavender eyes as he fell to his knees before her. “Oh, Founder, you don’t know how much this means to me! Thank you, thank you!”

To his great shock and surprise, Veea patted him on the shoulder and helped him rise. “I wish you and Keevan much happiness. You have chosen your lifemate well. I will see you at the ceremony.” With that, she stepped back and morphed into a Tarkalean hawk, flying off.

Weyoun couldn’t believe his good fortune. Not only had Veea agreed to authenticate his marriage to Keevan, but he was blessed by her touch! A god had touched _him_, a lowly Vorta! He was confident this would bode well for his future.

=/\=

The wedding day finally arrived.

It was to be a small and fairly simple affair; Weyoun and Keevan agreed that it would be more beneficial to keep their marriage a secret rather than advertise it across the quadrant. They each invited one of their closest friends, Borath and Eris. A quartet comprised of natural Vorta played traditional Vorta wedding music, the lighthearted tunes floating through the air contrasting with the ocean surf crashing onto the beach. The cloned Vorta did not quite understand the aesthetic quality of the music, but thought it added to the atmosphere.

The small group was assembled on a flat area of the rocky shores of the Sargathain Sea. Weyoun and Veea stood on a slightly raised area in the center. Lit candles were placed all atop the rocks in the vicinity, their thin blue flames wavering in the breeze. Sparkling chains of gold and silver _micoura_ coins lay scattered in the sand. Borath and Eris sat on outcroppings of the rocks, watching intently, whispering to each other excitedly.

Then, it was time to begin. The musicians began playing an introductory wedding march.

Keevan looked positively radiant, a beatific smile curving his full lips as he stepped from behind a hidden area and started his procession towards the center. He was dressed entirely in midnight black: jacket, shirt, pants, and shiny calf-high black boots. The outfit made him look taller and slimmer than he actually was, and even more beautiful for it brought out the vivid color of his eyes. The _taeyonin_ lay glittering around his neck.

Weyoun was attired in similar outfit, but his silk shirt was a dark gray. He gazed at his soon-to-be-mate, unable to stop grinning like a child who had acquired a new toy. He couldn’t be happier than this very moment.

“Keevan, you look absolutely _exquisite_ today,” he smiled as Keevan came to stand across from him.

“Thank you, my love.” Keevan lowered his eyes shyly. “As does yourself.”

Veea glanced at the two lovers. “Shall we commence with the ceremony?”

The Vorta turned to face her and she nodded. “Very well.

“We stand here today before the land, sea, and sky to join these two souls for eternity. The forces and circumstances that have brought them together are unknown, but their love for each other is plainly evident in their gazes. Weyoun’s presentation of the _taeyonin_ to Keevan not only symbolizes a proposal of marriage, but also that he entrusts his heart to him; Keevan’s acceptance of Weyoun’s gift represents his willingness to take him as a lifemate and that he will keep him close to his own heart as well. Now, for the exchanging of vows.”

She addressed the ambassador first. “Do you, Weyoun, accept this man as your lifemate; to be forever bound to him in body, soul, and mind; to defend him against all forces that would oppose the Dominion; to be loyal and faithful to him; and to cherish and love eternally?”

There could only be one answer. “Yes,” Weyoun whispered.

Veea then turned to the younger Vorta. “Do you, Keevan, accept this man as your lifemate; to be forever bound to him in mind, body, and soul; to support and protect him through troubled times; to honor and respect him; and to cherish and love eternally?”

Keevan’s eyes sparkled. “Yes.”

Then, Weyoun placed his left hand against the center of Keevan’s chest, the young Vorta mirrored his gesture, and they both clasped each other’s hands with their right palms. Veea covered the Vortas’ hands with her own; the couple started in shock and wonder when she morphed her appendages so that they enclosed their hands entirely in a warm, golden mass.

“You have each other’s hearts in your hands. Be open in your hearts and minds, trust in each other’s strength. Love each other through dark times and light until the end of time. May your souls never be apart, but exist as one.” Veea smiled as she said the final, clinching words. “I now declare you, Weyoun and Keevan, lifemates.” Her limbs then changed back into normal hands.

It was done. Sheer joy flowed through both Vorta. Weyoun clasped his new mate into a tight embrace. “My love,” he murmured. “You are finally mine.”

Keevan hugged him back with equal warmth, burying his face in his soft hair. “Finally.” Pulling back, he took Weyoun’s face in his hands and kissed him with unbridled passion.

Borath and Eris and the musicians burst into cheers and applause. The couple broke their kiss, somewhat disheveled, and grinned sheepishly.

Eris gave them each a hug. “Congratulations. I can’t think of anyone who has a stronger relationship than you two. You deserve all the happiness in the world.”

Borath shook his head, smiling. “I don’t know how you did it, Weyoun, but I’m happy for you. And you, my little one--” He cupped Keevan’s chin in a fatherly gesture. “I know your love for him will only make your spirit stronger. Take care of yourselves.”

“We will,” the couple responded simultaneously, and laughter bubbled around.

Weyoun gestured to everyone while his other arm encircled Keevan’s waist. “Come; we’re holding a small reception in the main conference room at the Sargathain Observatory. It is a time for celebration!”

Everyone’s voices dissolved into happy chatter as they made their way to the festivities. Veea excused herself from the rest of the group, claiming she had important matters to attend to. The newly-married couple strayed at an easy pace behind the others, their arms lovingly around each other’s waists, talking of their future plans. Weyoun whispered something suggestive to his mate and Keevan laughed, lightly punching him on the shoulder and nipping his ear playfully.

It was only the beginning of a wonderful day.

=/\=

Keevan yawned as he pulled off his boots and then plopped onto the bed. “Well, it certainly has been an eventful day!”

Weyoun gazed at his mate lovingly. “Yes, the reception was a bit overwhelming, but the wedding. . .oh, the wedding was perfect.” He climbed onto the bed along with Keevan and hugged him. Keevan closed his eyes, leaning into his embrace with a satisfied sigh.

“My love, how did it all happen?” Keevan mused, absently playing with his _taeyonin_. “It seemed like it was only yesterday when you and I were simply friends. . .and now we’re here. We’re lifemates.”

Weyoun ran a hand through Keevan’s hair and lightly massaged the nape of his neck, smiling as he felt him shiver with pleasure. “I don’t know, but I’m glad whatever happened did happen. When I first met you, I knew in my heart that you and I would be together. This has been happiest day of my life.”

“And mine, too.” Keevan purred, relaxing against the solid warmth of his mate.

Weyoun licked the Keevan’s ear and nibbled at the tender spot near his shoulder until Keevan moaned with delight. “But don’t think the fun’s over yet,” he chuckled mischievously. “We still have the whole evening to ourselves. . .” His hand seductively slid down his mate’s chest and began undoing the clasps of his black jacket. “Gods, the night has been too long in coming; I thought we’d never be alone.”

Weyoun took great playfulness in peeling off Keevan’s clothes, watching as his mate’s beautiful body was slowly revealed to him. When the last of the young Vorta’s garments, as well as his own, were tossed aside, Weyoun began trailing kisses all along the arch of his love’s throat and chest, the ridges of his curving ears, his creamy belly, the sweet flesh of his inner thighs and beyond. He started licking and sucking at him with his hot, wet tongue, making him toss his head and writhe beneath him in delight. He stroked every inch of his satiny skin, thrilling in the fact that this beautiful creature was finally his lifemate.

Keevan moaned and whimpered with eager pleasure as Weyoun caressed his most sensitive places, his teasing touch sending shudders of desire through his body. Those warm, gentle hands and tender lips knew where all the best areas were, knew how to arouse and soothe him. His own hands wound the sheets, twisting them into knots as he felt his mate’s body finally settle sensuously atop his, the delicious pressure fueling the flames of his need for him. His senses seemed to be amplified tenfold as if he had taken a powerful aphrodisiac. He clutched at Weyoun’s firm, smooth back and hips, pressing him harder down against him. His velvet voice trembled with emotion. “Weyoun. . .oh, my love. . .”

Unable to hold himself back any longer, Weyoun quickly prepared himself, and entered him, moaning with relief. Keevan arched up involuntarily at the wonderful sensation, crying out against his mate’s neck in an agony of pleasure. Their minds linked as they shared each other’s rapture.

//--oh, dear gods, Weyoun. . .you feel--you _are_ wonderful--//

//--you are so beautiful--//

//--my love. . .my _mate_. . .so good--//

//--together at last. . .oh, yes, my dearest love--//

Their final union was powerful, exquisite, fulfilling as their bodies melded into the most intimate of embraces possible. Their rhythmic movements were like those of a single entity: fluid and silky and easy, their lovemaking even more passionate and tender than before. Perhaps the fact that they were officially lifemates was what enhanced the experience. Waves of pleasure crashed over them, and time seemed to freeze as they gave themselves selflessly over to each other. It was not only a coupling of their physical bodies, but also of their minds and souls.

Finally, Weyoun and Keevan both cried out in ecstasy when they reached their climax; it was the most pleasurable and satisfying they had ever experienced. Happy and spent, they rested against one another quietly, panting, rapid heartbeats gradually slowing to normal. Keevan lay on his back and Weyoun reached over and pulled the blankets over both their quivering forms before nestling by his side.

Keevan waited until he caught his breath before murmuring his love’s name. “Weyoun?” His hand traced lazy circles upon the other’s back.

Weyoun had his head pillowed against Keevan’s warm, sweat-slicked belly, lavender eyes half-closed in contentment. “Mmmm?”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.” He kissed his navel and then slid up and planted a tender kiss on Keevan’s full lips.

Absurdly touched, an unexpected tear spilled down his cheek.

Weyoun pulled back in sudden worry. “Keevan?” He brushed away the droplet with a gentle hand.

Keevan shook his head, nuzzling his mate’s damp black hair. “It’s nothing. I just. . .I just feel so lucky to be with you.”

Weyoun said nothing, but laid a reassuring hand upon his love’s chest. //It’s all right, my love. Sleep for now; we have all of eternity to love each other. I’ll never let you go.// He snuggled close to his body, resting his chin against his shoulder.

As Keevan wrapped his arms around his mate and the two Vorta began drifting off to sleep, the stars themselves seemed to smile down upon them.

=/\=

Months of happiness and bliss passed by only to be clouded by the start of the war. Captain Sisko had begun mining the entrance to the wormhole and Weyoun was more than a little angry when the captain refused his order to remove the mines. The ambassador forced the Starfleet presence on Terok Nor to evacuate as he and Gul Dukat took over the station. Fortunately, Odo, Major Kira, and rest of the inhabitants of the station were fairly cooperative with the new Dominion-Cardassian presence; no major problems arose. Life continued, but with a new tension. The Dominion troops in the Alpha Quadrant were totally cut off from their forces in the Gamma Quadrant. Work in disabling the minefield began immediately. While Weyoun became part of the ruling council on the station, Keevan was performing his usual tasks as a Field Supervisor: setting off on various missions, conducting negotiations, surveying various regions of space, and spying on the enemy. Keevan counted himself lucky that he was one of the many Vorta who happened to be stationed in the Alpha Quadrant before the entrance of the wormhole was mined for that meant he would have fairly no problems in keeping in touch with Weyoun. A disadvantage was that he was practically at the front lines of the war.

Weyoun remained on Terok Nor and Keevan resided on Cardassia when he wasn’t on a mission. They occasionally made short trips to steal a couple hours alone together. Although Weyoun and Keevan were not able to spend as much time together as they would have liked, they continued to at least stay in contact with each other through subspace transmissions. Weyoun would entertain him with an amusing tale of how Dukat once again tried in vain to win Kira’s affections, and Keevan would in turn tell him that he thought humans were like Tribbles--they bred like crazy and were every where he went.

Everything was going well, until one day Keevan sent a message to Weyoun stating that he would arrive at Terok Nor in two days in order to tell him important news in person.

“I am to accompany one of the Founders to travel to the Breen homeworld,” Keevan repeated calmly to an amazed Weyoun. They were sitting on the sofa in Weyoun’s quarters, discussing the matter. “The Dominion wants us to offer an alliance to the Breen so can have additional aid during the war in case there are any. . .complications. They have extraordinarily powerful weapons that would be quite useful in turning the tides of the war more in our favor. This is the last in the series of successful negotiations we’ve been having with them. I leave in an few hours.”

“But why are they sending _you_?” Weyoun asked. “I’m certainly not doubting your capabilities, Keevan, but surely there must be some alternative. The Breen are an unpredictable race; they could be blasting Federation starships into bits on the one hand, but they could also turn on us.”

“Weyoun,” Keevan sighed, trying to keep the exasperation out of his voice. “I wasn’t cloned yesterday. I’m fully aware of the risks I am facing. The Founders have it all taken care of; the Breen respect the power of the Dominion and would probably be honored to side with us. We just have to draw out an official agreement. Besides, this will be a refreshing challenge for me. After this mission, perhaps the Founder will recognize me as she did you and I’ll get promoted.”

Weyoun stared at his mate for a long moment before finally speaking. “I’m going to miss you.” His voice trembled slightly.

Keevan smiled wistfully, taking Weyoun’s hand and placing it against his chest. “Things will return to normal at the end of the war. Then you won’t be able to get rid of me.”

Weyoun leaned forward and kissed Keevan gently. Suddenly realizing that he would not have any sort of contact with his mate for a long period of time, something gave way inside him and he began to kiss him more urgently. He never wanted to forget his warmth, his touch, his closeness. Keevan responded in kind, sliding his hands under Weyoun’s tunic to stroke his back. Weyoun shivered at Keevan’s caress, burying his face against the young Vorta’s neck. Keevan licked at Weyoun’s ear ridges as he pulled him down on him.

“When were you supposed to leave again?” Weyoun murmured. He nibbled down the side of Keevan’s throat to suck gently at his collarbone.

“In a few hours,” came the breathless reply.

“Perfect.”

=/\=

Weyoun and Keevan lay cuddled up together in bed, enjoying their afterglow for as long as possible. Weyoun didn’t want Keevan to leave; he had an unsettling feeling about his mission. He tried to persuade his mate to stay without voicing his worries, but Keevan was adamant about going. There was a determined look in Keevan’s eyes and his ambition would not be quenched.

“I think I’d better go now,” Keevan said abruptly as he got out of bed and started putting on his clothes. “You may accompany me to my ship if you wish.”

Weyoun heard the sudden impersonal coolness in his voice and cringed inwardly. Maybe he shouldn’t have said anything. Now they would part on less than pleasant terms. With a small sigh, he also rose from the bed and started getting dressed.

Neither one of them spoke a word to each other as they left for the docking bay where Keevan’s ship was located. Keevan’s Jem’Hadar First and Second were waiting at either side of the airlock when they arrived. Weyoun and Keevan stopped just outside of the airlock, facing each other. Keevan gestured for First Mirak’Tolar to board the ship first. When the Vorta were finally alone, an awkward silence fell between them once more.

Weyoun drew in a deep breath. “Well, good luck on your mission.”

Keevan opened his arms for a hug and Weyoun embraced him tightly. This would be the first time that they would truly be separated for weeks, perhaps months. Weyoun buried his face against his mate’s chest, breathing in his spicy scent, pressing himself against his warm body, memorizing every detail of his love. The initial feeling of unease came back and nagged at his insides, his brain shouting at him to prevent Keevan from leaving. He put his hands upon the young Vorta’s shoulders. “Keevan--”

Keevan placed a slender finger upon Weyoun's lips. “Weyoun, if you’re worried about me leaving, please try not to. You know we are in times of war and anything can happen; I know I lost some sleep thinking what were to happen to you if we didn’t defeat the Federation. . .” He trailed off, then shook his head resolutely. “As I said, please don’t worry too much; you need to focus on your duties and I on mine. And rest on the fact that we’re clones--practically immortal.”

Weyoun smiled slightly, swallowing a lump that had suddenly formed in his throat. He took Keevan’s hands in his, giving them a squeeze. “Still, try not to get yourself killed, all right?” he said, only half-joking.

Keevan’s expression turned solemn as he sensed his mate’s deep concern. He tilted his head to the side in a gesture that had become one of his most endearing traits. “Of course.” He pulled him into another hug. “I’ll see you when I get back. I love you.”

Sudden tears welled up in Weyoun’s eyes and he surreptitiously wiped them away with his sleeve. Keevan noticed the movement, however, and pulled back. “Hey,” he said worriedly, putting his hands on either side of Weyoun’s face. “None of that. Don’t make such a big deal out of this. You promised you wouldn’t worry.”

“Keevan, listen to me,” Weyoun pleaded. “Something is going to happen, I know it. I have an terrible feeling about this entire mission. Please--I can put in a request for your reassignment; you don’t have to go. Someone else can do this. They can send Larien--”

“I know someone else can do this, but _I_ need to do it. They’re my orders. I can’t abandon the mission without a logical reason.”

Weyoun clutched at his mate tighter, desperately. “Keevan, please don’t go. Please.” He was glad that Keevan had dismissed his men earlier; it would’ve been embarrassing for the ambassador to appear teary-eyed in front of the Jem’Hadar.

Keevan stared at Weyoun sadly, unsure of what to do, of what to say to reassure him. He had never seen Weyoun behave this way before, so agitated and frightened. His mate was asking him to disobey a direct order from a Founder, a most radical and blasphemous act. For a split second, he considered staying with Weyoun. He opened his mouth to reply when the trilling beep of his communicator interrupted him. “Yes?” he asked impatiently.

“The ship is ready, sir,” the voice of Mirak’Tolar stated. “All systems check out and are on-line. Are you ready to depart?”

“Yes, I’ll be there in a moment.” He looked back at Weyoun who was slumped in defeat. “I’m sorry, Weyoun, but I need to go. I’m coming back in one piece, my love, I promise.”

Weyoun reached up and ruffled Keevan’s hair affectionately. “You always were a stubborn one,” he muttered. “Always have to have things your way.”

Keevan smiled, but he could still sense the strange concern that was emanating from Weyoun. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” They kissed each other tenderly. Finally, Keevan gave Weyoun’s cheek a last lingering caress before he left.

Weyoun stood there, watching the airlock roll close behind the young man. He wondered why he couldn’t shake his inexplicable reason of fear. Get a hold of yourself, Weyoun, the logical side of his brain said. It’s not like you’ve never experienced danger or death before. Everyone’s bound to go through it at least once and you’ve been through four incarnations worth of them. Well, one thing was for certain: he never experienced love before or had a person to care about. He didn’t want anything disastrous happening to his mate.

Drawing in a deep breath, he started to the council meeting; he didn’t want to keep Odo waiting.

=/\= Seven months passed and the war raged on. The minefield surrounding the entrance to the wormhole was successfully disabled, but the thousands of Jem’Hadar soldiers waiting on the other side had mysteriously disappeared. Dominion personnel were immediately evacuated from Terok Nor, retreating safely to Cardassia. New strategies were planned, the guarding of Chin’toka and various other systems continued, more Jem’Hadar were bred in various facilities established in the Alpha Quadrant, and shipyards increased production.

In the midst of all the excitement and preparations, Yelgrun had nothing to do. He lounged on the couch in his quarters, reading a biography on a 20th century Earth musician named “Iggy Pop” whose physical characteristics bore an eerie resemblance to his own.

Yelgrun was an unusual Vorta. He had a bony frame, an impatient temperament, and gray eyes that held only a trace of violet. Some found his unusually deep voice amusing when he threw a fit over such trivial matters as waiting a few minutes too long for a transport to arrive. After five years, he was still in his first incarnation, a strange occurrence amongst cloned Vorta. He was sent only on minor missions, but he was a good negotiator: straightforward in his dealings, performed tasks quickly. He had few friends, but strangely no major enemies; he was merely disliked by his peers because of his air of perpetual boredom. But other than the fact that he spoke with a strange drawl, and was still in his first incarnation after a lengthy period of time, he was fairly normal as far as Vorta were concerned.

When he had turned seventy, Yelgrun applied for a Field Supervisor position but was rejected again and again by the Ging’Vari War Council who saw that his abilities were not up to their standards. His telepathic abilities were hardly worth mentioning: the most he could exhibit was sensing emotions. For several years, he worked on perfecting his techniques with numerous failures, but was finally accepted when he was 105--forty-three Terran years old. Ging’Vari had only accepted him because they needed a hasty replacement for the death of Field Supervisor Caedran; the supply of genetic material for Caedran had been mysteriously contaminated, making him unsuitable for future cloning. Yelgrun had no true desire to be cloned, but since it was a requirement from the Council, he acquiesced; he now saw his chance to receive some recognition from the Founders. While others saw his incarnation longevity as an oddity, he prided himself on fact that he was shrewd enough to keep himself from getting killed so frequently like other clones.

Yelgrun sighed heavily and dropped the padd on the table. Just when _were_ the Founders going to give him even a relatively important mission? He had already proven his worth in the field, that he was efficient and reliable. He may be middle-aged, but he still longed for excitement in his line of work; handling trade agreements with the High Ministers of Eudonar was hardly adrenaline-pumping stuff. He was proud to work for the Dominion, serving his gods in all the ways he could, but he didn’t have a clue as to why the Founders still didn’t trust him enough to give him a task that was somewhat more substantial.

“Command Center to Yelgrun.”

Yelgrun raised a bored eyebrow. “Yeah?”

“The Founder wishes to see you at once.”

Immediately, Yelgrun sat up. “I’ll be right there.”

He arrived at the Command Center within a few minutes, bowing his head and holding out his arms in the traditional gesture as he walked in. “Founder, I am honored by your summons.”

The Female Founder turned around and glanced at Yelgrun without emotion. Except for Weyoun, the Vorta were all replaceable fools, scrambling for scraps of praise and attention. They were decent workers and agents, but she could terminate them all and clone a million more in a minute if she so wished. “I have a mission for you,” she said briskly. “You are to travel to the abandoned Cardassian station Empok Nor and retrieve Keevan; he was captured by the Federation a few months earlier, but now he is being held captive by a team of Ferengi. In return, you will trade him for Ishka--the Ferengi female we captured several weeks ago--for his release.”

Loathing briefly passed over Yelgrun’s face and he tried hard not to roll his eyes. Gods, _him_ out of all people. “I will ready a ship and my men immediately.” He began to leave, but something didn’t seem right. “Founder, if I may ask a question?” he queried timidly.

“What is it?”

“If Keevan was captured, then why didn’t he--”

“For reasons unknown to us, he has refused to activate his self-termination implant and allowed himself to become a prisoner of war,” the Female Founder interrupted, completing his thought. “The Federation has somehow agreed to trade him for this Ferengi woman so it appears that he will be returning to us ahead of schedule. When the two of you return, Keevan will be debriefed accordingly. His treachery will not be tolerated.”

=/\=

“How long until we reach the rendezvous point?”

“Two hours and thirty-nine minutes.”

Yelgrun flipped aside the holoprojector of his virtual headset and decided to take a break. He briefly wished there were someplace on the bridge to sit on the austere Jem’Hadar ship. His men worked at the controls in diligent silence. Yelgrun walked over to the nearest wall and leaned up against it to rest.

Keevan. The name made Yelgrun’s lip curl in disgust. He hated Keevan with a passion ever since the little Vorta had been cloned. Keevan symbolized all he was not: young, gifted, comely. He knew his personal history, about how he was simply _chosen_ to be a Field Supervisor, how he never even asked to join. But after the fiasco with Sisko and his crew, Yelgrun was satisfied that Keevan would never fall back into favor with the Founders again unless he were terminated, had his genes tweaked, and a brand new clone activated. It still made his blood boil that Keevan--no matter what incarnation--would always be there to serve as a mocking reminder of his failures. If there were only a way to have him terminated permanently!

But even though he loathed him, he often had strange dreams about him, dreams that would make him throw off the covers, leaving him sweating profusely and aching with lust. He didn’t find the dreams repulsive; on the contrary, Keevan’s physical attractiveness made him seem like an appealing sex partner. Once he even went so far as an attempt to interest Keevan into becoming his lover, but the little Vorta simply stared at him and he felt an odd whisper of something in his mind as if he were being mentally scanned. Needless to say, Keevan then sneered at him and turned him down cold, not even deigning to speak with him ever again. Such an unceremonious rejection angered Yelgrun even further and fueled his determination for retribution. He never had a long-lasting relationship, or even many at that, and he was one of the few, rare people who rebelled against his culture’s taboo on promiscuity. He cared nothing about finding a lifemate; the idea of being attached to a single being for entire lifetimes nauseated him.

Yelgrun sighed and finally returned to his station. The thought that comforted him now was Keevan would finally be punished for his actions. He fervently hoped the little Vorta would suffer the most severe consequence possible.

=/\=

The prisoner exchange went smoothly. The obnoxious, irritating Ferengi had Ishka back and he had Keevan. Of course, Yelgrun was not entirely happy with the circumstances with which he obtained Keevan. Quark had forced Yelgrun to order all but two of his Jem’Hadar to leave and return to Dominion space, leaving him stranded at Empok Nor for at least three days. That meant spending those three days with Keevan and two soldiers who did nothing but mutely stand guard. Yelgrun had thought he would go insane with boredom and annoyance. But finally, a Dominon attack cruiser had arrived on the afternoon of the third day and they all left the dead space station.

From the actual prisoner exchange to the time when he placed him into the brig, Keevan never spoke a word to Yelgrun. His disdainful silence caught Yelgrun off-guard; he had expected him to voice a protest at his incarceration or at least verbally lash out at him. At first, Yelgrun thought Keevan was merely being his aloof self, but he when he tried to read his emotions, he sensed something. . .out of place. Something that Keevan was trying to suppress. A inkling of fear.

_Keevan was afraid of him_.

Yelgrun felt a smug exultation with that newfound knowledge. He wondered why Keevan feared him and how he could use that fear to his full advantage. Unfortunately, he had to turn the little Vorta in to the Founder before he would have a chance to find out. If he could only have an hour alone with Keevan, then he’d give him a real reason to be frightened.

“I’ve given this matter a great deal of consideration and have decided that Keevan shall not be executed.”

“F-Founder?” The Female Founder’s statement shocked Yelgrun out of his reminiscing. The two Vorta were in the Founder’s office awaiting their god’s orders. Neither the Female Founder nor Yelgrun saw the look of relief that passed briefly across Keevan’s face.

The Female Founder stood up from behind her desk and walked towards the two Vorta. Yelgrun immediately lowered his eyes and back away. Keevan remained standing tall and stared straight ahead.

“Instead of performing the standard execution we do to all Vorta who have been captured alive and returned to us,” the Female Founder continued, “I will allow this Keevan to live. His desire to live despite overwhelming odds and ingenuity in self-preservation both intrigues and amuses me. He shall be studied by the cloning scientists to see if his current traits can be applied to his modified incarnations. However, he still needs to be debriefed to see if he has learned anything about the Federation during his incarceration that may be of use to us. Keevan is hereby stripped of his privilege to command any Jem’Hadar, and will no longer be allowed to view or access sensitive information. He is demoted to a level two Field Supervisor.”

Yelgrun fidgeted uncomfortably. He didn’t agree with the Founder’s decision one bit, but knew he had no choice but to comply. “What am I supposed to do with him in the meantime?”

“Take him to a debriefing room and place him under heavy surveillance. I will meet with him again in two days’ time.” The Female Founder stared up at Keevan disdainfully. “Perhaps your next incarnation will exhibit a little more obedience and respect.”

Keevan lifted his chin slightly and returned her gaze coolly and unflinchingly. The Female Founder couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but did she detect defiance burning in his eyes? She didn’t care for Vorta constantly fawning all over her, but she had to admit that Keevan’s bold behavior was strangely disturbing.

Yelgrun tried not to let his shock show, but his eyes widened in sudden glee. “As you wish, Founder.” He couldn’t believe his luck; the Founder was actually going to hand the custody of Keevan over to _him_! Oh, he was going “debrief” the little upstart all right. He gestured to his soldiers. “Let’s go.”

One of the Jem’Hadar prodded Keevan in the arm with his disrupter rifle and they started on their way with the Female Founder’s astute gaze boring into their backs.

=/\=

Keevan was led to the subterranean levels of the compound where the debriefing chambers and interrogation rooms were located. All of the sub-level rooms had restricted access, limited only to the Founders and higher level Field Supervisors. The rooms were soundproofed so the occasional tortured screams of victims wouldn’t disturb other interrogators or those who were passing by. The lights in the corridors cast stark shadows, giving off a forbidding atmosphere.

Yelgrun was glad that few personnel walked the area for that meant he could carry out his newly-formed plan in secrecy. As he and his prisoner passed the interrogation rooms, he discreetly checked them to see if there were any that were not in use. Then, he found a vacant room and called everyone to a halt in front of it. He opened the door and started to shove Keevan inside, but the young Vorta balked, planting his feet firmly to the ground. Keevan looked around, his brow furrowing in confusion and suspicion. “Why are we stopping here? This is not a debriefing room.”

Yelgrun took out a disrupter he had been holding behind his back, and shot Keevan in the chest. The young Vorta collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

“You two,” Yelgrun said to the Jem’Hadar. “Help me carry him into the room.”

The soldiers seemed to hesitate, and even looked at each other with doubt.

“Do it!” Yelgrun snapped.

The Jem’Hadar finally complied. One of the them grabbed Keevan by the legs and the other his arms and they carried him into the interrogation room.

Yelgrun opened a small sack he had with him and handed one of the Jem’Hadar two pairs of steel cuffs and a length of heavy chain. “Here, put these on him. Tie him up from that attachment on the ceiling, but don’t let him hang completely--let his feet touch the floor. Oh, and remove his clothes before you do it. I need to go get something, but I’ll be right back.”

As the soldiers carried their orders, Yelgrun hurriedly made his way to his quarters. He was filled with excitement; he would finally have his revenge.

=/\=

Groggily, Keevan regained consciousness and immediately tensed as he realized his current state. He quickly assessed his situation. He was hanging by his wrists from a pair of steel cuffs that was connected to a contraption

*what in the name of the Founders is going on?!?!*

that was specially designed for Cardassian-style interrogation sessions. His ankles were bound and shackled to the floor with regular manacles. He was also acutely aware of the fact that he had been removed of his clothes. He glanced around the room. Aside from two Jem’Hadar guards standing at the corners near the doors staring stoically ahead, and a small table, his surroundings were bare.

The doors slid open and Yelgrun strode in, carrying a satchel over his shoulder. “And so the little traitor has awakened,” he observed. He let his gaze travel lewdly up and down Keevan’s naked body. The young Vorta flushed with anger and indignation.

“What is the meaning of this?” Keevan demanded. “I do not recall chaining up a member of the Dominion and stripping him mandatory in debriefing procedures.”

“That is for me to know and you to find out,” Yelgrun said smoothly. He set his bag on the table before standing in front of his prisoner, tapping a telekinetic suppression collar against his palm. “But, you’re right; this isn’t standard procedure. I have my own ‘special’ debriefing planned for you. No one will find out because you won’t be expected to return until two day’s time. By then. . .well. . .I’ll have all the necessary information extracted from you and I’m pretty sure you won’t be in a very good state to be meeting with anyone, much less the Founder. I’ll just say you encountered an. . .unfortunate accident in a depressurized cargo bay.” His lip curled and he bared his teeth. “I can’t believe you have the audacity to call yourself a Dominion servant after your actions on that mission of yours a few months ago.”

“And I _continue_ to serve the Dominion faithfully,” Keevan retorted. “I didn’t see how I could continue performing my duties if I were slaughtered on some desolate planet by crazed Jem’Hadar.”

“The Founders didn’t seem to think so. Why else would they want your execution?” Yelgrun blew out a disgusted sigh. “Unfortunately, someone managed to persuade them to let you live and required that you’d be watched at all times until your death, and your defect eliminated from your next incarnation..”

Hope sparked in Keevan. *Weyoun.*

“Under those circumstances, I had to be a bit more clever with my techniques. I look forward to spending the next hours with you. The Founders do not desire your death but I will make you wish they had.”

“You are no true Vorta, resorting to such savagery,” Keevan snapped. Despite his outward self-control, fear stabbed at him. What was Yelgrun planning?

Yelgrun was unfazed by the comment. “You’re right, I’m not a true Vorta--I’m a clone.” His gaze went to the choker around Keevan’s neck, noticing it for the first time. “Ah, what’s this, a _taeyonin_? Who’s whore are you?”

“You only say that because the likes of you will never find a mate,” sneered Keevan. “Too slow in your thought processes and the looks of a Cardassian vole--oh, wait a minute: that would be an insult to the vole.” He smirked as Yelgrun flushed furiously. “That’s why you are only sent on inconsequential missions such as prisoner exchanges. It’s a wonder the Founders keep your progeny alive; Ging’Vari must’ve been desperate. Tell me; do you receive cooperation from your adversaries by boring them to death?”

Angrily, Yelgrun punched Keevan in the jaw and then quickly locked the suppression collar securely around the young Vorta’s neck, switching it on. “This is so you can’t use your telekinetic abilities, and it’ll block most of your telepathic ones, too. But I seriously doubt you’ll be in any kind of state to send to anyone when I’m through with you. Oh, and you know this already, but I’ll remind you anyway: interrogation rooms are shielded so no one can beam you out.” He snapped off the _taeyonin_ and tossed it contemptuously to the floor. “No one knows you’re in here but me and those two guards over there, and they certainly don’t care. Your _mate_ will not be able to save you.”

=/\=

Keevan stood in a tense silence in his restraints while Yelgrun rummaged around in his bag and set several objects on the table. They were implements of torture. He swallowed his growing fear. He couldn’t believe this was happening to him; the Founders had to have known about Yelgrun’s sadistic tendencies. His lip curled in disgust. His gods were oh so powerful, but they couldn’t even regulate the actions of this one Vorta, or save one of their servants from a desperate situation.

Sauntering over, Yelgrun circled Keevan slowly, keeping his right hand behind him. Keevan followed him with his eyes, only letting hatred show plainly on his face. He would not give him the satisfaction of knowing that he had more than unnerved him, made him feel vulnerable.

Keevan shuddered violently, snarling when he felt Yelgrun’s hand stroke and caress his back. The gesture felt violating, obscene.

“You have such smooth, silky skin,” Yelgrun commented. “So soft. . . so warm. . .so flawless. It would be such a shame if it were scarred, wouldn’t it?”

Coming back around to face Keevan, Yelgrun brought his hand out from behind his back. In it, he held a short-handled black cat o’ nine tails that was about five feet long. He pressed a button on the grip and bright blue energy crackled along the length of the tails.

Keevan’s eyes widened with fearful surprise.

“As you can see,” Yelgrun drawled, “This is obviously no ordinary whip. It is a plasma whip, specifically designed to cut deeper into flesh with its electrical fields and make each and every stroke all the more painful. It will feel as if you are being skinned alive, but I’m too kind to do that.” With a flick of his wrist, he snapped the whip and it cracked sharply through the air, the sound echoing throughout the chamber. “Let’s test it out, shall we?”

Gritting his teeth, Keevan tried to steel himself for the stroke, but when he felt the plasma whip crash down on him, he arched his back, screaming. It felt like his back had been seared through with molten metal and acid poured into the laceration. Blood ran freely from the wound; the cruel lash had laid bare muscle and nerves. He had never felt such extreme pain before, the agony overpowering the experience of being injured in the crash on the barren planet. An involuntary sob escaped his lips and he cursed himself inwardly for it.

Yelgrun walked back in front of him and clucked his tongue. “Not even up to two strokes yet and you’re breaking down already? My, such low tolerance of pain.” He caressed his cheek, but Keevan wrenched his head away from the loathsome touch, breathing hard. Yelgrun backhanded him across the mouth with the butt of his whip, splitting his lip open. He grabbed a fistful of the young Vorta’s hair and yanked his head back, pressing the electrified whip to his chest until he cried out in pain. “This is only the beginning, little Vorta,” he hissed.

=/\=

In the past few hours, Keevan had been introduced to unimaginable, inhuman levels of pain. He had been whipped countless times, beaten until some of his bones broke, and experienced vicious blows to his abdomen that ruptured his organs. But he remembered the whip most of all; Yelgrun would just crack it in the air and the sound itself was enough to make him cry. The proud, smug, arrogant young Vorta was reduced to nothing more than an terrified animal in those hours, feeling only fear and agony. What made it worse was that Yelgrun never seemed to get tired of torturing him; the louder his screams, the more difficult struggles to breathe, and the more pain he was in, the happier Yelgrun became. The only thing that irked Yelgrun was that Keevan never once made a plea for mercy.

It was then that Yelgrun made the decision to implant his captive with the nanoprobe. He craved for the satisfaction of making him beg.

“We’re going to play a new game, Keevan,” Yelgrun said, injecting Keevan with the special serum he had prepared. He knew it would be of use someday. “This’ll make sure that you enjoy it more thoroughly and that you’ll stay awake for it. Wouldn’t want to get bored, would you?”

A strange feeling came over Keevan as the contents of the hypospray were rapidly absorbed into his system. He suddenly became more aware of all the various wounds Yelgrun had inflicted on him; sensations were sharper, everything was even more excruciatingly painful than before. A panicked sound escaped him at the sudden amplification of the agony. “What did you give me?” he cried.

Yelgrun grinned. “You tell me. You’re apparently feeling the effects right now.”

Keevan let out a sob as he felt Yelgrun run his finger along the hypersensitive edge of one of the many wounds on his back; the sob became a scream as the other Vorta forced two fingers into the wound and slowly ripped it wider. It felt like a hundred steel blades slicing through his muscles.

Yelgrun finally pulled out his fingers and casually wiped off the blood on Keevan’s belly. “Well, I think it’s about time we begin our game. We’re trying to find out whether or not you’ll pass out when I turn this up for all its worth.” He caressed Keevan’s cheek with a small control device. “If you do, then good for you and we repeat it as soon as I revive you. If not, well. . . you’ll just have to get used to it.”

Keevan’s voice was choked with tears. “Why. . .why are you doing this to me?” Even though he was in terrible pain, he had to find out what Yelgrun’s motives were.

Yelgrun’s playful demeanor slipped and he became angry. “Because you _disgust_ me,” he growled, slapping him across the face. Keevan let out terrified whine. “You live only to serve the Founders; you do not sacrifice your Jem’Hadar to save your own worthless neck. You should’ve ordered your men to destroy the Starfleet camp or at least taken them as prisoners. Instead, you allowed yourself to be taken prisoner without a fight by the Federation at the destruction of your unit. No Vorta in his right mind who is loyal to the Dominion would _ever_ allow himself to be taken prisoner by the enemy; that is what the termination implants are for. You are a _disgrace_ to our kind.” Then, his eyes lit up. “Then again, you were right in saying that this is not a part of normal debriefing procedures. I _do_ have another reason for doing what I’m doing to you. That’s what you want to know, isn’t it? Well, guess what?” He put his mouth close to Keevan’s ear. “I’m going to tell you.

“All my life, I have wanted to be in the military service of the Dominion and in the middle of the action at the front lines of a war. I worked so hard to prove myself over and over again, but Ging’Vari wouldn’t accept me; the war is the reason why I’ve gained my present position. Still, they never gave me anything overly important to undertake, as if they didn’t really trust my abilities. But you. . ._you_! The Ging’Vari War Council’s darling! You didn’t do _anything_ to earn your title! You didn’t go to them, they came to _you_--_requesting_ that you join! Why, take away those looks and that silky voice and you’d be just like all the rest of us! People like you who barely lift a finger to work and still manage rise to the top make me sick. ‘Exceptional abilities’, pah! _I_ should’ve been in your place! I deserved more than you, dammit!” He stopped, fists clenched, face contorted with rage.

Well, I’d certainly wouldn’t object to trading places with you right now, a coherent part of Keevan’s mind thought wryly. He almost laughed out loud.

Regaining his composure, Yelgrun continued. “You may wonder what I hope to gain from your torture. After all, I can’t magically absorb your abilities and traits by beating them out of you.” He laughed shortly. “But by doing this, I can get obvious satisfaction from your suffering. That’s all I really wanted from you: to watch you suffer just once in your miserable little life. To think that I even wanted you to be my lover--what _was_ I thinking? This is a much better way of touching your perfection.” His grin returned. “_Destroying_ it more or less; I doubt you’ll be the same wonderful little prodigy after I’m through with you. Anyway, now you know and it’s back to business; I’ll get to the point so we won’t have to delay any fun.

“Neural implants are sophisticated little things, leaving significant damage without physical marks, but the sight of a whip laying open flesh is much more intoxicating. Then again, you can’t beat the deeper damage that an implant can produce. The nanoprobe I injected you with should have traveled through your bloodstream and attached itself inside your heart by now. Let this be our first session.” He pressed a button on the small control device.

The device emitted a high-pitched whine.

Keevan screamed as his world whited out in an explosion of agony. There was nothing left except a searing wasteland of misery. Time seemed to have no meaning and he could feel and think of nothing but the terrible pain. The horrible sensations were indescribable, agony engulfing every fiber of his being and wrapping him in an inferno of burning anguish.

But he didn’t pass out. That merciful moment of darkness never came.

Finally, Yelgrun switched off the implant and the absence of the pain seemed torture in itself. Covered in sweat, Keevan shook all over, pitiful cries escaping his ravaged throat. He could barely breathe. *this can’t be happening can’t*

Yelgrun walked up close to Keevan and laid a cold hand upon his heaving chest, smiling as he felt his captive’s heart pound erratically against his palm. “Now wasn’t that exhilarating? You’re so excited and enjoying this so much that you want more, don’t you?”

Helpless tears flowed from Keevan’s eyes. “. . . no. . .no. . .”

Yelgrun licked the skin behind Keevan’s right ear where the self-termination implant was located and then nipped the lobe, drawing blood. “_That_ is _exactly_ what I wanted to hear.” He slapped Keevan’s back, making the young Vorta howl in agony. Wiping off the blood that splattered on his face, Yelgrun went over to the table and rummaged around in his bag. He finally pulled out a _yristhvir_, a dagger that was seven inches long with the blade gradually tapering cylindrically to be one inch in diameter. Flicking a hidden lever on the handle, ten pairs of wicked needles that curved down toward the hilt sprang out from either side of the blade. Without warning, he plunged the weapon into Keevan’s tender left side up to the first pair of needles. Keevan screamed as white-hot agony spiked through him.

Yelgrun stood back as Keevan writhed and twisted and cried in his restraints. “The more you struggle, the deeper the dagger will go in barb by barb until it works its way into your lung. It cannot be removed without surgery unless you want to bleed to death, but you’ll die of that soon enough.”

It was true. Keevan sobbed, snapping his teeth like an animal at the _yristhvir_ that was slowly working its way into his flesh before his blurry vision. The pain was excruciating, intensified a hundred fold by Yelgrun’s elixir. He could feel the razor sharpness of the blade, the individual needles tearing their way into tender skin, slicing open veins and delicate tissues. As painful as it was, there was little blood from the wound, the dagger acting like a stopper.

Yelgrun laughed. “What, you’re telling me you don’t like--” He pushed the instrument up to the second set of needles, twisting it slightly as it went in. “--the feel--” Push and twist. “--of this _delightful_--” Push and twist. “--new toy?” He then savagely pressed the buttons on his control device until the implant’s pain level escalated to new heights.

By now, Keevan had lost all control of his body. He convulsed in his restraints, his muscles jerking violently beneath his skin. His voice had become a series of harsh barks and wet, choking sounds. His lungs spasmed painfully for air as he half-sobbed, half-screamed in mindless agony.

“Oh, poor little Keevan,” Yelgrun crooned mockingly. “Do you hurt? Are you in pain?” He kissed him roughly on the cheek. “Would you like for this to all go away?”

Keevan continued to cry, twisting his head away. *Please Weyoun Weyoun I don’t know how much longer please please please somebody find me soon I can’t I can’t*

=/\=

Keevan let out a strangled scream as the implant was activated again.

And again.

And again.

Finally, when the torture stopped, his body went limp, but his muscles still spasmed from the prolonged agony. He sobbed for breath, tears rolling down his face, blood trickling from his mouth. He was drenched with sweat. His mind could focus on nothing but the terrible agony and fear. All sensations, all thoughts were on how terrible the pain was and how he was helpless to stop it. The pain was worse than the previous sessions; Yelgrun had turned up the settings almost to maximum. At least he didn’t whip him and activate the implant at the same time as he did an hour ago. . .

Yelgrun stared at the crying young man, pleased with the result. A cruel smile of satisfaction appeared on his thin lips. “Very good! That was even better than the last one.” The elixir he had given him earlier intensified all painful sensations and kept him conscious. Not only that, when he was dead, it would break down the memory chip inside his brain so subsequent clones would have no recollection of this recent event. It was a little creation of his own and he was delighted that it was working so successfully.

A sudden idea glimmered in his mind.

Yelgrun gripped Keevan’s chin firmly with his fingers and made him tilt his head back. Remembering what had happened the first time he had resisted his touch, Keevan flinched violently, but forced himself not to pull away. With an odd tenderness, Yelgrun’s hand slid down to lie against the left side of his neck and rested there, feeling his frantic pulse and the tendons that stood out in tense cords. Keevan’s whimpers and sobs grew louder and more hysterical for he instantly knew of Yelgrun’s intentions. He began to shake uncontrollably.

Yelgrun let his hand travel with deliberate slowness down Keevan’s heaving chest, the painfully rigid muscles of his belly, bruised side, taut thigh, and then back up again. Then, he walked slowly around and stopped behind him, a crafty sneer forming. Yes, this would be the final and ultimate act of pain and desecration to a mated Vorta, and the cure to his dreams. He unzipped his trousers and pulled out his penis, already fully aroused with anticipation. His fingers dug hard into Keevan’s sides, causing some of the broken ribs to puncture the lungs as he positioned himself. The terrified sounds his captive made excited him even further.

With a single, powerful thrust, he penetrated him.

A hoarse, anguished shriek ripped from Keevan’s raw throat as he felt Yelgrun repeatedly slam into him, _hard_. He cried as he felt--_heard_--the muscles start to tear from the force of the savage, pounding thrusts. Warm blood flowed down his thighs. The humiliation and agony of being violated by his enemy was unbearable; he felt something snap deep inside him as the invasion continued. His mind filled with fear at what Weyoun’s reaction would be when--_if_-- he discovered him, filthy and used. *My love please forgive me please love me please don’t reject me I love you don’t let me go forgive me please please forgive me oh please*

“You’re _mine_ now, little whore,” Yelgrun grunted. “Do you really think that your mate will forgive you after this?”

Keevan choked. Had Yelgrun somehow scanned him?

“Your precious . . .lover will _never_ . . .take you back. Why should he. . .after I’m done with you? Your pristine beauty is permanently soiled. And if I ever get to him. . .I’m going to have you in front of him. . .so he can watch me enjoy you.” Yelgrun laughed as he grabbed Keevan between the legs and squeezed painfully.

Hot tears streamed down Keevan’s cheeks as his body continued to jerk with the force of Yelgrun’s violent assault. He didn’t have the breath or voice to sob anymore. Wordless sounds escaped from his bloodstained lips. All he could feel was Yelgrun inside him

*inside me oh gods he’s inside me*

hurting him, defiling him, his hands touching him everywhere, grabbing at him. All he could think about was Yelgrun’s words and the possible truth in them. In his mind’s eye, he saw Weyoun renouncing him as his lifemate, forever turning his back on him. His soul shattered at the image, hurting him worse than any physical wound Yelgrun could inflict.

The ordeal seemed go on forever until Yelgrun finally came inside him with a groan. Roughly pulling himself out, he slapped Keevan on the backside, chuckling breathlessly. “You weren’t as good as some others I’ve had, but that was enough.” He rearranged himself and started to gather his things. “I’m finished for now so I’m leaving to attend to my other businesses; I’ll be back for you tomorrow. Enjoy yourself.” He turned on the torture device one last time and savored the image of Keevan writhing in helpless agony in his restraints.

Motioning to his Jem’Hadar, he strutted out of the room, leaving Keevan alone to die. As an afterthought, he decided to program the nanoprobe to fire bursts of pain at irregular intervals. In his haste, he had forgotten one very important factor he would later regret.

He had not bothered to ask for the identity of Keevan’s lifemate.

=/\=

*Weyoun,* Keevan thought deliriously through a fog of pain. *I. . .must. . .oh, gods--* His insides felt like a bloody pulp. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what his back looked like.

*you’re soiled goods*

The cruel thought came to him unbidden and he shook his head in agony, broken sounds wrenched from his throat. “No. . .no. . .”

*weyoun’s going to let you die because you’re yelgrun’s whore now no one wants used property*

“NO!” He cho ked, coughing. He felt the _yristhvir_ twist itself to the last set of needles, pain exploding through his side. “I’m not . . .” Gritting his teeth, whimpering, he concentrated as hard as he could, trying to push back his agony if only for a few seconds to get his plea for help through to his mate. Because he was such a strong telepath, he was just barely able to overcome the suppression collar. His mind worked sluggishly, searching through a myriad of different consciousness', but none of them he encountered was Weyoun. He was foiled numerous times when the device implanted inside him activated itself, breaking off his concentration with excruciating agony.

Desperately, Keevan made one final attempt. If he couldn’t establish a connection now then he would die from the wounds, severe blood loss, and pain. No one would suspect his absence until two days afterward when he was scheduled to meet with the Founder, and by that time he would be long dead and Yelgrun would walk away unpunished. There would be no investigation into his death; he would simply be cloned again. He sobbed in anguish and frustration. Summoning every last ounce of strength he had left in his tortured body, he flung his sending out to the widest radius possible, hoping one of those minds he touched was Weyoun’s.

And then at last, he found that precious lifeline. . .

=/\=

Weyoun was walking down to the holding cells to visit Keevan. He had not seen him since Yelgrun had brought him back that day from the prisoner exchange on Empok Nor; he had taken him to a debriefing room soon afterwards. He remembered the grim and knowing look in Keevan’s eyes when he passed by Weyoun after the ambassador greeted him at the airlock.

Ever since Weyoun heard about Keevan’s capture by the Federation, he had been worried to death, anxiously wondering about his love’s fate. When the news came that Keevan was to be returned to the Dominion, it had taken all of Weyoun’s diplomatic efforts and pleading to convince the Founders not to execute the renegade Vorta for ordering the deaths of his Jem’Hadar and letting himself being taken as a Federation prisoner of war. He vowed to them that he would never let Keevan leave his side and would be fully responsible for his actions. He loved Keevan dearly and did not want any more harm befalling him.

When Weyoun arrived at Keevan’s cell, he found that the occupant was not there. He searched the other cells to see if he had been moved, but there was no sign of him.

Without warning, agony and fear mingled with anguished desperation pierced Weyoun’s mind. He stumbled, grabbing onto the edge of a computer console, gasping at the intensity of the sudden onslaught of emotions. He recognized the thought pattern as Keevan’s and knew something was terribly wrong. Although he was not as powerful a telepath as his mate, he still had a fair ability if the situation called for it. //Keevan!// he sent frantically, //What is it? Where are you?//

//Weyoun. . .!// The answer was cut off with a mental howl of pain. Then the sending ended as abruptly as it had begun.

Weyoun acted quickly. “Computer--locate Field Supervisor Keevan.”

“Field Supervisor Keevan is Interrogation Room Fifteen, Sub-level Eight.”

*An interrogation room!* Weyoun thought with alarm. *What could he possibly be doing there?* With hurried steps, he made his way to the designated location, an icy fear gnawing in his stomach. He was not aware that there was anyone using the interrogation rooms; there were specialized Vorta who were in charge of inquisitions and they always reported to him when they had a prisoner who needed a little more forceful persuasion to make them reveal their secrets.

As soon as he arrived, he punched in the appropriate access code. When that failed to open the door, he ordered, “Computer, override security lock. Authorization code Weyoun seven-four-one sigma.” With a series of soft clicks, the door whooshed open and Weyoun stepped inside, letting his eyes adjust to the gray dimness of the room. Suddenly, he froze in place, his heart nearly stopping at what he saw. “Founders have mercy. . .”

Keevan was in the center of the small room, naked, hanging from a pair of Cardassian overhead steel cuffs that were attached to a short rod from the ceiling; his slender hands were slightly bluish from loss of circulation. Shackles around his ankles bound his feet to the bloody floor. A telekinetic suppression collar was locked around his neck. Sweat plastered his black hair to his lolling head, his chest heaved with painfully labored breaths, blood covered his back and buttocks and trailed down his legs, his quaking body marred with bruises and gashes. Muscles twitched in spasms beneath the pale skin. He must have been hanging there in agony for hours.

*by the gods blood there’s so much blood my Keevan*

Weyoun rushed to the other Vorta’s side, his heart feeling torn to shreds. A sudden rage gripped him, his vision tainted with a crimson haze as murderous thoughts flashed through his mind. He would hunt down whoever did this to his mate and make him die a slow and painful death. No one would ever do this to Keevan again. But now, all his concern was for his love.

Gently, Weyoun cupped his mate’s chin, lifting it up so he could look at his face. With a moan, Keevan’s beautiful amethyst eyes opened at the contact. The eyes that were once sparkling with life were now dull and muddied with agony and lingering tears. There was a large, ugly bruise on the left side of his cheek and his lower lip was split open. Blood trickled from his mouth. His skin felt icy cold--a sign of shock. Weyoun tenderly stroked his ashen cheek with his other hand and Keevan’s eyes closed once more. “. . .Wey-Weyoun. . .?” He let out a heartbreaking animal whimper, leaning into the older Vorta’s hand, trembling. His breath wheezed in and out of his throat as he sobbed Weyoun’s name over and over again.

“Oh, Keevan. . .” Tears began to fill Weyoun’s own eyes. He needed to get him out of here. “Hold on.” He kissed the bridge of his nose reassuringly.

A pitiful, whining cry escaped Keevan. //don’t leave me please don’t leave don’t leave don’t don’t//

The sending was awful, for both Keevan _and_ Weyoun. Tortured sounds escaped the Keevan’s lips as he writhed from the excruciating pain of the desperate telepathic effort, and Weyoun wept with him from the grief of acutely feeling his mate’s agony inside his mind and actually seeing it for himself.

Trying to compose himself as best he could, Weyoun put his hands on either side of Keevan’s face and looked directly into his terrified eyes. “My love, I’m not going to leave you. I just need to find the keys to your restraints and it will be all over, I promise.”

Slowly letting Keevan’s head rest back in its original position, Weyoun searched around the room for keys. Finding a remote mechanism lying on a nearby table, he snatched it up and quickly undid his mate’s restraints, catching Keevan’s exhausted body as he fell. Keevan screamed in agony as Weyoun’s hand came in contact with his blood-slicked back and the ambassador suddenly saw why: Keevan’s back had been torn and slashed opened. There was nothing much left of it except for tattered strips of skin. Weyoun bawled to the computer to send emergency help from the infirmary.

As gently as he could, Weyoun lay Keevan in a sitting position so that the young Vorta leaned against him, and tried not to touch his back. Upon further investigation on the extent of his injuries, Weyoun saw to his horror that his mate had been brutally raped.

Keevan clutched at his mate’s arm feebly, his motions weak from the loss of blood. “Please. . .” His hand barely brushed the handle of a dagger that was buried deep in his side. “Pull.. .it out. . .”

Shocked, Weyoun recognized the hilt of a _yristhvir_. The instrument was embedded so deeply in Keevan’s flesh and coated with blood that it had escaped his earlier notice. “Keevan, you know I can’t do that! The doctors are coming any minute--”

“No!” Keevan gasped, shaking his head vehemently. His eyes squeezed shut as a whimper escaped him. “_Now_. . .please. . .”

“My love--”

“_Weyoun_!” It was a choking howl of agony.

“Keevan, I’m--I’m sorry, but I can’t! You’ll bleed to death!” Weyoun realized how ridiculous his statement was as soon as the words left his mouth: Keevan had already lost--and was continuing to lose--a large amount of blood from his other wounds.

“Please!” Keevan cried again. He took his mate’s resisting hand and made it wrap around the handle of the _yristhvir_. “I’ll do anything--_anything_!. . .Please. . .I--I can’t do it myself. . .please, you have to pull. . .y-you can’t do this to me. . .”

“Keevan, I beg you--don’t ask me to do this.” Weyoun couldn’t think. He could only feel Keevan’s body convulsing against his and hear those anguished cries. He was nearly sobbing himself. Where were those damned medics?

Keevan choked, coughing as blood filled his lungs. “. . .please. . .I can’t. . .you don’t know. . .please. . .oh, gods, please, please. . .” He was keening. “Please. . .I love you. . .” Clumsily, he tried to kiss Weyoun’s neck, leaving a crimson smear across the pale skin. His head jerked back and he stiffened, hands curling into claws, a strangled sob wrenched from him as his muscles suddenly spasmed and cramped horribly. “P-please help me please. . .”

Weyoun was torn between waiting for the medics and yanking out the terrible weapon himself. But he could no longer refuse his mate’s pleas. Almost angrily, he tore off two pieces of his tunic. He rolled up one piece into a ball and put it to Keevan’s mouth. “Bite on this.” He hugged him tightly, pinning him firmly to his own body. Tears streamed down his face as he wrapped his trembling fingers around the _yristhvir_ handle. “I love you, Keevan,” he whispered, kissing his forehead.

With a swift jerk, Weyoun pulled out the dagger.

Keevan’s body arched so severely it seemed he might snap his back. Screams unlike any Weyoun had ever heard tore from the raw throat of his mate; the sounds would remain forever in his memory. Keevan did not black out as was to be expected, but stayed horribly conscious. His jaws clamped down hard upon the rag, every muscle in his body going as rigid as steel cords. Fresh blood flowed in copious amounts from his side as the ambassador quickly pressed the remaining piece of cloth against the wound. Bits of flesh clung to the _yristhvir_ Weyoun pulled out and he threw it away in revulsion. The dagger hit the far wall and clattered to the floor with a metallic clang.

Weyoun held onto his mate until Keevan’s cries died off into sobbing whimpers and his throes of agony ended. Their bond was so strong that he was almost sharing his pain. He took off his jacket and draped it over his mate, using the thick cloth to further staunch the blood from Keevan’s dagger wound and to keep him warm.

“Keevan, my dearest love, who’s done this to you?” Weyoun hugged the stricken Vorta close, nuzzling his face in the sweat-soaked hair, ignoring the blood that splashed on his tunic and pants. “Please--tell me!”

Keevan had buried his face against the crook of Weyoun’s neck, crying softly, hot tears scalding the other Vorta’s skin. “. . Yelgrun. . .” he sobbed brokenly. His voice was so hoarse and nearly gone from screaming that the ambassador barely recognized it as his own. He started to shake violently, clutching tightly at Weyoun. “D-don’t let. . .him. . .”

“Shhhh, I won’t.” Weyoun embraced his mate protectively, even as his eyes filled with cold intent and burning hatred. He didn’t even notice the pair of Vorta doctors who had arrived to tend to Keevan’s wounds and transport him to the infirmary. He vowed to make Yelgrun pay dearly with his life. . .

=/\=

The waiting was nerve-racking, agonizing, and it seemed like days had passed by while the surgeons were administering to Keevan. Weyoun paced back and forth in agitation outside of the infirmary, waiting, until one of the doctors finally came out.

Weyoun’s pacing stopped as he accosted the doctor. “Jelrin, how is he?” he demanded.

Jelrin, who was clothed in the pale gray robes of a surgeon, gazed at him with gentle eyes. He was the only other trusted person besides Borath and Eris who knew of Weyoun’s true relationship with the young Field Supervisor. “Keevan had seven broken ribs, a partially-collasped left lung, multiple contusions, and severe internal hemorrhaging, not to mention the deep wounds on his back,” Jelrin said softly. “He’s lost an enormous amount of blood. I’ve performed a blood transfusion and repaired all his wounds, but the tissue damage on his back was so extensive that dermal regenerators weren’t enough. I’m afraid he’ll have some temporary scarring, but see to it that he comes back in a few weeks when we get more supplies and I’ll be able to finish the cosmetic aspect of the healing then.” His expression grew more grim as he pulled out a small object from his pocket. “We found this lodged in his heart.” He dropped it in Weyoun’s hand.

Holding the object up, Weyoun scrutinized it. It was a clear bottle containing something that looked like a miniature data crystal. Suddenly, he recognized it for what it was. His eyes widened with shock. “By the Founders! This is a--”

“Heart attack-inducer nanoprobe,” Jelrin finished. “In addition to its original function, it seems it was enhanced to spread pain throughout the abdominal and back muscles and limbs all at once as well. A very effective torture device. It can simulate the excruciating effects of a heart attack without actually killing the victim. If it is activated frequently, there can be severe cardiac tissue damage and the person would be in agony for the rest of his life. ”

Weyoun’s throat constricted with fear, his hand closing in a fist over the little bottle. “Is Keevan. . .?” He remembered the moment that the medics removed the telekinetic suppression collar from Keevan’s neck, the young Vorta had sent violently, unconsciously transmitting all his agony to Weyoun. The ambassador had fallen to his knees, clutching at his head and screaming: the pain Keevan was experiencing would have made a Klingon faint. The sending had finally stopped when Jelrin immediately gave Keevan an anesthetic to knock him out. The implant must have activated at the same time the collar came off.

“Fortunately, no. We were able to successfully reverse the damage that had been done; he will still experience some pain, but he’ll recover fully in a short period of time.” Jelrin canted his head to the side, an air of suspicion entering his voice. “Keevan’s numerous external wounds seemed to have been caused by a weapon such as a whip or something of that nature. In addition, we also discovered he had been injected with a strange serum that causes pain sensations to be amplified tenfold and would destroy his memory chip after death so he would not remember that particular incident in future incarnations. Very ingenious. Luckily, I was able to nullify the effects of the elixir. Right now, I’m trying to analyze the elixir’s chemical components. There was also obvious evidence of rape--not just once, but repeatedly and quite brutally.”

_Many times. . .I--I don’t know how many times. . ._ Keevan’s words came back full force to Weyoun like a stinging slap to the face. He thought he his mate had been talking about the whip, but _rape_ was what he’d meant. . .

Jelrin paused for a moment as he saw the horror on Weyoun’s face, then resumed. “Tests confirm that the act was indeed performed by Yelgrun. It is fortunate you found him in time; if Keevan had been hanging in that interrogation room any longer he would’ve died from blood loss and infection.”

Weyoun closed his eyes, shivering as relief washed through his body. Thank the Founders that he had come as soon as he did. “What is his status?” he asked.

With a sigh, Jelrin continued his report. “We’ve managed to heal him of his injuries with no complications. He’s in stable condition now, but he’s heavily sedated; there’s no telling the extent of his psychological trauma. I need to keep him here for several more days to monitor his condition for any changes. He requires rest for a few weeks before he can return to his normal activities. And your presence might even quicken the healing process. After such a horrifying incident like this, Keevan will need you more than ever.” He gestured down the corridor to a room that was near the operating room. “You may go visit him for a short time, but he may be sleeping; we had to give him nerve suppressers as well as drugs to block his pain.”

Weyoun almost knocked the doctor over in his eagerness to see Keevan. He practically ran to the recovery room, but slowed down as he neared it.

The lights of the room were softly lit with small lamps scattered around so patients would be able to sleep without glaring illumination if they wanted. Keevan was lying on a bio-bed with his eyes closed, a gray blanket covering him to the stomach. He was dressed in the soft blue pajamas of a patient.

Quietly, Weyoun went to Keevan’s side and knelt down. Looking at his face, the older Vorta was consumed with tenderness. Keevan appeared so calm and peaceful, such a drastic and welcome change from his earlier state. His chest rose and fell steadily with even breaths. Weyoun reached out to stroke the thick, silky black hair. “I love you,” he whispered in Keevan’s ear as he nuzzled his cheek against his mate’s.

Keevan made a small sound and stirred slightly at the words, groggily awakening. Clear amethyst eyes opened slowly and gazed up at the ambassador’s face. “Weyoun. . .” he whispered, a faint smile curving his lips. His hand reached around and clasped his love’s.

Weyoun smiled warmly in return and gave his hand a small squeeze, and felt him send in joy at the simple act of touching. “Keevan, my love, you’re awake.” He noted with relief that the young Vorta’s throat had been healed and his voice had returned to its usual melodic lilt.

“Where am I?” Keevan muttered. He tried to prop himself up but Weyoun put a hand upon his shoulder, gently pressing him back down.

“Easy,” Weyoun said. “You’re in a recovery room at the infirmary. I found you and had the doctors bring you here for immediate surgery. You’re going to be all right.” He paused, swallowing hard. “But. . .I was so afraid for you.” Sudden tears sprang to his eyes and he bowed his head, his mind unwillingly going back to when he had first found Keevan in the interrogation room, dying in agony. He remembered the cries of pain, the horrendous wounds, the blood. “So afraid. . .” he repeated in a choked whisper. “I thought I was going to lose you. Oh, gods, what has he done to you?”

At the memory of Yelgrun, Keevan stiffened, his body trembling. His hand involuntarily clenched tighter around Weyoun’s, his eyes clouding with unwanted, painful memories.

Weyoun noticed his reaction and was immediately sorry he mentioned the tormentor’s name. They needed to discuss the causes of the incident, but now was not the time. He leaned over and embraced his mate soothingly; he could feel Keevan’s heart beating faster than normal, hear the quickened breathing. “Don’t worry, Keevan,” he said softly, “I won’t ever let him near you again. I’ll always protect you and you’ll be forever at my side. He will regret what he did to you, I swear it.”

Keevan held onto his mate a while longer, then gently disengaged himself. He took both of Weyoun’s hands in his own and brought them to his mouth, kissing them. He gazed up at the other Vorta, his eyes glittering coldly like purple ice. His voice was soft, but firm and clear. “Weyoun, promise me: when you find Yelgrun, I want you to do whatever it takes to make his last, miserable hours suffer in agony for as long as possible. Make use of every torture device you can replicate, anything that will prolong the pain. I want to be there to see it when that bastard gets what he deserves.” This time, he trembled with pain and rage.

“I promise, ” Weyoun said. He held onto Keevan’s hand and stroked his hair until the young Vorta’s shaking stopped. Finally, he rose from the floor, straightening his clothes. “But first, you must rest; you need your strength. I’ll come back as soon as I can.”

“Yes,” Keevan murmured. With a sigh, he closed his eyes, settling more comfortably against the bed. Weyoun rearranged the blankets and carefully tucked them over him. Leaning over, he brushed his lips against the drowsy Vorta’s and gave his cheek one last, lingering caress before leaving. “Sleep well, my dearest love,” he whispered.

=/\=

A week later, Keevan was discharged from the infirmary, the doctor declaring no serious complications except for some expected lapses of pain. Weyoun was delighted to have Keevan back by his side again. He met him in the recovery room and--supporting him for he was still weak and in slight pain--led him back to his quarters.

The door to Weyoun’s quarters silently slid open as the Vorta tapped in the codes. Keevan walked inside and stopped in the middle of the living room, looking around almost wonderingly, as if he had never seen it before. “It has been a long time, my love,” he said quietly.

After taking off his jacket and tossing it on the sofa, Weyoun came up and embraced the young Vorta from behind. Keevan flinched involuntarily, a slight shudder running through him.

Puzzled at Keevan’s reaction, Weyoun turned him around. “What is it?”

“I--” He hesitated, then looked away, unable to face him. He felt so dirty and ashamed and frightened. He swallowed, his voice husky. “Yelgrun. . .he went behind me and. . . that’s how he. . .” He trailed off. Tears welled up in his eyes; one escaped and spilled down his cheek, falling on his boots.

Weyoun drew him close and stroked his hair. “Shhh, it’s all right. You don’t have to tell me what happened until you’re ready.”

The very gentleness of those words made Keevan hold Weyoun tighter. He started to cry against his mate’s shoulder, great racking sobs shaking his body. Memories of the rape came back to him in a blinding flood. . .all the pain, the humiliation, the look of smug glee on his tormentor’s face when he had finished using him. He was so grateful that Weyoun still wanted him and loved him after he had been violated.

As Keevan’s sobs subsided, Weyoun took the young Vorta’s beautiful face in his hands and kissed his tears away. Then, Keevan felt a hand start to lightly massage the nape of his neck and he closed his eyes with a shudder, relaxing under the touch.

Weyoun pulled back slightly and gazed at Keevan tenderly. “Would you like to take a bath?” he asked softly, tracing his lover’s lips with a finger. “It will help relax you; it always has.”

“Yes, please.” Keevan opened his eyes, leaned over and gave him a lingering kiss.

Keevan followed Weyoun into the bathroom. Weyoun started to prepare the bath; hot water splashed from the spigots into the tub and steam started filling the room. Keevan stood a little to the side, watching him. He admired the soft black hair so like his own, the sweet smile, the reassuring strength of his body. He smiled slightly as he recalled the day of their first meeting: Weyoun had struck him as a very commanding yet gentle figure. He had proved to be a very interesting and delightful person to be around; his witty mannerisms coupled with high intellect always fascinated him. Their friendship quickly blossomed into something deeper and they soon became lovers.

Soon, the bath was ready and the two Vorta removed their clothes and stepped into the rose-scented water. The water felt deliciously hot and silky to Keevan; he let out a sigh as he sat down. Weyoun sat a little behind him and Keevan soon felt warm, wet hands upon his shoulders, massaging the tension out of his aching muscles. His amethyst eyes closed and he moaned with pleasure as he felt those hands work their soothing magic. Weyoun was right: a bath did always relax him. He nestled against him, wearily laying his head back against his mate’s shoulder. He wanted nothing more than to forget the terrible ordeal he went through and just sleep. Retaliation would come soon enough.

The Vorta soaked quietly in the bath for quite some time, heat vents in the tub maintaining the constant temperature of the water. Weyoun was lost in thought. He hugged him, caressing his throat and chest, lightly grazing his ear with his lips. “Keevan?” he murmured.

“Mmmm?” The young Vorta had almost been lulled to sleep by the fragrant warm water and Weyoun’s loving embrace.

“Since new strategies are to be devised for the war effort, I can ask the Founders for a brief respite from my duties and stay here until you fully recover.” He ran a finger along Keevan’s delicate jaw. “I’m sure Damar, incompetent fool that he is, can manage daily affairs on Cardassia for the next few days; I can always monitor his activities here and he can contact me if he needs to.”

Keevan turned around to face Weyoun, gazing at him worriedly. “Are you sure? Winning the war is extremely important for the Dominion--”

“But _you_ are extremely important to _me_, my dearest love.” Weyoun pulled him close, kissing him tenderly.

Keevan returned the kiss with equal passion, with no further protest.

=/\=

After they had finished bathing, Weyoun and Keevan prepared for bed. Keevan walked ahead into the bedroom while Weyoun went to an adjoining room to find some sleeping clothes for his mate.

Keevan stood quietly, observing the layout of the room. Soft white lighting from scattered lamps and ceiling lights illuminated the dark gray walls and furniture. There was Weyoun’s desk that had a few padds stacked neatly on top of each other, ready for presentation the next morning. The closet that held the nearly identical pieces of clothing was hidden by a sliding door. A plush reading chair sat near the left side of the bed. The basic necessities--no room for art or useless decorative knickknacks. Everything was just as he remembered. . .yet somehow different.

Absently, Keevan ran a finger along the cool, smooth surface of the nightstand. So many days and nights Weyoun had spent worrying over for him, fearing for his safety. During his incarceration in the Federation prison, he was able to feel Weyoun’s faint presence, but could not communicate with him. Nevertheless, Weyoun had been there with him mentally, if not physically. But then, there was that fateful day of the prisoner exchange. . .

Keevan drew in a shaky breath, closing his eyes. When Yelgrun had activated the telepathic suppression collar, a cold terror had washed over Keevan. He had felt a nothingness, as if something had been physically erased from his mind, leaving a gaping hole as the result. He considered his telepathic powers to be one of his most valuable assets and with it blocked, he had felt terribly vulnerable and exposed. Worst of all, he was no longer able to reach out to Weyoun even if he were in the vicinity. He bit his lip. The things Yelgrun did to him--

*Dammit, don’t think about that now! You’re safe with Weyoun! Stop*

--how could he ever tell his mate? Weyoun probably already knew anyway; it was Jelrin’s duty as a physician to inform him of the situation. But he didn’t know how he had _felt_: the deep, mocking laughter, the breath next to his ear, the touch of those cold hands as they traveled over his skin, the implant, raping him--

Keevan flinched violently, almost screamed in terror when he felt Weyoun’s hand brush against his bare back. The sensation brought an onslaught of memories of the time before Yelgrun brought out the plasma whip. . .

Weyoun stared at him in concern as Keevan turned around nervously. “What’s wrong? I just wanted to help you put on your tunic.” He could still feel the rough texture of the scars on Keevan’s back beneath his fingers.

“I was just. . .startled, that’s all. I can do it myself.” Keevan took the blue-gray material from Weyoun’s hands and quickly slipped it on himself, shivering. All the peacefulness from the bath instantly disappeared. He couldn’t keep jumping at every shadow he saw or touch he felt. Even if he were under tight supervision, he still had his duties to perform. He sat down on the bed, turning his head away from Weyoun.

Weyoun knew Keevan was lying; his mate’s sharp hearing would have picked up his footsteps from several meters away. Keevan’s thoughts might as well be written all over his face. “Please let me touch you,” Weyoun said softly as he joined Keevan. Cautiously, he grasped the young Vorta’s arms. When his mate made no move, he crept in closer to embrace him, sudden grief overwhelming him. “We’ve been apart for so long and the last thing you need is isolating yourself. Don’t pull away from me now, Keevan. I want to help you recover.” Gently, he pushed the shirt off Keevan’s right shoulder and kissed the junction between his neck and collarbone. Keevan caught his breath for a moment; the gesture was tender, yet strangely erotic.

Weyoun smiled slightly as he pulled the cloth back up, smoothing imaginary wrinkles out of it. “As I said before, you don’t have to do anything until you’re absolutely ready. I’ll wait for you so don’t worry about me; there is no rush. Let’s get some sleep for now. We’ll work through this together.”

“Wait,” Keevan said as Weyoun took hold of his hand. He cupped his hands around either side of his mate’s face and lifted it up. Lavender eyes stared back up at him, their color shadowed with worry and anguish. A sad smile curved Keevan’s lips. He knew that Weyoun was just as traumatized by the incident as he was, but he was being supportive instead of distancing himself or trying to be smothering and patronizing. Love, _this_ was true love. He hugged him tightly, pressing his cheek against his mate’s. He wanted to hold him forever. //My lifemate.//

Touched by the emotion of the sending, Weyoun didn’t know what to say, but he hugged Keevan back and they finally got in bed. He snuggled deep under the covers with a sigh, and waited for his mate to do the same.

Instead of lying down immediately, Keevan leaned against the headboard, a troubled expression on his face. He craved and needed sleep, but his mind was in such turmoil that he simply could not rest. He let his gaze linger upon his mate, fingered a curl of his hair. Weyoun was so loving and beautiful and accommodating; Keevan was never more thankful to have such a caring person in his life than he was now.

Puzzled as to why Keevan was still up after ten minutes, Weyoun propped himself up on an elbow, his hand coming to rest on his mate’s knee in concern. “Keevan, why are you still awake?”

Reluctantly, Keevan slid under the covers, unconsciously keeping his distance. “I want to sleep, but I’m afraid that if I do, I’ll dream of what happened to me that day.” He shuddered. “I’m afraid I will dream of _him_. Weyoun, I don’t want to relive that incident every time I close my eyes. ”

Weyoun gazed at him thoughtfully. “Come here.” He took the anguished Vorta in his arms and began working his fingers through his soft hair, alternating from gently massaging his scalp to his neck. Involuntarily, Keevan’s eyes closed as he felt a great and sudden drowsiness as well as a warm glow of pleasure overcome him. “Weyoun, how did you . . .?”

“I have read that endorphins are released by lightly massaging one’s head. It also supposedly relaxes the body and helps you rest.” He kissed his mate’s forehead with a wistful smile. “I see it is all true, and that we are particularly susceptible to this treatment. Go to sleep, my dearest; I will stay awake and guard your slumber.”

As the lulling ministrations continued, Weyoun’s voice seemed very far away to Keevan. One minute he was plagued with insomnia and terrible thoughts of Yelgrun, the next minute he couldn’t even keep his eyes open. He laid his cheek against his mate’s warm chest, listening to the reassuring heartbeat. “My love, thank--” was all he was able to get out before he fell fast asleep.

The dreams did not come.

=/\=

Unfortunately, the next three months were not as smooth as the night of Keevan’s physical recovery. Keevan was plagued by night terrors, horrible night terrors that made him bolt straight up in bed in a cold sweat or screaming and thrashing as he tried to fight off imaginary demons. He could never remember what the visions were, only the fact that they terrified him. Sometimes, he would have recurring dreams flashing back to his rape, making him relive the horrible event over and over again. Every time he closed his eyes he would see Yelgrun’s leering face. He was a complete wreck in the mornings.

During his duties, Keevan was stoic and emotionless instead of his usual dangerously charming self. He was no longer aloof or arrogant. His normal sauntering, easy gait became quick, hurried, nervous. He kept his eyes down, refusing to make eye contact with those around him. When he did speak to others, his eyes would dart back and forth like a frightened animal, never fixing upon the speaker’s face in a confident gaze. He rarely interacted with his friends.

The Founders, of course, took no notice of Keevan’s abrupt shift in mannerisms, but his Vorta coworkers and friends did. Something unspeakable must have happened to the young Field Supervisor for such a radical personality change. People whispered about him, but Keevan never seemed to hear. Every time he caught a glimpse of a handcuffed prisoner, he would freeze in whatever he was doing, quaking in fear, his breathing becoming fast and shallow. He refused to enter small windowless rooms. High-pitched sounds caused him to cringe in terror and break out in a cold sweat.

But, in spite of all his personality changes, Keevan performed his tasks with his usual efficiency with either Weyoun or a pair of Jem’Hadar standing guard over him. While he remained in his present incarnation, he was not to be left alone.

Weyoun fared no better than Keevan in his emotional state. He lost sleep, dark circles forming under his eyes. Keevan’s nightmares always woke him up and he had a difficult time trying to calm his mate down, often spending as much as two hours holding him in his arms, rocking the hysterical and weeping Vorta back to sleep. He occasionally had nightmares himself, all of them ending the same: finding Keevan bloodied and half-dead in an interrogation room. His nerves were frazzled, his patience wore thin. He grew short-tempered toward Damar, a change the Cardassian noticed with bemused irritation.

Keevan and Weyoun’s relationship was under an enormous strain. Keevan agreed to talk to Weyoun about his torture and rape in a sort of counseling session they had daily, but the sessions would always end with Keevan in tears, and Weyoun hugging him soothingly. Although they didn’t make love, they still shared the same bed. To Weyoun, it was almost like sleeping with a stranger. As always, he would wrap his arms around his mate in sleep, but Keevan either didn’t snuggle up to him, or would return Weyoun’s embrace without warmth or conviction. Keevan was not consciously trying to push Weyoun away, but he found it difficult to return the affection he once so lavished upon his mate. Understanding yet hurt, Weyoun sometimes slept on the couch, inadvertently making Keevan feel guilty when he reached out for his mate only to find empty air beside him.

Weyoun wished desperately he could do something to erase Keevan’s anguish, to eradicate his pain instantaneously. He could not bear to see his mate suffering for so long a time. One of the obvious solutions to end Keevan’s suffering was to eliminate Yelgrun. Unfortunately, Yelgrun was not yet back from a mission he had left for a few hours after Keevan’s rape; Weyoun was forced to wait impatiently for his return. In the meantime, the ambassador had other things to worry about.

Weyoun and Keevan were sitting across from each other in a quiet corner of the replimat, eating a light lunch. Their conversation was sparse at best; they had a mild argument the night before regarding the Founder’s status as gods, and emotions were still mending between them. . .

“The Founders aren’t gods,” Keevan said heatedly. “Why can’t you understand that? They are mortal beings just like you and me; they simply don’t have the same normal functions like we do such as eating and excreting, that’s all. The sooner you get the ridiculous notion out of your head that they are gods, Weyoun, the better off you’ll be.”

“The Founders are gods,” Weyoun shot back. “You know that for a fact as well as I do. You’ve known it since the moment you were activated, and will continue to accept it until your line is ever terminated. Only a defective clone would come up with a crazy statement like that.”

“Oh, so I’m defective for speaking my mind and the truth?”

“I didn’t say you were defective, Keevan.”

“Well, the meaning was certainly implied. If my current theological opinions are caused by some error in my DNA coding, then I hope that there are more of us ‘defective’ clones in the Dominion. In fact, I hope this is some sort of infection that will eventually wipe away the delusions of our people so we can reclaim our lives without the Founders’ interference.”

Weyoun snorted. “Your brain must’ve been addled by that crash several months ago.”

“Really? Well, maybe it’s a good thing it did because it sure knocked some sense into me. I don’t want to blindly follow orders just because someone programmed it into my genetic makeup. It’s another form of slavery.” Keevan crossed his arms, his eyes darkening with hurt and anger. “You know, I’m _glad_ my ship malfunctioned and crashed. Lying there in that stinking cave, dying, and thinking that I’d never see you again opened my eyes. I came to a stark realization that there would be no divine intervention, no one who would hear my prayers. Gods wouldn’t leave their children to die afraid and alone. The next time you go sniveling to the Founder and carrying out her damned whims, think about whether she’s a true god, or a puppetmaster with a sick sense of humor. . .”

With that, Keevan had turned on his heel and stalked out of Weyoun’s quarters. He had snubbed him for the rest of the evening and most of this morning. Eventually, they worked out a solution and calmed down, but to Weyoun, Keevan still seemed sullen and hurt.

Keevan pecked at his food, a large portion of it uneaten. Weyoun gazed at him in concern.

Keevan felt Weyoun’s stare and he looked up briefly before pushing his plate away. “I’m not hungry,” he said quietly.

“But you must eat something, keep up your strength. I’m worried for your health.” Keevan’s appetite had been waning as of late and he was starting to lose weight.

“I had some breakfast this morning and drank a lot of water so I’m still full,” Keevan said lamely. A pathetic lie.

Weyoun didn’t push him. “I just wanted to make sure your getting your nourishment, that’s all.” He set down his fork. “How about I fix you dinner tonight? Maybe you’ll eat better if something actually has flavor to it rather than this standard fare.” It had been so long since they had a decent evening meal together since Keevan usually went home and straight to bed.

Keevan shrugged noncommittally. “All right.”

Weyoun sighed inwardly. At least his mate was cooperating and not resistant to the idea. He hoped this was at least a start on his road to emotional recovery.

Keevan wiped his mouth with a napkin and tossed it on his tray. “I must leave. I have some business that I need to check up on.” But before he could rise, Weyoun reached out and tenderly touched his cheek.

“Keevan. . .when will you come back to me?” Weyoun asked softly. He did not mean from running errands.

Keevan closed his eyes at the caress, lowering his head. His lower lip trembled. “I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

=/\=

Yelgrun was frightened out of his wits. A few days ago, he had seen Keevan, alive and well, walking beside Ambassador Weyoun and conversing softly with him. He had no idea how Keevan had escaped the interrogation chamber after being tortured to near-death and locked securely, but he had to eradicate the young upstart before he exposed him. Perhaps it was even too late; at least he had been fairly discreet in returning from his mission and everyone was probably too busy to notice his arrival anyway. The desperate situation called for drastic measures. He decided to contact one of his trusted acquaintances on a coded transmission.

A female Vorta appeared on the small personal viewscreen. She was a middle-aged botanist named Norela and she had trained with Yelgrun as a Field Supervisor for a few years. Finding that commanding troops of scowling Jem’Hadar had not been to her liking, she had requested and had been since reassigned to a scientific position on the Vorta homeworld. She was just recently stationed in the city of Mavunda on Cardassia, studying its various native flora.

“Norela,” Yelgrun said urgently. “I need you to do me a favor; I need you to obtain a few materials for me. Here are the names.” He uploaded the list from a small datapadd.

As Norela scanned the ingredients from the incoming transmission, her brows raised and she frowned. “Yelgrun, are you sure you have these correct? It says here--”

“No time to explain. I can’t get away from the compound lest I arouse suspicion. Please, just gather the materials and bring them to me. I’ll meet you in my quarters tomorrow at 1800 hours. Yelgrun out.” The viewscreen flashed back to the Dominion symbol. He hoped Norela would come through for him.

=/\=>

When the door chimed, Yelgrun nearly jumped up off the sofa in anticipation. “Come in!”

The door slid open and Norela stepped inside, holding a package at her side.

“Did you get them?” Yelgrun asked eagerly.

“Everything you asked for. Lucky for you I had some plants left in my hydroponic bay.” Norela put her hands on her hips. “That was extremely short notice; you don’t just traipse into the forest and pluck them out of the ground, you know. They stay well-hidden until nightfall thus making them very hard to come by considering our vision’s already bad enough in daylight.”

“And I thank you for your troubles,” Yelgrun said smoothly. “Anytime you need a favor in return you’re free to ask. Now, the package?”

“Not so fast.” Norela gave him a shrewd stare. “I’ll remember you said that, Yelgrun. Tell me one thing: who are you making this for?”

“Quite frankly, I don’t think it’s any of your business,” Yelgrun sniffed.

Norela took a step back. “I don’t _have_ to give you this, you know,” she said, lifting her chin. “You’re the only person I know who calls me up only when he needs my help, not my companionship. I’m beginning to think that we don’t have much of a friendship anymore.”

Yelgrun rolled his eyes in exasperation. “I’m a Field Supervisor, Norela. I don’t exactly have huge amounts of time on my hands like other people. And as to who I’m concocting this mixture for: just know that he’s no friend of yours. He’s someone that I’ve been after for months and I’m finally going to get him. That’s all I’m telling you.”

Norela pursed her lips and finally handed him a small aluminum case. “Fine, here. It may be the last favor I ever do for you so enjoy it. In the meantime, I have to get going; I may be onto a cure for some of those poisons we Vorta aren’t immune to--yet. I might drop by for a longer chat next time. So until then.” She nodded curtly to him and left.

Yelgrun almost took no notice of her departure, examining and performing a quick inventory of the items in the case instead. Volatile chemicals, powders, rare herbs. Perfect. He carefully lifted out the most important plant. The others were needed, too, but this was the main ingredient that triggered the rest in motion.

It was a Ber’ladre Forest rose. The outermost petals were sapphire blue, but gradually gave way to lighter cobalt, azure, cerulean, and finally to purest cream as it reached the center. The flower was supported by a strong, straight stem with ebony thorns. Glossy, dark green, serrated leaves protruded from various parts of the stem.

Long before the Dominion had seized control over Kurill Prime and its neighboring planets, Ber’ladre roses were renowned across the Gamma Quadrant for their rare, exquisite beauty and were the most prized and sought-after floral exports. One of the more unusual features of the plant was that it bloomed only at night, becoming most attractive when all five of Kurill’s moons rose in the sky for it gave off an eerie phosphorescence as well as a warm, rich fragrance.

He touched the velvety petals with a slim finger. A dark mystery lay in the seemingly innocent flower. One of the best-kept secrets of the Vorta was the true nature of these roses: when the petals were dried, ground into powder, and combined with the proper ingredients, it could be developed into a lethal poison that--if ingested, injected, or inhaled--induced slow and inevitable organ damage and shut down that would lead to an excruciating death. A replicated plant also had no toxins as the actual, natural-grown did. So far, scientists were still at work on concocting an antidote to counteract the deadly toxins produced by the rose; it was one of the few poisons to which no Vorta had immunity. Other races had no knowledge of this fact, regarding the flower only as an object of beauty.

Yelgrun placed the Ber’ladre rose back into its compartment and snapped the case shut and proceeded to a seldom-used laboratory in the building. Time was of the essence; he had to create the poison and somehow infect Keevan without arousing suspicion. He had the perfect plan, one that would not even require confronting him face to face. He chuckled to himself; he did wish he could be there to see the little Vorta’s shocked and agonized expression when he unleashed his deadly weapon.

=/\=

Jelrin had been shocked when Eris had materialized into the infirmary earlier with an agonized Keevan coughing up blood in her arms. The span of time between the young Vorta’s recovery from near-death by torture and his newest malady seemed alarmingly short. He remembered Eris watching him with anxiety as he ran test scans over Keevan, and recalled his own horrified reaction when he found out the young Vorta had been afflicted with Ber’ladre rose poison as well as Yelgrun’s pain-enhancement serum. With that, he immediately contacted every scientist and doctor he knew to accelerate the process of discovering a cure. After he had given Keevan a pain suppressant and nullified the effects of Yelgrun’s elixir, he himself set to work on finding an antidote. So far, he had no success. He hoped one of his fellow physicians would be more fortunate.

Eris had related the whole story of what happened to Keevan after Jelrin was finished frantically administering to his patient. After finishing her tasks for the day, Eris had decided to pay the young Vorta a visit. She found it odd that Keevan didn’t answer the door after several tries; she knew he was off-duty at that particular time and usually spent his break in his quarters. She was about to leave when her sensitive hearing picked up a faint, distressed sound. Sensing something was wrong, she immediately overrid the lockout code and entered to find Keevan writhing in terrible agony on the floor of the living room, blood gushing from his mouth. Keevan’s mind reached out to her when he saw her that moment, frantically sending a recollection of the events that happened: he had entered the living room with the intent of lying on the couch for a brief respite when a bomb emerged from subspace near him and exploded. A smoky blue gas had quickly filled the area and--caught off-guard--he had inhaled it in surprise. He was immediately wracked by severe spasms of pain that made him collapse to the ground, screaming. He had been so incapacitated by the agony that he could not even make it to the door or call for help.

“I’m positive that it was Yelgrun,” Eris had firmly stated to Jelrin. “Who else would commit such an act against Keevan? And with something so sinister as Ber’ladre Forest rose poison?”

A wail of pain and frustration called Jelrin’s attention, interrupting him from his recollections. He rushed into Keevan’s room to find the young Vorta writhing in agony. Grabbing a hypospray from a nearby cabinet, he quickly pressed it against Keevan’s neck and injected the contents. Keevan moaned as he felt the medication wash through his body, easing his spasms.

Jelrin placed a gentle hand on the young Vorta’s forehead as he scanned him with a medical tricorder. He frowned at the readings. “Keevan, what happened?”

Keevan shuddered, still breathing hard. “I. . .I tried to activate my termination implant. . . .it must have malfunctioned because it obviously didn’t have the result I intended.” A cross between a bitter laugh and a sob burst from him. “Ironic isn’t it, Doctor? On that desolate planet. . .I did everything I could to assure my survival, but now all I want to do is die.”

So Ber’ladre rose poison somehow incapacitates the termination implant, thus denying its victims a merciful death, Jelrin thought disgustedly, making a note of the fact for future research. Yelgrun, you have unknowingly thought of everything, haven’t you? He returned to the important matter at hand. “Why did you activate your implant in the first place?” he asked in puzzlement. “I was about to send for Weyoun to come see you.”

A look of sheer panic passed over Keevan’s face. “No, you must not under any circumstances tell him about me,” he said frantically, locking his gaze with the doctor’s. “Let the poison take its toll so I can be cloned again as soon as possible. I attempted to commit suicide because I didn’t--I _don’t_--want Weyoun to find me in this present state ”

Jelrin gave him a somewhat incredulous look, raising his eyebrows. “Forgive me if I sound rude, but you are hardly in any position to be making rational decisions. I think the pain has impaired your judgment.”

“Except for my love for Weyoun, I have never felt more strongly about anything in my life,” Keevan said vehemently. “The pain is not clouding my judgment: I am sound in mind-- at least for now--if not in body when I say that I do not want him to find out about my condition. I know I don’t have much time left; you know that as well as I. Just let me die without his knowledge of the true circumstances surrounding my death.”

Jelrin shook his head. “I need to inform Weyoun about this; he can’t be kept in the dark about something as important as your health.” He started to leave when Keevan’s clawing hand latched onto the hem of his tunic, stopping him in mid-stride.

“No!” Sudden, inexplicable fear shot through Keevan. “Weyoun must _not_ know what has happened to me!” he growled. His gaze was fierce. “You _cannot _ tell him now; he has enough to worry about without my illness burdening his mind.”

“But you are his mate and he deserves to--”

“Jelrin, please. . .don’t tell him.” His voice lost its edge and became a whimper as pain engulfed his body. “I love him. . .I beg you; don’t let him see me like this. . .” His hand loosened its grasp on Jelrin’s shirt and curled into a shaking fist against his stomach. Tears of helpless frustration trickled down his cheeks. "You don't understand. . . I love him. . ."

Jelrin’s eyes softened as he knelt down beside Keevan’s bed. “All right, I won’t tell him--not until you give permission or your condition. . .” He left it unsaid. He smoothed back the young Vorta’s hair as the sobbing started. “It’s all right, Keevan; we’re working on finding a cure. Shhh, it’s all right, it’s all right. . .”

=/\=

Keevan watched through pain-glazed eyes as Jelrin stepped out of the room and went back to his frantic race for an antidote. His body still trembled from the agony, but at least the spasms had passed for now. Somehow, the young Vorta knew they would not find a cure in time, at least not today. He knew he would die today; it was just a matter of time. He resisted the urge to cry out to the doctor, to tell him to inform Weyoun. He knew he had done the right thing by not letting his mate know about his true situation; Weyoun already had enough problems dealing with the troublesome Damar and the defense of the vulnerable Chin’toka system.

And yet. . .

He was torturing himself. He knew it was the right thing to do, wanting Weyoun to savor those happy moments that they had

*a few hours ago? days? why can’t i remember?*

just a short while ago before he had returned to his regular duties. How could he have known he was to fall into a trap? Was Yelgrun

*no no no don’t think of that don’t think of him*

still not satisfied with the punishment he had already so cruelly inflicted upon him? All his troubles had started since he decided to explore the dark matter nebula a few months ago. If only he wasn’t so curious, if only he hadn’t been so intent on going in that nebula, if only those damned Ferengi didn’t need him as a bargaining chip, if only Yelgrun hadn’t been the one performing the prisoner exchange, if only. . .if only. . .

So many regrets. . .

*I don’t regret meeting and falling in love with Weyoun. . .*

Keevan drew a shuddering breath, but then choked it out in a small moan as he felt the muscles of his stomach seize up in vicious cramps and pain spike through his chest. He curled up into a ball, pressing his cheek against the pillow with a muffled sob. He imagined Weyoun beside him, holding him in his arms. . .so warm and safe. . .perhaps stroking his hair or rubbing his back soothingly. . .

But Weyoun wasn’t there.

Keevan was alone. Frightened and alone.

All because he didn’t _want_ him to know. He would protect his mate from the dreadful truth at the cost of his own agony.

*Tell him now! Then you won’t have to suffer anymore!*

He pushed the selfish thought away. Maybe he would die before Weyoun heard the news and Jelrin could lie about his cause of death. . .yes, Keevan was killed in an ambush that was meant for someone else, but we’ll have him cloned again of course. His mate had done so much for him; the least he could do was spare the ambassador the few critical hours from seeing his horrible condition.

But he couldn’t stop longing for him. Wishing desperately he were here.

“Weyoun,” he wept softly. He tossed his head in anguish as the spasms began wracking his thin body again. “_Kos deh’jehara_ Weyoun. . .”

=/\=

“Weyoun wishes to see you.”

Yelgrun looked up into the faces of two burly Jem’Hadar soldiers who towered over him. He stopped his work on the computer console, having returned almost moments ago from planting the poison bomb in Keevan’s room. “What for?”

“He did not say. You are to be escorted to him.”

The Jem’Hadar’s tone and the way they held their disrupter rifles left no room for further questions. Yelgrun rose out of his chair and allowed himself to be led away. He didn’t know why, but he felt a stirring of suspicion and fear in the pit of his stomach. Did Weyoun somehow find out about the bomb?

They arrived at a conference room. As the door slid shut behind Yelgrun, the Jem’Hadar remained outside and stood at either side of the doorway as sentries. There were two more soldiers standing in the room on the inside of the entrance. Yelgrun’s ears picked up the sound of locks clicking into place. He noticed something odd about the conference room: all the chairs were missing except for a large desk. He stood there awkwardly, unsure of how to act.

Weyoun was facing the window, his hands clasped behind his back. “Yelgrun, please, come in.”

Yelgrun walked to the center of the room before Weyoun turned around, stopping him with a glance. The ambassador’s expression was bland, unreadable.

“You’re probably wondering why I’ve summoned you here, aren’t you?”

Yelgrun nodded carefully.

Weyoun coolly crossed his arms. “I would like to discuss a matter of grave importance with you. About three months ago, a Field Supervisor was found in one of our interrogation rooms, beaten and raped to near death. The suspect had left the scene, leaving the poor man there to die.” His gaze locked with Yelgrun’s “You wouldn’t happen to know anything more about this incident, would you?”

“I know about as much as the next person,” Yelgrun said. He tried to tear his eyes away from Weyoun’s, but found that he could not. He knows, he knows! his mind screamed. He felt helplessly paralyzed.

“I have something that just might jog your memory.” Weyoun reached inside the desk and tossed something at Yelgrun’s feet. “Does this ring a bell?”

Yelgrun flinched involuntarily, then looked down.

It was a plasma whip.

The very same one he had used on Keevan.

“Can you tell me what that is, Yelgrun?” Weyoun asked, his voice dangerously soft.

A chilling fear coursed through Yelgrun. “It’s a plasma whip,” Yelgrun said, stating the obvious. “I don’t see how it has anything to do with me.” Dare he make a move to grab the whip? He looked back and saw the Jem’Hadar had their rifles trained on him. Weyoun was also too far away for him to make any use of it before the soldiers shot him. He had fallen into a trap.

“Don’t you?” Weyoun replied acidly. “Don’t patronize me with your pathetic attempt at lying. That was your whip that we found when we searched your quarters. You were very sloppy in your work; we found traces of your DNA scattered everywhere in the room and your semen inside Keevan upon his examination.” He could not suppress a shudder recollecting the event. “Leaving the victim there without supervision or making sure that he’s dead, and then leaving the scene of the crime without removing evidence of yourself--it’s most unprofessional. However, you can be sure that is the last mistake you’ll ever make.”

Yelgrun drew himself up, trying to retain some of his dignity. “All right, so you caught me. What is Keevan to you anyway? He’s just another lackey who happens to have unusually good looks. I had a personal vendetta against him and I’ve dealt with him accordingly.”

In a flash, Weyoun was right in front of Yelgrun, his face mere inches away from the other Vorta’s. “What you did was unauthorized and would have been detrimental to the Dominion had Keevan died in that interrogation room. Without him, we never would’ve known whether or not he revealed vital information to the Federation; we might have miscalculated our last launched assault. Furthermore, not only did you commit a senseless act violence for your own petty revenge, you harmed a prisoner who was under _my_ jurisdiction. Or did you conveniently forget that?”

Yelgrun glared right back into Weyoun’s eyes which were blazing with anger. Beneath the anger, Yelgrun detected another emotion: he sensed that Weyoun was not angry simply because Yelgrun had disobeyed orders. Using his scant empathic abilities, he tried to scan a little deeper. He sensed protectiveness, but not the kind of protectiveness a superior felt toward a previous Federation POW who was under his care. It was the kind that one felt toward a cherished friend. No one was that defensive about another Vorta unless. . .

Unless. . .

Yelgrun’s eyes widened in shock as he made the connection. “You--you two are lovers!”

“He is my _mate_,” Weyoun growled fiercely. “How dare you bring such harm to one of your own kind!” He made a gesture and his Jem’Hadar were at his side. “You will not be leaving this room alive.”

“What is the meaning of this?” a deep female voice suddenly interrupted.

Weyoun turned around and saw the Female Founder striding gracefully into the room, flanked by her Jem’Hadar escorts. The ambassador was so caught up in carrying out his plans that he had failed to hear the Founder enter the room. He approached her reverently. “Founder, you honor us with your presence.”

“Explain yourselves.”

“I was just about to execute this worthless excuse for a Vorta for the attempted murder of a fellow Dominion operative,” Weyoun said.

“That's not true, Founder,” Yelgrun returned. “Weyoun was going to kill me out of vengeance because he didn’t like the way I debriefed his lover.”

The Founder’s expression became amused as she gazed at Weyoun who flushed uncomfortably. “Your _lover_, Weyoun? Would that be Keevan? Don’t be surprised--I knew from the beginning. I sensed the growing. . .fondness between the two of you, but didn’t interfere because you were still efficient with your work. Veea was also keeping an eye on you. However, I never thought things would go this far.”

“With all due respect, Founder, but I don’t see how Keevan being my lover is relevant to this situation.” Weyoun winced at his own sudden boldness, but then looked up cautiously at the Founder who merely gestured for him to continue. “The point is Yelgrun failed to carry out your orders and I am making sure he receives the proper punishment for his disobedience.”

The Founder turned to Yelgrun with a thoughtful gaze.

There was a strained silence in the room.

“Are you really going to believe that ridiculous explanation of his?” Yelgrun finally exclaimed.

The Founder nodded toward Weyoun. “Do with him as you wish”

Yelgrun was shocked. “But Founder, I had justification! Keevan was a traitor to the Do--”

“The matter has already been dealt with,” the Founder stated coldly. “I don’t want to listen to whatever excuses you may have. Your orders were clear: you were to retrieve Keevan from Empok Nor and bring him back to headquarters, debrief him, and then escort him to me. You have deliberately disobeyed my direct order. Violence amongst one’s own people is chaotic--such disorder may be the norm with other races, but it will not be tolerated within the Dominion, especially during wartime. Your death will be made an example to all Vorta.”

She left.

The two Vorta and guards were alone once more.

Weyoun smiled unpleasantly. “Now, where were we?”

The Jem’Hadar started locking restraints on Yelgrun. Seeing that he was going to die anyway, he decided to infuriate Weyoun as much as possible. After all, he had nothing to lose. “Don’t you want to know how much of a great time I had raping your mate?”

Weyoun sputtered angrily. “You--”

“Oh, you should’ve heard him scream when I slammed myself inside him. It was louder than any scream you’d get out of him. I bet he was enjoying it, too; if he wasn’t bleeding from all those wounds he probably would’ve begged me for more. So tight and hot--didn’t have much contact with the boy during the war, huh?” Yelgrun licked his lips obscenely. “He was really good, Weyoun, but I didn’t want to inflate his ego anymore by telling him that he was the best I’d ever had. I could’ve gone on with him for hours more, but I was called away on about the seventh time. Oh, while you were away earlier, I decided to pay Keevan a little unexpected visit. By now, he will have found a very unpleasant surprise from me.”

Feeling as though his blood pressure was high enough to explode, Weyoun finally found his voice. “You bastard, what have you done to him?”

Yelgrun ignored the question. “You can kill me now,” he continued smugly, “but you and Keevan are the ones who are really going to suffer in the end. _Especially_ Keevan.”

Weyoun stared at him in silence for a moment; the tension between the two Vorta was almost electric. Then, Weyoun’s eyes filled with such malevolence, such pure hatred, that it made Yelgrun take an involuntary step backwards.

“That,” Weyoun finally whispered icily, “is the _last_ time you will threaten me or my mate.” He gestured and a Jem’Hadar handed him a dagger. He plunged the weapon with uncanny precision into Yelgrun’s chest and the other Vorta screamed. Quickly, he inserted a small microchip and then closed the wound with a surgical sealer. He stepped back and watched coolly as Yelgrun gradually caught his breath.

“What did you just do to me?” Yelgrun demanded, rubbing the afflicted area. “You’ll find out soon enough. You’re about to get more than a taste of what you gave Keevan.”

Yelgrun attempted a last, stinging barb. "Know this. Even if I did know he was your mate, I would not have hesitated to do it. In fact, given the chance, I would do it all over again.”

Weyoun nearly struck out at him in fury. But even though he was boiling with rage on the inside, he maintained a cold and methodical countenance. He took something out of a small case that one of the guards had handed him and waved it in front of Yelgrun’s face. “Do you know what this is?”

Yelgrun’s blood seemed to freeze in his veins. *By the Founders. . .*

Weyoun permitted himself a satisfied smile as he sensed the other Vorta’s thoughts. “You’re exactly right. This was one of Gul Madred’s ingenious little inventions. He used it on Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the famed _Enterprise_, during an interrogation concerning the defenses of Minos Korva. Very effective as you may have been briefed, but since the Dominion has more sophisticated devices and methods of getting information, we’ve never gotten a chance to use it.” A beat. “Until now. You have the honor of testing out this improved prototype; it’s much more powerful than the original.” He switched on the device.

Yelgrun felt a faint tingle from the chip imbedded in his chest. He started to tremble.

“Let me give you a quick biology lesson, Yelgrun,” Weyoun began. "There are millions of nerves in the body, and billions more neurons. When you feel pain, say from that of a heart attack, you are only experiencing the firing of a few neurons for there are only a small amount of nerves that feel pain. Now, imagine if every single nerve in your body were to fire all its neurons at once. With this device, I can adjust the settings to either give you a mild shock or something more along the lines of this--” He pressed a button on the control pad.

Yelgrun fell to the ground on his side, screaming as paralyzing agony shocked through his legs. The muscles seized up in horrible spasms and it felt as if his tendons were being shredded and ripped apart. His hands clutched at his involuntarily thrashing limbs, trying in vain to stop the cramps. Tears of pain squeezed out of his eyes.

Weyoun stared at the writhing Vorta dispassionately. A part of his mind wondered if the way Yelgrun was staring up at him was the way Keevan looked when he gazed at his tormentor through tear-filled eyes. “That was the one of the lowest settings. I can program the device to fire in either a localized area or systemic; that’s one of the delightful modifications we’ve performed on it. I assure you, death by the latter is not a pleasant thing to neither experience nor watch. But, you will find that out much sooner than I.” He entered a few commands into the miniature console. “I have programmed this to focus on your appendages first, and then gradually encompass your entire body. This will all slowly repeat until the settings climb up to the highest level possible. Thanks to the serum I found hidden in your quarters, which is now commissioned by the scientists for special interrogation sessions, you will be conscious the entire time. You can last several good hours before death actually claims you.” He kicked him viciously in the ribs, feeling a savage joy as he heard the bones crack. “And don’t think your next incarnation will exact any sort of revenge on me,” he sneered, “because there won’t _be_ a Yelgrun Two: the Founders have deemed you to unfit to serve them so your series will be terminated permanently. ” He beckoned to the two Jem’Hadar who were standing at either side of the doorway. “Hold him down on his back and spread his legs,” he commanded.

The guards grabbed Yelgrun’s arms and legs roughly and forced him into position. Yelgrun hyperventilated from terror and pain, struggling fruitlessly in the soldiers' strong grips.

Kneeling down, Weyoun yanked off Yelgrun’s trousers and grasped the other Vorta’s penis firmly. It disgusted him to touch the organ that had defiled his mate. Taking the dagger he still held, he pressed it against the underside of the other Vorta’s penis and slowly, deliberately, made a deep slit from the base all the way to the head. He then placed the blade beneath the junction where the testicles connected to the groin and jerked the dagger upwards. Blood spurted over his hand.

Yelgrun’s screams of agony were deafening.

“Was that good for you?” Weyoun almost laughed. “Isn’t it interesting to experience pain from the victim’s point of view as opposed to the aggressor’s? I bet you’ve never felt anything quite like it before. Needless to say, I don’t envy your experience.” Adrenaline was pumping through his system as the sounds of Yelgrun’s suffering filled his senses. A dark and primal side of him had unleashed itself, a side he never knew he had, never had to show anyone until now.

All the insults Yelgrun was going to hurl at Weyoun had vanished with the onset of the terrible pain as it jumped to his arms. This wasn’t supposed to happen! The Founders weren’t supposed to discontinue his line; he had a been a faithful and efficient servant for all these years! A voice in the back of his mind sarcastically reasoned that maybe he wasn’t so useful to his gods after all.

“Weyoun, please!” he cried. He didn’t know what made him think that Weyoun would spare him, but he was willing to do anything, _anything_ for the pain to stop.

The ambassador stopped at the door, turning slightly. When he spoke, his voice was soft, lethal. “What kind of mercy did you show Keevan when you broke open his back with a plasma whip? When you injected him with a nanoprobe and tortured him to near death? What kind of mercy did you show him when you raped him?” He paused before stepping out. “I am merely showing you the exact kind of treatment you would have given him.”

The door closed against Yelgrun’s growing screams.

=/\=

Weyoun did not make Yelgrun’s mistake of leaving his victim unattended. Before he left, he had ordered his guards to remain inside of the room just in case Yelgrun tried to escape, and posted two extra guards outside the door to check periodically to make sure the Vorta was dead.

A smug smile lit up Weyoun’s face as he walked down the corridors. Good riddance, he thought. I don’t have to worry about him hurting Keevan or anyone else anymore. He hadn’t felt this good since the takeover and occupation of Terok Nor. He looked forward to spending the rest of the evening with Keevan.

Once he returned to his quarters, Weyoun started bustling about the small kitchen for various ingredients and utensils. He didn’t cook very often except for special occasions, or if he felt like he wanted to eat something that he could actually taste. It was a pity that the replicators couldn’t be reconfigured to include Vorta cuisine in their menu. Cardassians were so limited. He smiled as he pulled out several ripe qilavas from a small cold storage facility and sniffed them. If Keevan hadn’t eaten the majority of the rippleberries then he could make a berry torte. He placed the fruit into a bowl and set it aside.

As he reached into one of the cabinets for a plate, he felt a twinge of something. . .odd. It felt like something was tugging at his mind, but the sensation was so faint and fleeting that he wouldn’t have noticed it if he had been preoccupied. Puzzled and curious, he cautiously sent, feeling his way around the wide telepathic spectrum of others. He was stopped by a mental shield at one of the minds. The thought pattern seemed familiar, but it felt like it had been hastily disguised. Experimentally, he prodded at the shield. The surprisingly flimsy block slipped away immediately, revealing--

Keevan?

Pain burst all around him. Instinctively, Weyoun slammed up his own shields and severed the connection, bewildered.

Yelgrun’s words flared bright as a solar flare in his mind.

_Oh, while you were away earlier, I decided to pay Keevan a little unexpected visit. By now, he will have found a very unpleasant surprise from me. . ._

The computer chimed and Jelrin’s voice came over the system. The sound jolted Weyoun out of his horrified realization.

“Infirmary to Weyoun.”

Weyoun noticed the doctor’s odd, carefully-controlled tone. “Yes?”

“Weyoun, I need you to come down here immediately.” A pause. “It’s Keevan.”

=/\=

Out of breath, Weyoun came running into the infirmary. “Keevan?” he panted, gulping air.

Jelrin opened his mouth, but before he could answer, Eris slowly emerged from a nearby room, her face streaked with tears. When she looked up and saw Weyoun, she caught him in a tight embrace, almost breaking into sobs all over again.

Weyoun clutched at her shoulders in a panic. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong with Keevan?”

Eris wiped at her eyes, her voice an anguished whisper. “His condition hasn’t gotten any better. In fact, he’s grown worse.”

Full-blown terror raked through Weyoun with frigid talons. “What condition?”

“You don’t know?” Her expression grew even more sorrowful. “Oh, Weyoun. . .”

“He’s been poisoned,” Jelrin explained gently.

Weyoun stared at him in horror. “By whom?” It was a rhetorical question for there could have only been one person. “Yelgrun. . .” The damned bastard must have performed the deed just before he caught up with him.

“I haven’t told you the rest of it,” Jelrin said. His tone was carefully devoid of emotion. “Keevan didn’t want you to know, but under the circumstances, I thought it was better to tell you so you could spend some time with him.”

Weyoun’s eyes darted anxiously between the doctor and Eris. “He’s going to be fine, right? The scientists and doctors are working on an antidote?”

Eris hung her head and Jelrin cast his eyes down at his feet, suddenly preoccupied by the hem of his tunic. The next words he whispered were too soft to hear, even for Weyoun’s keen hearing.

“What did you say?”

“Ber’ladre rose,” Jelrin murmured. “The poison was made from a Ber’ladre Forest rose.”

Weyoun suddenly had trouble breathing. “No. . .” Jelrin started explaining the circumstances of the incident, but the ambassador was numb to it all. He stared desperately at the doctor, willing him to be wrong about his diagnosis, hoping he himself was hallucinating. It couldn’t be true; there had to be _something_ the scientists could do for his mate.

But Jelrin shook his head. “We’ve still had no success for a cure. None of the pain suppressants I’ve recently given him have helped very much. The poison affects each individual differently; I can’t give you an estimate on. . .” He bit his lip, deciding to leave the worst unsaid. “I’m so sorry, Weyoun. I’ve done all that I can.”

“He’s waiting for you,” Eris said softly. “Let me take you to him.” She took hold of the ambassador’s arm and led him into a semi-darkened room. Weyoun stopped halfway, seeing the outline of Keevan’s prone form in the farthest corner. He wordlessly disengaged himself from Eris’s grasp without a glance. Understanding, Eris walked back out of the room, leaving the couple alone.

Weyoun’s whole being concentrated on the figure lying on the bed. He could hear the loud rasping of his mate’s labored breathing. As he slowly drew nearer, he saw the sheets ruffle with movement, heard the rustle of clothes. It seemed so unreal. Only what seemed like moments ago, Keevan had been alive and well, probably looking forward to tonight’s dinner with him. But now. . . .

Keevan’s weak voice emerged from the bed. “Weyoun. . . is that you?” With an anguished sound, he attempted to prop himself up and Weyoun was instantly at his side. He bit back a cry of dismay. His mate’s clothing and sheets were soaked with sweat and spotted with blood, his eyes were glazed with pain, his skin shiny and pale, his body trembling with agony.

Oh, gods, he never looked so heartbreakingly beautiful than he did now.

Gently, Weyoun scooped up his mate

*by the Founders he feels so light!*

and held him tightly in his arms, sobbing. It was as if a dam had burst open inside him. “Keevan, no, oh, gods, not again, no. . .”

Feebly, Keevan’s hand found Weyoun’s and his fingers interlaced with the ambassador’s own. In the past hours, it seemed as though he had become frighteningly thin and weak. “F-forgive me. . .” His body was wracked with terrible spasms of agony, but the only sounds he could make were pitiful whimpers.

“Forgive you?” Weyoun asked in shock. “For what?”

“I cou-couldn’t tell you about this. . .my. . illness.” Blood and froth dripped from his mouth with every movement of his jaws. “I-I didn’t want to you to concern yourself with me. . . with all the troubles y-you and Damar and Sisko the war--” He cried out as pain surged through him. “Damn Jelrin!. . . .Please don’t hate me. . .forgive me. . .”

“My dearest love, there’s nothing to forgive. And Jelrin was right to tell me about this or I would’ve never--” He hugged even him tighter, guiding his head to his chest, stroking his hair. He was nearly weeping hysterically himself as Keevan continued to howl like an animal in pain, writhing in his embrace, raw agony almost tearing him inside out. Yet he could do nothing. . .nothing. . .

Weyoun continued to stroke Keevan’s hair, caress his skin, rocking him until the spasms passed. Exhausted from the pain, Keevan laid there, quaking. He finally mustered enough strength to bring his lips close to Weyoun’s ear.

“_Kos deh’jehara_. . . .”

_My beloved_, he had whispered. The Vorta term was used to name a dearly loved one or to express one’s deepest feelings of love when a mate was about to--

Weyoun felt like his soul was being torn to pieces at the sound of that single word. He couldn’t let his mate die, he _wouldn’t_ let him die. He looked into his eyes, those big, beautiful pools of liquid amethyst that were filled with such love and agony. He clutched the poor young man’s body closer to himself, tears flowing down his cheeks. “Please, my dearest love, don’t say that,” he pleaded in anguish. He wiped some more of the blood from Keevan’s chin, but the dark red liquid continued to trickle from his mouth like water. “The doctors are working as fast as they can to find a cure; you just have to hold on a little longer. I promise you’ll be all right very soon.” The placating lie had automatically slipped from his lips. There was no cure, there was no hope, but he kept denying the inevitable, willing-- _begging_-- that pure love would be enough to heal. He began to sob again, pressing his lips against the top of his mate’s head. “Please don’t leave me, Keevan. I love you so much. Just hold on. . .”

=/\=

“Jelrin, where is Weyoun?”

“In there.” The doctor gestured down the corridor.

Borath padded into the darkened room. He saw Weyoun cradling a pitiful bundle on the bed, rocking it slowly in his arms. He shook his head sadly. To think that one Vorta could bring so much harm and grief to another of his own kind was inconceivable. Because of his destructive actions, Yelgrun was no longer a suitable candidate for cloning and all copies of his DNA were to be destroyed.

Silently, he walked up behind the grieving Vorta and gently laid his hand upon his shoulder. Weyoun looked up at the touch. His lavender eyes were red and swollen from crying.

Borath cleared his throat. “I heard about what happened,” he began softly. “I’m sorry. You know they can clone him again.” He stopped himself just in time. He did not want to speak of death in front of the broken-hearted and dying.

“I know,” Weyoun said. His voice was barely above a whisper. He caressed Keevan’s hot, feverish skin. “But just to go through all this--the grief, the pain. . .and he’ll still have the memories of what happened to him. _I’ll_ still have memories. I would rather him die swiftly of a phaser blast than this; at least then he wouldn’t have suffer.” He choked. “You don’t know what it’s like to have a mate, to share a part of yourself with another being. You cherish every minute of your existence with him almost as much as you cherish the Founders. One moment it seems like nothing in the world can touch your love, the next moment you find him being tortured and defiled at the hands of your adversary. Nothing is ever truly the same after that. . . .You still love each other, even more deeply than ever, but now he has to live with the fact that he was raped and you have to live with the fear that it could happen again. But do you know what’s the worst thing of all?” He paused, gazing up into the scientist’s eyes. “He’s forced to remember it all. That’s the one downfall of being a clone: you remember and relive all those events through many lifetimes. The pain never stops.” He knuckled away angry tears. “I never dared to dream that I would find someone like Keevan to share my life with, but when I did we’ve both become riddled with misfortune. Borath, we’ve been lifemates for scarcely a year--seven months of that year being spent apart--and so many terrible things have happened to us. Why can’t we have any peace? Why can’t anyone just leave us alone?” The ambassador lowered his head and resumed gently rocking his mate.

Unable to find the appropriate words, Borath simply reached out a hand to stroke Keevan’s sweat-damp hair, and then brushed his lips against his forehead. His heart clenched painfully to see him lying there in agony. The young Vorta shuddered slightly at the unfamiliar touch. He looked so pale and fragile. It was a cruel irony that a Vorta’s natural immunity to the majority of poisons would also prevent Keevan from receiving a swift and merciful death by a drug overdose. //Keevan, my little one,// Borath sent. //Safe journey; I will see you soon. You and Weyoun will find happiness again, I promise.//

Keevan flicked him a brief glance at the sending, but could not respond. Borath noted the dullness in his gaze, the dying spark of life, and knew death would not be very long in coming. In all his years working with clones, he had never seen a Vorta suffering so painful a death. Nor had he ever seen such powerful love as the love shared between these two.

Giving Weyoun’s arm a sympathetic squeeze, he started out to the lab in preparation to witness a memory transfer to a new clone.

=/\=
From that moment on, Weyoun allowed no one to enter the room, not even Jelrin. He had taken off his communications device so that no one would be able to locate him. He wanted to spend whatever precious time he had alone with Keevan. He tried his best to keep Keevan as comfortable as possible, such as occasionally changing him into dry clothes for the young Vorta sweated profusely during his painful convulsions. But for the most part, he simply held him, talking to him, being there for him.

“Weyoun?” Keevan’s voice was hoarse, barely audible.

Weyoun felt Keevan shift slightly in his embrace and he immediately became alert. He was so tired from his constant vigil that he had almost been dozing. “Yes, my love?”

“Can you. . .” He swallowed painfully. “May I have a glass of water. . .please?”

“Yes, of course.” It was almost an odd request: thirst had managed to overcome even agony. Very carefully, Weyoun lowered Keevan onto the bed. He hurriedly walked over to the nearest replicator. “Computer--a glass of water, slightly chilled, with a splash of quenaba root syrup.” When the drink shimmered into existence, he returned to Keevan’s side, setting down the glass on a cabinet beside the bed before lifting his mate up again to lean against him. “Wait a minute,” Weyoun cautioned as Keevan leaned forward to drink. “Take your time with this. I don’t want you to choke, all right? And you’d better let me hold it,” he added as he looked down at his mate’s shaking hands.

Keevan took a tentative sip, then another. The cool liquid was faintly bitter, but he couldn’t taste it in his eagerness to drink. The quenaba root had its intended medicinal effect, quenching his thirst while numbing the pain of his raw throat.

“Thank you,” Keevan whispered when he finished.

“Would you like any more?”

Keevan shook his head slightly.

Weyoun put the glass down and re-covered Keevan with the blanket. He stroked Keevan’s hair. “You are so precious and special to me, Keevan. I feel so blessed to have you as my mate.”

Keevan suddenly jerked forward without warning. Weyoun caught hold of his shoulders as the young Vorta doubled over and began retching.

“Keevan!” Weyoun whispered in anguish.

A gasping moan was his only answer. Keevan’s left hand was clenched tightly in the blankets while the other clutched his chest. He shook all over. When he finally raised his head, Weyoun saw that his lips and chin were covered with blood.

A harsh sob tore from Keevan, a sound of helpless frustration and pain.

Weyoun closed his hand over Keevan’s fist soothingly, then he nuzzled his cheek. “I’m here.” He waited until his mate had relaxed slightly before coaxing him to lean back once more.

“Why?”

Weyoun was startled at Keevan’s soft question. “Why what?”

“Why. . .are you saying these things to me? I’ve brought you. . .nothing but trouble. . .caused you nothing but grief.”

Weyoun cupped the side of Keevan’s neck. “My love, you don’t know what you’re saying. You haven’t caused me any kind of trouble whatsoever.”

“I don't deserve you, I’m not worth--”

Weyoun stopped his words by kissing him deeply, tenderly, ignoring the taste of blood. Then, suddenly tasting salty liquid, he pulled back and saw Keevan’s beautiful amethyst eyes overflowing with tears. His heart ached at the sight. “Don’t, Keevan, please don’t,” he whispered brokenly, caressing his cheek.

Keevan huddled closer against Weyoun. He took his mate’s hand into his own and pressed it against his chest, curling his shaking fingers around it tightly. “Weyoun. . .I--I need to know that you still lo--love me. . .”

Bewildered by Keevan’s words, Weyoun hugged him soothingly. He could feel the rapid hammering of Keevan’s heart beneath his palm. “Keevan, why are you asking this?”

“Please--tell me that-that you still. . .love me. . . please, I need to _feel_ it from you.”

_Feel it_. Weyoun realized that Keevan wanted him to send, something that the ambassador hadn’t done since he found Keevan in the interrogation chamber. He had closed off his mind to his mate, afraid that the slightest quaver in his thoughts would throw Keevan into a more distressed emotional state, or even lead to regression. He didn’t even allow Keevan to read his thoughts, but he could still speak to him by telepathic means. Keevan could have easily broken down Weyoun’s barriers, but he never tried. Even with his mate dying, Weyoun was still afraid to send, afraid of what he might find if their minds touched. “Keevan, I--”

“Please. . .it’s all I ask.” Keevan’s grip on Weyoun’s hand tightened desperately.

Weyoun pressed his cheek against Keevan’s forehead. His fears of hurting his mate by telepathic communication seemed ludicrous now. He sent, putting forth all the love and warmth and affection he could muster into his message. //I love you, Keevan. I’ve loved you since when I first saw you and I love you still. You are the other half of my soul. You are _kos deh’jehara_.//

Keevan’s hold on Weyoun’s hand gradually relaxed.

Weyoun stroked his hair. “Now please tell me--why are you asking me this?”

Keevan closed his eyes, gritted his teeth. “I’ve--I’ve never told you this, but ever since that day. . . when Yelgrun. . .ever since that day. . .I was always afraid that I would lose your love. . . .that. . .that you would be disgusted with me. . .because of all those things he did to me. . ._violating_ me. . .and now th-th-this--” He trembled helplessly, a small sound escaping his lips as pain coursed through him. “I was so afraid! . . .I knew you still loved me, but deep down. . .there was this tiny spark of doubt--I couldn’t get rid of it no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t. . .that you were just with me--staying with me out of some obligation. . .you would somehow dispose of me and find another mate. . .” He drew in a shuddering breath. “I’m sorry. . .I just had to know for sure.”

Weyoun held Keevan closer, too stunned to speak at first. To think that Keevan--his _deh’jehara_--was fearful of his rejection of him! In that moment, his love for the young Vorta grew even stronger than before. He nuzzled the face of the beautiful creature in his arms, his lips brushing over his cheeks and eyelids, gently wiping away tears. “My dearest beloved,” he whispered huskily. “You should never, _ever_ doubt my love for you. I stayed with you because you are my lifemate and I _love_ you, no matter what happens. I would never leave you for someone else: we are bonded together in body and soul, Keevan--I knew it from the moment our hands touched the second day we met.”

Keevan didn’t respond. He continued to shake violently.

Alarm trickled through Weyoun at his mate’s sudden silence. “Keevan?”

“I’m so cold,” he whispered. His teeth clicked together and he shook with chills. “And I. . .I can’t catch my breath.”

Weyoun touched Keevan’s forehead with the back of his hand; the damp skin was burning hot with fever. He knew the feverish chills and breathlessness were only some of the symptoms of Ber’ladre rose poisoning. There was nothing he could do to stop them, but he was determined to try to at least alleviate his discomfort as much as possible.

Weyoun positioned his mate so that he lay against him as if he were hugging him heart to heart. He started rubbing his back firmly with large, circular motions. “Is that better?” he asked gently.

Keevan could only moan, gasping in relief as he gradually drew in deeper breaths. The therapeutic massage would not only help him breathe easier, but also generate more warmth. His breathing was still labored, but not as severely as it had been. He shifted in closer to Weyoun, weakly putting his arms around him, resting his cheek upon his shoulder.

That simple gesture spoke volumes. Tenderly, Weyoun kissed the curve of Keevan’s ear and the soft skin of his shoulder, stopping his ministrations long enough to stroke the bridge of his nose. “My beautiful one, do you know how much I love you?” he murmured. “You mean everything to me, more than life itself, more than even. . .” He paused, then added in an even softer tone, “You mean more to me than the Founders themselves. _That’s_ how much I love you. I would do everything to protect you from those who would wish you harm, I would sacrifice my life for you.” His voice trembled. “I would trade places with you right now in a heartbeat if I could; it hurts me so much to see you like this.”

“. . . Weyoun. . .” Keevan whimpered; it was the most broken, mournful sound the ambassador had ever heard. He felt the young Vorta’s body start to quake and a teardrop dampened his skin.

“Please don’t cry, Keevan,” Weyoun said as he wrapped his arms warmly about his mate and gently rocked him. Unwillingly, tears started forming in his own eyes as he heard Keevan trying to muffle his sobs to no avail. “It’s all right, my love, shhhh. . .I’m here for you, I’m not leaving your side. We’re bound for eternity, remember? Mind, heart, and soul. You are so beautiful. . .your eyes are like wet amethysts, you have the most angelic face, a velvet voice, and your heart. . .Keevan, your heart and your soul can survive anything; like Borath said, our love will only make your spirit stronger. Your _heart_ is so beautiful. . .” He continued murmuring soothingly to him, trying to ease his pain as he himself started to cry.

But the tears came anyway for Keevan not only wept from his own agony, but also for his lifemate.

=/\=

Weyoun decided to go through with a ritual that he knew would change the course of their future lives forever: a lifemate bond. It went deeper than even a marriage ceremony and mating, and was only meant for those couples who were truly destined for each other for it would bond the lovers’ minds and souls together as one; a small piece of the other’s essence would always remain in his mate’s mind so he would never be without his lover even if he were light-years away. Between only the two of them, they would also develop touch telepathic abilities, transmitting a myriad of thoughts in a simple caress of the hand. Not even death could part them. The bond was a permanent connection that could never be broken. They had originally planned it for the following week--until this happened. He didn’t want to perform it with Keevan’s next incarnation; he wanted to do it with the Keevan he had first fallen in love with, the one who was dying in his arms.

Weyoun gently probed Keevan’s mind; the young Vorta was open and receptive. Gingerly, he unclasped the _taeyonin_ from Keevan’s neck and held it in his hand. He then pricked his finger with the pointed end of the clasp, drawing blood. Holding up the _taeyonin_, he dabbed the tiny crimson droplet onto the tanzanite. He caught some of the blood from Keevan’s mouth and placed that onto the _taeyonin_, too. Carefully, he pressed the blood-covered pendant into the center of Keevan’s left hand and covered it firmly with his right, looping the chain over their index and middle fingers. Holding his mate close, he closed his eyes and began to chant in ancient Da’lhari. “_Jakula min’veh gadilana quenna. Je’sari cotertran srina loer kos deh’jehara_ Keevan--.”

Keevan’s eyes snapped open wide as he realized the enormity of what Weyoun was about to do. “Weyoun, oh, no. . .please, not now. . .please. . .” He halfheartedly tried to pull away, but Weyoun’s grip was firm. He longed for the lifemate bond, too, but didn’t want Weyoun to initiate it now and be forced to suffer through his death.

“--_baalijenko udaroi chri’sythm. Vos paklafor sheijah ghantarla zinijeh_--”

“My love, please. . .don’t. . .not now. . .”

“--_zeuson caijori. Tian’manla ihrwa’arfha binalain yargra thimao_--”

Soft blue light began to well from the Vorta’s entwined hands. A strange tingling feeling ran through Keevan; it was undeniably pleasurable, yet uncomfortable and invading at the same time. Their minds were literally evolving. He arched up against his mate with a gasping moan. The sound of pounding heartbeats thundered in his ears.

Panting, Weyoun forced himself to continue. “_Je’sari baalijenko sheijah. Maavik vos lateren paqua thiamaosa juma’leo_.” He suddenly stopped and stared at Keevan tensely, expectantly.

Keevan bowed his head as he finally added his part to the chant. “_Vokshtar euhura rinquo khana yarami. Antho’maraine neral maji cilandrao maavik. Je’sari cotertran srina loer kos deh’jehara_ Weyoun.”

The blue light flared briefly, then faded.

Weyoun released his hand from Keevan’s. The _taeyonin_ showed no signs of the blood that had been smeared upon it.

His pain forgotten for a blessed moment, Keevan’s lips parted with wonder as the bond flowed between them. “Oh. . .I never would’ve imagined. . .”

*liquid velvet so warm it’s him I*

For the space of a heartbeat, he thought he could actually see through Weyoun’s eyes, hear and receive his thoughts without having to actually send. He could feel Weyoun’s presence _inside_ him as well as physically outside. //We’ll never be separated again. Never,// he felt his mate send joyously. He _felt_ Weyoun smile and that stoked the fragile flame of their new bond into a glowing fire. Warmth spread through him and covered him like a blanket; he almost cried from the sensation of Weyoun’s loving touch, feeling him everywhere and at a single place all at once. He couldn’t even begin to describe how he felt at that moment. The sheer _beauty_ of it was incredible.

Weyoun hugged his mate tightly. “Do you feel that?” he murmured. “Now you’ll always be with me no matter what, my dearest love, and I’ll always be with you. We truly are one.”

The words snapped Keevan back into cold reality. “But don’t you see?” he said softly. “You shouldn’t have. . .I--I don’t want to see you suffer, too. . .it would be easier on you after I--”

“No, Keevan: I fell in love with _you_. I know your successor”--he stumbled over the word--“will essentially be the same person that I carry on with, but it was _you_ whom I became friends with, lifemates; you will always hold a special place in my heart and I want you to remember that always. You asked me if I loved you. . ._this_ is how much more I love you. I don’t want you to suffer through this alone; I want to be with you in every way possible. I don’t want lose you knowing that. . .knowing that--” He broke off, his voice strangled with the threat of tears. He shook with a silent sob and nuzzled Keevan’s soft hair. //Knowing that somehow you might wake up and become a different person. I don’t want to lose the person I love--ever _will_ love--knowing that we never bonded and shared ourselves in this way.//

Keevan could not speak for the lump in his throat. He let himself be comforted by Weyoun’s embrace and rest in the afterglow of their lifemate bond. Nevertheless, overwhelming grief and remorse washed through him. *My agony is nothing compared yours, my love.*

=/\=

Keevan’s condition rapidly deteriorated shortly after the bonding and Weyoun was helpless to stop it. Keevan would occasionally slip into a delirium, screaming at things that weren’t there, crying out incoherent words in his native language, writhing in Weyoun’s embrace, his eyes wild with madness and pain. But most of the time he just laid there, shaking uncontrollably, anguished sounds escaping him. And even though he could no longer differentiate between his mate’s touch and the pain, Weyoun continued to stroke and caress him soothingly, rubbing his back to help him breathe more easily.

“Remember how I used to massage you like this?” Weyoun murmured. He knew Keevan could still hear and comprehend him even though he could not respond. “You loved it, especially after a hard day’s work. And just when I thought you had finally fallen asleep and I prepared to lie down next to you, you’d open those beautiful eyes of yours and smile. You’d say, ‘That felt absolutely wonderful, my love. Now allow me to return the favor,’ and then encourage me to lie down so you could rub my back. It wasn’t the massage that I liked as much as simply your touch. After you were done, I’d hold you in my arms and we’d fall asleep together, or you would get this wicked gleam in your eye and I knew you wanted to make love. And you probably know this already, but I’ll tell you anyway: I love watching you sleep. I think you like watching me sleep, too, for sometimes I would wake up and see you staring down at me. Anyway, I would always make sure that your breathing evened out before I dared drift off myself. You look so beautiful when you’re asleep, my love. Like a fallen angel you are--your dark lashes lying against your marble cheeks, your face relaxed and free from worry, your body nestled so trustingly against mine.” He bit his lip, fighting back his tears long enough to continue speaking. “Whenever you had a nightmare, you would reach out to me and I knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do to protect you. This is a horrible nightmare we’re experiencing now, Keevan, but this time I can’t chase it away. I can’t stop it from happening. The dream will still remain with us for a long time, but we’ll find a way to overcome it. After that, our lives will return to normal and you’ll be the same little _rudari_, teasing me with that velvety voice, making yourself irresistible to me, and outwitting Starfleet officers on the side.” He rubbed his cheek against Keevan’s tenderly. “You’ll see, my little angel. This will all be over soon and we’ll be happy again. I love you so much.” He started to run his fingers through his mate’s damp hair and gently massaged his scalp and neck as he knew Keevan loved.

Keevan’s reaction was startling. He stiffened, his body arching against Weyoun’s. His eyes squeezed shut and a gasping sob escaped him.

Immediately, Weyoun withdrew his hand and hugged him tightly. “Shhh, I’m sorry--”

“No,” Keevan whimpered. “Don’t stop. . .please--” He shuddered in agony as he sent what he could not convey in words.

Understanding dawned upon Weyoun as he felt his mate’s sending wash over his mind; the young Vorta was so weak that his sendings were no longer pure thought, but feelings and emotions. The sob he had mistaken for pain was actually a sound of intense relief at his touch. Oddly, Keevan’s agony was temporarily alleviated by this familiar gesture, even though all the medication he had taken had not helped. An aching wave of love and need for an end to the suffering also accompanied the sending, unmercifully ripping into his soul.

Weyoun looked down at the body of his mate, feeling him tremble in his embrace. Keevan clung to him with a silent desperation, struggling to draw air into failing lungs, fighting to hold onto life as long as he could, moaning softly as the terrible spasms of pain wracked his thin frame. With a sudden, excruciating realization, Weyoun knew Keevan would never make it through the night.

//Don’t let me go,// Keevan sent. He clutched at his mate’s hand, crying out as agony seized him. //I love you.//

Pressing his cheek against Keevan’s forehead, Weyoun numbly began to stroke his hair. A single tear slipped down his face.

“_Deh’jehara_,” he whispered.

=/\=

Three hours later, a mournful, grief-stricken howl echoed throughout the sick bay.

And then, all was silent but for the soft sound of weeping.

=/\=

As Jelrin finished tending to various patients at the end of the day, he found Weyoun cradling Keevan’s lifeless body in his arms, staring blankly at nothing. He stood at the door quietly for a moment before he summoned a pair of technicians to remove the body to the main lab for the memory transfer. It had taken the techs all their strength plus a hypospray filled with a muscle relaxant to get Weyoun to release his hold on his dead mate. They carefully placed the body into a special chamber and carried it away.

Jelrin sat on the edge of the bed where Weyoun was huddled against the wall. “Weyoun?” He patted his arm, but received no response. “Weyoun, we’re having some difficulties in cloning Keevan because the Founders wish for us to focus our skills on the war. I’m not sure exactly when we can bring him back; a couple days, weeks, but hopefully no more. I’m sorry I can’t give you a definite answer. But, you can be sure that you will be the first person we notify when we have him cloned. Would you like me to escort you back to your quarters?”

Still that blank, empty stare.

The doctor sighed, not knowing what else to do to comfort him. “If it’s any consolation, I have some good news. We’ve received word that Yelgrun died a few hours ago from heart failure and his corpse was promptly vaporized. Also, we’ve received word from the Terapha Genetics Commission that the master copies of his genetic material have been deleted.” He paused to let the information sink in. “You can sleep here for now. I’ll inform Borath to tell Keevan to meet you in sick bay when the time comes.” He helped Weyoun lie down who cooperated with the docile limpness of a rag doll. Retrieving a hypospray from his pocket, he pressed it against the ambassador’s neck. Instantly, Weyoun’s eyes fluttered close in drugged sleep. Jelrin started to pull the covers over him when he noticed that the ambassador’s right hand was still closed in a fist. Gently, he pried open the fingers and a shiny object dropped to the floor with a jingle. Kneeling down, he picked it up and held it against the light to see it more clearly. It was Keevan’s _taeyonin_. Strangely, the drop of tanzanite inside the silver sphere did not sparkle; it gleamed dully, barely reflecting the light.

=/\=

For five days, Weyoun refused food and water; the doctors had to put him on intravenous nutrition and hydration. The ambassador did not respond to anyone for anything; he either sat with his knees pulled up to his chest and his arms wrapped around them, or lay curled up on the bed in sick bay in a fetal position, holding Keevan’s _taeyonin_ tightly in his fist, his eyes wide open and staring until Jelrin came at the end of the day with his hypospray filled with the sleeping serum.

For five days, Weyoun was emotionally numb. His mind cruelly played out his mate’s death over and over, the images almost driving him insane. Those last, agonizing moments where he watched helplessly as the young Vorta’s life slowly bled from his body, hearing those pitiful sobs and whimpers, tasting those beautiful tears that slid down his face as he kissed him, feeling him shake from the hideous pain. There was nothing left to do for his poor mate except to rock him gently, caress his skin, hold his hand, wanting his touch and not the pain to be the last thing Keevan felt. He remembered babbling about all the times they had shared, the joys, the fear, the tenderness, the heartbreak. He remembered joining their minds together and sharing his innermost thoughts and feelings with him, pouring out all his love for him so the young Vorta wouldn’t be alone in his agony, wanting his voice to be the last thing he heard.

When his Keevan had exhaled his last breath, Weyoun remembered being overcome with physical agony, white-hot pain driving through his body like an inferno, blinding him with grief. He had doubled over with a cry, still clutching his mate to him, a thin line of blood trickling from his mouth. It had been a terrible feeling, leaving him aching and weak. With the lifemate bond temporarily shattered, he was left sobbing the young Vorta’s name in agony, stroking his hair, nuzzling the still-warm flesh, embracing the body that was eerily relaxed in death. A part of him had died along with Keevan, never to be replaced.

For five days, his mind spiraled into oblivion, coherent of nothing, conscious of only the _taeyonin_ biting into his flesh. Sleep was a thing to be feared for it brought the horrible dreams of Keevan’s tortured death, but his staring eyes saw nothing. A small corner of his being helped him retain his sanity, whispering to him he just had to wait a little longer and Keevan would be safely back in his arms once more. Clinging to that single thought brought him hope for healing.

But then, on the dusk of the fifth day, Weyoun slipped back into reality as he felt his bond with Keevan reawaken.

=/\=

Cold, sterile environment. Containers of silver holding precious contents. Tanks filled with strange chemicals, lab tools scattered around, the droning hum of machinery. The quiet murmur of scientists, technicians, and newly-activated clones. Shuffling footsteps across smooth, polished floors.

Keevan fought his way to consciousness, disoriented. He was lying naked on a cool metal table, covered with a sheet. He blinked in the bright light, his vision blurry. He rubbed his eyes, and his surroundings slowly focused. Carefully, he looked around and saw another Vorta standing next to his side, observing him. Recognition registered.

Borath had a soft smile on his face. “Welcome back, little one,” he said.

For a moment Keevan was confused. Little one, little one. . . A fragment of remembrance slipped by and he grabbed at it, his mind clicking into place: it was the scientist’s term of endearment for him. It was only then that he finally realized he was in a cloning facility. “Borath. What am I doing here?”

Borath’s smile slipped. “The first Keevan died of poisoning a few days ago; you are his second incarnation,” he stated. “I thought you might like to see a familiar face after waking up so that’s why I’m here.”

“The first Kee--” Memories of his predecessor suddenly came rushing back to him, many of them painful, shocking, bewildering. He almost reeled with the conflicting emotions: the strange sensation of dying, hatred, agony, grief, joy. . .love.

A gentle hand steadied him. “Easy. You’ll get accustomed to having the memories of your predecessor soon; they’ll let you know where you last left off. You are still the same person.” Borath tilted his head and gave him a concerned look. “What was the last thing you remembered?”

Keevan put a hand to his head. “I. . .I was lying in Weyoun’s arms. He was holding me, crying, telling me how we would never be apart again, how much he loved me. . .” His amethyst eyes widened in realization. “By the Founders--is he still in the building?”

“Yes, he’s in sick bay; he hasn’t moved from your room since. It’s been five days since your. . .departure.”

“I have to go to him.” He slid off the table, pulled on the clothes a technician gave him, and rushed out the doors.

Borath let out a sigh of relief. He picked up the sheet and folded it musingly. There was one thing about Keevan Two that hadn’t changed and that was his heart.

=/\=

As Keevan hurriedly made his way to his destination, he observed his surroundings. Everything seemed so familiar. . .yet different. In a sense, he was gazing at the world through the eyes of a different person. Clones retained memories of their predecessors to carry on their duties and were essentially the same person in mind and body, but all developed distinctly individual personalities. The first Keevan’s experiences had given Keevan Two more wariness and caution amongst his fellows and an even sharper mind than before.

Finally, he arrived at the infirmary. He remembered which room he had stayed in and headed straight for it without bothering to search for Jelrin. He was eager, yet hesitant to see his mate: had his predecessor’s death affected him so much that he might not be the same person? Some bonds between lifemates were so exceptionally deep and strong that one could not survive the intense grief that accompanied the death of the other and had to be terminated.

Entering the room, he saw Weyoun curled up into a little ball on the same bed that still had evidence of blood and sweat stains, _his_ blood and sweat. He closed his eyes and shuddered; he could remember everything. . .

Shaking his head, he swallowed hard, forcing the memories back into their dark corner. It was his turn to comfort his mate now.

Climbing on the bed, he molded his body around Weyoun’s, wrapping his arms around him in a tender embrace. He nuzzled his neck and behind his ear, rubbed his shoulder and whispered to him. When the ambassador didn’t respond, he sent gently, threading the message with love. //Weyoun, I’m here.//

Weyoun began to shake. He suddenly turned around, facing Keevan. His lavender eyes brimmed with tears and he clutched at his mate, starting to weep. His mouth opened and he tried to speak, but all he could manage were sobbing whimpers. He buried his face against his chest, crying hard.

“I’ve never felt so helpless!” Weyoun’s breathing came in uneven hitches in his throat. “You were dying in my arms and there was nothing I could do about it, nothing! All I could do was sit there and watch your life leak away; it felt like part of my soul had been torn from me! By the Founders, I _felt_ you die! But now--oh, gods, you’re back with me. . .you’re here, Keevan, you’re back. . .” His words dissolved into uncontrollable weeping.

Keevan said nothing, but continued to hold him, comforting him. They would have many lifetimes together. . .so many years of happiness, love, anguish, despair, loss. The immortal lives of ambassadors and Field Supervisors were always uncertain: death and tragedy would always be lurking about in the nearest shadow in the forms of poison, treachery. But he and Weyoun would always be together, bonded for life. His friend, his love, his mate.

His _deh’jehara_.

The lovers remained clinging to each other in the darkness for a long, long time.