From his station on the roof, Lieutenant Peter Franklin listened - via his earpiece - to the all-clear coming in from the spotters assigned to the rooftops of the buildings surrounding the hospital where Agent Beckett had been treated for his injuries. Only when the last team had checked in did he send the coded burst to the Volunteers assigned to close protection for Liam to escort him from his room and up towards the waiting shuttle on the roof.
His boss - who was quickly becoming a friend - had been less than happy about the latest tightening of his security detail, but this time, he'd been overruled. These new orders had come directly from Zo'or. The Synod leader had been as angry as Peter had ever seen him when he'd had the unfortunate task of calling the mothership to report the attempt yesterday on Agent Beckett's life.
The FBI had finally tracked two of the remaining contracted assassins who were targeting Liam and had immediately signalled his team with the information they had obtained, but it had nearly been too late. The warning had allowed them to bundle Liam from the car he'd been travelling in; unfortunately, he'd been hit by flying wreckage as it had exploded in a ball of flame. The wound to his arm had necessitated an overnight stay in hospital and it had proved to be a security nightmare, with the press descending in droves.
Thankfully, the local police, the FBI task force assigned to the assassination attempts, and the Volunteers had managed to keep the press at bay, but that was why they were on the roof now rather than leaving by car. The waiting shuttle was going to take Liam to the Washington Embassy. He would then be escorted home in an unmarked car and smuggled into the building through the service entrance; while, at the same time, Da'an would give a press conference announcing that, for his own safety, Agent Beckett had been ordered to relocate to the mothership.
Zo'or had actually wanted Liam on the mothership, but somehow Liam had managed to talk him out of that ultimatum. Of course, Zo'or had insisted on one thing, and Liam had finally relented to that much. His apartment now had a secure, mini-ID Portal in its master bedroom. If necessary, it was a last line of escape for Liam. Only three people on Earth had its access codes: himself, his deputy and Liam. On the mothership, there was only one person with the codes - Zo'or himself.
Peter jerked himself out of his reverie as he got word Liam was on the final stairwell that led to the roof. Time to get ready.
Bone-weary, Liam shut the door to his apartment and set the alarms. Peter's team had gone through it with everything from bomb-detectors to a fine tooth comb before leaving him to his solitude. He knew that they were just doing their jobs and he was touched by the level of concern that they were showing for his safety, but really, all he wanted was some time alone to think.
Carefully removing his jacket, mindful of the bandages wrapped round his left bicep and the abrasions on his shoulder, Liam set about relaxing for the first time in forty-eight hours. Next, and with a hearty sigh of relief, his shoes were kicked off; he loved nothing better than wandering around the apartment in his stocking feet, the feel of the lush carpets soothed him as he walked across them.
A ham salad sandwich and a glass of milk were happily consumed - hospital food was still unappetising, even in this day and age. Next, a visit to his father's state of the art music system... and finally, Liam allowed himself to relax. Sprawled in his Sandoval's favourite chair, he sat, head back, eyes closed, listening as the soothing strains of some Celtic ballads filled the air.
The beeping tone of his global momentarily disrupted his serenity, but he didn't frown. He had a feeling he knew who was on the line - Zo'or. Opening the global, he smiled. He was right.
"Good evening, Zo'or. I trust everything is well?"
"Yes, Agent Beckett. I will be far more satisfied when this matter has been concluded and the rest of those that plot against you are dealt with. For now, that you escaped from the last incident with only minor injuries will have to suffice."
Liam bit back a smile. It had to be annoying for Zo'or to be unable to express his true feelings, but on the bridge of the mothership was not exactly the place to express personal concern about his protector.
Feeling the sudden urge to take some control of his life after all the recent turmoil, Liam took a gamble and made a step into the unknown. Voice hesitant and soft, he said, "If you wanted to... you could stop by. You have the co-ordinates to my new ID portal. If nothing else, I could give you the latest security update in person." Liam held his breath as he waited for an answer. Too much, too soon?
For a few seconds there was silence, but then Zo'or gave a single, regal inclination of his head. "That seems acceptable. I shall arrive shortly."
The communication shut off abruptly and Liam gaped at the now blank screen. Zo'or was coming?! Bounding to his feet, he quickly assessed the apartment... was it presentable? As far as he knew, this was the first time Zo'or would ever have set foot in a private residence that did not belong to a head of state.
Gazing down at his own attire, Liam almost decided to change his clothes but decided against it. Zo'or would need to learn to accept people the way they were and not just the efficient personas they donned when meeting the Synod leader. Moving into the bedroom, Liam perched on the edge of the bedspread and did his best not to fidget and pick at the covers.
Fifteen minutes later, Zo'or arrived. Alone. Liam's eyebrow rose in surprise; Zo'or was obviously a better judge of human body language than he let on, because he said, "I informed the Volunteer guards that you assigned to me in your absence that I was making a brief visit to you and that you would call the mothership to notify them when I was about to return."
And this information didn't cause an outcry from the rest of the Taelons on board when it was logged into the security logs? I find that very hard to believe.
Liam smiled shyly at Zo'or and said, "Welcome. Would you like the tour?"
An unpractised grin appeared on the Taelon's face and he said, "Yes."
The next ten minutes were some of the more bizarre in his eventful life as Liam showed off his father's, now his, apartment to the Synod leader. Zo'or - as with the fatefully tragic day at the library that had taken his father's life - seemed genuinely fascinated by the large selection of books on display, from both his and his father's collections. He was also fascinated by the Celtic music still playing in the apartment, especially when Liam explained that it had its roots in the same island that had been Ma'el's final home.
The curiously gentle expression on Zo'or's face as his head was tilted slightly to one side as he concentrated on the music, delicate alien fingers running over a first edition of The Great Gatsby, was one of the most open that Liam could ever remember seeing on Zo'or's face. In fact, Liam felt his breath catch in his throat at the sight... Zo'or looked... beautiful.
Somehow sensing his protector's gaze on his own, Liam waited and watched as Zo'or allowed his gaze to meet his own and his eyes widened at the emotions burning deep in the Taelon's eyes. For all that he was not a human, the emotions were plain enough to see: worry, rage, tenderness...
The mini-disc finished, and, taking the momentary distraction offered, Liam turned to remove it and insert another selection, this time classical. A gentle hand on the back of his neck robbed him of breath and he slowly turned to see Zo'or's face, now literally inches from his own. "Are you truly all right, Liam?" asked Zo'or, voice soft and questioning.
Taking a second step into the unknown, Liam wrapped both arms around the Synod leader in a brief embrace, saying, "Yes, Zo'or. I wouldn't lie to you about that." He then made a move to step back, but Zo'or wrapped strong arms around him, keeping him in place. Surprised, he looked down into Zo'or's eyes.
A gasp escaped from his lips when Zo'or moved one arm so that he could reach out with gentle fingers to run them down his cheek and across his lips, the gesture both sensual and innocent. "Good," said Zo'or in a simple tone. "I cannot lose you, Liam. I will not."
Liam turned his cheek into the gentle caress, saying, "You won't."
The gentle touch stopped in mid-caress and Liam again turned his eyes to those of the Taelon holding him. Hesitation graced those eyes now as Zo'or said, "I believe human custom at this point would be something called a kiss... would you kiss me, Liam?"
The whole axis of Liam's world shifted with that simple statement. Should he kiss a Taelon? Would he kiss a Taelon... especially this one?! Trusting his heart and his father's advice to follow it, Liam did so.
Softly, gently, he brushed his lips against those of Zo'or. The Taelon froze in place for a moment but Liam didn't draw back, he just kept up the gentle pressure of the kiss. When Zo'or began to grasp the concept and started to reciprocate, Liam deepened the kiss. From the way that Zo'or's arms tightened their hold around him, it seemed that he too was feeling some emotion from the mind-blowing embrace.
Wanting Zo'or to feel what he was feeling - and not sure how much the Taelon was really experiencing from such a human action - Liam gently ran his right hand along Zo'or's side and tugged gently at one of the arms holding him. He then continued his hand's journey along that arm until he reached the Taelon's hand... and then... he pressed his hand to Zo'or's and initiated the most profound intimacy he could outside of a full Joining. He Shared his soul with that of the Taelon in his arms.
The jolt of wonder and surprise from Zo'or made Liam dizzy, the desire emanating from them both had him practically weak at the knees. Exhibiting some tried and true human male instinct, he gently manoeuvred Zo'or backwards till they were both sitting on the couch... and that was how Liam Beckett found himself spending his time for the next ten minutes. In the simplest terms possible, he was making out with the leader of the Synod. The Resistance would have kittens if they knew what was going on.
Regretfully, Liam and Zo'or both knew now was not the time to take things further. On the edges of his subconscious Liam could feel the shockwaves reverberating around the Commonality. They hadn't felt the full force of what he and Zo'or experienced, Liam knew that much, but they had felt some part of the emotionally outpouring from Zo'or... and its cause.
Pulling back slightly, Liam placed a gentle palm on Zo'or's face, saying, "I think it's time for you to be getting back to the mothership, Zo'or." He watched and waited and smiled as the Synod leader sighed and nodded his agreement.
They moved back into the master bedroom and Liam accessed the codes for one of the secure terminals on the mothership. Grabbing his global from the place on the bed where he had discarded it earlier, Liam signalled the senior Volunteer on Zo'or's protective detail to say that his return to the mothership was imminent.
Zo'or moved to the portal and stood ready, face expressionless but his eyes were practically glowing. Liam smiled at him saying, "Ready?"
At Zo'or's nod, he said, "I'll see you tomorrow, then. Oh, and one more thing--"
"Yes, Liam?" interrupted Zo'or.
"I love you."
The last thing Liam saw before Zo'or vanished from the room was the expression of complete wonder in the Taelon's eyes at that announcement.
Sighing, Liam turned his attention to his own rest. Twenty minutes later, head resting on his pillow, Liam thought of the days to come. They weren't going to be dull. They had three more assassins to catch and Renee still had to track the originator of the contract. Liam was willing to bet any amount that anyone cared to name that the name she tracked down would be T'than. All he needed was concrete proof and he would act... burgeoning relationship with Zo'or or not.
And that was the finally thing on the list of things to do... get humanity in general and the Resistance in particular, not to mention the rest of the Taelon race, to accept one simple thing - he was in love with Zo'or, and, although the Taelon hadn't yet said the words and perhaps never would, Zo'or was in love with him too.