Morning After

By: Blue

Summary: Some serious discussion about relationships, a not-so-nice discovery, Zin's absence from the vault, and the possibility of a civil war make the morning after Cole's return less relaxing than Mel and Cole could have hoped for.

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I don't own them, but, hey, just as soon as that deal with Zin goes through…

Timeline: Starts the night of "Remember When"

Spoilers: pretty much the whole first season

Feedback: Better than Fek-Maln. Always welcomed and much appreciated.

Chapter 1 -- Together Again

Mel tore her eyes away from the telescope only long enough to rub them. She quickly returned her attention to the eye-piece. "Which other ones have you been to?" she yawned, smiling up at Cole.

He smiled adoringly down at her and pulled her upright. "Mel, you should rest now. You're tired."

Startled by her own forwardness, she slid her arms around his waist, smiling and shaking her head. She did not feel even a little inclined to go, not now. Everything was going to be okay. They were going to be okay. Cole smiled down at her, sliding one arm around her and caressing her throat with his free hand.

"Don't want to rest. Want to talk about us, Cole. Right now." The impact of Mel's statement was completely ruined by the loud yawn that followed on its heels.

Cole chuckled softly and shook his head, sliding his other arm around her. "We'll talk in the morning, Mel."

"No." She shook her head firmly, smiling at him and feeling a lot more shy than she was acting. "I am not going to lose one more minute of our life together," she told him firmly, managing to avoid another yawn.

His smile widened and he pulled her fractionally closer. "So you never plan on sleeping again?" he teased.

"Not alone," she whispered. Her eyes widened. Had she actually said that out loud? "Yeah, I think you're right, Cole. I should… be going to bed now."

"Alone?" he asked uncertainly, fervently hoping she would say no. He did not want things going back to the way they had been, her retiring every night alone to her bedroom and him spending hours brooding over that fact in the war-room.

"Guess that's up to you," Mel whispered, fighting the urge to stare at the floor. She smiled into those amazing eyes, waiting, hoping.

"I don't ever want to release you again, Mel," he told her honestly, tightening his grip on her.

She nodded, heart pounding. "Then… let's go to bed, Cole."

"If you want," he replied, leaving the choice with her. Having come back for her, he was willing to wait for as long as it took. It felt so good just to hold her close that he could have spent an eternity of contentment on this memory alone, even if he did have far greater plans for their life together.

She did not have to hesitate before nodding. "I do. I have for awhile."

He smiled and nodded. "Then let's go to bed, Mel. You need to sleep."

"Sleep?" she repeated, blinking. Shaking her head, she laughed. "You may be getting more human, Cole, but you still have a hell of a lot to learn…"

Cole smiled faintly, shaking his own head at the statement. "I do know what goes on in a human bedroom, Mel," he told her softly, his eyes sparkling with love and laughter. "I also know that you need to rest. We have all the time in the world."

She smiled and nodded. "That's right, Cole. You're right. It's just… going to take some getting used to."

"Me being right?" he teased, steering her down the hallway and into her room. "Or the fact that we have a lifetime ahead of us?"

"That one," she whispered, touching his throat. A lifetime ahead of them, a lifetime to share with one another. Wow… It was sobering and uplifting at the same time. "That I don't have to be jealous every second that you're away from me."

He closed his eyes, enjoying her touch for a few moments before firmly reminding himself that he had a lifetime to enjoy such touches and that Mel needed to rest now. "You should sleep now," he whispered, and it was one of the hardest things he had ever said.

Disappointed, Mel let her hand drop, sighing and nodding. "Yeah. I need to… change…" She picked up her pajamas, wondering what came now, if their life would return to the way it had been.

"Can I ask a favor?" he whispered, closing his eyes.

She looked up, startled by his hesitant tone and behavior. Definitely not typical Cole. Something was up. "Yeah, Cole. Sure."

He opened his eyes again and took a deep breath. "Can I hold you in my arms all night long?"

Clutching the pajamas tightly, Mel nodded, not entirely trusting herself to speak right away. She finally managed a shaky, "Yes."

"Only if you want," he whispered, confused by her sudden shift in behavior, disappointed by it. She seemed less pleased with the idea than he had hoped.

"More than you can possibly imagine. Let me just go change. You change, too, Cole."

"Change into what?" he asked quietly, pleased.

"Um… good question. We'll have to get you PJs tomorrow if you plan on making a habit of it. Tonight I guess you can just sleep… you don't sleep, Cole," she pointed out, frowning.

"No, Mel." He shook his head. "You already knew that."

She frowned, scratching the back of her neck and biting her lower lip thoughtfully. "You want to stay in bed all night without sex or sleep?" she finally asked, feeling more than a little confused.

"Yes, Mel." Cole smiled at her, nodding and wondering what was so remarkable in his request that Mel seemed so befuddled by it. Perhaps she simply had not understood. "I want to spend the night holding you in my arms. I already told you that," he pointed out calmly.

"Uh, right." She smiled, bemused. A relationship with Cole was definitely going to take a bit of getting used to. "Let me just go change."

Cole smiled as she retreated, shaking his head. She was behaving even more strangely than was typical of her. His smile widened and his eyes drifted shut as he imagined what it would be to hold her in his arms for uninterrupted hours. He nodded, knowing that he had made the right decision in coming back for her. As if he had ever really had another choice. He opened his eyes as Mel returned to the bedroom, looking radiant, if a little unsure.

"Um… yeah. We still need to figure out what you're going to lie down in."

"Why not my clothes?" he asked.

Mel shook her head. "Not in bed, Cole. It's not done." She shrugged, resigning herself to the inevitable, reminding herself that it was a good thing, something she had wanted for a very long time. "Just… take them off," she said softly.

"My clothes?" Cole asked, frowning. Mel always made him wear his clothes.

"Yeah," Mel said, nodding and suddenly wishing that she was wearing a lot less. "You can keep your briefs on, but the shirt and pants need to go."

"Yes, Mel." Cole shrugged and stripped off the offending articles.

"Okay," Mel said with a shaky nod, turning down the bed and trying not to look at his gorgeous body. "Hop in." Jeez, Mel, could you be more romantic? she wondered, grinning and climbing into bed.

Cole watched for a moment, then followed suit, not entirely believing his own good fortune. "I can really hold you in my arms?" he asked eagerly as they climbed under the covers. "All night?"

She smiled and nodded. "If you want. Or you can go earlier if you want," she added, knowing that it might be boring to just lie there all night.

"Why would I want that?" he asked, regarding her and trying to determine how best to go about taking her into his arms.

Mel shook her head at that statement, grinning. She regarded him curiously for a moment, bemused by the look on his face. "You've got that look you get when you're coming up with strategy," she informed him.

"I am."

"You are?" she repeated, grinning and shaking her head.

"Yes, Mel. I am trying to come up with the best way to… hold you." He shrugged.

She turned off the light and slid across the bed. "Don't try to come up with a strategy for it, Cole," she whispered into his bare chest. "Just put your arms around me and kiss me goodnight."

He shivered at the feel of her breath against his bare skin, but complied with her request, gripping her gently. "Yes, Mel." He paused for a moment, frowning thoughtfully in the darkness. "You really want me to kiss you?" he asked finally, amazed with his own luck.

"At least ten times a day from now on," she told him firmly.

"Yes, Mel," he repeated eagerly, finding her face in the darkness by touch, hesitantly exploring with his fingertips for several moments before he lowered his face to hers.

Mel smiled at the first touch of his hands on her face. She closed her eyes as his fingertips tenderly traced every contour of her face before turning to her lips. She expected the kiss then, but was not entirely disappointed when he gently brushed his fingers over her lips several more times, tracing their shape, applying gentle pressure, exploring, before he slowly lowered his face to hers. Even then, he did not immediately kiss her, but gently brushed his cheek against hers, then his lips. Mel held still throughout this but, by the time his lips finally made their way to hers, her entire body was trembling with the effort. When their lips met, she returned the kiss almost frantically, clutching his body to hers.

Cole applied himself to the kiss itself as conscientiously as he applied himself to every new task, but he felt remarkably shy as he did so. This was different than their first kiss had been, her body more yielding against his, her response more eager and… inviting. Mel's unusual lack of restraint confused him, made him more hesitant but, at the same time, left him wanting much more. Still tracing her face with one hand, he slid the other slowly down her neck, tracing the hollow of her throat. He was finally forced to pull away, his breath ragged, his heart pounding painfully in his chest.

"Like that, Mel?" he panted after a moment.

"Exactly like that, Cole," came her shaky reply. She laughed softly, shaking her head. If that was any example of the sort of lover he would turn out to be… "Exactly like that at least ten times a day," she breathed, nodding.

Cole smiled, pleased with this requirement, and slid his arms around her again. "Yes, Mel. You should get some sleep now."

"Sleep?" she laughed. "You kiss me like that and then you tell me to sleep?"

"Your body requires rest, Mel," he told her gently.

That kiss had left her body feeling like it required a lot more than rest, but she nodded and sighed. She knew that if she did not go to sleep soon he was going to do that thing with his hand that had a habit of leaving people unconscious for eight, ten hours. Not that having his hand on her face was a bad thing, as she had just discovered, just… not in that context.

"Okay, I'll sleep, just… touch me."

"I am touching you Mel," he replied, confused.

Mel grinned and shook her head, taking one of his hands off of his back and moving it to cup her cheek. "Like you were, Cole."

He smiled and nodded. "Yes, Mel." He caressed her face for a few moments, then his hand stilled. "For how long, Mel?"

"Forever," she breathed, smiling and closing her eyes. "Or until you don't want to any more."

"All night?" he asked, running his fingers over her lips again.

"Mmm… If you want." She smiled as his fingers paused over her lips as she spoke. "You know, for a guy from a species without physical sensation, you sure are a toucher," she remarked.

"Cirronians do not know what they are missing, Mel. Touch is an amazing sensation…" He sighed happily. "Especially skin against the skin of another. It's different than skin against your own skin. Why, Mel?" he asked, continuing to trace her face lovingly, memorizing with his hands what he had long since memorized with his eyes and heart. The sensation truly was an amazing one.

"Mmm," she breathed, smiling. "Because sensation is… it's accompanied by emotions. It… is intensified by emotions, and it intensifies them."

"Yes, Mel," he agreed quietly. "It does." He paused for a moment. "Cirronians only have emotions to go on. It was confusing at first, trying to deal with both at once. Especially…"

She frowned as he stopped speaking and his hand stilled on her face. "Especially when, Cole?"

"When I was trying to convince myself that I couldn't possibly be in love with you." He pulled her against his chest with both hands again, holding her securely, not ever wanting to release her. "I think this body knew how I felt in my heart before my mind did. It felt so nice to have your hands on me, or your body near me or touching mine… It seemed so wrong to me."

"Why?" she asked gently. She could feel the tension in his entire body as he spoke, and was concerned by it.

"I didn't think I had a right to be happy any more after Nallia died, but… I never really let myself mourn her, either, just threw myself into work and… I was numb and angry for so many years. I stopped realizing that there was any other way to be." He sighed deeply. "I couldn't reconcile it with the way you made me feel, so I told myself that I could enjoy your touch… as long as I didn't care about you."

Mel's eyes widened in the darkness, but she was too stunned to react otherwise. It was a startling admission, totally out of keeping with the Cole she thought she knew. No, she corrected herself firmly, the Cole she did know. He would not have come back to her, given up everything he had ever known, if it had just been physical.

"But that was a bigger lie," he sighed, confirming what Mel had suspected. "Because I cared first. I cared when I wept over your body. I cared when Zin ripped the life from you… I cared when your compassion for me overcame your fear of me and you took me into your car and your home and your heart in spite of the fear you still felt. After Tev, I stopped being able to deny that."

Cole paused for a moment before continuing. "Mel, I wept over your dead body on the second day we knew each other, but… I had never allowed myself to weep for Nallia or Ashi. Cirronians don't cry, but they mourn. I didn't though. I wouldn't let myself. Not until I met you. When I found that I could care again, then I mourned. But not before." He shook his head. "You freed me to move beyond their deaths, to celebrate their lives. Do you remember the nightmares you had after Tev?"

"You knew about those?" she whispered, frowning.

"After you explained to me about hugs, I held you in my arms every night for a month," he admitted.

Mel's frown faded. The nightmares had always gone as abruptly as they had started, replaced in an instant by a sense of warmth and security, of love. And, occasionally, she would 'dream' of Cole holding her in his arms and crooning softly to her, comforting her. "Now I remember," she whispered, smiling up at him. It had happened after Tev, and with every bad dream she had experienced since, courtesy of her own Cirronian guardian-angel. "And after I told you that my bedroom was off-limits, too," she teased, shaking her head.

"I didn't care about restrictions when I heard your cries for help and felt your life-force calling out for comfort. Not the first time, not any time after that."

"Well, Cole, thank you for not paying attention to me," she laughed softly.

"And… after Rod… When you cried for him in the night, I would hold you in my arms and I would cry for Nallia and Ashi."

"That's when you started to change," she realized abruptly, smiling.

"Yes, Mel." He smiled faintly. "When we started to change."

"I was like you," Mel admitted, nodding. "I never gave myself a real chance to mourn. I was numb for so long. I mean, I dated, but I never let myself care."

"It was scary, Mel. I felt so much, so fast…"

"I know. How do you deal with that? How do you not?"

"I wanted to push you away again, but… How do you deny a feeling that is so strong that the entire world must be able to feel it, too?"

"You ignore it until you can't ignore it any more." Mel sighed and shook her head. "I understood that work was always first, so I ignored it. But the night I taught you to dance, I spent three hours taking a cold shower."

"Why?" he asked quizzically.

She smiled faintly. "It's a thing humans do. It's supposed to help get rid of physical desire or something."

"I wish I'd known about that at the time. I spent the entire night curled up in a ball on the floor of the war-room shaking."

"And I thought I had it bad." She shook her head. "So basically we've both spent almost the last year making ourselves miserable by pretending that there's nothing when there's actually a hell of a lot?"

"Yes, Mel." Cole smiled. "We're idiots, Mel."

"Complete and total morons." Mel buried her face in his chest, laughing.

"Don't do that, Mel," he requested, gently pushing her away.

"Why?" she asked, surprised.

"Because, you need to sleep and I'm not in the mood for a cold shower."

"You made a joke!" she laughed.

He smiled. "Yes, Mel. But you do need to sleep."

Mel sighed. "Okay, fine. But one more kiss first?"

"Then we'll both need a cold shower," he pointed out, grinning.

"Well, we could always take a not-so-cold shower together," she suggested with a grin.

"Why, Mel?" he asked curiously. "I thought--"

"You really do have a lot to learn," she muttered.

Cole frowned for a moment, then smiled widely. "Oh!" he said, his surprise obvious in his voice as the idea fell into place for him.

Mel giggled helplessly at that response, tears spilling down her face.

"What?" Cole asked innocently, sending her into further gales of laughter.

"My God, Cole!" she gasped, shaking her head.

He smiled at her behavior, hugging her tightly. "You are a strange creature, Mel…"

"So are you!" she retorted, laughing.

"Get some sleep, Mel."

"How am I supposed to sleep when--"

Cole shook his head and gently moved his hand over her face, putting her to sleep. "Strange creature," he whispered, arranging her neatly on the bed next to him and shaking his head. He caressed her face, memorizing every contour, for almost an hour before stretching out again himself and drawing her gently into his arms. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to become lost in reflections of what it was going to be like to spend the rest of his life with Mel.