My Dearest Mel

Summary: After 'The Plague', Cole writes down some of his thoughts about Mel and her run-in with Tev.

Rating: PG

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

Timeline: After "The Plague"

Spoilers: "The Plague", "Cloud 9"

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

And on to the story…

My dearest Mel,

When I saw you lying there like that, when I felt your fear…

All I could think of was my little Nallia, my precious wife. All I could think of was Rhee, of the things he did to her before he ripped the life from her. She was barely more than a child when Rhee took her: first her innocence and then her life.

You are barely more than a child, and Tev tried to take you. First your innocence and then your life. All I could think of was losing you the way that I lost her. All I could think of was what it would be like to go through that again, to be alone again. All I could think of was you.

I know you think of me as a child at times, with my lack of understanding of how your world works, but I am not. Once a husband, once a father, I understand more than you sometimes give me credit for. I know what humans use beds for when they are not sleeping. And I know why Tev had you on that bed in that room, what he was ready to take from you, against your will.

First your innocence and then your life, my dearest Mel. No one deserves that, either of these things. Where I was born it is the greatest of crimes, to take the innocence from a woman or child. Already in my life, I have lost two that I love in this horrible way. My sweet wife, my beautiful daughter: first their innocence and then their life. My dearest Mel: first your innocence and then your life. He would have taken both.

It was like having my heart ripped out to consider that such a thing could happen to you. I thought I could never love again. I was wrong. Just when I have gotten used to no longer being alone, I nearly lost you. And not by simple loss or separation, but by murder. And not just any murder, but in a way virtually identical to that in which they were taken from me. For my people, what Tev intended is the worst crime imaginable. I lost them that way, and could as easily have lost you in it.

It would have been the irony of ironies. It would have driven me mad. And I am the one who almost allowed it to happen. I am the one who let Tev escape. I am the one who allowed you to use yourself as bait. I am the one who failed to guard you. I nearly lost you, and it was my fault.

I am sorry. It is not the first time I have told you this, but it bears repeating. I am sorry that they ever escaped, more sorry that they chose your planet, robbed it of its precious innocence. And I am sorry about Tev. You tell me it's not my fault. You tell me that it's okay. And it is. This time.

But what of next time, my dearest Mel? What if I don't arrive in time to save you? What if I can't find the fugitive, or can't stop him? What then? How do I accept that I might lose you? When I've only just found you but already feel that it's impossible to live without you as a part of my existence, how do I accept the thought that you might die? Because of me? How can any man accept such an idea?

As if I don't bear enough guilt already…

It's strange to me, frightening, the thought of loving another. But I'm afraid that I may not have a choice. Already you mean so much to me, Mel. I know that, with time, you will only come to mean more. How could you not? You are a constant source of comfort and support to me. The thought of life without you is a cold thought, dark.

Seeing you like that… something broke inside of me. I didn't know that I was capable of feeling such anger. But with Tev… I broke his arm before I took him. Did you know that? Did you notice? The look of grim satisfaction on my face as I subdued him and then took him. Did you see? Could you tell that I enjoyed ripping the life-force from him? Did you know that I made it slow? Intentionally. That I made it painful? Because I could.

You saw his pain, heard him scream, and it made you afraid… I could feel your fear, as a Cirronian man can always feel the emotions of the woman he loves. Maybe you even think that this is what it's always like, a Collection. But it's not. It lies within my power to make it painless, yet I made Tev scream. I did not even notice that you were afraid right away. I was listening to him scream, and I liked it. Gods help me, Mel, after I saw what he intended of you, I enjoyed making him suffer. Is that wrong? Or is it what you call human nature?

It certainly is not Cirronian nature. But that changes nothing. I enjoyed it, enjoyed making him scream, making him suffer. Even Rhee's Collection was not as prolonged as Tev's. It was certainly not as painful. For the first time since I swore my oath as a Tracker, I allowed myself the luxury of anger. Because he would have taken you from me. This I could not allow.

Did you even notice my anger? Did you feel it pouring off me the way I could feel your fear? And if you could… what must you think of me now? Could you find it in yourself to care for a man capable of so much anger? Am I wrong to ask it of you? Or, just maybe, do you already feel for me as I feel for you?

These feelings will grow, my dearest Mel. Such feelings always do, and closeness, living together as we do, sharing a home and a life together… it will only make them stronger. What do we do Mel? What do I do?

Yesterday I was angry. Today, only afraid.

You say that you are used to having me around. I say, in all honesty, that I am used to being around. But I do not mean that I am used to being on Earth, and having seen your reaction to my words I imagine you know that. So let me clarify. I am used to being around you. I am used to having you in my life. I am used to having you gift me with your radiant smile in the mornings, used to your kind words during the day, used to your words and gestures of welcome when I return from a Track, even used to that exasperated expression you wear when I have done something wrong. I am used to them all. I love them all.

I love you. And if you could find it in yourself to love me in return, it would make my heart glad. My dearest Mel--

"Cole?"

Cole looked up guiltily, quickly shoving the notepad in his hands between two couch cushions. He smiled up at his human friend and housemate.

"Hello, Mel. Are you still awake?"

"Yeah." She nodded faintly.

"Couldn't sleep?" he asked, rising and approaching her.

"Not really." She tightened her bathrobe around her slender form, frowning when the action made Cole smile. "What?"

"You don't have to be shy with me, Mel," he assured her gently, touching her forehead. "I've told you before."

"I know. Call it habit." She nodded and walked over to the couch, sitting down. "What are you doing out here at this hour anyway?"

"Thinking, Mel. Can I make you a cup of tea?" he offered. "To help you sleep?"

"No, I'm okay. I just needed to…" She trailed off, shaking her head.

"Mel?" he asked tenderly, sitting down and turning to face her. "You are still upset?"

"Not… upset." She shook her head. "But every time I fall asleep I…"

"Your thoughts return to Tev," he sighed.

"Yeah." Mel nodded.

Cole sighed again. "I am sorry, Mel."

"Not your fault, Cole." She shook her head. She looked down and picked up a pad of paper sticking out from between two couch cushions. "What's this, Cole?" she asked, examining the alien glyphs curiously.

"Just… stray thoughts, Mel." He smiled gently at her and removed the pad from her hands.

"I'm… I'm sorry." Mel could tell by his guarded tone and quick retrieval of the writing-tablet that she had intruded on something very personal. "I didn't mean to…" She shook her head. "I'm sorry, Cole."

"It's okay, Mel. You were curious. But it's… not important." He was surprised he managed to get those words out without choking on them, but he did. "Come on, Mel. Let's get you to bed."

She shook her head. "Not yet, Cole."

"Mel," he murmured, gently tugging her to her feet. "My people… I can help you to sleep. Without any dreams."

"You can?" she whispered, staring up at him.

"Yes, Mel." He smiled faintly, giving her throat a caress. "It is not a difficult thing." He hesitated and offered his hand. "Will you let me help you?"

Mel nodded faintly and slipped her hand in to his. "Thank you, Cole."

"You're welcome, Mel." Cole smiled faintly.

"Did I thank you?"

His smile wavered. "Yes, Mel. Just a moment ago…" He watched her with real concern.

"For saving me from Tev," Mel clarified.

His smile vanished altogether. "You would never have been in danger if I had not allowed--"

"You couldn't have stopped me, Cole." Mel shook her head firmly. "Human females are known for being stubborn and once we set our mind on something, you can't stop us."

"I had begun to notice that about you, Mel," he remarked with a faint smile.

"Took you long enough."

He smiled with more assurance, steering her to her room. "Lie down, Mel," he directed.

She hesitated for a moment, feeling unaccountably shy, then stripped off her robe and climbed back into bed. She could not help but smile when Cole gently tucked her in.

"Did you tuck your daughter in like this?" she asked quietly, smiling.

"My people do not sleep," he reminded her, moving his hand to her face. His fingertips lightly played across her forehead. "But when she was upset or sad or… scared, Mel, only I could comfort her."

Mel smiled up at him. "I'll bet she was the most secure-feeling little girl on your planet."

"I always hoped so," he admitted, shrugging. "A father does what he can for a child. Close your eyes, Mel."

Mel hesitated. "Cole, do you…"

"Think of you as a child, Mel?" he guessed, smiling faintly.

"Yeah." She nodded.

Do you think of me as a child, Mel?

He smiled faintly. "No, Mel. You are a woman. Close your eyes now."

Mel sighed softly and closed her eyes. "How does this work?" she asked quietly.

"One moment you are awake, and then you are awake again, Mel. No dreams, no fear. Your sleep will not be troubled," he assured her. "And I will check on you during the night," he promised.

"But if I won't dream…" she began.

"I will check because I care," he explained simply, releasing a gentle burst of energy. "I will never let anything hurt you, not ever. Sleep free of dreams," he whispered, giving her throat a tender caress before rising and returning to the living room.

He picked up the pad, examining the Cirronian writing there. With a shake of his head and a bitter laugh, he dropped the pad onto the coffee table. The letter would never be finished, never be translated. Never be read by her. Just as well, really.

He returned to Mel's side, then, smiling down at her sleeping form. He would watch her, not because she would dream or be unable to sleep, but because he would not be able to concentrate on anything else and knew it. Shaking his head, he dropped to the floor next to the bed, sitting and watching her as she slept, a silent sentinel, guarding the woman he loved.

Quietly, he repeated, "Sleep free of dreams, my dearest Mel."

The End