Adapting to Strange Human Customs

Summary: Thanks to Kameka, probably the first in a series. Cole adapts to strange human customs, starting with superfluous, and way too tight, clothing.

Rating: G

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

Timeline: Set during the Pilot ep

Spoilers: Pilot ep

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

Superfluous Outer Coverings (pilot ep)

Mel tore her eyes from the road long enough to hazard a covert glance at her strange passenger. He was still looking curiously around the car, occasionally muttering incoherently. And he was still almost naked. Well, one thing was for sure and that was that she could not drive all the way back to Chicago with a half-naked man sitting next to her.

And why did he keep staring at her like that? His expression was a strange combination of fear and uncertainty and curiosity, all topped off with a healthy dose of trust and something that looked unsettlingly like affection. It was as if he simply could not make up his mind about her, but badly wanted to like her. There was something else, too, a certain sense of anxiousness about him that clearly had little to do with anxiety. He was not, in spite of his obvious uncertainty, scared. Not of her, at least.

Daggon paused in his curious scrutiny of the vehicle when he became aware that he himself was the object of the human's scrutiny. He cautiously bared his teeth in what he could only assume was a gesture of goodwill in her species. She returned the smile with an obviously nervous one of her own and began vocalizing again: speaking, he assumed. They really did seem to be an incredibly talkative species if this one was any example. It would, at least, make it easier for him to learn the language. He tilted his head and listened attentively, searching out patterns, listening for repetitions.

"Yeah, well… uh, obviously we can't drive all the way to Chicago with you dressed like that, so I'm just going to pull over here and we'll, uh… get you some clothes, okay? I know I have a change of clothes in the trunk…" She gave him another nervous smile and pulled on to the shoulder of the road.

He looked around curiously and made an interrogative sound as the car decelerated.

"Just going to get those clothes for you," Mel said, popping the trunk and climbing out of the car. "They're in the trunk," she repeated, hurrying around the car and opening the trunk.

She always kept a change of clothes in the car when she traveled since she never knew when she might end up needing them. Of course, she had been thinking more along the lines of spilling coffee on herself than any situation even remotely similar to this one. The sweat pants should fit him, if snuggly, but she groaned softly as she looked from the sequined shirt in her hand to the man in her passenger seat. She could only hope that the stretchy fabric was stretchy enough to accommodate the large man.

"He'd better not ruin it," she muttered as she walked to the passenger side and pulled open the door. "Get out," she directed in answer to his curious look. "Come on." She beckoned with one hand.

He hesitantly climbed out of the car, watching her expectantly and wondering what was expected of him next. He eyed the articles in her hand dubiously.

"I know, pink." Mel nodded and gave him an apologetic shrug. "It's the best I could come up with on short notice." She smiled wryly and pushed them into his hands. "It's only for a little while," she added.

He looked down at the pieces of fabric in his hands and held up the pink one for inspection, wondering what he was meant to do with it. Fitted and sewn, it was obviously some kind of covering that she wanted him to wear in spite of the comparatively mild temperature, but it was not like any he had ever seen. No fastenings anywhere and it was shaped to conform to a biped's torso. He was at a loss as to how to put it on and even less sure that he actually wanted to. It looked small for his body-size.

"Oh, it's not that bad," Mel sighed in annoyance, shaking her head. "Just put it on, okay? I can't spend the rest of the drive to Chicago with some strange guy who's only wearing his underwear…" She rolled her eyes at his blank expression. "Putiton…" she said slowly, enunciating each word carefully and nodding encouragingly.

He eyed her thoughtfully for a moment, knowing that she was not going to let him do anything else until he did what she wanted. He was inclined to trust her, not just because she was female and therefore to be trusted and obeyed, but because she was an obviously compassionate creature. More than a little unsettled by him, she still felt a desire to help. It spoke to the Tracker of a trustworthy, nurturing nature. This was a human creature whose hands he could put himself in without fear. She would help. Because it was who she was.

If she wanted him to wear a covering, he would wear a covering. Just as soon as he figured out how to put it on. Four holes, two at the end of what were obviously meant to cover his arms… He put his head through the smaller of the remaining holes.

Mel watched with wide eyes as he tried to pull the shirt on not only backwards but upside down as well. This guy was definitely not all there, in need of intensive professional help.

"No, no," she told him gently, taking the shirt away. "Look, uh…" She paused. She had to call him something and 'hey you' was not going to do it. "You have a name?" she asked. "I'm Mel."

You look like that Cole guy.

"Cole," he told her, nodding.

"Cole?" she repeated, frowning dubiously. There was no way he looked that much like the Cole guy and was actually named Cole. Still, if that's what he wanted her to call him. "Okay, Cole." She smiled faintly. "Here, Cole. Just hold your arms over your head," she directed.

He gave her a blank look.

"Arms," she said, catching hold of his. "Air," she added, pushing them up above his head. "Better."

Nodding, she stood on her toes slipped the shirt over his head and arms, tugging until it was completely on. It fit, barely, but he might as well have been wearing nothing at all for what it left to the imagination. Still, better than nothing, she decided, as he stood perfectly still with a shocked look on his face.

The Cirronian tried to fight his rising sense of panic, but the sense of being slowly crushed under the weight and tension of the shirt was almost overwhelming. The heavy gravity on this planet was bad enough, the weight of flesh and bone worse, the sensation of touch one he was already growing to hate, but this was worse. This was nothing short of horrifying. With a frightened cry, he started flailing, clawing at the shirt and whimpering.

Mel jumped backwards, startled by his abrupt shift from quiet compliance to violent agitation. She was ready to just get back in her car and go, until she saw the look of absolute terror in his eyes.

Poor guy. "No, no," she soothed. "It's okay. You're okay," she murmured, trying to move close without getting hit by his wildly swinging arms. He did not even seem to register her quiet words in his panic. "Hey!" she bellowed to get his attention.

Daggon flattened himself against the car, staring up at her with wide eyes. Her tone seemed to indicate some displeasure with his actions, but there was nothing in her expression but concern. He whimpered and lifted one hand to his chest, still scratching at the shirt but no longer attempting to rip it off.

Mel inhaled deeply, amazed that the outburst had ended as abruptly as it had started. He was, quite obviously, every bit as scared as he had been before, but he remained completely still except for the fingers scratching at the shirt, clearly waiting for her to make the next move. Slowly, warily, she approached the trembling man.

Daggon looked down at her, his expression uncertain as he fought an urge to bolt. There was no anger or menace in her manner as she closed on him, though, just a healthy dose of confusion and frustration. Her proximity was comforting, even in this body, and he felt his fear begin to recede simply for her presence.

"It's ok. You're okay," Mel murmured soothingly. She slowly reached up and covered the hands on his chest with her own. "It's okay," she repeated, nodding firmly. "You're going to be just fine."

Looking down at her hands over his, Daggon closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and reclaiming his calm. It felt good to be touched by her in comfort, seemed to alleviate much of his psychological and physical discomfort. He gave a tentative smile, glad that he had found her and not some less compassionate human.

"Yeah." Mel smiled up at him and nodded, patting his chest lightly. "You're okay. You're okay."

His mind was flooded by a sweet memory of his mother offering reassurance to him in exactly this way once upon a time, lightly patting his chest and crooning soothingly. More recent memories of his wife and numerous friends offering the same comfort only reinforced that, grounding his turbulent emotions and allowing him to regain his focus.

"O…kay?" He nodded slowly.

"That's right. You're okay," she repeated, picking up the sweat pants. "Let's get these on you, okay?"

He looked anxiously at the pants, suspecting that they would be even worse than the shirt. "O…kay," he agreed finally, trusting this strange, or perhaps just strangely familiar, woman. She really did seem a sweet creature and he could not help but believe that she just wanted to help.

She got the pants on him quickly and, although he was clearly uncomfortable with them, he made no move to try to take them off.

"See? That's not so bad, is it?" she asked gently, gifting him with a small smile.

As uncomfortable as he was in the too-tight clothes, he smiled right back at her. He was not sure why, having never seen a facial expression even remotely similar to this one made in anything but anger, but it was a comforting expression coming from her. It made his heart calm and, above all, happy. Or maybe it was just this human? he reflected, wondering at that. There was something about her, indefinable but like going home. In spite of her bizarre appearance, she was beautiful.

He cautiously lifted his hand to her throat, wondering how the gesture would be taken by a complete stranger, one who no doubt had different customs, no less. He would never have presumed to touch an unknown Cirronian in such an intimate fashion but, with this woman, it felt right. So right, in fact, that he had to force himself to stop after the requisite two passes of his hand that denoted a touch of gratitude. He smiled automatically as her expression softened under his touch.

Wishing he knew the words or touches of her species to convey his feelings to her, he dropped his hand and eyed her expectantly, wondering what was next.

Mel lifted her hand to her throat, her fingers absently following the path that his had taken. She had been a little uncertain he had reached for her throat like that, but the touch was an amazing one that she knew would leave a lasting impression. Something had been communicated in it, something indefinable but of paramount importance. To say nothing of her very physical reaction to the sensation of his heated fingers against the cool skin of her over-sensitive throat, but she was not going to go there. That touch had been like a spiritual awakening.

As if there were a voice whispering it in her ear, she knew that this was a man to be trusted and, above all, taken care of. She smiled up at him and gave his chest another pat before she took him by the hand, leading him back to the car door.

Daggon smiled up at her as she ushered him into the car. She was a sweet creature and very compassionate. He suspected that she would be a great help to him in finding Rhee. More, though, there was just something right about being near her. He had a nagging suspicion that her importance to him was well beyond that one event, though. Curious but not unwelcome.

"We'll be in the city limits in another few hours. I'm not sure where exactly to drop you," she said, starting the car. "But we'll figure something out, okay?"

"O…kay," he agreed readily.

She smiled over at him. "Don't worry. We'll get you taken care of," she promised gently. "Figure something out for you… Don't worry," she repeated. "I'm going to take care of you, Cole."

He watched her smiling at him and smiled back. "Yes, Mel."

The End