Personal Hygiene

by Satinette

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Ever wonder how it came to pass that Mel found herself in the awkward situation of giving Cole a bath? Big spoilers for "Roswell," minor ones for "Cloud Nine" and the Pilot.

Author's Note: Since Mel is still pretty clueless about such basics as where Cole comes from even in the second episode ("Cloud Nine"), and since Cole doesn't first bathe or shave until the beginning of the third episode ("Roswell"), I have assumed that the Pilot, "Cloud Nine" and "Roswell" all take place within the space of about a week or so. This is the only way I can think of to rationally explain Mel's ignorance and Cole not becoming excessively hairy and (I'll charitably say) overly ripe g during the series time frame.

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I was teased awake that morning by the wonderfully beckoning aroma of freshly brewed cinnamon hazelnut coffee. The Mr. Coffee machine was the first household appliance Cole had learned to operate (solely for its designated purpose, at any rate) and he never ceased giving it a workout. Not that I minded in the slightest. He'd only been living with me a short while and already I was spoiled rotten from having my coffee ready and waiting for me first thing every morning when I woke up.

Belting my robe, I toddled off to the kitchen for my caffeine fix then stopped dead in my tracks just beyond the bathroom doorway. What I'd seen out of the corner of my eye had taken a moment to register in my still sleep-fogged brain, so I backed up a few paces for confirmation.

Sure enough, my eyes hadn't deceived.

My strange new alien boarder was standing in front of the cabinet mirror, holding the neckline of his jersey pulled down to nearly the bottom of his chest and closely examining his own reflection.

"Cole?" I curiously questioned from the doorway. "Um ... What exactly are you doing? And why exactly are you doing it?"

"I seem to be growing more fur, Mel," he said without turning around, sounding both bewildered and worried.

"More fur?" I asked, approaching him. "How do you figure that?"

No matter how many times I've told him that animals have fur and people have hair, he persisted on calling it fur. I'd just about given up correcting him on it.

"Yes, Mel. More fur." He turned around to show me. "See?"

Well, he was certainly right about that. I couldn't deny that when I'd first picked him up a little more than a week ago out on Highway 88 he'd only had the faintest sprinkling of chest hair. Now the growth was decidedly denser and encompassing a more extensive area...

"And here, too," he said, lifting up the hem of his jersey to show me.

Now, that was definitely new. Fine hair was sprouting in a narrow line down the center of his belly. There wasn't much of it yet but, if it was going to end up being typical male pattern body hair, it would connect up with the chest hair and spread out to cover all or most of his abdomen on down...

I looked up at his face to verify what I was beginning to think.

On the day we first met he didn't exhibit even a shadow of a beard. And I distinctly remember that he still didn't have so much as a whisker on him the day after he'd Collected Rhee, either.

So, when had he started to...

Oh, yeah! I'd been too preoccupied with other matters at the time to fully notice but, now that I thought about it, his face certainly was showing some fuzz the other afternoon in the alley when he was staking out Club 805. And he surely did have a rather scruffy (if long passé) Don Johnson circa Miami Vice kind of look to him the following evening when he'd gone out on that fiasco date with Tiffany.

I ran the back of my hand up his cheek.

Yup! Whiskers. Almost teenage-type, save there were far more of them than a teenager would have. And they felt silky, not sandpapery – as whiskers can only feel if they've never been shaved before.

I really hadn't given any thought to Cole's facial and body hair or paid too much attention. I mean, men have whiskers and all sorts of hair all over the place. It's a given. And a great many, perhaps even the majority, also seem to have at least some degree of body hair. Unless it's sprouting out of their ears and nostrils and all over their backs a woman sort of takes these hairy things for granted about guys without a second thought, right?

Damn! Well, once again it was driven home to me: Cole isn't Human. He's a Cirronian, an alien. Ergo, I should take nothing about him for granted!

"I must have made a error when morphing this body–" he began telling me.

"An error," I automatically corrected.

"Yes, Mel," he agreed. "But I don't know where it is. And I don't know where it might end. I can't allow myself to ... degenerate into a ... an ... ape."

It didn't take a genius to figure out what this was really all about.

And I couldn't help myself. I started to titter.

Cole gave me what was the closest thing to a dirty look as I'd ever seen him give.

"This isn't funny, Mel!" he protested, turning back to the mirror.

He was so utterly clueless! I clamped a hand over my mouth to stop a full-blown guffaw from irrupting, all my insides jiggling like jelly.

"Mel!" he wailed, becoming more panicked, I think, by my poorly stifled laughter than he was by all his new fur' growth. "This is a problem! An incorrect gene sequencing is not–"

"–Cole," I interrupted, turning him by his shoulders to face me and still giggling but trying very hard not to. "Cole, listen. Please? I really don't think this has anything to do with, um, incorrect gene sequencing.' (Whatever that is!). If anything, it's absolutely correct gene sequencing."

That brought him up short. His gaze uneasily shifted between me and his reflection and my giggles finally died down. I mean, yeah, it was funny. Hysterical, even. In a sweet sort of way. But in a very real sense, it really wasn't funny at all.

Not to him.

"Think about it a moment," I gently told him. "You've turned yourself into an adult Human male. Right? What should that suggest to you?"

He just looked at me, one brow raised, waiting for me to supply the answer with what I could swear was anxiety – as if he suspected what the answer might be but didn't want to believe it.

Not for the first time I wished I understood how that labyrinthine mind of his worked. But one thing was for certain here: denial was simply not the way to go. I took a deep breath.

"Cole, look," I began. "You're going to have to face this. I guess we both are. A normal, healthy adult Human male body comes fully equipped with normal, healthy adult male hormones. It seems to have taken about a week or so for your new body to sort it out but, well ... um ... now that you've kinda stabilized yourself in this form ... Well, I think the proper hormone levels are maybe starting to kick in."

"Hormones!?!" He sounded as if he were choking.

"Yeah, Cole," I affirmed. "The adult male hormone. I don't know about Cirronians, but for Humans the male hormone is called testosterone. The growth of facial and body hair is one of the main signs of it. I think you've achieved what we here on Earth call Poo-birdy'?" he questioned.

"The word is puberty," I told him, stifling a giggle at his pronunciation. "It means ... um ... the passage to full physical maturity."

He looked at me as if I were out of my mind, then shook his head.

"No. That is not possible."

"Oh? Are you sure about that?"

"I'm not an adult Human, Mel," he pointed out. "I'm an adult Cirronian."

"Yeah, well, maybe YOU are," I countered, "But your BODY is now that of an adult Human male."

He looked completely stunned, as if he'd just been whacked across the face with a dead flounder. I can't even begin to imagine what this must be like for him, being one species but having the body of a completely different one. Come to think of it, I suppose it might be something like waking up one morning and finding oneself occupying the body of a sheep or a goldfish. The thought alone is so bizarrely creepy it gives me the shivers. And its got to play havoc with one's sense of identity, never mind what it might do to one's self-image!

"Well, you've morphed yourself into other lifeforms before, haven't you?" I asked.

"Yes, Mel, I have but–"

He broke off, peered closely at his refection once again, then mumbled something in what sounded like swear words in his own language under his breath.

Poor Cole. He was much too old to be going through adolescence.

"So?" I pressed. "Hasn't this sort of thing ever happened to you before?"

He morosely shook his head. "I've never had to get so much ... into a morph before."

"What do you mean?"

"Usually it's ... only for a short while," he told me. "A few days ... maybe a week. And I've only had to ... make it a surface change ... not take it all the way through." He shook his head again and gave a resigned sigh. "Humans are so primitive. I had to do a very thorough and–"

He stopped, alarmed, as if suddenly afraid that he'd insulted me.

"–And you had to do a very thorough and more complete morphing than ever before? Is that what you're trying to say?" I asked, deciding to ignore his primitive' reference. After all, to a being of light and energy from a species that was space faring long before the dinosaurs first evolved here on Earth, Humans probably seem as downright archaic lifeforms to him.

Turning to the mirror again, he nodded.

"Well, then!" I cheerily went on. "You should be very pleased with your handiwork and proud of your abilities! You've done a damn good job of it!"

He didn't look either pleased or proud. He looked ... I think unsettled is the word I'm looking for here. Maybe disoriented. Or dejected. Maybe all three.

"Hey! Cheer up!" I told him, patting his shoulder and grinning at him in the mirror. "It's not so terrible. So you shave your face every day. That's no big deal. You're in the same boat as billions of Human men. And shaving isn't a difficult thing to do. I can even guide you as to how to do it. Okay?"

"Do I have to?" he asked, now sounding very much like a sullen teenager.

"Technically, no, you don't," I said. "But I like the look of a man who's clean-shaven. And it's no real bother. At least you're a male and you don't have to worry about your legs and underarms like we women do."

Or the bikini area, which I wasn't about to mention.

He grumbled something so unintelligible that I wasn't even certain which of the six Migarian languages he was using.

"You know," I went on. "I remember reading somewhere that Roman soldiers made it a point to always be clean-shaven so that an enemy couldn't grab them by the face. With what you do, that's got to be something worth considering ... Yes?"

And now that I was standing so close to him I was beginning to realize a few other things I really should've picked up on a whole lot sooner.

Before, I couldn't recall him having any discernable odor at all. But he certainly did now. There was this soured, musky scent coming from him. He wasn't exactly what I would call rank – at least not yet – but at close range his scent was noticeably strong and definitely not clean. Pungent well on its way to overly ripe.

And his hair looked kind of stringy, dull and greasy as well, as though it was well past due for a good shampooing. I reached up and combed my fingers through it to check. It felt that way, too. (And as usual, he seemed not to have any objections at all to my taking liberties with his Human body).

I mentally ran down the short list. Facial and body hair. B.O. Greasy hair and (I supposed) body oils...

Yup. All the usual signs of the advent of puberty.

Better late than never, I guess.

On the bright side, he didn't have the acne to go along with it.

And his voice was already a steady baritone.

I was really hesitant to ask this next, but by that point I certainly had to.

"Um ... Cole?"

It was almost as if he'd fallen into a trance (he seems to do that a lot whenever I touch him in certain ways) and I had to repeat his name two more times before he opened his eyes. (And in a typical Pavlovian response of his, he then reached over to pet the base of my throat, a rather weird Cirronian gesture I'm sort of becoming fond of).

"When did you last ... um ... bathe?" I asked.

"Bathe?" He looked at me blankly. "What is bathe'?"

Uh oh. I was getting a sinking feeling here. "You know," I said. "Wash?"

He tilted his head at me in that quizzical way that he does, honestly puzzled. "I wash like you told me to, Mel. Before every meal and after–"

"–No, that isn't what I mean," I broke in. "I mean completely wash. An all over cleansing? Immerse your entire body in a bathtub full of hot water and wash everything, your whole entire self? Like scrubba dub dub?"

"You didn't ... tell me I'd have to do such a thing, Mel."

"Cole! I didn't think I'd have to! I just assumed..."

Never assume, Porter! It makes an ASS out of U and ME, my inner voice piped up.

"I mean, don't you Cirronians ever bathe?" I went on, becoming flustered. "What do you guys do to get off all the sweat and the body oils and the dirt and the–"

"Cirronians aren't mammals, Mel," he reminded me. "We don't even have sweat or oil glands. We're beings of light and energy. And dirt doesn't ... adhere to us."

"Oh. Right. Sorry, my mistake."

Isn't it always?

I mentally clopped myself on the forehead, feeling quite foolish.

"So, let's just rectify that right now, shall we?" I brightly suggested.

I went over to the bathtub, stoppered up the drain, put down the non-skid mat and turned on the taps, saying, "Tell you what. Let's just fill up the tub here so you can take a bath and get yourself clean. When you're done, I'll show you how to go about shaving. Okay?"

Looking more than just a bit doubtful, he hesitantly nodded.

"Trust me," I assured him. "You need this."

"Okay, Mel," he acquiesced.

Good ol' Cole. Doubtful or not, he was agreeable as always.

"Now! Like with the sinks, the left is the hot water tap, the right is the cold," I explained as he curiously knelt down beside me. "Adjust them so the water is a comfortable temperature for you. When the water level rises to about here," I showed him on the inside of the tub, "Just turn them off and climb in. You know where the soap and the towels and everything are, don't you?"

"Yes, Mel," he affirmed.

"Right! So, that just about covers it, I guess. I'll leave you to enjoy your first bath."

"Okay, Mel."

"Oh!" I interjected as I turned back from the door. "And when you're done, just unstop the drain and hang up the bathmat on the rim of the tub to dry. Any questions?"

"No, Mel. I understand," he assured me.

Little did I know, he really had lots of questions.

He just didn't know what they were.

And, unfortunately, neither did I.

Anyway, about twenty minutes later, just having finished getting dressed, I was coming out of my bedroom when I encountered the Swamp Thing squishing in the hallway.

"COLLLLLLLE!" I shrieked.

He zipped back into the bathroom before I finished uttering the last L,' leaving me practically spitting with fury. I closed my eyes a moment to calm down and silently prayed for patience, then squared my shoulders to go knock on the bathroom door.

"You decent in there, Cole?" I called out. "May I come in?"

"Yes, Mel," I heard him say. "Of course."

I cautiously opened the door a crack and peeked in. A very confused and dejected-looking Cole was just quietly standing there in the middle of the bathroom, dripping all over the place and shivering.

Patience, Porter, patience, my inner voice droned like a mantra.

"Could you please hand me the sponge mop?" I requested.

He immediately went to the utility closet to get it.

"Thank you," I stiffly told him as he handed it to me. "Now, while I mop up all the water you left flooding the hall, could you please go stand in the bathtub? I'll be right back."

I returned a few minutes later to find that he'd done as I'd asked, but it wasn't until I was finished with mopping up the bathroom floor and wringing out the mop that I turned my attentions to him.

"Okay, Cole," I said as I finally put the mop away. "Now! Could you please take off your shirt and hand it over to me?"

Without a word, he did as I asked.

"Thank you," I told him as I carried it to the sink and began to wring that out as well. "I'll also need your pants. And your shoes and socks, too. God, I hope those shoes aren't completely ruined ... And don't you dare take off your briefs!" I thought to admonish, just in case.

He stripped off the designated items of clothing and one by one handed them to me as I formally thanked him for each in turn and wrung them out in the sink.

"So, Cole," I began, tossing his clothing into the dryer and setting his shoes up on a shelf near the convenient leak in the hot air duct. "Tell me. Is there any particular reason why you decided to bathe without first taking off your clothes?"

"You keep telling me I have to keep my clothes on, Mel," he quietly pointed out.

Exasperated, I rolled my eyes to the ceiling.

"Yes, I know I do, but..."

That last word choked in my throat as I turned to face him and I could feel my ears burning bright crimson. I grabbed a bath towel from the rack and threw it at him while simultaneously spinning completely around and demanding he tie it around his waist.

I never knew before that a man in wet briefs could provide an even more heart-stopping view than Pamela Anderson in a wet T-shirt.

After a moment I worked up the courage to hesitantly peek back at him from over my shoulder.

As always, he'd done exactly as I'd requested.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

He looked like a scolded puppy.

Patience, Porter, patience, my inner voice continued to remind me.

"Look," I tried to explain, finally walking over to him. "There are some things which people do that require them taking off all their clothes. And bathing just happens to be one of them. And..."

I stopped, realizing for the first time that his hair was bristling every which-way in sticky, sudsy spikes.

"What the hell did you do to yourself?" I asked as I ran a hand through his hair.

Then it became clear.

"Cole! You're supposed to wash your hair with shampoo, not soap!"

Some of it dribbled down his face and he winced, blinking in pain as the soap got in one eye. I grabbed another towel and used a corner of it to swab the offending soap away.

"And you didn't rinse it out," I rather unnecessarily pointed out, pushing his hair back and mopping more suds from his eyebrows and forehead.

"I am sorry, Mel," he said, looking chagrined.

My heart went out to him. He was looking more and more like a confused, scolded and now miserably uncomfortable puppy with every passing moment. He clearly wasn't enjoying this at all. And it's not like he'd ever done it before, so how was he supposed to know any better?

"No, Cole. I'M the one who's sorry," I tried to reassure him. "This is really my fault. I should know by now that you tend to be very literal. What you really need here is a complete crash-course in the ways and means of Human personal hygiene and..."

Just then a very simple yet at the same time very shocking solution occurred to me, the one sure-fire way to quickly and properly teach him everything he needed to know in one shot.

Although on the one hand I couldn't believe I was seriously considering doing such a thing, on the other hand I reminded myself that (a) I've seen him in his briefs a number of times already and (b) it's not like that body of his is actually a real Human male body or anything. I well know that it's only some sort of biological construct or something like that, a facsimile so to speak, and so I told myself that despite appearances it wasn't likely to...

That it probably couldn't...

That it surely wouldn't...

Well, you know!

Anyway, idiot that I am, I came to the ridiculous conclusion that my idea was probably the best and least stressful choice we both had.

"Okay, Cole!" I decisively ordered. "Come on! Step out of the tub. I'm going to teach you how to do all this the right way, okay?

He nodded, his woebegone expression becoming hopeful.

Once again I stoppered up the drain, put down the non-skid mat and turned on the taps. After the tub was full I then gave him clear and explicit instructions that he was to strip off both the towel and his briefs before sitting himself down in the tub with the largest washcloth I had spread out in his lap. I even had him repeat the instructions to me just to be absolutely sure he understood.

Satisfied, yet beginning to become very nervous over this whole thing, I went to the window to admire the morning light on the dumpster and cast serious aspersions on my own sanity while he obediently did as I'd asked.

When the sounds of sloshing finally subsided I turned around, as ready as I'd ever be.

He was sitting in the tub covered only by what was obviously a wholly inadequate white washcloth, his arms nonchalantly draped along the sides, looking up at me with an almost little boy expression of mingled expectancy and curiosity.

But his expression was absolutely the only thing about him that was little boy.

I knew Cole well enough by then to be certain that he wasn't putting on some sort of act and that he wasn't in any sense an exhibitionist. Nudity was simply a non-issue with him and he was utterly, totally, disconcertingly oblivious to the impact a near-naked and perfectly honed male body such as his can have on a woman's senses.

Especially on the senses of a woman who's been celibate for much too long a while.

God, he was beautiful.

The air in the room seemed to have vanished. I stood rooted to the floor, my tongue Krazy-Glued to the roof of my mouth as my mind momentarily short-circuited. Believe me, I've certainly seen my share of naked men but I couldn't recall ever seeing anyone look quite so intensely, desirably, disturbingly male. Just standing there looking at him, realizing I was going to be having my hands all over him, trying to order my thoughts into a semblance of rationality, made my hormones shift into maximum overdrive. I had the near overpowering urge to just pounce on top of him then and there and...

Focus, Porter! my inner voice barked at me like a drill sergeant.

I quickly turned away before I did something I'd regret and forced myself to banish that urge, leaving it an unformed fantasy.

And the fantasy would remain unformed I firmly told myself, although the only thing getting through to me at that moment was the fact that I was unbelievably horny – which was hardly a useful thing to be under the current circumstance and with the present company. In retrospect, how I then managed any coherent conversation at all beyond that point seems like nothing short of a miracle!

I took several deep calming breaths, sternly reminded myself for the umpteenth time that, contrary to all outward appearances, he wasn't the least bit Human, that the drool-worthy male body he'd created was only some sort of illusion, and resolutely began the lesson.

"Okay! Now, pay very close attention here, Cole," I told him, trying to work off some of my tensions by pacing back and forth and talking fast (as I'm so often prone to do). "You're a guy and..."

But is he really a HE? my inner voice asked, bringing me up short with a wrinkle I'd never even thought to question or consider before.

"Um ... You ... You really are a guy ... Aren't you?" I timidly asked.

"I am male," he affirmed, apparently without taking any offense.

"Right!" I said, surprised at how very relieved I was about that. "Okay then! You're a guy and in my experience most guys usually prefer to take showers rather than baths. But to teach you how to shower would require me getting in the tub with you and that just isn't going to happen! So, the way I figure it, once you understand what a bath is all about you should easily be able to apply the basic concepts to taking a shower, if that's what you prefer to do ... You with me on this so far?"

"I think so, Mel," he told me with a nod.

"I should hope so!" I said, oh so very proud of myself for getting that much across. "Now, just let me get that hand-held showerhead down..."

Standing on tiptoe I attempted to reach it. While it was easily accessible when standing in the tub, from outside the tub it was just high enough to be ever so slightly beyond my fingertips.

"I'll get that for you, Mel," Cole helpfully offered as he started to get up.

"DON'T ...YOU ... DARE ... MOVE!" I snarled with far more threat than I meant. I mean, artificial construct or not, there are limits!

He looked at me in surprise but promptly settled back down.

And the scolded puppy look was back.

Patience, Porter, patience, my inner voice kept repeating, now with a gleeful undertone.

I made a leaping grab for the showerhead, managing to snag it by the hose and pull it down without falling into the tub on top of him. No mean feat, let me tell you!

"Okay, now!" I grinned at him triumphantly. "When bathing, one starts from the top and works one's way down. Therefore, we'll begin with your hair. I want you to lean forward, lower your head a bit, and close your eyes. And keep them closed until I'm done."

I adjusted the spray and the water temperature, then proceeded to rinse all those icky sticky soapsuds out of his hair.

With those puppy-dog eyes of his I guess I should've seen this next coming.

But I didn't. Grrr! When will I ever learn!?!

The moment I turned off the showerhead, Cole violently shook his head like a dog expelling water from his coat, liberally dousing me and the whole bathroom.

"COOOOLLLLLE!" I yelped, jumping back.

Instantly, he stopped, those bottomless puppy-dog eyes of his guilelessly blinking at me.

"Don't do that!" I tersely told him. "For this your hair is supposed to be wet! Not me!"

I gave myself another moment to calm down, not an easy thing to do when you're trying not to be overtaken with unadulterated and not-so-pure animal lust.

I don't think I've ever been so nervous and uptight in my life. Seeing him in his briefs all those times just hadn't prepared me. Take my word on it, this was a whole lot different than bathing little Frankie, the three-year old I regularly babysat when I was a teenager!

Where in the ozone had my head been when I suggested this? I wondered.

"Now, this here is shampoo," I told him, resolutely plunging ahead by holding up the plastic bottle for him to see. "It's a special type of soap especially made for washing hair."

I poured some out into my hand and he predictably sniffed at it.

"It smells like your hair, Mel," he said with some surprise.

"No," I corrected. "My hair smells like this shampoo because this is the shampoo that I use. If you'd rather use another scent there are plenty of shampoos on the market to choose from. I'll take you with me when I go shopping and you can pick one out."

"Can I use this one, Mel?" He sweetly smiled at me. "I like the way your hair smells."

"Sure," I told him, figuring what the hell and mentally adding another bottle to my shopping list. "Not a problem."

I then went around behind him and set to work washing his hair.

I've often thought that the only reason we women make such extensive use of hair salons is for the rapturous pleasure of having our scalp massaged as our hair is being washed. And Cole's reaction only confirmed that idea. Within moments of me lathering up his hair he was making these little inarticulate mewling sounds.

I obligingly changed my finger motions to that of a slow circular massage, inching my way down from the top of his scalp, the slickness of the shampoo easily allowing my hands to then glide down the thick cords of his neck and along the muscles of his broad shoulders. His skin was much softer than I ever expected it would be, very warm, smooth and supple, providing an amazing tactile contrast to the iron-hard musculature buried just beneath the surface, like fine shantung silk covering a marble frame.

He made a small involuntary sound and leaned back into my hands, his head lolling as I exerted pressure against the knots in his shoulder muscles, then gradually worked my way back up that strong neck and slid my fingers beneath his hair to massage the base of his skull.

He began to subtly vibrate like a contented cat does with a silent inner purr.

Wow! I could really get used to doing this.

I think he could get used to it as well.

I debated with myself if I should extend the experience for him with a conditioning, but then I realized that hair conditioner was on my shopping list and I didn't have any left. Besides, not only didn't his hair need it, by that point I think he was beginning to lapse into a coma. He didn't even start to come out of it until I once again subjected him to the showerhead and rinsed out his hair.

"Okay, now," I instructed after the rinsing as he spit out the water that had run into his mouth, wiping his face with one big hand. "Bend your head down so I can dry your hair."

He obeyed, and I scrubbed his hair and scalp with another towel until all the excess water was gone.

Onward to lesson two: taming that perpetually messy look of his. That part was easy, simply showing him how he should comb his hair back while it was still wet so it would dry that way. I figured there would be time enough in the coming weeks to introduce him to the magic styling possibilities of the blow dryer.

"Thank you, Mel," he told me when I was done, then started to get up.

I promptly pushed him back down again.

"Not yet, mister," I admonished him. "You still have to learn how to shave and wash, okay?"

He made no protest at all as I lathered the shaving cream on his face (although from his expression I don't think he was all that thrilled with the smell of menthol), all the while babbling on and on about how he had to be watch that his sideburns both ended up the same length, that he should always angle the razor in the direction the whiskers grow to reduce irritation, and how tricky it can be shaving where the bone is just beneath the surface of the skin (lessons learned the hard way from shaving around my own bony kneecaps). He certainly understood enough of the process by that point to warily eye the razor as I put in a fresh blade and explained that it was a very sharp cutting instrument and he had to be careful with it.

Apparently trusting me enough to allow me to do this to him (Don't ask me why! My hands were shaking so badly with nervousness – among other things – that I certainly wouldn't have trusted me!), he simply closed his eyes as I tilted his head back. I felt him tense slightly as I ran the razor up from the base of his throat, delicately over his Adam's apple and then up to his chin.

So far, so good. I breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn't slit his throat.

I then made another pass, to the left of and slightly overlapping the first. Then another. Then one after another until I finished the left side of his neck. With growing confidence I then did his right side.

For one who had never shaved anything but her own legs and underarms, I have to say I was doing rather well. No nicks, cuts or scratches. And I was finally starting to relax into doing this unusual job.

But then he started playing with the washcloth, becoming fascinated that a certain male, um, body part ... floats...

Flustered, I beat a hurried retreat to the window.

Once again I stood there with my back to him, wondering how I'd ever gotten myself into this surreal situation in the first place, my soapy hands held in front of me, hormones humming merrily away, trying to calm down.

"Bathe and shave," I thought to tell him for a second time, just to be saying something. "You're going to have to do this every day!"

I finally left the window to once again crouch down by the side of the bathtub and try regaining control of the situation.

"Now! I want to let you know that I'm doing this only on two conditions," I sternly reminded him. "One, you hold completely still." I grasped his chin for emphasis. "And two, the washcloth goes back where it was!"

I had made it terse and emphatic enough that he stopped playing with the washcloth and it dropped back into his lap, again covering the most essential parts.

I felt a traitorous stab of disappointment.

He looked sidelong at me like a chastised four-year old.

"Thank you," I tightly told him, tilting his chin and examining his face, trying to decide which cheek to do first. I took a deep, sighing breath to steady myself and carefully drew the razor from his left cheekbone down to his jaw line.

"Feels strange," he commented, finally breaking his long passive silence.

I wasn't surprised at that. Everything still feels strange to him at this point. Clothes. Shoes. A breeze in his hair. Everything. Even feeling itself feels strange to him.

"Talking ... is not holding still," I patiently informed him as I swished the razor clean in the bath water.

"I'm close to finding one, Mel," he brightly said. "He's an Orsian."

"Uh huh," I absently replied, angling his head for another stroke with the razor.

"Orsians are born in pairs," he went on, "So in their Earth bodies they're not identical."

"Okay," I amicably said. "But you can't talk and shave at the same time. All right?"

But for some reason he'd suddenly become talkative and couldn't seem to shut himself up.

"They talk telepathically. If I find one I'll find the other."

"Okay," I said, exasperated after nearly slicing open his jaw line. "Why don't you try it?"

I handed him the razor.

"Go on..." I encouraged as he hesitated before making his first stroke of the razor down the length of his other cheek. "Just enough pressure to take off the whiskers," I instructed, keenly watching his progress.

"Not so much!" I then cautioned. "You don't ... want to cut yourself..."

But of course he then did exactly what I'd just warned him not to do and he winced as he nicked himself.

"Ooo!" I commented, examining the cut. Surprisingly, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. "I'll go get some toilet paper. My father always used toilet paper."

"Toilet paper?" he echoed, probably not sure he'd heard me correctly.

"Yeah," I affirmed. "It quickly sops up the blood and sticks to the face. And one just needs a tiny scrap of it, anyway. Trust me. It works better than a Band-Aid."

I hurried to get it but his blood must have great clotting factors because the bleeding stopped within a few moments. Keeping the roll handy just in case, I gave him a hand-held mirror.

"Okay, now," I told him. "This will be easier if you can see what I'm doing. Watch how I do it in the mirror. Then next time you'll be able to do it yourself. Fair enough?"

"Yes, Mel," he said, sounding very doubtful.

I awkwardly positioned myself behind him at the head of the tub as he watched me wide-eyed in the mirror, trying to find what would be the best and most comfortable angle without actually having his head snugly cradled between my breasts. I finally settled for perching on the rim of the tub and leaning over his left shoulder.

"Now, you should shave in slow, even strokes and not apply too much pressure," I lectured him. "Let the blade do all the work and keep it at a constant angle. That way you cut the hairs instead of your skin."

Then I set to work as he watched me unblinkingly. The hardest bits, of course, are around the lips and beneath the nostrils so I had to be very careful. I wish I could say that I didn't nick him at all, but twice I nearly lost my balance and didn't have complete control of the razor, with the predictable results. Fortunately, Cole was both stoic and good-natured about my ineptitude.

When finally done I carefully looked him over, turning his head back and forth, studying my handiwork and making certain his sideburns were even. He closed his eyes as I did so, his long lashes dark against his cheeks.

All in all I told myself that it was a pretty decent job for one who'd never shaved a man before. The original nick he'd given himself was hardly visible and the several others had bled very little and were well on their way to healing. His eyebrows were slightly messy and I gave in to the urge to run my finger along them and smooth them into place. I then gave a little touch-up to a tiny missed spot near his right ear, and another small patch under his lower lip. When finished with that I traced the outline of his cheekbones with my fingertips, trailing down to his jaw and following the line of his throat, feeling the strong pulse of his carotid arteries.

Yup, all the scruff was gone.

Of their own volition my thumbs started to slowly move along his jaw line.

Suddenly realizing what I was really doing, I snatched my hands away and quickly straightened up.

God, I'm such a horny slut.

"There you are then," I briskly told him as he opened his eyes, looking dazed. "That's how shaving is supposed to be done. And, um, how some of it isn't supposed be done. I'm really sorry about that."

"I'm fine, Mel," he softly assured me.

"Yeah, well..." I suddenly felt like crying for having hurt him, even though they were only tiny little nicks.

He reached up and lightly stroked his fingers along the curve of my throat. It felt oddly different than the times he'd done it to me before; soothing, yes, but also a little too intimate.

I uneasily moved back from his reach.

"Um ... Think you can remember it all and properly do it for yourself from now on?" I asked.

"Yes, Mel. Thank you," he said, then again started to get up.

Again I promptly pushed him back down.

"Not so fast. You're not done yet," I told him, handing him a fresh bar of soap. "Now comes the washing and scrubbing part. You wash your whole body just like I taught you to do with your hands, okay? And I have a back brush for where you can't reach. Just let me get it for you."

I scrabbled through the closet until I found it: one back brush made useless because of its broken handle.

I hesitated, torn by indecision, but either I'm a died-in-the-wool masochist or the slutty side of my nature just needed to have a little more harmless titillation here.

"I'll take care of your back for you," I finally told him. "And then you're on your own. Your front is entirely your responsibility."

He looked at me questioningly. "My front, Mel?"

"Yes, your front," I affirmed. "ALL of your front ... Your chest and your belly and your legs and feet – and most important of all, don't forget to wash under your arms and your, um (Oh, God!) ... between your toes."

I settled myself behind him and set to work, confining myself to briskly scrubbing his shoulders and upper back while he busied himself lathering up the soap bar. I certainly didn't want my ministrations to seem too personal or affectionate but my traitorous fingers refused to remain business-like about it and kept moving around to tarry near his glorious chest. I mean, Jeez! The only times I'd ever done anything even remotely like this was with a lover! Keeping my hands occupied was the key I grimly told myself, ignoring my sniggering inner voice that was asking, yeah, but occupied with what?

Then he started yakking away all over again.

"I got information about a murder, a drug dealer," he informed me as I moved on to wash his upper arms. "There was evidence of ground disturbance nearby."

"Personal hygiene is extremely important," I told him, ignoring his obsessive chatter.

"Orsians have the ability to burrow underground," he added as I reached over to take the bar of soap from him. It was so slippery it popped right out of his hands and landed in the soap dish with a resounding clang'.

I snatched it up and added more lather to my hands, then returned it to the soap dish.

"Are you listening to anything I'm saying?" I inquired with some bemusement as I worked around his shoulders, upper arms and upper back.

"Personal hygiene is extremely important," he parroted, now concentrating on rubbing his soapy hands together without the bar of soap.

Good lord! His hands had to be clean enough by now to perform surgery! I told myself that I'd better get out of there pretty soon before he settled down to the business of really washing.

"Yes! Good!" I commented, very pleased that he'd been paying enough attention to at least be able to say that much. "Personal hygiene..." I began, my hands deciding on their own that there were better things to wash than just his upper back and beginning to soap his chest. "... wins the fight against B.O. ... bad breath ... and all those other kinds of things that people really don't talk about except on those commercials..."

"Feels good, Mel," he said, a near sub-audible sigh rumbling up from somewhere low in his chest.

"Good," I replied with the satisfaction of a mission well accomplished as I felt him lean back and relax against me. One thing a woman surely doesn't need in her life is to be living with a man who hates to bathe! I could feel the wonderful, near overpowering heated warmth of his body radiating from his skin, the strong dull thudding of his heart beneath my hands, the new hair on his chest tickling my palms, the movement of his chest as he breathed...

His body might not be the real thing, I thought, but what an utterly fantastic fantasy he's made himself to be!

I suddenly drew in a harsh breath and released him to scramble to my feet, completely unnerved when I realized what was rising under that little white washcloth.

I mean, how could I know that a biological construct would actually be functional that way?

"I ... I think that's the end of our lesson for today," I hurriedly announced, stepping away before I lost it.

"Good," he said. "I have to get to work."

He blithely stood up – and was certainly well standing up – as he stepped out of the tub.

I could feel the answering heat thrumming through my entire body, the blush quickly spreading all the way down my throat and around the back of my neck.

"Wow!!!" I choked, my urge to enjoy the impressive view warring with my manners and sending me reeling into another tailspin.

"Um, you need to towel off," I told him, turning away from him as my manners won that round. I managed to hand a towel to him from behind my back without looking.

"Towel off?" he inquired.

"Yeah, you know ... Rub yourself."

Oh, good one there, Porter! He'll probably learn about that soon enough and all by himself.

I winced at my Freudian slip.

"... Um ... Wipe your body ... with the towel," I clarified.

"Do you have change for the bus, Mel?" he asked from out of nowhere.

"Sure," I said, puzzled and more than a bit nonplussed. "Where are you going?"

"To the dead dealer's apartment."

"Why don't you just do that speed thing that you do?"

He came right up to me then, completely starkers (save for those few bits of toilet paper stuck to his face) and completely unconcerned about it.

"I have to be careful," he confided. "It weakens me. It takes one solar day to regenerate."

Handing me back the towel, he politely thanked me.

"Sure," I said, shoving the towel right back at him and trying my level damnest to keep both eyes on his face, "I think I've got some change in my purse."

"Good," he said.

"Good," I inanely repeated, backing away from him.

"Good," he said with a smile.

"Good," I said again, hurrying out of the bathroom to put some necessary distance between us.

I was nearly to my purse on the sofa when I realized that Cole was padding along just behind me. And the damn living room curtains were wide open!

"Cole!!!" I shrieked in alarm, spinning around. "Get back in the–"

But I had stopped and turned too quickly and he walked right smack into me, poking up against my belly.

It was something like the other day in the alleyway outside Club 805 when he had me up against the brick wall and was standing nearly on top of me, as if he hasn't the slightest concept of personal space.

Only then he had his clothes on.

And then he wasn't poking me.

He blinked at me in both surprise and confusion and we just stood there, neither of us moving, staring into each other's eyes, the open curtains forgotten.

Looking into his amazing hazel-browns I suddenly became fully aware of his total innocence ... No, scratch that. Not innocence; he's not an innocent in the usual sense. What I became fully aware of was his total lack of any Human experience, of him being ignorant and oblivious as to exactly what this was all about in Human terms and what effects he was having on me.

And then I felt him twitch.

I had to close my eyes a moment and breathe deep, all control threatening to irrevocably splinter.

"Mel?"

Oh, God!

"Yes, Cole?" I managed to squeak.

"I think I'm going to need pockets to carry the change in," he said.

"Yeah, Cole," I said, my head beginning to mindlessly bobble up and down like one of those idiotic dashboard figurines. "I think that sounds like a real good idea."

But save for another twitch, he still didn't move.

"Um ... don't you think you ought to, um, get dressed?" I ventured. "Like maybe put your pants on?"

He tilted his head a moment, considering.

"Then I would have pockets. Right, Mel?"

"Yeah," I said, my head still dumbly bobbling. "Yeah, you would."

"Okay, Mel," he cheerfully said.

Then he turned and headed for his room to dress while I sat down before I fell down.