Summary: With a helping hand from Cole, Mel comes to grips with the events of 'In Sheep's Clothing'.

Rating: R

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

Timeline: Post "Remember When": after my fics "Morning After", "Training Day", "In Sheep's Clothing", "Dancing With the Devil", and "Never a Dull Moment"

Author's Note: Adult-oriented fic, obviously. This one deals not only with sex but with the ramifications of the assault and attempted rape against Mel in the fic 'In Sheep's Clothing' and so is more "adult" than most. Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as serious smutfic. If you're looking for the non-serious variety, we highly suggest any of the works of the irrepressible Fluffy Cat.

Author's Note 2: Mel's bout of meningitis last year is taken from my fic "This Mortal Coil"

Spoilers: For my fic "In Sheep's Clothing" (where Mel is abducted and her assailant attempts to rape her) but none for actual eps. The character Kallissa is my own, first mentioned (I believe) in my fic "Morning After" and introduced in "Never a Dull Moment" (she was a Tracker and Cole's partner and is now a psychologist, among other things), but you don't have to read either to follow this one.

Feedback: Better than Fek-Maln and, good, bad, or ugly, always much appreciated.

Chapter 1

Kallissa uncapped her pen and started writing, filling out her paperwork. A scanner would eventually render it into a format acceptable to her superiors and their computer systems. The scritch of pen on paper was faintly satisfying in a way that the light tapping of keys and soft hum of a computer never was. Cole had been right about that much. The human body, no matter how one tried to fight its effects, did change a person's perception. And their behavior. Sensory input suddenly became very important, from the gentlest and most tender touch to the innocuous hum of the air purification system.

It was no longer any wonder to her that Cole reveled in the touch of his lover every bit as much as much as he reveled in her affection. Of course, her every Cirronian instinct told her that Cole was no longer deriving that particular joy from life as a human. It saddened her to think that Cole's Melah en'i might be in so much pain that such matters were abhorrent to her.

She looked up at the tentative tapping on the door, startled to find one of the objects of her reflections outside.

"Enter," she called, keying the lock to allow access to her office. She rose and approached the door. "Melah en'i. Come in, please. Be comfortable," she added when it was obvious that there was nothing comfortable about the woman. "How may I help you?"

"Uh, you said we could talk. Uh... in your capacity as a, uh... a... a counselor," Mel answered softly.

Kallissa nodded readily and keyed the lock again, putting away her paperwork. "Of course. Please, have a seat."

Mel nodded weakly and dropped onto the chair Kallissa indicated, shifting uneasily.

"Cole is not yet returned?" Kallissa asked, sitting opposite her.

"No." She shook her head, twiddling her thumbs and nervously shuffling her fingers. "I... I wanted to do this while he was gone."

Kallissa nodded faintly. "Some matters are best considered when one's mate is absent," she agreed.

"How did you do it?" Mel asked immediately. "After you caught Khaeto? How did you get back to your old life so easily?"

The Cirronian's answering smile was wry. "My old life? How could I mate, you mean? In truth, I conceived primarily to preserve my own sanity. I... had to force myself to remember how beautiful a joining could be."

"I tried that. It didn't work..." Mel muttered bitterly.

Kallissa raised an eyebrow. "You have attempted to be intimate with Cole? Without success?"

She nodded weakly. "I... It was... I had an anxiety attack the minute he... God, this is... I can't believe I'm..."

"Be calm," Kallissa repeated mildly, leaning forward and caressing Mel's throat soothingly. "There can be no wonder that some part of you is frightened. This in no way represents a lack of progress on your part. That you even made the attempt speaks to your will to recover."

"That would be a lot more comforting if you could tell me what I did wrong..."

"You went too fast."

"It's been months!" Mel protested, shaking her head. "How long am I supposed to wait?"

More important in her mind, though, was the question of how long Cole was supposed to wait. She felt horrible for putting him into this situation. His body had needs, needs that she had introduced to him, and now she was holding out on him...

"You must wait... as long as you must wait. A different way must be found. You must once again learn the pleasure to be had from the attentions of your lover."


"Let him touch you."

"I do!" she protested. "I did. You can't imagine what--"

"Let him touch you in a more sexualized context."

"I tried that!" Mel protested, near tears.

She was embarrassed to be here in the first place, guilty over holding out on Cole, infuriated with herself, and frustrated that Kallissa did not seem to get it. After all, she was a Cirronian. Cirronians just knew things...

Kallissa shook her head, lightly covering Mel's hand with one of her own before speaking. "I am not talking about the act of intercourse right away. Another attempt like that could run the risk of setting your progress back substantially. However, a certain degree of physical contact, not followed up by sex, could be beneficial in helping to prepare you for an eventual return to your previous level of intimacy."

"Foreplay without sex?" Mel asked, frowning uncertainly. Could that possibly work? And how would a Cirronian know if it would or not?

Kallissa nodded. "In the treatment of phobias, systematic desensitization is the preferred treatment."

She snorted. "This isn't exactly your average phobia."

"I would have to say that it does bear several similarities to more traditionally-encountered phobias. It was triggered by a very traumatic incident. It is a strong aversion, accompanied by anxiety when the matter is so much as considered. Actually attempting to put yourself into the situation of which you are fearful triggers such extreme anxiety attacks that you become even more reluctant to attempt to do so in the future. And the longer you wait, the more you avoid, the harder going back will become. But if you ease into it slowly, the fear may well be overcome."

"I guess when you put it like that..." Mel murmured.

Kallissa nodded. "Cole is a very... controlled individual. He can be trusted to restrain himself with you in this."

"You're right about that," Mel agreed. "He stopped right away the other night when I started to panic."

She nodded again. "Let him touch you," she repeated. "Gently, Melah en'i. Sensually. Let him remind your body and your heart of what your mind has forgotten."

Mel nodded slowly. "I guess it can't hurt to try."

"Also there is something else I would recommend. It is not a Cirronian practice, but it is common on several planets."


"Let him bathe you."

"What?" Mel asked, blinking. "You want me to let him give me a bath?"

Kallissa nodded, smiling faintly at the woman's incredulous reaction. Just when she started to think that they were not so different after all. Somehow, she suspected that Mel often found herself thinking the same thing.

"A ceremonial bath to symbolically wash away the pain and degradation which have been inflicted on you."

Mel frowned faintly, dubious. "Do you think it'd help?"

Kallissa shrugged. "If nothing else, it will give you one more opportunity to enjoy his touch," she pointed out, looking up as her intercom beeped. "Do you mind?" she asked.

"No. Go ahead," Mel said.

Kallissa smiled and rose. "Proceed, Bendal."

"Our conquering hero has returned and made his report. And now he is looking for his lovely wife."

Mel flushed and bowed her head.

"Miss Porter is with me, Bendal, which I am sure you already knew. Kindly send her husband to my office."

Mel sighed softly as Kallissa unlocked the door.

"Would you prefer if I acquainted him with the key points of our discussion?" she offered, sensing the younger woman's anxiety.

"I'd appreciate it, yeah." Mel nodded faintly.

Kallissa gave her a reassuring smile. "You are a lucky woman to have won his heart," she told Mel. "Never forget that you have gained what dozens of Cirronian females, myself included, have sought without success."

Mel was stammering a response to that quiet comment when Cole entered the office. He smiled warmly at each in turn, greeting Kallissa before sitting down next to Mel and giving her a kiss on the cheek, very tender but not even slightly passionate.

"My dear Cole, Mel and I have been talking," Kallissa informed him.


"Undress and immerse yourself," Cole directed gently, smiling and squeezing her shoulder. "I will return shortly."

Mel nodded and watched him leave before tentatively stripping. It was foolish to be shy in Cole's presence. The man had seen her naked on too many occasions to count, had made love to her in ways that no other man ever had. Yet, since Khaeto's attempt, there was still sometimes something about the idea of being naked for any man, especially in a context even slightly sexualized. And this definitely qualified as one of those even before you factored in the fact that they had first learned that Cole was even capable of a physical response in this very bathroom, in the tub he wanted her in.

Shaking her head, she finished shucking her clothes and slid into the invitingly warm water. At least that she could accept, that warmth so sensual to any Cirronian. Whether her mind was fearful or not, her body was more than willing to accept that warmth as it engulfed her, soothing and erotic at once.

When Cole returned to the bathroom, it was with a handful of bottles. She recognized among them her favored brands of shampoo and body-soap. She watched uncertainly as he set the bottles on the tray attached to the lip of the tub and began to strip himself. To her relief, and partial disappointment, he stopped at a pair of trunks and slid into the large tub behind her. She hated herself for that ambivalence, but was powerless to fight it. As much as she knew on a practical level that Cole would never do anything to hurt her, she could not shake her fright at the idea of making love again. By extension, his very touch was something to fear.

The Cirronian could sense her uncertainty and knew that he would have to proceed carefully if he was to keep it from destroying her enjoyment of this bath. He hesitated, considering how, and where, to start. After a moment, it came to him. Shortly after she had gotten out of the hospital last year, after she had recovered from meningitis, she had been so weak that she had not even been able to bathe herself. Nervous though she had been, she had allowed him to help her, not just once, but for weeks on end. And she had been nervous at first, in spite of the fact that she trusted him. He had started cautiously then, gently and judiciously, and her fear had been washed away in an instant by his touch.

"Just relax," he murmured, carefully wetting her hair. "You don't have to be scared."

She knew he had started with her hair on purpose, to remind her of last year, of the tender care he had taken of her without expecting a thing in return, of the care they had always taken of each other, even in the beginning. She had washed him and he had washed her, gently and without expectation. He had never expected a thing in return, exactly as she never had. It was tender, devout. Sensual. It felt good, to have strong fingers tenderly massage the cleanser into her hair before rinsing it away, spending as much time on the one task as the other. The feel of his fingertips against her scalp made it impossible to deny the feelings he was capable of evoking in her, his version of foreplay, perhaps, or just a reminder that there had been tender touches long before there had been passionate ones.

Cole smiled faintly as his attentions to her scalp earned an approving purr from his love. If nothing else was true, she did enjoy being cared for, being touched, especially as an equal partner. Washing her hair only served to reinforce the bond between them, a reminder of the things they had required of each other in the past. It was a safe yet sensual way to start, all he could desire. He continued those attentions long after her hair was clean, reveling as she did in the simple contact, physicality without expectation. He found that lack of expectation oddly pleasurable in its own right. An intimacy of the heart rather than the flesh, it was faintly evocative of the first stages of Joining. More might come, but it would be later, and it was not the reason behind these caresses...

Tonight would not be the night that Mel overcame her aversion to physical contact, but it was a promising start all the same.

Mel leaned into his chest, sighing as he slid his hands from her head down to the back of her neck, massaging her shoulders as he smoothed soap onto her sensitive flesh. He started crooning softly and Mel closed her eyes relaxing under his care. It was hard not to enjoy his touch under such circumstances, hard to be afraid of what was coming, if only because she knew that nothing was coming. That hardly mattered, though.

She had almost forgotten how pleasant, how sensual, a man's touch could be, the pleasure and contentedness it could summon up. And especially how pleasant and sensual this man's touch could be. Part of her wondered if he was not helping that along with a measure of Cirronian energy. Not that that mattered, either, not when she knew that no matter how much she enjoyed it he would never take advantage. That was comforting in and of itself. The part of her that remembered Khaeto, that recalled his touch, was grateful that nothing would come of this encounter.

Cole gently pushed her forward and turned his attention to her back, smiling as she purred softly in response to his touch. He had other plans for her tonight, plans he had not shared with her yet, but her reactions thus far told him she would not object to them. Shaking his head and smiling, he continued his gentle ablutions, moving his hands from her back to her shoulders and then slowly down her chest, smiling at her low moan and reveling in the opportunity to once more touch her so freely and completely.

He did not spend as much time on those marvelously sensitive breasts as he might have liked to, not wanting to unsettle her with too-sexual stimulation, but he enjoyed the few moments of time he did have there. He especially enjoyed her responses: the quiet moans and breathy little sighs, the way she leaned back into his chest, closing her eyes, her expression one of absolute trust. Smiling warmly down at her, he slid his hands lower still, to her stomach, spending more time there, enjoying the way she felt under his hands, that seemingly paradoxical combination of firm and soft, like Mel herself.

Not that he ever felt anything but pleasure while touching Mel in any location. Context was less important than what he felt when his skin touched her. Touching Mel's body was like caressing her soul, his mind taking in every nuance of her heart as his sensitive fingertips took in those of her flesh. She had to be in very extreme distress for him not to enjoy touching her at least a little. And tonight, there was nothing of distress about her.

He completely skirted around what he continued to think of as her 'primary signature' in spite of the numerous human slang terms for the area. Not one of the terms seemed appropriately reverential when referring to an area capable of exciting such pleasure in both self and in a partner.

Shaking his head, he gently tugged Mel to her feet and pulled the plug before pouring more soap into his hand. Putting the bottle down, he rubbed his hands together a few times before turning his attention to Mel, who was standing there watching him with a shy expression.

"You like this?" he asked even though he knew the answer.

Even without his hands on her, she was clearly telegraphing her enjoyment of the experience, body and soul. Her soul spoke to contentment and happiness first, with physical pleasure a secondary consideration, as if she was just happy that things were returning to normal. He could hardly blame her for being pleased with that, not when he himself felt the same way. Feeling his Mel happy again made him happy as well. And, exactly as she was enjoying the encounter physically, he enjoyed the familiar tension building inside. Well, mostly inside, but since Mel was too busy looking at her own feet to look at any part of his body, that hardly mattered.

"I like this a lot, Cole," she answered, smiling up at him. "Better than our morning showers."

Cole smiled in return, enchanted. Her expression was shy, her cheeks flushed, and she was having a hard time looking him in the eye for any length of time. And, of course, mention of their shared morning showers left him feeling warm inside. Very little happened during those showers any more except for hugs and the very rare caress but they were enjoyable simply because they afforded the two a chance to be close to each other, physically as well as emotionally, but they remained a pleasure.

"I'm glad you're enjoying yourself, Mel," he whispered, lifting his soapy hands to her shoulders. "Do you remember when you were teaching me to do this for myself?" he asked, running his hands up and down her back.

Mel colored and bowed her head, nodding.

"It's okay, Mel," he assured her. "It is as Kallissa said. I am only trying to wash away your pain."

"I know," she murmured, inhaling deeply. His hands really did feel wonderful, especially as they slid downwards, from her back to her legs and thighs. She bit her lower lip against the surge of sensation that triggered, a smoldering heat low in her stomach and a wonderful tightness just a little lower still. It felt so good, especially after months of not feeling anything even remotely similar. "You're a good man, Cole."

"I try to be," he answered simply, stepping around her and dropping to his knees. "You deserve nothing less," he pointed out, starting at her ankles this time and working upwards.

He skipped from her legs to her stomach again, smiling reassuringly up at Mel as he worked. He spent more time on her breasts this time than he had the first time, but still not nearly as much as he would have liked. In spite of that, though, he was not displeased with her response.

Mel closed her eyes as his hands trekked to her breasts again. The first time his fingertips had brushed the sensitive tissue of her nipples, she nearly panicked. She had managed to stifle that response by reminding herself that this was Cole. She had managed to stifle anxiety, but pleasure refused to put in an appearance in spite of the fact that she knew that his actions should have evoked such a response. Peripherally aware that his caresses were causing a very powerful physical reaction, she had not been able to make the link from that to actually experiencing it herself.

She almost sighed in relief as Cole's fingers gently skirted across her nipples and her knees buckled. Giving an embarrassed little laugh at that reaction, she gratefully accepted the support Cole offered, clinging to his arms for several seconds before righting herself completely.

"You are enjoying yourself," Cole observed, retrieving the shower-spray. "I want you to close your eyes now, Mel, so you don't get water in them."

She nodded and did as directed, trusting to him. The warm water felt wonderful, sheeting down from above before flowing down her body, practically caressing it as Cole had been a moment ago. Her eyes popped open as Cole started speaking in quiet Cirronian.

"Ethlan nej'da e a'a tella nurat. Ah ette. Terri Hwa e a'a tellya gwa'an, tra'alla. Ah ette. Ja'a Hwa e a'a hwa'aya. Ah ette. Enicé hwa'ani e a'a Hwa me'a se hwa'ian e a'a Hwa. Ah ette," he intoned, finishing the chant as he finished rinsing her off.

Mel was not sure what the words meant, and less sure she wanted to. Could they possibly be as beautiful in English? Just hearing them had left her feeling calmer than she had since Khaeto. She smiled adoringly up at him, reaching up and gently caressing his throat.

"That was beautiful."

He smiled widely. "Thank you, Mel. I have been thinking about the words I should speak all day."

"You... composed that yourself?" she asked, smiling incredulously at him.

"I did, Mel. Would you like me to translate it for you?"

"No." She shook her head. "It was so beautiful just the way it was."

"I am glad you approve," he told her, picking up a large, fluffy towel and carefully drying her.

Mel sighed softly as he tenderly toweled her off and then lifted her into his arms, carrying her to the bedroom.

"Thank you for that," she murmured, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her face in his shoulder. "It felt good. In... more ways than one," she confessed.

"I'm glad, Mel." Cole smiled faintly and nodded. She may not have been ready for sex yet, but she was obviously as starved for his touch as he had hoped, tender and, as always, loving. That being the case, she would definitely enjoy what he had planned next.

Mel looked around the bedroom in surprise, taking in the candles, incense, and silk sheets uncertainly. It was reminiscent of their first time together, when she had similarly decked the bedroom.

"Cole?" she whispered, tensing in spite of herself.

As much as she wanted him, as much as her body was demanding more of his attention, the thought of things actually going any farther scared her, especially given how their previous attempt had ended. Another anxiety attack was the last thing she needed right now. She struggled to suppress that anxiety, to reclaim the calm and contentedness he had suffused her in the tub. This was Cole, after all, a man who had always been infinitely patient, had never pushed, never taken advantage.

"It's okay, Mel," he assured her, gently depositing her on the bed and picking up a bottle of lavender oil. He uncapped it and held it before her nose for approval. "Nothing you do not wish," he promised, his voice quiet and tender, but vehement all the same.

"Mmm, that smells good," she murmured, soothed by his promise. "What are you going to do with it?"

"I wish to massage you," he explained, waiting for her approval of the suggestion.

"Mmm, Cole, baby, I don't think I could get any more relaxed," she sighed, her body belatedly following her mind's lead and relaxing.

"Let us find out," he suggested, smiling slyly.

Most of Mel's body was, indeed, very relaxed. The rest of it was actually rather excited. He could feel that, too, and he reveled in it, even knowing that nothing would come of it, not yet. Let her remember the other times he had touched her so, the things that had led to. Let her long for him as he did for her and, in time, his touch would no longer be so fearsome to her.

"Nothing you do not wish," he repeated, heating the bottle of oil with a burst of energy and pushing her hair aside, pouring a drizzle between her shoulder blades. "Tell me when to stop," he murmured, resting his hands against her back, smiling faintly as she sighed in answer to his touch. "I wish nothing but for this to be the most pleasant evening of your life."

"It already has been," she purred as he started rubbing the oil into her shoulders. "Mmm, God, Cole..."

He murmured soothingly, releasing a burst of energy that was at once soothing and sensual into her body as he massaged the oil in. He had badly missed the opportunity to touch his Mel, and he planned on taking full advantage of it while he could. For her part, Mel seemed to be enjoying herself even more than he was. She gave repeated soft, gentle sighs as he continued to rub the oil into her back, slowly smoothing it into her skin. Smiling faintly, he slid his hands lower, smoothing the oil onto her adorable 'bum'. Smiling and shaking his head, he moved his hands to her inner thighs.

"Jeez, Cole," she breathed, spreading her legs slightly. She had almost forgotten that it was possible to feel that way, that glorious combination of heat and chills, that tightness and tension, that pleasure so intense it was almost painful... "Ooh!"

The Cirronian smiled and complied with the unspoken request, lavishing extra attention on the sensitive tissue. It was not the first time he had paid such attention to that particular part of her body, but it had definitely been far too long since they had shared such touches. Pouring more oil into his hands, he continued the massage.

Mel buried her face in the pillow, panting softly. There was little else to do, really. Strong palms and fingertips, firmly stroking and caressing her thighs, were evoking feelings that she had not allowed herself to experience in ages. And hinting at future attentions even less innocent.

Subtle bursts of energy might have been behind part of her physical response, but she did not care. All she could care about was what he was doing to her, what he was making her feel, that intense fire that started between her legs and quickly worked its way through her entire body. Some parts of her body reacted more intensely than others, parts of her body whose stimulation had, only recently, triggered a massive anxiety-attack, but she enjoyed his attention all the same and gloried in the arousal he was making her feel. He was careful not to let his hands stray, for which she was grateful. There would be no anxiety attacks tonight, not if he continued on like this, erotic but still tender and considerate, carefully avoiding crossing that hateful line into a deeper level of intimacy.

Cole continued massaging oil into her glorious body for hours, smiling to himself. Mel was his Goddess, the center of his universe, and he adored touching her. That she enjoyedit herself, that she sighed or moaned with every pass of his hands, every twitch of his fingers, was an added bonus. It no longer mattered, not even slightly, that tonight would not be the night when they returned to their previous level of intimacy. He could touch his Mel, derive all the pleasure that the exercise always gave him, and he could be secure in the knowledge of what his touch was doing to her. There were, after all, more ways than one of fulfilling a female starved for affection. And for release...