Characters: Nick and Claudia
Spoilers: None because the series isn't defined in this
A/N: Thanks to telperion_15 for the idea and fredbassett for the push to write this. Also a big thanks to lukadreaming for being my beta on this! It's a little fluff-drabble inspired by the discussion of Nick's hair in series three. Also, I own nothing of "Primeval" that belongs to Impossible Pictures and I make no money from this, clearly.
Summary: After a run-in with some compsognathus (compys), Nick isn't feeling well and Claudia tries to comfort him.

I. Just the Nearness of You

Delicate fingers pushed through his dark blond locks bringing Nick immediately out of his pensive thoughts and into a suddenly tensed state. Hastily he sipped more of the tea and tried to wash the look of surprise off of his face. Perhaps if he concentrated enough, the shiver of joy running along his spine would go away. However as Claudia continued to draw his bangs out of his eyes the man found it impossible to ignore his quaking heart. No matter how much he had longed for this sort of tenderness it could not prepare him for this moment. It confused Nick and somewhat frightened him as well.

Over eight years had passed since Helen's betrayal and with her return it only hurt him even more. Sure they were not the model marriage but then again, who was? Nick had loved Helen and she still betrayed him and now she openly attacked him. Little by little Helen was carving her notch into his spirit and taking all that she could. Was she evil though? No. Manipulative? Undoubtedly. But Nick could never bring himself to label his former wife that way. She was still human and like him, Helen still had scars of her own that needed healing. Perhaps the only thing left for them both was to move on.

Claudia had been right, there was nothing left in the past and only the present truly mattered. Only by moving forward could Nick hope to mend his broken heart. Perhaps with this woman, this gentle soul of compassion, could help him. Why should he still be afraid? If Helen wanted to wage her private war with him then so be it. If her thirst for vengeance had not been quenched through the eight years of watching him grieve then truly, was there any hope left for reconciliation? This was a war that Nick only wanted to end and if by escaping it it meant surrendering, then Nick was ready for that.

Another wave of contentedness spread through Nick as Claudia took her fingers through his hair once more. But this time Claudia lingered in the touch and let her fingers drift endlessly through the thickness of his long hair. There were times that she missed seeing the short hair for it often symbolized the steadfast leadership in a seemingly unchanging man. But times were different now and his hair grew long. And sadly, so did his face. Claudia knew even before the anomaly had brought the compys that Nick was hurting even more than before but no one had been able to tell her why. Only in this gentle acceptance of her touch comforted Claudia in the fact that Nick still had feelings for her.

Slowly Claudia let her hand work its way down to his neck where she gently massaged her fingers against his flesh. She brought her face closer to his so he knew that she was near and in a meek voice she said, "Let me take care of you."

Words failed Nick. For a moment he just sat there in suspended disbelief, the cup resting in his hand, ignored and drunk no more. More than anything he wanted to receive the care that Claudia was promising him; to continue feeling her gentle love in his heart. But what could he promise her? Claudia wanted to care for him, something that he would relish greatly. However, in his weakness at the moment, could he protect her? Though Claudia was a strong woman the last thing Nick wanted was for her to have to defend herself again him. That... Nick could no longer bear with. He had to protect her from his past.

"Claudia, I..."

The woman's fingers gently brushed against Nick's cheek and he felt himself drawing near to her. There was just no resisting that tenderness. He wanted to love her, he wanted to be in her care and just forget about everything. Did he have to be strong all of the time?

"Please," came Claudia's soft plea. Hurt touched her voice as she spoke and it echoed in the way she brushed the backs of her fingers against Nick's cheek. "Whatever you are fighting, I can help you overcome it. You saved my life and cared for me when you didn't have to. I want to be here for you now. Please Nick, let me help."

This was an offer Nick did not want to reject. The past, there was only the present. Going back could not change things. Nick let his gaze rest in Claudia's eyes and a faint smile came to his lips. "All right then," said he with his thick brogue weary with exhaustion, "You have convinced me; you can stay."

A soft laugh escaped Claudia and she let her fingers sift once more through his hair. There was no reason to be nervous around Nick, he was a protector. As she gently rubbed the back of Nick's neck, she whispered to him, "Thank you Nick."

"Claudia I--" Nick let out a heavy sigh and leaned even closer to the woman, "I do want you to stay...please, stay."

Hearing those words from him meant all the world to her and Claudia beamed with delight. His feelings were still true for her then. Her heart felt light and she continued to gently run her fingers through the few patches of clean hair. She would have to do something about the mud and the bits of tree debris that had made themselves home in Nick's hair. There was also the claw marks just above Nick's right eye that she made a mental note to later tend to. What a mess he was but also what a remarkable and most inspirational hero Nick truly was! And so she continued to weave her fingers through Nick's hair, letting the softness slide through her fingers before she set out to repeat this action.

As Nick began to slowly lean against her his eyes began to close. He could not fight the drowsiness and Claudia had made it all too simple for his mind to relax. It was serenity being massaged into his head and along his neck. It was everything that was still good and decent in his life being driven back into his heart. He needed this, he need this hope, this strength to continue onwards despite the betrayals. There were still those who loved him and believed in him. He could not fail them.

Nick's head rested gently against Claudia's shoulder, his fringe brushed softly against the woman's neck. Claudia smiled softly, her heart swooning at him trusting her like this. For once Nick was openly vulnerable and trusted her to care for him and not to hurt him. There was no way that Claudia could. She would fight Helen with fists flying if it was the only way to protect Nick. Claudia was prepared to even take on the Future Predator for his sake! This was a feeling unlike any other for truly she loved him.