Title: And Keep Me Safe Till Morning's Light

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Dillon/Ziggy (pre-slash)

Warnings: Slightly dark themes, nothing too bad though.

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their respectful owners, I'm just borrowing them for a bit.

A/N: Written for LJ's dillon_ziggy community's prompt 3, "Caretaker". This turned out a bit longer (and a bit angstier) than I thought, but I hope it's not too bad.

And Keep Me Safe Till Morning's Light

The scream that pierced through the walls of the Ranger headquarters woke him up from his dreamless sleep. Ziggy opened his eyes to the dim lighting of his room, but stayed in the bed. Eyes fixed on the wall that separated his room from the next one, he strained his ears until the silence rang, the quiet ticking of his alarm clock like hammer striking iron.

When the next cry broke through the calm of the night, brief, but terrifying, Ziggy exhaled the breath he hadn't noticed holding in. He pushed his blanket aside and slipped his bare feet into the soft slippers next to his bed, heading for the door with grim determination painted on his face.

Ziggy checked the corridor before stepping out of his room. The cold night lights made the empty hallway look deserted, clean and clinical, not at all like the home it was for him and his friends. His feet made no noise on the carpet as he walked over to the door next to his, but just as he reached for the handle, he heard another door open behind him.

"The nightmares are getting worse, aren't they?" she said, the question sounding more like a statement than an inquiry. Ziggy glanced at her over his shoulder, but Summer wasn't looking at him. Her wide eyes were staring at the door he was standing in front of, her gaze pained, alarmed. His hand hesitated over the door handle. "You'll watch over him tonight, won't you?" her voice dropped to a whisper, her arms crossing over her chest. She looked like she was hugging herself, keeping herself together. "I'd do it, but Dillon, he…"

He wouldn't let her stay, not with the way he was now. "I know," Ziggy said and dropped his eyes to his feet. He didn't want to see that look on the woman's face. "Don't worry, I can handle this," he said, hoping his voice didn't betray the fear that was clutching his insides.

His fingers brushed against the metal of the handle, wound around it and pushed it down. "I'll take care of him," he mumbled, more to himself than anyone else, before pushing the door open and slipping inside.

Ziggy's first thought was that the thermostat must have broken. The room felt impossibly hot, the air inside heavy enough to make it hard to breath. Dillon must have switched off the night lighting because there was barely any light in the room, the darkness making the heat feel even worse. Ziggy tried to control the claustrophobic feeling that hit him, breathing slowly in and out and letting his eyes adjust, before moving deeper into the room.

Following the sound of Dillon's ragged breathing, Ziggy found his way to the other side of the room and fumbled around until he found the light switch for the bedside lamp. Warm glow filled the room and relief washed over him, at least until he turned to look at the man next to him.

The bed was a mess, blankets and pillows pushed over the edge and sheets crumpled on one side of the mattress, and the man himself wasn't looking much better. His muscles twitched and jerked as he moved restlessly in his sleep, his chest heaving with effort as he drew in shallow, irregular breaths. Dillon's skin was drenched with sweat, his dark curls glued to his damp forehead, and his body radiated heat like a furnace, running a temperature that would have probably killed a normal person.

But what scared Ziggy the most was the look of utter agony that distorted his friend's face. Pained whimpers escaped Dillon's lips as he trashed around the bed, trying to shake off whatever was chasing him in his dreams.

Summer had been right. Ever since the Venjix virus had started advancing on Dillon's body, slowly taking more and more control of him, the nightmares had taken a turn for the worse. Dillon never talked about it, but the exhaustion he was suffering was obvious to everyone.

And they had all heard the screams; Ziggy woke up to the sound of Dillon's nightmares almost every night now.

Ziggy tried to shake off the feeling of helplessness that threatened to engulf him. He sat lightly on the edge of the bed and reached over to touch Dillon's shoulder. "Dillon," he tried to say, but his voice sounded strangely broken. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Dillon, wake up, you're having a nightmare."

The man groaned and stirred at his touch, looking like he was about to wake up, but then everything was happening too fast: Dillon shot up from the bed, his hand grabbing Ziggy's wrist and twisting it away from his body, his other hand going straight for Ziggy's throat. Ziggy yelped and tried to fight him off with his free hand, but the other man was stronger. "S-stop, Dillon, it's just me," he spluttered as Dillon's fingers started closing in around his throat. His wide, frantic eyes looked straight into Dillon's, but there was an unfamiliar glow to them, like something evil was gazing at him through his friend's eyes...

And then, it was over. Dillon jerked his hands away and stared at him, looking horror-struck at what he had tried to do. "Ziggy, what… what the hell are you doing here?" the man growled, pulling himself as far from the younger man as possible. He balled his hands into fists and opened them again, as if trying to regain the control of his muscles.

Ziggy lifted a shaking hand to his throat, but when he saw Dillon flinching at the gesture, he let his arm drop to his lap. He cleared his throat before trying to speak, keeping his voice as level as he could. "You were having a nightmare, you were, you were screaming, so…" Ziggy let his voice trail off. He didn't know how to continue.

Dillon was rubbing his arms now, avoiding Ziggy's eyes. Suddenly he grimaced and shot an angry glare at the younger man. "So you thought you'd come here and hold my fucking hand or some other bullshit like that, huh?" Dillon's voice was strained, pulsing with anger, but somehow Ziggy knew it was aimed more at himself than Ziggy.

"Yes," he answered simply, "if that'll make it easier for you, that's what I'm here to do." And as he said it, he realized that he meant every word.

Dillon glared at him for a moment, then dropped his eyes back to his hands. "Whatever," he muttered, falling silent again. He didn't look up when Ziggy got off the bed, just kept staring at nothing in particular.

"I'm going to get you some water, okay?" The younger man didn't wait for a reply before disappearing into the small bathroom. There was an empty glass next to the toothbrush mug and he filled it with water, but before heading back, Ziggy glanced in the bathroom mirror. His reflection looked shaken, bright spots burning on his otherwise pale cheeks, but there was no trace of fear in his eyes.

He lifted his hand to his throat, rubbing gently over the sensitive skin. There were no marks, no bruises on his skin, but he could still feel the touch of Dillon's heated fingers as they pressed against his throat. Under different circumstances that touch would have resulted in something entirely different…

Ziggy shook his head, willing the flush away from his cheeks. He didn't want to think about that now, not when he was supposed to be watching over Dillon. He grabbed the glass and walked back to the other room.

The other man had settled back on the bed. He had pulled the blankets and pillows back to the bed and was now lying on his side facing the wall. Ziggy sat back on the edge of the bed and held out the glass for him. "Here, you've got a fever so you've got to drink," he said calmly. He was half-expecting for Dillon to refuse, but instead, the man raised himself to his elbow and took the glass, draining the water in a few gulps. After handing back the empty glass, he settled in the same position as before.

Ziggy put the glass on the bedside table. He didn't know what he was supposed to do now, but there was one thing he knew for sure: He wasn't going to leave Dillon alone. He had come here to protect him, to watch over him, not to desert him when things got rough.

Suddenly, Dillon's voice broke the silence. "I'm sorry. About earlier, I… I didn't mean to hurt you," he said quietly. There was a gruff edge to his voice, like he was holding back some emotion. Ziggy glanced at the man, taking in the tenseness of his shoulders.

"I know," Ziggy said, then sighed. "You were just having a nightmare, so don't worry about it."

Dillon didn't reply, but Ziggy could sense that he was thinking about the same thing as he was: That this nightmare was going to become real if they didn't find a cure for the Venjix virus, and it was going to happen soon.

Ziggy felt the mattress moving under him as Dillon changed position. When he looked up, the older man was looking at him with strangely intense eyes. There was something in his eyes that made the breath catch in Ziggy's throat. In the silence that stretched between them, something took form inside the younger man. Something profound, something that seemed to fill his heart to the point it was aching...

But then, the moment was gone and Dillon was grinning that mischievous grin of his. "Thanks for coming and holding my hand," Dillon said, joking like nothing had happened, and settled to a sleeping position on his side. He was still running a fever, but from the looks of it, the worst was over for the night.

Despite all his worries, Ziggy couldn't help but smile back at him. "Whatever helps you sleep at night, princess."

//end.