Summary: Pretty darn fluffy. Cole gets sick & since he can't exactly go to a doctor, Mel has to take care of him. Faintly shippy but not a romance, if you get me...
Disclaimer: I don't own them, but, hey, just as soon as that deal with Zin goes through...
Feedback: Oh, yes, please!!! Feed me, feed me!!!
Mel looked up from the book she was reading as Cole walked into the empty and darkened bar. "Hey, how'd it go? You get him?"
Cole nodded and shrugged his heavy coat off. He sat down at the bar next to her, grumbling about Nodulians and the weather in Chicago.
Mel stared at him at him, noticing that he was very pale and had large circles under his eyes. "You okay, Cole?" she asked quietly, getting up and pouring him a cup of coffee.
He nodded and accepted the coffee with a grateful smile and slightly shaking hands. "I had to follow the Nodulian into the lake..." he muttered, sipping the coffee. "I just can't seem to get warm now."
Mel leaned across the bar and rested her hand on his forehead.
"What are you doing?" Cole stared at her curiously.
"Trying to see if you're running a fever. You're not." She frowned. "Your skin's like ice, Cole..."
He frowned. "It shouldn't be..."
She nodded. "I know. Finish your coffee and we'll get you upstairs and try to get you warm."
Cole stared down at his coffee. "I'm done..." he muttered, pushing it aside. "It tastes funny."
Mel frowned and took a small sip. "Tastes like coffee to me." She touched his arm. "Come on, Cole. Let's get you upstairs."
"Can I rest here for a minute?" Cole asked, resting his head on the bar. "I'm very tired."
"Sick is what you are, Cole. You can rest when we get you upstairs."
"Sick? Are you sure?" he asked, climbing to his feet. His knees buckled, so he grabbed the bar for support.
"You really are sick, Cole..." Mel muttered, grabbing his arm and helping him up the stairs. "What happened?"
He shook his head. "I don't know, Mel." He started for his room, but Mel stared him towards her bedroom. "But..."
"Look, Cole, you're sick. Your body needs rest, and lying down in a bed is going to make that easier." She steered him into her room and over to her bed. "Sit down. Let's get you undressed."
"But I'm so cold..." he protested quietly.
"It's okay..." Mel assured him kneeling in front of his and pulling off his shoes and socks. "As soon as we get your clothes off, we'll get some blankets on you. Lying down in jeans, Cole, not very comfortable."
He nodded and pulled his sweater off. "If you say so, Mel."
Mel smiled reassuringly and pulled back the blankets as he pulled his jeans off. "Here, lie down. Put your head here and swing your feet up."
Shivering, Cole complied. "Is this normal when a human gets sick?" he asked quietly as she pulled the blankets over him.
"Um, getting the chills is normal, but humans usually develop a fever, too. Let me find some more blankets. I'll be right back." She smiled reassuringly at him before she left the room. When she returned, Cole was sitting up again, resting his head on his knees. "Hey, come on, Cole... Just lay back. You'll feel better."
"It makes my head feel worse..." he gasped.
"Okay, hang on..." Mel grabbed several extra pillows and arranged them into a pile so that he could rest against them without having to recline completely. She turned off the light, too. "Okay, Cole. Try this."
Cole looked reluctant, but nodded and leaned against the pillows.
"Better?" Mel asked quietly.
He nodded and reached for the blankets. "Thank you, Mel."
Smiling, Mel covered him and sat down next to him. "How's the headache?"
She nodded. "Have you ever taken aspirin before, Cole?"
He shook his head. "No."
Mel sighed. "I'm not sure if I should give it to you, with your physiology. I don't want to hurt you."
He closed his eyes. "I think I'll risk it, if it makes me feel better."
She nodded and walked to the bathroom, returning with a bottle of aspirin and a glass of water. "Here you go. Do you know how to swallow pills?"
He shook his head.
Mel smiled faintly. There was something very endearing about someone so incredibly capable and intelligent who did not even know how to swallow a pill. She touched his hand. "Okay. You put the pills in your mouth, then you take a sip of the water and swallow that. If you do it right, the pills go down with the water."
"What if I do it wrong?" Cole asked.
"Then you end up with a nasty taste in your mouth." Mel smiled reassuringly. "Just try not to think about the pills when you swallow the water."
He nodded and placed the pills in his mouth. He was still shivering too badly to hold the glass with his own hands, so Mel held it for him and he simply wrapped his hands around hers. It took three tries, but he finally got the pills down.
"You're right. They do taste awful." He smiled weakly at Mel. "That's harder than it sounds."
She nodded. "It takes practice. Next time I'll crush them up in a spoonful of jelly for you..."
He nodded uncertainly. "How long before they work? Will they make me well?"
She shook her head. "They should help the headache, but it won't do anything for what's wrong with you. Look, I'm going to go get a thermometer, okay?"
He nodded and rested his head against the pillows. "This is very unpleasant, Mel. Why hasn't your species developed a cure, yet?"
Mel reappeared, smiling and shaking her head at the question. "Hold this under your tongue and keep your mouth closed until I tell you to open it."
"Okay." He nodded and closed his mouth around the thermometer, but he looked up at her curiously, waiting for an answer to his perfectly reasonably question.
Mel smiled and shook her head. "It's complicated. There are a lot of diseases that exist on this planet. We've found cures for some of them, but we're still working. Some diseases just don't seem to have cures."
He frowned curiously.
"Well, not cures that we can figure out. In a lot of cases, if a disease is particularly dangerous and we can't develop a cure, we make a vaccine instead."
"Mm?" he mumbled, keeping his mouth tightly shut.
"It keeps you from getting a disease in the first place."
He nodded. The thermometer beeped in his mouth and Mel pulled it out. "What does it say I have?"
Mel laughed and shook her head. "It doesn't, Cole. We aren't that advanced yet. It just tells me what your body temperature is." She looked down at the digital surface. "Ninety-seven?" She tapped it in frustration. "That can't be right, can it? You're supposed to have a very high temperature, right?"
He nodded, then paused, thinking. "Um, we don't get sick any more on my planet, but thousands of years ago, there were still a few diseases that we weren't immune to yet." He paused again, trying to remember lessons that he had not seen since he had been a child. "The microbes that made us sick evolved in the same environment as we did, so we liked the same things."
"Like the heat?" Mel asked. When he nodded, she continued seeing where he was going. "So a lower temperature would kill the bacteria?"
"So, you evolved in such a way that if you ever got sick your body temperature would go down to kill the disease?"
He nodded. "I guess this low temperature must be my body's way of fighting the infection..."
Mel frowned. "That won't work on this planet, Cole. Here, our body temperatures go up to try to kill the infection."
Cole frowned. "I'm not sure how much lower a temperature my body can tolerate, Mel..."
She nodded. "Look, will you be okay alone here for a few minutes?" she asked, rising.
"Where are you going?"
"To the store. I want to get a couple of heating-pads, try to get your temperature back up."
He nodded. "It might work."
"Okay. You sure you'll be okay alone?"
"Even if I wasn't, I'm not exactly in any shape to go with you, am I?"
"I can call Jess."
He shook his head. "She might call one of your doctors. I can't risk that, Mel..."
Mel sighed. "I know, Cole. Hang in there. I'll be as fast as I can." She squeezed his hand reassuringly. "Just try to get some rest, okay?"
"Yes, Mel." As she turned to leave, he kept his hold on her hand. "Mel?"
"Yeah, Cole?" she asked, kneeling next to the bed.
"Thank you." He smiled weakly at her. "Thank you."
"Thank me when you're better, Cole." Mel grinned at him and patted his shoulder before leaving.
For Cole, the minutes passed like hours. This body had always been a perfectly agreeable one, if a little awkward at first. That it should suddenly decide to cause him such pain was just confusing. He faintly remembered that both Jess and Mel had been sick more than once since his arrival, but they had not been nearly so bad off as he was now. Jess had missed one day of work. Mel had not missed any.
"What's wrong with me?" he quietly asked the empty room, feeling an emotion that he had not felt in some time. He was afraid.
"Hey, Cole. Sorry it took so long. The guy at the store was really curious about what I needed with ten heating-pads and one of those things with lots of plugs."
"Hello, Mel." Cole managed a weak smile. "Can we turn up the heat in here?"
She nodded and set the thermostat to ninety before bringing the heating-pads over to him. She sat on the edge of the bed and began plugging them in and turning them on.
"Mel, what's wrong with me?" Cole asked quietly.
"I really don't know, Cole. It could be a lot of things. The flu, a nasty sinus infection, food-poisoning..." She smiled apologetically. "I just don't know, Cole."
He nodded. "Thank you for everything that you're doing to help me, Mel."
She shrugged. "Friends take care of each other, Cole."
"Aren't you scared that you'll get sick, too?"
Mel, who had not even considered that possibility before he mentioned it, shook her head firmly. "Here, let's get these pads on you." She pulled back the blankets and slid one behind Cole's back. "Where does your body loose the most heat from?"
"Um..." Cole shook his head uncertainly.
"Okay. Then we'll just go with the human spots. Let's get one behind your head, and a few on your chest and stomach and, um we'll put the rest on your legs, I guess." Mel quickly distributed the heating-pads more or less evenly over Cole's body. "Let me know if the heat gets uncomfortable."
Cole closed his eyes and relaxed against the pillows. "Oh, it feels wonderful, Mel..." he breathed.
Mel smiled. "Good, Cole. I'm glad. How's your head?"
"Much better. The heat's helping..."
She nodded. "If we can get your body temperature high enough, it'll probably kill whatever's infecting you."
"That must be it!" he exclaimed suddenly.
"What must be what?" Mel asked, frowning.
"How I got sick. My body's temperature is naturally high, so it would normally kill the microbes. But when I followed the Nodulian into the cold water, my temperature dropped, which allowed the microbes to get a foot-hold."
"So your body-temperature dropped..." Mel nodded.
"Which just made matters worse." Cole rested his head against the pillow again.
Mel smiled. "Explains why you didn't get sick when me and Jess had that flu. Food tasted funny for us, too. Hell, the virus could have been dormant in you since then."
"It makes sense. I think."
"Not that it helps matters a lot. There's no cure for the flu." Mel smiled gently at Cole. "You're just going to have to fight it yourself."
"Not by myself..." Cole smiled at her.
"Well, okay, not by yourself." Mel grinned and bowed her head. "Do you need or want anything?"
He shook his head. "No. Just your company."
Mel found herself blushing. Fortunately, it was dark enough that Cole probably could not see, which was really just as well, since he would probably want to know why she had 'changed color' or something. "Then I'll just sit here."
Cole reached out and rested his hand on her chest.
"What are you doing, Cole?" Mel asked softly.
"Your species hugs..." Cole explained, covering his hand with one of hers and cupping her cheek with his other hand. "This is what mine does."
Mel instinctively reached up to cover that hand with her free one. "What are you going to do?"
"It's difficult to explain. May I show you?"
Although nervous, she nodded without hesitation, trusting Cole completely. Mel gasped as Cole released a slight burst of energy through his hands. It was not painful at all, was, in fact, one of the most pleasant sensations she had ever experiences. She stared at Cole with wide eyes.
"Wow..." she muttered as he dropped his hands. "I think I need to lie down..."
Cole frowned uncertainly. "Did it hurt you?"
She shook her head reassuringly. "Oh, no, Cole, not at all. It was just... really intense in ways that... well, ways that I just can't describe." Mel circled around the bed and curled up next to Cole. "Blows a friendly hug and a kiss on the cheek out of the water..."
Cole smiled at her in bemusement. "Then it must have a stronger effect on your species."
Mel grinned and nodded, patting his knee. When she had recovered somewhat, she sat up and reached for the thermometer. "Your skin felt warmer when you did that. Let's check your temperature again."
He nodded and accepted the thermometer.
"Ninety-eight six..." Mel announced. "If you were human, that would be normal, but I'm guessing that it's still low."
He nodded. "Yes, but it seems to be rapidly approaching normal again."
She smiled. "Good. I was really worried about you."
He smiled happily. "Thank you, Mel."
She nodded and leaned against him, still feeling slightly giddy and very, very relaxed. "You should probably rest for the rest of tonight and tomorrow, just to make sure your body's back where it should be."
He nodded. "I feel too weak to move much sooner anyway. But..." he paused, frowning. From his studies of her species, he knew that uninvolved adults of the opposite genders simply did not share sleeping space. "Where will you sleep, Mel?"
"Right here. The bed's big, there's room." Mel shrugged.
"Oh. I thought..." he paused, uncertain how to express it.
"Your species... They don't share sleeping arrangements unless..."
Mel grinned. "We make exceptions sometimes, if we need to and we trust each other. And we do need to. You need to rest and I need to keep an eye on you. Usually the woman warns the man to be a gentleman first, but I don't think I have to warn you about that." She smiled at him.
"Oh." He nodded slowly. "Why don't you have to warn me to be a gentleman?" he asked, confused.
She grinned at him. "Because I know that you are one, Cole." Mel yawned. "Get some sleep, okay?"
"I don't sleep..."
Mel grinned. "Close your eyes. Your body's weak enough that you very well might be able to sleep tonight. Or I can get you a book or something..." she offered.
He shook his head, knowing that light sometimes kept humans from their sleep. "There's no need. If I don't sleep, I'll meditate."
She nodded. "Okay. Wake me up if you need anything, Cole."
"Sleep well, Mel."
"Yeah, you too, Cole." She smiled and kissed him on the cheek before lying down, curled in a ball with her back to him.
Cole stared at her, faintly surprised by the gesture. His skin felt funny where her lips had touched it, not unpleasant, just... different. Shaking his head, he leaned against the pillows and closed his eyes. Sleep did come eventually, and it filled his mind with the images that humans called dreams. It was not an altogether unpleasant experience, and Cole resolved to try it again sometime, when he could find the time.
Jess was surprised that the doors were still locked when she arrived the next morning. Usually Mel was up early. She let herself in, surprised by the almost stifling heat within. She walked to the thermostat and saw that someone had, for some strange reason, set it to almost ninety degrees. Shaking her head, she turned it down.
"Mel?" she called curiously, looking around. When she did not find her downstairs, she walked upstairs. Cole's door was, as always, shut. Mel's door was slightly opened, so she peered inside, wondering if Mel had slept in. "Mel?" she asked as she leaned in. She stopped as the sight before her set in. Mel was still asleep. Next to Cole. "Oops..." she muttered, slowly backing out.
Mel sat up with a yawn. "Oh, morning, Jess..." She stopped at the startled look on the girl's face, then realized that Cole was still sleeping next to her. She sighed. "Would there be any point in telling you that it's not what it looks like?"
"None at all." Jess grinned at her and turned to leave. "I expect all the details later..."
"Jess..." Mel protested. "Nothing happened!"
"Sure..." Jess grinned and shook her head.
Unfortunately, Cole chose that moment to wake up and contribute, "That was interesting. I should do it more often." As if that were not bad enough, he added, "Thank you, Mel…"
Mel just shook her head. "Not a word, Jess..." she muttered, climbing out of the bed.