Tough Night

by: Blue

Summary: Mel's having nightmares so Cole sits up with her.

Rating: PG

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

Spoiler Note: Spoilers for the Pilot episode, "Fever of the Hunt, Parts 1 & 2", "Love, Cirronian Style", and "Dark Road Home".

Feedback: Pretty please? Feed me, feed me!!!

Tough Night

When the screaming started, Cole nearly dropped the cup of tea he had just made for himself. He dropped the cup unceremoniously into the sink and took off for Mel's room, readying his Collector and preparing himself for a fight.

He pushed open the door without knocking, breaking one of the first rules of conduct that Mel had imposed upon him when she had agreed to let him live there. He paused in the threshold, startled and confused. Mel was alone in the room, writhing on her bed and screaming at the top of her lungs while struggling with an invisible opponent. A dream, Cole realized, frowning.

Mel had explained dreams to him in London.

"When humans sleep, they dream... A dream... it's like... watching a TV show in your head, only you're a part of it. And sometimes the dreams are good, nice to have, and sometimes they're bad, scary. It's not important... Well, yeah, sometimes people talk when they're dreaming. You knew that, already... Why do you want to know more about the bad dreams, Cole? Forget the bad dreams, they aren't important. We're talking about why people talk in their sleep."

That had been the end of that conversation. Nothing helpful there in how to deal with this situation. He stood there, breathless, staring at her in confusion. Every scream tore into his soul, making his heart ache and bringing tears to his eyes.

What bad things was she dreaming about? Zin sucking her life-force from her body as he watched helpless? London, where that Dessarian lunatic had held his blade to her throat not once but three times? The mental hospital, almost dying at Yhir's hands there? How many times had he put this wonderful, amazing woman in such danger?

He quickly closed the distance to the bed and gathered the screaming woman into his arms, not sure what else to do. She struggled at first, only stopping after he shook her awake. For a moment, confused and disoriented, she continued to struggle, but then she realized whose arms were restraining her. She looked into Cole's eyes for a moment, her own speaking of fear and confusion, then buried her face in his chest, sobbing raggedly.

"It's okay, Mel..." he whispered gently. "It was a dream. It's over now." Feeling uncertain, he looked to her for confirmation. Was it over? She still seemed so upset...

Clinging tightly to him, she shook her head, refusing to look at him. Not sure what else to do, Cole held her tightly in his arms, letting her cry until the tears were gone. As she cried, he occasionally murmured soothingly to her, in English, in Cirronian, and sometimes with the wordless croonings that Enixians used to sooth their children. Eventually, her sobbing eased, then subsided altogether. It reminded him almost painfully of holding his beautiful daughter, comforting her, reassuring her. She had always been so sure that he could protect her from anything.  As with Mel, it had not always been possible to protect her, especially when she had needed it most. But it had always been possible to comfort her, exactly as he comforted Mel now, with his presence and his soothing voice.

He felt Mel's tense body relax in his arms and thought that she had fallen asleep again.

Then she spoke weakly, still not taking her face from his chest. "It was horrible, Cole..." she whispered.

"It's over now, Mel..." he assured her quietly, absently rocking her as he would have rocked his daughter. "It's not real, it can't hurt you."

"It may not be able to hurt me physically..." she whispered, shaking her head. She finally looked up at Cole, her beautiful eyes were red and swollen, and very, very sad. "That doesn't mean it can't hurt in other ways."

She rested her chin on his shoulder and sighed in the darkness. "Thank you, Cole. I don't think I could have handled waking up from that alone."

"Is this one of those things that humans don't talk about, or one of those things where talking helps?" Cole asked gently, wanting very much to be able to comfort her in some way, not realizing how much comfort his simple presence was providing.

"Talking can help, but I'd rather not." Mel sighed and leaned into him. "I'm sorry if I disturbed you."

It had been a shock, waking up in his arms. At first, she had been sure that this had been another dream, that the strong arms restraining her had been intended to keep her from protecting herself, and Cole. Then she had seen him sitting there, looking concerned and afraid, and she had realized that he must have heard her cries. She was grateful for that. If those horrible nightmares had gone on for much longer, she was sure that they would have driven her mad. Knowing that she was not alone, seeing the care and concern in his gentle features... the blind terror had been swept away in an instant, leaving only her and Cole.

"Don't be silly, Mel..." Cole told her firmly, giving her a gentle squeeze. "I'm your friend. Friends help each other. Let me help you more."

Mel shook her head. "It was nothing. Just a nightmare."

"Nightmare?" Cole asked, unfamiliar with the term.

"There are bad dreams, and then there are really bad dreams."

Cole nodded his understanding. "Nightmares."

"Yeah. This one was a doozy, but... it's no big deal."

"It sounded very unpleasant, Mel."

Mel sniffled, struggling to control the tears that had reappeared at Cole's words. "It was, Cole. But it's over now."

Cole pushed her far enough away to be able to look her in the eyes. She saw with some shock that his own eyes were almost as sad as hers.

"Mel, let me help you..." he pled quietly. "Please. Tell me what you dreamed about to make you so upset." Even with all the possibilities he had considered, Mel's whispered answer was still a complete surprise.

"You..." She wrapped her arms around him again, holding him close.

Frowning in confusion, he put his arms around her. "Mel, I don't understand."

"They killed you..." she whispered. "I tried to help you, but I couldn't."

Cole was not sure why this brought tears to his eyes, but it did. He held Mel close and resumed gently rocking her. Mel relaxed into his arms, allowing him to rock her for several minutes before pushing away and swinging her feet off of the bed and onto the floor.

Cole gently restrained her. "Mel, you need to sleep now. You're exhausted."

She shook her head and rose. "I can't sleep any more tonight, Cole. It's too much to ask." She knew that the minute she closed her eyes, those images of Cole, in pain and dying, would return, even before sleep came to her. She felt like she would never be able to fully rid herself of them.

"Mel, please..." Cole whispered. He walked over to her, swung her into his arms, and gently deposited her onto the bed.

Mel stared at him, wide-eyed. "You sure know how to sweep a woman off her feet."

"Mel, you need to rest. You have not been sleeping as much as your body requires." Cole carefully rearranged the blankets on her bed and covered her. "You need to sleep."

"Not alone..." Mel pled, shaking her head. She did not want to be alone when the images came back. If she could know that Cole was in the room, maybe they would not be so horrible and painful.

"I'll stay with you." Cole sat on the edge of the bed and took her hand in his. "Just close your eyes, Mel. When you open them, I'll be here."

"Thank you..." Mel whispered, smiling at him.

Sighing deeply, she closed her eyes. His hand on hers was like a link to reality, a reminder that the dreams had, after all, only been dreams. Cole was alive and well and sitting so close to her that she could feel the gentle waves of heat that poured off of his skin, wrapping her in warmth and soothing away her tension and anxiety.

Cole smiled down at her and moved one hand over her face. A golden glow appeared under his hand, illuminating her face, making it seem even more beautiful than normal to Cole. He smiled and slowly withdrew his hand. She would sleep now, he knew, dreamlessly. Holding her hand lightly in both of his, he bent down and pressed his lips to her forehead, watching her smile in her sleep as he did so.

His smile faded, replaced by a sad, reflective expression. He sighed and leaned against the headboard, tears for what could never be falling down his face. How was it that his feelings for her had only increased after they had decided that a romantic relationship was out of the question?

As promised, when Mel awoke the next morning, the first thing she saw were Cole's beautiful brown eyes. He had stayed... She had not really expected him to. Most men probably would  not have. But Cole was Cole. He kept his promises, and she loved him for it. She smiled happily at him, allowing herself, for a split-second to pretend that they had a normal relationship.

She yawned. "Hey. Good morning."

"Hello, Mel." He smiled at her, pleased to see her in a good mood. It was very nice to be able to see her just as she emerged from her sleep, a little flush, a lazy smile on her face, looking happy and trusting and so very beautiful. "Feeling better?"

She nodded and sat up, not trying to free her hand from his. "What did you do to me?"

"I helped you sleep." He shrugged.

Mel smiled and nodded, hugging him and gently kissing him on the cheek. She would rather have kissed him on the mouth, but she knew that would have been a bad idea. After all, he had made it very clear that they could not have a physical relationship. "Thank you..." she whispered in his ear.

Cole smiled at her as she rose and shrugged on a bathrobe. "Anytime, Mel."

Mel smiled back, obscurely pleased by that statement. It felt very nice, after the hellish night she had had, to be able to throw herself into the mundane, especially with Cole by her side. Looking at the world through his eyes always made the mundane seem downright fascinating. And, it occurred to her, he had never experienced one of the big, home-cooked breakfasts that her grandmother had taught her how to make. She was feeling domestic enough to be able to pull it off, too.

"Hey, you feel like French Toast for breakfast?" she asked as they left the bedroom. He was in for a treat. French Toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, English muffins, coffee and orange juice...

"What is French Toast, Mel?" Cole asked following her. "How is it different from normal toast?"

Mel laughed and shook her head. It was going to be a very good day. "Come on, Cole. I'll show you."

The End