Tabula Rosa Part 1

Summary: Thousands of miles from home, Cole suffers amnesia while in pursuit of a Vardian child-killer. As Mel does her best to find Cole, he struggles to find himself, with nothing more than a handful of memories of Mel to guide him.

Rating: PG

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

Timeline: Takes place pretty shortly after the ep "Love, Cirronian Style".

Note: This story is going to take place in two parts. This part (Part 1) concerns Cole and Mel finding each other again. Part 2 will revolve around Cole's attempts to recover his memory…

Note # 2: I just want to establish that I've been developing this plot-line for months now, since well before any info became available which may make this seem derivative. If that makes no sense to you, it probably will later. The point is that I am not stealing ideas… :)

Chapter 1 -- Home is with Mel

Amelia Munro enjoyed solitude and privacy enough to have left New York City for the Alaskan wilderness without any regrets for the things and people that she had left there. For that reason, she was more than a little annoyed to hear not one but two voices very close by. Campers, most likely, lost tourists. She got a few of those every season. But if they were hunters... on her land, and out of season... there would be serious hell to pay. Unslinging her shotgun from her shoulder, she cautiously approached the clearing and crouched behind a downed tree, watching curiously.

Two men faced each other, one large and wrapped in several heavy layers in spite of the fact that the weather was comparatively mild. Obviously not a local. The other was less heavily dressed and reeked of menace.

"You just don't give up, do you, Tracker?" he sneered at the larger man.

"After you killed those girls? You expected me to ignore that?" He shook his head, looking incredulous. "You thought I would rest before I recaptured you? You're worse than Zin, Ansen! Children!"

"If you knew what Zin had planned for these monkeys, you wouldn't say that."

The men circled each other warily. Amelia could tell that there was about to be a fight, so she slid down farther behind her cover. At least no weapons were apparent.

The large man shook his head. "You kill children for fun!" he spat in disgust. "You deserve worse than what you're going to get from me."

The other man sneered. "Killing them wasn't all I did..." he taunted, reaching into his pocket. "They begged for death by the time I was through with them, Tracker. You... your death will be easy compared to theirs."

As Amelia watched, a strange, metallic object seemed to appear in the large man's hand. He approached the other man. "This is going to be very painful..." he said softly, grabbing the man's shoulder.

From her hiding-place, Amelia saw everything that happened next so clearly that it was hard to convince herself that she was not seeing what she thought she was. The smaller man pulled a small metal rod out of his pocket and shot the other with what looked like a beam of green light. The large man hit the ground with a pained cry, clutching his stomach where the shot had hit him. The smaller man backed away and shot him with the device again, this time hitting him in the head, causing him to clutch his head and howl in agony. The man with the 'ray-gun' laughed.

Amelia had seen and heard enough. The short, beady-eyed one was a killer. A child-killer. And he was hurting the other man. She jumped into the clearing and hit him over the head with the butt of her shotgun. He slumped to the ground. The first man looked up, obviously confused by her sudden appearance. He regarded her uncertainly for a moment, searching her eyes with his own desperate ones. Slowly, as though deciding that she was no threat, he pulled himself onto his knees and crawled towards the unconscious man. As Amelia watched, he used the device in his hands to do something that she could not entirely describe or understand. A beam of black and red light left the unconscious man's chest and flowed into the device in the other man's hand. He pulled the small metal rod from his hand, clutching it in his own. This achieved, he looked at Amelia in obvious confusion and distress.

Amelia took a cautious step away from this man, in case he had similar plans for her, but clearly he was too weak and in too much pain to do anything else. He knelt on the ground, holding himself up with his hands and started to crawl away. He made it less than five feet before his hands and legs gave out altogether. Amelia sighed and bent to check his pulse. His pulse was fine, but his skin felt feverish. She checked the other man, but he was dead and already cold to the touch, which made absolutely no sense.

"What the hell..." Amelia muttered, shaking her head. "Amelia, there is no way you just saw what you think you just saw. Whatever it was, you imagined it..." She looked between the body and the unconscious man in confusion, shaking her head to clear it. "Well, whether you imagined it or not, you aren't imagining the dead body on your property, and you aren't imagining that this guy needs help..." She bent over the large man again, rolling him onto his back.

"Mel..." he groaned, his eyelids fluttering.

Amelia considered this a promising sign, but the man did not speak again. Although still conscious, he seemed wholly unaware of his surroundings. She very badly wanted to just walk away from this whole bizarre occurrence, but she recalled the pained, confused look the man had given her. He was hurt and he needed help. She could not deny those facts, whatever else she might chose to believe or disbelieve.

"Can you walk?" she asked gently.

He regarded her uncertainly and struggled to his feet, pitching forward. Amelia caught him and supported him. They took a few steps forward, the man leaning heavily on Amelia. He was huge, very heavy, and completely lacking coordination. It was going to be a long walk home.

Every couple of steps, his knees would buckle or he would pitch forward. Only Amelia's quick reflexes kept him from hurting them both very badly more than once as he fell or stumbled. It was hard to associate this weak, shambling creature with the man who had been shot. He had seemed so graceful before. He must have been very badly hurt, even though she could see no sign of blood or injury.

As they limped the mile and a half to her cabin, Amelia made a conscious decision to forget about the dead body. The man had been a killer by his own admission, a filthy, disgusting child-killer. He deserved far worse than the quick death that he had received from the other. Amelia herself would have given him far worse without compunction.

Rationally, she knew that having a corpse on her property, even more than a mile from her home, was an untenable situation. It would have to be taken care of. Leaving it to the wolves was not sure enough, there could still be traces. She would have to bury the corpse tonight or tomorrow. The odds were good that no trace of it would ever be discovered. It was more than he deserved, but only a fool would leave a corpse lying around on her land.

Forget bolts of green light, she had to have imagined that. Hell, except for the man leaning on her, she was ready to believe that she had imagined the whole thing. After all, this was Alaska, not the Twilight Zone.

By the time they reached her cabin, the man could barely stand, even with her help. Good thing her bedroom was on the ground floor, she reasoned as he fell onto the bed, panting in exhaustion.

Stripping off his shirt and pants, she murmured reassuringly, "You get some rest, friend. I'll call a doctor."

"No!" he protested franticly, struggling to sit up. Memories of pain, biting cold, and fear filled his mind at the word. "No doctors, please..." He gave Amelia a horrified look. "Please..." He shook his head.

Startled, Amelia nodded reassuringly. "Okay, then. No doctor. Just... get some rest."

He nodded weakly. "Rest." He fell back onto the pillow and closed his eyes, unconscious.

Amelia shook her head and pulled a quilt over him. "What am I going to do with you, huh?" she muttered, shaking her head.

She walked into her living-room and picked up her phone, wondering what the hell she was going to tell her fiancé. The truth was really not an option. Her strange guest would end up in jail and she would probably end up in a mental hospital somewhere. Shaking her head, she dialed.

"Fairbanks PD, Jonathan Stiles."

"Hey, baby."

She tried to sound casual. Lying to Jonathan was not something she had ever done before. Lying over something this huge should have been difficult, but, strangely, she found it almost easy to pretend that she was not an accessory after the fact to murder. After all, it had not really been murder. Just... justice. If Jonathan had not been a cop, she knew, he would have felt the same.

"Amelia! To what do I owe the pleasure?"

Feeling almost as if she were in a very strange dream, she spoke easily. "Um, I've got a minor... situation out here."

"What kind of situation, luv?"

"There's an unconscious man in my bedroom."

There was a long silence. "Amelia?" he finally asked. "You're... kidding, yeah?"

"No such luck, Jonathan. I was on a hike and found this guy." She paused thoughtfully. "He doesn't seem to be hurt, but he's... very out of it." That much was true. There had not been a mark on him when she had undressed him. "I figure I'll let him sleep it off and then give him a ride into town."

"What is he? Drunk?"

"Don't think so, Jonathan. Just... kind of out of it."

"You safe out there alone with him?" Jonathan asked anxiously.

"Yeah, baby. He seems pretty well harmless."

"Looks can deceive, luv."

"I know. I just have a feeling about this guy."

"Okay. I'll trust your judgment, luv. You are as cynical as they come, so if you trust the guy..."

Amelia sighed. "Yeah, Jonathan. Trusting I am not, but there is... something about this guy. He seems... I don't know. Gentle, I guess. Not like other guys."

"Okay. You want me to drive up tonight?" It was Friday, and Jonathan frequently made the 100 mile drive to visit her for the weekends.

She smiled. "I'd like that, baby."

"Okay... Um, I'll be a few hours later than usual. Lots of crap to finish up here."

Good. That would give her plenty of time to get rid of her little 'problem'. "I might already be in bed."

"Then I'll just climb in with you."

"Make sure you get the right bed." She laughed softly. "I think I'm going to keep this guy in the downstairs bedroom overnight."

"Right. Don't climb in bed with any strange men. Good advice that." He laughed. "See you tonight. Love you."

"Love you, too, baby." Amelia hung up with a sigh, wondering if she was doing the right thing in covering for this guy. She shook her head and turned on the Weather Channel. Time would tell. Certainly one fewer scum-bag was no great loss to the world.

Restless and worried, she walked back into the bedroom where the man had not moved, except to clutch both hands to his chest. Shaking her head, she gently opened his clenched fists and took the device he had been shot with and the one he had used to killed the other man. She glanced at them for a moment before placing them on top of his clothes. She glanced at him reflectively, distressed by her instant affinity for and desire to help this man.

She would not have described herself as particularly trusting or altruistic, so why had she taken this strange, potentially dangerous man into her home without hesitation? Especially after what she had seen? He had, after all, killed a man. The man's actions may have justified his murder, but still...

Walking away would have been so much easier, and she was sure that she could have lived with herself afterwards, but it had not seemed an option. The look he had given her, more like a child than an adult... It had brought out a need to nurture and protect that she had not felt since the death of her husband and son five years ago.

She gently smoothed his hair out of his face, sighing. She would have guessed his age at slightly over forty, but he seemed much, much younger. There was an air of childlike innocence about the sleeping man, something that called out to her and made her want to take care of him.

Deciding that he would probably be out of it for a while, and therefore okay to leave alone, she left the house to take care of her 'little problem'.

***

Cole opened his eyes with a groan and tried to sit up. A gentle hand restrained him. "You might want to stay on your back for a while, friend. You look like hell..." an equally gentle voice whispered.

"Hell?" he repeated in confusion. The voice was female, which he took as a good sign. The word reminded him of another word, a word he liked very much. "Mel?" he asked hopefully.

"No. Not Mel. Amelia."

He opened his eyes slowly and stared at the unfamiliar woman in confusion for a few moments before the pain in his head became unbearable. He closed his eyes and clutched his head with a groan. "Not Mel..." he repeated in confusion. "Where... Where is Mel?" he asked weakly.

Amelia squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. "I don't know who Mel is, friend. Is there some way I can contact him? Does he have a last name? A phone-number?"

"Not he. Mel... is woman." He opened his eyes and  groaned again.

"Head hurting you?" she asked gently, turning the bedside lamp off.

He nodded, panting harshly. "Yes."

"Well, let's get you some aspirin, okay..." She rose. "Will you be okay for a few minutes?" she asked gently.

"Yes..." He nodded weakly.

"Okay. I'll be right back." When she left the bedroom, she was confronted by the smell of pancakes. "Hey, baby..." she muttered, hugging him from behind as he cooked.

He grinned at her. "Hey! Thought you'd never get up."

"I was tired. Lugging that guy all the way back here..." That and digging a grave.

"Speaking of which, is Rip Van Winkle up yet?"

"Yeah. Nasty headache." She opened a cabinet and pulled down a bottle of aspirin and a water glass.

"Maybe he conked his head…" Jonathan suggested with a shrug. He had looked the man over the night before and not found any obvious signs of injury, but that did not necessarily mean much. "Of course, with that fever, it could as easily be the flu or something. You get your shot this year?"

"You know it." She filled the glass, then set it down on the counter, turning to face him. "What do you figure? Lost camper?" Overnight, she had fully managed to convince herself that she had imagined everything except finding the man. In the light of day, it was easy to consider the rest just an artifact of a restless night's sleep.

He pulled the pan off of the fire and walked over to her. "Now that he's awake, you can ask him..." he pointed out, pulling her into a hug.

"Dunno. He seemed kind of disoriented."

"Give him a chance. He's been out for eighteen hours." He nuzzled her neck.

Amelia laughed softly as she pulled away. "I'll see if he's hungry. You may be cooking for three."

He nodded placidly. He was in the habit of making more than was called for anyway. He looked up as she started for the bedroom. "Oh, hello." He smiled at the large man leaning against her doorframe. "You should probably lie back down, man. You don't look so good."

He nodded meekly and turned around, grabbing onto the doorframe for support. Jonathan closed the distance between them and held the man up, helping him back to the bed. Before he had become a cop, Jonathan had spent many years as an EMT, and he had seen some men in pretty bad shape in that time, but this guy... he was sick. Pale with large black circles around his eyes, weak as a kitten, not entirely cognizant of his surroundings... He hoped to God that whatever the guy had was not contagious.

"What's your name, man?" he asked as he helped him back into the bed.

"Name?" Cole repeated. He frowned thoughtfully and closed his eyes, trying to remember. He knew he had a name. Everyone had a name, after all. He just could not remember what it was. Panic spread as he realized that there were many things that he could not remember. He whimpered and pulled himself into a tight ball, rocking himself on the bed. Something was very, very wrong with him, and it went well beyond the excruciating pain in his head.

Jonathan stared, wide-eyed. "Shit..." he muttered, glancing at Amelia.

"Oh, you poor guy..." she muttered, sitting next to him and gently rubbing his back, hoping to comfort him this way. When he had relaxed somewhat, she asked, "You honestly don't know, do you?"

He regarded them with wide, frightened eyes, and slowly shook his head.

"That's going to make it very hard to figure out who you are..." Jonathan said gently.

"How are we going to get you home?" Amelia asked him quietly, placing a reassuring arm around his shoulder.

"Home?" Cole repeated. Where was home? He had two images of home in his head. One was a beautiful, warm place. The other was cold and not at all beautiful, but it had Mel. After several minutes of confused reflection, he spoke. "Home is... with Mel."

Jonathan nodded, relieved. "If he lives with someone, there's eventually going to be a missing person's report filed on him..." he muttered to Amelia.

She nodded. "Does Mel have a last name?" she prompted gently, hoping that he would be able to remember more when he was calmer. He was shaking and still occasionally whimpering softly, so she gently rubbed his bare back with one hand and kept her voice low and soothing. "You're going to be okay. It's okay. We'll take care of you until we find Mel."

"Mel worries when I don't call..." he began.

"Do you know her phone-number?"

"Phone... number?" he repeated uncertainly. It sounded familiar, but he was not sure what it meant.

"Yeah, you know. Her phone-number. So you can call her on the phone."

"Phone?" he queried.

"God, you must have really hurt your head..." Amelia muttered, seizing on Jonathan's guess and pushing thoughts of green lasers from her mind.

Jonathan sighed and nodded. "Maybe we should call a doctor."

Cole shook his head. "No doctor! Please..."

"No doctor. It's okay..." Amelia whispered reassuringly. "You're going to be okay. I promise, we'll take care of you."

"Thank you..." he breathed.

Amelia nodded. "You hungry?"

He nodded tentatively. He felt too ill to really want to eat, but there was also a gnawing pain in his stomach that was probably hunger.

"Okay." She smiled. "Take these pills, and breakfast will be ready in a few minutes."

As he took the pills, a memory, an echo in his mind, filled his awareness.

"Have you been working all night?"

"Yes, Mel."

Sounding amused and faintly exasperated, "Well, give it a rest already. Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes."

"Yes, Mel."

Cole sighed deeply, reaching for more only to find that there was no more to the memory.

"Something wrong?" Amelia asked, rising.

"Mel used to make me breakfast."

She reached out and gently dried his tears. "I promise, you, we will find her."

He nodded, reassured by her quiet certainty. "Thank you..."

She smiled and nodded. "Stay put, I'll get your breakfast."