Here With Me

by: Blue

Summary: Mel in "Remember When" reflects on the thought of life without Cole.

Rating: G

Disclaimer: "Here With Me" is from the Michelle Branch CD "The Spirit Room". As for Mel and Cole... still waiting on that deal with Zin.

Timeline: During "Remember When"

Spoilers: "Remember When" … minor for "What Lies Beneath"

Feedback: Better than Fek-Maln. More feedback equals more fics so please feed me. (ravenkatk@aol.com)

Here With Me

Shopping now. Had to get out of the apartment. At least if I have something to do I don't have to think about it. About him. I miss him so much. Already there's this empty place inside of me where he was. Don't think about it, Mel. Just pick a book and go. Children's books… Less than a year ago, I was standing in this section buying books for Cole. 'The Little Engine That Could'. 'Green Eggs and Ham'. That was his favorite, he told me once, because it was the first one he really understood. He still keeps a copy in his room. Kept a copy in his room.

Stop it, Mel! Just walk yourself over to another section… Classics. No, same problem. Bought one too many books for Cole here. Romance. Oh, my God, here too. Damn.

Music. He only ever listened to one song. That makes the music section safe. So long as nothing too depressing is playing over the loudspeakers. If it's 'Wherever You Will Go', I'll probably break down right here in the store. Otherwise, I should be safe.

'Here With Me'. Damn… Just leave, Mel. You're still here, Mel.

Now that you're gone, things will never be the same again.

God, life without Cole. Is such a thing even possible? I've known him now for less than a year and there's an empty spot inside of me because he's gone. How did one man make so much difference in my existence in such a short time? Because he's so different, so memorable? No, that's not it and I know it. It's because I loved him, because I still love him. I love him and I never told him. How could I do something so stupid? Three words and I couldn't do it...

There's not a minute that goes by every hour of every day.

You're such a part of me

But I just pulled away.

Well, I'm not the same girl

you used to know.

I wish I said the words I never showed...

It wasn't just that I loved him, either. Somehow, without trying, he became this integral part of who I was. He touched me in a way that no man ever has before. He changed me in so many ways, all for the better. Watching him, learning from him, I became more tolerant, more understanding, infinitely more brave and confident. More like Cole.

Cole. He's gone now. Forever. Because I was scared.

His voice, that gentle request… they still echo in my head. "Come with me..."

My shock, my wonder, my love for him. I was elated, ready to go. Then fear overtook elation and I was paralyzed. I just couldn't do it. I wanted to say yes so bad that I could taste it, but instead I heard myself stammering out a refusal. It was like listening to someone else speaking. I was screaming at myself to say yes, but in the end the fear won out. God, I hate myself.

You know that silence is loud when all you hear is your heart,

And I wanted so badly just to be a part of something strong and true,

But I was scared and left it all behind.

I was scared and I said no. No to the adventure of a lifetime, no to life with the man I love. So much for being braver than I was this time last year. I wanted so badly to say yes, if only because saying yes to the offer was saying yes to Cole, but I was scared. Scared of the prospect of life on a strange planet, perhaps scared of facing that part of myself that would actually have fit in there. Scared of the commitment?

No, for once in my life I was not afraid of that. Cole was the One. I could have been so happy with him. When I started falling in love with him, after I gave up trying to deny it, I deluded myself that it was possible for us to have a relationship. And even when we were forced to put that on hold, I hung on to that hope. I allowed myself to become convinced that he would never leave me, that once he had captured all of his fugitives we could have a happily-ever-after. That he would do what I was too cowardly to do…

I know you had to go away.

I died just a little, and I feel it now

You're the one I need.

I believe that I would cry just a little

Just to have you back now

Here with me.

Here with me...

I thought that we would be able to spend the rest of our lives together. And why not? Our differences never mattered to us. He was an alien? I'd actually stopped noticing after awhile; it just stopped mattering. What I loved about Cole was how human he was, not in terms of biology or makeup, obviously, but of behavior and feeling. He was more human than any human I've ever known: gentle, loving, kind, compassionate, honest, brave. All that and more.

So I managed to convince myself that we could find happiness, that once the fugitives were captured we could settle down together and forget about anything but our life together. But, of course, Cole was bound by duty, and by some personal sense of honor within himself, to bring the convicts back to Sar-Top where they belonged. He had to. Hated it, but had to.

So he offered, "Come with me..."

Even knowing how I would respond -- and I'm sure he did -- he still offered. He had to, the same way he had to bring the fugitives back to Sar-Top. This time, though, it was not duty or honor that compelled him. He was telling me what I could never tell him. He wanted me to know that he loved me. And, as long as that phrase hung in the air, there was hope.

And then I had to tell him no. There was hope in his eyes until I told him that I couldn't go. And then there was nothing but pain. He loved me and he had to go, so he wanted me to come with him, but I couldn't go any more than he could stay. It was not a matter of choice. He had to go.

I could see it in his eyes.

I never will forget that look upon

your face,

How you turned away and left

without a trace.

But I understand that you did what you had to do.

And I thank you...

He did what he had to do. It was required of him by duty, honor, integrity... all the things about him that I loved. So he touched my throat in that reassuring way of his and then he was gone, between one beat of my heart and the next, leaving me more alone then I had ever been in my life.

Even as I flee the store, the music still echoes in my head, disjointed, out of sequence.

I know you had to go away

I died just a little

I was scared and left it all behind

I never will forget that look upon

your face

But I understand that you did what you had to do

I thank you

I died just a little

I believe that I would cry just a little

Just to have you back now

Here with me

I've been walking around in a haze since he left me. Sometimes I forget that he's gone. I went grocery shopping today and realized after I left that I had picked up all of his favorites, by habit. It's like a phantom pain. When I'm out, I sometimes swear that I see him just down the street, or hear his voice in a crowd. Out's bad. In's worse. Everywhere I go in the apartment holds some memory of Cole. So I stay out of the apartment as much as I can. I can hardly bear to stay in the bar, either. It holds its' own set of memories. Cole learning to mix drinks, reading, striping on the bar, translating the writing on the Key, asking me to teach him to dance, dancing with me...

I can't take much more of this. I'm driving myself nuts. Wonder if I can flag down a passing flying saucer and hitchhike all the way to Cirron. Of course, if I'm going to do that, I'll need my towel.

God, even the thought of a damned towel brings up memories of Cole. It was Tev, wasn't it? Cole used a hand-towel to create a composite of Tev's face. What did I say?

Oh, right. "Remind me not to leave my bath-towels lying around."

And Cole, typical, clueless Cole. "But I already know what your face looks like..."

Nuts, definitely nuts. Was I actually just considering that seriously? Hitchhiking to Cirron with a towel?

Time to go home, time to face the bar and the apartment. Time to sleep. At least the bedroom doesn't have too many memories. Except standing there, staring at a mirror, trying to see my Cirronian half. Half, quarter, whatever. I should have said yes. He was right, I could have learned so much about myself on Cirron.

More music in my head. Damn that song. As soon as I get home, I'm throwing out my copy of 'Spirit Room'. I don't care if I once loved it, it's gone.

It's been a long, long time since I looked into the mirror.

I guess that I was blind

Now my reflection's getting clearer.

Cole, coming, reassuring me, telling me that I didn't need to be afraid of who I was, showing me how to use my powers. Reassuring me. Who's going to reassure me now when I'm afraid or alone? Who's going to tell me that it's okay, that I don't have to be afraid? Who's going to give me an excuse to be braver than I really am?

Now that you're gone things will never be the same again

Walk into the bar. Do not look into the alcove. Just don't, Mel. Just walk up the stairs. You can do it, just try not to think. Put your purse down, remove your coat. What was that noise? Is there someone else up here? Of course there isn't. It's the same thing I've been doing all day, expecting Cole around every corner. Only the truth is that he's never going to be there, no matter how badly I want it.

Curious, cautious, I move towards the source of the noise, knowing that it's just a trick of a lonely woman's mind. It takes me a second to realize that my mind is not playing tricks.

"Cole?" I ask when I see him, startled and confused. "What are you doing here?"

And he smiles up at me. "Fixing your speakers. The buzz always annoyed me."

Yeah, that's my Cole alright...

That's when it sinks in. He's back! But why is he back? I ask and he tells me. Because he loves me, because the prospect of life without each other was as unthinkable to him as it was to me. My god, I love him more now than I did before. He was willing to give up so much for me, to be with me. Mel, don't you dare cry now!

He's still talking, I realize as my shock wears off, making plans. He wants to open an electronics repair shop. How perfect. I don't have to worry about him giving me the finger, he says as he zaps life back into the broken speakers. God, I never noticed before how sick his sense of humor was.

The telescope! Smiling, I hotfoot it to my room and show it to him. We set it up and spend half the night watching the stars. That's Migar. Wow... It's beautiful. Almost as beautiful as the fact that I'm standing here with Cole's arm around my waist and not a single care in the universe. Finally he forces me to go to bed, promising me that we'll talk more in the morning and look at the stars some more tomorrow night. We'll talk in the morning. God, I never thought I'd be so happy to hear Cole say that. It's not just the sound of that wonderful, gentle, loving voice, either. It's the knowledge that there actually is going to be a tomorrow for the two of us. And one after that, and then another and another. The knowledge is so beautiful.

And now I'm lying here in the dark, crying. Happy tears, of course. Tears of love and joy and hope that Cole is back here with me. And when I the music this time it's because I'm listening to my Michelle Branch CD as I fall asleep.

I believe that I would cry just a little

Just to have you back now

Here with me.

The End