Disclaimer: Fluffy Cat does not own or have any right to these characters or names or places, or anything else in her stories. Fluffy Cat just enjoys the characters Mel and Cole and likes to get them out in the world and play with them a bit. Fluffy Cat does not profit in any way from doing this, other than the pleasure of batting them around for a while.

This Mel and Cole adventure takes place two weeks after "Children of the Night" and before "Love, Cirronian Style" or "Fever of the Hunt." I like to think this little incident in their lives prepared them for further adventures.

Fluffy Cat does fully acknowledge that she took creative license with the reflective properties of a small bathroom mirror, but hey, for one, it's fiction, and two, Cole would never ever peek around a shower curtain, so what's a Fluffy Cat to do!

Mel, Cole and the Bates Motel

"Are you all right, Mel?" Cole asked, looking up from his map and noticing Mel was frowning intensely at the road ahead of her. She looked as if she had a death grip on the steering wheel.

"I don't think so, Cole." Mel answered, shooting him a worried look. "This snowstorm is really coming down. It's almost dark and I can barely make out the road as it is. I think when the sun goes down it will be too dangerous to drive." Hearing her thoughts for the last half hour spoken out loud helped Mel make the necessary decision. "We aren't going to make it back to Chicago tonight, Cole. We'll have to pull over and stop somewhere." Her curls bobbed around her face when she glanced at Cole. "Okay?"

"Okay, Mel." Cole answered, resuming his study of the road map.

"Okay, Mel." She muttered to herself, repeating his simple reply. "It's fine, Mel, if you want to spend the night with me out in the middle of nowhere, right next to the sticks, conveniently located beside the boondocks." Mel gripped the steering wheel tighter and rolled her eyes.

"Mel?" Cole asked a moment later. "I can't seem to locate a town called Boondocks on this map, at least not where we think we are."

She laughed. She couldn't help it. "It's okay, Cole. Boondocks is more of a feel to a place, rather than an actual town name."

Cole turned to her and gave her one of his questioning looks, the look that clearly said she needed to add a little more information if she expected him to understand her. Mel decided to ignore his look this time. She had her hands full trying to negotiate the road without killing both of them. They had already experienced one close call an hour ago when she lost control of the car and almost sent them sliding into a creek bed. She was still shaking from that fright.

A few minutes later they still hadn't seen another vehicle or a place to stop for miles. Mel gave Cole another worried look. "Maybe my idea to drive you to catch this last fugitive wasn't such a good one, huh?"

Cole looked up again, surprised at her words. "Yes, it was, Mel. We made it there and collected his lifeforce. Things worked out well."

"Things worked out well?" She scoffed. "Up until we managed to miss our turn coming home, then got detoured when we tried to take the shortcut back to it, and then ran into three hours of road construction, right before this killer snowstorm decided to strike." She added sarcastically. "Face it, Cole. I screwed this one up. We're lost and now we're going to be lost and stranded. It's all my fault." She gave him a weak smile. "I'm sorry, Cole. Sometimes, I'm more trouble than help, aren't I?"

Cole put down the map that didn't tell them where they were anyway, and reached out to stroke the base of her throat. "You're no trouble, Mel. We are fine."

"Cole, we are not fine." She emphasized, still giving him a tiny smile because she absolutely loved it when he touched her throat like that. He seemed to do it more and more often lately. She was almost addicted to it. "I haven't mentioned the low fuel gauge yet. We're almost out of gas. We've got to find a place to stop or we'll be found a few days from now, frozen in our sleep."

"I don't sleep, Mel, remember?" Cole said simply.

Mel's mouth turned up at the corners, surprised she could still laugh after what she had been through today. "Okay, Cole, I'll be found frozen and you will be very, very cold beside me." She shot him an affectionate look.

He gave her a strange look she couldn't read in response and then leaned forward to stare at something out the windshield. "Mel, I think I see lights up ahead."

"Really?" Mel asked excitedly. "I hope so, Cole, because I don't care what the place looks like; we're stopping there."

A few moments later, Mel was seriously considering retracting her words. "It's the Bates Motel." She said with a shudder as she stared at the small run-down motel in the middle of nowhere with only eight rooms at most.

"The sign says it's the Scenic Woods Hide-Away Inn." Cole corrected.

Mel turned to him, furiously shaking her curls. "Trust me, Cole, I'd recognize the Bates Motel anywhere, and this IS the Bates Motel."

"But the sign, Mel.."

"Never mind, Cole." Mel interrupted him, turning off the engine and gathering her purse up. "Let's go inside. It's not like we have any choice in the matter. It's almost dark, the storm is getting worse, the tank is on fumes, and there's no place else left."

Cole watched an agitated Mel climb out of the car and decided it was one of those human things he hadn't been there long enough to understand. He got out as well and followed Mel into the door marked 'office.'

Mel was already unwrapping her scarf and leaving snow all over the counter. "Hello!" She called, hitting a little silver bell as she yelled.

An older woman with bozo-red hair, lots of wrinkles, bright blue eye shadow applied with a shovel, and orange lipstick approached the counter to greet them. "Hi, ya! Did you get trapped in the storm?" She asked good-naturedly. "You don't look like the usual lovebirds who check-in at my little motel."

Mel smiled politely. "Yes, I'm afraid we did. We missed a turn, and then with the detour and all, we need a place to stop for the night. The storm is really getting too dangerous out there to drive."

The woman nodded agreement. "You're in luck. Did you notice the other cars out front? You're not the only ones having to pull off the road tonight. I got one room left. It's yours if you want it."

Startled, Mel asked. "One room? But I saw at least eight rooms and only 3 or 4 other cars. Don't you have two rooms you could make ready?"

Cole, who had remained silent during the registration process, gave Mel a curious look but said nothing. He generally let Mel handle business matters. She was the human after all.

"No, honey, I'm afraid I don't. Just one room left, but it's the best one, if that makes you feel any better?" The woman took a moment to glance in Cole's direction, giving him a quick but thorough inspection. "You got a problem sharing a room with him, honey? Personally I can't see why a pretty little girl like you wouldn't want to share a bed with a man that gorgeous. It's a cold night. He looks capable enough of keeping you warm, if you catch my drift?" She cackled and spun around to remove a key from a hook behind her.

Mel, flustered at the woman's words and implication, replied icily. "It isn't any of your business, now is it? We prefer separate rooms when we travel."

Cole arched an eyebrow at Mel, but held his smile. They had never traveled together before.

"Well, can't see how it makes much sense to register for two rooms, then spend the night snuggled together in one, seems kind of expensive and silly to me, but to each his own. However, honey, like I said, all I have left is this one room. It has a big bed though." She grinned, holding the key in front of her. "King Size, sort of like your man standing over there, I suspect." The old lady winked at Cole.

Mel took a deep breath and counted to ten. "We'll take it." She grabbed the key and reached into her purse to pay for the room. "Is there a gas station nearby? We're almost on empty."

The manager nodded. "I keep a pump out back. We're a ways out."

"Great." Mel said relieved.

"Is there a place to eat supper out back too?" Mel laughed.

"Not really, honey. But I put on a big pot of stew when I saw the storm coming down like it was. I'll be glad to dish you two up some to take to your room. It's a cold night to go to bed without supper."

Mel's expression softened at the generosity offered. "Thank you. We'll be happy to pay for it."

"Oh, girl, you ain't tasted it yet! Better stick to accepting it as free." She howled and disappeared into a back room, Mel assumed to dish up the stew.

Mel turned to Cole to see exactly how he was handling this latest development. They had never spent the night together before. At least not in the same room, she amended silently. He lived in her apartment, but her door was always shut. There wouldn't be a door between them tonight. Part of her really needed that door. And part of her wanted that door banished! It was the last part she was worried about.

"I guess we're lucky we even found this place, such as it is."

Cole smiled down at her. "Yes, Mel. You can sleep in a bed instead of a freezing car."

She relaxed a bit. "Yeah. There is that." She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry about all those things she said, you know, about you."

Cole looked at her questioningly.

Flustered, Mel began explaining. "You know, about sharing a bed, King Size, all that."

"Oh."

"Cole, are you okay with this? I mean we can't really go anywhere else. You understand that, right?" Mel hesitated.

Cole gave her a heart-stopping smile. "Yes, Mel. I understand we must stay here tonight."

Her relief obvious, Mel laughed. "Yeah, a night at the Bates Motel with a Cirronian, it's every girl's dream."

Mel shifted the container of stew, held her purse tightly between her knees, and did her best to open the door with the room key without dropping either one. Cole was getting their baggage out of the car. Her purse slipped between her legs when she got the door open, so she kicked it inside the room and proceeded to drag herself in there as well. After the afternoon she had been having, it felt good to kick something!

When Mel turned on the light and saw the Bates Motel's idea of a "best room," she was ready to kick herself.

Cole came up behind her while she stood frozen in the doorway. He dropped the bags inside the door, and then closed it before half of the snowstorm blew its way into their room.

Mel remained where she was, her mouth hanging open.

"Oh… please, this can't be happening." She whispered to herself, then blinked in hopes that it had all disappeared by the time she reopened her eyes.

Cole leaned in next to her. "This is very interesting, Mel. I've never seen a room like this. Are all motel rooms like this or just the ones that are Bates Motels and go by the name of Scenic Woods Hide-Away Inn?" Cole innocently asked.

Mel ignored him.

Cole shrugged when he didn't get a response and took off his coat. He was covered in snow, cold and shivering; the wet coat had to go. Like any other self-respecting Cirronian would do under the circumstances, Cole went in search of the thermostat. "Mel, why don't you sit down? I'll turn the heat up." A moment later, Cole looked up from the thermostat to see that Mel still hadn't moved from the doorway.

Cole took her by the shoulders and steered her away from the door and over to the bed, pushing down on her shoulders to get her to sit. She had been easy enough to steer, but her unusual silence was beginning to worry him. Maybe Mel had gotten too cold?

"Mel, are you okay?" Cole crouched in front of her and turned her lovely face so he could look into her eyes. His fingers automatically went to the burgundy scarf around her neck, gently unwrapping it from her soft skin so he could caress her throat. Mel's eyes finally became aware again and looked directly into his.

They immediately filled with tears. "I'm sorry, Cole. This room is just so…. I can't describe it, and then the storm, and I almost lost control of the car and sent us sliding into a creek, and then the construction and traffic, and I missed our turn, and now this… the Bates Motel, done in trashy red and pink honeymoon motif, heavy on the cherubs, really it's just almost too much for me to handle in one day."

Cole didn't understand half of what she had rattled off to him, but he knew Mel. She was on the verge of crying and that wouldn't do at all. Cole didn't like it when Mel cried. Part of him felt like crying with her. He gave her a gentle smile, and caressed her throat, concentrating on emitting the most calming of energy, a soothing pulse of warmth and assurance. Her eyes began to close. He continued to focus on his caress. She slowly fell back across the bright pink bedspread and Cole moved to sit beside her, leaning back on his elbows along the length of her, his fingers still caressing her, still soothing her emotional state. His eyes never left her pretty face. "Relax, Mel." He whispered softly to her. "We are safe now. You rest for just a few minutes until you feel better and then we'll eat our supper." She looked half asleep. She pretty much was. Satisfied that he had Mel calmed down, Cole ceased the energy transfer and began to get up.

"Where are you going?" Mel's eyes popped open.

"Nowhere, Mel, not without you." He assured her in a low tone.  "I'm just going to unpack. You rest. I'm not certain, Mel, but I think driving in that snowstorm exhausted you."

"That's one way of putting it, I suppose." She agreed. "Freaked me out is another." She muttered to herself. But she closed her eyes and took his advice. Driving under bad conditions did do something to your nerves after several hours. Poor Cole, she could hear him moving things around the room. What must he think of this room?

Mel was still resting when Cole finished putting a few of their things in the bathroom. Every now and then he would glance over to check on her but her eyes remained closed. He sensed her lifeforce was strong, so he wasn't really worried. The room was heating up too. The Cirronian was pleased about that.

Their food was going to get cold though if they didn't eat it soon. "Mel?" Cole called softly. "You need to eat, Mel."

She stirred but didn't open her eyes. "Do I have to?" She mumbled.

Cole thought the question strange, but answered anyway. "It would be best, Mel. You know humans need fuel."

She smiled, turning her head towards him before opening her eyes. "You're very good at throwing my words back at me, you know that, don't you?"

Cole didn't say anything; he just walked over to her and offered her his hand, pulling her up off the mattress. "Time to eat, Mel. You'll feel better after you have had some food."

"Maybe." She conceded reluctantly.

They sat down at the small table in the corner of the room and looked out the window at the hazardous highway in front of them. "It's really coming down now, isn't it? Bates Motel or not, we are lucky to have found this place." Mel admitted, taking up a spoonful of her stew. It wasn't half bad. She scooped up another. Cole was eating with the same steadfast determination she had observed the first night she had found him, only with better table manners than before.

They ate in comfortable silence, watching the snow fall. When they had finished the stew, Mel took her second look around the room. She had been avoiding it up until then, not sure she had the mental resources to deal with it. "I can't believe rooms like this actually exist."

Cole glanced in the direction she was looking and asked, "Most rooms don't look like this, Mel?"

Mel turned back to him and grinned. "No, Cole. I think you only find rooms like this in very bad porn movies."

"Porn movies?"

"Don't ask. I'm not answering that one." Mel warned.

"Okay, Mel." Cole pushed his chair back and headed over to the nightstand. "This is an unusual lamp, Mel. The base appears to be in the shape of a human female leg, and it is wearing some kind of material around it."

"Fishnet stockings, Cole. Those are fishnet stockings." Mel informed him ruefully.

Cole fingered a scrap of material at the top of the leg that had lace around it. "What is this, Mel?"

"Garter." Mel snorted. "No decent set of fishnet stockings is complete without a garter. And before you ask, yes, the lampshade is in the design of a pair of ladies panties."

"Do you have panties that look like this, Mel?" Cole asked, giving her a half-smile and displaying for her his newly discovered sense of humor. He was starting to do that more and more, Mel noticed.

Giving him a smug look in return, she replied. "That is not something you need to know, Cole."

He grinned back at her, his fingers letting go of the lampshade. "Okay, Mel, if you say so."

Mel watched him prowl the room, taking in the color scheme. It was hard to miss, bright pink and blood red, with splotches of lace and cherubs thrown in as accents here and there. It looked like a bordello, not that Cole knew what a bordello looked like, or rather, Mel amended, he did now but he just didn't know it.

Cole stopped in front of the dresser. Mel watched him pick up a small box of some kind and fiddle with it for a minute before turning around and reading a small card that was taped to the box. "Look, Mel. You were right. It says this room is the Honeymoon suite, and these are compliments of the motel management."

"What are they?" Mel asked, curious.

Cole inspected the box again. "It looks to be an assortment of uninflated balloons in different colors."

"Balloons?" Mel's eyes flew open wide as she rushed to Cole on the other side of the room. "We should put those back on the dresser, Cole. Save them for the next couple who have the misfortune to choose this room."

Cole let Mel rip the balloons from his hands and watched her as she fumbled with the box. "They were different from the balloons I've seen Jess blow up at the Watchfire, Mel."

"Yes, I'm sure they were."

"These had not only different colors, but some had stripes. I even saw one with an animal print design on it. A tiger, I believe."

"Good Lord." Mel bit her lip.

"Maybe I should take the tiger one, Mel, for Jess? She likes animal prints." He suggested, pleased with the idea. He liked Jess.

Mel turned to him, her eyes bright with laughter. "I'm not sure Jess would know what to do if you brought her one of these "tiger-striped balloons," Cole." She looked up at the handsome man who had been parading around the Watchfire in his underwear for the last two months and decided that maybe Jess would have an idea or two as to what to do with him. And she wasn't the only one.

"Let's leave the balloons here, shall we?" Mel took Cole's hand and guided him back over to the other side of the room. Cole looked back fondly once at the brightly decorative balloons and accepted that for some reason Mel didn't want him keeping any of them. It was a shame to his way of thinking. Jess would have really liked the tiger one.

"They seemed to be easier to blow up, too, Mel." He felt like pointing out. "The top was much wider than the balloons I've seen before."

Mel stopped in the center of the room and dropped her head, her mass of strawberry blonde curls hiding her face, as she struggled with her laughter. Finally, she raised her head and gave Cole an indulgent smile. "I'll make it up to you, okay? But trust me, Cole; we don't need to take any of these balloons."

Cole accepted her words. He trusted Mel. "Okay, Mel."

Mel smiled back at his easy trust and sat on the end of the bed. There were only two other chairs in the room, very uncomfortable little wooden ones for the small table in the corner where they had eaten supper. After those, the bed was the only other option. She was tired, her back ached, actually all of her ached now that she thought about it. The fact she had driven for six hours with every muscle tensed was beginning to make itself known in a less than pleasant manner.

Mel fell back across the end of the bed and kicked off her shoes. Cole stood where he was and watched her.

"Oh no, no, no…no…" Mel opened her eyes and stared at her own reflection. She couldn't believe she hadn't noticed it before. She flew back up into a sitting position.

"What's wrong, Mel?" Cole sat down beside her.

She sighed and then turned to his concerned expression. "Look up."

Cole gave her a quizzical look but did as she suggested. His face lit up. "Mel, there's a mirror on the ceiling!"

 "I'm afraid there is. I don't know why it surprises me. It really shouldn't. I mean, this place has a lamp wearing fishnet stockings, a garter, and lace panties. It has pink and red cherubs all over the walls and a pink bedspread with hearts on it. It only makes sense that it would have a mirror over the bed." She shook her head and fell back again across the bedspread. "I must be really, really tired." She lamented.  "It's not bothering me as much anymore."

Cole fell back next to her and stared up at the reflection of the two of them lying side by side. "It is a strange place for a mirror, isn't it Mel?"

Her lips curved. "Well, it's been done before, but you don't see it everyday, that's for sure."

Cole admired her face in the mirror. He liked her smile. "You look very pretty lying here, Mel. I am enjoying this. I don't know why. It feels good."

Strawberry blonde curls turned to him. "I think I've uncovered another universal truth, Cole. You can take a male off Cirron and place him on Earth, but a male is still a male."

Cole contemplated her words, his expression thoughtful. He continued to watch her in the mirror. Suddenly he sat up, using one arm to support himself while he reached out and began to softly stroke Mel's throat. "You are very tired, Mel. I can sense your exhaustion."

She mumbled an agreement, but her soft smile stayed in place. Her eyes closed at his touch. She wondered, not for the first time, how Cole always knew when she needed his touch. The past couple of weeks, Cole had almost perfected the talent of sensing when she desired his soothing touch, when she longed for the feel of his masculine hands against her own skin.

The amazing part about the whole thing, Mel reflected, was that Cole innocently accepted the contact between them. He accepted without question the fact her body and mind called to him, and that he received the message loud and clear. If he sensed her need for his comforting touch then he would give it to her willingly without hesitation.

It was as if he could read her mind.

"Oh, my God!" Shocked, Mel looked up at the handsome face hovering over hers, still stroking her skin.

Cole frowned, but his hands never ceased their special magic. "What is it, Mel? You were better and now you are getting upset again."

Her voice shook but she had to ask. "Cole, can you read minds?"

He gave her a strange look then a gentle smile. "No, Mel. I can sense lifeforces, but I can't read minds." Not in the fashion she understood, he told himself.

"You can't. You're sure?" Her relief was obvious even to a newly arrived Cirronian.

He smiled again at her. "Yes, Mel. I'm sure." He started to explain to Mel that although he couldn't read actual thoughts, he was able to sense emotions, but stopped when she spoke.

"Okay." Her relief at his assurance was almost palatable. Cole decided against attempting an explanation of what he could do.

"If I could read minds, my work here would have been much easier, Mel. Not to mention my ability to understand so many things human."

Mel exhaled a small laugh, actually more of a nervous sort of twitter. "That's right! I hadn't thought of that. Of course, you can't read minds. You would have been able to understand so much more, and you wouldn't have needed me to explain as much as I have had to do. And your speech would have improved so much faster, yours skills at language and well, just everything."

Cole arched an eyebrow as he watched Mel prattle on. An understanding smile played around the edges of his very attractive mouth. His hands were still on her, stroking and caressing, soothing and calming. Mel was agitated again, he observed, so Cole increased the amount of calming energy he was transmitting to her. The Tracker decided Mel certainly needed it.

She suddenly became quiet and her prattle ceased. Her lovely eyes slipped closed again.

Cole smiled gently at Mel's beautiful face. "Why did you ask me if I could read minds, Mel?" He was curious as to what triggered her agitation and question.

"Because you seem to read mine so well," She answered before realizing exactly what she had confessed to him.

Her eyes shot open again. It was time to up the voltage on his soothing caress. "I can't read your thoughts, Mel." He assured her again.

She glanced past the handsome face only inches above hers, and up to the mirror suspended over them, gasping at the intimacy displayed in it. The contrasts between them were so blatantly male and female.

Cole's hard body was virtually covering hers, his hands caressing her throat, those broad shoulders protectively hovering over her smaller softer frame. His short dark hair in such contrast with her lightly-colored locks fanned out across the bedspread. Even the way her hair spread out before him was too suggestive. Mel swallowed nervously. The differences continued to stand out to her. The lightness and translucency of her complexion was so opposite to the olive tone of his. She looked so very petite lying next to him.

Cole was big. Mel realized she didn't think about his size very much, living and working with him as they did. But she could see it now. Cole was a very broad-shouldered, six-foot tall male being whose size should have intimidated her slender self.

It didn't. Cole was so gentle and sweet, it couldn't. But he was big. What was it the motel manager had said? King Size? Yes, this dark male possessively shadowing her in the mirror was most definitely of the King Size variety.

Mel decided that was NOT the direction her thoughts needed to be taking at such a crucial moment. But she couldn't make herself stop staring at their reflection despite the fact she found certain aspects of it deeply disturbing.

She read the exhaustion plainly written all over her face easily enough but there was something else there as well. Something she couldn't put her finger on. Something far too female in comparison to the male strength Cole radiated. Mel was shocked as realization set in.

She looked too inviting. Damned inviting. No wonder this sensitive Cirronian was reaching out to her, stroking her in the only manner he understood. What else was he supposed to do with her lying beside him, all dreamy-eyed and inviting like this? She might as well have been wearing a sign in Cirronian stating 'Willing Lifeforce, for a good time call….' The erratic thought spurred a half-hysterical giggle out of her.

"Mel?" Cole questioned, his expression puzzled by behavior.

She shook off her unsettling realizations and answered the very large man whose tempting lips were only inches from hers. "I'm okay, Cole. I just had a moment there when I thought I might be losing it." Another nervous giggle escaped with her words.

"Losing what, Mel?" He cocked his head and gave her an endearing smile. "You haven't been holding anything. You've just been lying here letting me touch you."

That smile, the tenderness in his beautiful brown eyes and that voice, oh that voice; Mel decided those qualities attached with the phrase, 'letting me touch you,' was an extremely lethal combination. She had better get up.

Bad choice of words. The twittering laugh was about to make a return appearance if she didn't do something quick. Mel scrambled out from under him and bounced up off the bed. There! She was up.

When Mel glanced down at where Cole was lying, she couldn't help but notice that she wasn't the only thing 'up' at that moment!

Her eyes suddenly found the headboard the most fascinating piece of furniture in the entire room. She had assumed that was his collector pressing against her thigh!

"Cole, I think I need a shower." She announced out of the blue, spinning on her heels and heading toward the bathroom.

"Okay, Mel." Very confused, Cole watched her practically run into the bathroom. Mel did sometimes act a little differently when she was in stressful situations, Cole reminded himself. He supposed driving in a snowstorm might qualify as one of those times. He stood up just as Mel came back out and stared at him with an utterly lost expression on her face.

"I thought I could do it, Cole. But I don't think I can." Her voice trembled softly.

"Do what, Mel?" Cole asked with concern.

"Take a shower in a Bates Motel." She answered, her response peppered with more than a trace of hysteria. Mel's shoulders slumped in defeat as she plopped back down on the bed. "I thought a nice hot shower with relaxing steam would be the best remedy for my nerv…er.. tension."

Cole studied her closely. "Sounds like a good idea, Mel. You do look very tired and you are unusually tense. I've had to touch you far more than I normally do."

She wasn't going to touch that last comment for anything. Not on her life. "Yes, well, it would be a good idea if this wasn't a Bates Motel." She glanced up at Cole. He was giving her that 'look' again, the 'you have to give me more to go on than that, Mel' look.

Her eyes found the mirror over the bed and she saw a very ridiculous woman, but there was nothing to be done about it. Some things couldn't be changed.

"I saw 'Psycho' when I was a child, it's a movie, Cole, and it had a definite effect on me." She admitted, giving Cole an imploring look. "That one scene so upset me, I slept with my grandmother for three months. I know it was just a movie, but I was young, and I suppose the images were too much for a child my age, which was probably why Grandmother refused to let me watch it in the first place." She wryly admitted, her curls bobbing at the irony.

"But, Mel, you just said you watched it."

Mel rolled her eyes. "I didn't always mind my grandmother, Cole. I slipped out into the living room and watched it anyway after she went downstairs to the bar."

"That was wrong, Mel." Cole lectured.

"Really?" She snapped back, feeling bad for it immediately after. "I'm sorry, Cole. It isn't your fault I disobeyed my grandmother and as a result, I am now scarred for life, living with this phobia about motel showers." Mel rolled her eyes at her own stupidity.

"You have scars, Mel? From watching something you shouldn't have?" Cole asked worriedly.

Mel gave him a reassuring smile. "Not physical ones, Cole, emotional ones. You know, I was really frightened by something when I was young, and even though I'm an adult now, I still can't overcome my fear of it." Her curls bobbed with each word of her explanation and Cole found himself distracted by them. Sometimes it was hard to listen to what Mel said because he was focused on watching her hair answer with her, he thought with a secret smile.

Cole thought back to her words. "Is it a reasonable fear, Mel?"

"No. Not reasonable at all." It was an honest answer.

"Then your adult mind should understand and no longer fear it."

"That sounds so simple, doesn't it, Cole? It doesn't work that way for humans, I'm afraid." She explained with a hint of sadness.

"Why not?"

"It just doesn't. We aren't always logical." Shrugging her shoulders, Mel gave him a wistful look. "I would love a steaming hot shower right now, I really would. But there is no way I can step into that bathtub with that white motel shower curtain on metal hooks staring back at me." Cole watched her body shudder at the thought of it.

"What happened in the scene that frightened you, Mel?" He sat back down beside her and watched her very carefully. She could feel his full attention and concern.

"Janet Leigh got stabbed to death, many, many times with a large knife. It was unexpected… and Hitchcock was a master at leaving an impression on people with his films. It definitely left an impression on me. I prefer baths. I have made some progress, of course, I can shower in a nice four-star hotel, with room service, and large bathrooms, and all kinds of security, but a small Bates Motel off the main road, out in the middle of nowhere, with only a few rooms…no way!" Mel stated emphatically.

Cole gave her a thoughtful look. "Was Janet Leigh by herself in the motel, Mel?"

"Yes."

"So there wasn't anyone there to stop this man who stabbed her while she was showering?"

"Right. She was alone and didn't hear him approach because, well, the shower was running. She wasn't strong enough to defend herself after being stabbed that first time."

Cole nodded to this then reached over to caress her throat gently and persuasively. "I am here, Mel. You are not Janet Leigh and I would never let anyone stab you in the shower."

Mel acknowledged his point with a soft smile, her lips trembling. "I know, Cole. I know I'm safe with you. I knew that when I went inside that bathroom with every intention of taking that shower. Even knowing you are out here, just being in that room, by myself, with the whole Bates Motel décor, I couldn't bring myself to actually step into the tub and turn on the water." Mel felt like an idiot, scared of something as simple as a bathroom when this man chased down killers with extraordinary abilities everyday. She could hardly look into Cole's eyes. He must think her the worst kind of coward, she thought.

"I'll go with you, Mel." Cole suggested.

"What?" Startled, Mel stared at him.

"In the room, Mel, not the shower," Cole gave her a broad smile before turning thoughtful again. "unless you want me in the shower with you, Mel? I wouldn't mind." It was a simple statement and sincere.

"You would stay in the bathroom with me?" She asked surprised, her mind already considering his offer. "I wouldn't be by myself. There wouldn't be any possibility of a Norman sneaking up on me, would there?" Mel spoke her thoughts aloud. It was a testament to her exhaustion that a portion of her brain was seriously considering his offer. "You could talk to me while I showered, Cole, and that would give me an extra sense of security."

"If you like, Mel" Cole agreed.

Mel noticed his puzzled expression and misread it, immediately shaking her head. "It's okay, Cole. Forget it. It was silly of me to even consider it really. I can tell you aren't comfortable with the idea."

Cole's hand reached for her soft throat again. "I don't mind, Mel. I am not uncomfortable with it if you need me to do this."

"But, your face, you looked so…something." Her voice faltered, her shoulders shrugged.

Cole frowned. "I really don't mind, Mel. I was just thinking about this movie that upset you as a child. Why did the French army want to stab Janet Leigh in the shower?"

"You lost me, Cole." Mel's wavy curls bounced around her shoulders.

"You said if I was with you, there wouldn't be the possibility of any Normans sneaking up on you. I was curious as to why a movie would feature an ancient French army wishing to murder a woman in the shower."

Mel chuckled and leaned into his shoulder affectionately. "Norman as in Norman Bates, a man, not an ancient French army, Cole, but obviously your study of our history has paid off. I'm impressed. If you remember the Normans, you must have retained quite a bit of our history." Mel complimented him, hoping it would sooth any hurt feelings he might have sustained by her laughter at his misunderstanding.

"Yes, Mel. And I have retained every piece of information that I've read, not just some of it." He corrected her in a straightforward manner. "You have a very bloody and violent history, Mel." He remarked seriously.

"Well, not me personally, Cole, just Earth in general. And let's not talk bloody and violent right before I shower in a Bates Motel, okay, Cole?" Her eyes laughed up at him.

"Okay, Mel. Are you going to shower then?" His eyes were warm as they watched her.

"Yes. It might be therapeutic for me to make myself do it. If you are in the bathroom with me, that should make it easier, right? And maybe next time I could do it by myself, after taking this first step, you know?"

"I think so, Mel. Are you ready?" Cole stood up and took her hand in his.

Mel took a deep breath, gathering her courage if she could find it. "Okay, Cole. Let's do it." There was determination in her voice.

"Okay, Mel." Cole answered, giving her a supportive smile. "Mel?"

"Yes, Cole?"

"Do you have any other fears you haven't told me?" Cole asked curiously.

Mel looked up and grinned at him. "You really can't read minds, can you, Cole? If you could, there wouldn't have been any need to ask me that!"

Mel stepped into the bathtub fully clothed, a rather strange sensation in itself, and then nervously pulled the dreaded white shower curtain closed. The last few holes on the curtain for the shower hooks were ripped so that the curtain hung loosely at the end. But there was enough of the curtain to drape in front of her and catch most of the water so Mel wasn't too concerned about it. "Cole?" She called nervously.

"Yes, Mel?" He answered in a strong and comforting voice.

"Just checking." Mel replied, starting to feel a little silly. Suddenly she had a flashback of poor Janet Leigh lying in the bathtub, clutching the shower curtain, her eyes open as her blood washed down the drain. Silly or not, Cole was definitely staying, Mel decided.

"Umm, I wonder if you could take my clothes and lay them on the bed for me, please?"

"Okay, Mel." He agreed in an easy voice.

"Okay, great. I'll just get them for you." Mel stared at the shower curtain for a second longer before chastising herself for her trepidation and began to undress. She removed her blouse first then her slacks. She held them up over the curtain. "Cole? Can you get these?"

He didn't answer, but her pulse did double time when she felt his strong hands take them from her. "Thanks."

"You're welcome, Mel." She heard his voice fade and realized he was taking them into the bedroom to place them on the bed.

Mel looked down at the only remaining clothing she was wearing, a bra and panties. She groaned and looked to the heavens. This couldn't have been a day she chose to wear plain white underwear, could it? No, when getting dressed that morning she had been inspired to reach for her frilly Victoria's Secret blue lace. Mel swallowed a hysterical giggle. At least they were new pieces and not old ratty underwear, she consoled herself.

She unclasped the see-through lace bra then stepped out of her panties. Her hand froze in the act of giving them over to Cole. What would he think when she handed him intimate lacy under things?

Well, she couldn't stand there naked holding them forever. She had to either put them back on or get on with her shower. Mel schooled her voice to sound blasé and unaffected by this whole process. "Cole, can you get these too, please?" Her lacy pieces peeked over the top of the shower at Cole.

Cole's lips twitched at the pretty blue lace dangling from Mel's delicate fingers. "Yes, Mel." The timbre of his voice sounded deeper and huskier to Mel.

It had to be her imagination, she decided. Cole was Cirronian. Clothing was clothing, nothing more, very logical, very basic, an aspect of human culture.

The Cirronian stood on the other side of the curtain, a smile playing around his lips as he examined the daintily sewn pieces of lace that would hardly cover much of a female's anatomy. "These are very pretty, Mel. I really like them." He told her. "Do you always wear pretty things like this against your skin?"

Mel froze at his question. This was too surreal. She was stark naked only a few inches from him with just a damned Bates Motel shower curtain between them while he held  her bra and panties and admired them.

How to answer? "Umm, well, yes, most of the time." Mel went with honesty. People believed it always worked best.

"Really?" He sounded pleased to hear that. "You have pretty things like this on under your clothes everyday?"

"I suppose." She mumbled, deciding to turn on the shower in hopes the running water would distract him from any more of his personal questions.

The sound of the water didn't deter the Tracker one bit. He just raised his sexy voice. "Are they always this pretty blue, Mel? Or do you have other colors?"

Sighing deeply, Mel began to wash her arms. "I have other colors, Cole. Different colors to go under different color outfits. Women like to do that and fashion sometimes dictates the necessity of it." It was going to be all right, Mel told herself. She could handle a discussion concerning fashion and styles.

"Do you have them in black, Mel? I would really like to see you wearing these if the color were black."

Mel dropped her soap.

"Are you okay, Mel?" Cole inquired, hearing a thump on the other side of the curtain.

"Yes, I'm fine." She lied.

"You didn't answer me, Mel." Cole pointed out.

"Yes, I did. I told you I'm fine." Mel shouted after finding her soap.

"No, you didn't tell me if you have these pretty things in black."

The soap slipped out of her hands again. Damn. "Yes, Cole. I wear a lot of black and I have black bras and panties. Every woman has black bras and panties." Mel shouted, exasperation dripping from every word.

Cole seemed to think about that for a moment before saying, "Good. I've decided I like black lace."

Mel laughed. She couldn't help it. This shower wasn't turning out to be anything like she had imagined. Amusement still bringing a smile to her face, Mel placed her left foot on the end of the bathtub and began to shave her leg.

Cole was examining the delicate blue lace in his hands, intrigued by the enjoyment he was experiencing during the process when a soapy feminine leg appeared at the end of the tub where the curtain didn't stretch far enough to shield the view. It reminded him of the strange lamp, minus the fishnet stockings and garter, of course.

A razor appeared shortly thereafter and Cole caught a small glimpse of feminine personal hygiene that he had never been privileged to see before. Humans were a very strange species. Female humans even more so, yet Cole found he was becoming 'distracted' by the scene, in much the same way he had been distracted a few minutes earlier lying on the bed, transferring calming energy to Mel.

The strange shaving ritual ended and Cole watched as Mel's pretty leg disappeared behind the curtain again. Feeling an emotion he deduced was masculine human disappointment, Cole frowned. He had enjoyed watching that leg.

Mel's other leg popped into his view a moment later and the Tracker grinned.

"Cole?" Mel's voice called to him, taking his attention away from the pretty leg.

"Yes, Mel?"

"I wanted to thank you for staying in here with me. You were right, of course. It is much easier for me knowing you are with me." Mel continued to shave her leg while she talked to Cole. "This trip managed to accomplish two goals. Not only did we catch a Vardian fugitive but I faced my motel shower fears." She said with a half-laugh. "Not bad for a day's work, huh?"

Cole's eyes were appreciating the curves of Mel's leg, his senses accurately picking up on the apparent softness of her white skin. "No, Mel, not bad." Cole replied, his tone a bit strained. "Mel?"

"Yes, Cole?"

"Are you sure you don't need me to shower with you?" He asked hopefully.

Mel nicked her leg with the razor. "Uh…no, Cole, that won't be necessary. I'm not scared at all now, talking to you like this."

Cole experienced his second round of disappointment. It was an unsettling feeling. "Okay, Mel." He glanced at Mel's intimate clothing in his hands and placed them in his back pocket, deciding he wasn't going to miss a moment of Mel's alluring leg because he was placing her panties on the bed. His distracted feeling was growing much stronger. He had never seen Mel in the bathroom doing these kinds of things before. Mel was always dressed or wearing that very thick bathrobe of hers. Mel would go into the bathroom, to bathe or shower, and come back out again, but she was always covered up. Cole had tried several times to convince Mel that it wasn't necessary for her to be so aware of his presence in her apartment. He knew Mel had a lovely body and he would not be offended if she chose to walk around partially dressed at times. It was only a body, a human form, but Mel was pretty firm in her conviction that she remained dressed when he was nearby.

A couple of weeks earlier, while he and Mel had been hunting a nodulian who had inhabited a young boy's body, Cole had discovered some adult male reading entertainment. Mel had been obviously uncomfortable with the subject and therefore Cole had not mentioned it again, but he had spent considerable time studying the photographs contained in that magazine. They had answered some of his questions regarding female human anatomy. He knew Mel could provide the rest but she had appeared so flustered at the one question he had asked her that he had chosen not to ask her another. He was curious though as to why her body failed to resemble the ones in that magazine. Mel had told him it didn't.

"Drat!"

"What's wrong, Mel?"

"I forgot the shampoo. I got my razor and soap, but forgot the shampoo. Cole, could you get it for me, please?"

"All right, Mel." Cole opened the medicine cabinet door hanging over the bathroom sink. He had placed their bathroom toiletries in there after they had checked in while Mel was resting. Locating the herbal shampoo that Mel preferred, Cole left the mirrored door half open and handed the bottle to Mel over the curtain. "Here, Mel, your favorite."

Her hand came up over the curtain and accepted the bottle. "Thanks, Cole. You know this is kind of handy having someone in the room with you." She laughed.

"Yes, Mel. I'll stay with you in the apartment too if you would like." He offered automatically, meaning it.

Mel actually took two seconds to think about it. No, you can't. But it would be kind of fun. "Uh, thank you, Cole, but I'm not frightened at home. I appreciate you offering though. I really do."

"You're welcome, Mel." Cole shrugged and turned back around, his eyes suddenly focusing on the reflection in the cabinet mirror. The cabinet door was angled such that it captured what was going on behind the torn shower curtain. Mel.

Mel, naked and shampooing her hair.

Cole stopped and stared. Mel was more than lovely. She was beautiful. And Cole learned something else as well. Mel had lied to him. Her body did look like those in that magazine, only lovelier.

Cole watched as she tilted her head back and rinsed out the shampoo. Her eyes were closed as she worked the running water through her tresses. Cole was almost mesmerized by the way the soap and water ran in rivulets down her creamy white skin. He watched in fascination as it made its way over her lovely breasts, droplets of water hanging suspended on the curve of them. Cole knew Mel's breasts were not as large as those in that magazine, but were more perfectly formed in his opinion and much better suited for her slender frame. They had pink tips which brought a smile to his mouth. The Tracker liked Mel's breasts very much.

Cole's inspection moved further down, past Mel's pleasing breasts with the lovely pink tips to her flat stomach and the curve of her waist. She was so tiny compared to him. Her slenderness had always been in the forefront of Cole's mind; especially when she put herself in dangerous situations because of him, but to see Mel like this, without the concealment of clothes, to be able to judge how fragile she truly was, only made Cole more aware of the necessity of protecting Mel.

His eyes dipped further down, taking in Mel's long slender legs. He watched her twist sideways to rinse a particular section of hair, and Cole was treated to a brief glimpse of her 'bum' as Jess would call it. It was in Cole's estimation, a very pretty well-shaped 'bum.' Mel spun back around and Cole's gaze followed the trail of shampoo as it cascaded past her navel and stopped in the small thatch of light reddish curls located between her thighs. Cole's eyes were fixed on that intriguing neatly shaped patch of curls. Lovely.  

Mel stood under the shower for another few seconds before turning off the water.

Cole took the necessary steps to the sink and closed the mirrored cabinet door. His own reflection stared back at him and Cole knew he wouldn't have to embarrass Mel with any more questions about her body. He had his answers now.

"Cole?" Mel's voice captured his attention.

"Yes, Mel?"

"Would you please hand me one of those towels? And I'm fine now, Cole, so it isn't necessary for you to stay with me. I'll just dry off and get dressed for bed. I'll be out in a minute."

"Here's the towel, Mel. I'll see you in a few minutes." He didn't bother covering the smile that appeared automatically as he dropped the requested towel over the curtain to Mel.

"Thanks, Cole. And, I really appreciate everything you've done tonight. I never even thought of Norman with you in here."

"It was my pleasure, Mel." Cole quipped, slipping out the bathroom door and softly closing it behind him.

Mel emerged from the bathroom several minutes later, holding a comb, her hair wet and in hopeless tangles. She had forgotten her conditioner. "Cole, I'm sorry, but I didn't think we'd be sharing a room tonight and I neglected to pack my bathrobe." She gave him an apologetic smile and plopped down on the bed, working the comb through her hair.

Cole turned from his observation of the cold snowfall and looked across the room at her. His eyes warmed at the sight of Mel. "That's okay, Mel. I've told you I don't mind seeing you undressed." His gentle eyes carried an intensity to them they hadn't before.

Mel gave him a nervous smile in return. "I know, looks like with this snowstorm, we'll have a more casual evening together than we usually do." Mel glanced down at her nightgown, more than a little aware that she had hastily packed a black little number with spaghetti straps and a lace bodice. It wasn't transparent, but the lace didn't exactly conceal her breasts either. She had stood in front of the bathroom mirror for at least a full minute, trying to ascertain if her choice of night attire had been too revealing. In the end she decided it didn't matter anyway, it was the only gown she had packed.

Their original plan had been to drive up early in the day, catch the fugitive by afternoon if Cole's instruments proved accurate, and then drive back to Chicago, making it home by late evening. Still, Mel surmised it might take longer than they had originally thought, forcing them to spend the night away, so she had thrown in a change of clothes, some basic toiletries and a nightgown, just in case. Mel never dreamed she'd be spending the night with Cole in the Bates Motel rather than a very nice hotel in town, much less that they would end up sharing the room.

Cole sensed Mel's nervousness had returned. He wanted to reach out and caress her throat, touching that lovely soft skin of hers, but he accurately sensed now wasn't the time. She was wound up tight enough to fly across the room if he tried. The Tracker chose distraction as his weapon against her own uneasiness. "Mel, do you need help with your hair? It looks more tangled than usual." His mouth curved upward.

She tried to run her fingers through the wet mass on top of her head and laughed. "I forgot conditioner. Huge mistake in my case. It's okay, Cole, I'm used to it, I'm afraid. it's always been very thick and wavy." She put her comb to work with vicious determination.

"I think it is lovely, Mel." He paused for a moment, clearing his throat before adding, "It is a very pretty shade of light red too."

Mel peered through a section of wet hair she had pulled forward to untangle, her comb stuck halfway through the irritating mess. "I used to hate it when I was younger." She confessed. "I wanted dark hair that was straight and a deep savage tan. I hated the fact my hair was light red and all curly and wavy. Instead of a sexy tan I was cursed with white skin that always burned, never tanned, and loved to freckle, especially across my cheeks and the bridge of my nose. On school days, I'd spend hours every morning putting on cover-up."

Cole sat beside Mel, taking the comb. "Your skin is very beautiful, Mel. It matches your hair. As for the freckles, I like them very much, Mel. Sometimes your make-up makes it difficult for me to see them, but at night and early in the morning, I see them better. They are very appealing, Mel." He ran the comb through the section of curls that had become so tangled. "Let me do this for you, Mel. You are hurting yourself."

Mel allowed Cole to work on her tangles and dropped her head, staring down at the lace bodice of her gown. Good Lord! Her nipples were quite visible in this light. She hadn't noticed them in the bathroom. Hopefully, Cole wouldn't notice.

The Tracker noticed. He felt her tension as she looked down at her gown and surveyed her body to see what might have caused such a reaction. The black lace on her gown was tight against the tips of her breasts and he could see her nipples through the lace. Knowing Mel was modest, Cole drew the correct conclusion. He also decided for the second time that he found black lace extremely appealing. Mel's pink-tipped breasts looked very 'distracting' covered in black lace. "It's okay, Mel." Cole whispered near her ear. "Relax; we'll get these tangles out of your hair."

Relieved Cole hadn't picked up on her personal rendition of a 'wet T-shirt contest, minus the wet and the T-shirt,' Mel began to ramble as Mel was wont to do. "I didn't bring a hair dryer. I thought if we ended up spending the night somewhere, it would be in a nice hotel that offered one as part of the amenities. I'll have to sleep with it wet. It's going to look worse tomorrow, believe me." She groaned.

Cole concentrated on the job at hand, clearing out the tangles in Mel's hair. "Maybe not, Mel."

"You haven't seen me with hair that dried in my sleep, Cole. Trust me; it will look like I stuck my finger in a light socket."

Cole chuckled.

"I'm serious, Cole. It's not a pretty sight."

He laughed again. "You are always a pretty sight, Mel." He softly reassured her.

"You won't say that in the morning, Cole, when I look like the lead actress in 'The Bride of Frankenstein.'"

Cole's smile stayed in place as he worked with her reddish curls. Mel knew Cole was helping her as a gesture of friendship and kindness, yet she still felt the intimacy of it. She was beginning to feel intimacy between them during even the most mundane of tasks. What did that signify, she wondered? And more importantly, should she worry about it?

"Cole?" Mel's voice broke the silence of the dark room.

"Yes, Mel?"

"What are you doing?" Mel asked hesitantly. She was laying in the center of the king size bed; her body exhausted and in desperate need for sleep, but it seemed her mind had other plans. She couldn't stop thinking about the big Cirronian somewhere in the dark room.

"Nothing, Mel." Cole answered, confused at her question. "There isn't much I can do at the moment. My equipment is back at the apartment and you need the lights out so you can sleep."

"Oh, right." She replied, at a loss for much else to say. She tried joking to ease the tension of the situation she found herself in. "Bates Motels aren't renown for their surplus of microwaves and irons and such."

"I guess not, Mel."

His voice sounded closer. "Where are you?" She softly asked.

"Here, Mel." The sexy voice gently answered. "Beside your bed."

Her heart skipped more than one beat. "Oh… I thought you were going to sit in one of the chairs."

"It isn't the most comfortable of chairs, Mel."

She pulled the covers up to her chin and sighed. "I suppose not. I'm sorry about this, Cole. It isn't fair to you to have to sit in the dark all night long. I've never been able to sleep very well with a bright light on." She apologized.

"Don't worry about it, Mel. You need your rest. I've never seen you this tired before. I want you to sleep, Mel. Humans need sleep. Your body will suffer if you don't."

"I know. I am going to sleep. I just feel strange lying here while you have to spend the night standing in the dark with nothing to do."

Cole smiled. "I'll be fine, Mel. You sleep." He ordered gently.

"But what are you going to do all night?"

"I will use the time to meditate. Cirronians don't require sleep, but we should meditate periodically to assure the balance of our polarities. It 'refreshes' us, I suppose that is the closest word to describe it to a human." Cole explained.

"Oh, that sounds like a wonderful idea, Cole. It will give you something to do while I sleep." Mel felt better and a little less guilty.

"Yes, Mel."

She asked curiously. "Cole, why haven't I ever seen you meditate? I guess I never really thought about what you do all night long. I mean, I know you work in your war room and sometimes go out and track fugitives, but it never occurred to me that you sometimes need quiet for meditation."

"You are sleeping when I do it, Mel. I check to make sure you are okay before I start the process." Cole informed her.

That snagged her attention. "You check to make sure I'm okay?"

"Yes, Mel."

"How exactly do you check?" She asked suspiciously.

"I look in on you and make sure your lifeforce is strong and calm, Mel. I wouldn't want to be in deep meditation if something happened and you needed me."

She should have felt relieved at his concern. Instead, she grew more nervous. "How exactly do you do that, Cole?"

"I place my palm close to you to sense your lifeforce. I believe you've seen me do this before, Mel."

"In my room? You come into my room when I'm sleeping and run your palm over my body?" Her voice was two octaves higher than normal.

"Yes, Mel." Cole answered. "Mel, I sense you are becoming upset again. You must rest, Mel."

"I must rest, Mel." She repeated, exhaling a breath of pure frustration before succumbing to the inevitable. "How long have you been peeking in my bedroom and checking on me, Cole?"

"Since the beginning, Mel. You have taken a tremendous risk helping me capture these fugitives. It is my responsibility to keep you safe. You must never be hurt again, Mel, because you trusted me."

"Okay." What could she say to that? This man had been walking into her bedroom as she slept since the first night she allowed him to stay with her. What good did it do to complain about it now, she asked herself? His heart was in the right place. She'd have to make sure any new nightgowns she bought were not too revealing. She wasn't even going to think about those summer nights early in their relationship when she opted to sleep in the nude. Hopefully, the sheet covered most of her.

"So, you check my lifeforce every night and then meditate in your war room?"

"Not every night, Mel. Cirronians can go several days without meditation. We are not like you. Humans need a period of rest every twenty-four hours."

"Those nights you do meditate, how do you do it?" Mel's inquired curiously.

"It is a simple Cirronian process, Mel, but it wouldn't be easy to describe it in a way a human would totally understand." Cole replied gently.

"Oh well, then, if I wouldn't understand it, there's no need to try, is there?" Mel frowned.

"No, Mel."

Her frown deepened. She didn't care for his answer.

"How long do you meditate, Cole?"

 "I can meditate for a few hours, or a few minutes, Mel. It depends on how long it has been since I last meditated or if I am disturbed during the process." Cole answered easily enough, then added, "And I don't usually meditate in the war room, Mel. I have found your couch much better suited for it than my chair."

"Oh, well that's nice."

"Yes, Mel. I can lie down on the couch." Cole explained.

"So it's best if you lie down when you meditate?"

"I can do it in other positions, Mel, but it is not as effective and the meditation process doesn't usually last as long that way."

Mel bit her lip and considered his last comment before making a decision she hoped she wouldn't regret. "Cole, you can lie on this bed with me while you meditate. It's a king-size bed and there's plenty of room, and I feel bad enough you have to sit in the dark, much less sit in the dark in an uncomfortable chair. There's no reason why the two of us couldn't share this bed. I mean, I can sleep, and you can meditate, lying down. It's the sensible thing to do." Mel wasn't sure if she were offering assurances to him or to herself.

Cole stood silent beside the bed as he considered Mel's suggestion. If he took her up on her offer, he would be lying beside her lovely body all night, close enough to watch her sleep, close enough to sense her sweet lifeforce all night. He liked watching Mel sleep. Whenever he checked on her in the night, he always took a moment or two to appreciate how beautiful Mel was when she slept. Cole didn't feel he was breaking any social rules by doing this. He was Cirronian, and Cirronians always admired beauty.

"Okay, Mel." Cole agreed. "What part of the bed would you like me to occupy, Mel?"

Mel chuckled, breaking the tension that had been present since her offer. She started scooting to the right leaving the left side vacant for Cole. "The side closest to you, Cole, will be fine. Hop in."

"I would prefer to sit down and then stretch out, Mel. Is it necessary for me to hop?"

Mel giggled, the sound filling the dark room. His lips curved at the sound.

"No, Cole, you can come to bed however you wish." Mel answered softly, laughter still coloring her voice.

"Okay, Mel." She felt the left side of the bed sink down as his weight shifted. Mel had to scoot over a little further. King Size. He was bigger than she thought. She moved again to give him more of the bed space.

"Okay, Cole? Do you have enough room?" Mel asked politely. She swallowed a giggle at her own sense of manners. She never wanted a reputation for being an inconsiderate bed partner. On Earth or Cirron, she supposed.

"Yes, Mel. This is fine."

"Are you under the covers?" Mel thought to ask. "The thermostat is set pretty high, but it gets cold at night, especially when you are lying down."

"I didn't know if you would be comfortable with that, Mel." Cole answered honestly.

"Don't be ridiculous, Cole. You can't lie on top of the covers shivering all night long. Get under them. We're two mature adults as well as friends. We can share a motel bed if we have to."

"Okay, Mel." She felt the tug of the covers as he pulled them out from under his own weight and climbed under them. She jumped when a hairy masculine leg touched her.

"Cole? Where are your clothes?" Mel worked to keep her voice steady and void of panic.

"On the chair, Mel." His answer was simple and to the point in typical Cole fashion.

"Of course." Mel answered back. Why had she asked? Where else would they be?

"Mel, you need to rest. You have been very tired for hours. Please go to sleep." Cole instructed gently. "Your human body is near exhaustion. I can sense it."

He was right. She was. She did need to sleep, Mel acknowledged silently. All she had to do was close her eyes and forget about the half naked or possibly fully naked Cirronian lying next to her? Piece of cake.

"Mel?" Cole called her name quietly in the darkness.

"Yes, Cole?" She answered just as quietly.

Cole rolled to his side, his fingers searching for her throat in the darkness. Those Cirronian senses of his served him well. He found her with his first attempt. "Close your eyes, Mel, and go to sleep. I'll be here to watch over you." It occurred to him that he might have to use his Cirronian powers and put her to sleep for her own good if she didn't fall asleep on her own. But he hated to take away her freedom to choose.

His fingers stroked around her collarbone softly, transmitting a calming and soothing energy to lull her into the sleep she so badly needed.

Mel surrendered to the glorious feeling and closed her eyes. Cole had a way of melting any resistance she offered. She'd worry about that in the morning, Mel decided, right after she discovered whether or not Cole's tight little white briefs had spent the night in bed with her or on the chair.


Cole's meditation was abruptly interrupted when he felt a petite feminine hand brush across his chest. It was soon followed by a long slender leg thrown over his human male signatures. He opened his eyes to the beginnings of morning light making its way into the room. If it wasn't dawn already, it soon would be. He had successfully meditated for several hours. His lifeforce felt renewed. His human male signatures felt threatened.

Delicate fingers began caressing the small hairs on his chest. A feminine knee moved slightly, rubbing against those signatures. Cole's expression was surprised but not entirely displeased. He turned his head slightly toward Mel, seeing that she had managed to abandon her side of the bed and was currently executing some sort of human strategy to overtake the side he was currently occupying. He observed Mel was still very much asleep. A smile played around her mouth. Cole was left to wonder what kind of dreams would make a woman smile like that while sleeping.

Mel moaned softly as she nestled closer to him and rested her head on top of his shoulder. 

Cole reached a decision to remain still, not wishing to disturb the vital rest Mel needed. It was still early and her human body could use additional sleep. She looked better though, he noticed. There were still faint circles of exhaustion beneath her pretty eyes, but those would fade with a few more hours rest, he decided.

Mel decided at that moment to wrap the leg not currently lodged against his male parts around one of his legs. Female toes began to dig into the hair covering the chosen leg. Cole thought this one of the strangest human activities he had experienced yet.

He was looking down at her, giving her a very puzzled look when Mel sighed softly and kissed his chest.

Cole didn't mind this newest activity in the least. Humans were indeed very strange life forms. Cole had not realized that they could express affection in their sleep. On Cirron, such expressions would have been made with full knowledge and thought.

Cole pondered this difference between their species without paying much thought to his own actions. He wrapped his arm around Mel, securing her place next to him while he enjoyed the silky softness of her legs against his own skin. His fingertips began to stroke her slender arm.

When Cole looked down, somewhat puzzled by his own actions, he noticed that Mel had evidently approved of his touch and was moving even closer to him.

He smiled at the open affection she was gifting him with while she slept.

Her hand abandoned his chest and reached upward to feel the hair at the nape of his neck. Mel sighed once again, mumbling something he couldn't decipher, before running her fingers through his dark hair.

Cole glanced back down at her upturned face and the reddish blonde mass of curls covering her pretty head. They were all over the place. Remembering Mel had informed him her hair would be a sight to see in the morning, he grinned.

Cole couldn't resist the urge to lift a lock or two and stretch out the curl before watching it pop back into its corkscrew shape again when he released it.

The Tracker smiled. Holding Mel in the morning was turning out to be something he enjoyed very much.

Mel climbed on top of him.

Shocked, Cole was momentarily paralyzed by the petite woman who had so quickly rolled on top of him; wrapping both of her arms around his neck and laying her head back down on his chest. Cole didn't believe it would be possible for Mel to have done anything more surprising to him.

She quickly set about proving him wrong.

One slim hand traveled down his chest and past his waist to wrap around the human part of him that declared him a male. "Hmm..." Mel whispered into his chest. "You want me, don't you?" Her hand squeezed and stroked him through his white briefs. "Oh… you feel so good, and so ready, come on…" She urged in a soft mumble.

Cole hadn't felt this 'distracted' since he had taken human form. Not even the time Mel had been showing him how to bathe and shave had he felt such a strong overwhelming urge to do 'something,' so connected to human sexuality. Cole took a deep breath and captured Mel's wayward hand.

She expressed her disappointment near his ear. "Oh, no…Cole, let me touch you." Mel pleaded in a girlish voice. "It's not fair. I want you too."

Cole grinned. She had used his name. Her hands made a quick attempt to return to their original quest. He had to intercept them again. "No, Mel…" He spoke quietly but in a firm tone.

She rubbed her hips against his 'distracted part' eliciting a gasp from Cole.

Cole was becoming seriously distracted. This couldn't go on. He'd have to wake Mel. He couldn't keep fighting her while she slept, he thought with a wry smile.

Cole fought off her determined and sly hands again before rolling her over onto her back in a flip that would have made any martial artist proud.

"Wake up, Mel." Cole called, rolling away from her as he did.

Her eyelids moved but remained closed.

"Mel… it's morning."

Her eyelids fluttered open for just a second then closed a second time. "I don't care." She mumbled, suddenly flipping over onto her stomach, jerking the pillow from his side of the bed and hugging it against her. "Go away." She ordered in an uncharitable tone.

Cole almost laughed out loud, her words so unlike the sweet Mel who had been trying to coax him into doing something 'distracting' just a few minutes earlier.

"Mel, you have had enough rest. It is time to wake up so we can go home."

She groaned, before pleading with him. "Just a few more minutes, Cole, please?" She buried her face into the pillow and mumbled, "I was having the most wonderful dream."

"Really?" Cole asked with a smile. "What were you dreaming about, Mel?" He asked innocently, his expression anything but.

"Oh… I was just…" Her eyes popped open and her head popped up off the pillow. "I was visiting …someplace…," she lied, yawning. Cole took note of the fact she covered the yawn with the same delicate hand that had been squeezing his male signature just a few moments earlier.

"Must have been a nice place to visit, Mel?" The Tracker tried to keep the smirk off his face.

She sighed and replied honestly. "It was."

"Maybe you can go back there sometime?" He suggested, grinning. "In your dreams."

Mel's expression grew wistful. "Maybe."

Awake now, Mel sat up and noticed Cole was grinning at her. "What is it, Cole?"

The grin changed into a gentle smile. "Nothing, Mel. I was just thinking that when we get home, maybe we could rent a movie tonight?"

"A movie?" Mel smiled back at him. "Yeah, okay. If you want, that would be fun." Mel avoided looking in his direction as he climbed out of bed and made his way over to his pants draped across the back of the chair.

White Briefs. He was wearing white briefs. Thank God. Or not. She thought with a small laugh at herself.

"I'd like to do a comparative study." Cole informed her as he zipped up his pants.

"Comparative study?" Mel asked, looking at the handsome face and bare chest she couldn't get enough of.

She rolled her eyes at her own slow wittedness. "Psycho. Of course, you want to watch Hitchcock's Psycho, don't you, Cole?"

Cole looked at Mel sitting there in the bed they had shared all night and grinned, his gentle brown eyes twinkling with laughter. "Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of The Bride of Frankenstein."

Cirronians were known for their lightning speed and it was a good thing, Cole thought with good humor, otherwise he might not have been able to deflect that pillow Mel fired at his face.

The End