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(Read by Author Esther Mitchell)

She needed Rick.


There was nothing sexual in her need right now. She just needed to be in his space, to look into his eyes, feel the safety of his arms around her, to know she could sleep. No way could her nightmares touch her as long as he was near. She didn't even question it. She just knew it in her soul. Still trembling, she made her way down the short stretch of corridor between their units, until she came to a stop outside the door to Rick's quarters. She wasn't even sure if he was there -- Rick spent a lot more time in the Command Center or working graveyard Comms shifts than was healthy -- but it didn't matter, right now. Just being in his space, in his bed, would be enough.


Rick always kept his door locked, but he'd programmed her handprint into his system right after he brought her home from the hospital, after Porto Alegre. He'd kept her close for the first couple of weeks, his worry palpable.


Now, with a soft smile, Tamia touched the door pad, mild surprise flowing through her as the door opened into semi-darkness.


She frowned.


His quarters were dark, except for the lighted floor strips along the walls. Rick always left the living room lamp on -- for her, he told her, when she once questioned him about it. He didn't want her stumbling around in the dark and hurting herself if she decided to come over when he wasn't there. She didn't bother to argue that the floor strips were more than enough light, at the time. She just let herself enjoy the feeling of being cared for.


Now, the lack of light worried her. Where was Rick?


Probably on Comms. He probably didn't expect her over tonight.


Making her way through the living room by the light of the floor strips, she paused at the door to his bedroom. As the door slid open, Tamia stopped in surprise at the murmur of Rick's breathing, even before she saw the dark silhouette of him against the dim light of the floor strips. A trembling smile touched her lips.


He sleeps.


She moved to the bed, slipped out of her robe and under the covers, and curled against Rick. Her breath rushed out in a soft sigh as she relaxed into his breathing warmth, her fingers sliding over the white rose tattooed on the left side of his chest. She needed to be near him, to chase away her demons. She needed him in her life.


She felt him startle awake against her, and then heard him mutter, "Wha' th'... "


She snuggled closer, sliding her free arm across his waist. The warmth of his arms settled around her, pulling her even closer, and she lifted her head to find his sleepy blue eyes fixed on her.


"Thought you might end up here, babe. I should have left the light on."


She brushed her lips over his skin, drinking in his scent. "Didn't need it."


His hands slid along her body, and she watched him frown, his expression alert and intense. "You're trembling."


"Bad dream," she mumbled as she looked away. Suddenly, she didn't want to show him her weakness. She didn't want his pity. "That's all."


He tilted her face toward his with a gentle hand. She saw his concerned expression, shadowed by the dim light of the floor strips. "What can I do?"


"Just hold me." Even as the whispered request spilled out, Tamia tensed against the words. The streets taught her being needy was weak, and she despised weakness. Tamia Kuan didn't need anyone. Yet the clench of fear in her chest at the mere thought of not having Rick in her life had her biting her lip against tears.


She was very much afraid Rick might be necessary to her survival.

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