Title: Cold Hands, Warm Heart
Disclaimers – all the usual
Timeline – after Season 4
Huddled together in front of the crackling fire, Lee stared down at his wife through half closed eyes. Her face was almost hidden from view but he could just make out her lashes fanned against her cheeks and her lips were slightly parted as she slept. Resting his chin on top of her head, he inhaled the unique combination of scents that defined Amanda and tightened his arms around her slight body. She was curled up in a ball; her nose buried his chest while his arms and legs encircled her in a bear hug.
The night was cold and he was attempting to keep her as warm as possible. A chest cough had developed earlier in the day and while she hadn't said anything, Lee was worried that she was becoming increasingly ill. It was the third night that they'd had to camp out and the wintery conditions were making the experience anything but pleasant.
Lee smiled grimly as he contemplated what he would do to Francine when they finally got back to civilization. 'A week of skiing and relaxing by a fire', was how she had described their current assignment. Well, they had gone skiing and there was a fire but the relaxing part was definitely missing.
Their contact had been jumpy, leaving a myriad of cryptic messages that took forever to decode. Then the man arranged some of the most outlandish meeting spots Lee had ever imagined, only to continuously back out when the mystery man deemed them unsafe. Who in their right mind set up a meeting for the 'third pine tree from the left of the last cabin, just past the outhouse at two in the morning? Come in your bathrobe so it looks like you're using the facilities.' It was winter for heaven's sake and ten degrees below zero. No one in their right mind went to the bathroom in those conditions! The idiot had obviously read too many cheap spy novels.
Once they'd finally gotten the information from the man, all hell had broken loose with the Bulgarian's chasing them down the slopes and only an advantageous avalanche saving their skins. However, now they had to hike back to civilization and the deep snow was making the going tough. They weren't covering much ground each day and their supplies were extremely limited.
Lee gave Amanda another squeeze as he recalled scoffing at her insistence that they take a full kit with them when they set out that fated morning. They finally had the microchip and he'd erroneously thought the hard part was over. A morning spent cross country skiing, followed by an afternoon of lovemaking in front of the fire had been foremost in his mind, not planning for contingencies that would never happen. Unfortunately, Amanda had been right; what shouldn't have happened did happen. The day was a disaster with the 'bad guys' showing up while they were at the farthest point on the ski trail. It had literally been all downhill from there.
A log shifted in the fire, sending a flurry of sparks into the cold night air. Lee could see his breath coming out in little puffs and he contemplated the state of his fingers and toes. Shifting carefully so as to not disturb Amanda, he stretched out his legs so that his feet were closer to the fire, then released his grip on his wife so he could remove his gloves. Tucking them carefully at his side, he extended his arms, a contented sigh escaping his lips as he relished the heat that crept up his frozen fingers.
"Lee?" Amanda's sleepy voice whispered his name and he glanced down at her. The dancing flames were reflected in her chocolate brown eyes and he smiled at her while brushing his now warm fingers across her cheek.
"Hmm?" He answered distractedly, too busy examining her features. Gently he traced the arch of her brows and the slant of her nose. God, she was lovely.
"Shouldn't it be my turn to keep watch? You haven't had any sleep yet."
He shrugged. "Nah—I'm not tired."
She shifted in his arms and leaned back, looking at him straight on. "The shadows under your eyes tell me differently. I really think—." A fit of coughing interrupted what she was saying and Lee rubbed her back, his jaw tightening in worry and frustration. He hated being in situations like this. Amanda needed to be someplace warm with medical attention and instead they were stuck in the god-forsaken wilderness. It made him feel helpless and he despised that feeling.
When she was done coughing, she wiped the tears from her face and sniffled, staring at the fire. Gently he took her chin, and turned her to face him. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah. I'm good."
Lee gave her a considering look but then let it go. There was nothing he could do about it anyway, so making her confess how bad she felt wouldn't prove anything. "Do you want something to eat?" His mind inventoried their dwindling food rations. "We have a palate watering selection of trail-mix, beef jerky, and saltines. And the wine tonight is a vintage snow melt, heated to room temperature in a tin cup and aged at least five minutes."
Amanda giggled at his attempted levity. "I think I'll pass." She stared at the fire and relaxed back against his chest, absentmindedly playing with his fingers before finally speaking again. "Do you think we'll reach civilization tomorrow?"
"Sure, probably by mid-day we'll be in a nice warm motel room and I'll be on the phone ranting at Francine to send someone to pick us up." He really didn't know that for a fact but figured the positive statement was what she needed to hear.
Twisting in his arms, she looked up. "You're lying, but thanks for trying to make me feel better."
Chuckling, he dropped a quick kiss on the end of her nose. She always knew.
"Is that the best you can do, Stetson or has the cold affected your aim?" A teasing light appeared in her eyes. He quirked a brow and then tilted her chin so that he could reach her mouth, placing a slow warm kiss on her lips. With a sigh, they separated. "Better, but..." Amanda twisted around so that she was facing Lee, her legs straddling his hips. She yanked her gloves off and then pulled the zipper of his parka down a bit so she could work her fingers inside to touch his neck.
"Hey!" Lee jumped. "Your hands are cold."
Amanda continued to tease his skin with gentle strokes while she leaned in for another kiss. "Cold hands, warm heart." She whispered against his mouth before nibbling on his lower lip. Lee moaned in appreciation and pulled her closer, one hand cradling the back of her head while the other moved up and down her back, seeking access to her skin. After a few moments, they pulled back, breathing heavily.
"You're hands are warmer now," Lee muttered as he trailed his lips across her cheek. "But these ski suits aren't conducive to continuing this particular means of creating body heat."
"Mmm... I know. Too cold to take anything off, but at least this kept our minds off our predicament for awhile." She gave him another quick peck, then caressed his jaw, murmuring about the three days growth of stubble that was there.
"Is that what you were doing? Distracting me?" He rested his forehead on hers, and stared into her eyes.
"Yeah. You looked worried, so I offered a distraction. Did it work?"
He gave her a crooked smile, a dimple appearing on his cheek. "Yeah, it worked."
"Good." She worked her way around so she was facing the fire again and once more Lee rested his chin on top of her head, marvelling at how lucky he was to have her in his life. Amanda was tougher than she looked. Most women would have been whining and crying over the cold; but not his Amanda. Instead she just 'sucked up' the fact that she was freezing and sick and hungry. Instead of complaining, she was trying to make him feel better... Well, the kisses probably made her feel better too, but that was beside the point. She put others ahead of herself and that was a rare thing in this world of 'Me First.'
The sound of her breathing grew steady and he knew she was asleep again. Good, rest was what she needed right now. Rest and a warm place to stay. Maybe he hadn't been lying and tomorrow would find them in a town full of warm buildings, modern conveniences, and real food.
Lee stared at the fire. The FLAMES DANCED IN THE DARKNESS CREATING A WORLD OF MAGIC, a warm circle of light in an otherwise dark night. Tall snow encrusted pines surrounded them casting interesting shadows across the blanket of snow. Individual crystals twinkled like diamonds while the occasional snowflake slowly drifted down, only to disappear and lose its identity in the white drifts that covered the landscape.
His eyes were growing heavy but he forced himself to stay awake. Someone had to ensure that the fire kept burning. It was keeping them from freezing to death and with any luck someone might notice the smoke come morning. If not, well, they'd keep walking.
At some point in time he must have drifted off, for he woke with a start, his heart pounding. The fire... Relief flooded him as he noted that it was still burning and Amanda was crouched in front of it, melting some snow in a tin cup. Stretching, Lee groaned; his muscles protesting the awkward position he'd been sitting in.
"Amanda, you should have woke me." He cleared his throat and rubbed his hand over his face.
"You needed your rest." She smiled at him while offering a cup of warm water. He took a sip and thought longingly of coffee. Even instant would do. Three days without a caffeine fix; who'd have thought the Scarecrow could survive it?
The sun was just rising and Lee scanned the horizon looking for signs of life. A few rabbit tracks could be seen near the base of the evergreens but they didn't have time to try and trap anything, besides which he doubted Amanda would let him kill 'Thumper.' She was a strange blend of personalities: loving and practical, intuitive and efficient, a ruthless operative when needed yet still charmingly naive and tender hearted.
Lee stood and headed for the trees to do what was needed, then ate some trail mix for breakfast before packing up their meagre supplies. Taking Amanda's hand in his, they headed east, each falling into the trance like rhythm that had carried them through the previous days' treks. If you didn't think about the cold, or how tired your legs were, it was better.
How long they'd been walking, Lee was unsure though he absentmindedly noticed that the sun hadn't reached its zenith yet. His mind had been occupied with Amanda's cough and the sound of her struggled breathing. He'd shortened his stride and slowed his pace in order not to tax her strength too much yet worried that their measured pace would mean another night spent out of doors. With their dwindling rations they wouldn't have the fuel needed to maintain their body temperatures in the increasingly cold weather.
As they stood resting for a few minutes, Lee eyed the grey clouds that hung heavy in the sky and speculated that there'd be more snow before nightfall. The fresh powder would make travelling even more difficult than it already was. He tightened his jaw, determined to not give in to the gnawing fear that was burning in his belly. Surreptitiously, he checked Amanda for signs of a fever. Her face was slightly flushed and her eyes were a bit glassy. Casually he pressed a kiss to her forehead, frowning as he felt the warm skin beneath his lips. Giving her a tight smile, he indicated that they should continue their journey.
The world around him blurred as they plodded onward, One step followed another, the only sound the crunching of snow and laboured breathing. Staring unseeing at the ground before him, Lee prayed they'd make it...Sometime later, Amanda's excited voice broke into his thoughts.
"Lee! Listen!" He blinked, then looked at her questioningly. "Don't you hear it? It's coming from over there." She pointed towards a stand of trees to their right.
He strained his ears and then finally caught the sound that she'd heard. Snowmobiles. A broad grin broke out on his face as the bright yellow machines came up over the ridge and burst through the trees. Laughing and crying at the same time, Amanda began to jump up and down, waving her arms and calling out.
Lee stood still with a crooked smile on his face, watching rescue finally appear. As the machines came to a stop just a few yards away, he cast his eyes skyward and whispered "Thank you."
"You were right you know," Amanda sat beside him with her head on Lee's chest. It was one in the afternoon and they were warm, fed and safely ensconced in a motel room awaiting transportation back home.
"I was?" He raised his eyebrows and looked down at her.
"Uh-huh. You said we'd be in a warm motel room by mid-day and you were right."
"Yeah, I was, wasn't I?" He grinned. "And I've even already called Francine and ranted at her, so technically we're ahead of schedule."
"Mmm... So what should we do with our spare time?"
"Well, the doctor said you should rest so those antibiotics have a chance to work."
"I suppose..." Amanda's voice trailed off then suddenly Lee yelped.
"A-man-da! Your hands are like ice." He pulled the offending appendages away from his chest. Her nimble fingers had undone the buttons of his flannel shirt and were attempting to stroke his bare skin.
She pulled her hands free and moved to straddle his lean hips. As she set herself down in his lap, she gave a suggestive little wiggle. "Remember the old saying: cold hands—"
"—Warm heart." He finished for her, with a smile. "I guess if I can have your heart, I'll put up with cold hands any day." Lee placed a kiss on her lips.
"You're sure?" Amanda teased as she gave another wiggle. "Because, otherwise, I'll just take my cold hands off to bed, all by myself."
"Mmm... I'm sure." Lee suddenly cupped her rear end and stood up. Amanda gave a squeal and wrapped her arms around his neck to keep from falling. "But how about we both go to bed? Maybe between the two of us, we can find a way to warm those hands up."
"I'm sure you'll think of something, Stetson."
He wiggled his eye brows at her. "I'm sure I will too."