Title: Stay With Me
Summary: Zoe is on vacation. Turns out Wade is too. A lake house, fishing and strip chess ensue. Oh, the fun!
Author's note: I've been reading and writing lots of serious things lately, and for a break I decided to watch Hart of Dixie. Of course, once I saw the kind of sparks going on between Zoe and Wade, I had to write a little story for them! This is light, fluffy fun, and I hope we get more HoD fanfictions around here soon. Although, I am comforted by the fact that out of 72 stories, 54 of them are about Wade and Zoe. Cheers!
"All I want is you, will you stay with me?
Hold me in your arms and sway me like the sea."
- Barry Louis Polisar, All I Want is You
Zoe leveled her eyes at the fuse box. It sat there, looking innocent and disheveled, its wires sticking out from its weather-worn frame.
"Alright, Mr. Box," she said. "You have two options. Start working right now, or I'm going to have to use the stick."
The fuse box stared at her stonily, challenging her. She raised the stick, a sturdier one than her last and about the width of her thumb. Still the fuse box did nothing, and Zoe's house stayed dark and empty.
"You asked for it," she said, and poked at the wires. Sparks jumped out at her, and she leapt back to avoid them.
"Don't threaten me!" she said, waving the stick around. "I'm not the one that keeps being unreliable and stupid! You think I don't need power? I'm from the city—I need power!"
She abandoned the box and started beating at its pole with her stick. The stick snapped in half, and she threw it to the ground and stomped on it. Then she stomped on it again, and kicked the pole housing the fuse box.
"Well, I hate to interrupt a good tantrum," said a voice that didn't sound like it hated to interrupt anything.
"Would you fix this thing already?" she said, turning furious eyes to her neighbor. "It must drive you just as crazy as it does me!"
"You drive me crazy, doc," Wade said, and walked up to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her at the fuse box. It was smoking a little. "Especially when you poke at the wires and get 'em all tangled."
"I just want power," she said, throwing her arms up. "Is that so much to ask? I just want to be able to do my hair, and check my e-mail, and maybe make a cup of coffee! But no, I've got a stupid fuse box and a stupid neighbor who listens to stupid music and plays his stupid guitar with his stupid amp turned up until the stupid fuse box blows!"
She kicked the pole again, harder this time, and pain exploded in her foot. "Ow! Dammit!"
"I'd think a highfalutin city doctor like you could get a little more creative with her adjectives," Wade said. He was grinning at her, his 'I'm so country, I'm so charming, love me' grin that made her want to punch something.
"You know, I don't need this," she said, pointing a rigid finger at him. "I have quite enough going on in my life without faulty electrical work. You have no idea how stressful the practice—"
"Correct me if I'm wrong, doc, but isn't this your week off?"
She stopped mid-sentence and stared at him. "How did you know that?"
"I've been sneakin' around after you, listening to your conversations." Her wide eyes got wider. "Aw, Zoe, lighten up. Everybody knows old man Harley used to take off the week after New Year's."
"Yeah, but you know what, Wade?" she said, dragging his name out. "I don't take weeks off. I went through college, and then medical school, and then my residency. I'm used to long hours and little sleep and being busy all the time—and I like it that way! I don't need a vacation."
"Then don't take one," Wade answered. He looked amused at this whole thing, as if her life was a joke he'd tell to his buddies later at the Rammer Jammer. "It is your practice, after all."
"I have no choice," she said, and she slumped then, all the energy draining out of her. "Nobody made appointments for this week and our walk-ins have been slow, and Brick just insisted that I take the week off like Harley did and I—"
Her words ended in a squeal when he bent down, wrapped his arms around her middle and threw her up over his shoulder.
"You lunatic!" Zoe shouted, right next to his ear. "You psychotic, backwoods, electricity-hogging lunatic! Put me down!"
She wiggled, but his grip just tightened around her.
"I'm gonna make this easy on ya, doc," Wade said, and his Alabama accent seemed to get a little thicker. "I'm gonna take you on vacation."
"What? Where are you taking me? This is kidnapping, Wade!"
He opened the passenger-side door to his car and set her down inside. Then he closed it again before she could escape. She tried to open the door, but he held it shut, and no matter how much she pushed, she couldn't get it open again. She rolled down the window.
"What the hell are you doing?" she demanded. "I don't know what it's like in Alabama, but in New York men don't just go around tossing women over their shoulders!"
"You know, you should really put some meat on those bones," he said, reaching through to pinch her slender arm. "You're easy prey for a psychotic, backwoods, electricity-hogging lunatic like me."
"I don't have time for this."
"Looks like you got a lot of time, doc."
"Not for stuff like this!"
She turned and glowered through his bug-splattered windshield. Then, quick as a snake, she leapt over to the other side and pushed at the driver's side door. Before she got it open all the way, Wade came around the front of the car and slammed the door shut. She shoved her shoulder against it, but his strength overtook hers and she huffed in defeat.
"This isn't funny anymore."
"Listen, Zoe," Wade said, and his voice was muffled and closed-in by the window between them. "Do you trust me?"
"I'm going with a big, fat 'no,'" she answered.
He paused, straightened back up and opened the door. She stepped out cautiously, expecting some sort of trap.
"Do you trust me?" he asked again, but his tone and delivery were completely different. Serious.
"I mean, I—yeah," she said, faltering a little, unsure of the sudden switch. "I guess so, why?"
"Look, I got a couple days off too, so I'm going to my family's lake house. It's about 30 miles out of town. No practice, no pryin' eyes, no Bluebell gossip squad. I think you should come with me."
It sounded perfect. The idea of escaping town, of leaving behind Brick and the practice and taking all the pressure off her shoulders like an unwanted backpack—it could be just what she needed. But…
"Think of how crazy the Bluebell gossip squad will go when they hear we took off to your family's lake house together," she said.
"I'm not asking you to sleep with me," he said. "I mean, that's more of a standing offer, always on the table. But I ain't going to seduce you or anything. I just think you could use a break. You and the fuse box."
She glanced back at the offending box. "Our relationship has been rocky lately."
"Come on," he said, tapping her on the ass. "Go pack. Nothing fancy though, and leave all those crazy high heels of yours here. Boots and casual clothes only, unless you want to ruin all that expensive designer stuff."
"Hey! No groping, spanking, slapping or any combination thereof," she said, hitting his arm. Then she stared at him, chewing on her bottom lip as she debated with herself. "But okay. I'm in."
An hour later, they pulled up to what Zoe could only assume was the lake house. It was completely isolated, butting up against a clear but smallish lake that was probably a lot fuller in the past. A dock hung out over the dried beach, indicating where the lake's lapping waters used to reach.
The house itself was small and square, wooden and exactly what Zoe would expect a lake house to look like. She was just surprised by the lack of other houses. Or any signs of civilization at all.
"You were going to come up here by yourself?" Zoe asked skeptically. All that alone time would probably send her into a mental institution—if they had such things in Bluebell, anyway.
"It's a good place to think," Wade answered, parking on a dusty driveway and turning off the car.
"You would need complete isolation to do something that drastic," Zoe said as she stepped out of the car. He made a scoffing sound, but didn't answer as he went to the back and pulled out their bags.
He had been right about what to pack. This was clearly not a place for expensive clothes and pointy heels—not a stitch of pavement to be seen anywhere. Woods crept towards either side of the house, and fallen leaves and untamed brambles mixed into the deep, thick dirt coating the ground. A deck surrounded the house, but it was upswept and nature had started sneaking in to take it over. An old screen door blocked the entrance, and it creaked when Wade opened it.
As city as she was, Zoe found herself appreciating the unassuming house. It wasn't trying to impress anybody, and Zoe felt like she didn't have to impress anybody either.
She followed him in, not bothering to try and take her bag from him. Country men had an absurd obsession with carrying even the lightest luggage for women. She just assumed it was a cultural difference.
The inside was as modest as the outside, but homey in a simple way. The furniture was unadorned and the walls were decorated with idyllic lake scenes and mounted fish. She made a face at the fish, but didn't say anything to Wade about them.
"Drunks must make a nice living in Alabama," she said, without thinking. He turned toward her, dropping her bag in the middle of the living room, and she immediately realized her mistake. "I'm sorry, that was a stupid thing to say. Stressed, bitchy Zoe is still fighting for control."
"Not everybody in my family is a drunk," he said, anger still in his eyes. "This house is on my momma's side."
"I know," she said, waving her hands in front of her like white flags. "Seriously, Wade, I'm sorry."
He shrugged. "Yeah, well, I need to go turn on the power. Long as you don't plug too many girly contraptions in at once, it shouldn't blow. Your room is down the hall."
With that, he swept out the door.
"Way to go, Zoe," she said, shaking her head. Not even here five minutes and she'd already offended him.
She carried her bag the rest of the way down the hall. The first door on the left was the bathroom, but there were two rooms on the right. She chose the first one, and opened the door to find a queen-sized bed and a nice, if rugged, room. Placing her suitcase on the bed, Zoe pulled out a white tank top and jean shorts.
She was just tugging off her dress when Wade's voice echoed down the hallway.
"Hey, Zoe? That's the wrong—"
She realized he was going to walk in a second before he opened the door, but that still didn't give her time to hide herself completely. She was sure he got a glimpse of her Victoria Secrets before she yanked her t-shirt over her head.
"Wade!" she said, quickly tugging on her shorts now. "God, don't you knock?"
He was grinning again, this time the smug, contented grin of a person who unexpectedly received something they'd always wanted. "Hey, it's not like I haven't seen it all before, skinny dipper. Anyway, this isn't your room. Yours is next door."
"But my stuff's already in here."
He stepped closer to her, and she frowned and held up a hand to ward him off. "This is the best mattress in the house, and come tonight, I'm sleeping in that bed. If you wanna be in it, fine, but just so you know—I sleep naked."
"The other room it is," she said, grabbing her stuff. His laugh followed her out the door.
Here, at the pulse point of the middle of nowhere, Zoe Hart discovered something about herself. She liked the silence. She liked to sit on the porch and take in the absolute quiet, which was only broken by the gentle sway of the water and the stray birds calling in the distance. This place had a lonely sort of beauty, and she hated to imagine it empty of people to enjoy the stillness.
Here, at the pulse point of the middle of nowhere, Zoe finally felt the tension in shoulders start to melt away. She leaned back in her rocking chair and closed her eyes, basking in the absolute tranquility.
"I knew this was what you needed," Wade said, and she opened her eyes to look at him. He was standing in front of the back door, his hands resting on his hips. He was smiling at her. "Well, you really need to get laid. But if you won't take that, then this is the next best thing."
"You know, I almost liked you for a second," she said, sitting up straight. "And then you ruined it."
"Aw, c'mon, doc. You like me."
She eyed the bottles in his hands. "I'll like you better if one of those is for me."
He raised his eyebrows. "Oh, look at the city girl now! Sitting on a back porch drinking beer. I do believe you're becoming country-fied, Zoe Hart."
"Maybe a little," she admitted. He popped off the top of one of the beers and handed the bottle to her. She took a deep swig and found she didn't really mind the taste of generic beer anymore. "So what are we eating?"
"That depends on what we catch."
He reached around and grabbed two fishing poles that were leaning up against the wall. She nearly choked on her beer. "You're kidding, right?"
"Have you ever fished before?"
"No, of course not," she said. "Where would I have fished? The Bethesda fountain?"
"I don't know what that is," he said, but before she could explain, he held a pole out to her. "Look, the principles are simple. And if we don't catch any fish, we don't eat."
She didn't move, just eyed the pole suspiciously. Wade sighed, like she was a child refusing to do her chores. "Look, when in Bluebell, right? You can't live in the country for a year and not fish. It's just plain wrong."
She rolled her eyes. "Fine. Fine, but you better be good at this, because I want to eat something."
"Sweetheart, I'm good at a lot of things."
"Oh, gag me," she said.
"No comment," Wade answered.
Zoe didn't trust the boat at all. It was rusty and rocky, and even the slightest movement caused one side to dip a little lower in the water. She sat very still. Wade, on the other hand, made wide, comfortable gestures and sometimes sloshed the water up to join them.
She made him bait the hook for her. She had no intention of touching a live worm, and she had even fewer plans to skewer the poor little guy. Once hers was baited, he taught her to cast the line. The first time, the hook flung back and caught her hair, sending her into a panicked fit that almost capsized the boat.
"Hey, woman, just stop moving!" Wade commanded. She stilled, and he pulled the hook free. "Now don't let go of the release until you're ready to throw out the line. You're lucky you didn't catch skin."
"Says you," she answered, brushing her hair free of any worm residue. She tried again, and this time the line actually went out into the lake. "There, I did it! Now what?"
"Now, we wait," he said, opening another beer and offering it to her. "So tell me, Zoe Hart, how do you like Bluebell?"
She opened her mouth and then paused. No one had ever asked her that way, so straightforwardly. The answer was much more complicated than the question. "It's… nice. I like it a lot more now than I did when I first came."
"Meaning, I like that people don't just brush by each other here," she said. "In the city, I never even knew my neighbors. Here my neighbors bring me bundt cakes and pray for my soul."
"So you like our fine community?"
"I guess," Zoe said after a minute. "I think I like it more than it likes me."
"That's not true, doc. Lots of people like you."
She raised an eyebrow at him. "Like who? And Lavon doesn't count. He likes anyone who knows his football career."
He stayed silent, tugging a little on his own line. The lake was calm and quiet; not a hint of fish anywhere.
"I like you," he said finally, and looked back at her.
She was about to make a wisecrack retort, something about him trying to get into her shorts. Then she saw the way he was looking at her. "Oh," she said faintly, staring down at her reel. "Well, thanks. That's one, I guess."
"See, this town, it's kinda like the Mafia," Wade said. "They don't like outsiders. Once you've been here awhile and they accept you, you won't have trouble anymore."
"Do you know anything about the Mafia?"
"Excuse me," he said. "I watched every single Godfather movie. Plus the Goodfellas."
"The Goodfellas was the Mob," Zoe said.
"Aren't they the same?"
Zoe opened her mouth to answer and then pulled up short. Truthfully, she didn't know much about the Mob or the Mafia. She was a doctor, for God's sake, not an organized crime specialist. Luckily, she was saved from answering by a tug on her line. At first she was sure she had only caught some floating plant life, but then the line tugged again, more insistently than before.
"Oh!" She said, almost dropping the pole in excitement. "I think I got something!"
"What are you waiting for?" Wade said. "Reel it in!"
She did as he said, listening to his somewhat muddled instructions. She tugged here and wound there, until finally a tiny fish popped up out of the water. Wade took one look at it and burst out laughing. Ignoring him, she pulled her little fish into the boat.
"Hey, at least I caught something," she said.
The fish landed in the boat—and flopped around wildly. She didn't expect it to be so jumpy, and the second it landed on her, she panicked. Shrieking, she tried to throw the slimy thing off of her, but it only swung forward on the line and came right back again. Losing her head now, she waved her arms and jerked back—and sent the whole boat rocking on its side.
The boat didn't sink, but it did dump Zoe, Wade and their beers into the dark lake water. Spluttering and coughing, Zoe hit the sandy bottom and kicked back up to the surface.
"Why are you so crazy?" Wade demanded. He was treading water a few feet from her, his clothes soaked through. "Don't you know how to deal with a damn fish?"
"Why would I know how to deal with a fish when I've never been fishing? You should have dealt with the fish!"
"City people! You know, if there was a nuclear holocaust, country folks would be the only ones capable of surviving!"
"Okay, Johnny Cash," she said.
"Bite your tongue. That was Hank Williams Jr."
"Whatever. Can we just get back in the boat, please?"
"We can't get back in the boat. We'll sink the damn boat."
She was about to answer when something slimy brushed up against her leg. She squealed and pushed forward into Wade.
"Something touched me!" She shrilled, looking around at the cloudy water.
"Darlin', I'll touch you," he said, arms circling her waist lightly.
"No, you jerk, something in the water! Oh, God, it's a snake. Or an alligator! Oh, shit, it's an alligator! It's going to eat us alive!"
She latched onto him with shaking fingers. Their legs tangled, and her erratic breath made ripples on the water between them. She was terrified.
"One," he said, his voice low. "It was probably a fish. Two, alligators won't go after you if you aren't flailing around like a maniac. Three—I'm going to have to kiss you now."
He followed through, cupping her face and pulling her toward him before she could protest. The feel of his lips on hers was familiar, and to her surprise, welcome. She tilted her chin up, not exactly a firm response but enough to encourage him on. He bobbed in the water and without thinking, she pulled her legs up and wrapped them around his hips. He broke away from her.
"Doc," he murmured.
She leaned towards him, almost went back in—and then she stopped. They stared at each other for a second, two heads floating in the water, and then she pushed away.
"You said you wouldn't try to seduce me," she accused. "We've only been here four hours and you've already kissed me!"
"Well, it wasn't a plan or anything," he said, but she saw the grin lurking behind his forced serious expression. "It just sorta happened."
"I did not come out here to—to live in sin with you!" she said, poking him hard in the chest with a stiff index finger.
"'Live in sin'? Really?"
"The point is, this is a vacation, and I will not constantly ward off unwanted sexual advances."
"You weren't doing much warding, doc."
She opened her mouth but couldn't think of a good retort. With a furious sound, she turned and started swimming for the shore.
"Wait a minute!" Wade called. "Just wait. Look, help me pull the boat to shallow water, and I'll put you back in it."
She didn't answer, just turned back around and latched onto one side of the boat. He took the other, and they began a slow path back to the shore. After about five minutes, Wade could stand comfortably.
"Come here," he said. She glared at him, still treading water. "Oh, just get over here."
She went. He placed an arm at her shoulders and another under the crook of her knee, and for a not altogether uncomfortable second, she was encased in his arms. Then he lifted her up, up—and into the boat. She shivered in the clammy weather; the sun was setting, and the temperature had dropped enough to make her feel chilled.
The fish was still flopping around in the boat, though in a halfhearted sort of way. As calmly as she could manage, she grabbed the slimy thing and unhooked it from the fishing line. Then she let the little guy go. Wade watched her but didn't comment.
"You know, even soaking yet, you don't weigh a thing," he said instead, still pulling the boat toward shore. She felt a little guilty about making him do all the work, especially considering she'd been the one to dump them out. "You really oughta eat more, doc."
"Looks like I won't have that option tonight," she muttered.
"Sure you will," he said, and when he looked up at her, it was that 'I'm country, I'm charming, love me' grin. "I've got some cold cuts in the freezer."
Her growl and his laugh echoed out over the water.
Reviews are lovely! Expect the next chapter sometime tomorrow.