Disclaimer: I don't own Human Target and intend no copyright infringement.
Ames decided it didn't matter how she looked anyway and discarded her clothes one by one, leaving a trail of newly bought garments from her front door to her bedroom she had originally hoped she'd produce with the help of someone else. Completely undressed by the time she had reached her destination she grabbed her most favorite and most faded, washed-out jogging suit and disappeared into the bathroom.
Turning on the hot water till it almost burnt her skin, she tried to wash off the disappointment of the day… which of course didn't work. But that was what ice-cream and chocolate sauce had been invented for, wasn't it? Hair put up in a messy ponytail, she flopped down on her sofa, activated her DVD player and tried not to cry as the first episode of her Buffy the Vampire Slayer collection began playing.
Of course her couch and the carpet within throwing range were soon dotted with used tissues nevertheless, but what did it matter? She wasn't expecting any visitors. For the same reason she didn't get up and hurry to the bathroom when she accidentally dropped her spoon on her jogging suit's sweater, staining it with an ugly brown spot. Shrugging it off, she simply kept on eating, trying not to concentrate on certain similarities between Buffy, Angel, her and…
Ames almost dropped her spoon again. What the…?
Her doorbell! Could it be…? Oh good Lord, and she looked like a sniveling broomstick on acid!
A look through the peephole, however, revealed that it wasn't Chance. Only Mrs. Pucci.
ONLY Mrs. Pucci?
Jeez, her boss was paying her a visit and she…the apartment… her living-room… were a complete mess!
"Miss Ames, please open the door. I think we should talk."
What could Ames do? Hanging her head in shame, she let her boss into her apartment.
Ilsa looked at the half-empty tub of melting double chocolate chip ice-cream, the balled up tissues all over the floor plus her employee's puffy face and knew her assumption had been correct.
"I fear Mr. Chance needs a little more encouragement than the classic combination of a deep cleavage and fluttering eye lashes, Miss Ames."
Ames' face reddened with shame. So she had been that obvious?
"But I think I could provide a solution here…", Ilsa continued.
… … …
"I knew it was a bad idea to sell everything to her! I just knew it!
Ames rolled her eyes and stifled a sigh. So far this wasn't going well.
"Why don't you look at it as a paid vacation? A lone cabin in the middle of the mountains… yeah, bummer that they messed up the reservation so we have to share this one, but still…"
Chance shot her a withering look. "A CONSULTANT will come and visit us tomorrow. To TALK about our careers and our plans for the future. She ORDERED me to take part in this crap!"
This time Ames didn't stifle the sigh. She had known that the back story to this trip with Chance would not sit well with him, but neither she nor Ilsa had been able to come up with something more believable than some human resource development BS.
"And in addition to that this goddamn thing doesn't even have electricity!" Chance had looked as if he was thinking about borrowing a couple of Guerrero's methods when the receptionist down in the valley had told them that they were very sorry but unfortunately the electricity for the cabin was partially down and so was the telephone line. For some reason only the hot tub on the deck was working perfectly.
"How very useful", Chance had snarled at the receptionist and stomped off.
Of course getting a signal for wireless LAN or cell phone was nearly impossible with all the mountains around (Ames had satellite access with her phone, but Chance didn't need to know that), so no internet, no video games, no nothing for the poor ex-assassin to distract himself. By arranging this partial technological breakdown Ilsa and Ames had hoped he'd start focusing on something, or, more accurately, someone else for distraction….
"But we've got a wonderful fireplace", Ames pointed out. "It's a bit chilly in here, yeah, but once we've lit it I'm sure we won't have to freeze to death. And there are candles everywhere, we won't have to stumble around in the darkness either."
"Do you have any idea how cold this hellhole will get during the night once the fire goes out?"
Ames decided it was not the right timing to mention that there were other methods to keep warm. "Look!", she exclaimed, nodding towards the window. "It has started snowing!" And indeed seemingly weightless silvery flakes were gently fluttering out of the darkening sky towards the already snow covered ground.
"Great. The firewood will get wet."
"I'm sure it's well-protected." Ames took a deep breath. It looked like this was going to be harder than she had imagined it to be. "Why don't we arrange a couple of pillows on this bear skin rug once the fireplace is burning? It looks very comfy."
"Do you realize that these kind of rugs are often treated with formaldehyde to keep moths away?"
Oh yeah, this was definitely going to be harder than she had imagined it to be.
"And who the hell had the brainchild idea to stack the storage room with honey, whipping cream and chocolate sauce? What in the world are we supposed to do with whipping cream when there's no cake to put it on to? And all that peppermint massage oil in the bathroom… Ridiculous!"
A lot harder.
… … …
"Seriously boss, this won't work."
It hadn't taken Guerrero and Winston long to figure out that Ilsa's human resource development memo had been nothing but a cover up for a crazy ass plan to finally get Chance moving in the right direction – towards Ames, that is.
"I think Ms. Ames and Mr. Chance would make a great couple and the company would definitely benefit from a stable emotional environment for its best asset", Ilsa defended herself.
"We're not arguing the point that Chance should finally come clear regarding Ames…", Winston explained.
"…but your methods, dude… Chance hates vacations."
"Trust us, Mrs. Pucci, a bored Chance is nothing you'll want Ames to have to deal with." Winston shot Guerrero a warning look not to interrupt him again. "There was this movie star who invited him to a sailing trip in the Caribbean…"
"Wanna make a bet how fast he starts experimenting with explosives this time around?" Guerrero grinned at Winston while Ilsa turned pale.
"What have I done…?"
"Don't worry, Mrs. Pucci, we've already devised a plan…"
"…which we're going to share with you against a small bonus", Guerrero continued.
Winston would have kicked him if he had been within reach, but of course Guerrero wasn't. The nonchalant shrug of his shoulders spoke for himself: "What? Worth a try."
"I'm all ears", Ilsa told them.
… … …
Ames spent a cold and lonely night under a rather thin blanket in the cabin's bedroom while Chance grumbled about the hard couch in the living-room. He had insisted that at least one of them should not suffer because the reservations had been messed up – "bed's all yours". Damn his gallantry.
For breakfast, she decided, it was time to haul out the big guns. Clad in nothing but a skimpy T-shirt, she sat down at the kitchen table with him.
"Get dressed", he told her. "You'll catch a cold. Can't have you sneezing all over the place when the next job comes in. DNA traces."
"There's a beautiful lake not far from here. Frozen solid. I think I saw skates in one of the closets…"
"Can't ice-skate. Ask Winston. He can tell you a funny story."
Ames fought the urge to throttle him and silently cursed Ilsa. If she had simply let her wallow in her misery and not given her new hope… Now she was stuck here for a whole weekend, not getting an inch closer to him… Maybe she should stop this idiotic beating around the bush and tell him flat out what she was feeling.
Chances were he'd bolt… like with this Maria… but on the other hand…
"Listen…", she said. This was all or nothing. Either she'd blow everything forever now or…
Chance looked at her over the rim of his cup. At least she had his attention. Swallowing hard, she opened her mouth…
"Was that a gunshot?"
Gone was Chance's attention. At least regarding her.
"That was a gunshot!" Eyes gleaming with excitement, he hurried towards the door. "Come on, what are you waiting for? Put on clothes, we need to check this out!"
… … …
A couple of hours later the cabin's door reopened and in walked Chance, carrying a dripping wet Ames.
"Sorry about that", he apologized while gently placing her on the sofa. "Told you me and a frozen lake aren't a good combination…"
Ames, freezing, chilled to the bone, bruised and exhausted, merely grunted in reply.
"But think of all those pretty roe we saved!"
At that particular moment, Ames couldn't have cared less if they had saved Bambi's mother herself.
"I know what will cheer you up! The hot tub out on the deck!" Chance was still in high spirits – he had first chased the poacher with a pimped up snowmobile down a steep hill, including a spectacular jump over a deep rift, and then climbed up a frozen waterfall – YES!
"And a massage with that peppermint oil later on, what about that? The blanket in the bedroom is a bit thin, isn't it? Well, we could combine our blankets, use our body heat and sleep on the rug in front of the fireplace, what do you think? That formaldehyde issue is probably just an urban legend."
Ames looked at him with squinted eyes and wondered if she had received one hit to the head too many in the past few hours.
"Come on, you'll enjoy the hot tub." Chance gave her his million watt smile. "I know you're sore, but the hot water will work miracles. Let me help you undress…"
… … …
Back in San Francisco, Guerrero looked up from his cell and nodded at Ilsa and Winston.
"Your guy?", Winston asked.
"Everything's cool, dude. Chance got his adrenaline kick. The rest is up to Ames."
And Ames had never been one to miss out on an opportunity… the hot tub indeed worked miracles…