A/N: I thought I'd start a sequel to Fallout. Sort of. Ideas have been swarming in my head for a while, but only now are they condensing into any semblance of a story. :) We'll see how it goes. Ideas get clearer as I write.
Please tell me what you think! Review! :)
Wham! A snowball hurtled over the snow fort into Connie's cheek. "Ow!" she said, wiping the half-melted snow off her face.
"Are you okay?" said Jason, beside her. He gently touched her skin where she was pretty sure there'd be a red mark for a while.
"I've had worse," she said, attempting a smile; the cold across her face made it hard to move her mouth. Come to think of it, it'd probably hurt more once she went indoors.
"We're running out of snow." He took their shovel and tossed some more into the pile, careful to stay out of the line of sight of Wooton and Penny, their opponents.
Connie gathered some snow and packed it into a ball, as Jason built one of his own.
"On three," she said. "One—Two—"
They dashed out from behind the fort, and ambushed Wooton and Penny with a hailstorm of snowballs over the top of their high, pinnacled fort. From behind the white wall, there was a yelp of 'ow', and a laugh from Penny. "We'll get you back for that!" she yelled.
Jason grabbed Connie's shoulder, pulled her into a huddle. "I have an idea. We'll sit tight here, make more weapons, and wait so long they can't help but come out. Then we'll attack!"
"Is that something you learned as an agent?"
He mock-gasped. "Uh oh, I've given away my secrets!"
"So that's what you were doing all that time you were a spy."
"Trust me, it got pretty intense."
Jason laughed. "Yeah, I haven't had a snowball fight like this since I was a kid." He knelt in the snow, started crafting more missiles.
Connie joined him. "Who knows who's going to win? Wooton and Penny are pretty good."
Jason nodded. "But how do we decide who wins? Whoever gives up first?"
"I think so."
Connie glanced up at the sky. Overcast, it was late in the afternoon. They'd met here in McCalister Park after church. They'd started by making a snowman, but his head had fallen off, and so Wooton had started making him into a fort. It had escalated from there.
After amassing a giant pyramid of snowballs, they sat there and waited. Connie rubbed her gloved hands together, trying not to shiver, and looked over at Jason, wondering if he was getting cold too. After he'd been kidnapped two months ago, she'd taken to watching over him, making sure he was taking care of himself.
The images assaulted her mind again-of him being beaten, of the blood spreading across his chest from the gunshot. She tried to stifle those memories as much as she could; she never wanted to think of him like that. She's rather see him always as this strong older brother, invincible, next-to-perfect (what do you expect from a Whittaker?). The past few days, she'd almost forgotten what had happened. Things were almost back to normal—except in times like this, when she had time to wonder whether he was as recovered as he acted, or how much scarring, not just physical, lay beneath the surface. He had shared some of his thoughts with her, but she suspected there was a lot he hadn't…and she didn't blame him. As horrible as it had been for her to go through those two days when he was missing, it was nothing in comparison to what he must've experienced. He was stronger than her in every way—she had no illusions about how she would have emerged from that—but it still must've affected him in ways that he couldn't come to terms with. Even after two months.
His face was in profile, the glare of the snow reflecting off of it. He's in agent mode, isn't he, she thought. He isn't even thinking about me, just about the 'mission'. That's okay though; as long as it makes him happy. At least this kind of mission can't get him killed.
He leaned toward her. "They're out there. Ready?"
She grabbed some snowballs and nodded.
"Go!" he said in a loud whisper.
They both leaped from opposite sides of the fort. She ambushed Wooton and slammed a snowball at him but he dodged it and hit her with one, which crashed into her shoulder. She ducked his next volley and dashed behind the fort, grabbing more snowballs, and hurled them toward him like arrows from a medieval castle.
He yelled "Retreat!" and ran back to their fortress, not before throwing a few more snowballs toward Connie, which missed except one which grazed her hood.
Jason and Penny were locked in combat in the center; Connie ran to help him and ended up tackling Penny, who managed to crawl away and limp back to the fortress.
"Penny, are you okay?" said Connie.
"Not really!" said Penny from behind the wall of snow.
Connie turned to Jason, who was kneeling in the snow. His face was pale; he was breathing hard. "Jason, what's wrong?"
He made an attempt at a laugh, though he clutched his chest as if it hurt. "It's just the gunshot wound. Close quarters combat- got a little intense there."
"Yeah. Maybe we should…call it a draw?"
"I don't….Well…maybe." He grimaced. "I hate to call it a day just because of my…infirmity."
"It's not your fault. You shouldn't push yourself too hard yet."
"Yeah, I know." He sighed.
"Besides, I think Penny's kind of injured too."
"How are you guys doing?" said Jason.
"We have a fallen warrior!" said Wooton. "She wants to keep playing, but she twisted her ankle."
"Okay, let's go home," said Jason, unable to keep the relief out of his voice.
Wooton emerged, helping Penny limp from behind the fort. Wooton looked at the fort wistfully. "Goodbye, Yoda," he said. He gave it an affectionate pat. "You served us well."
"You were a terrible snowman," said Penny, "but an awesome fort." She looked at Connie. "Did you guys have a name for your fort?"
She shook her head. "Just 'Fort'."
"That's what I'd have called our fort," said Wooton, "if he hadn't been a snowman first."
Jason drove them to his house and they filed inside, shedding dripping boots and coats in the entryway. He started the teapot and got out hot chocolate and marshmallows while they all sat down in the living room and Penny propped up her foot with some ice. Connie wrapped herself in a blanket, and got so warm she didn't even want to get up to get the hot chocolate while Wooton and Penny got theirs. Jason brought her a mug, complete with giant marshmallows foaming on top. He slid in beside her and they started a movie while they waited for the pizza to arrive. After pizza, they played Scattergories.
Then Wooton took Penny home, since he had to get up early for his mail route. Connie helped Jason clean up, then turned on the rest of the movie.
The movie faded in and out of existence and finally….she was asleep.
She stirred. She felt comfortable, warm, safe. She snuggled into the warmth, and grabbed the pillow she was leaning on.
Except it wasn't a pillow, it was a shoulder. She looked up into Jason's face, shadowed in the low light.
"Oh, sorry," she said, words slurring with sleep. "Didn't know 'shwas you." She sat up.
"I didn't want to wake you," he said.
"So you didn't move? You could've, you know. I wouldn't care."
He smiled ruefully. "You looked so comfortable and peaceful, I…well, I couldn't risk it."
"Would you have stayed there all night?" she said.
He cleared his throat. "Probably not."
"You should have just woken me up in the first place, Jason. Now what time is it?"
"Eleven-thirty." He inched away from her a little, hands clasped in front of him.
"I missed the whole end of the movie. Great."
"Wasn't the best movie in the world."
"Maybe next time we can watch a better movie. One that you pick out." She stood up, stretching.
"I'll drive you home," he said.
"You don't have to."
"It's not far. I can walk back."
She was too tired to argue. "Okay."
They drove home in silence. It was so dark, and the soft rhythm of the car almost rocked her back to sleep.
They stopped at her house. "Thanks, Jason," she said, getting out of the car sleepily.
He nodded, face solemn under the street lamps. "You've done so much for me and Dad, Connie."
"Cut it out, Jason. I haven't done very much."
"More than you know." He took her hand, pressed it in his- the one that had been injured. Suddenly, he withdrew it, turned, and walked down the sidewalk, while she stood there in the cold, shivering, as if he had taken all warmth away with his absence.