Authors: X_tremeroswellian and Did_It_Once
Spoilers: Up through and including "Restoration" in season two. Really nothing beyond that.
Disclaimer: Not ours, don't sue. Thanks.
In the Lane...
Heather Lisinski shivered a little and wrapped her arms around herself as she walked down Main Street, glancing around at the kids playing in the snow. A smile flickered over her features briefly, then faded as she kept walking, heading toward Dale's store.
She hoped he was still selling firewood, and that he wasn't out of stock, because her house was cold. Beck's men, at his behest, had requested that the people of Jericho use as little power as possible until further notice because a large portion of the country was still without power.
She sighed softly, rubbing her hands together as she stepped into the store and looked around, heart skipping a beat when she spotted Jake Green a few feet away. She hadn't seen him much since she'd been back, but when she did see him, her heart never failed to speed up a little. And that never failed to annoy her, considering Jake was back together with Emily Sullivan, though she'd heard a rumor that they'd split up a few weeks before. She'd been too busy being Beck's right hand and liaison to New Bern to investigate any further into that.
It wasn't any of her business. Tucking some hair behind her ear, she moved over to the counter where Dale stood. "Hey. Do you have any firewood left?" she asked hopefully.
Jake turned at the familiar voice and stepped to the side so Dale could speak.
Dale shook his head. "Not at the moment."
Her face fell for a moment, then she managed a smile once more. "Let me know when you get more in?"
He nodded. "We'll have some more after Jake gets it chopped."
She arched an eyebrow and turned her head to look at him, a little thrown. "Sheriff Green's chopping firewood?" There was a hint of teasing in her voice.
Jake grinned. "Just offering up the help."
"Shocking," she joked, amusement dancing in her eyes. "Need some help?"
"Nah, I'm alright."
Heather nodded a little. "Guess I'll see you later then. Bye, Dale." She offered the young man a smile and headed out the door, tucking her hands in her coat pockets.
Jake turned to Dale. "I'll have the wood done in a few hours."
"Great." He nodded and watched as Jake headed for the door, as well.
He caught up to Heather easily, her pace slow. "I can bring some of the wood by your place if you want."
She turned her head to look at him, surprised that he'd followed her. "No, that's okay. Don't go to any trouble. I'll just come back and get it."
"It's really no problem."
"If you're sure." She looked at him uncertainly.
He nodded. "I am."
"Okay." She met his eyes for a brief moment, then ducked her head. "See you later then."
Heather headed away, pausing a couple moments later when she heard his footsteps crunching in the snow behind her. A faint smile tugged at her lips and she turned to face him again. "Was there something else?"
"No," he smiled. "I have to go this way to get to the wood...."
Her cheeks flushed with color. "Right." Turning back around, she closed her eyes for a moment, silently berating herself for being stupid.
"When did your place run out of wood?"
"Few days ago," she answered as they walked together down the street.
"You've been without heat for that long?" he frowned.
"Well, I haven't been home much...just nights really. And I dug out my extra blankets."
They walked along in silence for a few minutes. "How've you been?" she asked hesitantly.
"Good," he put his hands in his pockets. "You?"
"Good, too," she said quickly, not looking at him. Way to win points for being a great conversationalist, Lisinski, she chided herself.
"I heard you're our liaison for New Bern."
Heather tensed a little, an involuntary response she couldn't quite shake at hearing the name of her hometown anytime someone mentioned it. "Yeah."
He noticed her reaction. "Sorry, you don't want to talk about that."
"Actually, I'm surprised you do."
He shrugged. "Small talk....I suck at it."
"Yeah. Me too," she admitted. "Yeah, I'm the liaison between Jericho and New Bern."
"Is that...going okay for you?"
Heather was quiet for a moment. "Not really. I'm only doing it because Beck asked. And because there are still some good people in New Bern, that didn't take part in attacking Jericho." She fell silent, thinking of the not-so-good people from her hometown.
"My loyalty is to this town," she told him quietly.
"I don't doubt that," he assured her.
She drew in a breath and let it out slowly. "I'm so sorry about your dad, Jake," she whispered.
"You don't have anything to apologize for."
She glanced at him sideways, pausing in her tracks. "He was a great man."
"Yeah, was," Jake avoided her gaze.
Heather reached out hesitantly and touched his arm. "You take after him."
He shook his head. "He was a lot more than I'll ever be."
"I think if you ask anyone in town what they thought about that, they'd tell you that wasn't true," she said softly, letting her hand fall away from his arm and down to her side once more.
He snorted. "You weren't here before I left."
"Jake..." She paused. "At some point you have to stop looking at the past and realize it's over."
"Yeah well," he shrugged.
She dropped her gaze. "I think this is where our paths part," she said softly, aware of the double meaning of her words as she looked down the street toward her house.
"We'll meet up again," he looked down the other street. "I'll have that wood done soon."
"Bye, Jake," she said quietly, turning and heading toward her house.
"Bye," he murmured.
Ducking her head against the light snow that had begun to fall once more, Heather headed down the road, and out of sight.
* * *
Less than an hour later, there was a loud knock on her door. Drawing in a breath, Heather made her way through the living room and opened it, offering Jake a small smile as he stood on her doorstep, arms overflowing with firewood.
"Told you I'd be done soon."
She shook her head a little and stepped aside to let him in, then reached out to help him.
"I got it," he said, smiling.
"Thanks," she said softly, moving out of the way so he could get to the fireplace.
He dropped the wood into the holder, then placed a few pieces in the fireplace. "No problem."
Heather tucked some hair behind her ear, watching him for a moment, then grabbing her coat from its hook.
Turning, he looked at the coat. "Going somewhere?"
"Yeah. Gotta stop by town hall, see if Beck needs anything. Then I thought I'd swing by the Richmond's. Stanley was having some trouble with his snow plow earlier and I told him I'd see if I could help."
"Trust me when I say that it'll take a miracle to fix that plow."
Heather smiled. "Well, it is almost Christmas. Who knows?"
"I'll go with you, if you don't mind..."
She gazed at him for a moment. "Yeah, okay."
"Prove that this really will take a miracle to fix the that thing."
"Oh ye of little faith," she teased as she headed out the door.
"You'll see," he followed her out, closing the door.
Heather was surprised when she saw several men outside of her house and she tensed instantly until she realized it was just guys who worked for Dale, stacking firewood that Jake had chopped in the back of a flatbed truck.
"We'll take some over to Stanley."
She nodded a little, heading toward her truck.
"Meet you there."
"Scared Charlotte will blow up?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Someone has to drive that truck."
"We got it under control, Sheriff," one of the men spoke up, nodding at him.
He nodded. "Okay."
Heather watched with faint surprise as Jake made his way over to the passenger side of her truck and climbed in without hesitation. Pausing momentarily, she climbed in the driver's seat, pulled the seatbelt across herself and buckled it before starting the vehicle.
"Lets go," Jake gazed at her warmly.
Nodding, she backed the truck out of her driveway and steered it down the road, gripping onto the steering wheel tightly as it occurred to her that she was alone with Jake. In an enclosed space. For the first time in months.
"Where was it that you learned your auto skills?"
She blinked a couple of times, surprised by the question. "My mom, actually. She was a mechanic."
"Wow. She must've been Supermom."
A soft chuckle escaped her. "Yeah. Something like that," she agreed.
"Do you like fixing things?"
A wry smile touched her lips and she shifted in her seat a little. "Yeah. Not as much as I like teaching, but...it makes me feel close to her," she said softly.
"That's nice," he said softly.
She nodded a little, flipping the windshield wipers on as the snow began to fall a little harder.
They fell into an almost-comfortable silence after that.
She reached up and tucked a lock of brown hair behind her ear, then slowly guided Charlotte to a stop in front of town hall. "I'll be right back. Or...if you wanna come in, that's fine too." She glanced at him.
He looked up at the building. "I'll wait. I spend enough of my time in there already."
She knew the feeling. Ironically, considering how much time they both spent there, they rarely saw each other, except in passing. There was precious little time to talk. She climbed out of the truck and headed inside, spoke momentarily with Beck, who assured her that he didn't need anything the rest of the day and told her to take some time for herself. Still feeling butterflies in her stomach, Heather made it back to the truck and climbed back in.
"You're good for the day?"
"Apparently I'm not needed."
"I wouldn't look at that as a bad thing...." he trailed off, looking back at the building again.
She started the truck once, shrugging a little and pulling back onto the road, heading for Stanley's house. She pressed her foot lightly to the brake when she saw Emily walking down the road.
Jake frowned at seeing her out and around. He hadn't seen her out in a few weeks, especially by herself.
Heather bit her lip and slowed the truck to a stop, rolling the window down. "Em?"
"Hey, Heather," she brushed her hair out of her eyes as the wind whipped it into her face.
"You want a ride?"
It was then she spotted Jake in the truck. "I'm alright."
Heather bit her lip, glancing sideways at Jake, then back at Emily. "We're heading over to the Richmond's to deliver some firewood and see if I can fix the snow plow. You sure you don't wanna come?"
She bit her lip. "I guess I could talk to Bonnie..."
"Hop in." She offered the other woman a small smile.
She hesitated a moment, then nodded. "Okay."
Biting her lower lip, Heather scooted over a little, breath catching in her throat as Jake scooted over closer to her to make room for Emily on his other side. She ignored the goosebumps that raced up her spine as their arms brushed. You're being an idiot, she thought, annoyed.
Jake turned to her as Heather began driving again. "What are you doing out?"
"Just taking a walk," she said, shifting a little in the seat and not quite looking at him.
"Oh," he turned to look out the window again.
Heather's grip tightened on the steering wheel just a little, feeling the awkward tension as a physical presence. "How've you been, Emily?"
"Fine. Keeping busy."
"Right," she murmured, shutting up and focusing on driving.
Jake shifted in his seat, taking to staring out the window.
"How've you been?" Emily asked her after a long moment of silence.
"Good. Everything's good," she said quickly.
Jake chuckled softly as the awkward reached a high point.
Both Emily and Heather looked at him with confusion.
"We all suck at small talk."
"You just figured that out?" Emily arched an eyebrow, a hint of amusement in her voice.
He shrugged, grinning.
She shook her head a little, small smile forming on her lips.
Jake looked between them, settling as the tension eased.
Heather's grip on the steering wheel loosened a little.
"Hope Stanley's ready for company."
Heather just hoped Stanley wasn't getting more than he bargained for.
* * *
Less than twenty minutes later, they arrived at the Richmond Ranch, and she was surprised to see the household's occupants outside in the front yard, each bundled up as they stood near the snow plow. Heather glanced sideways at Jake and Emily, then shut the truck off and slid out of the driver's seat.
Jake waited until Emily was out before he followed her, putting his hands in his pockets. "Stanley, you know that's a lost cause."
"Hey, this plow has been in my family for decades. I'm not giving up on her."
Mimi made a face and looked at Jake with an expression that clearly said, "Can you believe this?"
Jake laughed softly. "Oh, I know how long it's been in your family. That's the problem."
"And there's my walking, breathing solution to fix her." Stanley turned and beamed at Heather.
"Still lost cause..."
"Oh ye of little faith," he responded, making a face at his oldest friend.
Heather shook her head a little. "Toolbox still in the barn?"
Jake rolled his eyes. "She said that too."
Stanley shrugged. "Great minds."
"Who else is included in that statement besides Heather?" He raised an eyebrow.
"Me," he responded, looking indignant.
Mimi giggled beside him and pat his shoulder. "Come on, Stanley, lets take a walk and talk about life."
Bonnie laughed at the expression on her brother's face, then turned and headed to follow Heather to the barn.
Stanley folded his arms across his chest, looking for all the world like he was pouting.
Shaking his head, Jake bent down and scooped up some of the snow. "Cheer up Stanley."
"I'll cheer up once Bessie is fixed."
"Uh huh," he stood up straight and let the snowball fly.
Mimi covered her mouth with one hand, a laugh escaping her as the snowball exploded against Stanley's head.
"You didn't." Stanley turned to look at Jake with disbelief.
Jake raised an eyebrow, a smirk forming on his lips.
"It's on now." He knelt down and began to pack snow into his gloved hands, eyeing Jake with warning.
“Bring it,“ Jake challenged, packing another ball.
Emily looked at Mimi warily. "I'd move. He's not always great with his aim."
Mimi didn't hesitate moving away from both of the men and off to the side.
As Jake stood, he gave Stanley a look, raising an eyebrow.
Stanley nodded ever-so-slightly, a wicked grin spreading across his face as they both turned and pelted Emily with the snowballs.
"Now who's got the bad aim?" Jake shouted, grinning.
Emily narrowed her eyes and kneeled down, scooping a large wad of snow into her hands and taking off after him.
He turned and ran for it, ducking behind Heather's old truck.
When Heather and Bonnie stepped out of the barn, they exchanged a confused look and slowly headed toward the snow plow. About halfway there, Heather realized what was going on and she set the toolbox down, catching Bonnie's arm and shaking her head slightly.
Jake saw her from the corner of his eye and packed a bigger wad of snow, crouching lower.
Bonnie glanced at her, then nodded slightly toward the truck, raising her eyebrows.
Heather shook her head a little, amused, but not about to join in the game that the three childhood friends had started. She picked up the toolbox once more, then headed for the snow plow.
Jake waited until she was almost to the snow plow before standing and pelting Heather with snow. **
She was so surprised, the toolbox slipped from her grip as she turned, expecting to see Stanley. Her eyes widened when she spotted Jake instead.
He waved at her, face the epitome of innocence.
Heather narrowed her eyes a little, smirk forming on her face as Mimi snuck up behind him, dropping a snowball on top of his head.
He ducked, yelping as the cold snow made its way down his back.
A laugh escaped Heather's lips--the first genuine laugh she'd had since she'd returned to Jericho three months ago. The expression on Jake's face was priceless.
"Pays to be tall," Mimi said with a grin, dodging away from him.
"Ohh, I know," he scooped up an armful of snow and sprinted after her.
Heather leaned against the snow plow, laughing helplessly as she watched Mimi zigzag to avoid Jake.
Figuring that he'd never catch up with her, he just threw the pile of snow at her back.
The fact that he'd missed her by several feet only made Heather laugh that much harder. She didn't see Emily sneaking up behind her.
Smiling widely, Emily let her own stack of snow fall upon her.
Heather shrieked, jumping away from the snow plow and shaking the snow from her hair as she turned to face her friend. "You better run."
She stuck her tongue out, then took off.
Grinning, Heather scooped up a ball of snow in her hands and chased Emily across the front yard, laughing when she flung it and it exploded against her friend's back.
She screamed loudly when it exploded.
Laughing helplessly, Heather leaned against the old oak tree in Stanley's yard, then quickly darted away as Emily moved toward her once more.
What she didn't notice, were the two people behind the tree, waiting for her to relax her guard.
She never saw the snowballs flying toward her from behind as she ran from Emily. Both hit her at the same time, causing her to stumble in surprise.
Jake and Stanley high-fived each other when the snow hit it's target, both doubling over in laughter.
"That was just unfair," Bonnie protested, leaning down and packing a large snowball of her own.
"You only wish you'd thought of it," Stanley said, and signed when she straightened.
She gave him a disapproving look, not giving away Emily's position, creeping up behind the two of them.
The boys only grinned back at her, unawares of the danger.
Springing, Emily took them both to the snowy ground easily.
Both Stanley and Jake let out yelps at the unexpected attack from behind as they hit the cold, snowy ground face-down.
"Take that," she smirked, kicking snow into their faces as she stood.
"That was just...mean," Stanley sputtered, lifting his head, only to have more snow tossed in his face. He spit some out of his mouth, then looked up at Bonnie with betrayal in his eyes.
She grinned at him, then took off toward the house.
"Come on," Jake pushed himself up from the ground, wiping the snow out of his face. "We can do better than that."
Nodding, Stanley rose to his feet and chased after his sister just as Heather stepped around the tree holding a large snowball in her hand and looking at Jake with a smirk.
He raised his eyebrow, challenge in his eyes. "Do it."
Heather raised her eyebrow as well, then flung it at him, chuckling as it hit him in the chest.
After it hit, he took off toward her.
Her eyes widened a little and she turned quickly, fleeing in the opposite direction.
It wasn't hard for Jake to catch up to her. Reaching his arms out, he caught her waist and pulled her to the ground.
Heather squealed and tried to pull away from him.
He laughed. "You're not getting away that easily!"
"Just keep in mind that you started this whole thing," she pointed out, bracing herself.
He shrugged, pinning her down.
Heather cringed, but met his eyes, growing still.
"I win," he grinned.
She smiled back involuntarily.
At her smile, he rolled off of her.
"I'm gonna make hot chocolate," Mimi announced, brushing snow off her coat and jeans and heading toward the house. "Who's in?"
"Count me in," Emily agreed, following her.
Jake looked over at Heather. "Shall we?"
She sat up, brushing snow out of her hair, and looking toward the snow plow. "I'll be there in a little while. I have work to do."
"That can wait," he stood, offering his hand.
She glanced up at him, then slid her gloved hand into his, letting him help her to her feet.
"Lets get some hot chocolate. Then I'll help you with the plow."
"I thought you said she was unfixable?" She arched an eyebrow.
"Apparently you can work miracles."
Heather blushed and looked down. "I don't know about that. I'm good with a wrench."
"Guess we'll see."
"Is that a challenge, Jake?"
He smirked in response.
Amusement danced in her eyes. "All right. Hot chocolate. Then you can watch me work a miracle." **
* * *
Less than two hours later, Heather climbed onto the snow plow and turned the key, smirking down at Jake as it roared to life.
"Wow," he folded his arms, impressed. "You are the master."
She grinned. "It's too bad we didn't have a bet riding on that."
"Yeah well...the important thing is that you did it."
"Told you so, man." Stanley clapped a hand on Jake's shoulder, beaming. "Old Bessie's got a few years left in her as long as that one sticks around." He nodded toward Heather.
Jake snorted. "She still needs to be sold."
"Bite your tongue," he responded, frowning, then watching Heather climb down once more, handing him the keys. "You are amazing, Lisinski."
She bowed a little. "Thanks."
Her cheeks flushed and she shook her head a little.
"So now that this is fixed, we should probably get to plowing the streets."
"Tempting as that sounds, Stanley, I think I'm gonna head home and dry off before I catch pneumonia," Heather answered wryly.
"I'll go with," Jake looked at her.
Stanley grinned involuntarily. "I'm sure Heather has an extra towel you can use," he agreed.
He narrowed his eyes.
"Of course you could always share," he added, grin widening at the annoyance on Jake's face.
Heather blushed again. "On that note..." She turned and headed toward her truck, too embarrassed to look at Jake or Stanley.
Jake punched Stanley as hard as he could before following her.
He chuckled, stumbling backwards a little. "Have a nice night!"
"Yeah, you too."
Heather's cheeks were still pink as she started Charlotte and sat in idle til Jake climbed in.
"Sorry about him."
She waved her hand and pulled her seatbelt across her. "Stanley Richmond's been giving me a hard time since the day I moved to Jericho four years ago."
"I don't doubt that," he laughed softly.
She smiled a bit, shaking her head as she pulled the truck out of Stanley's driveway and down the dirt road back toward town. "You want me to drop you off at home?"
He nodded. "That'd be great."
"Okay." She drew in a breath, shivering a little as the cold seeped into her bones. "Sorry it's cold. Charlotte's heater went out and I haven't had time to replace it."
He shrugged. "It's alright."
Heather's grip tightened on the steering wheel a little, and hesitated before speaking again. "I uh...I had fun today."
"It's been awhile since I've had fun," she admitted.
"I think everyone needed that."
Heather nodded her agreement.
She smiled a little. "I'd like that."
"Good," he smiled as well.
She glanced at him sideways. "It's good to be back." Her voice was quiet.
"Yeah," he murmured.
Heather bit her lip as silence fell between them. Before long, she was pulling Charlotte into the driveway of the Green's bi-level home. "Well, here we are."
He looked at the house. "Yep."
She let her hands drop from the steering wheel to rest in her lap.
"If you want....we could get together and fix your heater."
She knew he knew she didn't need his help to fix her truck's heater. She slowly turned her head to look at him, studying him for a moment.
He held her gaze, waiting for her response.
Heather smiled a little. "When's a good time for you?"
Jake grinned. "Whenever you're free."
Her eyes sparkled in the setting sun. "Seven tomorrow? Or will you be working late?"
"Okay. I'll see you then."
He opened the door and climbed out. "See you then."
Heather watched him go, a smile lingering on her lips. It was a start.