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Warm Me Up Inside

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Faraday’s just closed the door of the little wood stove tucked into the corner of the room in the boarding house when a knock sounds at the door. Straightening, he turns away from the steadily warming coals and glances in the direction the sound had come from. “It’s open,” he calls, and the doorknob starts rattling as soon as the words have left his mouth.

He watches it idly for a moment, his attention half on the doorknob and half on the storm that’s raging outside and setting the windows clinking in their slots as the wind howls into the night, and he’s of half a mind to shift over and help whoever’s on the opposite side of the door when it’s finally shoved open and a young woman wanders in. She has her arms full with a couple of blankets that look like they’ve seen better days and is somehow managing to shove a folded down cot along in front of her at the same time. Faraday can’t help but be impressed with her skill set.

The woman, or girl rather, he doubts she’s any older than seventeen, lets out a groan once she’s got everything fully inside, and it’s all Faraday can do not to laugh. He doesn’t, though, not wanting to be rude in the face of her obvious struggle in getting her work taken care of.

As he keeps watching, she glances around the room, her brow furrowed in confusion. “I thought my Ma said there were two of you staying in here. How come you need the cot if it’s only you?”

Grinning, Faraday picks a pair of socks up off the small table where he’d recently laid them out and rolls them into a ball which he then lobs in a gentle arc towards the bed. The girl tracks the movement as it happens, her eyes widening as the socks thud into a tangle of blankets in the center of the bed, which lets out a grunt.

Faraday feels his grin stretch even wider as she turns to him with raised eyebrows. “I’m afraid my friend isn’t handlin’ your local temperatures so well. Meanin’ no disrespect, of course. He’s got somethin’ of a delicate constitution is all.”

The tangle of blankets snorts derisively, but stays resolutely curled in on itself.

“…Right.” Says the girl. She holds up the blankets in her arms. “Do you care where I put these while I get the bed set up?”

“Ah, don’t worry about it.” Faraday tells her, stepping forward to relieve her of her burden. “I can take care of this mess. Don’t let us take up any more of your time than we need to.”

“You sure?” She asks. The words are those of a working woman who’ll see the job through to the end, but her expression is that of someone who just wants to fall into her own bed.

Fully aware of that and more than willing to use it to his own advantage, Faraday nods. “I’m sure.”

“Well, I won’t lie, it’s late and I have to be up early in the morning to help make sure there’s enough food prepared to feed all you gentleman.” She pauses then, and gives him a faint grin. “It ain’t often we have seven men ride up in the dead of winter in need of a place to sleep. Usually this time of year is our quietest season.”

Faraday laughs. “I’m not surprised. Honestly, if we weren’t on the job we’d be a lot further down south right about now, and not just because this one here,” he punctuates this with a subtle jerk of the blankets in the direction of the bed, “can’t handle the cold.”

This time the pile of blankets offers up no commentary whatsoever, but Faraday doesn’t need to see his face to know his companion is scowling.

Focusing back on the girl who’s still eyeing him hopefully, he motions her towards the door. “Go on, get out of here. The day I can’t set up somethin’ as simple as a roll-away cot on my own is the day they put me in the ground.”

She gives him a grateful nod and then vanishes between one blink and the next. Faraday doesn’t know if she’s afraid he’ll change his mind if she presses hard enough, but she’s certainly not taking any chances.

He waits until he hears the telltale sound of footsteps on the staircase that’s located not far down the hall from their room, and dumps the blankets in his arms onto the table that has the bulk of their gear resting on it. Then he moves over to the cot and hauls it into an unused corner of the room where it’ll take up less space. He’s got no intention of sleeping on it tonight, and he’d rather it wasn’t in the way if he has to get up in the middle of the night for some reason.

Once this is accomplished, he wanders over to the main bed and settles down on the edge of the mattress. Hoping he’s not going to get his head bitten off for daring to try and say hello, he curls his fingers over one section of the blankets and pulls them back the merest fraction of an inch. “And how’re you holdin’ up under here?”

Dark eyes glitter in the light stemming from the lamp sitting on the rickety table near the bed, and Vasquez makes an annoyed sound. “You are letting the cold air in.” He growls, giving Faraday his most unimpressed look.

In return, Faraday laughs. “Darlin’, I’ve got news for you, it is not actually that cold out. Nobody else is havin’ as much trouble as you are right now. Hell, Red only started wearin’ a shirt about two days ago.”

Vasquez mutters something that Faraday’s willing to bet involves at least a few unkind words about Red’s parentage and yanks at the blankets until he can tug them back over his head.

"I am not coming out!" He adds when Faraday laughs at him. "You cannot make me."

 "Wasn't plannin' on it," Faraday tells him, letting his laughter trail off as he peers around the room. Contrary to what Vasquez would have him believe, there's already heat coming off the stove and the place is slowly beginning to warm up to an almost cozy temperature. However, it seems it's going to take more than that to appease his irritated companion.

 Patting the lump of blankets with one hand, he gets up and wanders over to the table, eyeing the spare blankets thoughtfully as he's struck with a sudden idea. What he has in mind is liable to have him feeling uncomfortable, no doubt he'll overheat by morning, but at least it might make Vasquez cease his grumbling. 

 The girl had brought two blankets in with her. Neither of them is much to write home about, but they're each warm and thick and will more than serve their purpose of helping a body retain heat. Faraday grabs first one and then the other, shaking them out while he moves back over to the bed.

 "I was just goin' to give you my own body heat," he tells the poor excuse for Mexican dignity taking up space in the middle of the bed, "but I reckon if we've got the spares we may as well use 'em. Combined with the fire that I slaved away over while you sulked under here, you should be warm enough."

 Vasquez makes a questioning noise from somewhere within the depths of his blanket cavern, but makes no move to shift himself and see what Faraday's doing. He even stays quiet while Faraday adds the new blankets to the pile he's already claimed, carefully tucking them in to better keep the heat trapped inside.

 "That any better?" Faraday asks.

 The jumble of blankets shifts slightly, but whether this is because Vasquez has shrugged or nodded or anything else, Faraday couldn't say. He sighs. "It'd be a bit helpful if you used your words there, sweetheart."

 "Too cold."

 Faraday sighs again. "Remind me to tell Sam about this the next time he accuses me of bein' over-dramatic. You do realize the weather's only goin' to get worse right?"

 The blankets are abruptly flipped back as Vasquez raises his head and glares up at Faraday. "That is not funny."

 "Who's bein' funny?" Faraday asks blandly. "We've still got further north to go, remember? The more we do that, the colder it's goin' to get."

 Vasquez makes a sound like a wounded animal and burrows back beneath the covers. "I am going to die," he whines, the words coming through loud and clear despite there being no less than five blankets between them at the outside world. "Yes, frozen in this frigid hellscape, I will die. Do me a favour and take my body back down south so at least it can rest somewhere warm."

 Faraday rolls his eyes heavenward and wonders if this is what Sam feels like whenever one of his wayward minions gets into something he'd rather they didn't. If it is, he understands why the man is starting to get frown lines. 

 "You're not dyin'," he says, scowling when Vasquez makes a disbelieving noise. "You're not," he adds more forcefully. "Quit bein' such a baby."

 Vasquez doesn't respond this time, but his silence picks up a dangerous edge. Probably more amused than he should be, Faraday gives a little shake of his head and starts shrugging out of his vest. He'll likely keep most of his clothes on during the night, but it, his belt and his boots can all go.

 Dropping the items in question down near the already cluttered table, he eyes the bed warily and briefly wonders if he's about to have a fight on his hands. There's no way in hell he's sleeping on a poorly constructed cot when there's a perfectly serviceable bed right in front of him, but Vasquez doesn't exactly seem like he's in a mood to let anyone else into the damn cocoon he's built for himself.

 "I hope you realize you're sharin' tonight." He says, not missing the way the mess of blankets curls more tightly around itself at his words. "I am gettin' in that bed."

 "You'll make it cold again!" Vasquez protests.

 Faraday snorts, unwilling to keep humouring this nonsense any longer. He tugs forcefully at the blankets, more than willing to fight dirty if he has to. "You'll be glad of the extra body heat once I'm under there. Let 'em go, Vas."

 Vasquez makes a pathetic noise that Faraday normally associates with minor wound care and particularly nasty hangovers, but loosens his grip on the blankets. Pleased with his victory, Faraday hauls them up and shuffles into bed as quickly as he's able.

 "Madre di Dios!" Vasquez yelps. "Guero, you are freezing, get out!"

 "Nope," Faraday says cheerfully. Because he can, he worms his hands under Vasquez's woolen shirt and brushes his fingers against the still chilly skin he finds there, laughing when the other man makes a noise best described as a shriek and tries to elbow him in the solar plexus. "Not nice, darlin'," he murmurs, dodging a particularly nasty jab. "What'd I do to deserve that?"

 "What didn't you do, cabron? Dejalo!" 

 "Now sweetheart, you know I don't speak Mexican. I've told you that a hundred times or more." Vasquez spits out something vicious sounding as he tries to twist out of Faraday's grasp, and Faraday laughs. "Hold still, will you? I'll warm up soon enough."

 "Not if I shoot you, you won't." Vasquez warns, following the threat up with a kick at Faraday's shins.

 Laughing, Faraday ducks out of the way, but refuses to release the hold he has on the other man. They wrestle for a few seconds, the blankets getting horribly tangled around them in the process, until Faraday wins by using his weight advantage to pin Vasquez beneath him. "You warmin' up yet?" He asks, panting a little with exertion.

 "Nunca voy a estar caliente de nuevo." Vasquez hisses, and Faraday keeps right on laughing.

 "Poor boy," he says, murmuring the words into the column of Vasquez's throat as he nuzzles at his jawline. "I've no idea what you said, mind you, but you don't sound happy."

 Vasquez huffs out a heavy sigh, and then pokes Faraday in the ticklish spot on his side until he shifts up enough to let him roll over. Flopping over onto his back, he stares up at Faraday with an unimpressed look on his face. "I hate this place."

 "S'just for a little longer," Faraday assures him, bending down to nose at his temple. He flashes one of his more wicked grins and adds, "Y'know, there is one other thing I could try to warm you up."

 "Hmmph," Vasquez snorts. "Guero, if you think I'm removing one layer of clothing more than I have to until we leave this frozen death trap you are as stupid as Billy thinks you are."

 "Oh, well now that's just rude." Faraday insists. Wondering what will happen, he slides his hand under Vasquez's shirt a second time. "That feel any warmer yet?"

 Vasquez bares his teeth in a feral grin. "Move that hand or I'm going to bite you."

 Knowing he means it, Faraday pulls his hand back. "Spoilsport."

 Unperturbed, Vasquez rolls over onto his side, but, Faraday would like it noted, does not shift away from where their bodies are pressed together. In fact, he curls in closer, shuffling backwards until he's right up against Faraday's chest. Once he's there, he settles with a heartfelt groan. "I hate this place."

 "You just said that all of ten seconds ago." Faraday points out.

 “It is worth repeating,” Vasquez snaps. “I am a creature of sun and heat and – and other things that are warm, not this disgusting cold.”

 Faraday’s answering snicker echoes throughout the room, but he cuts it off as soon as he’s able to get himself under control, not wanting to risk Vasquez’s wrath any more than he has to. Wrapping an arm around Vasquez’s midsection, he buries his face in the juncture between the man’s neck and shoulder and hums thoughtfully. “How about I promise to take you somewhere warm once we’re done this job?”

 “You don’t say where we go, guero, Sam does.”

“That’s only when we’re working,” Faraday scoffs. “Ain’t no reason we can’t take off by ourselves for a bit of a break. Goodnight and Billy have done it before, and Red goes for a wander practically every other week. I don’t see why we can’t do the same.”

 Vasquez is quiet for a long moment, and when he speaks there’s a teasing lilt in his voice. “You saying we should take a vacation together, guero?”

 And what the hell, Faraday thinks, in for a penny, in for a pound. “Sure,” he says, and then adds magnanimously, “I’ll even let you pick the spot.”

"Hmm," Vasquez says, "and if I pick somewhere you don't want to go?"

"I find a way to deal," Faraday replies. "This is an offer without a catch."

"Huh." Faraday doesn't think he's imagining the pleased tone in Vasquez's voice. "Well then." He says slowly. "I might just take you up on that."