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Disclaimer.Human Target does not belong to me. no money made in this
Acknowledgments/Notes: Previously posted on Fanfiction.net
Disclaimer: I don't own Human Target but if I did seasons 3,4 and 5 would already have been commissioned by now!
Author's note: This is a little one-shot for cedricsowner who has quite rightly pointed out, on more than one occasion, that Winston should get a little love too.
Ilsa hadn't expected to find anyone at the office at 11pm. Chance and Guerrero were on assignment and Ames hadn't been in the office all weekend due to the fact she was currently sulking over her exclusion from the team's latest job.
"I could say them same thing, Mrs Pucci," Winston said, removing his reading glasses and rubbing at his eyes. "I still have eight months worth of the client's phone records to wade through and the woman seriously loves to talk. Somewhere in all this mess may be the key to finding who's trying to kill her but so far I just don't see it."
Ilsa looked at the numerous piles of paperwork stacked haphazardly in front of Winston on the state-of-the-art interactive conference table and frowned.
"Surely it would be easier to run this through the computer and cross reference the numbers through some kind of database…" she suggested.
Winston sighed. "No can do, Mrs Pucci. The hard copies Miss Brookes gave us are all we have. Whoever is after her has managed to totally erase all her digital records and every trace of Miss Brookes' online identity. Right now the only place she still officially exists is on paper, which means I have to do this the old fashioned way."
"Oh, how infuriating!" Ilsa sympathised. "Perhaps I could help. Surely you could get through it in half the time if you had another pair of eyes to help you."
"Thank you for the offer," Winston said, giving her a weary smile, "but I'm sure you'd much rather be at home right now, tucked up in bed. What are you doing at the office so late anyway?"
Ilsa sat down beside him and picked up the nearest pile of documents, careful not to disturb whatever system Winston had in place.
"I'm expecting a call first thing in the morning and I left my wretched cell phone on my desk." Ilsa said, glancing over the first few sheets of cell phone records. "I came back to retrieve it."
"As much as I appreciate the offer, Mrs Pucci, there really is no need for you to help with this…"
"Nonsense, I'm here anyway and I really don't mind. The truth be told, Mr Winston, I've had some trouble sleeping of late and I'd rather be doing something useful here than spend another dreary night at home watching god-awful infommercials on the off-chance they send me into a coma."
"Well, if you're really sure you don't mind, I could definitely use some help," Winston said. He felt a little guilty about accepting Ilsa's offer but she seemed determined to help him.
"Give me a moment to fetch my cell and I'll let my driver know that I'll be longer here than I expected." She placed the pile of documents carefully back where she'd found them and stood up. "Perhaps I should make some coffee too. You look like you could do with the caffeine."
"That would be wonderful, Mrs Pucci. Thank you."
Ilsa gave Winston a bright smile and strode out to the kitchen.
She was right, of course. The task was much easier and faster to complete with two of them working at it, but unfortunately it proved fruitless.
"Well it was worth a try," Winston said, rubbing at his aching neck. "But this doesn't seem to have thrown up any new players. I'm sorry Mrs Pucci, but it seems we've been wasting our time."
"Not at all, Mr Winston. We can at least rest easy that we have been thorough and done all we can to assist in the investigation."
"Yeah, well I can never rest easy when Chance is working in the field without me being able to keep an eye on the situation. I understand why he couldn't use a comms link or surveillance in this situation but that doesn't mean I have to like it."
"At least he has Mr Guerrero with him to back him up," Ilsa said, aware that a reminder of Guerrero's involvement might not be necessarily reassuring in itself but that his loyalty to Chance was beyond question.
"Yeah, Guerrero," Winston grunted. "You can't exactly count on him to be the voice of reason. I just hope Chance doesn't get it in his head to pull some crazy ass stunt verging on the suicidal."
Winston was still rubbing at the muscles of his neck and shoulders that had become painfully knotted after spending much too long pouring over documents and computer screens. Any wistful thoughts about the quieter life he may have had if he'd taken a desk job in the force, instead of running around chasing bad guys with Chance, had long since disappeared.
"You obviously care about Mr Chance a great deal. He's lucky to have you," Ilsa said. She frowned for a moment. "Is your neck giving you a lot of discomfort Mr Winston?"
"Yeah, too much time hunched over paperwork I guess."
To Winston surprise, Ilsa got up and stood behind him and began to massage his shoulders.
"Mrs Pucci, you don't need to do…" Winston's words trailed away as Ilsa's hands worked deep into his muscles with a strength that caught him by surprise.
"It's no trouble at all Winston," she insisted. "You're of no use to the team if you're all hunched up and bad tempered. I wish you took as much time to look after yourself as you do looking after Chance."
"Never seem to have much time for myself. Ohhh…" Winston let out a deep rumbling moan as Ilsa's thumbs worked at a particularly tender spot. "Oh, that's good…"
Ilsa smiled as she worked to release the tension in Winston's neck and shoulders. It felt good to do something for the man who worked so tirelessly for the team, especially to do something for him personally rather than just lighten his workload slightly. She'd often massaged Marshall's shoulders like this, after he'd had a long day of board meetings, and there was something comforting about doing it for Winston. It felt almost as if she had a tiny taste of something familiar amidst the chaos of her new life. She sighed as she remembered how those shoulder massages she gave Marshall inevitably ended. He would pull her on to his lap and lavish her own neck with dozens of soft, toe-curling kisses until she put her arms around his neck and whispered in his ear that he needed to take her to bed - now!
Ilsa was suddenly hit by a wave of grief as she remembered she would never again perform this simple favour for her husband. Tears began to fall silently as she continued massaging Winston's shoulders. Strangely it helped her, this contact with another living, breathing person who, for the moment at least, needed and appreciated her.
Eventually Winston began to feel awkward about taking advantage of Ilsa's kindness. She had given him by far the best shoulder massage of his life and his whole body felt lighter and energised as a result. Although he could have happily sat there almost indefinitely as Ilsa's hands worked their magic, he reluctantly reached up and stilled her hands by patting them with his own. To his surprise, she reacted by snatching them away.
"Mrs Pucci?" He turned round to look at her but she had turned to face the wall behind him and seemed to be wiping her eyes. "Mrs Pucci, are you okay?"
She nodded but didn't turn around.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have taken advantage of your kindness like that," he said gently. "It's late. You must be very tired…"
Ilsa sniffed and turned round giving Winston a polite smile that didn't quite reach her eyes.
"You have nothing to apologise for, Mr Winston." Ilsa was trying to maintain her fragile hold on her composure but faced with Winston's look off concern, the tears soon began to flow again. "It is I who should apologise for interrupting you this evening and bursting into tears over something as silly as giving you a shoulder rub…"
"Hey, hey don't cry Mrs Pucci," Winston said gently as he stood up and put a comforting arm around her shoulder. "You've done nothing but help me tonight. There's nothing you need apologise for! You just gave me one hell of a shoulder massage!"
At the mention of the massage, Ilsa finally stopped trying to fight back the tears and leaned into Winston's reassuring embrace. Winston held her and let her cry into his chest for a while, rubbing a soothing hand against her back. When her sobs seemed to subside, he handed her a handkerchief from his pocket and she wiped her face and blew her nose.
"What's the matter Ilsa?" he asked. "What's made you so sad all of a sudden?"
Ilsa shook her head. "I don't know that I can really explain it Mr Winston," she said sadly. "I just thought of all the times I gave Marshall a shoulder massage and I…." She sighed. "I just miss him so very much and sometimes it just creeps up on me."
"I'm sorry if anything I did upset you…"
"Far from it Mr Winston. You have been an absolute rock as always."
Ilsa gave Winston a kiss on the cheek and he responded with a hug, which unfortunately seemed to set Ilsa off crying again. For the second time in five minutes Winston found himself holding Ilsa as she cried, but this time the sobs weren't quite and deep and the tears didn't last quite as long. He decided to hold her as long as she needed to be held. He'd never seen her this upset before and he felt that maybe she found the sudden outpouring of grief cathartic.
"Thank you, Mr Winston," she sighed. She'd stopped crying but she had her face pressed against Winston's chest, making her words sound muffled.
"Hey, I'm always here if you need me," he said, absent-mindedly stroking the hair away from her face, "and I always have plenty of handkerchiefs so any time you want to have a good cry, you just let me know."
Ilsa tilted her head back and looked at him. Winston produced another handkerchief from his pocket and very carefully wiped the last few tears from her eyes. Ilsa put her hand over his, holding it to her face.
"You are so very kind," she murmured. "You really are a good man."
Winston didn't quite know what to make of the compliment, so he just smiled at her as she gazed up at him.
Winston was a good man, so when Ilsa suddenly kissed him full on the mouth he felt ashamed for kissing her back. He told himself that the only reason he didn't push her away when her hands reached around his neck and her tongue snuck into his mouth was because she was fragile, and he didn't want her to feel rejected. But Winston knew these were pretty weak arguments for taking advantage of Ilsa in her distressed state, and because he was a good man, he decided that he couldn't let this go any further than a kiss. He gently pulled away and cupped her face in his hands.
"Ilsa stop!" he said. "I don't want you to do anything you'll regret. You're upset. You're still grieving for your husband…"
"I know," Ilsa said with a sad little smile. "But right now I need the company of the living."
"Ilsa I can't…take advantage of you like this! It wouldn't be right to…"
"Believe me, Winston, I am the one taking advantage of you. I cannot bear to be alone tonight."
Winston studied her face and saw that she had lost the distant look she had when she'd been crying. She was very much focussed in the here and now and, more specifically, him. She had found catharsis in crying but it seemed she had drawn strength from him, from their kiss. The look she was giving him now was compelling and he was finding it harder to focus on the reason why he shouldn't be kissing her right now.
"Ilsa as much as I want to…"
"Winston, this isn't a request," she said, gripping the front of his shirt and leaning in to kiss him again. "I need to be with someone tonight and I trust you. I want it to be you."
Winston didn't have time to formulate another protest before Ilsa's lips touched his own and she drew him into a deep, breathless kiss. Winston was a good man, but he wasn't made of stone. Ilsa was so sure, so persistent that this was what she wanted, that he ignored the numerous arguments for refusing her and sending her back downstairs to her waiting driver.
For whatever reason, Ilsa had decided that she needed him to comfort her tonight and although Winston wasn't sure who was exploiting who in this situation, he would give her what she wanted.