Zachary woke up at the touch of Eliza's cold feet on his legs. His wife shivered slightly, snuggling closer against his chest under the thick comforter. Her hands slipped under his pajamas at his waist. They were no less cold than her feet.
The moonlight, intensified by reflection on the untouched snow outside, drew her delicate features in bluish-silvery light, stressing the contrast between her pale skin and auburn hair. She wore her hair shorter now, saying that now that they'd passed forty-five, the shorter hair was more appropriate for her. He'd disagreed; she'd never appeared old to him. But he hadn't argued against her decision, and though at first he had missed the long silken strands gliding over his skin when she moved in his arms at night, he'd soon come to appreciate the sight of her slender neck instead.
She shivered again, obviously feeling cold.
"Eli?" he whispered. "What's wrong with you?"
"I'm freezing," she whispered sleepily against his chest and tried to snuggle even closer to him. "It's ice-cold in here."
He frowned. It wasn't cold in their room. In fact, the good heating was one of the reasons he'd always preferred the small winter sport resort to the bigger – and noisier – Aspen, which was not that far away. But she was obviously freezing. Her feet between his legs still felt icy.
He reached for the blanket of polar fox fur lying folded at the foot of the bed, pulled it up to their waists, and tucked it securely around them. After a moment, she sighed faintly and relaxed in contentment.
But he couldn't stop thinking about her feeling cold in a warm room, in their bed, next to him. He spent a sleepless night with those thoughts and in the morning, he begged her to see a doctor.
"But... that's impossible. I'm forty-six already. How–?" Eliza whispered, shocked, just as Zachary entered the room. She looked at him with wide, disbelieving eyes. Disbelieving? He stopped behind her chair and put his hand on her shoulder for comfort. She leaned her neck slightly against it. He was alarmed by the doctor's wish to speak to him, too, and tried to keep his tension out of his touch. Whatever it was, they would handle it.
"Mrs. Fox. It's not impossible," the physician smiled. "By far not. It's happened to women ten years older than you."
"But isn't it dangerous?" she whispered with an unsure tremor in her voice, laying her hand upon Zach's on her shoulder.
"Well, of course there's an increased risk because of your age, but I really don't see why you shouldn't. You're in remarkably good shape. A lot of women younger than you aren't half as fit as you. And the hibernation you mentioned..." The doctor laid his fingertips together. "There are no known additional risks as long as the hibernation was more than a year ago." He sighed. "But since you are beyond the recommended age, I must inform you about the possibility of ending–"
"No!" she flared, and her shoulder bumped hard against Zachary's hand as she nearly jumped up. "There's no way! I would never–"
"Then the decision is made." The doctor leaned back in his seat and looked at him for the first time. "Congratulations, Major. You're becoming a father again..."
He woke up in the dimness of their hotel room. The moonlight, intensified by reflection on the untouched snow outside, drew Eliza's delicate features in bluish-silvery light as she slept next to him.
He took several deep breaths to calm down. Their son was old enough to have children of his own. Likely people would have taken his son for the father. And he himself... he'd be sixty-five when the child enrolled in college, seventy or older when it finally...
Thank God, it was only a dream.
He froze. Eliza's cold feet touched his legs. She shivered slightly, snuggling closer against his chest...