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Like Home

Reply to Lucy

Added to the Roswell Slash Archive September 6, 2001

Title: "Like Home"
Author/pseudonym: Lucy
Fandom: The Forsaken
Pairing: Sean/Nick.
Rating: NC-17.
Status: New, complete.
Archive: No.
E-mail address for feedback: lucy_fur1@yahoo.ca
Series/Sequel: None.
Other website: http://members.tripod.ca/~angelspace/Lucy.html
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Sean and Nick find an unexpected haven in their travels.
Warnings: Not beta'd. Still workin' it, despite the lack of source material - it's been, what? Four months since I saw this movie? This was written in my lj, and turned out a heck of a lot longer in the end than I thought. LJ's cool, man. :)



        The knocking at the door wasn't loud, just persistent. She couldn't be entirely sure that it had awakened her right away, but it continued on until she switched the kitchen light on with one hand, the other tightening the belt of her bathrobe. She glanced at the kitchen clock - three-twenty-seven - before asking, "Who is it?"

        "Me."

        Pressing her lips together helped to bite back the too-obvious retort, and she hesitated only a moment before lifting the chain and opening the door. "Well," she said. "I guess it's better late than never, huh?"

        She caught Sean in her arms before he could say anything, and frowned slightly at the hovering figure behind him before her eyes closed and she lost herself in the hug. An embarrassing amount of time passed before Sean pulled away.

        "I guess that means I'm forgiven?"

        "No," she said, severely, crossing her arms over her chest. "Not for missing my wedding or for showing up on my doorstep at three o'clock in the morning. Some of us have to work, you know - "

        "Mandy - "

        She rolled her eyes. "Come in, already," she said, stepping away from the door and thoroughly unable to keep up the pretense that she was anything but happy to see him. "Who's your friend?" she asked, as the two stepped inside, and immediately caught her breath when both of them hit the light. Sean looked nearly the same as the last time she'd seen him - maybe a little older, a little thinner, but basically the same.

        His companion looked - like death warmed over, literally. Thin, pale, with dark circles around his eyes and mouth and damp hair plastered on his forehead, he seemed barely able to keep himself upright. Sean hovered next to him, not touching him but well within reach should he suddenly collapsed, as seemed could very well happen at any moment.

        "Amanda, this is Nick. He's a friend," Sean said.

        "Hi," Nick said, nodding at her.

        "Hi," Amanda said, but she was looking questioningly at Sean, not his friend.

        "Uh, I was wondering if you could put us up for a little while, Mandy," Sean said. "Just a night, or two. Nick's not feeling well." He gave her a look that begged for a 'yes,' without questions. At least, not in front of Nick.

        She pressed her lips together, but nodded. "Sure," she said. "If you can keep it down. Jack's still asleep. We've got an extra room - there's only one bed, but there's always the couch - "

        Sean put an arm around Nick, who sagged a little against him, despite himself. "It'll be fine," he said. "Which way?"

        She nodded down the darkened hallway. "It's the door on the left. I'll get you some towels."

        She brought towels and an extra blanket, arriving at the open doorway in time to see Sean pull away from his friend, now nearly asleep in the bed. She hesitated a moment, then handed over the linens to Sean and went back into the kitchen.

        Sean came back in and sat down just as the coffee finished perking. She hated to drink coffee in the middle of the night, but figured that sleep wasn't going to be forthcoming for either of them any time soon. Thank god Jack had the ability to sleep through anything short of an act of God.

        She handed over a cup of coffee and passed the sugar bowl, watching him stir several spoonfuls into it for five minutes before she spoke. "So, are you going to tell me, or are you going to make me ask?"

        He shrugged. "What do you want to know?"

        "Gee, I don't know," she said, angrily. "Where you've been for the last six months? Why you missed my wedding? Who this guy is sleeping in my spare room?"

        "I told you - "

        "Yeah, you had an 'accident' and missed the wedding. The last time I talked to you was three months ago, Sean, and, frankly, I didn't believe you then, and I don't believe you now."

        He sighed. "I did have an accident, Mandy. I may not have told you everything, but I wouldn't lie to you." He tried a smile, managing about half of one. "You know me too well for me to get away with it."

        "Exactly," she said. "So, who is this guy, and what's his story? Or should I ask him?"

        "He's sick," Sean said, quickly. "He really needs to get some rest right now. We won't stay long - "

        "Sean, you're my brother," Amanda reminded him. "I'm not going to kick you out if you need help - or your friend, either. I just want to understand what's going on, here."

        "I don't know what I can tell you," he said, honestly. "It isn't really mine to tell."

        "So tell me what you can. Or, better yet, I'll ask." She took a deep breath. "He's more than just a friend, right?"

        He looked at her with startled eyes, a deer-in-the-headlights expression that almost made her want to laugh, remembering all the time she'd caught him out in a white lie in the past and had seen just that look on his younger face. Even now, after all this time, he still thought he could keep things from her.

        His face coloured slightly, a bit of pink settling high in his cheeks, and he stared back down at the untouched, sugary cup of coffee in front of him. "I love him," he said, quietly.

        She nodded, putting a hand over his and squeezing slightly. "I know." They sat there without saying much else for a few minutes, Sean trying to breathe, process. Finally, Amanda asked, "So, how long has it been since you've eaten?"

        Sean shrugged. "I don't remember. Sometime yesterday, maybe."

        "You need a keeper, you know that?" Amanda got up, opened the refrigerator door.

        "You don't have to - " Sean started, but a pointed glance from his sister quickly shut him up. He realized that it wouldn't do any good to argue with her, and she was right, besides. He was hungry, and tired, and all of the other things that she knew about him at a glance. "Thanks," he said, when she set a plate of cold cuts in front of him, and brought bread and mustard.

        "What about Nick?"

        Sean shook his head. "He needs sleep more than anything," he said. "He's exhausted. The trip's taken a lot out of him."

        "It's more than just the trip, isn't it, Sean?" Amanda asked. "This isn't just a bad case of road-lag we're talking about, here. What's really wrong with him?"

        "He's sick," Sean said, slowly. "He's got a - a virus. It's not what you think," he added quickly. "There's a cure; we just have to find it. That's what we've been looking for, all this time. There's a man out there who can cure Nick, we just have to find him." He looked at her evenly, speaking as if he had to convince himself as much as her. "We will find him."

        "Okay." She watched him make the sandwich. "Jesus, Sean. You never could just fall for the girl-next-door, could you?"

        He snorted, and started to laugh.

* * *

        "You should get some sleep, little brother. You're looking a little ragged around the edges." Amanda swept up the crumbs from the kitchen table and put away the last of the food. "I'm assuming you won't need the couch, right?" she grinned at him.

        "I'm not - we're not _sleeping_ together," Sean said. "But, I'll stay with him in the room, in case he wakes up - "

        "Uh-huh," she laughed, knowingly.

        "You just seem a little too unsurprised by all of this, okay? I haven't even told him I love him; I don't know how he feels. Hell, I hadn't said it out loud before tonight, and you're just - standing there, laughing at me."

        "What do you want me to do, Sean? Be shocked? Be angry? I'll admit, the last thing that I expected to see when I opened the door tonight was you and your boyfriend on my front porch - " He groaned, and she laughed again. "But, I've been your sister for more than twenty years, and I know you. You don't hide things well." She reached out and lifted some hair off of his forehead. "I love you, and nothing could change that. If you really love him, I think you should tell him."

        "I don't know if I should. He's going through a lot right now."

        "How long have you been travelling together?"

        Sean shrugged. "Three months, and about a week three months before that. A really intense week, and then - then he left, and I had to find him, and - " He shook his head. "It's a long story."

        "So, you've been riding around together for three months, looking for this guy you need to find, and for three months before that you were looking for Nick?"

        Sean nodded. "Yeah."

        "Sweetie, unless he's a complete idiot, I think he's probably guessed that you love him." She paused. "And, seeing as you're still together after all this time, I think you can take an educated guess about his feelings for you, too."

        "But - "

        "If you want to know for sure, tell him." She kissed him on the forehead, ruffling his hair as she did so. "I'm going back to bed. Jack'll be up soon."

        "Good night," Sean said.

        "Good night." Amanda left him sitting there by the kitchen table.

* * *

        When he stepped back into the guest room, Nick was lying on his side, on one half of the bed. He looked better than he had when Sean helped him in - a little cooler, less obviously pained, and he was breathing evenly, deeply asleep.

        Sean dropped his bag gently to the floor, knelt down, and unzipped it, rummaging around for something to sleep in, feeling not nearly as tired as he should have been. They'd stopped in motels nearly every night, or sometimes camped outside when it was safe to do so, sleeping under the stars. During the day, they covered as much distance as possible, zig-zagging across the country since the Colorado tip had proved fruitless, reading newspapers for leads, following up every rumour and hint of the guy they were looking for. Nick had good and bad days, but it seemed to Sean that every day he got a little sicker, a little quieter, a little more withdrawn. He was still determined to continue on with the search, had never mentioned anything about quitting, but his natural pessimism became more deeply ingrained. He'd never said it again, but his assertion that "tomorrow I could be dead" echoed over and over and Sean's mind.

        Eventually, Sean decided just to strip down to his t-shirt and boxers. He wanted a shower but didn't want to wake his sister, or Jack, so he thought he'd just lay down and wait the two hours or so until the rest of the house was awake. The couch was free, but - what he'd told Amanda was true; he wanted - or needed - to be there in case Nick woke up. He was always there, they were almost always together, and even though he told himself that was because Nick might need him, the truth was suddenly proving to be something far deeper.

        He managed to lie down without overly disturbing Nick's side of the bed, and closed his eyes, tired but wide awake, nevertheless. Leave it to Amanda to do this to him - take one look at him and strip him bare, like no-one else in the world could. It was probably because they didn't have anyone except each other since their mother died when Sean was twelve; Amanda became a surrogate mother at seventeen, and raised him until he went away to school. She was the most important person in his life, the one person that he'd willingly take a bullet for - at least, until now.

        He wondered how he'd managed to go all these months and never figured out what was really going on with Nick, always in the name of 'friendship.' He'd given up his life, for all intents and purposes, in the name of this quest - and, yeah, Nick had done the same for him, taken a bullet for him, fought off a coven for him, found a cure for him, made sure he was safe, and well. And then Nick left him, so he'd stay safe - and when Sean drove up alongside him on a highway three months later, they never discussed any of it, just went on like no time had passed at all, eyes on the prize.

        And now, leads were fewer and further between, and still they didn't talk about it, didn't discuss the fact that 'friends,' no matter how close they were, didn't spend twenty-four hours a day together, weren't prepared to live and die for each other. They were friends, yeah, but -

        But he loved Nick, too. The words, when they came out of his mouth for the first time - as startling as unexpected as they were - did so naturally, without thought or effort. They just were.

        And now, wide awake before dawn, in bed beside the person he loved but had never said the words to, he was trying to figure out why he'd never said it before - or admitted it, despite the fact that he was obviously feeling it. Maybe it had to do with the fact that Nick was a guy - although that obviously wasn't enough of a deterrent in and of itself to keep him from actually falling in love with him. Maybe it was because of the quest for Nick's cure - that was the most important thing in the world to both of them, the focus and the all-encompassing effort that took all of their time and energy.

        Or maybe it was the fact that neither one of them knew if they'd find Nick's Forsaken, and get his cure - or get it in time to save his life. Maybe it was the fact that Nick was dying, little by little, day by day, fading away from each sunrise that passed. Maybe that was where the true fear lay - that if he said it, if he admitted it - if he really felt it, that it might be taken away.

        Sean looked at Nick's back, so close to him. His t-shirt was sticking to a small pool of sweat just below the collar, and Sean reached out and tugged it away, without thinking, then rested his hand flat on Nick's spine, feeling each breath move back and forth through his body.

        "If I never tell you I love you, then it won't hurt when I lose you," he said, out loud.

        Nick's back shifted against Sean's palm, and after a moment, he turned over in the bed. The light in the room was a pre-dawn gloom, but it wasn't hard for Sean to read Nick's face, not now.

        "So," Nick said, his voice roughened by fever and the edges of sleep that still clung to him. "What do we do now?"

* * *

        "I'm afraid," Nick said.

        "I know."

        "I don't want to die."

        Sean nodded. He was listening without really listening, much more aware of the fact that Nick's head was on his arm, his body curled along the length of him, a knee resting lightly on his bare thigh. He felt everything all at once, all of Nick's over-warm, slightly damp body, and just wanted to lie here and hold him forever. It had been so easy, so natural when Nick turned against him, touching him like he'd just been waiting for the opportunity. And, Sean guessed, he had been, because obviously Nick couldn't do anything or say anything, not when he was the one who was -

        "You won't," he said, because it was the thing that he was meant to say - not because he really thought it was true, but because he wanted it to be true, and wanting it had to mean something.

        He raised his hand and slid it up Nick's neck, into his hair, lifting and moving it away from his skin. He just wanted to touch Nick, without thinking about it or anything else. He just wanted to touch him.

        Nick was the one who moved against him, lifted his head and kissed him, and then they were kissing, Sean's mouth opening wide and needy under Nick's, his hands gripping Nick's biceps hard, Nick's thigh pressing between his legs, and then -

        "I can't," Sean said, forcing himself away breathing hard, wincing at the feel of how hard he'd gotten so fast, how heavy Nick's body was on top of him. "Not here." He glanced at the door, wondering how thin the walls were.

        Nick laughed at him, amused, but pulled away. "Okay," he said, and lay down on his side, again, head pillowed on his arms. "So, when did you decide?"

        "What?"

        "That you were madly in love with me."

        Sean twisted his mouth, making Nick laugh at him again. "Tonight," he said.

        "You always this quick to catch on?"

        "Are you?" Sean retorted.

        "Me?" Nick rolled over on his back, stretching lazily. "I was just waiting for you to catch up."

        "You might have said something," Sean accused, pinning him down, and then, to stop Nick's laughter, kissed him again. His mouth was delicious, intoxicating, and it drew him in like a magnet. It was difficult to stop.

        "I thought you said not here," Nick said, lips wet and eyes now bright from more than just the fever.

        "I know," Sean said. He teased his teeth over Nick's bottom lip before kissing him again. "But I don't want to stop." It was only a sound from outside the room - footsteps in the hallway, then a door closing, that propelled him away from Nick's arms.

        "Well, we obviously can't stay here," Nick said.

        "I can't just leave - we just got here."

        "Time's a relative thing, Sean," Nick shrugged. "Personally, I think we've wasted enough of it already - but, it's up to you."

* * *

        The banging of the front door made Sean ease open the bedroom door a moment later, peeking down the hallway.

        "Well? Can we make a clean getaway?"

        Sean turned around, frowning. Nick was sitting on the edge of the bed, putting on his shirt. "Give me a minute."

        Nick shrugged. "One. Then I won't be held responsible."

        Sean grinned at his restlessness. It was both understandable and contagious; they'd spent the last hour necking like teenagers, hands roaming over clothing and then withdrawing into safe territory once again, trying - probably not very successfully, to tell the truth - to be quiet and not attract the attention of the slowly-awakening household. Frustrated and horny, Nick finally talked him into finding a motel somewhere and pulling the shades down for the day.

        Not that it took much arm-twisting on his part.

        Sean padded down the hallway, listening. He figured that Amanda and Jack were probably gone to work and he could scribble a note, tell them they'd be back tonight, take them out to dinner.

        "Oh, there you are. I thought you'd still be - asleep." Amanda turned around from the kitchen counter and grinned at him, chuckling when he blushed. "You're so cute when you're embarrassed, you know that?"

        "Mandy - "

        "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Look, I'm going to be late for work - if it was any other time, I'd call in sick and go back to bed myself, but we're already short-handed, and, well - " The grin re-appeared. "I'm sure what you really want to be doing today is spending time catching up with your big sister, right?"

        "Of course it is," Sean lied, baldly. "It's just - "

        "You're a terrible liar, Sean. I was just leaving you a note and the extra set of keys." She set both down on the counter. "We'll both be gone all day, so just make yourself at home, eat whatever you want, do whatever you want. Jack doesn't get off until six, and then I figured we could go out for dinner or something, okay? I know you're not planning on staying in town long, but I really want to spend a little time with you, before you leave. It's been too long."

        "Yeah, it has," Sean agreed. "But, look, Nick and I can go to a motel, or something. I mean, I don't want to put you out."

        "You're not. You're family, and so is Nick, so don't even think about leaving until we've at least had a meal together." She put her hands on his shoulders, looking in his eyes. "It's okay, really. I want you to stay."

        "Thanks, Mandy." Sean gave her a big hug.

        "Great. So, we'll be home at six-fifteen, six-thirty at the latest, and we'll go from there." She handed over the note. "Raid the fridge and - try to get some sleep, if you can." She kissed him on the cheek. "And give that to Nick, from me. Or something."

        Feigning anger to cover his embarrassment, Sean asked, pointedly, "Aren't you going to be late for work?"

        "I'm going already!" Amanda dashed out the front door, to the insistent beeping of a car horn and an echo of laughter.

        Sean watched the car pull away, waving through the kitchen window. He didn't really know Jack very well, had only met him a couple of times, but he knew that he was good to Amanda and that they loved each other, and that was good enough for him. It was a lot, actually.

        He unfolded the note just as Nick's arm landed comfortably on his shoulder.

        "So, are we out of here, or what?" Nick asked.

        Sean shook his head, reading out loud. "'The fridge is full, so eat something. Condoms are in the medicine cabinet. Play safe.'" He groaned at Amanda's trademark bluntness, and Nick pulled away. "I'm going to kill her. Hey, where are you going?"

        "Bathroom," Nick called out. "Did she say which shelf? Oh, never mind. I'll find them."

        Sean followed at a slightly more leisurely pace, after destroying the note and throwing away the evidence. The medicine cabinet door was slightly ajar, but Nick was already gone. He found him in the bedroom. "You brought the entire box?" Sean picked it up from the night stand, bemused. "You're either really good, or really hopeful."

        "Or both." Nick slid his hands around Sean's waist, and nuzzled his neck.

        "Nick - " Sean turned around, but Nick kissed him before he could say anything else - and then they were on the bed, Sean on his back, Nick on top of him, hands busily and very efficiently divesting him of clothing, mouth taking away thought and reason. Sean was already half-undressed before he could catch his breath and say something. "Nick," he repeated, a little more forcefully.

        "What?" Nick asked, distracted by the buttons on Sean's jeans.

        "I, uh - could we slow this down, just a little bit?"

        Nick arched an eyebrow, but stopped what he was doing. "Are you having second thoughts?"

        "I haven't even processed the first ones, yet." Nick slid off of him, to the side, and although their legs were still entwined, Sean felt a little more in control. He didn't want Nick to go, after all. "You just seem so okay with this, and I don't - I mean, I haven't - "

        "Neither have I," Nick shrugged. "No time like the present."

        "So, how - I mean, what - " Sean rolled his eyes. "Why do I feel like getting an entire sentence out at this particular moment would be, like, some Herculean task?"

        "Lack of blood to your brain?" Nick squeezed him, cock swelling through worn denim, and Sean moaned.

        "That could be it," he agreed, and Nick sucked on one of the hickeys already marking his neck, making him moan again. "Wait, Nick - "

        Nick removed his mouth, hands, and legs, and Sean felt suddenly bereft. "Do you want to do this? Because, we don't have to - "

        "I want to. I want you. I'm just, kind of freaking out about it, you know. I mean, I don't know anything about you."

        "So what do you want to know?"

        Sean shook his head, at a loss. "I don't know. Do you have family?"

        "No, actually," Nick dead-panned. "I was brought to this planet by the mothership in the late 40s, and crashed in New Mexico. Now I'll have to kill you, because you know too much."

        Sean grimaced. "Be serious."

        "I'm sorry, Sean, I just don't think I ever thought that talking about my mother would be an effective kind of foreplay. But, if it works for you - " Nick narrowly escaped Sean's half-hearted swipe, laughing. "Seriously," he said, a moment later, "everything about me that's important, you already know."

        "Like what?"

        "Like, I love greasy diner food, and I'm allergic to most raw vegetables," Nick said, unbuttoning the top button of Sean's jeans. "And, I'm infected with this virus that's most likely going to either kill me or turn me into a vampire - "

        "It won't," Sean said, as Nick popped another button. "We won't let it."

        Nick nodded. "My birthday's in October." He tugged at the jeans, now undone all the way.

        "That I didn't know," Sean said, lifting his hips up so Nick could strip him bare.

        "And I love you," Nick finished. "I've loved you since you drove up beside me on that highway, in that broken-down, beat-up car." He shook his head. "When I realized that you'd been looking for me since I left you in the hospital - " He stopped, collecting his thoughts, and took a deep breath. "Jesus, Sean, I knew then that you'd do anything for me, without a second thought, and I've never had anyone in my life before - including my mother - who would do the same." He paused, his eyes roaming over Sean's naked form. "If there's anything else that you want to know about me, just ask."

        "No," Sean breathed, both moved and utterly aroused. "I don't think there's anything else I need right now." He reached out a hand and started to unbutton Nick's shirt. "Except you."

* * *

        "Oh."

        Nick stilled, and Sean, with effort, managed to raise his head from the pillow, despite the fact that his entire body felt languid and heavy. It was like he was drowning - not breathing, not being able to move, just slowly smothered in sensation instead of water.

        "Was that a good 'oh' or a bad 'oh?'"

        "You couldn't tell?"

        "I'm still figuring this out," Nick said. "Give me a minute." He once again resumed the pattern his mouth and fingers were tracing in delicate circles over Sean's bare skin, causing shivers and shudders to wrack Sean's body.

        Sean felt each touch separately, but couldn't have effectively described what Nick was doing to him, where his hands stroked, where his mouth kissed, where teeth dragged sharply over skin, followed by a soothing, gentle tongue. It all combined to result in steadily-growing arousal, building slowly from a flicker to an inferno, until Sean felt like he might explode or implode or just split his skin wide open and bleed everything that was inside over the bed, melting in waves of desire. And Nick was still clothed, mostly, his shirt open all the way but still covering him, his jeans only barely unbuttoned.

        Sean managed to reach out a hand and tug at one shirt-tail. "Nick," he said, swallowing hard, and then added, "please."

        Nick stopped, shrugging out of the shirt like it had only now occurred to him that he was still wearing clothes. He stood and shucked his jeans, and then lay down on the bed, on his side beside Sean, and resumed his seemingly random sensual assault on his soon-to-be lover's body.

        It started with another kiss, mouth and tongues tangling, but the first actual contact of naked flesh with flesh was electric. Sean shifted, seeking to press every inch of his body against Nick's, as if he wanted to absorb Nick both through and against his skin. They moved together, trying to find the perfect fit of their bodies, until Sean was on his back and Nick astride him, legs straddling one tensed thigh, heavy, hard cocks trapped together in between taut stomach muscles. Nick thrust against that hardness and Sean pulled his mouth away, moaning low in his throat, a keening cry of want. Nick ruthlessly repeated the motion and received yet another cry, this time one of pure need, Sean's fingers clawing against his back and his mouth wide, gasping for air.

        They shifted again, side by side, and when Nick's fingers wrapped around his cock and his teeth bit soft and then sharp into his ear, Sean didn't even notice the invasion of a finger into his body - not at first, anyway. The sensations were all too overwhelming to be differentiated - everything felt good and painful and tickling and sharp and hot at once, and it took him a full minute to realize that some part of Nick was now inside him. When he did, he tensed, automatically, fighting it with his body and his urgent breathing. Nick kissed him away from the precipice, easing him back to concentrate on the hand stroking his cock, the mouth that kissed and bit and laved his skin, and Sean gradually relaxed enough to allow another finger.

        They continued on this way, slowly, until Sean was stretched and open and actually craving more of the intimate contact than fingers alone could provide. Nick once again stoked his desire, pulling on his cock to the very edge of orgasm before abruptly stopping dead still, and Sean reacted as expected, with a howl avid and feral and almost animalistic as Nick ripped open the condom wrapper with his teeth and Sean sheathed him with shaking fingers. They came together in one last deep, breath-stealing kiss before Sean raised himself to his knees.

        Nick replaced his fingers with his cock in one long, smooth motion and Sean breathed and concentrated on feeling every pore and inch of his body and Nick's as they melded together, slick with sweat and saliva and pre-come and the lubricant on the condom. He was dangerously close to coming, stopped only by Nick's unmoving hand and the pain that wouldn't subside for long moments, as he adjusted to the length and width of Nick's cock, smoother and longer and fuller than his fingers. He moaned as Nick pushed inside, moaned harder when he pulled nearly free, the pain of loss greater even than that of invasion.

        The moans and thrusts both increased in scope and length and meaning, and both of them abandoned themselves to their own pleasure, only barely aware of the other even as they coupled more and more deeply together. Sean wordlessly demanded that Nick resume stroking him with his hand, muscles tensing and relenting around the cock inside him in a teasing dance of dominance. He grabbed on to Nick and held him fast, tightly binding them together until their two hearts slowed to a single beat.

        And then it was suddenly a race, to see who would succumb first, who would follow, and they plunged mindlessly into orgasm, shuddering and shaking and coming both apart and together. Sean fell boneless against the bed, Nick a heavy, wet, and welcome weight slick against his back, equally incapable of independent movement, hot breath gasping into the skin of his neck. They slept a few sated moments fitfully like that, a tangled, messy combination of limbs, until Sean awoke and Nick shifted against him, holding on tight as they re-arranged themselves into something resembling comfort.

        Sean closed his eyes and breathed deeply, pulling oxygen into every cell of his body. Nick kissed the already darkening mark just below one ear, curling his fingers into the damp hair at the back of his neck. They were still wrapped around each other, but Sean was almost startled to realize that they hadn't somehow spontaneously melded into one being. He wiggled a hand and saw his own hand move, and laughed.

        "What?" Nick asked.

        "Nothing," Sean smiled, lazily. "Just trying to figure out what's me and what's you."

        "Oh," Nick said, as if it made perfect sense - or as if he'd wondered the exact same thing, too. He shifted again, moving just a little bit further away, and although Sean wanted to stop him, he could already feel the wall Nick was starting to build. He sighed, and closed his eyes, wanting to sleep and wake up this way, together.

        "You know, this could be really bad," Nick said, after a few minutes of silence. He didn't wait for Sean to answer, even though Sean knew he knew that he was awake, although he was pretending not to be. "As a matter of fact, it could rank up there in the top five - no, top three fuck-ups in my life." He shifted onto his back, Sean moving automatically with him, warm, dark head on his chest, one hand playing restlessly with a nipple. "The first, of course - as my father was so helpful in reminding me every day of my life until he finally fucked off when I was ten - was being born. The second was definitely getting infected. And now this.

        "We both know that the chances that we'll actually find this guy we're looking for are somewhere between slim and none - and that means that I'm probably going to turn soon. That'll leave us with two choices: Either I bring you over, and we go to hell together, or you stake me. Frankly, I'm not all that crazy about either one of them.

        "You should have gone home after you got out of the hospital, Sean. You would have been safe there, and I - I would have found you, once I was sure that I was okay." He looked down; Sean wasn't looking at him, still quiet and restful, but his eyes were open. "What are you thinking?"

        After a moment, Sean looked up. "I'm thinking that I'm really hungry. Are you hungry? I could use a sandwich, or something." With that, he lifted the blankets and climbed out of bed, wandering down the hall to the kitchen bare-assed.

        Nick stared at him for a moment, incredulous, then followed him, stopping first to put on his underwear, on the off chance that someone came back unexpectedly. When he got to the kitchen, he found Sean rummaging through the fridge, pulling out jars and containers and piling them on the counter.

        "Mandy said to raid, so I figure - " Sean shrugged. "We can always re-stock before we go." He opened the cupboard and found bread, crackers, biscuits. "Peanut butter or - " He opened a container. "I think that's tuna. Does that look like tuna to you?" He held it out to Nick.

        "What the hell are you doing?"

        "I'm making breakfast." Sean stole a look at the clock. "Well, lunch, actually, which is good, because tuna for breakfast - " He shook his head. "Not acceptable."

        Nick jumped up on the counter, shaking his head. "I'm spilling my guts in there, and you're thinking about food? It's good to know what your priorities are, now."

        Sean started to assemble a sandwich. "What do you expect me to say, Nick? 'Yeah, sure, re-infect me?' Or 'No, I'd be happy to stake you once you turn?'" He shook his head. "We've been having a variation on this conversation for the past three months, and talking about it hasn't made it any easier to listen to." He looked at Nick with pained eyes. "We both know that whatever's going to happen is probably already in motion, and you and me fucking isn't going to change that, one way or the other. Maybe I'm in a little deeper now, but not much. Jesus, Nick, I've been with you for months - you think this isn't my fight just because I'm not infected anymore? It is, it has been, and, until it ends, it's going to stay that way. So," he added, "do you want tuna or peanut butter?"

        Nick was open-mouthed at Sean's perfectly calm vehemence, but he finally managed to recover himself and answered, "Both."

        "That's disgusting."

        Nick shrugged, opening a jar of pickles. "Yeah. It's an acquired taste."

        They demolished an enormous amount of food in the kitchen, and brought a basket of fruit and cookies and a pitcher of water back to the bedroom for sustenance. Sean fed Nick his meds one by one, punctuating each one with an open-mouthed kiss, and then they made love again, falling asleep somewhere around mid-afternoon, after Sean opened the blinds just a little bit, to let some sunlight in. They ate that night at a brightly-lit, family-oriented, all-you-can-eat buffet. Sean immediately despaired of ever getting Nick out of the place, but other than that, the evening went well. Nick and Jack hit it off surprisingly well, considering how quiet and inarticulate Jack had always come across to Sean in the past. Sean realized he was merely operating on a different level - plus, his own close relationship with his sister had made Jack an outsider whenever they were together - and Nick had somehow picked up on that dynamic immediately and bridged the gap. Amanda watched Nick eat half the restaurant's menu with undisguised amusement.

        "Did you two have a busy day?" she asked Sean across the table, nodding over at Nick, who was shoveling enormous quantities of food into his mouth and discussing a local rock band with Jack at the same time, without missing a beat.

        "He always eats like that," Sean shrugged. "And yes, we did."

        "Good choice of restaurant, then."

        "They're probably going to post his picture by the door when we leave. 'Do not let this man into the restaurant,'" Sean joked. "They're definitely losing money, tonight."

        "Have you decided how long you're going to stay? Because, you know, you're welcome to the guest room as long as you want it." Amanda smiled. "Within reason, anyway."

        "We'll probably hit the road the day after tomorrow. It's been good, coming here; Nick's better, and I'm - I'm better, too." He gave her a meaningful look that didn't need words. "Thanks."

        She shrugged. "It's what I'm here for, Sean. You know, family comes in handy every once in a while."

        "I'm finding that out."

        "You'll have to come back soon. I don't want it to be another year before I see you again."

        "I hope we can," Sean said. "I hate being all the way across the country from you. Although, you know, you could always come and visit me one of these days."

        "Yeah, well, before you go, you're going to have to pencil in a visit back here for about seven months from now." She smiled at him, trying to keep a straight face and keep from laughing at the same time.

        "I thought you weren't going to say anything," Jack said, picking up on the thread of the conversation.

        "About what?" Nick asked.

        "Oh, my god," Sean said. "You aren't - "

        "Gotta take advantage of seeing my brother face-to-face," Amanda just shrugged. "I think 'Uncle Sean' has a nice ring to it, don't you?"

        "I figured there'd be a baby announcement tucked in with the shotgun-wedding invitation," Sean teased, ducking his sister's threatened smack. "This is great. I can't believe you're actually breeding. Isn't that one of the signs of the apocalypse?"

        "Congratulations," Nick said, amused but sincere.

        "Thank you, Nick," Amanda said, pointedly. "As for you - just for that last crack, you've unofficially 'volunteered' for unlimited baby-sitting duties whenever you're within 500 miles of Miami, you know that, right?"

        Sean laughed. "I surrender. I will be happy to take care of the rug-rat - someone's got to make sure he comes out okay, after all." He extended his hand to his brother-in-law, and leaned over the table to kiss Amanda. "Seriously, congratulations."

        The good mood was infectious; Jack kissed Amanda, and Sean found himself taking Nick's hand under the table, happy when Nick just grinned at him, indulgent if a little startled, around another mouthful of food.

* * *

        Jack had driven them all to the restaurant in his car, and Sean was glad for it when he recognized the too-familiar signs that Nick's energy level was finally flagging. Despite the effects of the drugs and his very healthy appetite - and his stubborn insistence on ignoring any signs of weakness in his body, whenever possible - the fact remained that he was still infected, and hadn't slept nearly enough in days, maybe weeks. He spoke little, conserving his strength just to remain awake and upright, while Amanda kept the conversation going, and Jack gave them both concerned looks in the rear-view mirror.

        Sean finally put a hand on Nick's shoulder and pulled him down into his lap. Nick resisted at first, but eventually his eyes closed and he let Sean settle him there, hands carding rhythmically through his hair.

        It wasn't a long drive back to the house, twenty minutes or so, but Nick was asleep by the time they pulled into the driveway. Nobody moved, at first, as if afraid to disturb him, but eventually Amanda and Jack both got out of the car and went into the house.

        Sean didn't move, content to stay exactly where he was all night, if necessary. He'd slept in far more uncomfortable positions in worse places; comfort was less and less a reality, these days, although Nick's slightly feverish warmth on his thighs definitely came closer to it than a lot of things had in the recent past.

        "You just going to let me sleep here all night?" Nick complained, opening one eye.

        "That was the plan." Sean looked around speculatively. "Although - you ever done it in the backseat of a car?"

        "Hasn't everyone? I thought you'd want to wait and do it in our car, though."

        "This one's bigger."

        "And it's sitting in the driveway of your sister's house."

        "A good place to get arrested," Sean agreed. "With someone sympathetic nearby to bail us out." He leaned down and kissed Nick softly on the mouth, intending to pull away when Nick suddenly caught him around the neck and held him fast. The kiss sparked into life, deepening until Sean broke free, panting. "I thought you were tired," he accused.

        "I got my second wind."

        "Let's go inside, then, before we really do steam up the windows."

        Proving his 'second-wind' comment correct, Nick pushed himself up and out of the car with a sudden burst of energy, dragging Sean helplessly behind him. Sean was barely able to shove the car-door closed when he found himself pulled into the house, through the kitchen past a startled Amanda and Jack, and down the hallway to the guest bedroom. It wasn't until he actually hit the bed, Nick on top of him, that he started to laugh.

        "You need to sleep," Sean managed to weakly protest, in between chuckles and kisses.

        "I can sleep anytime." Nick paused. "Unless you're tired."

        "I've been completely exhausted for about six months, now. I don't see that coming to an end any time soon."

        Nick frowned. "We don't have to leave, you know, if you don't want to. I mean, not right away. I know you haven't seen your family in a long time - "

        Sean shook his head. "We'll be back," he said. "We've got to strike before the trail goes cold, remember? Get back out there, keep looking - "

        Nick silenced him with another kiss. "Maybe," he said, licking his lips, "but that doesn't mean that we have to - "

        "No," Sean said, growing alarmed. "No. We agreed. We had this conversation already. I was there. You tasted like peanut butter and tuna afterwards, remember?"

        "Yeah. And you liked it."

        Despite himself, Sean had to smile. "Okay, I admit it. But - "

        "I don't mean not go at all, I mean, if you want to spend some time here, we don't have to leave right away, and - " Nick stopped, suddenly very interested in a button.

        "And?" Sean prompted.

        Nick shrugged, stretching out on his back in a lazy sprawl. "I don't know. I like your family."

        Sean smiled again. "It's mutual."

        "It's nice to be here. It feels - normal." He turned his head, looking at Sean with unfathomable eyes.

        "Normal's been in short supply," Sean agreed. "Do you want to stay, for a little while? Is that what this is about?"

        "I don't think a couple of days here is going to kill us." Nick grinned when Sean winced. "Bad choice of words, sorry. Really, though, it isn't going to kill me, Sean, not in the next forty-eight hours. I promise."

        Sean nodded. "Okay," he said, and waited for the familiar knot of anxiety to re-settle in his chest, surprised when it didn't flare up again. "We spend a couple of days here, and then we go."

        "Three nights on the same mattress. I may not be able to adjust."

        "With an air-conditioner that actually works," Sean added.

        "No ice machine, though."

        "There's trays in the freezer. And a refrigerator with food in it." Sean propped his head up on one arm. "Two more days of civilization like this, and I might not want to leave."

        "You will," Nick said, confidently. "You'll be itching to get me alone in a motel-room bed with a vibrating mattress before you know it."

        Sean snorted. "Pervert."

        "You love it," Nick accused, and then, caught once again with a potentially poor choice of words, winced himself.

        "Hey," Sean said, forcing Nick to meet his eyes. "I do," he said. "I really do."

        Nick just nodded. They lay there for a while, each caught up in his own thoughts, then, still fully clothed and lying on top of the re-made bed, fell asleep, side-by-side.

        End

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