Christmas had never been a big deal for Sean. A few parties, a call and maybe a gift from his sister, and a paid day off work to sleep in. That had always been good enough – more than that, it had always seemed pretty much perfect to him. But after two months on the road it seemed like they should do *something* to mark the occasion.
He didn't think of himself as the sentimental type, but Christmas was almost over and he'd spent most of the day thinking that it might be Nick's last one. His last Christmas, and if that wasn't depressing enough, they'd spent the whole day in that fucking Charger, chasing down a killer who was always one step ahead of them. At first Sean had been so sure they'd catch him, but the longer they were on the road and the sicker Nick got, the harder it was to believe that they'd find his Forsaken before it was too late.
Sean gritted his teeth against the frustrated scream that threatened to escape his throat and jammed a few coins into the pay phone, dialing his sister's number from memory and listening to the phone ring on the other end of the line. When she finally picked up he had to swallow hard against the lump in his throat, squeezing his eyes shut and leaning hard against the side of the phone booth. "Hey, it's me."
"Sean? Where are you?"
She asked him the same question every time he called, and just like every other time he felt the guilt wash over him – guilt for lying to her, for giving up everything she'd worked so hard to help him get just to follow some guy he barely knew on an impossible crusade. Only she didn't know any of that, and he couldn't explain it to her. Maybe after, when things were decided one way or another he could go down to Florida and tell her the whole story. Even if she didn't believe him about the vampires she'd be able to see that he loved Nick, and that would be probably be enough for her. But for now…for now all he could do was tell her part of the truth.
"I don't know," he answered, glancing around the nearly deserted street as though he might find some landmark to tell him where they'd stopped. "Somewhere outside Syracuse, I think."
"Syracuse." He could hear the accusation in her voice, the disappointment and all the questions she'd stopped asking when she finally realized she was never going to get any answers. The sound of her sigh on the other end of the line made his heart ache, and he swallowed hard and glanced over his shoulder toward the car.
"Listen, I can't talk, I just wanted to say Merry Christmas."
"Sean…" She paused and he could tell she was on the verge of asking one of those questions he couldn't answer; he could practically hear it, something along the lines of 'what have you gotten yourself into?' or maybe even 'please come home'. But before he could panic she changed her mind, letting out a heavy sigh on the other end of the line. "Thanks for calling. It's good to hear your voice."
"Yeah, you too," he said, hoping the connection wasn't good enough to let her hear the way his voice caught.
"Merry Christmas, Sean."
"I'll call again as soon as I can, okay? Merry Christmas." He hung up the phone before she could change her mind and start asking questions, closing his eyes for another second before he pushed open the phone booth door and walked back to the car. When he got there the passenger seat was empty, and his heart started to beat a little faster as he glanced up the street for any sign of Nick.
It was almost dark now, and if anybody actually lived around here they'd already gone home for the night. The streets were deserted, as far as he could tell, and the only sign of life was a light in what looked like the town's only gas station. He tugged his coat a little closer around his throat and started down the street, his footsteps muffled by the fresh snow covering the sidewalk. It was too dark to make out Nick's footprints in the snow, but Sean told himself not to panic as he walked toward the light.
A million things could have happened: Nick might have needed to take a leak, or maybe he'd gone looking for a store that was actually open on Christmas night. Then again, there was always the chance he'd decided Sean was holding him back and taken his chance while Sean's back was turned. And it was stupid, because Sean knew Nick liked having him around, but he still worried every day that Nick was going to leave him again.
His footsteps faltered when the door of the gas station swung open and someone stepped out into the darkness, and when he recognized the slope of broad shoulders and the collar of Nick's coat he swallowed hard and choked on too-cold air. He was still coughing when Nick reached him, a six-pack tucked under one arm and a bag in his other hand.
"Hey, man, you okay?" Nick asked, eyeing Sean with the worried expression Sean had come to know far too well over the past couple months.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Sean said, smiling reassuringly when Nick frowned. "Really. I just swallowed wrong."
It was weird that Nick worried about him when he was the one who was sick, but Sean had to admit that it was kind of nice. He knew Nick worried that Sean was going to get infected somehow, that there was some way to pass on the disease through casual contact that neither of them had ever heard of. It was kind of paranoid, but Sean couldn't really blame Nick for worrying. Not when he still woke up in a cold sweat from dreams of his own Forsaken, flashes of all the victims that had been linked to Sean through the blood when he was still infected.
Nick lived with that every day, though, and if anybody had a reason to worry it was Sean. He wasn't sure how much more time they had, and every time he'd tried to bring it up Nick had just fed him some vague line and changed the subject. After awhile Sean had learned to stop asking, but every time Nick's cough got worse or he had to up the dosage of his drugs Sean couldn't help worrying that they were running out of time.
"Where'd you go?" he asked as they fell into step together, regretting it as soon as Nick looked at him.
"Found us some dinner." He held up the bag and Sean nodded, heat creeping into his cheeks as he looked down at the sidewalk. He could feel the weight of Nick's gaze on him, heavy with questions the same way his sister's voice had been. Nick was better at letting things slide than any of them, though, and a few seconds later he shifted his gaze back to the sidewalk. "It's not much, but at least we won't starve."
Sean nodded when they reached the car and slid behind the wheel, fishing the keys out of his pocket and turning over the engine. They drove in silence down the street to the only motel in what passed for a town, and he pulled up in front of the office and went inside alone. He told himself it was just habit that made him take the keys with him whenever he left Nick alone in the car, but it was hard to make himself believe it when he panicked every time Nick left his sight.
He filled out the registration card and handed over enough cash to cover the room, ignoring the weird look the guy behind the desk gave him when he handed Sean his key. They were both used to people looking at them funny by now, and on the nights they actually stopped Sean was usually so tired that he didn't even notice. Tonight was different, though, because it was Christmas and he knew everyone they saw all day had been wondering what two guys were doing on the road on Christmas day.
For most of the day he'd been able to pretend they were on their way somewhere, that when they finally stopped there would be a hot meal and a soft bed. The bed in the motel room didn't look anything like the one in Sean's fantasies had, but at least the heat in the room worked and there was hot water in the shower. He didn't linger in the shower nearly as long as he would have liked; it wouldn't be fair to use up all the hot water before Nick got a shot at it, and anyway he was too exhausted to hold himself up for much longer.
He pulled his jeans back on and ran his hands through wet hair before he pulled the bathroom door open, shivering a little when cool air hit his skin. Nick was sitting on the bed, his back against the headboard and his pills already scattered across the nightstand. He had a beer in one hand and the remote in the other, and when he looked up and saw Sean he gestured toward the TV.
"Looks like our boy's close."
Sean glanced at the screen long enough to catch the news footage of several bodies being wheeled out of a house. There was a reporter talking about leads and possible suspects, but they'd been following Nick's Forsaken long enough to know the signs. He nodded and sank onto the edge of the bed, taking the beer Nick handed him as he watched the news. It was the closest they'd gotten so far, and Sean found himself wishing he'd brought the maps in with them so they could see just how close they were.
"I think that's just north of here," Sean said, glancing over his shoulder at Nick. "Maybe we should…"
He stopped when he registered the look in Nick's eyes – even more intense than usual, like Nick could see right inside him. Sean spent a lot of time worrying that Nick could do just that, but if he'd figured out how Sean felt about him he hadn't said anything. He seemed content to let Sean tag along with him, and there were a few times when Sean woke up and caught Nick looking at him that he'd wondered if Nick felt the same way he did.
Most of the time he didn't let himself think about it, because they were out here for a reason and getting mixed up with a bunch of messy feelings would just make their lives even harder. Then again, sometimes Sean thought it might help a little if he could touch Nick, just let him know that he gave a damn whether or not Nick survived. He said he was doing this to stop the Forsaken from infecting anyone else, but he was pretty sure Nick knew that Sean was really only out here to save one person.
Nick was shaking his head, and Sean snapped out of his reverie long enough to tune in to the sound of the other man's voice. "We haven't stopped for days, and there's no chance we're gonna find any more open gas stations on this highway on Christmas. Besides, we're gonna need a few hours' sleep if we want to stand a chance of taking this guy down."
Sean nodded and glanced back at the TV, but they'd already switched to a story about some apartment fire in Syracuse. It was the first time all day either of them had acknowledged that today was different from any other, and for some reason it made Sean feel even worse. He felt like they should be doing something, just in case this really was Nick's last Christmas. There was no way he could bring himself to say that out loud, though, even if they were both thinking it.
He heard Nick stand up and glanced over his shoulder again, watching as the other man leaned over one of his bags and rifled around in it for a few seconds. When he straightened up again he was holding something wrapped in a plain brown bag, and Sean frowned when Nick sat down on the bed and pushed the package toward him.
"I got you something," Nick answered, as though was any kind of explanation. "It's not much."
Sean frowned down at the package until Nick sighed and forced it into his hands, shaking his head when Sean looked up at him. "Jesus, Sean, it's not a bomb or anything."
"I didn't…" He blushed and looked down at the package in his hands, wracking his brain to try to think of when Nick would have had time to go shopping.
"Don't worry about it," Nick answered, leaning forward to nudge the package again. "Would you open it already?"
Finally Sean nodded and unwrapped the makeshift wrapping paper, sliding his hand into the bag and pulling out a book. When he read the title he laughed and looked up, his heart skipping a beat at the sight of Nick's half-grin. "*Terror on Tape*? Are you trying to tell me something?"
Nick shrugged and looked down at the mattress between them, and if Sean didn't know any better he might have thought Nick was actually embarrassed. "Found it in some used bookstore the last time you stopped to call your sister. I know you like movies, I figured it would give you something to do when I'm driving."
"Thanks," Sean said, glancing down at the book again. It could have been a dictionary for all he cared and he would have loved it just because Nick had bought it for him. With money they didn't really have, but Sean wasn't about to point that out. He thought back to the last time he'd called his sister…it must have been three weeks ago, which meant Nick had been carrying the present around with him all that time. "Nick, I…"
"Forget it," Nick interrupted, and now Sean wasn't so sure that Nick wasn't embarrassed. It wasn't really like Nick to give him a Christmas present out of the blue, and it really wasn't like him to remember that Sean was into movies long enough to buy him a book about them. Sean looked down so Nick wouldn't see his grin, flipping through pages until he found something that looked familiar.
"Hey," he said, glancing up at Nick to find the other man watching him again. "I cut the trailer for this movie."
Nick moved a little closer on the mattress, leaning over Sean to get a look at the page. "*Sisters of Satan III*?"
"I didn't say it was any good," Sean answered, grinning when Nick laughed and straightened up again. He flipped through a few more pages, then finally gave up and set the book down on the mattress next to him. "Some Christmas, huh?"
"Yeah, well, I've had worse."
Sean grinned and looked up, expecting to find Nick grinning right back at him. There couldn't be a worse Christmas than being stuck in a motel in the middle of nowhere with just Sean around for company, but judging by the look on Nick's face maybe there could. Sean's heart ached at the thought of Nick even more miserable than this; his own Christmases hadn't been all that great growing up, but none of them had been this cheerless.
"Best Christmas ever," Sean said, setting the book down and leaning back on his hands. "Come on," he prompted when Nick rolled his eyes. "There must be one good one."
"Okay. There was this one year, I was about ten, I guess. My mom wasn't seeing anybody so it was just me and her. No drunk boyfriend stumbling around the apartment, yelling at me to stay out of his way. She might have even cooked real food that year."
"Jesus," Sean murmured, but he regretted it as soon as he said it. He knew Nick didn't want his pity, not over his life before he got bitten. As far as Nick was concerned all that was over now, and finding his Forsaken was the only thing that mattered.
"That was a long time ago." Nick said, as though he could read Sean's thoughts. He tipped his beer back and drained the can before he tossed it in the trash and reached for another one. "What about you?"
Sean shrugged and looked down at the mattress, heat creeping into his cheeks at the thought of how normal his life must have been compared to Nick's. "We never had much, but my mom always managed to scrape up enough cash for a tree and a couple presents. It was better than nothing, anyway."
He knew he should feel guilty for having at least one parent who cared about him, but Nick had a way of looking at Sean that made him think it didn't really matter. Where they'd come from never seemed that important when he was with Nick – where they were going didn't really matter either, maybe because they'd spent the past few months living in the moment. Nick had been living like that even before he met Sean, and it was easy to believe the past didn't matter when Nick was around.
Nick was looking at him like that right now, like this really wasn't the worst Christmas he'd ever had. And maybe it was the look in his eyes, or maybe it was just that Sean wanted to give him *something*. He wasn't sure what made him do it, but before Sean could stop himself he was leaning forward, and by the time he realized what a big mistake it was it was already way too late.
He tasted beer and salt, pressing against chapped lips with his tongue until Nick's mouth opened to let him in. He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting; maybe for Nick to push him away, call him a fag and tell him to keep his fucking hands to himself. But Nick wasn't saying anything, and when his hand slid into Sean's hair to tilt his head just a little Sean knew he wasn't going to pull away.
He wasn't sure what this was; comfort, maybe, or Nick thinking he owed Sean something. He knew what he wanted it to be, but he couldn’t stop long enough to ask. Part of him was terrified that if they stopped now they wouldn't start again, but there was another part of him that just didn't want to hear the answer to the question.
Nick's free hand slid across his chest, and Sean shivered and pushed until they were tangled together on the mattress, Nick's skin too hot against his lips as Sean mouthed kisses down the column of his neck. He could feel Nick's temperature spiking under his hands as he pushed the dirty white tank top up Nick's chest, and he shivered all over again at the thought of all that heat pressed against him. There was no telling how far Nick was willing to go, but after all this time Sean wasn't too proud to take what he could get.
"Sean," Nick whispered against his hair, too-warm hands gripping his shoulders just hard enough to get his attention. Sean's heart sank into his stomach, a heavy ball of lead at the base of his spine as he forced himself to look up at Nick. "You don't have to."
And the look on Nick's face was so sincere, so filled with regret, like stopping was the last thing he wanted. Sean wanted to laugh; he wanted to say something stupid like 'I love you' or 'don't leave me', but even if he had the balls to say that stuff to Nick he'd never be able to get the words out around the lump in his throat. Instead he just shook his head and buried his face in the heat radiating from Nick's neck, feathering frantic kisses against the skin just below Nick's ear.
"I want to."
"Yeah?" Nick's hand was in his hair again, tugging gently until Sean pulled back far enough to look down at him.
"Yeah," Sean answered, and he did laugh then, because he couldn't believe after all this time that Nick still hadn't figured it out. "Since that first day in the Mercedes."
"Jesus," Nick said, his hand leaving Sean's hair to rest against the back of his neck, "we're a couple of fuck-ups."
Sean couldn't really argue with that, so instead he braced his hands on either side of Nick's face and pressed their lips together again, inhaling the other man's scent as Nick's hands trailed up his back to clutch possessively at his shoulder blades. And it felt good, but it would feel even better if Nick's skin was pressed against his, so Sean stopped kissing him long enough to get the undershirt over his head.
"We gotta be careful," Nick said when Sean dropped his shirt on the floor, his hands warming Sean's skin as he swept them up and down Sean's back in broad strokes. "There's no telling how you could catch this thing…"
"I know," Sean interrupted, pressing a firm kiss to the corner of Nick's mouth to shut him up. "I know," he murmured again when Nick turned into the kiss, his heart clenching hard when Nick's arms tightened around him to hold him close.
There were so many things he wanted to say, things he might never get a chance to say again, but words seemed pretty empty compared to the way it felt when Nick kissed him. Sean breathed in sharply through his nose, his hands wandering over every inch of Nick that he could reach as he memorized the feel of Nick's mouth against his. He wanted to remember the weight of Nick's arms around him, the smooth press of his mouth against Sean's, the rough slide of his tongue against Sean's own. And they didn't have time for this, but they were so close to finding Nick's Forsaken and Sean wasn't sure they'd ever find the time again.
He wasn't thinking about that now, though, because Nick's hands were flexing against his hips, then the small of his back, up to his shoulders and back down again to start all over. They moved in slow motion, thrusting lazily through too many layers of clothes. Sean knew how much better it would feel if they were both naked, but he knew how soon it would be over once they were, and he wanted to hold onto this for as long as he could.
He might even be content with a whole night of just kissing, as long as Nick kept moving against him like that. Then Nick moaned against his lips and rocked up harder, his tongue thrusting in and out of Sean's mouth and suddenly making out wasn't nearly enough. Not when it had been so long for both of them, and not when they'd spent the past three months avoiding the subject entirely.
Sean tore his mouth away from Nick's and pressed up against the hands that tried to pull him back down, taking a moment to admire kiss-swollen lips and Nick's hazy, unfocused expression before he spoke. "You got any protection?"
"Yeah…Jesus," Nick murmured when Sean shifted against him, his hands gripping Sean's hips hard for a second before he remembered himself and relaxed his grip. "Yeah, in my wallet."
That was all Sean needed to hear before he was up and off the bed, rifling through the wallet Nick had tossed on the nightstand until he found a single condom. There was no telling how long it had been in there, but Sean sent up a quick prayer to whoever was listening that it wouldn't break until it was too late for Nick to change his mind.
When he got back to the bed Nick had already kicked his pants off, and Sean swallowed hard before he dropped the condom on the mattress and reached for the button of his jeans. He could feel the weight of Nick's gaze on him as he kicked his jeans off and climbed back onto the mattress, planting his knees on either side of Nick's hips and leaning forward for another hard kiss.
And he was never going to get enough of this, but no matter how hard they tried to ignore it they both knew they didn't have much time. Even if they did find the Forsaken and cure Nick things wouldn't be the same; their whole relationship was based on the hunt, and Sean didn't know what would happen after it was over. Part of him couldn't help wishing they could just stay like this forever, in their own world where nobody and nothing else mattered.
It was selfish and he hated himself for thinking it, but he hated the thought of losing Nick more. Even if they were never anything but friends he would have hated it, but now…now he knew what Nick's mouth felt like pressed against his, how his hands felt on Sean's skin and how their bodies fit together. He couldn't get close enough; he wanted to crawl inside Nick until they were one person, connected in a way nobody could ever tear apart. He wanted Nick inside him, wanted Nick to fuck him so hard he'd be able to feel it tomorrow.
There was no way Nick would go for that, though; it was the most dangerous thing they could do, and if he was worried about Sean getting infected he wouldn't fuck him even with two condoms. But Nick's tongue was still fucking his mouth, and it wasn't fair because it made Sean want Nick inside him even more. He tore his mouth away and closed his eyes, turning his head to the side and gasping for air to ease the burning in his lungs.
Nick's hands still clutched at his back, but when Sean pulled away they slid up to his shoulders, then through his hair to turn his face back toward Nick again. "Sean."
He didn’t want to look. He didn't want to see…or maybe he didn't want Nick to see what was written all over his face. There was no use denying it, though, not now that they'd gone this far. He took another deep breath and opened his eyes, swallowing a gasp when he saw the same uncertainty shining in Nick's expression. "I want…"
"I know," Nick interrupted, and Sean had a feeling he was afraid that if he heard the words he wouldn't be able to say no. "After…we're close, Sean. You saw…"
Sean nodded and buried his face in Nick's neck, breathing in heat and sweat and Nick. A hand moved through his hair, Nick's other hand stroking down his back to ghost across his ass. A low, deep laugh shook his chest and Sean smiled in spite of himself, pushing himself up to look at Nick. "What?"
"Nothing," Nick answered, his hand leaving Sean's hair to catch one of Sean's hands and thread their fingers together. "I've been dreaming about this ass since the first time I saw it."
"Yeah," Nick echoed, and Sean's breath caught in his throat when two fingers dipped between his cheeks to press against the entry to his body. "It's a great ass."
Sean laughed then, high and surprised and shifting to a moan when Nick's fingers sank inside him. It wasn't the same as Nick's cock, but it was something, and if it was all he was going to get for now he'd take it. He wanted to believe Nick when he said they were close to the end, that they could do anything they wanted just as soon as all this was over. He wanted to believe that meant Nick would stay, that he wouldn't disappear back to wherever he came from as soon as he was cured.
It was a big gamble, but Sean had given up his whole life to be with Nick, and all he had left was hope. He moaned again when Nick bucked up against him, their cocks sliding together as Nick's fingers slid even further inside him. Then Nick's mouth caught his again and a few seconds later he was flat on his back, and he never would have believed Nick could be so graceful if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes.
Nick's fingers slid back inside him as soon as he hit the mattress, and when Nick knelt between his legs Sean bent his knees and pushed his legs as far apart as they would go. He heard a sharp intake of breath and then Nick was kissing him, hard and hungry and Sean knew his mouth was going to be bruised in the morning. It didn't matter, though – nothing mattered except the fact that Nick wanted him and he knew exactly what Sean needed.
Nick's body was like a furnace, his mouth even hotter than the rest of him as he blazed a trail of kisses down the center of Sean's chest. And it felt almost reverent, the way Nick touched him like he'd never seen anything quite like Sean before. He pressed his mouth to the smooth skin of Sean's stomach, then the spot where his pelvis met his hip, and Sean gasped when that hot mouth finally closed around the head of his cock.
He knew he wouldn't last long, but between Nick's fingers and his mouth Sean's brain was way too fried to let him care. He rocked up with each thrust of Nick's fingers, his breath coming in harsh gasps as Nick sucked him. This was something he hadn't let himself imagine, but even if he had he never would have been able to predict how amazing it felt. And it seemed so unfair that Nick was the one who was sick, yet he was still giving as much as he could and taking nothing in return.
Sean opened his mouth to say something, to beg Nick to fuck him even if it meant his life, but before he could get the words out Nick's fingers brushed across his prostate and he shouted something incoherent and came. Once he stopped shaking Nick pulled away, leaving Sean feeling boneless and chilled and oddly bereft. He forced his eyes open, chest still heaving with the effort to breathe as he turned his head in time to watch Nick roll the condom down over his length.
For one breathless moment Sean thought Nick might actually take the risk and fuck him after all, but when Nick settled on top of him again Sean realized what he had in mind. He swallowed his disappointment and tilted his head up to meet Nick's mouth, parting his lips to taste himself on Nick's tongue as the other man thrust against him. This wasn't what either of them wanted, but Sean knew it was the closest Nick was going to let himself get until they cured him, so he wrapped his legs around Nick's waist and pulled Nick even tighter against him.
It was awkward and frustrating and when Nick finally tensed against him Sean knew it wasn't even close to what Nick wanted from him, but the drugs hadn't worked on Sean last time and there was no way Nick would let him take the risk just so he could come inside Sean. They were close, though – Nick was right about that, at least if the news report they'd seen was anything to go by. All they had to do was track Nick's Forsaken to wherever he was holed up, then lure him to sacred ground and blow his head off. It sounded so simple, and more than anything Sean wanted to believe that it would be that easy.
Nick's face was buried in his neck, his breath heating Sean's skin and making his temperature rise. He was hot and heavy and Sean could barely breathe with Nick on top of him, but when Nick started to move Sean had to fight not to reach out and pull him back down.
He watched as Nick disappeared into the bathroom to take the condom off. He listened to the sound of the water running in the sink, picturing Nick standing in front of the mirror as he washed his hands. When Nick reappeared in the doorway Sean's heart skipped a beat, and he pushed himself up on his elbows and watched as the other man crossed the room and slid back down on the mattress next to him.
Just for a second he wished that Nick had bought him condoms for Christmas instead of a book, but when Nick kissed him again he told himself there were plenty of things they could do that didn't require protection. Even if all he got to do was watch Nick jerk off he'd take it, as long as he knew what was waiting for them when they finally reached the end of their journey.