Sean glanced at Nick, back at the road, and then back at Nick again. Saw Nick wiping away a small stream of blood from his mouth with the heel of his hand.
“Does that mean what I think it means?” Sean asked.
“He’s close,” Nick said, looking out the window.
Nick ordered his usual steak for dinner that night.
Sean watched him as he sawed absently at the meat, his focus clearly not on the meal at hand. While the sight of the bloody rare cut of beef made now-Sean slightly queasy, he could remember all too easily a time when then-Sean would have eagerly devoured it. A time when a simple steak was blood and death and sex all at the same time.
That’s where now-Nick should have been, too. Except Nick had been acting fuzzy and distracted all day. And instead of giving him a boost, Nick acted like the meal itself was just a distraction.
“What’s with you, man?” Sean asked.
Nick’s attention snapped back to the present. “What are you talking about?” Nick replied, shoving a bite of steak into his mouth and chewing exaggeratedly.
Sean looked pointedly at the stead, then back up at Nick. “It’s not enough, is it?”
“It’s more than enough. If anything, it’s a little overcooked,” Nick said with a grin. He took another bite.
Sean rolled his eyes. “Sure it is.” He leaned back into the tacky-in-more-ways-than-one vinyl booth. It creaked. He figured that as long as Nick was feeling well enough to try to hide how shitty he was actually feeling, he was probably okay. For the immediate future, anyway. “So what are we gonna do when we catch up to him?” Sean asked.
“What do you mean?” Nick chugged down his entire glass of water.
“Does Colorado even have any hallowed ground?” Sean said.
Nick blinked. “Hell if I know.”
Sean rubbed an eyebrow. It was gonna be a long night.
Sean caught the scent of the cattle ranch that they were driving past and started to crank up his window to block out the stench of cow.
The window was only halfway up when a most-likely-terrible idea occurred to him. The tires screeched painfully as Sean pulled to an abrupt stop at the side of the road. He took the key out of the ignition.
“What did you see?” Nick asked, casually reaching into the shoulder bag where he kept his gun.
“Nothing,” Sean said, holding up one hand to forestall him. “I just thought, well… you said your steak was overcooked tonight.”
Nick snorted, drawing his hand back out of the bag. “It was practically raw.”
“I know,” Sean said, tightening his fingers on the steering wheel. “But it doesn’t get any fresher than this.” Sean looked over at Nick, watched as the penny dropped.
“Turn on the car,” Nick said.
Sean didn’t move.
“Turn on the fucking car right now,” Nick said. He kept his voice tightly controlled but Sean could hear him breathing so heavily that he was almost panting.
“Just consider it a minute, okay?” Sean asked. “We’re finally closing in on this son of a bitch -- or he’s closing in on us, whatever -- and we have no plan and virtually no firepower. And I don’t know what’s going on inside your head, because you won’t tell me, but I know something is going on because it’s like you’re not even here most of the time. And I really, really need you here right now.”
Nick was quiet for so long that Sean was starting to think he wasn’t going to get a response when Nick finally said, “Not counting piss breaks, the two of us spend around 23 hours of every day with each other -- and that’s a conservative guess -- most of those hours crammed into this shitty little car. Meanwhile, my body’s craving for human blood is growing stronger every day. It really should not be too hard for you to figure out what is going on inside my head and why I do not want to talk about it.”
Sweat from the palms of Sean’s hands made the steering wheel slick beneath his fingers. “Okay,” he breathed. “That’s something. I can work with that.”
“So far, your most brilliant idea is for me to go attack a cow,” Nick said flatly.
Sean blinked. “Well, yeah. You can’t drink human blood, or you’ll turn, but you’re craving blood so badly that you can’t even think straight.”
“I never said I couldn’t think straight,” Nick said.
“You pretty much just told me that all day long you’re thinking about tearing my throat out,” Sean said.
“That’s not what I--” Nick began.
“So excuse me if I choose to draw some conclusions about your current mental state,” Sean finished. “Besides, can you give me one reason why it’s a bad idea?”
“It might make me turn,” Nick said tightly.
“It’s just cow’s blood,” Sean said.
“And, what? That guarantees my safety? Bullshit!” Nick said. “Come on, tell me, what would you do if I turned into a vampire tonight? Right now?”
“I’d shoot you,” Sean lied. “Right in the head.” Nick stared at him. “Happy now?
“Fine, Jesus, all right.” Nick violently wrenched open the door of the car, got out, and slammed it shut behind him. He stuck his head back through the window to look at Sean. “But if I get vamped, I’m biting you first.”
“Deal,” Sean said.
Sean felt stupid sitting in the car, hands on the steering wheel like some getaway driver. And not knowing what Nick’s mood was going to be when he returned was nerve-wracking. The whole thing was his idea, sure, but that didn’t mean thinking about it didn’t also make him want to puke. If Nick caught on to that… things would get ugly, fast.
Sean got out of the car, stretched his legs. Tried to ignore the stench of manure in the air. He settled on a casual half-sit, half-lean on the hood of the car, arms crossed over his chest, waiting for Nick to return.
Which turned out to be the better part of valor, because when Nick came stumbling back over the ridge toward the highway, he was unsteady on his feet and weaving around aimlessly. Sean ran over and slipped an arm around Nick’s back to support him as they walked toward the car.
“You okay? What happened?” Sean asked.
“That was awesome,” Nick whispered into Sean’s ear, his beard tickling Sean’s neck. Then he giggled.
“Oh, my god,” Sean said. “Oh, my god. You are so high.” He wrestled open the passenger door for Nick to climb inside. “On cow’s blood!” Sean hissed.
“Totally high,” Nick said agreeably, dropping into the seat of the car. Sean closed the passenger door before circling around to the driver’s side. “You’re not mad, are you?” Nick asked as Sean slid into the driver’s seat.
“Why would I be mad?” Sean replied, turning over the engine.
“Dunno,” Nick said vaguely. “You’re breathing really hard, man.”
Sean snorted. “That’s because I had to carry your sorry ass back to the car.” He peeled out onto the road.
By the time they got settled in their motel room for the night, Sean was too exhausted to do anything more than rinse under his arms before heading off to bed.
When he got out of the bathroom, he saw that Nick had already flopped down onto one of the twin beds, and looked like he was already well on his way to sleep.
“Hell, no,” Sean said. “Nick, get up!”
Nick sat up, blinking as if to feign alertness. It didn’t work. “What’s up?” he drawled.
“Toothbrush,” Sean said, handing Nick the toothbrush he’d pulled out of Nick’s bag.
Nick fell back to the bed. “Later.”
“Now,” Sean said. “Cow’s blood.”
“You know, you might actually have a point there.” Nick staggered to his feet, took the toothbrush from Sean, and went into the bathroom.
Sean stripped down to his tank top and boxers and sprawled onto the other bed. Then he sighed, got back up, and turned out the lights before returning to the bed.
Moments, minutes, or hours later, he was woken from sleep by the weight of a warm body pressing into the mattress next to him.
“Wrong bed,” he tried to tell Nick, but it came out as, “Rrrhinguh.”
Nick didn’t say anything.
Whatever. Sean fell back asleep.
Sean woke again in the morning with a weight on his chest anchoring him down. He looked up to see Nick’s face hovering over his own.
“We gonna have a problem?” Nick asked.
“Why would we have a problem?” Sean replied.
Nick blinked. “Because I woke up mostly naked in bed with you, and I can’t remember what happened last night.”
“Oh.” So that was why Nick had been so warm. At least he’d kept on his boxers. Sean shrugged as best he could, given the circumstances. “You were flying pretty high on--”
“I remember that part.” Nick cut him off with a grimace. “And that doesn’t answer my question. We gonna have a problem?”
“Do I look like I have a problem?” Sean kept his voice as casual as possible, trying to match it to the loose-limbed sprawl of his body over the bed.
“So I didn’t bite you or anything,” Nick said, sounding vaguely relieved.
Sean would have liked to have asked what Nick meant by ‘or anything’, but Nick slid off him, his hip inadvertently sliding over Sean’s groin. Sean’s hips gave an involuntary thrust off the bed, but Nick either didn’t notice or chose to ignore it.
“No, you didn’t bite me,” Sean said.
“I need to check,” Nick said.
“I need to check. To be absolutely sure. Just give me your arm, okay?”
Sean reluctantly held out his arm, and watched as Nick inspected it not only with his eyes, but with his hands, too, trailing them slowly across Sean’s skin, checking for anything his eyes missed. He looked between Sean’s fingers, flipped Sean’s arm over, and checked the underside, too.
Nick looked at Sean’s neck, behind his ears, his other arm, both legs. “All right,” he said. “Off with the wifebeater.”
“You’re kidding.” Sean said.
“I need to check,” Nick insisted, and started to pull at the hem of Sean’s tank top. Sean sighed and obediently lifted his arms over his head.
Nick’s hands were on his back, but Sean wriggled away and twisted around to look at Nick. “Hey, is this what you were doing with Megan in the hotel when you sent me to get ice?”
“Yeah, only she was unconscious and didn’t have a hard-on the size of my forearm,” Nick said curtly.
“Um,” Sean said. “Can this be one of those we-don’t-talk-about-it things?”
“Shut up, turn around, and let me finish,” Nick said. Sean did.
“Done,” Nick finally said a few moments later.
“And?” Sean asked.
“You’re clean. No bite.” Nick was still sitting behind Sean, so he couldn’t see the expression on Nick’s face.
“So,” Sean hesitated, “remember what you were asking earlier? About whether or not we were going to have a problem?”
“Yeah,” Nick said.
“Should I be asking you that now?”
“Fuck.” Sean felt Nick rest his forehead against the curve of his shoulder. “You know this is the worst idea in the world, right?” Nick asked.
Sean felt his stomach clench, and it wasn’t because he hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. “Worse than cow’s blood?”
“So, so much worse,” Nick said, but his hands had returned to Sean’s waist, and Sean could feel the heat of Nick’s breath on his back.
“The size of your forearm, huh?” Sean said, aiming for casual. “Sounds kind of impressive.”
Nick laughed, shaking the mattress. “Not really.”
“I need you to be touching me now,” Sean said.
“I am touching you.”
“Don’t be a jackass,” Sean replied, jabbing an elbow back into Nick’s ribs.
“I watched you sleep,” Nick said absently, running his hands down over Sean’s abdomen, his fingers finally dipping below the waistband of Sean’s boxers. Grateful that Nick couldn’t see his face, Sean bit his lip when Nick finally touched his cock.
“The night you were first bitten,” Nick continued. “I had to make sure you weren’t going to freak out.” One hand holding Sean’s hip in place, Nick had his other hand wrapped around Sean’s dick, and was stroking him slowly while he talked.
Sean arched up into Nick’s hand, pressing his back further into Nick’s chest.
“So I just. Watched you,” Nick finished. He swiped his thumb over the head of Sean’s cock, pressed his mouth to the base of Sean’s neck, and that was when Sean realized just how colossally bad his idea had been, because mouth and neck, and Sean wanted it so badly -- the hardness of teeth to offset the ache in his cock.
“Don’t you dare fucking move,” Nick whispered hoarsely, his hand squeezing Sean’s dick.
Sean felt a light scrape of teeth on the outside of his shoulder before it moved down and inward, toward his neck. Then the hot, slick wetness of Nick’s tongue soothed over the same patch skin, and his hand loosened slightly around Sean’s dick. Sean came hard, still wearing his boxers, getting the fabric and his dick and Nick’s hands and everything all tangled up in a sticky, disgusting, amazing mess.
“You need to move now,” Nick said, wiping his hands on Sean’s stomach.
“Just give me a second,” Sean said.
“No, you need to move now,” Nick persisted.
“Oh.” Sean rolled off to the side, and when he stood at looked back at Nick, Nick already had one hand down his own boxers.
He was staring at Sean’s throat.