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Throwing himself forward, Nick somersaulted through the anomaly. He lay on the ground, eyes shut, panting from having run like his life depended on it, trying to reach the anomaly before it closed.
Nick's eyes flew open. Stephen was leaning over him. Stephen.
Nick shook his head and Stephen held out a hand. Taking it, Nick allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. Grabbing Stephen's shoulders, Nick looked directly into familiar blue eyes. "Stephen?"
His expression shifting into a mix of confusion and concern, Stephen curled his hands around Nick's biceps. "You sure you're all right?"
"Nick?" Jenny asked, stepping up close to them. "Maybe we should get you looked at."
Nick turned toward her, giving her a small smile. Abby and Connor were standing behind her, an array of military personnel surrounding them all. "I'm fine." Dropping his hands from Stephen's shoulders, Nick took a reluctant step back.
Stephen was alive.
He must've changed something, altered something, just like he had when Claudia had become Jenny. Or maybe Helen had, or someone else. Reality had changed again. Nick stared at his friend. His warm and breathing and very much alive friend.
This time Nick wasn't complaining.
"At least let the medics look at you," Jenny said.
"Jenny, I'm fine."
"Who's Jenny?" Claudia asked, resting a hand on his arm and frowning at him, clearly worried.
Nick closed his eyes for a moment. "No one. It doesn't matter."
"The medic might not be a bad idea," Stephen said.
"All right." Nick allowed himself to be led over to one of the jeeps. He sat patiently-- at least he considered it patiently -- while the medic shined a light into his eyes.
"Ringing in your ears?" the medic asked.
Nick shook his head. "I'm fine."
"Tell me if this hurts," the medic said, feeling along the sides and back of Nick's neck.
"Nope, no pain," Nick said. "Other than the discomfort caused by your cold hands. Where do you keep them, an icebox?"
Dropping his hands, the medic said to Jenny -- Claudia--, "He appears fine."
Claudia was back and Stephen wasn't dead. Nick looked over the medic's shoulder to where Stephen was hovering. Stephen was alive. Nick smiled at him, getting a confused half-grin in return. Maybe this Stephen had had an affair with Helen, too. Finding out your friend had fucked your wife tended to put a damper on smiling.
But Stephen was alive, and right now Nick didn't care if he'd shagged Helen in their bed while Nick slept.
"Time to go then," Nick said, rising from the passenger seat of the jeep, and giving the medic a quick nod. He started toward Stephen, Claudia following.
"Nick," she said, resting her hand on his arm.
Nick stopped, looking down at her hand. Were they together, he wondered. They'd been on the verge of it before.
"Go home," Claudia said. "We can do the official reports in the morning."
It wasn't that late, but Nick nodded. The last thing he wanted was to go to the ARC. Did they have an ARC here? "In the morning," he said, giving her a small smile.
She let go, moving back toward the jeep, and Nick closed the small distance between he and Stephen. The only problem was that he had no idea what to say. 'You're not dead' seemed likely to get him a more thorough exam than the one done by the medic.
"Done then?" Stephen asked.
Sliding his hands into his pockets, Stephen tilted his head. "Want to get a curry?"
Pulling two beers from his refrigerator, Nick turned and placed them on the small table in his kitchen, where Stephen was opening the takeout containers.
"You going to tell me what's going on?" Stephen asked.
"This is going to sound crazy," Nick said, handing Stephen a fork and taking the chair opposite him. "When I stepped into that anomaly, you were dead."
"You're right, that does sound crazy." Picking up his beer, Stephen said, "How did I die?"
"It's a long story."
"I'm not going anywhere."
Nick smiled at that. "No, I guess you aren't." Taking a bite of chicken curry, he tried to decide where to start. "This has happened to me before. Did you have to deal with future predators, ones that had followed Helen from the past?"
"So did I. Only when I came back, Claudia Brown was gone. None of you remembered her. We were no longer working out of the Home Office. Instead, we had a complex called the Anomaly Research Centre."
"We moved into the ARC three months ago."
"Is there an Oliver Leek working there?"
Stephen shook his head. "No."
"I take it he had something to do with my death?"
"You're awfully calm about this," Nick said, taking a drink of his beer.
Stephen shrugged. "Not much I can do about it."
Stephen had always had a bit of a fatalistic streak, but it had never bothered Nick until now. "I suppose not." Nick alternated bites of his curry with some basmati rice. "How did you know something was wrong?"
"You haven't looked at me like that since the anaconda."
Back before the anomalies, before Helen's revelation.
"Why did you call Claudia 'Jenny?'" Stephen asked.
"After I ended up in the world without Claudia, Lester hired a woman named Jenny Lewis. She looked exactly like Claudia."
"Helen speculated that there might be a finite number of possible templates in the world."
Stephen frowned. "Finite, yes, but leading to two people with the exact same genetic makeup who come from different backgrounds?"
"I know. It makes no sense."
"Want another beer?" Stephen asked, rising.
"Sure," Nick answered, watching Stephen open his refrigerator and help himself to more beer. He'd forgotten that they used to do this at least a couple of times a week, sit around Nick's table, eating takeout, talking.
Curry finished, Nick still had half of his second beer left. Stephen had been done for a while, leaning back in his chair and watching Nick eat while he sipped his beer. He always had eaten quickly. "You're being remarkably patient," Nick said.
Stephen shrugged. "Rushing you just makes you move more slowly."
"I'm not that stubborn," Nick said. Stephen's only response was a smirk, which Nick was perversely happy to see.
Nick sat in the red leather chair, and Stephen perched on the edge of the coffee table directly in front of him. "Leek was collecting predators. He had a pack of future predators he could control with a device connected to their nervous system, plus smilodons, Silurian scorpions, deinonychus, arthropleura."
"He had help."
"Helen," Stephen said.
"Yes. She had some crazy idea about conducting experiments on the timeline. Leek just wanted power."
"So what happened?" Stephen was leaning forward, resting his forearms on his thighs.
"Long story short, the predators were released. You and I and Helen got them back into the cage room where Leek had been keeping them. The plan was to trap them all together, but the door controls were broken. We couldn't close the door from the outside."
"One of us had to go in," Stephen said.
"It was supposed to be me, but you punched me, knocked me to the ground. By the time I made it back to my feet you'd locked yourself inside." Stopping, Nick swallowed hard, and lifted his gaze to Stephen's. "I watched you. I watched you walk backwards until you were surrounded by a circle of predators. I watched --" Nick dropped his gaze, closing his eyes against the memory.
"Hey," Stephen said, reaching forward to rest a hand on Nick's knee.
His hand was warm. Alive. Nick opened his eyes. "You believe me."
Stephen nodded. "Yeah."
"Because that's what I would have done."
Nick shook his head, because it was wrong, all wrong, Stephen dying, Stephen being willing to die. For him. "Sorry, mate, I'm doing this one,' that's what you said to me. 'I'm doing this one.'"
"Nick." Stephen was kneeling in front of him, looking at him with eyes Nick knew better than his own, better even than Helen's. He reached out and Stephen reached back, until Nick had his arms around Stephen's shoulders and his face pressed to Stephen's neck.
Nick slid to his knees and they were pressed together from knee to shoulder. Stephen was muscular, solid, strong; holding him like this it was hard to believe there was anything he couldn't beat. Nick knew better.
Stephen loosened his hold and Nick reluctantly let go, shifting back.
Nothing escaped Stephen. It's what made him such a good tracker. He took in every detail. Now those eyes were trained on Nick and Nick had no idea what they were seeing, what he was giving away.
Stephen shifted, or maybe Nick did, and their lips brushed. His breath catching, Nick closed his eyes and Stephen's lips returned, lingering this time, firm and tantalizing. Tilting his head to the side, Nick parted his lips, inviting Stephen inside.
Spices and beer, Stephen tasted of spices and beer, not ashes or blood, not loss and pain and horror.
"I'm right here," Stephen said, cupping Nick's face in his hands.
Nick clutched at him, hands tightening on Stephen's waist, his t-shirt bunching in Nick's hands as Nick moved in for another kiss. Fear and guilt, relief and regret, Nick couldn't contain any of it. He took Stephen's mouth with his own, holding tight to Stephen's shirt, not letting him go.
And Stephen, Stephen gave back as good as he got, moving one hand from Nick's face to wrap it around his waist, pull them closer together. Stephen was hard against his hip and Nick wanted to make him harder, to make him moan and shudder. Pushing Stephen's shirt up, Nick slipped his hands under it onto smooth, surprisingly soft skin. This had to be real, because he'd never have imagined Stephen's skin feeling like this.
Releasing his mouth, Stephen shifted his kisses to the side of Nick's neck. Nick groaned, sliding his hands up Stephen's back, Stephen's broad, strong back. Nick hadn't realized how much he'd come to rely on that strength until it wasn't there anymore.
Stephen sucked, sending a jolt of pleasure from the place where Stephen's lips met his skin straight to Nick's cock.
Bunching Stephen's shirt in his hands, Nick tugged it upward, forcing Stephen to let go long enough for Nick to pull the shirt over his head and drop it on the floor next to them. Stephen had a nicely muscled chest, with a smattering of hair just below his collarbone. Deciding he could explore the hair later, Nick bent to cover one of Stephen's nipples with his mouth. When Nick teased the tip with his tongue, it hardened. Stephen cupped the back of Nick's head with his hand, and Nick sucked. He had part of Stephen in his mouth, a small part but it was still something.
"Nick," Stephen said, tugging Nick upward.
Nick kissed him again.
Pulling away, Stephen took hold of Nick's shoulders before Nick could renew the kiss. "I was going to suggest we go upstairs."
"Oh. Good idea."
"I thought so," Stephen said with his Cutter-admitted-I-was-right smile. Stephen rose to his feet with a distressing amount of grace and held out a hand to Nick, who took it, allowing himself to be tugged to his feet. His smile shifting to something which could only be described as naughty, Stephen backed toward the stairs, pulling Nick after him.
When they got to the bedroom, Stephen maneuvered him up against the wall. Nick went willingly, welcoming the press of Stephen's thigh between his legs, the hunger in his kiss.
Nick moved his hands over Stephen's shoulders, his upper arms, his back and chest, every bit of skin he could reach. Stephen rubbed his erection against Nick's and even through their trousers it was enough to make Nick gasp and clutch at Stephen's shoulders.
Stephen tugged at Nick's shirt and Nick lifted his arms, letting Stephen pull it off. Then Stephen kissed him again, pressing their chests together, skin-to-skin. Nick groaned and wound his arms back around Stephen.
Stephen smelled of nature and safety and danger all at once. He was making small noises as they kissed, and Nick could feel him. Could feel warm skin and powerful muscles. A hard cock.
Letting go of Stephen's shoulders, Nick worked his hands between them to Stephen's belt. Stephen kept kissing him, but he moved his hips back just enough to allow Nick to get the buckle undone. He went to work on the buttons of Stephen's jeans, which took longer than it should have because Stephen's cock was right there, a hard, heavy temptation for his fingers.
"You could help," Nick said and Stephen chuckled, a low, dirty chuckle that went straight through Nick, leaving lust in its wake.
"Tell me what you want me to do," Stephen said directly into his ear in a tone as dirty as the chuckle.
In a different world, Nick would have pushed back at that, fought to hide what Stephen looking and feeling and sounding like sex incarnate did to him. But this wasn't that world, and he wasn't that Nick, not anymore. "Take 'em off. Jeans, boots, everything, take it all off."
Stephen stepped back, keeping his eyes on Nick's as he sank to one knee, fingers tugging on bootlaces. Standing, he backed to the edge of the bed, where he sat just long enough to pull his boots and socks off.
Nick moved away from the wall, and when Stephen stood and pushed his jeans and boxers to the floor, Nick was standing close enough that he could've reached out a hand and curled it around Stephen's cock. "Lie down," Nick said, his voice raspy with lust and other things too powerful to mention.
Stephen obeyed, but he kissed Nick first, soft and sweet, then he stretched out on his back in Nick's bed, filling it even though it was meant for two.
Pulling in a breath, Nick stared. Stephen was beautifully put together, but Nick had known that. He'd just never expected to see it, to see long, bare limbs, a full cock, a body that spoke of power and pleasure with every motion, in his bed, offered up. Freely given.
Kneeling between Stephen's legs, Nick moved his hands over Stephen's calves up to his thighs, where there was dark hair and lean muscle curving perfectly beneath his fingers. He slid his hands over Stephen's hips and across that damnably flat belly, up to temptingly hard nipples, and then down again.
Stephen didn't say a word. He just let Nick touch, watching him with a steady gaze, taking in every move Nick made, every look that crossed his face.
Nick wondered if Stephen had watched Helen like this or if this wariness was something he'd learned from her, self-protection born of manipulation.
When Stephen raised his hand, brushed his fingers across Nick's cheek, Nick thought that just maybe he had his answer. Curling a hand around Stephen's cock, Nick gave it a long, slow stroke. He leaned down until Stephen's scent became heavy with sex, then he leaned still lower, not stopping until his lips brushed the head of Stephen's cock.
Opening his lips, Nick drew him inside.
He started with the head, giving it soft sucks and sweeps of his tongue, teasing the slit. When he felt Stephen's hand on his hair, he slid lower, eyes closed as everything in him focused on the feel of Stephen's cock on his tongue, against his lips.
Nick curved his tongue along the underside of Stephen's cock as he slid slowly up and down, wanting to caress every sensitive place he could find. He sucked steadily, persistently, determined not to let up, not to let go until he had what he wanted.
Stephen arched, lifting himself toward Nick's mouth, and Nick sucked a little harder, riding Stephen's cock as Stephen gave in with a groan and began moving his hips, tiny thrusts back and forth in Nick's mouth, over his lips. He sucked until Stephen's shoulders curled off the bed, his hand tightening in Nick's hair as his cock spurted warm, salty fluid into Nick's mouth.
Still he sucked, swallowing it down, drinking Stephen's come like it was nectar from the gods.
When Stephen sank into the mattress with a shudder, Nick let go. Sitting back, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Nick," Stephen said, reaching for him.
Stephen shifted them around until Nick was on his back, with Stephen leaning over him, his mouth on Nick's, kissing him like he was determined to find every nook and cranny that might hold a trace of his own taste, like he needed proof that Nick had just swallowed everything Stephen had to give and still wanted more.
Opening Nick's trousers with one hand, Stephen slipped his hand inside, curving it over Nick's cock, only the thin fabric of Nick's boxers separating Stephen's skin from his. Stephen rubbed the head with his thumb, and Nick gasped.
"You need to be naked," Stephen whispered, which had to be the most accurate thing Stephen had ever said.
Sitting up, Nick pushed at his trousers, his boxers, his shoes and socks, until they were all off, until he was naked and being pulled back into Stephen's arms. Stephen's hand curled around his cock and Stephen's mouth covered his, and Nick moaned. Moaned and arched. But this wasn't what he wanted. Taking hold of Stephen's wrist, Nick pulled Stephen's hand from his cock. "Not like this."
Stephen shifted his weight, preparing to move lower, but Nick cupped Stephen's cheek in his hand before Stephen could slide down. "Not your mouth either." Not wanting there to be any doubt, he looked straight into Stephen's eyes and said, "I want you to fuck me."
"Nick," Stephen breathed.
"You're a young lad; you can get it up again," Nick said, trying to smile.
"Yeah," Stephen said, kissing him, sliding a hand across Nick's chest. "Yeah, I can get it up again."
More kisses, and Nick ached everywhere, in his chest, in his cock, in his throat, his lips, his tongue, his fingers where they were tangled in Stephen's hair. When Stephen moved away, Nick had to force himself to let go.
"Lube?" Stephen asked, sitting back on his heels.
Nick tilted his head toward the nightstand. "Top drawer." Stephen turned toward it and Nick licked his suddenly dry lips, watching the play of muscles in Stephen's back.
Moving so he was kneeling between Nick's legs, Stephen flipped back the top on the lube, turning the bottle over to squirt some onto his fingers. That shouldn't have been sexy, but somehow it was.
"Have you?" Stephen asked.
Nick shook his head. "Not from this side."
"We don't have to."
"Just fuck me, Stephen." The words earned him a smile, one of the devastating smiles Nick had never been able to defend against. Not that he'd ever really tried.
"Yes, sir, professor," Stephen said and pressed a slick finger to Nick's opening.
Nick grabbed his knees and pulled them back out of the way, not realizing until after he'd done it how that made him look. Once he realized, he discovered he didn't care.
In and out, a single finger moving in and out shouldn't feel that good, but it did. It felt good when Stephen pushed in all the way and moved his finger up and down and side to side, pushing at the muscle guarding Nick's entrance. Nick didn't know if it was supposed to feel good or simply help open him up or both, and he really didn't care, because Stephen was doing weird, pleasurable things to him and that was all that mattered.
Then Stephen slipped in a second finger. This one made the muscle give, made him feel stretched, made him work for it when Stephen moved them in and out. It wasn't enough. It wasn't nearly enough.
"It's hot," Stephen said, raising his gaze from Nick's backside to his face.
"What is?" Nick asked, the need for detailed information an unstoppable reflex.
"This," Stephen said, turning his fingers. "The way we look. Your arse, my fingers."
"Imagine how hot it'll be when it's your cock," Nick said.
"Is that a hint?"
"It could be taken as one, yes."
Smiling as if to himself, Stephen shook his head then stretched out over Nick, resting his weight on his free hand, and kissed him as if their kiss was the only thing letting Stephen breathe. No one had kissed him like this since Helen, back in the early days, but this was better. With Helen, it had always been about Helen, about what she wanted. Where Helen had seduced and demanded, Stephen simply asked. It should've been a small difference, but it wasn't. It wasn't at all.
Stephen's fingers brushed his prostrate and Nick's fingers tightened on his knees, pulling them back even more. "Stephen, please."
"All right," Stephen answered, voice soft and quiet in Nick's ear. "All right." Another kiss, tender and generous, left him laying there in stunned desire as Stephen drew back and picked up the foil pack holding the condom.
Nick watched him tear it open and roll it down his cock, leaving him encased in a clear latex sheath. He watched as Stephen squirted lube into his palm and rubbed it over his shaft, carefully coating the whole thing. He watched as Stephen picked up the lube again and filled his palm before rubbing it over the head of his cock.
Nick had seen men touch their own cocks before, but it had never made him want, not like this.
Stephen shifted into position, his knees spread wide on the bed as he positioned the head of his cock at Nick's entrance.
It wasn't hard to tell which was bigger, the top of Stephen's cock or Nick's hole. Nick pulled in a shaky breath, letting it out when Stephen pushed. Nick bit his lower lip to keep from crying out as his muscles stretched and gave way.
With the head inside, Stephen stopped. Nick stared up at him, panting. It didn't hurt, exactly, but it was work, work involving muscles he couldn't control all that well. Which didn't matter in the slightest. Letting go of his legs, he wrapped them around Stephen's waist, ankles at Stephen's back, urging him forward.
Stephen was still sitting up on his knees, and he took Nick's hips in his hands, lifting him a little, then he pushed again. Deeper this time, still not deep enough, but deeper. Stephen began to stroke and Nick clutched at the sheets, giving himself over to the burn. "Deeper."
It was an order, and Stephen had always obeyed Nick's orders. Mostly. This time wasn't an exception because he went deeper, opening more of Nick with every thrust of his hips. It wasn't sending him into raptures of ecstasy, but Nick didn't care. He had what he wanted, Stephen inside him, in his arse, the reality of it inescapable.
"Nick," Stephen said, and Nick had never realized how many different ways there were for someone to say his name. He wrapped his hand around Nick's dick, now only partially hard.
"It's fine. Leave it," Nick said, reaching out to stop Stephen's hand. "I just want to feel you."
Stephen thought this was some kind of messed up 'you died for me and now I have to let you fuck me' thing; he could see it in Stephen's eyes. And Nick didn't know how to tell him it wasn't.
With one long, steady thrust, Stephen pushed himself fully inside, making Nick gasp, then he stretched out over Nick and kissed him softly, their lips brushing with a sweetness Nick hadn't known he could still feel. "Let me make it good for you. I can't do it if it's not good for you," Stephen said.
Nick nodded once, receiving another kiss before Stephen moved away. Sitting back, Stephen eased his cock free, and Nick couldn't stop the wince as the head again stretched the ring of muscle.
Stephen stroked his hip. "Come on. Turn over."
Shifting on to his hands and knees, Nick dropped his head and waited.
Warm hand on his arse, stroking, a thumb brushing across his opening, making him shiver, and then Stephen's cock pressing against him again. Exhaling, Nick moved his hips backward, working himself onto Stephen's cock.
"Easy," Stephen said.
But Nick didn't want easy. He tried to push back again, but Stephen took hold of his hips, keeping him in place. "Stephen."
"You don't have to be in charge of everything."
"I'm not trying to be."
"If you want me to fuck you, we're going to do it my way," Stephen said, leaning over him, pressing his chest to Nick's back.
"Just as long as we do it some time this week."
Stephen chuckled and kissed the back of his neck. Then he pushed inside, a long slow stroke that didn't stop until Stephen's balls brushed his. An almost equally slow withdrawal and then Stephen was pushing into him again, except Stephen must've changed the angle somehow because his cock brushed Nick's prostate, sending a jolt of pleasure straight to his cock.
Each inward stroke sent pleasure skittering along the nerves at his entrance, and then Stephen would brush across his prostate, creating a wholly different pleasure. It felt like every thrust was going deeper, filling him more.
Stephen's hand, still sticky with lube, closed around his cock. Stuttering out a moan, Nick went from half-hard back to full mast.
Sheets twisting in his fingers, Nick held on as Stephen moved in him and on him, tender and relentless. He wanted to feel Stephen in every way possible, wanted Stephen's life written on his skin, in his bones. He wished they hadn't used the condom, because he wanted Stephen's fluid in him, where maybe somewhere along the way it could mix with the come he'd swallowed.
Stephen stroked his cock, and Nick moaned again. He'd wanted to feel Stephen, but not like this. This was Stephen loving him and Stephen loving him led to Stephen being surrounded, to blood and death and gore. To Stephen being ripped apart, close enough for him to see, too far away for him to stop.
Nick tried to hold back the sob.
"Shhhh, I'm here, Nick. I'm here."
"I know." But that other Stephen wasn't. That Stephen was gone. Pleasure and grief, life and death, it was all there, all twisted up in the motion of Stephen's cock inside him. "Stephen," he whispered, not knowing if it was a plea or a prayer. "Stephen."
Kisses on his back and shoulders. "Nick."
"Nick," Stephen said again, almost breathing the word into his ear, and Nick came.
He'd never come with someone in his arse before, and he hadn't known he'd feel it, feel himself tighten on Stephen's cock, its presence intensifying his orgasm, making his body seize again and again as Stephen stroked him and held him.
Wrung out, yet oddly at peace, Nick dropped from his hands to his elbows.
"Okay?" Stephen whispered, stroking Nick's back with his hand.
Stephen started pulling away, his warmth disappearing from Nick's back, and Nick could feel his cock being drawn backward.
"Don't," Nick said, reaching back to grab Stephen's hip, to try and push him back in. "Keep going."
"You'll end up sore if I don't stop."
"That's what I want. Every time I take a step, I want to be reminded."
"This is a bad idea."
Stephen didn't answer for a long moment. Then he pushed forward again, until he was all the way back in. "We're doing it my way."
"Whatever you say."
Stephen snorted, rubbing his nose against the back of Nick's neck, and Nick smiled. "We're going to turn onto our sides, our left sides," Stephen said.
"On the count of three?" Nick asked, getting a huff of laughter on his skin in return.
"On three," Stephen agreed. "Just let me do most of the work. One, two--"
"Three," Nick said.
Laughing, Stephen eased them onto their sides.
Nick ended up with both of Stephen's arms around him, one under his neck and another around his waist. Stephen's entire body was molded to his, encasing Nick in warmth. It wasn't what he'd been expecting, but if it was what Stephen wanted, who was Nick to deny him?
Stephen began to move, small strokes. Stephen had been right, Nick was starting to get a little sore. It felt perversely good. Bending his right knee, Nick twisted his upper body toward the sheet and pushed his hips back, trying to give Stephen more room to thrust.
Gripping Nick's hip in his hand, Stephen thrust into him hard enough to make Nick grunt. "Is this what you want?" he asked.
Nick couldn't remember the last time he'd been asked what he wanted in bed. "Take me however you want."
"I want to do it agonizingly slow, dragging it out until we're both ready to explode. I want to do it up against a wall and on your desk. I want quick and dirty and hard and desperate. I want to make you laugh and hear you moan."
"We'll do it all. I promise you, we'll do it all."
Stephen's only answer was a kiss to the side of Nick's neck and a long, gentle stroke from his cock. He kept kissing and stroking and even with the increasing soreness, it felt good.
Taking hold of Stephen's hand, Nick raised it to his lips. He kissed Stephen's palm, then each of his fingertips, before drawing a single finger deeper. He sucked on it like he'd sucked on Stephen's cock, and Stephen groaned, his hips jerking, losing their rhythm.
"I need--" Stephen's voice was rough in his ear and if Nick had been able to get it up again that would've done it.
"Whatever it is, take it. Take what you need, Stephen."
Putting a hand on Nick's back, Stephen pushed him forward until he was almost on his stomach. Nick pulled his bent leg higher. Stephen began to move again, fierce strokes that went straight to Nick's core. This was it, what he'd wanted, what he'd needed.
He was coming, filling the condom separating his cock from Nick. Even with a latex barrier, Nick felt it in the stuttered movements of Stephen's hips, in the tightening of his hand on Nick's shoulder, in the tremble that passed from Stephen's body to his.
Breathing hard, Stephen relaxed into him, his body covering Nick's back.
Nick would have been glad to let him rest there as long as he wanted, but Stephen wasn't a lightweight. "You're getting heavy."
"Sorry," Stephen said, easing his cock free and rolling onto his side. Nick closed his eyes, feeling the bed dip as Stephen rolled to his feet long enough to dispose of the condom.
Then Stephen was back, close enough that Nick could feel his warmth, stroking Nick's back with a warm, damp hand. Nick thought about staying where he was. It was comfortable, and he couldn't see Stephen with the way his head was turned. But Nick wasn't a coward.
He turned --gingerly-- onto his side.
Post-coital Stephen didn't look all that different from any of the other Stephens Nick had seen over the years -- scared Stephen, exhausted Stephen, happy Stephen, sweaty Stephen.
"You all right?" Stephen asked, and it seemed crazy that Stephen kept asking that. Wasn't Nick the one who was supposed to look out for Stephen?
"I'm good," Nick said, only Stephen didn't look like he believed him, so Nick kissed him. It was meant to be a little kiss, but somehow he couldn't quite bring himself to pull his lips away from Stephen's.
Apparently the kiss had been the right answer, because when Nick finally drew back, Stephen smiled. "I'll stop asking," Stephen said.
"Good." Nick rolled onto his back, and Stephen settled his head on Nick's shoulder, which shouldn't have been a surprise given that they were naked and covered in semen, but was. He rested an arm around Stephen's shoulders.
"We're going to have to read physics texts," Stephen said.
"What?" Physics was the last thing Nick had been expecting Stephen to talk about.
"The changing timelines. We don't know if the timeline is being altered, then somehow altered back, or if you're crossing realities."
Crossing realities, Nick hadn't considered that. "So if I came into this reality from another reality, what happened to the Nick who stepped into the anomaly?"
"That's what I wonder."
"Maybe he ended up in the reality I was in." Nick felt sorry for that hypothetical him, stepping into a reality where he'd lost Stephen, demanding to know where Stephen was. The rest of them would think he'd had a breakdown.
Nick still wasn't sure he hadn't.
"And if it's all the same timeline, do the others cease to exist? Are the other Abby and Connor gone, replaced by this Abby and Connor? Did the other you just wink out of existence?"
They were good questions, all of them, but then Stephen had a good mind. "I don't know," Nick admitted, giving Stephen a squeeze.
"I know one thing," Stephen said, "you're not stepping into an anomaly without me."
Nick should argue with him, he knew that, but the thought of coming out of an anomaly into a Stephen-less world stopped him. "Okay."
"Okay," Stephen echoed, but Nick could tell from the tone of his voice that Stephen had been expecting an argument.
"Maybe we can make Connor do the reading."
"He'd love it. Theoretical physics is just science fiction with mathematics attached, as you're so fond of saying."
Nick couldn't remember ever having said that, but it sounded right. "It's settled then. We'll designate Connor the official reader of all things physics."
Stephen didn't say anything more, and after a few minutes Nick felt his breathing deepen and even out.
Nick stayed awake and tried to memorize every breath.