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This Road We Travel

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The drive is long.

Charlie squirms and literally can’t sit still, and Mac almost punts him out the Goddamn window because, holy shit, the dude’s ADHD is, like, really showing. Dee’s driving like a deranged bird, white knuckling the wheel as Frank spits pistachio shells everywhere. They’re squabbling a lot, and Dee’s shrill voice burns Mac’s ears. It doesn’t help that Mac is stuck not only in the back, but in the middle too. Charlie’s legs keep bouncing up and down up and down up and down, and he will not shut up no matter how many times Mac threatens his personal safety. His threats are scary. He’s scary. He’s muscular. Why is Charlie incapable of leaving him alone?

But his boyfriend, his one saving grace from this otherwise hellish journey, is fast asleep, cheek pressed against the icy window. His mouth is parted slightly, and Mac knows that means Dennis is about to start snoring, something Dennis claims he never does but totally does every single night; Mac has recordings on his phone to prove it. Arms crossed over his chest, Dennis shivers, and Mac drapes his coat over him. It’s weird that Dennis isn’t driving the Range Rover, and it’s even more weirder that Mac isn’t in the passenger seat, feet on the dashboard and chewing on Twizzlers as he reads from a map older than both of them. But Dennis tossed keys to Dee and pulled Mac into the backseat, squishing himself as close to Mac as physically possible before tangling their fingers together.

They arrive five hours after they leave Philly, even though the drive is only supposed to take half that. Dee stops to piss every three seconds, and Charlie roams around whatever weird ass truck stop or gas station they’re at, finding ‘delicacies’ like string cheese or deserted leaves or used condoms glued to the ground and shoves them in everyone’s faces to smell. Frank, of course, takes advantage of the time and gambles with homeless people and makes some extra dough for the trip. Mac gets out a couple times to piss and stretch his legs, but Dennis whines and covers his eyes with Mac’s coat and never gets out of the Rover until they pull up in front of the resort. Even then, he leans against Mac as they check in; Mac keeps Dennis from hitching forward and knocking his head against the counter.

Frank and Charlie share a room, obviously. Dee excitedly tells everyone she sees - they don’t give a shit either - that she gets her own space for once. Mac makes Frank get him and Dennis a California king, even though they sleep curled up on top of each other every night. Whatever. Huge beds are awesome; it’s as simple as that.

Dee and Charlie hit the slopes. Frank goes to the casino. Mac unpacks their suitcase while Dennis collapses on the mattress, not even bothering to take off his coat or shoes. He hides his face in the fluffy mass of overly expensive pillows.

“Den,” Mac says, tapping the bottom of Dennis’ snow boot. “Get dressed.”

“Am dressed…” he mumbles.

Mac frowns. “I mean in your ski shit, dude. We gotta shred before it gets dark!”

He sits by Dennis’ knees once he spies Dennis plugging his ears with his fingers. He really hopes this isn’t a panic attack or that sensory stuff. Sure, he packed the weighted blanket, but Mac knows his boyfriend doesn’t like to be far from home when he gets too overwhelmed.

“What’s going on?” Mac asks softly. He almost rubs Dennis’ thigh but doesn’t.

Dennis breathes heavily into the pillow. “Headache.”

“Headache or migraine?”

“Just a headache.”

Mac’s eyebrows furrow. “You sure, babe?”

“Yeah,” Dennis says so quietly Mac has to strain to hear it. “You can go.”

“Go where?”

“Skiing. With the gang. Don’t let me hold you back.”

Mac shakes his head. “No way. I’m gonna stay here til you’re feeling more better.”

“You don’t have -”

Mac kicks off his boots while Dennis struggles to plead his case. He unlaces Dennis’ shoes next, and Dennis shakes while shriveling in on himself. Migraine. He’s heading toward a migraine. Mac pulls out the weighted blanket, Tylenol PM, and a heating pack. He gets Dennis out of his coat and under the covers, forgetting about pajamas for now. Dennis takes the medicine, and Mac places the heating pack on the left side of Dennis’ head. Mac spoons up behind him and wraps an arm around his waist.

Dennis falls asleep quickly. Mac drifts off for a couple hours, but then he’s awake just as fast. He pisses and brushes his teeth. He watches the giant flat screen TV on mute. He raids the room’s mini bar. It’s past nine, and he figures Charlie and Frank are scheming it up around the lodge or hunting ghouls or playing Night Crawlers; Dee’s probably in a hot tub somewhere or watching Netflix in her room. Boredom races up Mac’s spine, but he immediately pushes it away. No. Dennis doesn’t feel good, and that’s not fair. It’s supposed to be a vacation.

But he guesses it’s still a vacation - their first one as boyfriends.

Maybe Dennis will feel better in the morning. Maybe the altitude is messing with his head.

The next day, Mac knows he’s wrong. So fucking wrong.

“Shh… Calm down, Den,” Mac whispers, rubbing Dennis’ overheated back as Dennis hangs his head in the toilet bowl. Mac winces through the heaves and retches and doesn’t stop massaging gentle circles on tense muscles. He’s burning up. Mac woke up minutes ago to find Dennis on his knees, struggling through light sensitivity in the bright ass bathroom and a queasy stomach to accompany the throbbing in his skull.

Dennis cries in the shower, cheeks red and eyes glassy. He tugs and tugs and tugs at his hair until Mac carefully grabs his boney wrists and kisses his forehead. Dennis hides his face in Mac’s neck, the warm water washing over them like a monsoon. It isn’t fair. This isn’t fair. Their first vacation as boyfriends is a complete bust. But Mac’s not saying that just for himself; there’s two of them now and forever. They’re in this together. But it really sucks that they’re nearly three hours from home, and Dennis is feeling this sick.

“‘m sorry,” Dennis murmurs as he cuddles against Mac after their shower. His hair’s damp with fever. “Didn’t mean to ruin our weekend…”

Mac plants tiny kisses on Dennis’ scalp. “Shh…. Shh… Don’t get worked up about that. It’s not your fault.”

“Don’t think it’s just a headache…”

Mac shakes his head. “I don’t either, babe.”

“Maybe we’ll be able to hit the slopes tomorrow?” he slurs, voice tapering off.

He chuckles, and Dennis clutches on to his sleeveless tee. “Why? So you can break both your ankles again?”

Dennis pinches him, but he looks soft and sweet with his half-closed eyes and small lopsided smile. “I can beat your ass at skiing any time.”

“What about right now?”

Dennis snuggles closer. “Of course not ‘right now.’ I’m sick,” he says, coughing for emphasis.

“Go to sleep, Den,” Mac whispers. He grins when Dennis complies, slinking his legs around Mac’s and resting his head on his chest. Mac can feel the fever bleeding through Dennis’ (Mac’s) hoodie. It’s okay, though. This weekend will be perfect anyway.

And it does turn out to be pretty perfect. Mac orders room service and drinks champagne from tiny, fancy glasses. Dennis catches up on his beauty rest and soaks in the huge bathtub with Mac. They go downstairs to the spa, Dennis still feverish and uncomfortable and shaking, and get a couple’s massage. Dennis naps for the rest of the day and wakes up coughing.

“You sure you don’t wanna go skiing?” Dennis asks on their last night in the Poconos. Only a tuft of messy, curly hair sneaks out above a mass of plushy blankets. Dennis has been especially lazy today, demanding back rubs and naps and extra pillows for his back with a voice that’s hushed, hoarse, and quiet. Tomorrow, he probably won’t be able to talk at all, and Mac will have to handle him then, too. “I can always watch.”

Mac rolls over on the mattress and kisses what he assumes is Dennis’ ear. “Stop asking me if I wanna leave you, Den. I don’t wanna go anywhere.”

“Yeah right. I know this sucks. You don’t have to hang around just for me.”

Mac flicks Dennis’ forehead. Dennis kicks Mac’s shins.

“I wanna be right here by your side, Den. Through sickness and health, right?”

Mac presses sweet, soft kisses wherever he can reach. Dennis lets out a dangerously shaky breath and nods.

They leave on Monday morning. Dennis’ voice is gone, and Mac is his certified speaker until it returns. He tells Dee to fly away like a bird once they're home, and Dennis laughs.

It’s the best sound-not-sound in the universe.