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Home Is Wherever You Are

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Nick O’Flaherty hummed under his breath, a lilting Irish tune he remembered from his childhood, as he focused his attention on the road ahead. Beside him Kelly slept, murmuring softly. Nick didn't dare to look across at his fiance knowing that the sight of Kelly’s eyelashes fluttering and the soft smile on his face would mesmerise him, just like it always did. 

They were close to their destination and the wide, snow ploughed highways of Denver had given way to rougher hewn roads still covered with white. The only sign that others had come this way were wide tire tracks, stark gray against the glistening ice. The trees on the side of the road were heavily laden with snow, their boughs bowing under the weight and, occasionally, scattering clouds of snowflakes onto the road below.

Nick smiled softly as he turned off the road onto a track that was almost indistinguishable with its heavy covering of snow. This time it was undisturbed, a sea of white, pristine and perfect, sparkling like diamonds as the afternoon sun caught it. Kelly mumbled something and Nick glanced across. Even fast asleep Kelly was smiling and just the sight of him warmed Nick all the way through.

“Nearly there.” He whispered, resisting the urge to run a finger along Kelly face, not wanting to disturb him just yet.

It’d been two months since they’d last been in the cabin, having spent the last few weeks before Christmas on the fiddler. They’d thought about spending Christmas here but Mara Grady had had other ideas, refusing to take no for an answer and insisting they came to West Virginia for the holidays. It’d been exactly as they’d expected, warm and cosy and utterly chaotic.

Nick turned the rented SUV around a bend in the track, the snow crunching under the wheels and finally the cabin came into view, nestled in the middle of the woods and looking like something out of a classic Christmas card. Sometimes even looking at it made Nick tingle. In many ways it was just a simple log cabin but to him it was more than that. This was the place that Kelly had built, had poured his heart and soul into, so much so that it almost felt like it had a life of its own. It was sturdy and perfect, unassuming at first glance, but when you looked closer you could see the little details that made it exceptional; the carvings on the wooden fence that surrounded it, the front porch with it's little swing, it's dimensions perfection to Nick’s eyes. The cabin was Kelly through and through. Nick loved it.

Nick pulled to stop at the front of the cabin, engine still purring softly and turned to look at Kelly. Kelly fidgeted slightly in his sleep, subconsciously feeling the car come to a halt. He looked serene and peaceful and it stole Nick’s breath from his lungs. Sometimes it felt like his heart would burst from all the love he had for this man.

Carefully Nick unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned over, brushing Kelly’s lips with his own in soft caress of a kiss.

“We’re home,” He whispered against Kelly’s lips.

Kelly’s eyes fluttered open, unfocused for a moment before honing in on Nick’s face. In a split second his hands had flown to either side of Nick’s head, fingers tangling in his hair and dragging him into a deeper kiss. When they finally pulled apart Nick couldn't catch his breath and just rested his forehead against Kelly’s.

“Better,” Kelly smirked, practically going cross eyed trying to focus on Nick’s face. Nick chuckled, the sound low and gravely.

“Babe, did I fall asleep?” Kelly said, his voice rough from sleep. He playfully batted Nick’s arm, “You should’ve woken me’

“You needed the rest.” Nick smiled down at him. Kelly had spent the last two days being run ragged by a seemingly never ending stream of Grady kids who had flocked to him like he was the pied piper of fun. 

“So did you.” Kelly pulled back and wagged a finger at Nick. Nick shrugged and sat back in his seat, turning off the ignition.

“Hey come back.” Kelly pouted making grabby hands towards him

“Gotta unload the car. Anyway there’s cosy cabin just there waiting for us.” Nick grinned as he nodded towards the building. “Why don't you open up while I grab everything.”

“Fine.” Kelly huffed trying his best to look disappointed and being entirely given away by the quirking of his lips. He undid his seatbelt and stepped out of the car pausing at the last minute to poke his head back inside. “You’re gonna make it up to me later just so you know”

“I can do that.” Nick replied seriously as the butterflies fluttered in his stomach.

Kelly nodded and bustled off to the front door, grabbing the keys from his pocket and swinging them around his gloved fingers. Nick watched him go, wondering, as he often did, how he’d managed to deserve someone so perfect.

………….

It had taken ten minutes to unload the car, in part, because Kelly had to retrieve his shovel from the back of his truck to dig out the snow drift lying against the front door, and, in part because Mara Grady had, when she’d heard they were going back to the cabin, had insisted on sending them with a care package of food. Nick had gasped when he’d seen the array of pies and pastries, a whole cooked ham and a giant container of mac and cheese. Clearly Mara had thought she was feeding an army rather than just the two of them. Still all of Sidewinder were descending on the cabin for New Year so he supposed it would all get eaten.

Kelly had started a fire in the living room and Nick could see the flickering light from it through the open front door. Shoving his hands in his pocket he trudged back to the car to finally lock it up.

“Hey Irish, hurry up.” Kelly shouted from behind him.

Nick turned to look at him and was rewarded with a snowball straight to the face and the sound of Kelly cackling.

“Oh you're gonna pay for that.” He growled as Kelly scooted round the back of the cabin.

Nick resisted the urge to sprint after him, instead stealthily approaching from the other side, his footsteps barely making a sound in the soft snow. At the edge of the building he paused holding his breath as he peaked around the corner. Kelly was crouched down behind the wood pile, an impressive number of snowballs at his feet already. Nick grinned before scanning around for the perfect approach.

With as little sound as possible he grabbed the edge of the rail surrounding the back porch and hopped over it, the heavy layer of snow muffling the sound of his feet landing, before ducking behind the rickety old table. He saw Kelly head tilt to the side as if listening intently but he showed no other signs of knowing Nick was there. 

As he crawled along the back of the porch Nick could barely suppress his laughter. This was what life with Kelly was like, joyous and exciting and he couldn't think of anywhere he’d rather be.

Kelly froze and reached down for a snowball. He heard Nick but it was too late, he was well within striking distance. In a split second, Nick had leapt over the bannister, barrelling into Kelly and sending him to the floor before flipping him onto his back and pinning his arms.

“I win.” Kelly laughed up at him as he wriggled his body under Nick’s firm grip.

“How do you work that one out?” 

With a shimmy of his hips Kelly got his legs free and wound them around Nick’s waist pulling his body close and kissing him so soundly it made NIck’s head spin.

“See?” Kelly’s voice was husky as he pulled back. 

There was snow in his hair glimmering in the dying light making his whole face glow like he was a goddamn angel. The light reflected off his eyes, bringing out the grey so they shone like burnished steel, the pupils dilated and dark as onyx. The kind of eyes a man could drown in. Nick kissed him again.

“God I love you.” He gasped against Kelly’s lips, the words not even coming close to express just what he felt for Kelly. 

“Yeah you do,” Kelly smirked before his expression turned serious, “now get me inside so you can show me how much.”

“I can do that.” NIck smirked back as warmth spread through his body.

He leapt to his feet offering a hand to help Kelly up. As soon as Kelly got to his feet Nick grabbed him firmly and hoisted him up onto his shoulder in a fireman’s carry, laughing at the soft ‘oof’ of surprise that came out his fiance.

“So you gonna make me pay for that snowball then?” Kelly laughed as Nick carried him round that house.

“That’s SOP, yes.”

“Well this is gonna be fun.” 

………….

The night sky was clear, stars brilliant overhead as Kelly and Nick sat cuddled up on the balcony. Despite the cold they’d only been bothered to put jeans on, keeping themselves warm with their body heat and a heap of blankets. 

Nick felt his body aching, small bruises and the occasional sting of a bite wound. He loved every twinge, every reminder of how they’d spent the last few hours. He tightened his arm around Kelly’s shoulder pulling him even closer.

Kelly passed the blunt he’d been smoking over and Nick inhaled deeply.

“You remember the first time we did this?” He said on an exhale, watching the swirls of smoke drift up into the night sky.

“How could I forget.” Kelly grinned up at him. It had been a night neither of them could forget, their second night together.

Nick had been scared back then, terrified of what he was feeling about Kelly, of wanting him so badly it drove out all other thoughts. His mind drifted off thinking of the first time he’d even seen Kelly, those first few weeks and first few months he’d known the man.

Maybe it was his memory playing tricks but looking back he could see so clearly that it had always been Kelly, would always be Kelly. 

“You’re thinking too hard Irish.” Kelly needled swiping the blunt for Nick’s fingers.

“I was thinking about you.” Nick said looking deep into Kelly’s eyes. “I’m sorry it took me so long to realise, but you’re it for me. No one else. Always have been.”

Kelly kissed him and Nick could feel him smiling against his lips.

“You’re high” Kelly laughed as he pulled back.

“I am.” Nick conceded as he ran his nose along Kelly’s cheek taking in his scent. 

Kelly smelt like he always did of sunshine and pine, of earth and wood, of everything good in the world. Kelly Abbott smelled of home because he was, and always would be, the only home Nick would ever need.

“But I mean it.” Nick whispered in Kelly’s ear enjoying the way it made Kelly shiver in his arms. “You have no idea how hard you made it for me when we first met. Always so touchy feely, made it damn hard to not think very bad thoughts about you.”

“What can I say I'm a cuddler.” Kelly shrugged unapologetically.

“Yeah ,you are.” Nick nipped at Kelly’s earlobe before kissing down his neck.

Kelly stifled a moan before pushing back a little. 

“I love you Nicko.” He said his eyes midnight blue in the dim light. ‘I think I always have, just too dumb to see it.”

Nick smiled so wide it hurt his face. When he looked back it seemed inevitable they’d end up here, tangled together under a pile of blankets, curled against each other as if made for each other.

“I'm never letting you go, just so you know.” Nick growled before dragging Kelly into a desperate kiss.

“I am totally on board with that plan.” Kelly said against his lips when they finally came up for air.

“Good to know.”