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They have to go to Montana, of all places, for some kind of native plant to save Richie’s (admittedly undead) life. Or at least, Montana is what they pieced together from the vague mumblings of a shaman who said otherwise he couldn’t help them.

Seth wanted to drag Richie with them up the desolate mountain that Kate’s research narrowed down as the last place the root flourished, supposedly still thriving under the January snow, but she managed to convince him that the taxing travel would only be worse for his brother’s poisoned body. Instead, they showed up on Freddie’s doorstep and made him swear he’d do everything he could to keep Richie alive while they searched.

Kate steals them a new car somewhere in Iowa, an SUV with four wheel drive to handle the potential weather ahead, and they switch the plates at their next pit stop. Maybe she should feel bad about chatting up the guy only so she could reach into his pockets and slip out with his keys, but he was skeezy and she hasn’t felt bad about stealing for a while now. She’s better at pickpocketing than Seth or Richie, because they never bothered much to perfect the skill, and she still loves seeing their surprise whenever she can pull something they can’t. Seth gives her a look of approval when she tosses him the keys in the parking lot, and she stows it away somewhere close to her heart for safekeeping.

Kate watches from the passenger seat as Seth fidgets impatiently while they speed down the highway.

“He’s going to be fine.”

“What?” Seth grumbles.

“Richie’s going to be fine. We’re gonna find the plant, we’ll get back to him in time, and he’ll be back to normal. Please stop freaking out, I can feel the stress radiating off of you and it’s driving me nuts.”

“Oh, my bad, I didn’t realize you were the one worried for your brother’s life. I’ll try not to inconvenience you anymore.”

Kate sighs. Seth has been unbearable since Richie was poisoned, and he keeps taking it out on whoever’s closest. He got in a couple good snaps at Freddie before Kate intervened and reminded him that he was responsible for Richie’s life, so maybe he’d like to be a little nicer?

“You say that as if you don’t know damn well I worry about Scott’s life every single day that I don’t see him,” she says softly. The words hit their mark anyway.

Seth slumps a little. “I’m sorry.”  

“I want to save Richie too. But there’s only so much about this that we can control. Let’s just focus on that, okay?”

“Okay,” Seth agrees.

But she can still see the tension in his shoulders.

 

They stayed at a motel the first night, just long enough for both of them to catch some sleep. It felt a bit like Mexico again, but also completely different. So much has happened since then, but maneuvering around a little room with Seth is so familiar, it makes something in Kate’s chest squeeze. On their second day, they keep driving until they hit the abandoned cabin she found for them.

It’s dusk when they finally pull up outside, and they make their way into the tiny two room structure. It’s a bit bleak—a main room with a couch and a bed, a tiny sink and stove that can barely pass for a kitchenette, and a bathroom that doesn't even have a shower, just an old metal tub.

“Homey,” Seth says. Kate snorts at the sarcasm. “But cold.” She follows his gaze to the fireplace, where there’s only one measly log.

“You get the supplies from the car and start a fire, I’m going to see about more wood before it’s completely dark.”

He brushes a hand against her arm when he passes, and the touch burns through her. It’s embarrassing really, given that she’s got about three layers on and Seth’s wearing gloves. She shouldn't be so affected.

But she definitely is. She’s affected every time they act like a couple for a job, and every time they’re at a bar and Seth gets weirdly protective of her when other guys try to talk her up, and she was affected when she and Richie and Seth were outnumbered and fighting off culebras in a dark alley, because Seth had just had his hand on her lower back to guide her through. She was distracted enough that she wasn't on top of her game, and she thinks that might be the reason Richie ended up injected with some rare strain of poisonous venom by that pack that wasn't ready to let go of Amaru yet and wanted to punish them for what they’d done in getting rid of her. Kate hasn't suggested that it was her own fault though, and neither has anyone else.

She just tries to ignore the way her skin tingles every time Seth casually touches her, the way her body is on constant high alert around him.

“Kate,” his voice pulls her out of her thoughts. She stands still rooted to the spot where he touched her.

“Huh?”

“You good?” He has a look on his face like where did you just go?

She nods quickly. “Yeah, sorry. I’m fine.” She races out to the car before she has to say anything else.

It’s an hour later when Seth comes back in, a bundle of logs in his arms, his jacket stripped off, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to his elbows and buttons undone, revealing his undershirt. His neck glistens with sweat.

Kate’s mouth dries up at the sight of him. She tries to swallow, but her tongue gets caught. She’s lying facedown on the bed, propped up on her elbows, and she tears her eyes away from his chest and studies the blanket beneath her hands. Seth barely glanced at her, but her cheeks burn.

Seth drops the logs by the fire, then leaves the cabin and returns with another bundle a moment later.

“Did you have to chop your own tree for that?” Kate tries, not quite managing to inject her voice with the intended humor.

The side of Seth’s mouth quirks up as he looks at her, but that’s all. “There was one already down.”

The sun is almost completely down now, and after Seth builds up the fire, he lights several lanterns and scatters them through the space. She raises her head when he places one on the ledge next to the bed, lifting her eyebrows.

“You always read before bed,” he says in answer. “You’ll need the light.”

She feels something in her chest tighten.

Seth feels it too, right?

He has to.

 

It shouldn’t be an awkward shuffle between them when they get ready for bed—they’ve done this hundreds of times—and yet it is. Or at least it feels like one to Kate, but she can’t read Seth’s feelings to save her life at the moment. Besides his obvious stress about Richie’s state, he seems frustratingly casual with her.

Then she’s in her pajamas, bundled up with an extra large sweatshirt—it’s Seth’s, and it even smells like him, which has her caught between comfort and distraction—and after she crawls into the bed, Seth grabs a blanket and settles on the couch.

“What are you doing?” she asks before she can think better of it.

He gestures at the couch. “Sleeping?”

“Over there?” She hopes she doesn’t sound too disappointed, but really, that’s ridiculous.

“Yeah, the bed’s tiny. It’s yours.”

“You don’t have to, really.”

“It’s fine Kate. Seriously, don’t worry about it.”

They’ve shared smaller beds, but she doesn’t say that. Instead she sighs and lays back. “Fine. We’ll go find the root first thing in the morning, and then get out of here.”

She can’t see him, but she knows he’s nodding. “Sounds good. ‘Night Kate.”

“Goodnight.”

She’s fairly certain they both spend the next hour awake. She knows how Seth’s breathing sounds when he sleeps, and he’s definitely awake. For her part, no matter how many ways she tosses and turns on the small bed, she can’t manage to feel drowsy, and she can’t quite get warm enough to be comfortable.

“Seth?” she calls softly.

“Huh?”

“It’s cold. Come share the bed.”

“I’m fine,” he grumbles.

Kate sighs. “I’m cold,” she grits out. She softens, “Come to bed, please.”

He doesn’t say anything else, but he does join her under the covers a minute later, after he adds more logs to the fire and spreads his own blanket from the couch over the top of her. He keeps to one side of the small bed, but he reaches out for her, running a hand up and down her arm a few times, an imitation of warmth.

She has to try not to squeak when he touches her, but she moves a little closer anyway. She’s not going to suffer through shivering the whole night when he’s right there radiating heat. She’ll just suffer in… other ways, she thinks, as her body hums at his close proximity.

When she brushes up against him, he sighs like he’s exasperated, but after a moment, he puts an arm around her and tugs her closer.

“Better?” he asks, his voice hoarse.

She nods. “Yeah, thanks.”

She feels like she’s going to burst into flame, so... not cold anymore, at least. She pushes her face into his chest, which is gloriously warm, and tries to settle enough to sleep. She thinks his heart might be beating a little faster than usual. The thought makes her smile, and she drifts off after a moment.

 

When she wakes up, she knows Seth is dead asleep behind her from the sound of his heavy breathing. She also knows that his arm is wrapped securely around her stomach, and he’s pressed against her back.

Oh sweet baby Jesus, she thinks. She takes a second to catalogue everything she’s feeling—from Seth’s strong hand gripping her ribs, to his feet tangled with hers, to his face nestled into the back of her neck and his breath rustling her hair. It’s perfect.

She closes her eyes and lets herself enjoy it. She floats in and out of sleep, and she thinks that this is how she wants to spend a lot more mornings—waking up in Seth’s arms, without a care in the world.

Then she remembers why they’re in the cabin, and her eyes snap open. She has no reason to think something will go wrong today, and yet she just knows.

Kate edges out from beneath Seth’s grasp, cursing when the cold air hits her. Seth stirs softly in the bed behind her, but she can only focus on the tiny cabin window. Outside it, everything is white.

“Shit,” she says.

Seth doesn’t wake.

“Shit,” she says again, because that’s really all she’s got. Seth is going to be pissed.

Right on cue, he mumbles something incoherent. She wishes he wouldn’t wake up. There’s no use anyway—the root is hidden beneath what looks like three feet of snow, and they’re not getting down the mountain—four-wheel drive or not—in conditions like this. Of course, that’s when Seth sits up in bed and rubs at his eyes. He stops when he sees her face.

“What’s wrong?”

She shouldn’t be turned on by the way he goes from sleepy to serious in half a second, just from seeing her worried expression, but… she is. And fuck, they’re going to be stuck here all day, and she’s just going to get more and more wound up.

“Um,” she presses her lips together, unsure of how to answer. “The weather disagreed with our plans.”

He stands and makes his way to the window. His chest brushes against her back when he looks out.

“Ah, Jesus.”

“Yeah,” Kate agrees.

 

It’s a rough day stuck inside. They agree that there’s no point looking for the root yet, though Seth has an idea that he’ll just dig through the snow and somehow find it on his own that Kate has to talk him out of, and they agree that they couldn’t drive down the mountain on roads like this even if they did have it. So they wait.

And the waiting is torture.

Kate tries to read, but she keeps getting distracted. They both take walks outside (separately) but it’s mostly just circling the cabin since they’re worried about getting lost if they go too far, and the cold fucking sucks.

“God, I miss Mexico,” Kate says when she comes inside in the afternoon.

Seth’s mood seems to have dropped in the time she was out, because his response is clipped. “I’m gonna get more wood for the fire,” he says, brushing past her on the way out.

“Oh… kay,” Kate says.

It’s more torture when he returns, a new bundle of logs in his arms and his appearance just as disheveled and delicious as it was yesterday.

This man is going to drive me to sin, she thinks, then giggles. It’s not a far off idea, really, if only Seth was actually agreeable to it.

“What are you laughing about?” he asks, serious.

“Nothing.” She tries to keep the blush off her face, though she’s sure she doesn’t manage. It doesn’t matter, Seth doesn’t see it through his anger as he steps closer after putting the wood down.

“Is something about this funny to you? Is something about this entertaining, or fun, or just generally not terrible? Because my brother’s dying, so I really don’t see what you have to laugh about.”

Kate sighs. Of course, they’re going to fight. There’s been too much tension to avoid it completely.

“Are you really gonna do this?”

“Do what?” he asks, and the grumpy pout on his face reminds her of a little kid.

“Act like you’re alone in this even though I’m right here. Act like you’re the only one who cares about the outcome of this situation even though I’m just as invested as you are.”

Seth rolls his eyes. “Oh, don’t start—”

Kate cuts him off. “No, you don’t start! Stop treating me like I’m not in this with you! Like I don’t care or this doesn’t affect me. I am right here, Seth. I am in this with you. I care about Richie too and I’m not gonna just walk away. Okay? I chose to be here and I am not. Walking. Away.”

Seth stares at her, and she stares back. When it starts to feel too much like a contest, she drops her gaze to the floor and makes to move away.

But Seth grabs her before she can get anywhere. Her thoughts fizzle at the feeling of his hand around her wrist, and then they scatter completely when he leans over and covers her mouth with his own.

She responds enthusiastically, and the rough sound she swallows from Seth’s mouth sends heat rushing through her. She threads her fingers into his hair and pulls him as close as she can. His hands creep beneath the back of her shirt, tracing over her bare skin until she shivers.

“Is this okay?” he mumbles, while he kisses down her neck.

“Mmhmm,” she agrees urgently, breaking off with a breathy keen when he scrapes his teeth against her skin.

He seems content to keep standing there kissing her, but Kate wants more, so she pulls him with her as she steps backward toward the bed. He follows easily.

When Kate’s knees hit the mattress, she breaks away long enough to pull her shirt over her head and toss it aside. From the stunned expression on Seth’s face, he wasn’t expecting it to actually go this far.

“Kate,” he says, and it sounds like his mouth is dry. He clears his throat. Kate bites down on her bottom lip to stop her grin while she toes off her boots and climbs onto the bed. Seth watches, but doesn’t move.

“Seth,” she says, when she’s propped up on her elbows.

‘What?” He finally looks up from her breasts, and the wrecked look on his face and his rough voice make her cunt throb.

“Get over here.”

He obeys readily, crawling over her, but stopping to kiss her stomach, just above the waistline of her jeans.
“Oh,” she moans, letting her head fall back against the pillow as he continues, his mouth making a hot path to her breasts.

When she reaches for him, he grabs her hand and laces his fingers through hers, then pins it next to her head. He squeezes gently once. Kate squeezes back.

Kate can’t help the way her hips buck when Seth pulls one cup of her bra down with his teeth and sucks her nipple into his mouth, and it elicits a smug laugh from him. Which simultaneously makes her want to shove him off the bed and drag his hips against her own for friction.

She chooses the second.

The desperate noise Seth makes as he grinds against her is quite possibly the greatest thing she’s ever heard, and it only stokes the flames in her blood. She reaches for his shirt, but she’s not coordinated enough to get it off him.

“Easy, Kate,” he teases, smiling smugly when he pulls it off himself. She crinkles her nose at him.

She bats at his pants. “These too.”

He obliges, and when he’s back on top of her everything is closer and hotter and Kate feels like she’s on the edge of something. Seth seems to notice.

“You still good?” he asks. She nods eagerly, but he’s slowing down anyway.

He pulls away to strip her of her jeans, kissing down her legs as he pulls them off. Her underwear is simple cotton, but it matches her bra. Kate catches him staring.

“I didn’t really bring my good stuff for the camping adventure…” she mumbles. She does actually have lingerie—pretty, expensive lace scraps that she’s decided she likes to buy since she started robbing banks with the Geckos.

Seth shakes his head. “I’d certainly like to see that.” He meets her eyes and raises his eyebrows until her face is red. “But I like this too.” He slips his hand between the waistband and her hip, and Kate feels the touch like it’s electrified.

She threads her fingers through his hair and pulls him down to kiss her again. They roll around like that for a while, tangled in each other and slowly removing the last of their clothing. When she finally reaches for his boxers, Seth pulls away.

“Hold on.” He kisses the side of her head. “Condom.”

“Right.” Kate feels stupid for not even thinking of it, but she’s glad Seth did.

When he’s back on the bed, he brushes back the hair from her face. “We don’t have to.”

She almost laughs. “Not a chance. You’ve been driving me crazy for way too long now.” She smiles. “I’ve got you right where I want you, Seth Gecko.”

“Easy, easy,” Seth chides, when Kate is a little too eager, but his gruff voice only turns her on more. When he’s finally inside her, Kate can’t help it—she giggles. Seth looks like he would throw his hands in the air if he wasn’t hovering over her.

“What is funny?” he demands. It makes her laugh harder.

“Nothing,” she sobers and strokes his cheek. “Just—happy.”

Seth’s eyes glow with as much contentment as she’s ever seen from him. “Me too.”

She grins, and he thrusts, and then they’re both lost to each other.

Kate really can’t tell how long it lasts—it feels like bright, flashing moments, but it also feels like hours of just, Seth, everywhere, stoking the fire inside her until everything narrows and she can’t keep quiet.

“That’s it, Kate, that’s it,” Seth mumbles into her neck as he reaches down to circle her clit with his thumb.

“Oh God, Seth. Seth,” she groans. It’s all she can get out. Her hips push up desperately to meet his rhythm.

“I’ve got you, that’s it baby.” She whimpers at the rasp in his voice when he calls her baby. “Come on, Kate. You’re right there, baby. That’s it.”

Then he bites down on her neck, lightly, but enough for the feeling to shoot straight to her cunt, and she falls apart with a broken moan of his name.

Seth keeps thrusting until he comes just a moment later, pressing his face into her neck and only just barely avoiding collapsing on top of her.

He pulls back to look at her face when he’s more recovered. “You okay?”

Kate still hasn’t caught her breath, but she smiles dreamily up at him. “Yeah, I’m good.” She pushes a hand into his hair and scratches at his scalp until he sighs happily. “Never better, actually.”

She knows they look like idiots, just laying in bed smiling at each other, but she really doesn’t care. Everything is perfect.

 

Later, after they’ve gone for a couple more rounds and shared a bath, Kate steps out onto the tiny cabin’s porch. She doesn’t know why, she just suddenly thinks the fresh air would be nice. And then she spots the purple root that has snaked its way across one corner of the porch. It looks almost like it’s pulsing.

“Seth!” she yells.

He rushes out a second later. “What?”

She’s already on her hands and knees, uselessly trying to clear frozen dirt away from where the plant shoots into the ground. “You don’t have to dig through the snow after all.”
“Is that…?” he asks in disbelief.

“Yeah, right under our noses this whole time.” She stands up to face him. “We’ll dig it up and leave as soon as the roads are plowed tomorrow.”

Seth grabs her around the waist and spins her around.

Kate laughs.

She’s been doing a lot of that lately.