In book three of the Keepers: As the Sandman, Sam has spent millennia dedicating his existence to bringing hope to others. His only chance for sight being found in reviewing the past or in dreams, which often leaves him the voice of reason within the Keepers. After multiple attacks from an enemy, Sam reconciles with the fact his only chance to be with his mate safely is in the dream world or not at all.
Whyte, the Tooth Fairy, has witnessed his twin and friends suffer through personal attacks after claiming their mates, and understands where his mate’s concern is coming from. He just never realized accepting Sam’s terms would be so difficult.
When the Keepers get closer to the ones responsible for all the harm they have faced, they realize the board has more players than they originally thought, and in order to come out on top, they may just have to make a deal with the devils.
“What did you just say?” Whyte seethed, the air around them shifting with how close they were, letting Sam know the younger man now faced him.
He heard the catch in Whyte’s throat, and took advantage of whatever it was that had startled him. “You heard me. What the hell was that comment back there about?”
Anger and confusion warred with each other as he spoke to the other Keeper. While things had always been tense between them, neither of them fully acknowledged the bond they did—or at least could—share, Whyte had never been so blatantly disrespectful or confrontational toward him before. The younger man had always seemed to favor the avoiding yet silently judging you from afar approach.
“Seriously?” Sam fought not to wince at the shrill tone Whyte’s voice had taken. The other man had never sounded like that. “You know we’re mates, yet you do everything in your power to keep us apart. It’s like every Keeper is cursed to have the same issues in their mating. So do us both a favor and don’t act dumb.”
Instead of arguing the point, Sam cocked his head to one side, playing back past events.
While he may not be able to see in what was considered the present, Sam had the uncanny ability to see the past almost as if it were on a TV screen. Pausing, fast forwarding to an extent, and always able to rewind. At times Sam was even privy to the future. Small glimpse that were more like teasers meant to leave you with more questions than answers. A twisted anticipation.
He could see in his mind every time he and Whyte came close to doing something about their bond, every time they had pulled back, hesitated. Sam was guilty of shutting down, sure, but so was Whyte. He didn’t understand how the other man was suddenly blaming all of it on him. Sam had seen the fear before Whyte would withdraw, the haunted look that would settle in his eyes as he pulled away from the possibility of their bond becoming something else...more.
Sam had seen similar responses in the other Keepers over the centuries as well, so he certainly wasn’t playing dumb, merely cautious.
“And do you not find that suspicious in itself? That so many grown, ancient men would have such debilitating self-consciousness when it comes to their mates? So many obstacles standing in their way?” he asked curiously, because surely he hadn’t been the only one to notice.
He could sense when the younger man jerked back, as if shocked and fought hard not to roll his eyes.
And here Sam thought he was the one with the visual impairment.
There were times when he believed it a miracle any of them were able to achieve anything with their heads so far up their own arses.
“I’ve seen glimpses of the future,” he admitted. “There are matings. Our matings. But there is also death. I feel as though the two are intertwined somehow, but I’ve never been able to make sense of it, so…”
“So you kept away,” Whyte finished for him. “How can you be sure?”
“I’m not. It’s also not a chance I’m willing to take.” Sam sighed, stepping forward into Whyte’s personal space and raising a hand to cup Whyte’s cheek. “There is more going on here than even I first thought, but never doubt I want you. When I take you, you will be mine...but you will also be safe. Those who have come close to mating have been attacked, no matter how benign it may have seemed, and now that they are attempting to claim each other, the attacks are getting more dangerous, the threats more serious.”
“The bigger picture?”
“Always the smart one.” Sam gave a proud smile. “Exactly.”
“How very Obi Wan of you,” Whyte drawled.
He gave the younger Keeper a one shoulder shrug. “I was thinking more Yoda myself.”
Whyte snorted. “You may be hot, but you are nowhere near as cool as Yoda.”
Sam pulled a wounded expression. “Ouch, but maybe deserved.”
They stood there, still and quiet for a moment, minutes ticking by. Sam could feel Whyte relax at his presence, and at the knowledge that Sam wanted him after all. It had never been a plan to hurt Whyte, but he had.
“When?” Whyte suddenly asked.
He didn’t need the question explained, he knew exactly what he was asking. When could they be together?
“Soon,” was the only response he could give Whyte, kissing him lightly.
Whyte sighed. “Soon.”
Sam growled, sensing the need Whyte had for him and it took everything in his power not to lean forward, take, claim. Only the knowledge his mate deserved more tenderness and safety, kept him in place. “Till then, I’ll see you in your dreams."
"Jack, watch out!"
"Fuck!" A mass of black, blue and bright red fell down a hill-side in a mass of tangled limbs and pained grunts. "Ouch!"
When they finally reached the bottom, Nicked blinked up at the sky for a moment, fighting to regain the breath that had been knocked out of him by the ground and multiple jabs from Jack’s flying limbs.
"Are you alright?" he asked when he was sure he could speak.
"I'll live." Slightly disoriented icy blue orbs met worried green ones. Pale, full lips stretched into a weak smile. "Sorry for using you as my landing mattress."
Nick rolled his eyes. "I don’t quite have the padding most people think, not sure how good a job I did."
Jack blushed, stuttering for an answer and looking anywhere but at Nick, all but jumping off of him when Nick cleared his throat.
"S-sorry," the younger Keeper murmured as he wiped the snow off of himself. Nick sighed as he stood up and looked around.
"Well, at least we didn't roll too far down," he murmured and brushed the snow off of his leather jacket.
Yes, it was red. He was Santa, of course it was red.
"Are you alright?" He looked at Jack, and suppressed the whine that wanted to break out when the younger man looked at him with a forced grin. Everything was forced with jack these days. While the two of them had been able to coexist in the same space in the past few months better than they had in the last few centuries, It hurt something deep down inside to see Jack almost a shell of who he used to be.
"Just a few bumps and bruises. Nothing I'm not used to already."
Nick frowned while Jack started to look around, trying to find a way up.
They had been out there for hours, searching for any sign of the Fates. From the moment Sam had discovered their hand in the attacks placed upon not just the Keepers, but also the Dark Lords, those three devious and spiteful goddesses had vanished. Recently word had come to them that the Fates had been spotted somewhere around the Altai Mountains, and Jack more than most had been determined to search the area for any evidence to support the claims and track them down.
"Maybe we should head back to the Pro Custodes and continue tomorrow," Nick suggested and Jack looked at him with a confused expression. His cheeks were rosy from the cold and his beautiful icicle-like eyes were glowing brightly. Every part of Nick was begging to just claim the younger man for himself.
But he couldn’t.
Nick had far too much to make up for where jack was concerned. He had failed the man who should be his mate more times than he could count. And the younger man had paid dearly for it.
"There's not much more ground to cover, and we still have some time before night falls," Jack countered.
Nick frowned. “Ja—”
"But if you think we should make our way back, then that's okay too!" Jack backtracked.
That was another thing.
Nick could clearly remember the fire in Jack's eyes when he would defy him, or any of them. He clearly remembered the strength and anger that glowed in Jack's eyes each and every time the two of them had faced off over one thing or another. Now though, that fire wasn't gone. It was still there, but it seemed Jack was suppressing it.
Jack had completely pulled in on himself since they had rescued him from being mind controlled by the Fates and Famine. He avoided conflict if he could, and started picking his words. Nick couldn't even imagine how hard it had to be for Jack to go against his nature.
He could see it in Jack's body language. He knew every single tick and move he made during the Keeper’s meetings before someone would ask his opinion. Nick could read him like an open book. Jack swallowed words and hesitated with everything.
Nick watched him pushing back annoyance and feigning acceptance each time he saw Jack biting into his bottom lip, wringing his hands together in his lap, shifting his weight from one foot to another. Jack wanted to speak up, but feared his presence would only cause trouble.
And Nick could feel Jack staring at him every time he thought no one was watching as though he wanted to ask for something, but the shadows in Jack’s eyes were stopping him from speaking up.
Nick saw it all.
The only thing he couldn't see was if Jack still had feelings for him or not. There was a time before everything went to hell and Nick let his mate down, when Nick would have been certain. So sure he stood a chance.
He remembered the casual yet comforting touches, the unspoken be careful when he left on his midnight run on Christmas eve, knowing Jack would work his hardest to keep the skies clear and safe for him.
The fact that Jack still did some of those things were what gave Nick hope that Jack did in fact have some feelings for him after all this time.
All he had to do was open his mate up to the possibility of them, of more.
Though that was proving to be difficult.
"Jack, it's cold and we've been at it for hours. I just don't want you to catch a cold." Nick saw it the moment Jack buried his clenched fists deep into the pockets of his jacket and sighed. "Say it."
Jack looked at him with a confused frown. "Say what?"
"I just know you had a smart-ass remark on the tip of your tongue," Nick drawled.
Instead of saying what Nick knew Jack wanted to say, the younger man bit into his lip and looked away from Nick. "Let's head back. We can continue tomorrow."
"Nick," the younger Keeper interrupted him, looking over his shoulder at him. Nick frowned when he saw shadows that he couldn't name glowing in Jack' eyes. "You're right. Let's go."
Nick's frown deepened when Jack turned his back on him and started to climb the hill they rolled down from. He swore right then and there that he was going to do everything in his power to bring Jack out of his self-imposed hell, and maybe just in the end, be the kind of mate that Jack Frost deserved.
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