Between Tears and Rain

Title:Between Tears and Rain
Fandom/Genre: SGA/Shifter AU
Relationship(s): Mc/Shep
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Discussion of Dub-Con; Discussion of Non-Con Drug Use; Knotting
Word Count: 10404
Beta: None
Summary: In this world everyone is a Shifter and the population is spilt between Alphas and betas. Those born with a dominant Alpha gene are annexed in state run dormitories at puberty, where the general populace are kept safe until they reach their majority and bond to a beta through a hormonal surge called Furor. John Sheppard has always been an anomaly; a post-pubertal shifter who never became Alpha and therefore never bonded. Sheppard never cared about being Alpha, and had found everything he needed in his relationship with Rodney McKay…

Until everything changed…

 

Banner by Bindingdiva

Banner by Bindingdiva

 

There is very hard bonding between Tears and Rain, often both falls together in Happiness and in Pain – Samar Sudha

“McKay…Rodney…You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to leave. We need you…I need you here.”

John looked into Rodney’s quarters from the corridor outside. The man in question had gone unnaturally still and his back was a solid wall of tension. John just wanted him to turn around so he look into the Canadian’s blue eyes; could see that Rodney understood the sincerity of his words. But Rodney didn’t move and the silence stretched out between them.

“Come on, Rodney. You know we’ll get into trouble without you here. One of your minions will blow us up, or they’ll find some Ancient artefact that no one but you can decipher and we’ll all get changed into those almost-goat things from P3-683,” John cajoled, aiming for the kind of light-hearted banter that had always characterised their relationship, even before they became lovers. ‘Ex-lovers’ reminded a voice in his head that sounded remarkably like Elizabeth Weir. John closed his eyes for a moment as he fought a wave of vertigo.

“Considering I’ve managed to get some half-way decent scientists posted here, you now have the two fully charged ZedPM’s the Ancients left behind, and the added bonus that Kavanagh thoughtfully blew himself up, then I think you’ll find you can manage quite well without me.” Rodney gathered a neat pile of clothes from his bed and stuffed them forcefully into the duffle, the tension in his shoulders so obvious that it made John want to wince.

“You should also bear in mind that I’ve been ordered not to speak or interact with you outside official business, Colonel. I don’t think you being in the doorway of my quarters quite fits with that edict, do you? I’m sure you realise that the small size of the mission means it would be an impossible task for me to keep within the remit of those orders. Which means I only have two choices; to either live with the Athosians on the mainland and commute in every day, or go back to Earth. As I have a certain fondness for hot water and flush toilets, I’m not sure there is a real choice at all. Also the rush hour commute from New Athos is a bitch.”

Rodney turned to look over at the doorway. The usually mobile face and bright intelligent gaze had been replaced by a blank expression that would have seemed totally impassive if not for the dull despair in Rodney’s eyes. John took a small step forward before McKay’s upraised hand stopped him in his tracks.

“The fact that you’re standing in the open doorway and you have a shadow,” Rodney gestured with his head towards Evan Lorne, stationed just behind John in the corridor, “that you’ve also received the same set of orders. Your bitc…bondmate made herself very clear on this point, and I for one don’t want to end up in the brig or worse for Bond Interference.”

“Sir…” Lorne’s voice over Johns shoulder was tense and shocked. “Bondmate? You…you’re an Alpha?”

Rodney’s expression morphed to shock. “Oh, you haven’t got around to letting all your men know the good news yet? I’m surprised Elizabeth hasn’t made a base wide announcement or had jumpers skywriting over Atlantis,” He commented sarcastically. “I find it difficult to believe none of your highly trained men noticed the changes in you.”

Rodney’s gaze flicked over Johns shoulder and Sheppard turned to find Evan studying him.

The Major took in a sharp breath as he caught his CO’s gaze. “The men…We thought you were beta…”

The changes were there, subtle to any casual onlooker but writ large over a body that Rodney knew almost more intimately than his own. John’s shoulders were broader, his muscles more pronounced, filling out his uniform better than ever. He was still John of course, but now he had eyes turned from hazel to brilliant green, and a razor sharp edge to his features that took him from simply handsome to dangerous, feral and ridiculously stunning. Rodney was sure there were more visible changes underneath the uniform; and deeper still, under all the olive, scarred skin he would never again have a chance to see. The block of ice in his gut that had taken up residence when he’d got back from being stranded off world earlier that day and been informed John had undergone Furor, was joined by a wave of longing that nearly brought him to his knees. Only sheer stubbornness kept him upright and dry eyed.

John went to take another step into the room but was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

“Sir, you said to let you go no further than the doorway. It’s for the Doc’s protection.”

Lorne’s voice was soft but firm. It was obvious the man was not only beginning to understand the orders he’d received from his newly transformed CO, but that he was willing to enforce them, both to protect his Alpha and McKay too.

A sharp, aggressive look from John made him drop his hand, but Rodney had to give the man credit for not cringing back under the heat of that gaze. After a few seconds of almost unbearable tension, John nodded once and stepped back into the doorway.

“Rodney…please…I don’t know what to say to you to make you stay. We can work out a way…”

Finally some emotion flitted across Rodney’s face. It was sorrow and grief and loss, and John couldn’t bear it.

“You can’t say anything, John. It’s obvious to me that if you couldn’t tell me, your partner of four years and your supposed friend, that you were having Furor precursors before I went on a mission without you, then you obviously didn’t want me to know. You were hiding it from me for days if not weeks. As far I as I knew I was your Chosen and Elizabeth was merely your proxy. All you had to do was tell me you’d changed your mind about that and I’d have bowed out. But instead you kept me in the dark. Me being stranded on Monan must have been a relief for you…and Elizabeth too.”

Rodney looked down at the floor, trying to rein in his emotions, his hands fisted at his sides as he considered the betrayal of his trust. He couldn’t afford to lose his cool. Not only had John made his choice and excluded Rodney from possibly the most important event of his life, but Elizabeth had been very explicit in outlining her Bond rights and her expectations of him. Even bad mouthing her or her Bond with John could get him thrown in the brig.

It had quickly become obvious she was angling to make his place on Atlantis untenable. He couldn’t understand why…he was no rival to her, not any more. The Bondmate of an Alpha would always have first consideration. John’s Bonding would make him the big dog in the Atlantis hierarchy, with Weir right beside him. It would solidify her political and social position and open many doors for her. Rodney could only surmise that her inner beta bitch was jealous of his history with her mate, and was therefore making sure he would have no influence on John in the future. Ensuring he had no choice but to be in another galaxy made that a certainty.

“Taking all that evidence then the only conclusion I can come to is that you wanted this outcome.” Rodney had to swallow hard to stop his voice from breaking. “Well, congratulations, Colonel. You have your wish. So I would be very grateful if you’d stop loitering in the doorway of my quarters so I can get off your base and out of your life.”

Rodney turned back to his packing, not wanting John to see the tears that were prickling his eyes or the way his hands were shaking. He waited for the sound of the door swishing closed but it didn’t come.

“I didn’t…”

Rodney swung back angrily, only to see both pain and confusion on Sheppard’s face.

“Fuck it, John. Why are you stretching this out!”

John did take a step forward then, easily avoiding Lorne’s outstretched hand. He was only halted by the Major’s sharp cry of “Sheppard!”

“I didn’t have any precursors. Do you think I could have hidden them. I spent three long years in the dorms, watching everyone around me go through it before they decided it was never going to happen to me and sent me home. You can’t hide the need to protect your territory, the anger…God, sometimes it was all they could do to contain some of those guys and they were just teenagers. No one could hide that, Rodney and you know it.” John rubbed a hand jerkily across his face.

“I got a call to go up to the Gateroom. I walked into Elizabeth’s office and she and clone-Beckett were there. She told me you were stranded. I was worried and wanted to find a way to get to you. I remember getting angry that she wouldn’t agree to some kind of rescue mission. The next thing I remember is the heat and the pain and the…fucking awful pressure of the Bond.”

He looked beseechingly at Rodney and the torment of the memory was obvious. “I’m only glad Elizabeth was there and that Carson cleared out as soon as he realised what was going on. It was the one lucky break in this whole thing. At least she was my Proxy.” John shook his head. “It could have been anyone…Fuck, Rodney, I could have raped some botanist or Marine corporal right there in the corridor and there would have been nothing they could have done. That’s why the IOA insisted I make those provisions in the first place, to protect the other mission members.”

Rodney frowned. Something about the whole situation was not ringing true. Furor didn’t just happen spontaneously. There were always warning signs – territoriality, mood swings, increased appetite and more. And John was right, as intimate as they were, and the proximity in which they lived and worked, there was really no way John could have hidden it from him or anyone else. So there were some other variables at work; variables he didn’t have access to, and as a scientist that went against his fundamental principles.

“Who else knew about your status, Sheppard, apart from me and Elizabeth.”

“Originally? Just Carson…and so by default clone Beckett too and that’s it.”

John had his arms crossed over his chest now, his hands clutching tightly at his biceps, fingers flexing into the new thicker muscle there. Rodney flashed to a memory of those hands on his body only two days before, soothing and arousing, and he found himself mirroring John’s stance as he fought not to reach out to him. He shook his head a little to try to clear the loss that kept fogging his thinking.

A buried fragment of data tickled at the back of Rodney’s mind as he struggled with the idea that this was not just some random event, but he couldn’t quite bring it forward. He felt sluggish with fatigue and emotional stress. He needed some rest and a quiet place to tease out the strands of his nebulous thought processes. He couldn’t do it whilst faced with the naked emotion that was so foreign in the usually stoic and imperturbable Colonel Sheppard.

If he could just get a little space…

His wish was granted as Lorne’s hand went to his ear. The Major listened and then winced a little before snapping out, “Yes, Ma’am.”

Lorne’s expression was apologetic as he turned to his commander. “Dr. Weir has been trying to contact you, sir, but you don’t seem to have your comms tuned to command channel. She wants you in Command Centre ASAP.”

Rodney surmised Elizabeth had not been gentle in her request. John made no response, his eyes still trained on Rodney, his gaze laser-sharp and heart-stoppingly open.

Rodney knew stretching the discussion out would just be more painful and wouldn’t change the outcome. He truly didn’t want to make it any more difficult for either of them, so he nodded to himself and turned back to his packing, his motions jerky and slightly uncoordinated.

“Rodney, please…”

Rodney turned his head slightly at the broken plea from John but couldn’t bear to look at him again. “Let’s say goodbye, Colonel, and then you should go, OK. I can’t do this. I’ll email you when I find where they’ve shipped me. There’s a couple of people at the mountain who’ll be willing to forward on messages if I don’t have access to the gate.” He was proud of the steadiness of his voice but knew John wouldn’t be fooled. They had been everything to one another for a long time now and were both very aware of every tick and tell.

“What we had was real, Rodney. I loved you so much…Shit, I still do. I don’t know why Elizabeth is being like this. The Bond is just fucking biology and you know if I could fight it I would.”

Rodney felt hollowed out by the raw emotion in John’s voice and could only nod and croak out, “I know, me too.”

Then, with a faint swish of air the only indication, the love of Rodney’s life was gone, leaving him alone and bereft. He took a breath in, fighting the urge to scream and rail but was prevented by a chime from his door.

“Fuck,” he ground out, “What now?”

He stomped over to the door and keyed it open.

“What!” he yelled at an apologetic Chuck, the Gate tech

“Dr. Weir asked me to let you know your dial-out back to Earth is 1330 Atlantis time, Doc.”

“That only gives me an hour,” Rodney snapped and then shook his head. It wasn’t Chuck’s fault that Elizabeth seemed to have a vendetta against him. And he had more important tasks than bawling out lowly techs. As the door slid closed he started to plan what he had to do; the information he had to find. An hours notice – it wasn’t much time, but it would have to be enough.

oooOooo

The Gateroom at the SGC was the same as it ever was; dull grey plating and vigilant, gun wielding SF’s. Nothing like the intricate stained glass and warm bronze ornamentation of Atlantis.

Rodney was met at the base of the ramp by a stone-faced General Landry.

“Dr. McKay.”

“General.”

“You are to go straight to the Infirmary for the usual checks and then you’ll be quarantined on base for 48 hours, before you are allowed to leave the mountain. You will use this time to finalise your exit reports for Atlantis and prepare for a meeting with the IOA representative. There will be a data burst back to Pegasus at that time and, as per Dr. Weir’s instructions, that will be your last contact with Atlantis base.”

Rodney jerked in shock at the news he wouldn’t be allowed any overt contact with Atlantis. He read the smug distain in Landry’s eyes. The General had never liked him, taking his lead and prejudices from O’Neill. Rodney was glad he had covert means to get messages to Radek, which the Czech had assured Rodney he would be happy to pass on.

Recovering his equilibrium, Rodney plastered on his best arrogant, obnoxious face and turned an unconcerned and insubordinate sneer on the General. “Have I got a new posting yet?”

The General’s demeanour didn’t change but something about his gaze unsettled Rodney and he fought to keep his expression bland.

“You’ll be briefed by the IOA rep in two days, Doctor. They are expecting you in the Infirmary.” And with that Landry turned on his heel and marched out of the room, stiff backed and officious.

Rodney made his way to the Infirmary and thought about what he was planning to do. He’d had little time on Atlantis before he left but he’d used it wisely, downloading several pieces of information, and sections of the database. The more he thought about the circumstances of the last few days and the final outcomes, the more suspicious he grew. Something wasn’t right and he was determined to get the bottom of it. The enforced two day wait under the mountain was exactly what he needed, especially if, as he was beginning to suspect, his participation in the Stargate program was about to come to an end.

Well, many years of thinking on the fly had prepared him to be creative and he knew there was nothing in the SGC systems that could withstand his expert hacking abilities. Even Carter’s protocols couldn’t keep him out. He’d get the information he required to prove his suspicions. What he did with that afterwards was still up for debate, but he had options; options that even people who knew him well would be surprised he would contemplate.

He griped and sneered his way through the medical exam as was expected of him, terrorising the staff who only knew him by reputation, and living up to that reputation fully. It wasn’t until he closed and tightly locked the door on his assigned quarters that he allowed himself to feel the crushing loss that had been weighing on him for the past day; loss of his friends and ‘family’ on Atlantis; loss of Atlantis herself, her science and wonders, but most of all the loss of his lover and friend.

Curled on his bed he keened almost silently as he set just a small part of his grief loose. Pressing his face into the pillow and biting back sobs, he allowed the reality that he would never see John or Atlantis again to finally surface. He cried until the cotton beneath his head was soaked with tears and he was spent. Then with a whispered, “Love you too, John,” he fell into an exhausted sleep.

oooOooo

“There was no reason for you to be there, John. In fact it was probably better that you weren’t.” Elizabeth was at her most conciliatory as she tried to get her pacing Bondmate to calm down.

“You know how difficult Rodney can be. He would have argued or made up some spurious reason to change his dial-out time. Having you there would just have made it all the more tedious.” She reached out, thinking touch would encourage John to come to her; to take comfort. They’d had no physical contact since his Furor three days earlier and she was irritated by his rejection of her advances, and the depth of his anger at the way she’d handled shipping McKay back to Earth.

“You made it impossible for him to stay, Elizabeth and you know it. Your ridiculous insistence on the full letter of Bond law made his position here untenable. You’ve sent away the most important scientific resource we have, ripped apart his department and taken him from his friends…his family. And then to hustle him off while we were in staff meetings, with no one there to say goodbye…”

John rounded on her, slapping his hands down on the desk between them, his enhanced strength rocking the heavy metal surface, moving it across the carpet. Her heart rate picked up at the tangible evidence of her Bondmate’s virility. His status and strength could only serve to increase hers exponentially.

She ached to feel him over and in her body again, and she wasn’t above trying anything to achieve that.

“John, why don’t we take this to our quarters. We can have a proper discussion there. It’s not helpful for the Mission members to see us at odds. They need to know their Bonded pair are in accord. It’s best for the mission, and for us.”

The glare Sheppard turned on her was piercing.

“Our quarters? Oh, we won’t be sharing quarters, Dr. Weir. I have no intention of spending any private time with you at all.”

Elizabeth rocked back in shock. She’d been sure once they Bonded and McKay was gone, John would see that she’d always been the best option for a mate. As Civilian leader of Atlantis she already had status, far above a mere scientist, even one as talented as McKay.

John was focussed, his gaze still sharp, although his words were less so.

“As my Proxy I’m grateful you were there to Bond with me – we both agreed to that alongside Rodney, and it was infinitely preferable to the alternative of Bonding with someone unwilling. However, I never imagined you’d use Bond rights to send him away. I love him, Elizabeth and you’ll never be more than a friend to me, not even that after the way you’ve dealt with this whole issue.

“You know Bond laws allow me to have a harem, with my mates’ agreement. It would have kept the status quo, enabled Rodney and I to continue our relationship and still given you added status. What I don’t understand is why you felt you needed to be so militant.”

Elizabeth’s eyes flashed and her face grew taut and ugly with temper. “Because I refuse to be treated as a second class citizen in my own command and in my Bond with my Alpha. Regardless of the law, I would have been pitied; just a hanger on. Well I refuse to be second to someone like McKay. He is rude, boorish, socially inept and a poor partner for someone of your standing. I have political and social acumen and the contacts to make you somebody, both within the Stargate Program and afterwards. Having me on your arm is a far more attractive prospect to the right people than a balding, overweight scientist, whose sarcasm and overblown ego cuts a swathe through those you should be impressing.”

John barked out a humourless laugh and spread his arms out at his sides. “Do you even know me at all. In the years we’ve worked together have I ever given you the slightest inclination that I’m interested in that bullshit? I escaped from a family who wanted exactly that life for me, and an ex-wife with the same asinine aspirations you’ve just spouted. If I could I’d resign my commission this minute and take the lowliest, most menial job, to show you I could be just as happy that way.”

Elizabeth sneered at him, hating his lack of ambition. “But you can’t. The law allows me to stay in my job and prevents you from making me leave it. You may have no aspirations but I do, and I’ll work towards them, using every advantage being Bondmate to an Alpha gives me.”

She spread her hands on the desk, pressing her fingers into the surface to stop them shaking in anger. “And you may not think you need to spend personal time with me now, but when you’ve gone a while without anyone in your bed you’ll come back. Then you’ll realise how good it can be between us. Just think back to our Bonding, John. It was explosive.”

“It was Furor!” John roared, anger growing at her lack of understanding and selfishness. “Of course it was explosive. But it was just that; the Bond and nothing more. We didn’t even knot, that’s how little affection I have for you. I won’t ever love you, Elizabeth. In fact right now I don’t like you at all.”

He turned on his heel and strode the two paces to the door, almost running into it in his haste to leave. “I will continue to do my duty and I will be professional in my dealings with you. But know this, apart from once a year, at our Bond renewals, there will be no other, more personal contact between us.”

Elizabeth watched through the glass wall of the office as John stalked down the stairs and into the Gateroom. As she lost sight of his imposing figure she slumped back and steepled her fingers. She’d made an error of judgement thinking John would immediately see the benefits of a Bond with her. He wasn’t compelled to have anything to do with her sexually, outside their renewals. Only then would he would be drawn to Bond with her; to complete the biological imperative Furor had begun. But the thought of waiting a year to feel him hot and urgent inside her willing body again…she shivered. There had to be a way to get that sooner.

She rose gracefully from behind the desk and made her way to Command.

“I’m going back to my quarters for a while Chuck. Please don’t call me unless it’s an emergency.”

Chuck nodded, inputted the information on the system for the other command staff, notified Dr Zelenka that he was on call, and then settled back to his eBackgammon tournament with one of the chemists. He couldn’t pretend he hadn’t heard what had been said, and he had to agree with the Colonel. Dr. Weir had been more than a little erratic of late, and her judgement, especially regarding Dr McKay, was skewed to say the least. Then there were her late night meetings, first with Kavanagh and then Beckett’s clone (who gave Chuck the willies).

After Kavanagh died in a lab accident, Dr Weir had been quiet and withdrawn for a few days. Chuck had even idly speculated that they may be lovers; after all, the meetings had been very clandestine. But then she had begun meeting with the clone and Chuck concluded they must be continuing a project she’d started with Kavanagh.

Still, he wasn’t one to gossip and was known for keeping his opinions to himself. Too much excitement was not good for his ulcer, and Pegasus threw enough stress at him without him creating any more. So, he checked his readouts, made sure there were no impending Wraith invasion fleets on the long-range sensors, and then applied himself to beating his opponent.

oooOooo

‘Outward, physical signs have always been uppermost in the portrayal of Alphas in popular culture. The phenomenal success of action movies such as ‘Operation Alpha’ highlights the fascination the ordinary citizen has with the physical prowess of a transformed and Bonded Alpha. Delve into the seedier genre of ‘Shifter porn’ and one finds a multitude of offerings, focussing on the heat and pure sexuality of the Furor, whilst romantic fiction has readers spellbound with the idea of knotting as the signifier of ‘Soulmate’ Bonding.

Science, however, recognises the Alpha state for what it is; a biological throwback to the Shifter legacy of our forebears.

In this paper, I outline my investigations into the ATA gene, and elucidate how unfettered access to the only post-pubertal unbonded Alpha on record, has opened doors to what many regard as the Holy Grail of genetics; mapping the structure of the Alpha genome. Based on my current findings, I predict that within the next two years I will develop a test to identify the onset of Furor before precursors are recognised. This could then lead to a therapy that will make it possible for Alphas to either induce Furor when they choose, or, more controversially, to prevent it happening altogether.’

Excerpt from ‘Alpha Shifter Genetics: a way forward’. Unpublished posthumous paper by Dr. Carson M Beckett PhD

Rodney sat back in his chair and stared at the computer screen. He’d found the paper buried in the confidential medical files about the natural ATA gene carriers in the program. McKay had always had his suspicions about Carson’s work, after all the man had been responsible for the premature dissemination of the Hoffan virus and the debacle with the Wraith retro-virus. But the idea that he’d been secretly using Sheppard as part of a clandestine project of this magnitude made McKay feel more than a little sick. In the wrong hands it could be a disaster…Had been a disaster, in fact, for both John and Rodney.

Because with his discovery of this hidden paper, Rodney was certain the reason John had undergone his Furor so suddenly was directly connected with Carson’s research. And there was no doubt in his mind that although Carson had been dead for a couple of years, the clone with all the memories and skills of the original, was more than capable of finishing what Carson had begun. Beckett Mark II had obviously been successful in creating the very therapy the original had postulated in his paper.

Elizabeth must have been party to the use of the therapy too. Rodney was positive his forced expulsion from Atlantis, and probably the program, was an attempt on her part to cover their tracks. What he couldn’t understand was why she had felt it necessary in the first place. There was seemingly no possibility that the Colonel would undergo Furor and so the likelihood of his Bonding was miniscule. Rodney had never been a threat to her position as leader of Atlantis, and Elizabeth hadn’t given any indication that she had more than a passing affection for John.

There was a piece of the puzzle missing and try as he might, Rodney couldn’t find it.

oooOooo

“Dr. McKay, I must say you are the last person I expected to be sitting opposite me today.”

Melanie Colforth was the British representative from the IOA and the least objectionable to Rodney’s mind. A gifted mathematician, she’d been recruited by MI6 at the age of 19, when the ink on her first doctorate was barely dry. Now 50 years later she was still a formidable intellect and a canny political animal. She was frowning as she skimmed the reports in the file in front of her, and Rodney could see she wasn’t impressed with the contents.

“Dr. Weir has very forthright views about your work and management abilities,” she continued ruefully. “Considering that before her Bonding she was slated to be sitting where you are now, I would have thought she would have been a little more lenient in her recommendations.”

Suddenly the tumblers started falling into place and Rodney began to see the final pieces of the puzzle. He sat forward and caught Melanie’s knowing gaze with one of his own.

“So Dr Weir was due to be relieved as civilian lead of Atlantis?”

“Oh yes. One might say her surprise Bonding with Colonel Sheppard saved Elizabeth’s bacon. Reports from General O’Neill and Colonel Caldwell, alongside AAR from the Atlantis teams, showed her becoming an increasing liability to the success of the mission, both in Pegasus and the Milky Way.”

“But now she’s Bonded…” Rodney quirked an eyebrow at the elegant old woman.

“Her Bond with the Colonel is being seen as a stabilising force. He’s a strong character with high moral standards and an excellent work ethic. Also, Bond laws do not allow us to remove her from her Alpha, and as you are aware, Pegasus and Atlantis need Colonel Sheppard. What is more unfortunate is what it means for you, Rodney.”

Rodney snorted inelegantly. “I saw this coming the moment she made it impossible for me to stay on Atlantis, Melanie. I know I’m out of the program.”

Colforth nodded ruefully. “You’re correct, and I’m very sorry to be the bearer of such bad news. Unfortunately her recommendations, along with your less than cordial relationships with some of the Advisory committee, have made it impossible for those of us who know your worth to sway those who do not.”

With a wince, Rodney nodded in agreement. He’d never cared about making friends, political or otherwise and it was coming back to bite him soundly in the ass. He sighed and spread out the packet of papers he’d been given.

“So why don’t we get the details of my, probably woefully inadequate, severance package sorted out and then I can get out of here, and you and I can find somewhere with a good steak and halfway decent Scotch.”

oooOooo

He was running out of time.

As he walked back into his quarters, his anger was a hot coal in his gut. Elizabeth had obviously encouraged the clone to complete Carson’s work, then conspired to strand McKay offworld so Beckett could administer the gene therapy. That part would have been easy; a simple computer patch that even that idiot Kavanagh could devise would allow her command codes to override the Gate dialling protocols on the city, thus preventing his team from returning. The code could’ve been easily removed in order to bring Rodney’s team back.

What made white hot rage rise in his chest, was the way John had been abused; raped if he was being blunt about it, and Rodney was nothing if not blunt. Regardless that John was Alpha, and aware of the imperative his genetics placed on him, he’d been pushed into a Bonding without his consent. It sickened him that Elizabeth had instigated such a disgusting plan.

All to simply keep her job. Unless Elizabeth was expecting something more than just the initial Bond. In which case, she was going to be sorely disappointed. Not only was John deeply in love with Rodney (and despite what Rodney had said, he knew it was the absolute truth) but Sheppard was unequivocally gay. His one foray into heterosexuality had been an arranged marriage to a woman of his fathers choosing, which lasted long enough to reinforce John’s view that cock was most infinitely preferable to pussy.

Rodney stretched and went to refill his coffee. Reflecting on Weir’s behaviour over the previous months he realised she’d been antagonistic and dismissive of him for a long while. After Doranda she’d treated him as a pariah and they’d never regained the easy relationship they’d had before.

Thinking back, his burgeoning relationship with Sheppard had begun not long afterwards. Could she have possibly been pining after the Colonel for all that time? If so her feelings seemed to have mutated into an obsession, which alongside her imminent removal from her post must have evoked some kind of psychotic break; it was the only way Rodney could imagine her getting involved in this obscene manipulation.

His watch beeped. Final dial-out was in twenty minutes and there was little time left to prepare his messages, especially if he was going to take the action he’d planned.

Revenge.

It was an ugly word for an ugly concept but he wanted it with a passion. John was stuck in Pegasus, with no notion of the way he’d been manipulated, and any action he might take would have dire consequences for his career and his freedom. Their life together had been torn apart, and Rodney was stranded millions of light years away. Not to be a girl or anything, but Rodney knew John was his heart, and he wasn’t sure how he was going to manage the next 40 years without him. He swallowed hard against the wave of loss that was his continual companion.

Only Elizabeth’s death could free the Colonel from the Bond, and even then Rodney was sure the SGC would find a way to keep Sheppard in Pegasus. It was where he belonged; what he had been born to do and now Rodney had been fired he wouldn’t be able to rejoin him. Also, while Bond-widowed Alphas retained all the physical and social advantages that going through their Furor endowed, they never again Bonded with a mate; it was a one-time thing. So Weir and the clone had stolen that from them too. Whilst Rodney had never had any expectations of a Bond with John, knowing the possibility had been so close and been denied them was another coal in the burning pile of hate Rodney was cultivating for his former boss.

No, if anyone was going to take revenge it had to be Rodney. He had the knowledge and the means. He also had plausible deniability. After all, he was millions of light years away. He might not be able to change the outcome for himself, but he could at least feel as if he had done something for John. And while murder was beyond even the extremes of Rodney’s hatred, there were steps he could take that would make Weir and the clone’s lives difficult, if not downright unpleasant, at least for a little while.

Flexing his laced fingers, he settled down to prepare his final data-burst. Alongside his exit reports, he’d hide an Easter egg for Dr. Weir and a little something for John, via Radek. He hoped he could find the words to make Sheppard realise just how much he loved him and always would. Maybe if they ever met again Rodney could say it in person, but for now a message, no matter how brief, would have to do.

oooOooo

Zelenka

Find attached the final breakdown of readings for the Jumper energy output simulations I ran before I left Atlantis. I suggest you integrate them into the control protocols, and that the relevant sections are relayed to the proper member of the Command staff.

Regards

MR McKay PhD PhD PhD

Radek swore under his breath. So it had come to pass. Rodney had quietly discussed his fear he’d be fired, but Zelenka had hoped he was wrong. He scrolled through the reams of data until he found a very specific code. With a heavy heart, he settled down to decode Rodney’s final message to Colonel Sheppard. It felt wrong to read it but there was no alternative way to get a message under the radar. He pulled out a note pad and pencil, not wanting to place anything on the system, and began the decryption.

John

As you probably know by now, Elizabeth has had me removed from the program. Therefore, this may be my last chance to get a message to you, although I’ll try to arrange to keep in touch through one of the science team before I leave the mountain if I can.

This message is short in order to fit the codes Radek and I set up. I’m sorry he’ll see it first, but it’s the only way to get through the SGC filters. You can try to return a message the same way, if that’s what you want. Radek can get it through to me using the same code, but if it works it will only do so once.

We’re both bad with words, especially when it comes to feelings. Hearing you say you loved me before I left was both the best and worst thing in my life so far…I love you too. I wish things could have been different for us; that I could’ve been there during your Furor and been the one lucky enough to become your Bondmate, but when have things ever gone our way?

Keep yourself safe. Don’t get killed on some suicide mission, or ascend with a glowy priestess. They need you there. You’re the voice of reason, loyalty, and duty, even if others don’t know what those words mean. I am worried about Elizabeth’s motivations, and by now you’ll probably have more insight into them, but any speculation could be dangerous to me if this message was intercepted. So I’ll say no more than, be careful…please.

And stay healthy. Carson’s clone is nothing like the original. I’m not sure he remembers what he owes you. I don’t trust him with your health – I don’t trust him at all. I’m sure Radek will help you look into your medical files if you are at all concerned.

Please believe me when I say the years we were together on Atlantis were the very best of my life.

I’ll never forget

Yours now and always

Rodney.

Radek swallowed hard. For a man who thought he was bad with words, McKay had placed his heart in every character of the message. Also, some of the carefully veiled references were making Radek twitchy. Was there something going on, buried in the records. If so the scientist was very willing to root it out for the Colonel. He would gladly help to keep the soldier safe. It was the least he could do for his prickly, brilliant, and endlessly loyal friend

Placing his pencil down the Czech folded the notepaper and slid it safely into his jacket, before keying the Command channel on his radio

“Zelenka to Colonel Sheppard.

“Sheppard here, Radek.

“I have some readings from Jumper 1 I would like to discuss, ASAP.

“I’m free now, shall I come down there?

“No, I will meet you in Jumper bay, to show you necessary modifications.

“Agreed. Be there in 10, Sheppard out.

With a couple of key strokes, Radek cleared the bogus code from his computer memory. Even if by some accident he lost the written translation, the content of Rodney’s message was seared into his memory

He would never forget it

oooOooo

John smoothed out the creases in Rodney’s message. It’d been hard to keep his emotions under wraps and as his mind ran through the events of the last couple of hours, he’d looked down to find the precious note crumpled in his fist.

Radek had uncovered several years’ worth of research linking Carson’s ATA gene therapy with undisclosed and clandestine use of John as a research subject, which had culminated in a treatment to instantaneously induce Furor. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Czech had also quickly uncovered a chain of events, beginning with the creation of a computer virus by Dr. Kavanagh. That led to a hidden post-mortem report, showing the scientist had died before the explosion in his lab, clearly implying the whole incident was a cover-up. Now it transpired, Beckett was putting together a new treatment that would make John sexually attracted to Elizabeth.

The link in all this was Dr. Weir and her imminent removal from Atlantis.

John was way past pissed, hell and gone through angry, and into the cold hard rage that had seen him kill dozens of Genii during the siege.

In every way Rodney had been his; his geek, his lover and in the Shifter part of his mind, his Bondmate. He’d been ripped away by Weir’s ambition and misplaced lust, and the slavish worship of Beckett’s research by his clone. John wasn’t willing to let that go unpunished. He was sure there was a legal means, but the newly woken Alpha Shifter in him demanded a blood price.

Zelenka had explained how Rodney’s encoding would work, and while the plan was a good one it didn’t go far enough…not far enough at all.

He tucked the precious message into his breast pocket, over his heart and then, leaning back in the Control chair, he let the City systems slip into his mind. Feeling her joyful welcome to him, John began explaining his plan to Atlantis.

oooOooo

“Dr. Weir…”

Elizabeth turned from her agitated pacing in the jumper bay to see Major Lorne and Carson walking towards her.

“The Colonel sends his regrets but he won’t be able to join you for the treaty ratification on Haiin. There’s been a disciplinary matter regarding some black-market activity with food supplies, and he has to deal with it immediately.”

She frowned. “Surely, Major, as XO that falls within your purview.” This trip was the first opportunity in a fortnight for Elizabeth to be alone with John. Apart from staff meetings, he’d skilfully managed to avoid spending any time with her at all. Having some alone-time with him in the jumper would give her chance to try a little seduction.

Evan smiled genially. “Yes, Ma’am, with the lower ranks it would be. But this involves Chief Warrant Officer Parker, and the Colonel wanted to deal with it himself.”

Evan gestured at the doctor standing nervously beside him. “Sheppard suggested this might be a good opportunity for Dr Beckett to get some more flight experience, and offer some medical services to the Haiinin at the same time, as a gesture of goodwill.”

Weir sighed heavily, but nodded. “I suppose that might not be such a bad idea,” she conceded grudgingly. “But please inform the Colonel I will expect a meeting with him in my office on my return.”

Lorne gave a clipped, “Yes Ma’am,” and with a smart salute, turned and left the bay.

Elizabeth settled into the co-pilots seat of Jumper 5. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Haiin had a space gate and it would take an hour to make the journey to the main village; ample time to get a report from Carson about the research he was undertaking for her.

oooOooo

Rodney slid down onto the sun warmed decking, bare feet dangling just a few inches above the Caribbean. The sound of lapping waves melded with the gentle strains of the ‘Pearl Fishers’ floating from the sound system. The melody soothed his soul, the lyrics bringing the beauty of Atlantis to mind.

It had been nearly six weeks since he’d sent his message to Radek, but there’d been nothing in return, and he’d checked his inbox hourly, day and night.

Sleep was a forgotten luxury; most nights he woke in tears, his heart racing as visions of John sucked dry by a Wraith or bleeding out in the Gateroom, played in Technicolor behind his eyelids. His appetite was gone, and he subsisted on coffee, chocolate, and copious amounts of the best Single Malt money could buy.

He had two more weeks rental left in the house on Anguilla, and although he could well afford it he wouldn’t stay after that. He knew he’d go crazy if he remained here alone any longer. Apart from the odd word to the cleaning staff he hadn’t spoken to another living soul.

“It’s a beautiful view.”

He didn’t need anyone else to talk to. John’s voice in his mind had been his constant companion, soothing his fears and reminding him of the sweet, intense times they’d spent together.

“The closest I could get to Atlantis on Earth,” he whispered back to his ghostly lover. “The closest I could get to you.” He looked up at the cobalt sky and blinked back tears. “I miss you both so much.”

“I’m right here.”

Rodney swallowed hard as the familiar scent of his lover wafted on the breeze and warm lips closed gently over the pulse point on his neck.

“J…John?” He turned his head quickly, wondering if he’d finally flipped. But there, in all his gorgeous Alpha glory, was Sheppard. His green eyes were glowing with such deep love that Rodney had to grasp the railing as a wave of dizziness struck him.

“What…what are you doing…Shit, John, you can’t be here!”

Confusion turned to fear. Just that kiss alone could send McKay to the deepest, darkest cell for life. He swivelled around and faced Sheppard, his expression panic-stricken.

“Hey, hey, calm down,” John crooned, his strong hands massaging Rodney’s tense shoulders. “This is an official visit. I came to debrief O’Neill about Command team losses and Dr. Jackson kindly told me where you were.”

“Command team losses?” Rodney’s stomach fell. “Radek?” It was the only reason John could officially visit, as McKay was Zelenka’s next-of-kin.

“Not Radek…” John’s eyes darkened with banked fury as he settled on the deck, pressed up against Rodney until not a whisper of air could get between them. “…Weir and Beckett.”

Rodney knew, even in his shocked state, he wasn’t imagining the evil smirk quirking Sheppard’s lips.

“They were on a diplomatic visit to Haiin…Remember their matriarch would only speak to Elizabeth? Carson piloted because I was detained, ‘disciplining a marine’.

Rodney could hear the quotation marks around the last comment.

John threaded his fingers through Rodney’s and pulled them onto his lap, making McKay’s heartbeat ramp up.

“Beckett lost control, navigation went haywire, and the Jumper flew into the corona of the systems second sun. We tried everything we could, but they went sub-light and there was no way to stop it. It took six hours before the Jumper burned up…Radek said they would’ve died before that, though. They were in radio contact with Zelenka for three hours, until the solar radiation knocked out their comms. He apologised several times to Elizabeth…said sorry he wasn’t you and couldn’t do three miraculous things before breakfast; that it was a shame you were no longer there to pull a rescue out of your, and I quote, ‘perfectly formed, pale Canadian ass’.”

John’s expression was solemn but his eyes were glowing with an unholy glee as he continued. “Beckett was babbling about karma and the fires of Hell, and Elizabeth just ranted about how you’d done this to her, even though we reminded her you were a Galaxy away. She tried to confess eventually, after first blaming the clone, but comms kept cutting out, so nobody really understood what she was talking about at the end. They were having difficulty breathing by then…It was a little…gruesome to say the least. I think Zelenka kept recordings of everything so you can review and make sure nothing like that ever happens again.”

John looked…smug.

“No, No, NO!” Rodney felt like he was going to have a heart attack. “I only sent her to another system, to strand her, keep her out of your way for a few weeks. The code wasn’t supposed…I didn’t mean to k…kill her…them.”

“No, you didn’t…” John’s gaze was dark and intense as he looked directly into McKay’s eyes, and Rodney would swear the Alphas features morphed for a moment. “…but I did.”

“Whaaa…” Rodney was shocked into incomprehension.

“Your message gave us the starting point to uncovering the whole sordid plot. Kavanagh’s code stranded you and then he was murdered, with the lab accident as a cover. The rest you know, except the clone was working on a way to make her sexually attractive to me, outside of renewals.

“The fucking BITCH!” Rodney was incensed, his earlier panic burned up by the heat of his rage at Elizabeth’s further machinations.

“The conniving, double-dealing, evil cunt! You know they were going to fire her? How could we have missed that more than just making poor decisions, she was losing her fucking mind?”

John shrugged. “We spent so many years looking out for one another; covering each others backs…We learned to see the crazy as part of who she was…who we all are.”

John’s arm snaked around McKay’s waist and snugged Rodney against his solid chest. Without knowing why, Rodney began to shake, all the tension of the past weeks boiling up in an epic outpouring of emotion.

“I thought I’d never have this again,” Rodney sobbed, caught between anger and grief. “I missed you so fucking much, and you didn’t write back to me.”

Sheppard soothed him with gentle touches and soft-mouthed kisses to his temple.

“I need to apologise, Rodney. While I was setting things in motion, I started really listening to the people around me. You might not believe this, but your geeks really care about you.”

McKay snorted, but it was a wet, sorrowful sound.

“No, its true I swear,” John crossed his heart, making Rodney snort again, this time with a little more humour.

“I was hanging in the labs while Radek worked through City logs and security feeds. People forget my hearing is enhanced, so I overheard a lot. Why didn’t you tell me she was treating you so badly? Projects cancelled, your calculations double-checked on her orders, undermining you with your own staff.”

Rodney shrugged. “It started after Doranda.” He felt John wince and knew the other man felt he’d treated McKay badly too after that clusterfuck. “At first I felt like I sort of deserved it, I mean even you were mad at me. So I swallowed it and let her ‘manage’ me. I hoped she’d eventually come around to trusting me again, but it never happened. Radek and Miko would put forward plans if we thought there might be any argument. A couple of times she refused something I proposed and then ratified it with someone else’s name attached.”

“Fuck, Rodney…why didn’t you…”

“Because that’s the world I come from. Academia will chew you up and spit you out if you let something like that put you down.”

Rodney settled deeper into John’s warm, muscled chest and sighed. Wrapped up here, safe with John, his anxieties seemed a lifetime away. His tears slowed and he just felt drained.

John stroked his back soothingly. “We can talk about all this later, I promise, but right now you have a decision to make. The Apollo is beaming me up in four hours…”

Rodney’s heart fell, as any hope he had that John was on Earth to stay faltered and died. “You’re going back today?”

He pushed away from John’s warmth, scrambled to his feet too quickly for even Sheppard’s reflexes, and paced.

“Rodney…”

“Well, it’s only right. You can’t leave the city after all…there’s a lot to do now. You’ve a new civilian lead to get settled and your men will be missing you.”

“Rodney!”

“I don’t have anything to offer here. I’m not even sure I can secure a job. The SGC has a long reach, O’Neill hates me…”

“MCKAY, shut the fuck up!”

John’s barked command brought Rodney’s rant to a standstill and he gazed at Sheppard with wide eyes.

“I said you have a decision to make.” John reached into his pocket and pulled out two small items. The first was an SGC issue, single use pack of lube.

Rodney shivered at the implication. If this was his decision, whether or not to have one last chance at sex with John, then it was easy…Hell yes!

“They wanted to make me overall lead, but we need a civilian focus for the scientists. I get to choose who, Rodney and I choose you.”

For a moment, McKay let his joy at the declaration settle into his soul, then reality hit and he shook his head, sadly. “They won’t let me back, John. The IOA has a hate-on for me.”

A wiggle of Sheppard’s other hand stopped Rodney in his tracks, as he noticed that John was also holding a capped syringe.

“Funny thing…when I was looking through the clone’s office after the accident, I found a refrigerated box.” John tipped the vial, making the fluid move in the plastic tube. “He made a second dose of the Furor therapy…Just in case.”

John raised an eyebrow and smirked as realisation washed across Rodney’s face.

“You want…” Rodney’s voice had fallen to a reverent whisper, “…you want to use it to Bond with me?”

John nodded. “They can’t stop me taking my Bondmate back to Pegasus.”

There was a charge in the air as Rodney reached for the hypodermic. It was no longer John standing there, but his Alpha. Dark and focussed, the Shifter’s green eyes were intent as he palmed the syringe and offered the lube.

“You’ll need this first. The therapy hits fast and I don’t want to tear you.”

Sheppard gestured to the canopied open bed behind him on the deck. “Strip and prepare yourself.”

The quiet words held an implicit order. Rodney shivered as John’s powerful aura trickled over him. If he reacted like this now, how would it feel after the Bond?

He didn’t need telling twice. His white loose shirt and linen pants were off in a matter of seconds, and he was on the bed with his first finger buried in his ass before John even stripped off his t-shirt. Rodney’s breath came in short grunts as he hastily slopped lube on more fingers and jammed them inside. The burn was intense but not unwelcome…He’d always been a bit of a freak for a little pain, which John had always fully appreciated.

Movement drew Rodney’s eyes to his, now naked lover and his breath rushed out in a low moan. Furor had sculpted John’s body; every plane was cut and defined, his olive skin rippling over thick muscles, and tightly budded bronze nipples emerging from dark swirls of hair. Alpha John’s cock was thicker and longer too, jutting out proudly from his body, the broad head already wet and dusky red. His future bondmate was a god and Rodney thought he might pass out from the overwhelming excitement.

“Once this stuff takes, the Furor happens quickly,” John warned huskily, pressing the needle against his thigh. “I’m not sure if we’ll knot, but if we do, just go with it…I’ll take care of you.”

Rodney swallowed hard, but couldn’t make a sound. His eyes fell closed, and he braced himself on hands and knees, his head dropping forward loosely between his shoulders. He held his breath, until the faint click of plastic on the decking told him they were game on.

Silence stretched for several seconds…

Then the Bond hit.

Hard.

Rodney hadn’t appreciated the pheramonal connection would affect him as much as John. His skin went tight and hot, and he was slick with sweat in moments. Every hair on his body rose and nerve runs set his muscles jumping.

Suddenly John was there, hard and vital, his body covering Rodney, and each nerve became a conduit directly to Rodney’s cock. Sensation boiled through him, unmistakable, unstoppable and he was coming hard, immediate and untouched, before John had even got near him. He cried out in distress, sure he’d ruined everything; stopped it before it could start.

“Be calm, my own.” His Alpha’s voice was a rough growl and Rodney did his bidding without hesitation, holding himself open and ready.

In his desperation John’s cock jabbed into Rodney’s ass cheek once, hard, before finding McKay’s relaxed and willing hole. The first thrust was long and deep, filling him so totally that they felt like a single entity. Then his Alpha’s hips snapped out a harsh rhythm, driving him forward, and Rodney braced hard simply to stay in position. A flash of heat, deep inside, indicated John had come too, but the pounding didn’t stop, his cock still as thick and slick inside Rodney, the only sound the constant sub-vocal growl in his ear.

Rodney’s arms began to shake under the continued onslaught. They were about to collapse when Sheppard’s arm snaked around his waist and pulled him up onto his knees, seating him onto John’s thighs, his cock planted deep in Rodney’s ass. John’s free hand slid over McKay’s chest, up his throat and stilled with the meat of his palm under Rodney’s chin and long fingers pressing inside his panting mouth.

“Suck them, my beta bitch,” John demanded, and rather than being demeaning, the words spiked Rodney’s arousal, stiffening his cock again.

“Gonna fill you, fuck you, knot you, Bond you…” the Alpha chanted and Rodney could think of nothing he wanted more.

Moments later John wrenched Rodney’s head to one side and sank sharp teeth into his neck, breaking the skin and spilling rivulets of blood down his beta’s chest. The flash of pain transmitted hot daggers of sensation directly to his balls, which tightened, anticipating. But his orgasm didn’t come in the way he expected.

The thick solidity of John’s cock began to widen and increase as his knot swelled, tying them tightly.

The searing twist of blood vessels was positioned precisely, pressing inexorably against Rodney’s prostate; pulsing with the vital rhythm of John’s pounding heart. Rodney was powerless as the thrumming knot massaged and milked him, forcing a slow, excruciatingly intense orgasm from his aching balls. His come oozed in a constant stream, rolling down his length, over his tight sac and pooled on the bed beneath him. The sensation was both grounding and freeing and Rodney trembled uncontrollably, feeling joined with John in the most primal way; the pressure and ecstasy seemingly never-ending.

His Alpha released his throat, but continued to pull McKay down into his lap. John’s breaths were deep growls interspersed with ecstatic cries as his knot drew shudders and moans from Rodney. Soon the beta was hyper-sensitised, as a million tiny lightning strikes seared his skin, and he began to whine as the sensations moved from pleasure to pain.

“Let go, baby. Almost there…” John’s almost purring whisper soothed Rodney’s whimpering cries and he relaxed back in complete submission, allowing the pain to flow across his skin in hot waves of sensation. The air around them fizzed with the power of their Bond. It snapped into place with an audible crack and the fullness in Rodney’s ass subsided slightly. John thrust upwards once and howled as he came hard, filling Rodney to overflowing. The beta’s eyes rolled back into his head as Bond feedback short-circuited his brain.

And everything went black.

oooOooo

“J…John?” Rodney croaked as he swam back to consciousness, but the question was superfluous. His Alpha was there, he could feel it right to his core. Their Bond was a warm presence, tightly woven into the very fabric of their being.

“I’m here, my beta…my Bondmate.” John’s voice cracked and Rodney moved to comfort him, knowing the Alpha was just as overwhelmed as he was to finally have what they’d always dreamed of.

“I hate her for what she did, for what she put us through,” Rodney murmured, between gentle kisses to John’s chest. “I hate that a doppelganger of my friend made the therapy for all the wrong reasons. But I can’t hate that we finally have this…us.”

John nodded and although he didn’t say anything Rodney knew how deeply his Alpha’s emotions flowed. He could feel them rippling between them, tied together with his own. Words were no longer necessary.

“You ready to go home,” John murmured, as his fingers drew the familiar glyphs for Pegasus on Rodney’s back, each sigil transmitting its energy before sinking into the slick surface.

“I’m already home.”

“Sap.”

“Guilty,” Rodney agreed, glad John couldn’t see him blush.

They lay entwined, the breeze and the sound of the waves lulling them for a while.

“So…Radek recorded it all for posterity?”

“Yeah.”

“And it was gruesome?”

He felt John’s smile grow against his shoulder. “It was epic.”

“Maybe I should review it, y’know later, just to be sure Radek didn’t miss anything.”

John rolled them and gazed down at his mate, eyes predatory and dark. He licked at the bite mark as his cock pulsed hot between them.

“Yeah…later…”

End

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1 comment

  1. Nathalie Bending

    That was great! I love it when, in spite of overwhelming opposition, John and Rodney win through! I’m also beginning to adore hating Elizabeth! Brilliant!

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