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It's What You Don't See

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Twilight in symphony
it's as well its what you don't see
So plain you're impatient now I wait in your eyes
It's in the way that your love is forgiving…
"Love the Giver" -- Claire Voyant

 

Later on, Rodney wasn't really able to say why he chose to drive from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. To tell the truth, he wasn't even sure why the hell he was playing in Santa Barbara. And on a goddamn harpsichord for fuck's sake. What had he been thinking?

He'd been thinking that Emily Gardner had been one of his best students. He'd been thinking that she'd walked up to him while he was sitting in his favorite outdoor café and said, "my piano teacher is no good and you're the best piano player in the world and my mom says you don't teach kids and she thinks that's a good thing and I want you to teach me."

She'd been nine years old and Rodney, who'd sworn off teaching for the next, oh, several centuries, had said: "well, your mother's an idiot." And: "are you ready to work harder than you've ever worked on anything?" And: "do you promise not to cry?"

And now she was Dr. Davaros-Gardner and she'd written something utterly brilliant, something that was easily the most interesting, complicated chamber piece written in the last hundred years, even if it was for a bloody harpsichord, and of course she wanted him to play at the world premier which had to be at UCSB and Rodney'd been as helpless to deny the forty-five year old woman as he had been to deny the nine year old.

All of which led to this moment.

He kicked the tire of his car carefully because the last thing he needed was a flat tire on top of everything else. He had no idea what was wrong with the damn car; it had shuddered hard and made a hellish noise and he'd wrestled it to the side and here he was, at two in the morning on Highway. 101 in the middle of California and on top of it all, he was kind of hungry.

Cell phones were, he thought as he flipped his open, easily one of the more clever inventions in the last fifty years.

After spouting a lot of nonsense that might have been in Japanese for all Rodney understood it, the tow truck driver hooked the car up to his truck and Rodney climbed into the cab. "All right, fine. Take it to your shop and then in the morning you can do whatever you need to do to fix it, just as long as you drop me at the best hotel in town first."

"Sure about that?" the man said. "This won't be a cheap repair and there's a perfectly good Motel Six...."

"Do I look like a Motel Six kind of person? The best hotel. Actually...is there a Blood Bank in town?"

"A...." The man's head turned and Rodney could see the whites of his eyes before he turned back to watching the road. "Yeah. Yes. Sir."

"Good, take me there instead," Rodney said, pulling his iPod out of his pocket and stuffing the earbuds in place. iPods were right after cell phones as far as he was concerned and as soon as Apple worked out a few of the bugs, he'd buy an iPhone just to combine the two.

One of Rodrigo's guitar concertos began to play and Rodney took a deep breath, tuned out the smell of the tow truck driver's fear and did his best to relax.

The Tri-Counties Blood Bank resided in a very nicely kept up Victorian house in a quiet neighborhood. Signs in front of the nearby houses advertised lawyers and various medical practices and Rodney was rather pleased not to be in some anonymous office park or standing in front of some modern building of glass and cement.

He'd expected to have to ring a bell, but the door was unlocked and he stepped into a pleasant foyer to face a startled looking young woman at the front desk.

"Good eve...morning, sir," she said, pushing aside a pile of books and papers. "How may I help you?"

"My car broke down outside town and it seems I'm going to be stuck here in town at least a day or two. Given the stress involved, I find myself a bit hungry, so I'd like someone for the rest of the night and into the morning. And your best room." Rodney pulled out his wallet and dropped his Visa card on the desk.

"Uh...of course." She blinked and picked up the phone. "We don't usually have anyone...any donors here at night. Let me see who's on call. Um...do you have any preferences?"

For a moment Rodney thought about insisting on a Gaelic speaking, AB positive, red-head with a degree in chemical engineering and nice curvy hips, but he--just barely-- stifled the urge to be an ass and shook his head. "Someone breathing will do as long as the bed has a decent mattress."

"Yes, sir," the girl said and turned away a little as she made her phone call.

Rodney wandered into the darkened sitting room and glanced over the magazines and newspapers, a little surprised at the decent selection of newspapers and the fact that there were at least three different golfing magazines, all of them this month's issue.

"You will? Oh, thank you," he heard the girl say. He turned and she smiled in his direction. "Sir? Mr. McKay? John says he'll be here in about ten minutes; would you like to go up to the room now?

"Oh," she added as he bent down to pick up his bags. "I can get those..."

"It's all right," he said, perfectly aware that if she where a man he'd have allowed it.

He did allow her to lead him up stairs to a very nice room with a large bay window and, more importantly as far as Rodney was concerned, a full bathroom with a very nice bathtub. She didn't wait around after showing him the room and Rodney shook his head once the door closed.

"She's got to be new," he muttered, pulling a pen and the score for Emily's piece out of his bag. He'd been over it a hundred times, might as well make it one hundred and one.

He'd lost track of time when he heard a light tapping on the door. "It's unlocked," he called out, looking up as a tall, lanky man came in, a skateboard in his hand.

"Hi, sorry you had to wait," the man said, resting the skateboard against the wall near the door. "I'm John Sheppard."

"Rodney McKay," Rodney said, holding out his hand. John's shake was firm and he smelled.... Rodney took a deep breath; he was hungrier than he'd thought.

"Yes, I know. I'm sorry Cheryl didn't recognize you; she's new here."

"I kind of got that impression." Rodney stared at the skateboard. "You actually skateboarded over here? In the middle of the night?"

"Yeah, I just live a few blocks over; seems like a waste to drive, you know?" John pulled off his denim jacket and his hands went to the zipper of his black turtle neck. "So...how much should I take off?"

Rodney had been prepared to just feed--he rarely had sex with random donors and he usually preferred women--but he found himself saying: "all of it."

John smiled, and to Rodney's surprise he kicked off his shoes and then began to undo his pants. He pushed them and a pair of loose boxers shorts off, before reaching up to unzip his shirt. After dropping the shirt onto the floor, he reached around and rubbed at the back of his long, warm looking neck and Rodney swallowed hard, not caring that it had to be a very practiced gesture.

His own shirt suddenly seemed incredibly complicated and when John smiled and moved in close to help, Rodney closed his eyes and caught his breath. "You smell...." he trailed off in a slight whimper as John's hands moved down to the zipper of Rodney's slacks.

"Mmmm...." John hummed, his hand giving Rodney's cock a quick caress as he finished getting Rodney undressed. "Cheryl said you wanted a decent mattress. I happen to know this is a great one, wanna try it out?"

Rodney really wanted to say something about the cheesiness of the line, but John moved in close and...God, but he was right there, smelling like heaven and Rodney reacted without thinking.

Clamping a hand on John's bicep, he hauled him toward the bed and shoved him down on it. John was already partially hard, and Rodney smiled tightly as he bent down and ran his cheek against John's cock, taking in his scent. John groaned and got harder as Rodney did it again before moving up.

"Yeah...oh God yeah. Please...."

Rodney gripped John's hips and held him down as he moved up that long torso, pausing to bury his nose in John's armpit. "You smell so...." he began, but there were no words to describe it and anyway, John's neck was right there and before Rodney knew it, he was reaching up, grabbing on to a handful of John's thick hair and pulling his head back so that he could sink his teeth into John's jugular.

"God...ohGodohGodohGod," John moaned, writhing under Rodney as Rodney drank from him.

The friction against his own cock was almost unnecessary; John's blood was hot and thick and rich and...and...just perfect in Rodney's mouth and he probably could have come from that alone. But then John made a noise that was almost a sob and thrust up hard, and Rodney could taste the difference in John's blood as he came.

One last mouthful and Rodney was coming as well, the word mine echoing through his head as clearly as if he'd said it.

"Jesus," John said, panting hard as Rodney rolled off. "Holy crap, are you always like that?"

He sounded surprised and Rodney wondered just how much John knew about him. Although he'd never asked anyone who actually worked in one, Rodney had long guessed that blood banks shared information. If they did, the word on Rodney McKay was that he rotated through a number of donors and rarely had sex with any of them. A simple online search would tell anyone that he hadn't had a Companion or Changed anyone in his lifetime. Rodney had been a loner at thirteen when he'd made the long journey south to London in 1603 as part of King James' retinue and he hadn't changed much over the centuries.

"No," he said, staring at the ceiling. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be," John said. "Seriously, that was...damn."

"Yeah," Rodney said, feeling more than a little smug at the warm note of pleasure in John's scent. After all, John did this for a living and while he sounded like he'd enjoyed it, that could have just meant he was a decent actor. But Rodney could smell it on him and the ego boost was rather nice. "It really was."

John yawned and stretched before reaching a hand to stroke Rodney's arm. "You're still pretty cold; want to share a shower?"

"That sounds wonderful," Rodney said, sitting up. He looked around as they made their way into the bathroom. "Nice place you have here; this was a whorehouse once, wasn't it?"

"Yeah," John said with a slight smirk. "We've tried to class it up some, though. And anyway, back in the day, they usually had a girl or two with deep veins."

Rodney started up the shower. "I wasn't even sure you'd be here; is there really call for a full bank in a town this small?"

"You'd be surprised. San Luis is a county seat and we've got the university here, plus we serve the coastal areas as well." He slid into the shower behind Rodney. "I can give you the address of the Santa Barbara branch; they're not real close to UCSB but they're the best bank in town." He ran soapy hands up Rodney's back, digging lightly at the tight muscles in Rodney's shoulders.

"So you know where I'm headed," Rodney said, sighing contentedly as John continued to work over his shoulders. "I've never asked, but you're not as...well...as subtle as other donors. You people, the banks I mean, keep track of us, don't you?"

"Kind of." John's hands slid around to Rodney's chest and Rodney leaned back, savoring the warmth for a moment before he turned and started washing his hair. "I know all of our local patrons and I keep an eye on the news and so on. I heard about the concert, of course, even though it's not my kind of thing."

Finished with his own part of the shower, Rodney leaned back and watched as John took his turn under the spray. "I wouldn't have guessed," he said, thinking of the skateboard John had brought into the room. "What is your thing?"

"Johnny Cash," John said. He grinned at Rodney. "About as far from minimalist harpsichord concertos as you can get."

"Don't blame me," Rodney said, a little surprised at the fact that he could still smell John through all the water and shampoo and soap. "I didn't write the thing; if I'd known she would go all minimalist and post-modern, I'd have never taught her."

"It's all pretty modern for you, though."

"True enough." Rodney stepped out of the tub as John turned off the water. He reached for a towel, tossing one to John as well. "I can't be the oldest client you've ever had."

"Close to it," John said slinging his towel around his waist and taking Rodney's out of his hands. He dried Rodney off, his motions deft and sure, and Rodney sighed happily. He could get used to this. "Don Alejandro is about fifty years old than you I think, but I've only been with him once. He's got some weird ideas about territory; he's had all of us here."

Rodney frowned a little as he tried to place the person with the name. "He's the pretty one, right? Was about sixteen or so when he was Changed?" John nodded and Rodney continued. "I think I met him once or twice up at some fancy dress thing in the City."

"He owns a big chunk of the farm land in this county and quite a bit of it in Santa Barbara as well." John took Rodney's hands and led him back into the bedroom. "He's really arrogant. I kind of assumed you'd be like that when Cheryl called me."

"Oh, I am arrogant," Rodney said, watching as John slid into the bed. "Just ask any of my former students or any of the conductors who have the misfortune to work with me. I am arrogant, bad-tempered, petty, vindictive and quite simply the best pianist of all times."

John snorted and lifted the covers. "You forgot 'egotistical.'"

"That too." Gathering up his copy of the concerto and his pen, Rodney joined John in the bed. "I probably won't sleep tonight," he said, turning the light down as low as possible. "Will the light bother you?"

"Not at all; does snoring bother you?"

"Hardly. Don't forget that I was Scottish; I slept with cows in the house until I was ten and after that I slept in the hall with the other pages and the guards. Trust me, you snoring won't phase me."

"No accent," John mumbled as he settled in.

"Lost it in self-defense," Rodney replied tightly. "We Scots weren't particularly loved when I first came to London. Or any time after for that matter." He expected a question or two, but John just patted him on the hip and rolled over. A moment later, he was snoring softly.

Emily's concerto lay on Rodney's lap, but he ignored it to look at John as he slept. He wasn't like anyone Rodney had ever met, and he'd been feeding off humans for close to four hundred years now. He was used to a certain routine, the exchange of money for blood and occasionally a little easy pleasure.

But John....

John smelled incredible.

* * *

It took two days to fix the Prius and while there were rental car agencies in San Luis Obispo, Rodney chose to wait it out.

It had nothing to do with saving money and everything to do with having as much sex with John as he possibly could, which was quite a lot. He bit John every time as well, and although he hardly took any blood he felt satiated, like he was all but drowning in John's taste and scent and sheer presence. Through it all, John seemed equally stunned, popping iron pills and eating huge meals in between rounds of increasingly frantic sex.

"This is crazy," he said, lying on the bed and panting hard. "I haven't gotten it up this often since I was...oh maybe sixteen." He reached out and grabbed a bottle of some kind of florescent colored sport drink off the nightstand and drank about half of it in one go.

Rodney watched his throat work as he swallowed, and licked his lips, already wanting to sink his teeth into John's vein yet again. "Are you all right? I didn't...I wasn't too rough, was I?"

"God no," John said with a laugh. "That was fucking awesome; I'm just really thirsty and I'm gonna need to eat again here soon."

"All right." Rodney leaned back against his pillow, noticing vaguely that it was getting light outside again. He glanced over at John, taking in the finger-shaped bruises on John's lean hips and biceps. "I don't want you to feel ill-used."

"Nah, I'm good." John grinned and stretched. "It's weird, I'm used to feeling a lot more tired and...I dunno, strung out after several sessions. And my usual sessions are nothing like this."

Although Rodney had liked John's easy matter of fact attitude about his job, he felt himself bristling a little at the idea that John had been with other patrons. What the hell is going on with me? he wondered, even as he reached out and slid his thumb across the soft hollow of John's throat.

Mine.

"Mmmm," John hummed and Rodney smiled a little inanely. It was far too soon for them to go at it again, and so he slid out of bed, moving over to the table he'd set his keyboard on.

He'd rescued it out of the trunk of his car with the vague thought of working on the concerto, but instead, he'd found himself playing around with ideas of his own. The table was littered with take out boxes and sheets of paper covered with Rodney's crabbed writing and musical notations.

Rodney poured himself a glass of wine and picked up his pen.

"Wine? At six-thirty in the morning?" John gave an exaggerated shudder and pulled on a pair of boxers before joining Rodney at the table. He moved boxes around before coming up with a package of Oreos, which he proceeded to tear into.

"Better than small-beer," Rodney said with a wince. "Actually, it's more that somewhere along the line composing and drinking wine got conflated in my head. And time of day, well, it eventually ceases to have any meaning. I'm hardly as nocturnal as some of my kind, but I would be if it weren't that most orchestras prefer rehearsing during the day time."

"Foolish of them," John said, his dry delivery ruined somewhat by the fact that his mouth was full of cookie.

"I think so," Rodney said, with a slight snicker. He looked up at John, taking in his seriously mussed hair, the cookie crumbs caught in his chest hair, the oddly pointed ears, the eyes that didn't seem to be one color or the other....

Rodney took a very deep breath, not sure why his whole body seemed to be thrumming. "This is...insane," he muttered, watching as John's eyes went wide. "It's not...I'm not normally...this isn't...."

Standing up, John shucked off his boxers and then moved onto Rodney's lap. "I'm still slick from last time," he said, his voice husky as he slid his hands up Rodney's arms. "And you're driving me fucking crazy." He leaned in and down a little, burying his nose in Rodney's neck. "God...you smell so...c'mon, Rodney, please?"

Surrounded by the heat and scent of John, Rodney had no choice but to give in. And to be honest, it wasn't exactly a hardship; John reached down, positioned Rodney's cock, and slide downwards, both of them moaning as he took Rodney in. "Fuck," Rodney moaned, mouthing at the wrist John pressed against his lips. "Oh fuck...."

"So close," John mumbled as he rode Rodney hard. "How'm I so...oh Jesus, yeah...Rodney...bite me, please? Take it...take me!"

Rodney's teeth sank unerringly into the vein at John's wrist and as the rich, thick blood--John's blood--flowed into his mouth, he reached down to stroke John's cock hard. John cried out, arching his back and Rodney pulled away from his wrist for a moment, watching John with eager eyes.

"Mine," he said, reaching for John's wrist again. John bent his head instead, presenting Rodney with his neck. "Mine," Rodney repeated, and he could feel and taste John's orgasm as he took John's blood.

Another mouthful and then another, and Rodney came hard, the taste of John strong in his mouth.

Three hours later--during which time they somehow managed not to have sex--the mechanic called; Rodney's car was ready.

As Rodney signed the credit slip for his stay at the Blood Bank, he felt, for the first time in his life, a little odd about the whole thing. And that was clearly, absurd, considering that even before he'd Changed, he'd never been shy about paying...whores.

John's not a whore.

Rodney had no idea where the thought came from. Of course, John wasn't a whore; Blood Bank workers were different. But it shouldn't have mattered anyway; Rodney had always liked whores. From the street-smart boys of 17th century London to the expensive, exquisite French courtesans with their salons to the brassy saloon girls he'd gotten to know in San Francisco in the fun old days, he'd enjoyed dealing with them as professionals who, if they did their jobs well, deserved his respect and patronage.

But John...

John was different and Rodney felt oddly embarrassed as he pulled a couple of hundred dollar bills out of his wallet. It was a rather high tip, but then John had more than earned it. He slipped his card in with the money, handing it to John with a smile.

"I'm going to arrange a ticket for you...for the premier. I know it's not your thing, but...."

John smiled and curled his fingers around Rodney's knuckles; Rodney shuddered and saw John shiver as well. "I'll be there."

It's just four weeks, Rodney told himself. I can go that long.

But, a month later, after checking twice, the girl at the will call booth shook her head. "I'm sorry Mr. McKay, but that ticket has not been claimed."

* * *

You didn't get the well-deserved reputation as being one of the finest musicians in history if you didn't know when to push everything but the music aside. As Rodney settled at the harpsichord, he took a deep breath, nodded to the cellist who was accompanying him and banished John from his mind.

He played, as the critics raved afterwards, brilliantly. Not that Rodney needed the confirmation; Emily had written something that was not only brilliant, but played to Rodney's strengths, and he could tell as he played that he was doing justice to her work.

Afterwards, in the brief hush that fell between the end of the music and the beginning of the applause, Rodney thought he felt something, a faint tug in the back of his mind, but then the audience began standing up and he and the cellist were calling Emily out onto the stage and there were girls with flowers and....

Whatever it was Rodney had felt was gone.

The next morning, before he even read the papers or checked online for reviews, Rodney picked up the phone and called the Tri-Counties Blood Bank.

"I'm sorry," the voice on the other end of the line said. "But Mr. Sheppard is no longer employed here."

"What? How long ago did he quit? How can I reach him?"

"I'm sorry, sir, but we do not give that information out."

As much as Rodney pushed, cajoled, attempted to both bully and bribe, he got nowhere.

"Look," he finally said. "Can I leave a message? Will you at least try to pass it on to him?"

The woman--who was most certainly not the clueless Cheryl--sighed. "I think I can do that much, Mr. McKay."

Of course, now Rodney had to figure out what to say. Try to sound dignified and concerned and anything but desperate, he told himself.

"I need to talk to him," he said. "Tell him...he has my number. Tell him to...ask him to please call me."

As he hung up, he reflected that he could have sounded a little more desperate, but only if he'd really worked at it.

"What the hell is wrong with me?" he muttered, turning the Tri-Counties Blood Bank card John had given him over and over in his hands. "Obviously he's not interested in me, and I'm probably just hungry and edgy, coming off the performance and all. I need to eat."

And yes, he was hungry, he realized as he dialed the Santa Barbara branch number. A good feeding would take care of whatever was wrong with him and then he could worry about the performances yet to come--Los Angeles and then possibly San Francisco as well.

A few hours later, he was being ushered into a lovely room with a view both of the ocean and the town. While the Santa Barbara branch was all 1920s fake Spanish style, it had the same quiet elegance to it that the San Luis branch had. Rodney sighed and turned to the young woman waiting for him.

"My name is Teyla," she said, holding out her hand. Rodney shook it, a little surprised at how firm her grip was given how small she was. Small and brown and with hair that was the same color as a perfect glass of whiskey, she was as unlike John as possible.

"Rodney," he said. "Rodney McKay."

"Yes," she said with a smile. "I saw the reviews of your concert; everyone was very impressed."

"They should be," Rodney said. "I was very good."

John, he though as Teyla smiled serenely, would have laughed and teased him about his ego.

"Are you interested in just feeding?" she asked, rubbing her thumb lightly over the back of his hand. "Or something more?"

"Just feeding," he said, turning her hand over. Although he couldn't actually see her veins very well, he could feel them, like live wires running under her skin. His body reacted the way it always did; he could feel his canines extending and taste his saliva changing. Taking a deep breath, he set his lips to Teyla's wrist and bit down.

Her blood was thick and cloying and bitter, and Rodney drew back, coughing.

"Your blood," he said without thinking. "It's awful."

The moment the words left his mouth, he mentally cringed. Oh great, she's going to think I'm a racist. There were those who insisted that they could tell the difference and that blood from what they called "inferior races" was, well, inferior. While it was true that no donor ever tasted like any other donor, Rodney had never noticed any difference based on race or sex. Blood was blood and it always tasted good regardless of who it came from. In fact, in four hundred years, Rodney had never rejected a donor for reasons of taste.

Well, until now.

He swallowed and then looked down at Teyla who was staring up at him in shock. "That hurt," she said, wincing, and Rodney looked down at her wrist.

She was still bleeding and he quickly brought her wrist to his mouth and, as he licked carefully at the puncture marks, hoped to hell he could heal her. Fortunately, she stopped bleeding and the pained look left her face.

"I've heard of that before but never felt it," she said, frowning a little. "Why did you come to us?"

"Wait," Rodney said, "you know what just happened?" He was still feeling a little queasy, as if he'd tried to cross a body of water in a small boat.

"You don't?" Teyla blinked and then looked around. "Come and sit down with me."

Once they were settled on the sofa, Teyla rubbed her thumb across her wrist and then looked at Rodney. "You don't have a Companion," she said. "And you've never had one, right?"

"Correct."

"Have you met anyone recently...." she began and then her eyes went wide. "John."

"What about John?" Rodney gave her a hard look and then felt even worse when she flinched. "I'm sorry, it's just...what does John have to do with this? How do you even know him?" But that was a stupid question; they worked for the same group of banks. "No, of course you know him. Do you know where he is; have you seen him recently?"

"I...." She paused. "I don't really know how much I should tell you, but if you haven't figured it out...."

"Please," Rodney said. "I need...I need to find him."

Teyla looked at him for a long moment and then nodded. "He just up and quit about three or four weeks ago. Our general manager was furious at first; he was a really good branch manager and...."

"He didn't tell me he was actually the branch manager," Rodney said, wondering if they were talking about the same person.

"He was pretty laid back," Teyla said. "That's why everyone liked working up there. And that's why they tried to get him to stay. But from what I heard, he said no, he couldn't do it anymore." She shrugged.

"It happens, of course. You meet someone who doesn't like sharing or you finish college or get a better...um, more main-stream job. But still, no one ever thought that would happen with John. He's been donating for something like ten years."

"Has he?" Rodney forced himself to loosen his grip on the edge of the sofa before he tore the upholstery.

"You really don't know what's happening to you, do you? Didn't your Maker teach you anything?"

"He died," Rodney said, quietly. "It's a long complicated story, but he died right after he Changed me." He bowed his head, not wanting to see anything like pity in Teyla's eyes.

When Teyla spoke after a moment of silence, her voice was steady and calm. "What you are going through is the beginning of a Luring cycle. When you and your Maker met, were you...was there a period of time when you seemed to do nothing but eat, sleep and have sex with him feeding off you every time?"

"And music," Rodney said more to himself than to Teyla. "There was always...he was a composer. But yes, it was like that for a couple of months; we couldn't keep our hands off one another. Then we went to London and...I told you: he died."

"That's what you started with John. Or John started with you; no one really knows how it works. When you met him...did he smell like the best thing you'd ever smelled?"

"Oh God yes," Rodney felt his canines extending again and suddenly he looked up at Teyla. "Wait, will everyone's blood but his taste...wrong from now on? Will I end up hurting donors? I can't...oh this is impossible! This is why I've never looked for a Companion, let alone someone I'd want to Change."

"It's not like that," Teyla said quickly. "Even though it won't taste right for a while, you could feed off me or any other donor who would allow it. If you go to a bank, it will cost you more and...well obviously there wouldn't be any sex involved."

"Obviously," he said, trying to match her matter-of-fact tone. "But, what about John? I do remember being almost mad with it."

"If neither of you have any contact, it should only take another month, maybe as long as six weeks, before the Lure fades. For both of you."

"Six weeks? I can't go for...." Teyla help up a hand and Rodney trailed off.

"You could Sleep," she said.

"I don't Sleep; everyone knows that about me. I have too much to do and I won't be left behind like that." He sighed. "So as long as I don't see him, John will come out of this all right, yes? Will he be able to donate again?"

"If he cares to, yes." Teyla reached out and put her hand over Rodney's. "There are resources, books you can read that will give you more information, but I can assure you that John will be all right."

"Thank you. As long as he will be well...I guess I can live with the embarrassment of buying a book or two to learn about my own kind."

"I don't understand the brain chemistry that makes me cheerful one day and unhappy the next," she said. "I've had to buy books about it and even then I don't always understand what I'm reading."

Rodney sighed and refrained from pointing out that this was a little more like not knowing where babies came from. "One thing," he said. "If I give you a check, will you see that John gets it? I don't want...he shouldn't suffer simply because of my chemistry."

"I will do my best to see that he receives it."

Her eyes went wide when Rodney handed her the check for John and then her tip. "Mr. McKay, this is...this is the largest tip I've ever received. And I don't know what John was making but it was nowhere near this much."

"The check is...blood money," Rodney said. He took her hand again, checking her wrist, which was healing nicely. "Your tip is simply my way of saying thank you, and an apology for inadvertently hurting you." He bent his head and kissed the back of her hand lightly, taking refuge in formality while he tried not to think about what she'd told him. "I still owe you a debt of gratitude. If there is ever anything I can do for you, do not hesitate to call on me."

* * *

Rodney was not one to play the temperamental artist card just because he felt like being difficult. Well, not too often, at least, he thought, holding the phone away from his ear as his agent went off on him.

"Because I'm bloody well sick, woman," he yelled back when she demanded an explanation yet again. "Or as close to it as possible. I'll not be playing those dates and that's that."

He closed the phone with a snap and turned to see Emily looking at him with a raised eyebrow. "You almost sounded Scottish there for a moment," she said gently. "Something must really be wrong."

"I met someone and triggered an unexpected and totally unwanted Luring cycle," Rodney said shortly. "That's when...."

"I know what it is; I've done all the standard reading." She smiled as he blinked at her. "Rodney, I had a crush on you when I was thirteen. Didn't you know that?"

"No," he replied, looking at her in surprise. "Honestly, I had no idea. I just assumed the make-up and the perfume and the inability to pay attention was a puberty thing."

"It was in a way." She fell silent for a moment. "I'm sorry things didn't work out with...."

"John," Rodney said. "His name's John. And it doesn't matter; I wouldn't know what to do with a Companion."

Really, I wouldn't, he told himself firmly, trying not to think about the way the corners of John's eyes crinkled up when he laughed or how he looked with cookie crumbs in his chest hair.

* * *

Two weeks later, Rodney was back in San Francisco, having fled Emily's sympathy. She was a nice girl, but the last thing he needed in his life right now was niceness. He got into loud arguments with his agent, until he realized that he was just calling her just to fight with her, at which point, he put his foot down and said he wouldn't perform for at least the next three months and that was that.

Based on what he'd read, three months seemed like plenty of time. He'd get over the issues he had with blood that came from anyone but John and he'd stop thinking about John and wondering about how he was doing and who he was under the casual smile and the rumpled hair.

But when he didn't think about John, he thought about the past and Sir Alun FitzWilliam, who had loved Rodney for his music and his caustic wit. They'd had so little time together--a few months at the most--and then had come the horrible trip to London.

Although he'd spent most of his life doing his best to not think about Alun or his own life before the Change, Rodney wasn't stupid; he knew that his refusal to Sleep and his determination to succeed as a musician had their roots in wanting to live up to the faith Alun had had in him and the sacrifice he'd made so Rodney could live.

His refusal to try to find a Companion, on the other hand, was simply a matter of practicality.

Or fear, he thought, doing his best to shove the whole problem to the side as he sifted through his mail.

The envelope with the Tri-Counties Blood Bank stood out from the rest and Rodney snorted with disgust when he realized his hands were shaking. Inside was his check, with "void" scrawled across it in big black letters. He almost missed the pale blue Post-It note.

"What the hell made you think I'd take this? Also, why'd you cancel the LA performances? -- JS"

Without really thinking it through, Rodney grabbed a piece of nearby paper, stuck the Post-It to it and wrote:

"You should take it. It's hardly your fault that you had to quit. I canceled because I reserve the right to flounce and generally behave like an artiste. Sir M. R. McKay, Bart."

He sent the note, along with another check, via Fed-Ex and included a pre-paid Fed-Ex return envelope.

* * *

My chemistry is as much to blame as yours, so stop wasting trees and writing checks that I won't cash. Don't you have a French title too? -- JS

* * *

Are you always this stubborn? I donated money to the Sierra Club in your name, so stop worrying about the trees. Yes, and I have a German one too, but I stopped using it after 1914. -- RM

* * *

Do you throw money at problems because you grew up poor? And this whole note thing is weird; you have email, don't you?-- JS

* * *

Computers confuse me. And why do you think I grew up poor? -- RM

* * *

Something about sleeping with cows in the house. Computers are easier than pianos, but I'm actually kind of liking this note thing. -- JS

* * *

I'll have you know that my father was a minor clan chief. Everyone but the really, really rich slept with cows in the house; it's fucking cold in the Highlands in the winter.

Comparing computers and pianos is like comparing apples and oranges. When I had my first orange, I almost died. Sometimes I wonder how many people died of allergies before modern medicine knew them for what they are. -- RM

* * *

So was Rob Roy accurate?

That must have been scary with the orange; I read somewhere that they were a big treat in the 1600s. I'm allergic to bee stings; I have to carry pills with me all the time.

I'm sure you could learn to use a computer if you wanted to. Thanks for giving up on the checks. -- JS

PS Liam Neeson + Jessica Lange = hot. Y/N?

* * *

John,

All you have to do is ask and I'll cut you another check.

I heard once that Rob McGregor was short and hairy, and I can't imagine that his wife was either as lovely or as clean as Jessica Lange. In those days, I wore wigs and dressed kind of like Tim Roth did in the movie, but I never went anywhere near Scotland. Once I left, I never went back.

The plague was far scarier than the orange.

Yrs,

Rodney McKay

PS. Don't understand what you mean by Y/N, but yes, they were hot.

* * *

Rodney,

So you can perform modern music with this...incredible passion, but you don't know anything about the 21st cent.? Why is that? Just for your information, Y/N? means Yes or No?

Is there a portrait of you in the Tim Roth wig and waistcoat? I've seen the later one where you have the white powdered wig like George Washington's; you looked distinguished and kind of grumpy.

You had the plague?

Take it easy,

John

PS. This is where I admit that I saw you play in Santa Barbara. You were fantastic.

* * *

John,

I'm sorry it has taken me several days to reply to your letter; I almost didn't.

Yes, I had the plague. In 1625, when I was 35 years old, I went to London with Sir Alun FitzWilliam, who was 600 years old at the time. We'd been lovers for three months and he'd formally taken me on as his Companion two weeks before we traveled from his estate in Kent to the City.

There was plague in London that year and, although we took precautions that now seem utterly foolish, I became ill. Alun was sure he could save me, was sure he could Change me and take on the disease and survive it. You probably know more about my kind than I do; I'm sure you know how, under certain circumstances, we can do that. Unfortunately, I was too ill, and while he was able to Change me, the plague proved to be too much for his system and he died.

I'm sure someone with a knowledge of modern psychology could figure out quite a lot about me out based on everything I've just told you. I wouldn't know because I've never told the story to anyone before now. Having read it, I'm sure you will understand why I had no idea what happened between us, and I apologize for my thoughtless and reckless behavior.

I need to send this before I lose my nerve.

Yrs,

Rodney

* * *

Dear Rodney,

I've read your letter over and over again, and I'm still not sure how to reply, so this may seem a little disjointed. I'm honored and touched that you chose to tell me about Sir Alun, and I'm sorry you lost him and had so little time with him.

And now, I think you deserve an explanation for my behavior.

I've had a thing for your kind as long as I can remember, that's why I got the job at the bank when I was at Cal Poly going for my Masters. It's kind of embarrassing to admit it that it wasn't about the money, but yeah, there it is. I was never sure if I wanted to actually be Changed or not, but I have deep veins and.... Okay, see, I really like the sex. God, you're probably freaking out right now because you're feeling possessive. Sorry.

The thing is, you can read all you like about Luring cycles, but you can also work for years at a bank and never meet anyone who triggers one in you. It just doesn't happen that often and I never expected it to happen to me.

Then you came along. I was so out of control when I was with you that I couldn't think about anything but you. I didn't even figure it out until you left and I started missing you so much it hurt. Once I realized what was happening, I got scared. I knew that I couldn't do my job; no one would be able to feed off me and I was just....

I'm not making any sense, am I? I suck at writing real letters.

Can you call me when you get this? 805-555-1212

* * *

Rodney's hands were shaking as he dialed the phone, partly from nerves and partly from hunger. He'd only fed once since seeing Teyla and it had not been a pleasant experience. And now, as he waited for John to pick up the phone, he found himself hoping desperately that the next blood he took would be John's.

"Rodney?"

"John," Rodney said, breathing a sigh of relief. Just hearing John's voice made him feel better. "I'm so sorry...."

"I'm sorry...."

John gave a strangled little laugh. "Let me go first," he said, "before I lose my nerve."

"All right."

"I'm not all that good at talking about stuff like this, but...." Rodney heard him take a deep breath. "Like I said in the letter, I got scared when I realized what had happened between us. I thought you'd have said something if you felt the Lure too, and so I figured that maybe I was wrong or that I was making a mountain out of a molehill."

"No John, I...."

"Please, let me finish this."

Rodney went silent.

"I knew you'd be rehearsing and I didn't want to contact you. I kept telling myself that I didn't want to interrupt, but really, I figured that if you didn't want to have anything to do with me, it was better that I left you alone."

Opening his mouth, Rodney started to apologize again, but he swallowed hard and let John continue.

"I couldn't stay away from the concert, but I didn't want you to know I was there." John paused for a moment. "When I saw you, listened to you play...it was...I'd never heard music like that before; it was incredible and like I told you, I don't even like that kind of thing.

"And then when you took your bow, I could almost feel you, like you were standing right next to me, touching me."

John paused for so long that Rodney was sure he was going to hang up or demand that Rodney never contact him again. I can be patient. For him, I can be more than patient.

"I never knew my mom, she left my dad when I was a baby," John finally said. "My dad raised me and he died when I was 19. He didn't leave me a lot of money and.... Fuck. What I'm trying to say is that I've been taking care of myself all my life; I've never needed anyone.

"When I saw you in Santa Barbara...I needed you. I'd been needing you so damn much and it totally freaked me out. So, it's not just you not knowing what was going on. I...couldn't deal with it and I ran away. I'm...I'm sorry."

"Please stop that," Rodney said. "Please don't apologize again. I said it in my letter and I'll say it again, I was thoughtless and careless. I never learned about the Lure or how a cycle works because I thought it was by choice. I figured we met someone we found interesting or loved and then it went on from there. And now, almost four hundred years after my Change, I finally find out that no one really knows how it works, that it's chemical and emotional and some people think that there's some kind of psychic or mental connection....

"I'm sorry, now I'm making excuses and you deserve better than that." Once more Rodney reached for the formality of the past. "I have wronged you in a way that no amount of money can assuage and I then compounded my mistake by having the gall to send you money. I do not know what it will take for me to make amends, but whatever it is, I will do it."

"I...."

There was a long pause and Rodney listened to John's breathing. Although he knew it for an exaggeration, knew that he'd survive if he never saw John again and that he might even, in a century or so, meet someone else, he felt as if his fate were in John's hands.

He was on the verge of breaking down and asking John to say something, anything, when John spoke again.

"Take me to Scotland," he said, and Rodney could hear the faint quaver in his voice. "I know we can live without each other but, I don't see why we should." His voice got firmer. I want to go home with you and listen to you talk about growing up and tell you about my life and sleep with you and feed you and...and then see what happens between us."

"Yes," Rodney said. "Yes, John."

-end-