Shepherd 4: (final chapter and author’s notes)

Chapter 16

Alec wanted to vomit, but the pounding in his head was agonising. The slightest movement made his guts churn. Stale vomit in his mouth, the acid of it in the back of his throat. Rough fingers forced his eyes open, heedless of the brilliant lights that burned into his retina, hands clamped on his jaw, as he twisted, desperate to escape the searing beam that scorched into his brain. They had taken him, had captured him easily, so fucking easily. Dragged from his car, gassed and taken prisoner. And now, he was here, freezing and shivering in the sub-zero temperatures. He felt them grab his arms, felt their fingers dig into him as they hauled him upright before dragging him across a smooth surface, as he fought them. Useless. The blow on his head stunned him but even so he was still aware of his jacket being torn open and the sharp stab of a needle into his abdomen and he managed to scream just once, the sound muffled and distorted in his ears, before convulsions ripped though his brain and body.

……………………..

Rebecca felt the heat of his body. The man in front of her had not moved and so she allowed her hand to creep a few small inches towards the broad shoulders that faced her, that smooth skin she had kissed just once. Not touching. Not yet. Just sufficient to be able to lean over and watch the rhythmical movement of his chest as he breathed,  the pulse in his throat, and the hair that curled at his neck, before she lowered her face towards skin fragrant with his masculinity. One deep breath and she lay down to face his back again, watching.

Long minutes passed. She reached out to stroke her fingers over his shoulder. Cool skin. The ripple of muscle and rigidity of bone just beneath the surface.

He hand brushed across his shoulder, paused to cup the joint, and then trailed down his arm, feeling the shape and strength and texture of skin and muscles. Onto his flank now, against his ribs and then around the edges of the dressing that covered his wound. Her face closer to him now,  her breath on his neck. Her fingers traced down to the tight curve of hard muscles at his hips.

Skin that was firm yet so fragile, short blond hair gleaming in the light, that scent of maleness, his slow, even breaths in the silence and ….. she kissed his shoulder. No salt this time as she moved closer to taste the fine skin at the nape of his neck.

She was curled tight now, sharing his space, her head on his shoulder, one arm wrapped over him , a hand on his breast. Straker gave a soft sigh of contentment and she knew that he was awake, that he was, and had been, aware of her all the time.

…………….

Alec was scared now, profoundly scared. He had roused to the sensation of lying in tepid liquid, chilly on his feverish skin and stinging on the cuts and scrapes that covered his body, the ache of hard bruising on soft tissue, but where he was now he had no idea. His eyes were sealed shut, a tube rasped down his throat and try as he might he could not utter a sound other than a muffled frantic groan from deep within his chest. There was not even enough room to writhe against the pain that engulfed him, spreading out from his gut to burn through bones and flesh until even his scalp felt as if it was on fire.

…………………………

Straker lay there, his shoulders tense as he waited for her to abandon him. She did not move. He felt her fingers clench as they dug into his flesh, her knees stiff against his legs, pushing hard against him. The rigidity of her fear. He knew that the slightest move on his part would be sufficient to make her leave him. And he did not want that. He wanted…

‘I know,’ he murmured, his voice as soft as he could make it and even so it seemed too loud. Her nails bit into him and she choked back a sob. Her body trembled and he reached up to place one hand on the arm that lay across him. With a slow caress, he reassured her, running strong fingers down over that cool and shivering skin, tracing down to her fingertips with repetitive strokes, his fingers wrapping around the slightness of her arm. Another sob, muffled against his back this time and he paused, holding himself still as she buried her face in the curve of his neck.

‘Stay. Please.’ His voice even quieter now, his back a fortress for her to lean against, to hold onto. The thought of what she had endured darkened his mind and although he longed to turn over to face her and hold her, she was too fragile. As he was, he admitted to himself.
So, he would lie here as she wrapped herself close, and he would let her hold him, let her cry on his shoulder if that was needed. He sighed with longing. ‘Stay with me.’

Her  tight hold eased, and he laid his hand on hers, just to let her know that he cared, that he understood. Slender fingers threaded up between his. Hands entwined. A sigh as she relaxed and her face lifted from his neck, to snuggle down against his shoulder, her arm still tight against him. Not in fear, but with an unspoken need to be close to him. He blinked hard, swallowed back the tears that had threatened.

He breathed with her felt her slight form tucked behind him, her head only just reaching his shoulder blades as she bent her knees to spoon his own length. Joined hands now resting on the scar that marked his skin, moving in time with his breaths, even as she leaned against him, as he felt her breasts against the bare skin of his back.

Another siren faded into the distance, a taxi rumbled to a stop, the door slamming, muffled words disturbing the silence, but Straker lay there, one finger edging over her knuckles. Her breath curled around his shoulder, her body so close to him that it was as if they were one person.

Rebecca felt the warmth of his skin under her hand as she tightened her grip, pulling his hand further down on hers. Beneath her fingers the feel of soft hair, supple skin, the slight hollow of his navel, and she ventured to stretch one finger across before retreating back to the shelter of his hand. She felt his ribs move as he sighed again, and she realised with a sudden thrill that he wanted her there, holding him, touching him. And she was not afraid. Not anymore.

She straightened her fingers to loosen them from his grasp, felt his shuddering breath, but she leaned forward, her hand now on his ribs to ease him onto his back and wriggle, with an unseen and contented smile, under his arm.

His heartbeat thudded beneath her head, her cheek and lips tickled by sparse hair. She reached up to brush one hand across this chest and appreciate the broadness of his body, before tucking her arm over him to cling even closer for a moment, as if to crush him to her. A sigh of satisfaction echoed in her ears as she smoothed her hand round and down his ribs and back up again, pressing herself ever tighter, skin hard against skin. Her fingers stroked and explored as she lay there, touching him, trusting him. Caresses in the night. The slow throb of his pulse, the warmth of his breath on her face. All in silence. Knowing that he was aware of her every move she tilted her head back to kiss the soft skin of his throat.

That fleeting touch was enough to make him gasp and Rebecca caressed his cheek with her hand before she once again soothed the softness above his collarbone with warm lips and tongue.

So long forgotten, that feeling; that unmistakeable sensation of delicate breath on his face, the warmth of another person close to him, cherishing him. To feel her hands on his body, not to test him or to probe, but to share. And the thrill to know that he was capable of being wanted and trusted and ….cherished.

A man who had locked his desires and needs and longings away for so many years.

His fingers drifted through the golden-red strands of her hair as she settled ever closer on him, resting her leg over his, her arm across him, heavy.

He could feel her hand on his hip.

He lay still, acknowledging her touch, her caress, that tantalising sensation of fingers. There. Her arm lifting with every breath he took, her head on his chest as he held her, breath fluttering over bare skin. His hand roamed across her face, following the line of her hair before he traced the curve of her ear. A tenuous contact, unsure and hesitant, as if he was expecting a sudden sharp rejection, but she snuggled even closer if possible and sighed.

‘Alright?’ his whisper asked, his fingers light on the pale skin of her throat and Rebecca turned her head to kiss.

‘Oh yes,’ he heard her whisper but he tensed as her hand moved, and his breaths were shallow, not from fear but the years-old ache of longing as he felt her hands against softer flesh, brushing over the downy skin below his navel, touching the edges of coarser hair, reaching ………

A quick shudder coursed through him, and he flinched, afraid of what she might expect, before he turned his face away. He lay there trembling, his frailties revealed, and she moved her hand away, sliding it with languid ease up his side to stroke ribs and nipples, the pad of his breast and then to come to rest on his face. Straker closed his eyes to lean into the touch of her palm on his cheek as her fingers tangled in his hair.

‘Ten years is a long time,’ she whispered. He took deep breaths and calmed his shivering body as she caressed his face before she raised herself on one elbow to look down at him. Her hand lifted to smooth fingers over eyebrows and pale lashes, to brush over stubble and dip into the cleft of his chin before she traced the boundary of his lips with the lightest discernible touch of a single fingertip.

Lips touched.  He closed his eyes as he tasted her. A kiss such as he had never known before. An honest kiss. Not lust or desire, not demanding or expecting. He drew back, uncertain and shy, but then he reached out to lose himself in the feel of lips and tongue and hands meeting his and he opened himself to her until, emotions exhausted, they separated yet still holding, loathe to break contact.

‘Just hold me. That’s all,’ she murmured and clung to him, pressed against his body. In silence he obeyed her as she snuggled to sleep, her head on his breast again, her hand resting on his shoulder.

He stared at the ceiling. It had been so long. He had, years ago, accepted his solitary life, the lack of contact, the absence of even a welcoming hug. His responsibilities precluded that sort of thing, or so he had told himself in the dark emptiness of solitary nights.

But lying here, as she settled closer into his embrace, as he stroked her hair and bent to kiss the top of her head, he knew that something had returned into his empty existence, and, consoled, he slept.

Epilogue

Was this how his life would end? Here; blind, speechless, alone. Surrounded by inhuman creatures? Would he feel the knife as they cut him open? His heart pounded so fiercely that he thought, and he hoped, it would fail him. He would welcome death. But then he felt a coldness fill his belly, icy fingers that froze his gut, that made him clench and whimper in futile silence. And as sleep was forced into him, as he felt unconsciousness eat into his mind he hoped that Ed would find him. But it was doubtful.

 

Author’s Notes.

Well, what do I say? I nearly stopped writing this story several times, for a variety of reasons. ( I don’t particularly enjoy being on the receiving end of pretty vile and disgusting abuse, both in comments in various places and also published ‘stories’ from people who set out to slander both me and my family simply because I like to write canon stories most of the time.)

But I didn’t give up. And I am glad now. Some parts of Shepherd 4 were blissfully easy to write – the scene with Straker and Sara at the beginning was so very easy, but the ‘touchy-feely’ scene at the end between Ed and Rebecca took me over three weeks of continuous rewrites before my beta-reader was reasonably satisfied.

The ‘Alec’ clone was never intended. But, as writers out there will no doubt understand, sometimes your story runs away with you. I found myself writing that scene where Ed interrogates ‘Alec’ almost without thinking, and certainly I did very, very few revisions to it. It took the story in a whole new direction as well, but did allow me to bring Paul Foster back in again!

I expect some readers will think I ‘copped out’ by not letting Straker and Rebecca have sex. But he wouldn’t have. At least, MY Ed Straker wouldn’t. And I am pretty sure Ed Bishop’s Straker wouldn’t have either. And that is all that matters.

 

 

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