Coming Home: 15. Sharing A Plate



John paused for a moment, to feast on the sight of his submissive. Rodney looked so damn good lying there, naked save for the glinting metal of the collar around his throat; the collar that bore his own name.


John moved slowly down onto the blankets, and pressed his naked body against that of his collared sub. Rodney had been his from the moment John had first taken him, but this was different. Now Rodney wore his collar. He had never collared a sub before so he had no idea that he’d feel like this but he felt a wave of strong emotion – combined possession and protectiveness, mingled with a fierce, overwhelming love.


Rodney’s reaction to being collared had been everything he could have hoped for, and more. He’d worried that it was too soon, that Rodney would hand the collar back to him, still boxed, but instead his sub had come to him, knelt before him, and bent his neck to take his collar, and that moment had meant everything to John.


The snap of the clasp, the feel of sleek metal against warm skin, and the look in Rodney’s eyes when John had raised his head to meet his gaze….


Now it was time to complete the moment, and seal the collaring with a claiming. John pinned Rodney beneath him, covering his sub’s body with his own. He could feel his own cock, hard and leaking pre-come, pressing against Rodney’s soft belly.


Rodney’s cock was still flaccid, but he could detect it hardening a little, and he smiled to himself. He wanted to take his time, wanted to make love to Rodney for hours on end, and he was sure that Rodney would be fully hard again by the time he allowed his sub to come.


“Now we’re back to the rules,” John whispered, nuzzling Rodney’s ear. “You can’t come until I’ve come. Understand?”




Rodney nodded, his eyes wide with a look John had never seen in them before. Rodney was always transparent but he could also be wary. Now that he was collared, it was as if he was finally allowing John to see everything.


John basked in the warm glow from the fire as he slowly, so very slowly, made love to every single part of his sub’s body.


He kissed Rodney’s shoulders, his elbows, and each of his fingers, sucking gently on each one. Then he wafted light kisses over Rodney’s chest, and paused to suck down a little harder on his sub’s nipples, making Rodney gasp and shiver with pleasure. He licked a line down Rodney’s chest to his now reviving cock, and lingered for a moment on Rodney’s balls. He sucked on them, just gently, then blew on the warmed flesh, making Rodney shiver again. John continued moving down down, kissed each of Rodney’s knees, and licked the tips of his toes, before moving back up again. He felt like a panther, lithe and sinuous, feasting on his sub’s body as if he was the most delicious prey, and all the while that collar glinted at him, glowing orange in the light of the fire.


“Turn onto your front,” John commanded, and Rodney obeyed, instantly, like the good, collared sub that he was. “Open your legs,” John ordered and Rodney did that too, opening up wide.


John paused for a moment, and just enjoyed the sight of a naked, spread Rodney, his perfectly plump ass waiting for his top’s attention. Rodney looked exquisite in the firelight, his creamy skin so inviting…and again John’s attention was drawn to the collar around his sub’s neck. Rodney was his. Collared, and naked, and lying here in the most abject, abandoned position, just waiting to be taken.


John forced himself to concentrate, trying to ignore the growing ache in his hard cock. He wanted to take his time, and truly enjoy feasting on his sub’s body. His gaze was drawn to the dark, puckered opening between Rodney’s legs, and John settled between those spread legs, and parted Rodney’s buttocks with his hands. He licked his way over Rodney’s firm butt cheeks, and darted his tongue between the round globes of flesh. He loved how Rodney smelled, and how his sub gasped and mewled whenever he was rimmed. He loved the feel of the puckered hole beneath his tongue and the way it glistened, moist with his saliva, when he drew back.


He teased Rodney for a long time, relishing the sounds of his sub’s moans, and then he moved his head, and pressed his lips against Rodney’s ass.


“Your marks have faded,” he murmured. “I think you should always be marked on this beautiful ass. I like to think of you walking around with my mark on you. So I’m going to bite you again. Hold still, Rodney.”


He reached out, and held Rodney down with his hands and his own bodyweight, because he knew Rodney would wriggle when he was being bitten, however hard he tried to be still. Rodney was gazing back at him over his shoulder, his eyes dark with arousal, and John knew that Rodney liked being marked as much as he liked marking him.


He found a nice, juicy spot on Rodney’s ass, and nuzzled at it. Then he kissed it, and then he licked it with his tongue, before sinking his teeth gently into the flesh. Rodney gave a little muted holler and writhed beneath him, and John held him down, keeping him pinned there, naked and vulnerable under his fierce caress.


He deepened the bite now, and Rodney suddenly went limp and submissive in his arms. That aroused John even more, and he growled into the bite, holding it for a few seconds longer, and then, finally, he released his sub. Rodney immediately reached back to touch the bite mark, and John moved his hand away.


“No touching,” he whispered, lapping at the red mark with his tongue to soothe away the pain. It looked beautiful – the most perfect mark, standing out vividly against Rodney’s pale flesh. Rodney looked dazed but happy, and John liked him that way.


He reached for the lube he’d thrown onto the blanket earlier, and smoothed it onto his fingers, and then knelt down between his sub’s thighs again. It didn’t matter how many times he entered Rodney’s tight hole, he could never get enough of it. He burned and ached for his sub when he wasn’t with him, and fantasised about being inside him.


John slid his fingers into Rodney’s hole, teasing the lube around the rim and then slipping inside the tight ring of muscle. Rodney was relaxed and ready for him, but John took his time anyway, finger fucking his sub for several minutes, just enjoying the sight of Rodney lying beneath him, his legs open, his body so enticing.


Then it was time. “Turn over,” John said, kissing Rodney’s shoulder affectionately. Rodney turned, and his collar flashed in the firelight as he did so. John kissed the collar, and then kissed Rodney’s neck, before settling himself between Rodney’s thighs again.


“Lift your legs onto my shoulders,” he said, and Rodney did as he was told, immediately, without question. John grinned down on his sub. He knew this new, silent Rodney wouldn’t last and he didn’t want him to, but he loved how responsive his sub was being now that he was wearing a collar.


“We’ll go nice and slow,” John purred, stroking Rodney’s now semi-erect cock with his hand. He took Rodney’s buttocks in his hands, and slid his hard cock into Rodney’s lubed entrance. “Lie back. Just watch me take you,” he said, and Rodney relaxed into the blankets and gazed up at him, his eyes still wide and aroused, completely obedient to John’s will.


John entered Rodney slowly, inch by inch. He loved watching his own cock disappear into Rodney’s body, loved the way it seemed to open Rodney up, making his body quiver, and causing him to make those beautiful little mewling sounds at the back of his throat. Rodney’s body was as accommodating as ever – sometimes John found it hard to believe that his big, blunt cock could fit so perfectly inside Rodney’s tight, puckered opening, but it always did, so smoothly.


He slid in as far as he could go, savouring the sensation of Rodney’s warm tightness enveloping his hard cock. Then he paused, looking down into Rodney’s dazed blue eyes, drinking in the sight of his collared sub beneath him. Finally, he moved his hips back and then thrust them forward again, angling his cock, hoping to hit Rodney’s prostate. Rodney’s eyes flashed and he let out a moan of pleasure so John figured he’d been successful, and he aimed the same way with each subsequent thrust.


He went slowly – although his need was urgent, he wanted this to last for as long as possible. Every now and then he lowered his head and caught Rodney’s lips in his own for a deep, loving kiss. “You’re mine now,” he said, thrusting inwards. “Collared.” He thrust again. “I love you,” he added, with a fond smile, moving his hips faster now. “God I love you.”


Rodney lay there, arms stretched out on the blanket, just gazing up at him with an expression of naked adoration on his face. He didn’t reply – he didn’t have to – his answer was written all over his face.


John lost track of time. The fire was still burning, warming their naked skin in the sultry night air, painting their naked bodies in hues of gold. He could hear the sea, and smell the fresh salty air, combined with the scent of his sub, and it was all so good. So incredibly good.


The inky night seemed to caress them, wrapping them in its darkness, while the moons bathed them in their silky silver light. Every now and then, the faint moonlight would catch the white gold metal of Rodney’s collar, and whenever that happened John would lean forward and kiss the collar, and then Rodney’s lips.


He couldn’t hold on any longer. He was moving fast now, slamming his hard cock into his collared sub, making Rodney pant and mewl with every deep thrust, and then he was coming, shouting Rodney’s name the way he often did. Just seconds later he saw Rodney’s come spurt out too.


John rested for a moment, his forehead against Rodney’s forehead, both of them breathing in time as they recovered from their orgasms, and then John gently withdrew from the tight, warm heat of Rodney’s body, and settled down beside him, taking his sub in his arms. They lay there, naked and content, top and sub, Rodney’s head resting on John’s shoulder, gazing up at the stars, the sweat cooling on their warm bodies.


“Have we named this beach yet?” Rodney murmured. “All those mapping expeditions your marines do. Did they name this beach?”


“Mmm. I don’t think so,” John replied, kissing Rodney’s hair. “I don’t let just anyone name things y’know.”


“Would you let me name this beach?” Rodney asked.


“Depends. What you gonna call it? Sheppard Sands? Rodney’s Point?” John asked.


Rodney snorted, and then giggled. “And you think other people shouldn’t name stuff! I dunno. I was thinking something for both of us. Not sure what. McSheppard Beach maybe?”


“Hmmm.” John kissed Rodney’s hair again. “How about Collar Bay?” he asked, his fingers finding the smooth metal on Rodney’s neck, and tracing over the engraving of his name. It gave him such a thrill to find it there, nestled so close to Rodney’s skin.


“Yeah,” Rodney said softly. He turned his head and gazed at John, his eyes bright and happy. “Yes. That’s it. Collar Bay.”




Rodney woke to find the first rosy hints of dawn on the horizon. He was wrapped up in a blanket, his body nestled into John’s, both of them entwined, John’s hands clasped protectively around his waist. Beside them, the fire had burnt itself out, and the table and chairs a few feet away looked kind of lost and forlorn now that the romance of the night was over.


Rodney moved his head, and heard the sound of his collar chinking. He smiled and reached up immediately to touch the smooth metal, remembering the sultry events of the previous night. He glanced at his top to find John lying there, eyes open and watching him, hair lifting in the light, morning breeze, a little smile on his face.


“Hey. Do you like it?” John asked, reaching out to touch the collar himself, his fingers trailing over Rodney’s neck at the same time, as if he couldn’t keep his hands off either the collar or Rodney. “The collar is a family heirloom – my parents gave it to me when I was twenty-one and it’s sat in the box ever since, waiting for the right person to come along. The identity tag is brand new – I got the engraving on it done by an Athosian artisan yesterday afternoon.”


He traced his fingers over the elegant lettering. John Sheppard.


“I didn’t want it to say “belongs to”, or “property of”, like they often do,” John continued. “You know what you are to me. Besides, I thought the underside said it well enough – and that’s just between you and me.”


Rodney ran his finger along the underside, his finger spelling out the single word written there.


“It’s perfect,” he said, because it was. Perfect and classy.


John leaned over and kissed him, and Rodney’s body responded the way it always did to John’s touch. There was no time for sex though – the sun was now a glowing ball on the horizon, and it was time to get back to the city. Reluctantly, the two men stood up, both naked and shivering slightly in the cool morning air. Rodney pulled his clothes on quickly and then surveyed the remains of the previous night’s meal.


“Leave it,” John said, grabbing the blankets. “I’ll come back and clear away later.”


He took hold of Rodney’s hand, and they walked up the beach together towards the jumper. Rodney paused when they got to the grassy verge at the top, and glanced back. The beach curved around, broad and sandy, and the sun was glinting brightly on the tops of the waves, making everything sparkle.


“We’ll come back,” John said, wrapping an arm around his waist. “A lot.”


“Yeah. If the Wraith don’t get us, or we don’t end up in a Genii prison cell…or worse, one of us ends up trapped somewhere, and the other is halfway across the galaxy powerless to help them and we’re separated….” Rodney trailed off, suddenly realising that this kind of intense love brought with it a whole raft of new things to be scared of.


“Ssh.” John placed a quiet kiss on the back of his neck. “There’s nowhere you could be that I wouldn’t come looking for you. I’d take on the whole universe if I had to.”


Rodney shivered because there was a tone of such intensity in John’s voice. He remembered the way his top had been a couple of days ago, and knew that however jealous he might get of Hicks, and all the people who routinely threw themselves at his top, he would never, ever underestimate the depth of John’s love for him. It had a dark edge, but Rodney could handle that. In fact, it helped him relax knowing that John’s emotions ran so deep. In the past, Rodney had never been able to let himself go and truly surrender himself to anyone because he doubted them too much. You couldn’t doubt John. He was the real deal.


They turned, and walked the rest of the way back to the puddle jumper and then flew across the ocean towards the bright lights of the city. John walked him to the door of his quarters, and then kissed him again.


“I’m gonna take a shower and get changed. I’ll drop by and pick you up in about half an hour so we can go to the mess hall,” he said.


“I guess it’d be easier if we were living together,” Rodney murmured, gazing at his top thoughtfully. He knew John wanted that, and he knew that he did too on some level, especially now that he was collared, but still he wasn’t quite there yet.


Giving up his quarters would mean losing the last aspects of his independence, and he wanted some time to get used to being collared before he committed to that. He suspected that being a collared sub brought changes enough of its own – changes that he might not always find easy.


“Yeah, it would, but I’m not hassling about that. In fact, I’m just going to leave that up to you,” John told him. “I won’t mention it again – just let me know when you’re ready.”


Rodney nodded, feeling a surge of gratitude towards his top. He never compared John to Bates, because the two tops were so completely different in their view of how to treat a sub, but he knew plenty of tops who wouldn’t be happy living apart from their collared sub. It meant a lot to him that John wasn’t going to press that issue.


Rodney took a shower and then wandered out into the bedroom, still naked, his hair dripping. He turned, and, catching sight of himself in the mirror, he paused, his eyes going to the flash of metal at his neck. He stopped and took a good look at himself. He looked completely different – to his own eyes at least. His body was more relaxed and loose-limbed than he’d ever seen it – usually he held himself in a stiff, tense way. His skin looked like it was glowing, and there was a perfect red bite mark on his ass. He ran his fingers over it, looking over his shoulder into the mirror. It looked beautiful – his top had placed it on his skin to serve as a constant reminder that he now belonged to the man who had collared him. Rodney tingled just looking at it. He turned and looked at himself more closely, and a collared sub stared back at him, lips curving into a happy grin as he trailed his fingers over his collar.


“Idiot,” he told himself, because this kind of ridiculous behaviour wasn’t something he expected of himself, but he couldn’t help it. He had never expected to be collared, but it had happened, and he felt so good about it he couldn’t stop himself from smiling.


He got dressed in his uniform, and surveyed himself again. The sleek metal collar glinted, clearly visible just above the open neck of his shirt. Nobody would be able to miss it. The engraving on it was clear and bold as well – you wouldn’t even have to get too close to see who had collared him.


He was still smiling when John dropped by ten minutes later. They walked to the mess hall together, side by side, arms touching, and when they got there, John grinned at him, and pushed him towards the food, while he went and sat down at a table.


Rodney felt ridiculously self-conscious as picked up a tray. When he got to the food he realised, with a wave of panic, that he had no idea what kinds of things John ate for breakfast. His top seemed to know exactly what *he* liked but Rodney had never paid much attention to what John liked. In the end, he decided to heap his tray full of a variety of everything, taking far more than even both of them would be able to eat. Then he walked back over to where John was sitting and put the tray in front of him. John gazed at it, and then burst out laughing.


“I know we used up a lot of calories last night but this is ridiculous,” he said. “Are you really this hungry?”


“Nope. Just…oh I have no idea what you eat,” Rodney sighed.


“This is so scarily you,” John said, still surveying the tray, still laughing.


At that moment Teyla came up, bearing her own tray. She sat down beside them and her gaze immediately fixed on the collar around Rodney’s neck. She inclined her head.


“Dr McKay, Colonel Sheppard. I offer you my warmest congratulations. I had wondered when you would collar Dr McKay,” she said to John. “I am pleased that it has happened. Our missions will be much simpler now, I think.”


Rodney snorted at that. He glanced at the tray, wondering when the hell John was going to start feeding them both.


“Thank you, Teyla.” John inclined his head towards her in return. “As for the missions – hopefully, but I think we both have some work to do on that.”


“Wait a minute…” Rodney said. “You were wondering when John would collar me? You *knew* about us?”


“Of course. I have watched Colonel Sheppard struggle with his feelings towards you for some time now,” she told him. “I have tried to teach him some meditations and simple physical routines to help him cope with his emotions but collaring you was always the best option. I am sure that he will find it easier now.”


“Right.” Rodney glanced at his top. John just shrugged.


“That time…you know, the planet of the sex-starved tops,” he said. “Teyla figured it out from there.”


“It took me several hours to bring him down after that expedition,” Teyla said, with a little smile in John’s direction.


“What she means is that she kicked my ass all around the practice room until she’d worn the fight out of me and then, when I was too exhausted to argue, she told me I had to tell you how I was feeling.” John made a face at him. “So I did.”


“I also told him he had to apologise for his behaviour towards you. I am sure that it must have been very puzzling for you, Dr McKay,” Teyla said.


Rodney didn’t reply to that because he was too busy focussing his attention back on the tray, thinking that if he’d been feeding himself he’d probably be done by now. What the hell was taking John so long? It was perfectly possible to talk and eat at the same time!


At that moment Ford bounced up. He sat down beside them, and flashed Teyla one of his boyish grins. Rodney rolled his eyes – all of Ford’s boyish grins had so far failed to melt Teyla’s heart so he had no idea why Ford kept bothering.


“Man, you must be hungry, Colonel,” Ford said, glancing at John’s tray. Then he paused, and glanced back again, noticing how the two men only had one tray between them. “Oh shit. Holy freaking shit!” he said, a wide grin spreading from ear to ear. “You’re sharing a freaking plate!” His gaze flickered over the collar around Rodney’s neck, and then he grabbed John’s hand and shook it enthusiastically. “Congratulations sir, although…you know, Rodney?” He made a face. “I think you could’a done better,” he said in a conspiratorial undertone that Rodney caught all the same.


“Thank you, Ford,” John drawled, in that slow, deadly, ironic way he had. “But I doubt that.” He glanced at Rodney with a look that took all the sting out of Ford’s words.


“Okay. I’ll take your word for it,” Ford said. “Way to go, Rodney. Landing the colonel here.” He sat back down and stuck a forkful of sausage into his mouth. Rodney envied him.


“If the congratulating is out of the way, can we eat now?” Rodney asked plaintively.


John grinned at him and reached for his fork. “Am I too slow for you?” he said.


“Well, seeing as how you’re about the slowest eater I’ve ever met, Colonel, and McKay is the fastest, I’d have said you two are gonna have some fun mealtimes,” Ford grinned.


Rodney glowered at him, and then gazed back at the tray with a meaningful expression on his face. Finally – *finally* – John pushed some eggs onto his fork. He was just about to hold it up to Rodney’s mouth when Carson arrived.


“Hey Doc.” The fork remained on the plate as Carson sat down beside them and John turned to greet him. Rodney sighed. Carson’s blue eyes missed nothing of course – he immediately took in the sight of Rodney’s sleek metal collar, and his face broke into a big smile.


“I can see you wasted no time at all, Colonel!” he beamed. “Congratulations to you, laddie. This is the best news!”


He got up and insisted on wrapping John in a big bear hug. Rodney scowled as the fork was now abandoned while John and Carson shared a little toppy celebration. Then Carson was advancing around the table on him and, after a glance to John for permission, was forcing him into a big bear hug too.


“Rodney, I’m so happy for you!” he said, overcome with emotion. “Damn it, why do I always get so misty-eyed when a collaring has taken place?” He wiped the sleeve of his white coat over his eyes. “Honestly, and when I think of the pair of you just a few months ago, sitting at this very table and swearing blind that you were neither of you interested in either collaring or being collared. You, laddie.” He fixed John with a fierce glare. “You said it was more trouble than it was worth. And you, laddie.” He turned to Rodney and subjected him to an equally fierce glare. “You said it was a total waste of time. And now look at the pair of you! Sitting here, sharing a plate.” He gave another of those beaming smiles, his eyes looking suspiciously glassy.


“Yes, well, it isn’t a big deal,” Rodney said testily.


“Absolutely not,” John agreed, nodding, and looking faintly alarmed by Carson’s very public display of sentimentality. “I just thought a collar would keep him out of trouble.”


“Really?” Ford grinned around his mouthful of food, sounding utterly incredulous. “Because, you know, this is McKay we’re talking about here.”


“Yes, thank you, Ford,” Rodney glowered.


“Was it a romantic moment?” Carson asked, with a little sigh, one hand on each man’s shoulders. “I do love hearing about romantic collarings.”


John and Rodney glanced at each other, and Rodney felt John’s foot press very firmly on his toes under the table.


“Not really,” they both said, shaking their heads.


“Nah. We don’t really go in for all that hearts and flowers type stuff,” John added.


Rodney gazed at him across the table, remembering a candlelit table on a beach, a roaring fire, and the stars overhead as they made love, waves lapping gently on the seashore just yards away.


“Yeah. Not our style. Not a romantic bone in our bodies, remember?” Rodney said.


“Hmm.” Carson gazed at them both suspiciously. “Okay, lads, if that’s the way you want to play it.” He clapped them both on the shoulders again.


Rodney’s eyes lit up as he saw John pick up the fork once more, and he didn’t notice Carson getting up to stand on his chair until it was too late.


“Listen up, people – there’s been a collaring!” Carson hollered to the entire mess hall. “Brave man that he is, our own good Colonel Sheppard has decided to collar the redoubtable Dr McKay!”


He started clapping his hands, and a ripple of applause went around the room. People started to get up and come over, and Rodney’s heart sank as they were surrounded by a crowd wanting to shake John’s hand, and take a look at Rodney’s collar. Now there was no chance of breakfast as they dealt with the tumult around them.


Carson settled down at the table again, pushed his spoon into his bowl of cereal, and fixed Rodney with a beaming smile. “Well, if you will lie to your doctor, laddie, you must accept the consequences,” he said, and then he broke out laughing at Rodney’s glowering response.


Rodney never did get to eat his breakfast. He ended up grabbing a donut on his way to the lab, and rushed in half an hour late for work, grinning at everyone on his way to his workstation because, despite missing breakfast, and the embarrassment of everyone standing around looking at his neck, it *had* been pretty damn cool to show off to the world that *he* was now Colonel John Sheppard’s collared sub.


Miko glanced up, as she always did when he entered the room, and started to give him one of her respectful little bows – and then paused as she caught sight of the metal around his neck. She gave an audible gasp, got up, and went into one of the most elaborate bowing rituals Rodney had ever seen her give.


“Dr McKay! Oh…Dr McKay! You have been collared. I am so happy for you. Who is the person you have honoured with your submission? Oh…I see it is Colonel Sheppard!”


Rodney detected a note of disappointment in her eyes and wondered whether that crush she had on his brain might also have extended to his body, or whether she just didn’t think John was worthy of him. Although, judging by the look in her eyes, he doubted she thought *anyone* was worthy of him.


“I do hope that you and the colonel will be very happy,” she said. “And if you are not then you must not stay with him,” she added firmly.


“Yes, thank you. I’ll be sure to bear that in mind,” Rodney replied, wondering if he was going to be able to avoid a repeat of all the fuss that had just taken place in the mess hall.


It was not to be. Those of his staff who hadn’t been in the mess hall all came up to congratulate him. Now that he was collared, nobody shook his hand or touched his arm, and he noticed the difference immediately. It gave him a tiny little thrill. His body was now the very public property of John Sheppard. The collar proclaimed it, and the rules of their own society acknowledged it. Nobody would touch him from now on without seeking John’s permission first.


“Yes, yes, yes, thank you everyone but could we please get back to work!” Rodney announced, after it had all gone on for long enough in his view. Much as he enjoyed being the centre of attention he wasn’t used to it, and it freaked him out a little. Plus – he was starving! The crowd around him finally dispersed and he reached for his donut longingly, his stomach now rumbling alarmingly – and then caught sight of Radek, gazing at him steadily from his work station.


“Did you want to congratulate me too?” he growled.


“Not really.” Radek gave a tight little smile, and Rodney felt vaguely insulted. “I mean, is good if belonging to another person is what you want.” He gave a dismissive little shrug.


Rodney frowned. “Hello! Sub!” He pointed at himself.


“Yes, yes. I know.” Radek shrugged again. “Toppy sub who terrorises all under his command,” he muttered to himself as he turned away.


“Radek, do you have a problem with me?” Rodney asked, surprised by Radek’s tone. Radek turned back to him, his expression softening.


“No, no I do not. I just…you said many times you were not interested in top in your life and now…poof!” Radek threw up his hands dramatically. “I thought maybe you were one of the more sensible ones, despite many indications that you are complete raving madman most of the time. No, please, do not listen to me. This is happy occasion, yes? Congratulations, Rodney.”


Rodney leaned in close, trying to keep their conversation as private as possible. He was surprised to find that Radek’s lack of enthusiasm actually hurt him a little. He hadn’t realised how much he’d come to view Radek as a good friend.


“Did you have your eye on John yourself?” he asked, with a little grin, trying for some humour.


“No. Am not sub,” Radek told him.


“Well you sure as hell didn’t have your eye on me,” Rodney snorted.


“No.” Radek rolled his eyes. “Am not top, either. Or switch. Also, not interested in men. Only women.” He said that in a defiant little whisper, as if scared of Rodney’s response. Rodney rocked back on his heels, finally figuring it out. It didn’t bother him at all – hell, after his upbringing he was hardly one to judge.


“Ah. I see. Pervert,” he grinned, defusing the situation with a joke. Radek shook his head and gave a little snort of laughter, visibly relaxing.


“I tell Colonel Sheppard you go around hugging us all today,” he said. Rodney’s grin faded.


“Don’t even joke about it,” he said.


“Or that you are rude to Lady Elizabeth. That you like to polish Miko’s shiny boots. That you disobey his orders when he is not around. Yes?”


Rodney snorted, and shook his head. “Man, I’m so screwed, you pervy little blackmailer.”


Radek grinned at him, and Rodney grinned back. He might not identify with Radek’s frankly weird sexuality, but he hadn’t realised how much the Czech scientist’s good opinion mattered to him. Radek was one of those people who crept up on you – one minute he was just Rodney’s lab dogsbody, and next he realised the guy was one of his closest friends.


Elizabeth dropped by the lab later that morning.


“Busy?” she asked him, her gaze flickering to the collar around his neck, although she made no mention of it. Something about the way she asked the question made it abundantly clear that unless the city was under attack then the right answer to her question should be “no”.


“Always,” he replied instead. “But I can spare you half an hour.”


“I’m honoured.” She inclined her head towards him with a little smile. He expected to go to her office, but she walked him instead down to the east pier. They stood there, looking out over the sunlit ocean, and Rodney wondered what this was all about. She didn’t say anything for a long time, and he found himself fidgeting nervously. Then, finally, she turned to him, and her eyes were serious.


“Rodney, you’re not one of my submissives, but I’ve always had a special soft spot for you, as you know,” she said.


“Uh, not really,” he murmured, surprised. She frowned at him.


“Rodney,” she said softly, in a chiding tone. They went back a long way, she and him. She’d always championed him, even when he’d been deeply unpopular with the SGC. Despite his brilliance, they found him a nuisance, and he’d had run-ins with various high-ranking officials who hadn’t taken too kindly to his manner. Elizabeth had seen past that, and it had been at her express command that he’d been appointed Head of Science on this expedition.


“Okay. Yes,” he agreed, flushing slightly.


“I was upset that you were so unhappy during our early days here, and now – well, I only have to look at you to see that you’re thriving, and I believe that’s because you’ve found the right top,” she said, and her gaze flickered to the name on his collar again. “However…I wanted to check that you know what you’re doing. John Sheppard is a good man – I like him enormously – but is he what you want? I never thought I’d see you collared to be honest. You were always so dead set against it, and your personality doesn’t take kindly to being curbed, even by the kindest of tops. And I’m not entirely sure that Sheppard is likely to be a particularly lenient dominant, despite your obvious personal chemistry with him.”


Rodney gazed at her, aghast. She sighed.


“Rodney, before I left Earth, I had a collared submissive,” she told him. “At one point I had several, but over the course of time I realised that it was more rewarding for me, on a personal level, to have only one. Simon was a doctor. He was an extremely willing submissive, and I loved him very much. He was respectful and kind, excellent at his job, and we had many things in common. And yet….” She sighed again, and examined her hands. “When I knew I was coming on this expedition, I asked him to come with me. He was collared, but we weren’t married. I knew he loved me, but he loved his job too…and, despite our love and obvious compatibility, he chose to stay behind. I had no option but to rescind his collar – I could hardly expect him to wait for me to come back from god knew where, and he was a submissive who required a strong and loving top. He would have been unhappy alone. I had to set him free.”


“Why are you telling me all this, Elizabeth?” Rodney asked quietly. Elizabeth was an extremely private person, and he felt honoured that she had shared this with him – but at the same time confused as to what she was getting at.


“Because you are too important to this expedition, and to me, personally, for you to be unhappy. We’ve all seen the consequences of you being unhappy and it’s not something that I, for one, wish to go through again,” she said, in a heartfelt tone. Rodney shut his eyes, briefly, and his breath caught in his throat as he remembered the humiliation and pain of the judicial punishments he’d endured.


“Me neither,” he muttered.


“I feel that I failed you then and I don’t want to fail you again,” she told him firmly. “It’s hard to live and work so closely together – and a collaring isn’t a marriage. I thought that Simon would wear my collar forever but life didn’t work out that way.”


“You’re afraid of what will happen if John and I split up,” Rodney said slowly. She shook her head.


“I know life doesn’t come with any guarantees,” she said. “I just need to know, after all those issues with Bates, that you’ve thought this through – that you weren’t just swept up in the moment. I can see that you’re clearly happy with Sheppard – I’ve never seen you look so good to be honest – but wearing someone’s collar is about more than just the excitement and romance. Sometimes submission is hard, Rodney. Hell, dominance is too!” She gave a little laugh. “Some subs refuse to be collared – they know themselves well enough to know they could never truly submit to anyone else, despite their sexual inclinations.”


“You think I’m one of those subs?” Rodney asked.


“No. I don’t. I think that you’ll find safety, security and contentment in your collar,” she told him. “And I think those are things you’ve craved for a very long time. But they come with a price.”


“I love him,” Rodney told her, shaking his head. “And I trust him. I don’t know what else to say.”


“That is all I wanted to hear,” she said softly, smiling for the first time. “Now, I spoke to Colonel Sheppard earlier, and he gave me permission to do this.”


She took hold of his shoulders, and bestowed a kiss on each of his cheeks. He remembered how she’d kissed his forehead when he’d been injured, and he felt an enormous wave of loyalty and respect for her. She had been trying to give him an opening today, a way to admit if he wasn’t entirely happy, and he had clearly banished any doubts she had on that score.


“Congratulations, Rodney,” she told him, smiling broadly now. “I hope you’ll be very happy.”


“Well I thought I was going to be but you’ve freaked me out now!” he complained. She laughed out loud.


“I just needed to be sure,” she said drawing back, smiling at him fondly, one hand resting on his cheek. “To be honest, I think he’s good for you. But finding your submission isn’t easy. There will be times when you’ll find it very hard indeed, but I don’t think you’ll ever seriously doubt that you made the right decision when you bent your head to take his collar. He has an intensity that I hadn’t suspected at first – I think I was taken in, as we all were, by that casual exterior. And although the road can, sometimes, be hard, I envy you the journey, with all its ups and downs. I loved having a collared sub, and one day I hope to collar someone again. It’s as beautiful as it can be hard. I would never have guessed that you and Sheppard of all people would end up together, but you make a strange kind of sense! You complement each other somehow.”


She smiled at him again, and then her demeanour changed, and became much more brisk and businesslike, and he realised just how honoured he had been to get a little glimpse of the woman behind the leader.


“I hope you find someone,” he said, quickly. “Although, frankly, I’m not sure if anyone around here is good enough for you.”


She grinned. “I felt the same way about you,” she said. “As I’m sure Colonel Sheppard will tell you when you see him. I gave him quite a grilling. I wanted to be sure he knew what he was taking on, how he felt about you, and that he’d treat you properly.”


“Oh god. What did you say to him?”


“That you’d be a handful, that you’d drive him insane at times, and did he know what he was getting into,” she said. He felt himself bristling at that but she calmed him with a look. “And that you were special, and that you’d be worth it,” she added softly.


He gazed at her, feeling a little winded. She grinned. “Now, I’ve kept you from your work for long enough. I know how busy and important you are.” She gave him a sly wink at that. “See you later, Rodney.”


She took off, a willowy, compact figure in her tight red leather suit. She always looked so in control and in command. He’d never guessed the heartache that lay behind that calm façade.


He tried to imagine what would happen if he or John got a job offer somewhere else, and the other one didn’t want to go with them. His work had always been the most important thing in his life up until now but he was starting to see that there was a whole lot more to this collar around his neck than just regular sessions of extremely hot sex.


“Hey,” a voice broke into his reverie and he turned to see John striding up the hallway towards him. John put a hand on his shoulder, and guided him back out onto the pier without even breaking his stride. Rodney was suddenly acutely aware of the ease and familiarity of John’s touch on his body. It had only been a morning, but already he could feel the vast difference between the way others avoided touching him compared with John’s casual ease and sense of ownership when handling his body. “You just have the big conversation with Elizabeth?” John asked, looking a little grim.


“Yeah.” Rodney made a face at him. “Kind of brought me down to earth,” he said with a sigh.


“Me too. But she’s right in a way. We’ve never talked about where this is going for us, or even how our dynamic will pan out. I just…” John hesitated and then looked him squarely in the eye. “I meant what I said about us taking the journey together,” he said. “This is as new to me as it is to you. I never thought I’d collar anyone – just as you never thought you’d accept anyone’s collar. I don’t have all the answers and I doubt I ever will, but maybe we need to talk about the issue. I’ve never been the kind of top who wanted to share a plate with anyone before, or who got jealous when my sub was touched, and as for the way I got a couple of days ago when you were wearing the shield and when I thought you’d died…hell, this stuff is all new to me.”


“And me,” Rodney agreed.


“Where…” John licked his full lower lip, looking agitated. “Where do you want to go with your submission, Rodney? I can take you down as far as you want to go, but I never want to change you. I like you being you too much.”


“I’m just going to trust you to get it right – and I’ll tell you if you don’t,” Rodney replied. “I’ve never trusted anyone enough to even attempt it before but with you…it’s different. To be honest, I don’t think I ever found my own subspace before you came along and it’s not always easy getting there, but when I’m in that zone it all feels so damn good. I want you to go further, John. I want you to test my limits.”


“Damn it.” John glanced around. “I wish I could test them right now. It’s making me feel horny just talking about it.” He placed his hands on Rodney’s butt and pulled him in close, resting their foreheads together. “I know what she was trying to say, and I accept it will sometimes be hard, but you’re mine, Rodney, and I will never, ever, voluntarily rescind your collar, whatever happens.”


Rodney wrapped his big hands around John’s back and stroked him, feeling the intensity of emotion vibrating along the hard lines of John’s muscles. Despite everything, he couldn’t help but think that maybe Elizabeth’s reality check had done them both good.


Rodney was reminded of his conversation with Elizabeth just a few days later, when the team went on a trading mission to a world Teyla had visited in the past.


“The Athosians have traded with them many times. They are good people,” she told Rodney, as they began the two day walk to the village.


“People who make us walk through forests for two days just because they’re afraid of technology don’t get included in my definition of ‘good’,” Rodney grumbled, disliking the weight of his pack on his shoulders, and the continuous trickle of sweat that was pooling in the small of his back.


“They are not afraid,” Teyla replied calmly. “They simply believe that technology is an insult to their gods, and refuse to allow it into their dwellings.”


“Well more fool them,” Rodney groused. “I’m sure they’d be a lot happier if they had electricity and running water but no, they prefer to keep things natural because their ‘gods’ say so.”


“You’re just pissed because we have to walk to meet them rather than take the jumper,” Ford grinned, meandering along like an over-energetic puppy, seemingly completely untroubled by the weight of his pack.


“Hello! Yes. I am!” Rodney said, rolling his eyes at how obvious that statement was.


“At least it’s not raining,” John commented, in that annoyingly cheerful tone he sometimes adopted. “Remember last time we had to go trekking like this? It rained the whole time.”


“Whereas now it’s just blazingly hot,” Rodney snapped, glancing up at the two baking suns that were shining down on them relentlessly. “So we won’t drown but we might well burn to death. Thank god I brought my sunscreen.”


They reached the edge of the settlement a day and a half later, and Teyla stopped.


“We must not take guns or any electrical equipment into the village,” she said earnestly.


“Okay. I’m not exactly happy about the guns thing but as you can vouch for these people I’ll live with it,” John sighed, unholstering various items of weaponry and handing them to Ford. Finally, he and Teyla both removed their radios and handed them over too. “Right – Ford, McKay – you both stay here and guard the equipment. Teyla and I will go talk to the natives.”


“You mean we walked all this way just to stand outside?” Rodney asked plaintively.


“It should not take too long,” Teyla said. “We will pay our respects to them, and, if they are happy to trade with us, then they will invite us into their circle for refreshments.”


“Fine. I just hope the refreshments are damn good to make up for all this walking,” Rodney groused.


“Be good, Rodney,” John said, gazing at him meaningfully as he set off with Teyla.


Rodney rolled his eyes at his top’s back as John disappeared into the village. Then Rodney removed his pack, and used it as a seat, picked up his laptop and opened it up. This whole mission was a giant waste of time as far as he was concerned, and he had zero patience for people who weren’t interested in technology – or people who believed in ‘gods’ for that matter.


“You shouldn’t really be using that here,” Ford said, leaning against a tree. “These people aren’t comfortable with technology. Why’d you even bring it with you?”


“Because I suspected I might end up alone with you and thought it would be a good diversion?” Rodney suggested irascibly. Ford was okay, but his sly digs always rubbed Rodney up the wrong way, and he hadn’t forgiven the lieutenant for telling John that he could do better than Rodney.


“Whatever. Man, I have no idea what the colonel sees in you,” Ford muttered.


Rodney ignored him, and continued working on his laptop. He detected a strange energy reading, and frowned, then opened up the parameters to get more of a fix on it.


“Shit,” he said, dropping the laptop as if it was white hot.


“What?” Ford reached instinctively for his gun.


“This…is amazing.” Rodney picked up the laptop again, completely stunned. “I wonder if Teyla’s technophobe friends would like to explain how, on a planet with no technology, there’s a massive energy source sitting right over…there.” Rodney twirled round, and then pointed over to one side, towards a clearing, still tracking the energy reading on the laptop. He started walking towards it.


“McKay! Hey, McKay – where are you going?” Ford called.


Rodney kept on walking. “To find the source of this reading of course.”


“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” Ford said.


“Are you kidding? Or maybe you don’t understand.” Rodney turned, irritated. “An energy source this big can only belong to one thing – a ZPM.”


“Great. I know we need one. But the colonel told us to wait here.”


“Well yes, but that’s because he didn’t know I’d find a ZPM over *there*,” Rodney said slowly, as if explaining things to an imbecile.


“Why don’t we just wait until he comes back and then we can all go look for it together?” Ford suggested.


“Why wait?” Rodney screwed up his face into a frown. “It’s a ZPM, Ford! With this, I’ll be able to get Atlantis working properly again! We’ll have a shield, something to protect us from the Wraith! Don’t you understand what that means?”


“Sure. I just don’t see why we can’t wait for the colonel,” Ford said, gazing anxiously back in the direction of the village. “Besides, you’re assuming that these people will just hand it over to us.”


“They probably will,” Rodney said happily. “It’s no use to them after all – they don’t even use technology. They probably think it’s just some pretty Ancient artefact that’s been lying around the place for a few thousand years. We could trade them a few crates of chocolate for it and they’d probably be happy enough.”


He carried on walking, and a few seconds later he heard Ford run up behind him.


“Aren’t you scared the big bad colonel will tell you off for disobeying his orders?” Rodney taunted, amused by how seriously Ford was taking this.


“Yeah – but I’m even more afraid of living without my balls after he’s torn them off because I let you wander off alone and something bad happened to you,” Ford snorted.


“Well, thank you for sharing that mental image,” Rodney replied, making a face. “But you’re making a big deal out of nothing. These people don’t even have guns, remember, and we do.”


They reached the clearing, and found a sunken temple.


“Hah,” Rodney said. “As I thought. Clearly some kind of Ancient ruin.”


He opened a rusty old door and walked inside, still tracking the energy source on his laptop, and then stopped short. There, in the centre of the temple, sitting on an altar and glowing very prettily, was a ZPM.


“My god. It’s just *sitting* there. In plain sight!” Rodney cooed, entranced by it. He had been looking for a ZPM for months, and now they’d just stumbled across one like this. He walked over to it, and examined the altar. “It’s cradled in some incredibly primitive device that makes it light up – and nothing else! It performs no other function!” he exclaimed incredulously. “They’ve got the most powerful source of energy in the galaxy sitting here and they’re using it as a lightbulb!” He reached out, and pulled the ZPM off the altar.


“Uh, doc – we can’t just walk off with it,” Ford said.


“Why not? I told you – they’re using it to make pretty lights,” Rodney snorted. “They don’t *deserve* to have a ZPM. It’s a total waste of its power and resources.”


He turned and started walking back to where he’d left his pack, Ford close on his heels.


“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Ford said.


“ZPM! ZPM!” Rodney told him, too excited to think straight. He was already making a mental inventory of all the systems in the city that he could get working now he had a fully powered ZPM. It made him go tingly all over just at the thought of it.


“Uh…McKay. You know that bad feeling I had?” Ford muttered.


Rodney looked up. Ahead of them was a little crowd of villagers. They didn’t have any weapons but they didn’t look very happy. They were spread out, creating a little wall between Rodney and his pack.


“I’ll take care of this,” Rodney said, stepping forward. “Good people, I saw…” he began, and then stopped as the crowd started to hum, menacingly, as they advanced on them. “Oh shit,” he hissed.


“This – is scarier than if they were armed,” Ford said, standing back to back with Rodney and holding up his gun helplessly. The crowd kept pushing forward until they had created a humming ring around Rodney and Ford. None of them spoke, and they wouldn’t answer Rodney’s repeated questions – they just stood there, humming threateningly.


Then, suddenly, without warning, the humming stopped.


“Oh thank god,” Rodney said.


An old man pushed his way into the clearing, and with him were John and Teyla. John’s body was tight and anxious, and he sought out Rodney and checked him over with his eyes to satisfy himself his sub was unharmed, and then visibly relaxed.


“What is the meaning of this?” the chieftain asked, gazing at Rodney.


“I have no idea!” Rodney replied. “One minute we were just walking along and the next they surrounded us and they were all *humming*.”


“I mean – this.” The chieftain pointed at the ZPM Rodney was clutching. “Why have you removed the Sacred Jewel of Bathsheba from her awnings?”


“The what? From her what?” Rodney frowned. “This isn’t a sacred artefact,” he sighed irritably. “It’s a ZPM. A Zero Point Module. It….”


“Dr McKay,” Teyla cut in. “I believe that it might be a ZPM to you, but to these people it *is* a scared artefact,” she said.


“He took it from the temple, Janul,” one of the villagers told the chieftain, glaring at Rodney. “He went in there with his device, and removed the sacred jewel with his own hands.”


“Now look, if Rodney’s made a mistake then he’s happy to just hand the, uh, sacred jewel back,” John said, stepping into the fray. “He just didn’t recognise it. He thought it was something else.”


“I thought it was a ZPM and that’s exactly what it bloody well…” Rodney paused, taking in the dark expression on John’s face. “A sacred jewel? Right. I can see that now. Fine. Okay.”


“Give it back, Rodney,” John said, in a warning voice.


“You don’t think these nice people might like to trade the pretty sacred jewel for something else?” Rodney hazarded. “Like chocolate?”


“Take a look around you, Rodney,” John said firmly. “Do they look like people who want to trade with us right now?”


Rodney glanced around, noticing the hostile faces, and the sense of anger that was bristling from the entire community.


“Not exactly,” he admitted.


“So hand over the ZPM and then maybe we should take our leave and go,” John said, slowly and calmly.


“Okay,” Rodney squeaked, finally realising that he might actually be in danger from people he had dismissed as unarmed simpletons. He edged forward, and placed the ZPM on the floor, at the chieftain’s feet.


The chieftain gave him a look of such haughty disdain that he wanted to crawl into a hole in the ground and die – and right now, he was thinking that might be a preferable option to walking back to the gate with an angry John Sheppard.


“You people have come in here and violated all we hold dear,” Janul said.


“So, I’m guessing the trading is off?” John ventured. Janul stared at him mirthlessly. “Okay. Like I thought. Right…so, how about we just back off and return to where we came from?” John suggested. “We won’t come back again. We’ll just turn around and go home. Peacefully,” he added pointedly. Janul gazed at him dispassionately.


“I think that would be best,” he said. “Teyla, you are no longer welcome here, either. I wish you had not brought these violators with you. Please leave – now. We are a peaceful people but you have hurt us deeply. My people will not be able to tolerate your presence on our soil for much longer, and I cannot vouch for what they will do if you do not leave immediately.”


“Okay, we know when we’re not wanted. Ford, McKay. Let’s get moving,” John said. Rodney ran after the others as they took off, backing slowly away from the outraged villagers until they felt safe enough to turn tail and walk out of there. “Rodney, you’re with me,” John ordered, and Rodney fell into step beside his top. John reached out and his fingers dug, a little too hard, into Rodney’s neck. “And please don’t leave my sight until we’re home,” John hissed into his ear. Rodney swallowed, hard. This was bad on so many levels.


“My pack!” he said, suddenly remembering that he’d left it behind. “I don’t have my pack!”


“Well we’re not going back to get it,” John said grimly. “Somehow I don’t think they’d take very kindly to that, do you?”


“But, it’s got my water, power bars, MREs, bedroll, everything!” Rodney wailed.


“I don’t care. Now keep moving,” John said, his fingers digging even harder into Rodney’s neck as he propelled him along the dusty track through the trees.




End of Part Fifteen



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