Coming Home: 16. The Punishment


They walked for several hours straight, nobody saying a word. Rodney could sense the angry tension pouring from his top’s stiff body and he didn’t dare open his mouth to say anything, although a whole torrent of complaints were just on the tip of his tongue.


Whenever he lagged behind, or if he moved too much over to one side, John would click his fingers at him and point to a position by his side. Rodney didn’t dare protest so he just hurried up to where John wanted him to be – which was basically within distance of his hand at all times. Rodney was pretty sure that that was so that if he made so much as one complaint, John had easy access to the back of his head to slap it.


Rodney had plenty of time to dwell on what had happened as they walked, and, while at first he felt defiant and angered by the confrontation with the villagers, he soon felt that ebb away, leaving him to face up to the very unpleasant realisation that their current situation was pretty much all his fault. He was fairly sure that John would see it that way too.


Rodney, for all his faults, was always honest at owning up when he’d made a mistake, and this wasn’t any different. He started berating himself within fifteen minutes of leaving the village and continued for the next several hours, silently going over the whole event, and kicking himself every step of the way.


Finally, when the village was a very long way behind them and John was sure they weren’t being followed, they stopped. Teyla, John and Ford all reached for their canteens of water, and Rodney watched them, miserably. He was so thirsty that his dry mouth was all he could think about, but he’d lost his own canteen and with the atmosphere the way it was, he didn’t dare ask anyone for any of their water.


Teyla pulled out a power bar and took a bite, and Rodney licked his lips. He was hungry too, although his thirst over-rode just about any other sensation.


“Rodney – come here.”


John pointed at a spot in front of his feet, and Rodney went over obediently. John placed the canteen of water against his lips and Rodney drank, gratefully. John let him drink his fill, before replacing it in his pack. Then he pulled out a power bar. Rodney looked away. He didn’t seriously expect to be fed – the water might be a biological necessity but considering he’d screwed up the entire mission, *and* lost his own pack into the bargain, he wasn’t expecting any more kindness. John snapped the bar in half, and then held it up to Rodney’s lips. Rodney shook his head, unable to accept it.


“I screwed up. I’m sorry,” he muttered.


“Yes you did,” John said calmly.


“We will pool our rations and share them,” Teyla said, breaking off some of her power bar.


“No we won’t,” John replied. “Rodney wears my collar so I’m responsible for him. If he screwed up then I’ll go short with him, but there’s no reason why anyone else should. Now eat,” John commanded. Rodney gazed at him mutely. “You really don’t want to disobey another one of my orders today,” John told him, in a hard tone.


Rodney opened his mouth and accepted the power bar immediately at that. He had never enjoyed eating anything less – it tasted like dust on his tongue. John fed him the rest of his half of the power bar and then gave him some more to drink, before replacing the cap on the canteen and putting it back in his pack. Then he glanced around.


“Okay. I’m going to keep this short because we still have some distance to cover before we can set up camp for the night. Ford – why did you disobey my orders?” John asked. Ford came to attention immediately in front of John.


“Sorry, sir. We got readings on the ZPM and thought it was worth checking out,” he said.


Rodney shook his head. “He’s being all noble. The truth is that he wanted to stay where you left us but I wanted to investigate the readings. I went off, and he was left with a decision as to whether to stay behind, or keep me company. He thought you’d be more annoyed with him if he let me go off alone than if he came too, so that’s why he ran after me.”


“Okay. I see. Well, Ford, you were right,” John said. “Okay people.” He picked up his pack again. “Let’s get moving.”


“Is that it?” Rodney said. “One question and you’re done?”


“Oh no, Rodney. I’m not done, not by a long shot,” John told him, in a tone that made Rodney shiver. “I just wanted to find out Ford’s contribution to this giant fuckup. Now I know. We’ll talk about your part in it when we get home. In private.”


“Right. Okay. That sounds bad,” Rodney gulped, doing an agitated dance at John’s side as they set off again. “Is it as bad as it sounds?”


John glanced at him coolly. “I’d say yes,” he replied, and then his hand came up to rest on Rodney’s shoulder again, and, despite his anxiety, that calmed Rodney down, the way it always did. There was something warm and affectionate about his top’s touch that reassured him, even if the hand felt a little heavy, and there was a note of warning in the caress.


They stopped for the night a few hours later. Teyla and John set up the tents while Rodney and Ford made a campfire on the forest floor.


“So, you okay?” Ford asked him, glancing over at where John was silently pitching the tent. “Is he really mad at you?”


“Yeah,” Rodney replied miserably. “He is.”


“I’m sorry about that,” Ford said, and he sounded as if he meant it. “D’you think he’ll give you a licking when we get home?”


Rodney’s stomach did a little flip. He’d been studiously trying not to even think about what was going to happen when they got home. He and John had never even talked about discipline, and he had no idea what John’s response might be to his behaviour earlier. So far, being collared had been all about incessant sex and more kissing than he’d done in his life to date so far, but he knew that being collared brought with it other responsibilities too – on both sides.


Before being collared, the most he might have expected after today’s fuck-up was a snappy lecture about disobeying his team leader’s orders, together with a reprimand from Elizabeth when they got home. Now that he was collared, things were different – and he was suddenly acutely aware of that fact.


“I really have no idea,” he sighed. “Probably.”


His stomach lurched again at that. John hadn’t punished him once since he’d taken him as his sub, and Rodney suddenly remembered Elizabeth’s words about John not being a lenient top. He wondered if she was right, and how he felt about that. John had shown a fairly light touch so far but maybe there was a small yearning in every sub to know exactly what the boundaries were and how much (or little) your top would allow you to get away with.


Rodney clasped his hands around his knees and gazed at the fire Ford had managed to get lit. Ford sat down beside him.


“Here,” he said.


Rodney looked down and saw two squares of chocolate in Ford’s hand. He glanced at Ford, and saw a look of empathy in the other man’s eyes. Their former long-standing, low-level quarrel was now forgotten – at this moment in time they were both just subs who knew what it was like to be in trouble.


“Thanks,” Rodney said, taking the chocolate and slipping it into his mouth. The gesture warmed him as much as the chocolate itself, and he started to feel a little less miserable.


They ate a silent meal around the fire. John shared his MRE scrupulously with Rodney, feeding him one spoonful for each of his own, but it was barely adequate, especially after the long day’s walking.


Then came the moment Rodney dreaded. Teyla and Ford disappeared into one tent, and John went into the other. Rodney stayed out by the fire for a long time, just staring at the flames, delaying the inevitable. Finally, John stuck his head out of the tent.


“Rodney,” he said, and his voice was weary, as if he had very little patience left.


Rodney got up immediately, went over to the tent, and slid inside. He had no bedroll, so he was resigned to a chilly night. He lay down, stiffly, on his back, and stared miserably at the canvas ceiling.


“Oh for god’s sake.” John reached out, and pulled him into the warmth of his own bedroll. “On your side. It’ll be snug but we can fit,” John said, holding him close and zipping up the sleeping bag around them both. “You didn’t seriously think I’d make you sleep over there in the cold, did you?” John asked, his voice low and soft in Rodney’s ear.


“I probably deserve it,” Rodney muttered.


“I’ll decide what you deserve,” John told him. “And I’m not going to let my much loved sub freeze his ass off – it gets damn cold on this planet at night as you well know.”


He wrapped his arms tightly around Rodney’s body, and Rodney felt a warm, gentle kiss being pressed to the back of his neck. He lowered his head and kissed the patch of bare arm that was wrapped around his upper chest, feeling his body finally starting to relax. He knew he was still in trouble, but he didn’t feel so miserable any more.


“Idiot,” John whispered, kissing him again. Rodney smiled to himself. He *was* an idiot, yes, but he was also, apparently, a much loved idiot.


The atmosphere was much better the following day. Rodney was more relaxed after having spent the night in his top’s arms, and John was smiling again which was a good sign. Rodney could almost forget that some kind of retribution lay in wait for him beyond the stargate – almost.


They spent several hours walking and finally arrived at the gate late in the afternoon planet time – mid-evening Atlantis time. Rodney was starving by this point, but funnily enough any sensation of hunger faded the minute they walked through the gate to find Elizabeth waiting on the other side.


“No luck then?” she said, seeing their disconsolate, weary faces. “They didn’t want to trade with us?”


“We didn’t exactly get that far,” John replied. “Rodney – would you go and wait in my quarters please. I’ll be along just as soon as I’ve given my Lady a full account of the mission.”


“Right. Your quarters. Okay,” Rodney said, biting on his lip. He caught the flash of sympathy in Ford’s eyes as he walked past, and the mouthed, “good luck buddy” but it didn’t make him feel any better.


He walked slowly to John’s quarters and let himself in, then sat down. He would have liked a long shower and a good meal right now but he didn’t dare budge from where he was. Somehow, he suspected that when John got back he’d expect his submissive to be ready and waiting for him, and not taking a shower, or shovelling food into his mouth. He felt too warm so he got up, removed his jacket and boots, and then sat down again. His feet ached from all the walking, and he was tired and miserable.


He ran his fingertips over the collar around his neck. Elizabeth had said that sometimes it would be difficult and he was really seeing that right now. He tried to consider whether it would be better not to be a collared sub in this situation. John would still be annoyed with him, collared or not, and, instead of coming here after the mission, he’d have gone to his quarters and stewed about how badly he’d screwed up there instead. That wasn’t a very appealing option, either. At least this way there might be an eventual resolution, even if it got pretty painful along the way.


The door swished open and Rodney got to his feet, his stomach flip-flopping again, like a dying fish. John walked in, and began to remove his jacket. Rodney watched him, cautiously. He considered for the first time that John might *not* punish him, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that, either. John hung his jacket over the back of the chair and then turned to survey his sub.


“Was Elizabeth mad at me?” Rodney asked, wishing his voice hadn’t just cracked so obviously as he spoke.


“She’s more mad at me I think,” John said, with a shrug.


“You? Why? You didn’t do anything,” Rodney said, stricken.


John shook his head. “Have you forgotten that it’s my collar you’re wearing? I gave you an order and you disobeyed it. She thinks that’s my fault for not ensuring you knew that obeying me while on an offworld mission is not optional.”


“Oh for god’s sake! You couldn’t possibly have known…” Rodney began.


“I agree with her,” John interrupted him. “She was speaking to me as one top to another, and I could see she wasn’t very impressed by my control over my sub. I’d feel the same if I’d taken Lorne out and one of his subs had done something similar.”


“Damnit!” Rodney wrapped his arms around his body, even more distressed than before.


“So. We need to talk,” John said, grabbing a chair, turning it round, and sitting on it back to front, his long legs stretched wide around it. “I’ve taken you offworld before, Rodney – before I collared you I mean – and you’ve always been pretty good at taking my orders – the important ones anyway. I expect that, not just as my collared sub but as someone on my team. An offworld team can only have one leader, and that’s me in case you haven’t noticed.”


“I’m sorry,” Rodney sighed. “I know that. It just seemed to me that the situation was different. I saw the readings of the ZPM and I thought you’d expect us to use our initiative and go find it – not just sit around waiting for you guys to come back. You didn’t have your radios because those idiots wouldn’t allow technology into their village so I couldn’t call you.”


“Okay. I can see how that all seems very logical to you, Rodney, but you knew they didn’t want technology on their soil yet still you took your laptop into their temple, and then you *stole* their ZPM. What the hell was that about?”


“They weren’t using it,” Rodney said defensively.


“We don’t just go places and steal stuff – it’ll give us a bad name in this galaxy,” John said, shaking his head. “And then nobody will want to trade with us. And, uh, in case you hadn’t noticed – we really need to trade because we’re running out of food – fast.”


“I know.” Rodney wrapped his arms around his body, angry with himself and still a little bit angry with the technophobe villagers as well, although he didn’t think there was any point in mentioning *that* again right now.


“More important than all that though – I left you somewhere safe, and you wandered off somewhere else. When I got to you and found you surrounded by those guys doing all that weird humming…well, you know I don’t like situations like that,” John told him.


“Yeah.” Rodney sighed, thinking that last bit was an understatement. John’s emotions ran high whenever Rodney was in any kind of danger – he’d have to bear that in mind a little more when they were offworld from now on.


“Luckily I could see those guys hadn’t touched you, and to be honest I could see why they were mad at you. I was pretty mad at you myself,” John told him.


“Okay, okay. I know! I screwed up!” Rodney growled, all too well aware of that fact.


“Good. Because we have a new rule. If I *ever* give you a direct order, I expect you to obey it. I’m not going to abuse that and give you a load of orders to follow just to try and trip you up. But when I do give you an order, there’ll be a reason for it, and I expect you to follow it to the letter. Understood?”


“Yes.” Rodney bit on his lip and gazed at his boots.


“Oh come here.”


John got up, and grabbed Rodney, pulling him into his arms. Rodney went gratefully, glad the lecture was finally over. He wrapped his arms around John’s lean, solid body with a sigh, and rested his head against John’s cheek.


“Are you going to punish me?” he asked, in trepidation.


“Yes I am,” John replied. “This…” he touched his fingers to Rodney’s collar, “gives me that right.”


“Bad?” Rodney asked, starting to shake a little.


“Well, firm at least,” John said. “We never did get around to talking about discipline, did we?”


Rodney shook his head. “I never thought I was going to screw up,” he said.


“Really? Man, are you ever deluded.” John gave a tight little grin. “Okay, let’s talk about it now. Do you think you deserve to be punished?”


“Well, I won’t do it again. I’ve learned my lesson,” Rodney said hopefully. It was worth a try.


“Which doesn’t answer my question at all.” John raised an eyebrow.


“Oh alright – I suppose so. I don’t like it though,” Rodney said.


“You’re not supposed to,” John told him. “Do you accept that I have the right to punish you?”


“Yes. Of course.” Rodney shrugged. That one went without saying. That was the way their society worked, whether he liked it or not. He could have chosen not to accept the collar, and then John wouldn’t have the right to punish him, but he had wanted the collar and this came with it. Elizabeth was right – there was a price to be paid.


“Okay. Look, Rodney – I hope we don’t have to do this very often but I’ll always be fair. If you think you shouldn’t be punished then I’ll listen. I might not agree with you, and my word goes at the end of the day, but you’ll always get a fair hearing.”


“Thank you.” Rodney bowed his head slightly.


“Alright – let’s get on with this then. Go over to the box and bring me my paddle.”


Rodney swallowed down hard, and then he went over to the box on the nightstand and opened it. He had thought of this particular box of tricks with anticipatory delight in the past. In John’s skilful hands, the items inside had brought him to heights of exquisite pleasure.


This was different though, and they both knew it. This was serious, and he knew he wasn’t going to be getting off on it. He also had no doubt that John’s hands were just as skilful at punishment as they were at pleasure. He could still remember that judicial spanking John had given him, before he became his top. Rodney had never been taken down so far in his life, so he was all too well aware of just how good John was at handing out punishments.


Rodney found the sleek, black, leather paddle, drilled through with holes so it went through the air faster, and he pulled it out of the box, then returned to John’s side and handed it to him.


“Thank you. Now unfasten your pants and go and stand in front of the wall,” John told him. Rodney did as he was told, his stomach flip-flopping in earnest now. This was so not going to be good. “Hands on the wall – ass out. That’s it,” John said, guiding him into the exact position he wanted him in. “Remember how I want you to stand – because next time I want you to get into position quickly, just like this.”


“Yes, John,” Rodney muttered, secretly vowing that there wouldn’t ever *be* a next time, even though he knew that was unlikely. He felt John’s hands on his waistband, and then his pants and boxers were yanked down, hard and fast, all the way to his ankles, leaving his ass exposed.


“Kick them off,” John ordered, and Rodney quickly got rid of the pants and boxers, toeing them against the wall. “Legs wider apart,” John told him, and he felt the cool leather of the paddle between his thighs, pushing his legs open further. He did as he was told, and then John pulled his legs back a little too, making his ass stick right out. His legs were spread so wide that he knew he wouldn’t be able to clench against the coming onslaught and he knew, also, that that was why John had positioned him like this. The man knew his art all too well.


Rodney rested his head against his hands, where they were rested flat against the wall, and closed his eyes. He took a deep gulp of air as he felt John’s hand rest on his ass for a moment, and then he heard a whistling sound, and next thing he knew he was reeling from the first deep, painful stroke of the paddle.


He bit on his lip, anxious not to cry out. He’d earned this fair and square, and he didn’t want to cry, like he had that time back in the punishment room several weeks previously. He might make a big deal out of every minor injury he sustained, but when it came to this kind of pain, Rodney preferred to keep his reactions quiet and restrained. It was a defence mechanism against anyone knowing how much it really hurt.


The paddle pounded down again, hard and stinging, and Rodney realised that when John gave a punishment he really *meant* it, from the very first stroke. There was no warm up, no caresses, and John didn’t pull back on his strokes, either.


Rodney leaned into his hands, trying to hide his gulping response to the pain. John continued to rain down a flurry of hard strokes on Rodney’s proffered ass, and it was all he could do to stay in position and take them.


“You’re holding out on me, Rodney,” John told him. He paused for a moment, and Rodney gulped for air, welcoming the respite. He felt John stand close behind him, and then his top was cupping his hot, sore ass cheeks with his hands, making Rodney hiss with pain. “You’re mine, Rodney. All of you. I want to see your honest response. Don’t hold back.”


He stepped away, and Rodney braced himself as the strokes began again. They were even, and carefully spaced, but god they hurt. He didn’t know what to make of what John had just said to him. He guessed that his top wanted to get more of a reaction from him – maybe he even wanted him to break down in tears again – but Rodney had a small streak of stubbornness, buried deep inside, and he couldn’t give his top that satisfaction.


He loosened up though, giving into the pain, and began to holler and curse. It felt good to greet every single stroke with a yell of cathartic anger, and he found the tension of the past few days dissipating with each hard stroke.


John didn’t spare him – when he’d finished with Rodney’s butt he laid down some extremely hard strokes between his sub’s thighs, and then some more just beneath his buttocks, on the top of his legs. Rodney hated it – that was the worst place to be spanked, and it hurt so goddamn much. He squealed and called John every name under the sun, but John’s arm was unrelenting, and he didn’t stop for a second.


Just when Rodney was sure it was over, and John was finishing, he returned to Rodney’s ass, laying down several more hard, flat strokes, and Rodney threw his head back and gave a scream of sheer annoyance. He had hoped John would finish soon, because he honestly wasn’t sure how much he could take, but now John seemed to be whaling into him in earnest, and it didn’t look like it’d ever stop.


Finally, arms quivering, Rodney laid his head back down on his arms once more and accepted the rest of his punishment without a murmur, completely exhausted.


Then, finally, it stopped. Rodney blinked, but he was too tired to move. He heard John walk away and the sound of the paddle being returned to the box. God that had been bad. Rodney glanced over his shoulder to see his flaming red ass, evidence of just how bad it had been. He could hear the gentle clinking of the collar around his neck, reminding him why he had just stood here through that ordeal. Elizabeth had been right – John was, most definitely, not a lenient top.


“I want you to stay there,” John told him. “You can stand up straight now but I don’t want you to touch your ass.”


Rodney pushed himself away from the wall and stood there, all his limbs trembling. He felt completely washed out, as if someone had reached into his soul and dragged its substance out of his body, kicking and screaming all the way.


“Hold your shirt up,” John ordered as he walked past again. Now that he was standing straight his shirt was hanging down a little way over his spanked ass.


“What?” Rodney frowned, turning to look at his top, still feeling annoyed.


“Hold it up. I want to see that punished ass on display whenever I look at you,” John told him. “You can stand there until I think you’re done.”


“What the hell does that mean?” Rodney growled mutinously. He felt raw inside, as if the slightest thing would set him off and make him lose his temper.


“It means that I’ll tell you when you can move. Now shirt up. Do it,” John insisted in a hard tone.


Rodney gathered up his shirt in his hand and pulled it up, away from his hot ass, cursing John under his breath as he did so. The spanking had been bad enough but this humiliation was almost worse. Standing here, half-naked, facing the wall, keeping his shirt held up in order to display his sore bottom – his face was now as flushed as his ass.


“Good. Now just stand there for awhile and think about things,” John said.


Rodney rolled his eyes. He wasn’t sure where all the attitude was coming but he just felt so on edge. He’d never surrendered this degree of control to a top before, and, outside of judicial punishments, had never allowed a top to discipline him for anything other than their mutual pleasure, and he didn’t like how it felt. His ass positively burned from the spanking, making his rage even hotter.


He stood there, fuming, but he wasn’t sure why he was so angry or who he was angry with. He was just angry. Furious.


He stared at the wall for a long time, mouth crooked with distress, eyes smarting from the effort of not crying, and then suddenly he felt the wetness on his cheeks anyway, and he hated himself for giving in.


At first he ignored the tears streaming down his face, brushing them away angrily with the back of his arm, and then he felt a hand on his shoulder, and he was being pulled around and drawn close, and it was too much for him.


He rested his head on John’s shoulder, and bawled his eyes out into John’s shirt. It was like a torrent being unleashed and he was powerless to stop it. Big, shaking sobs wracked his body, and all he could do was weather the storm, until it played itself out. He felt like an idiot, standing here, half-naked, ass flaming red, clinging onto John for dear life while he shed these wild, bitter tears.


John’s hands were calming on his back, soothing him in gentle circles, and John was saying something into his ear but he couldn’t hear what it was. He just felt like he was crying out a lifetime of rage. Rage against his parents, against the kids who’d bullied him at school, against his sister, against Bates, against those villagers for withholding a ZPM – and against himself.


He howled into John’s shirt and John was kissing him now, and still holding him tight, never allowing him to draw away. And then, without even realising it, he was quiet. His damp face was nestled in the crook of John’s neck, and he was humming softly to himself, utterly spent. John continued to hold him, just standing there, arms around him, stroking him tenderly.


Finally, after several long minutes, John pulled away slightly.


“Man you needed that,” he said, smiling as he wiped some wetness off of Rodney’s cheek.


“I feel kind of wobbly,” Rodney muttered.


“It’s alright. I’ve got you.”


John kept a firm arm around his body as he guided him over to the bed. John tugged off his tee shirt, leaving Rodney completely naked, and then helped him flop down onto the bed, on his belly.


“Able to tell me about it?” John asked, reaching out to rub Rodney’s back again, where Rodney lay, boneless on the bed.


“It was a ZPM!” Rodney sighed. “A ZPM! I was holding it in my hands. And now it’s gone, and all because I’m such a total idiot.”


John gave a little laugh. “Yeah, it was a ZPM – and I think they should come with their own label – ‘Warning: Rodney’s Kryptonite’.”


Rodney glanced up, and gave his top a wry smile. “You think I’m a little bit too obsessed with them?”


“I do.” John nodded. “For good reason,” he added quickly. “But yeah. You need to get some perspective because your brain turns to mush every time you get within sniffing distance of one. Also – I don’t think it makes any difference how much of an idiot you were back there. Those people weren’t going to give us their Sacred Jewel of the Bathtub no matter now much chocolate we gave ’em.”


“Bathsheba,” Rodney sighed into the mattress. “Not bathtub.”


“Yeah. Whatever,” John grinned. “They weren’t gonna give it to us, Rodney! And we weren’t going to take it by force. So you didn’t screw up too bad. Well, except for the not obeying my orders thing – that was bad.”


“Yeah. I know.” Rodney gazed at his top for a long time. “Love you,” he muttered.


John smiled. “Despite how hard I spanked you?” he asked, resting his hand on Rodney’s hair and smoothing it down where it was damp and mussed up from all his tears.


“I think…*because* of how hard you spanked me, in a way,” Rodney sighed. “I needed to go there – I’m not saying I liked it but I needed it. Hurt like hell.” He glanced over his shoulder at his bright red ass again. “Still does.”


“Yeah.” John shrugged. “I figured it had to be pretty hard if it was going to do the job. I’d have been able to stop earlier if you’d given into it earlier but we all know how stubborn you are, Rodney McKay. I thought I’d failed when I did stop – you still hadn’t given it up – but I didn’t think your ass could take any more and I wasn’t willing to hand out any more in any case. Corner time seemed to do the trick though.”


“Mmm. Yeah,” Rodney muttered, realising just how lucky he was. John was such a damn good top and was so in tune with him that he could read him like a book, and know exactly what he needed. It made him feel safe, and he didn’t think he’d ever felt safe in his life before. “Elizabeth was right,” he murmured. “You’re sure as hell not a lenient top.”


John gave a little snort at that. “Do you want me to be?” he asked, his hazel eyes searching.


Rodney thought about that for a moment. Much as the spanking had hurt, it had taken him to a very necessary place, and he was glad, in some way, that he could rely on John to be there and give him what he needed, even when he didn’t know he needed it.


“No,” he replied. “You’re like my bedrock. And to be honest, if you went easy on me I’d see through it in seconds and run rings around you. I’ve done *that* with tops before.”


“Hmm. I pity the poor bastards. They had no idea how to handle you,” John commented, still smoothing Rodney’s hair tenderly with his hand.


“Get into bed with me?” Rodney asked. He was surprised by how vulnerable he felt – and also by how little he was trying to hide it. He just didn’t have any energy left to mask it. John smiled, and nodded. He got up, and Rodney gave a little whimper of distress at the withdrawal of physical contact.


“It’s okay. I’m just going to kick off my boots and pants…ssh, it’s okay.”


John did that quickly, and then got into the bed beside Rodney, clad in his tee shirt and boxers. He smelled of sweat from their long walk, and Rodney couldn’t get enough of that smell. He nestled in close, John’s hand on his hip, so that they were face to face. John stroked a loving hand over Rodney’s cheek, caressing him gently, and they lay that way for a long time.


Rodney didn’t think they’d ever been closer – not even after they’d made love. He was surprised to feel that warm, sweet energy flowing between them. John gave a frown of surprise so Rodney guessed he’d just felt it too.


“It’s back,” Rodney whispered.


“Yeah – weird. I thought it was more of a sex thing but it’s pulsing away as strong as I’ve ever felt it,” John replied.


“Maybe it’s more of an intimacy thing,” Rodney said.


“Maybe.” John pressed a sweet, loving kiss to his lips. “I love you too, by the way,” he said after, pulling Rodney a little bit closer. “Even though you are a pain in the ass on missions and disobey my orders and make the natives go all weird and start humming.”


Rodney gave a little snorting giggle at that, and then he finally surrendered to the exhaustion sweeping through his body, and fell into a deep, contented sleep.




John woke the following morning to the sound of a gently snoring Rodney. He gazed at his sub for awhile, just watching him sleep. Rodney looked sort of young, and quite vulnerable following his spanking. His hair was an endearing mess, and his eyelashes were dark on his pale skin.


John was surprised by the protective surge he felt inside. Last night had been confusing. On one level, he really hadn’t liked punishing Rodney, but, at the same time, there had been something cathartic about it – for him as much as for Rodney. He had felt like they were both performing a complicated choreography, top and sub dancing in tune, their energy flowing back and forth, as Rodney submitted to what had been a pretty hard spanking, and John made him take it.


There had been no question of either of them getting off on it – John’s cock had remained resolutely uninterested throughout, and he knew Rodney hadn’t enjoyed it, either – but somehow, in some way, it had brought them just as close as sex always did.


John had punished people before, in the course of his job, and while he always tried to be fair, and handle it as scrupulously as possible, that sense of benevolent distance had gone out of the window when it was Rodney he was punishing. Being in love with the person you were disciplining made a bigger difference than he’d anticipated, and he was reminded of Gil’s words to him, so many years ago, about how to treat a sub.


In the end he’d just gone with what felt right, trusting that it *would* be right, and he’d been surprised by just *how* right it had been.


Rodney’s eyes fluttered open and he gazed at John.


“Morning.” John brushed a kiss to his cheek.


“Mmm.” Rodney smiled and stretched – and then howled. “Oh shit! Man that hurts!” he growled.


“Yeah, it’s still pretty red,” John told him, pushing down the sheet and glancing over Rodney’s shoulder at his sub’s still glowing ass. “C’mere.” He slipped his fingers down and took Rodney’s cock in his hand, rubbing it firmly. Rodney sighed.


“Damnit – I feel like I’ve been hit with a battering ram. I hate you so much,” he seethed.


John grinned, and continued rubbing Rodney’s cock, because what Rodney was saying was in direct contrast to what he was doing – which was so often the case. Rodney thrust into John’s hand, mewling in pleasure while cursing the whole time. John finished him off and then he got up off the bed.


“Get up, Rodney. I want to inspect you,” he said.


Rodney rolled cautiously off the bed, wincing dramatically at every slight movement. John waited for him patiently, ignoring the melodramatics, and Rodney finally came to stand in front of him, still complaining. John reached out and put a finger over his mouth.


“Not another word, Rodney. The paddle’s just in that box you know. I can easily get it out again,” he said firmly. Rodney’s eyes went so big, blue, and panic-stricken that it was all John could do not to laugh out loud.


“You wouldn’t!” Rodney squeaked.


“I might.” John raised a warning eyebrow. “Now stand still and keep quiet.”


He ran his fingers over Rodney’s neck, pushing it gently one way and then the other, searching silently. He wasn’t sure why this felt so necessary but he was working on instinct again. He hadn’t had a chance to be intimately acquainted with Rodney’s body for a few days and he wanted to ensure that his lover didn’t have any injuries or marks on his body that he didn’t know about. He really didn’t know why that was so important to him but it was so he just went with it. Rodney seemed a little confused by it but he stood there and submitted to his top’s inspection.


John found the faintest hint of a yellowing bruise on Rodney’s arm, which Rodney told him he’d sustained during the walk when he’d banged it against a tree. John paused at it for a moment, and then moved on. He turned Rodney around, and worked his way down Rodney’s broad shoulders to his buttocks and thighs. He crouched down and examined his handiwork of the previous evening in some detail. Rodney’s ass was still pretty red and while John knew it had to be sore, there was no bleeding or anything else that would have alarmed him. He fingered Rodney’s hole gently, and Rodney squirmed a little but submitted to it.


“I like the heat…” John murmured, feeling the warmth emanating from Rodney’s skin. “How does it feel? I’d like to take you in the shower – you up to that?” He turned Rodney around and looked in his eyes. Rodney thought about it.


“Well, it still really hurts,” he said.


“Yes,” John acknowledged, and he put his head on one side, raising an eyebrow.


Rodney read his expression and he saw realisation sink in. It was only a little demonstration of dominance, and John wouldn’t have pushed it if he thought Rodney would be in real pain, but he wanted to see how much Rodney would enjoy allowing John to take pleasure from his body even if it caused him discomfort. Rodney had said he wanted to test his limits – and John suspected that Rodney would find new levels to his submission by offering himself up to him purely for his top’s pleasure, even knowing it would be painful.


“Okay,” Rodney said quietly, and John caught the little shiver that ran through him. This was taking their dynamic to a new level – but both of them were up for it so it would be interesting to see where it went.


He took hold of Rodney’s hand and led him to the shower. He turned on the water and then pulled Rodney in for a long, slow kiss. Rodney melted against him, the way he always did, and John rested his hands on Rodney’s sore buttocks, enjoying the way Rodney gasped and pressed up against him, whimpering slightly. It was turning them both on, as he could see by the surprised arousal in Rodney’s eyes. John kissed his way down Rodney’s wet throat, and then turned Rodney around.


“Hands against the wall,” he ordered, reaching for the soap. He soaped Rodney down thoroughly, going gently over Rodney’s sore bottom, and then soaped himself. Then he reached for the lube he kept in the shower. He parted Rodney’s red buttocks carefully, and slid his fingers inside. Rodney was stretched now, after a couple of weeks of rigorous anal sex, and his hole opened up easily to John’s fingers.


John felt his own arousal growing as his groin was warmed by the heat coming off Rodney’s well-spanked ass. He felt a shiver of dominance, starting in his belly and spreading out along his nerve endings. This was about inhabiting his own topspace, and making Rodney submit, and Rodney was turning him on by being so willing and compliant. He lubed his hard cock, and took hold of Rodney’s buttocks, enjoying the gasp his sub made as he kneaded the sore flesh. He opened Rodney up and pushed himself in, and Rodney made a little gurgling sound in the back of his throat and opened his legs wider so that John had easier access.


“Good boy. Take me,” John ordered, stroking Rodney’s heaving flanks gently, as if he was a nervous horse being ridden for the first time.


John put his hand on Rodney’s shoulder to brace himself, and then began thrusting in and out. It felt sublime, the way it always did being inside Rodney, but this time there were added pleasures. He liked the dual sensations of the heat of Rodney’s ass and the warm slick of water pounding down on them. He liked knowing that Rodney was submitting to him, giving himself freely for John’s pleasure. He liked the sound his balls made when they slapped against Rodney’s wet ass. It was all so damn good! He rode Rodney for a long time and then came deep inside him. He stood there, panting, and then slowly withdrew and turned Rodney around. Rodney’s eyes were wide, and slightly stunned.


“Okay?” John asked, a little breathlessly, wondering why that had been so damn hot.


“Good,” Rodney told him, still shaking a little. “There’s a place in my head I’ve never been to before, but you take me there…and it’s like I’m floating.”


“Subspace,” John said, excited because he’d just been so in touch with his own topspace.


“Yeah. I guess,” Rodney agreed.


“You want me to take you there more often?” John asked, watching Rodney carefully. Rodney hesitated.


“I don’t find it easy. The submission,” he admitted, in a faltering tone. “But when I’m there, in that space, it just calms me, and makes me feel so good. Getting there is sometimes hard though.”


“We could work on that – if you want?” John offered.


Rodney nodded. “Yes. Please.” He stood there, looking wet and kissable, so John gave in and kissed him.


Everyone had their own dynamic. There were a million self-help books out there, about how to get into subspace, or topspace, how to really enjoy your submission or dominance, how to explore it, and what direction would suit you best, but John thought that it was all crap. The only way to find out was to experiment with someone you loved. What they discovered about themselves just served to strengthen the bond they had, and he was sure that if they got it wrong they’d know soon enough and turn around and try something else.


They got dressed and went to their respective jobs. John thought about the events of the past few days while he was working out with Teyla in the practice room.


“Have you ever wondered how far to go with a sub?” he asked her as they circled each other. She raised an eyebrow.


“I tend to rely on my instincts, in much the same way as I do in here,” she said, feinting forward and then dancing around him, delivering a firm slap to his thigh.


“Damn it,” he grinned at her. “I feel the same way – about instincts. I just…I really don’t want to hurt him, y’know? But at the same time, he kind of likes being hurt a little, and I kind of like taking him to that place. It feels so good – for both of us.”


“I know.” She bowed her head. “Yet you are wondering whether you might lose control, and go too far.”


“No. I don’t think I could ever really harm, Rodney, but I haven’t allowed him a safe word and now I’m wondering, as we go deeper, if I should.”


“You should trust yourself more – the way he trusts you,” she said. “Safe words have their place – for the novice or inexperienced, or those playing on a superficial level they are invaluable. However, you must ask yourself why you initially refused to allow him a safe word, and why you are now questioning yourself.” She inclined her head at him, still circling him, batons at the ready. John thought about it.


“I’m not sure. I just…I don’t want to get something wrong and really hurt him,” he sighed at last. She nodded.


“I understand. Do you want my honest opinion?”


He took a deep breath and nodded. “Always.”


“Very well. If you give Dr McKay a safe word then you no longer have to assume so much responsibility for his wellbeing,” she said.


John frowned, wondering how she figured *that*. She gave a little smile.


“Without a safe word you must work much harder to understand your submissive. You must become attuned to his every sigh and murmur, his every whimper and moan. If you allow your submissive a safe word, you give some of that control back to him – and if you do that it will always be a barrier between you. You will never learn his heart, and he will never truly learn how to surrender to you.”


“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” John mused. “That sounds kind of like the Shinzoic Principles.” He’d been reading through some stuff on Shinzoism that Carson had given him, and while he discounted a lot of it as not somewhere he personally wanted to go, some of it resonated with him.


“I am not familiar with these principles,” Teyla said, “but it may be they are similar to the view we Athosians have on the joining of submissive and dominant, and how the two fit together to achieve the perfection of their union.”


“It’s all so much harder than I thought it would be,” John sighed.


Teyla smiled at him. “You have always avoided the full expression of your sexuality before I think,” she said. “Yes, it is hard, but the rewards are exponentially greater.”


John nodded. “I think I’m seeing that,” he said. “So – you think I did the right thing not allowing Rodney a safe word?”


“Yes. I do,” she nodded. “It was your initial instinct and I think you should follow it.
I do not personally ever give my submissives a safe word. I know my own limits and I work hard to discover theirs. That is part of the challenge. Each submissive is different, and I wish to find that place where we are so synchronised that it feels effortless, where I can taste their submission, freely offered, and they give everything to me. That is the most satisfying part of any mating dance.”


John grinned. He loved it when she referred to sex as a ‘mating dance’.


“I know what you mean,” he agreed, with a little sigh. He’d kind of glimpsed the sort of synchronicity she was referring to, and he knew Rodney had too, and they both wanted more.


“You have time,” she chided. “He is only recently collared. You will adapt the dance to your own tune and it will be beautiful.”


“It already is,” John said, raising his batons to make a move, only to find himself flailing through empty space as she sidestepped him effortlessly.


“You will know if he is ever in genuine distress – you will know because you know him. Sometimes he will think that he cannot do all that you ask of him, cannot endure all that you wish to make him endure, cannot submit to all your demands, but only you will be the true judge of that. He may underestimate himself – and if he can surrender to you during those times then he will find much happiness in his submission. It is not always easy but the rewards are many – for both of you.”


“I just hope I get it right.”


“Trust yourself,” she told him again. “Go with your instincts, and listen to him every step of the way. Listen to the way he breathes, and pants, and moans. Listen to the things that are unsaid, as well as those that are said – and, knowing Dr McKay, I am sure there are many of those.”


She paused to give him a knowing smile and he snorted. “Watch him, and learn every single aspect of his body language. Learn what it reveals about him. The senses are the most important – touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell. Use them all. Become one with your art, and you will lead him to a place more magical than you can ever imagine. But do not give up your power. He does not want it – he wishes to give his to you. Allow him do that and you will walk forever as one, and he will never stray from your side.”


“I don’t think he will anyway, but you’re right. Thanks.” John stepped back as she threw a hard blow at his batons.


He pondered what she’d said and he knew she was right. He had never dug beneath the surface of his own dominance before, any more than he suspected Rodney had explored his own submission, and they were both eager to go further. It was a revelation finding a partner so in tune with him, and he hungered to discover more about both himself and his submissive.


They finished practising and walked back towards their quarters together.


“So, you ever going to put poor Ford out of his misery and take him for your sub?” John asked her. It wasn’t something he’d have hesitated asking anyone else long before now – nobody from Earth was all that shy about asking personal questions – but Teyla had a kind of innate dignity which kept their relationship a little bit more formal.


However, ever since her kindness to him after their visit to the planet of the sex-starved tops, as Rodney insisted on calling it, John’s relationship with the wise Athosian woman had deepened, and he found himself wondering if she was happy.


“I will not be taking Lieutenant Ford as my submissive, no,” she replied politely.


John felt a bit sorry for Ford on hearing that but he’d guessed as much from the way Teyla had been keeping Ford at arm’s length.


“Do not get me wrong – Aiden is a charming submissive and a good man. I have the utmost respect for him, but he is not what I am looking for.”


“What *are* you looking for?” John asked, curious.


“It is hard to say – although I feel sure I will know when I see it.”


“Yeah. I thought that – then it took me weeks to realise I was insanely in love with Rodney,” John grinned. “Sometimes you don’t always see what’s right in front of you.”


“That can be true.” Teyla inclined her head. “But I think others saw what you did not. Dr Beckett for example, and myself. We knew that you and Dr McKay were a good match even if you did not see it at first. You needed someone who would challenge you and hold your interest, someone smart, submissive but not easily dominated. You also needed someone to make you laugh.”


“Well Rodney’s all those things,” John agreed. “If you can read me so easily then you must have some idea what would suit you.”


“Perhaps. I think…that I need someone to tame,” she told him, with a wry smile. “I am a warrior – I want to find someone wild and turn them into my fierce and loyal consort. Ford is, sadly, already tame. He would be very sweet, but would give me no lasting pleasure. I like the thrill of the taming, John. I yearn for the challenge of curbing a wild spirit – and the excitement of knowing that I might not succeed.”


“Interesting.” John glanced at her sideways, impressed by her self-knowledge and insights. “And what about Carson and Elizabeth? I worry about them. I wish they’d find subs. Any idea what they need?”


“Dr Beckett is a dear, sweet man. He needs an old-fashioned kind of love,” Teyla responded thoughtfully. “He is always taking care of others – he needs to find a submissive who is strong enough to take care of him occasionally.”


“I’d agree with that. And Elizabeth?”


Teyla gave a little smile. “I admire and respect Elizabeth as a fellow leader of her people. She is a good woman but I think that her heart has been bruised.”


John remembered what Elizabeth had told him about the submissive she’d once collared, who hadn’t loved her enough to follow her through the gate. There had been such sadness in her eyes and he wondered if she’d ever feel able to collar another sub after that kind of heartache. Just the thought of rescinding Rodney’s collar was enough to make him feel ill – the idea of leaving Rodney behind somewhere, available for some other top to claim made his hands clench into fists and his stomach churn. He had no idea how anyone got over that.


“Elizabeth deserves the best,” he murmured.


“I agree.” Teyla nodded. “She would not wish to tame anyone though. Nor would she want someone who would cause her as many headaches as Dr McKay – no offence intended.” She inclined her head at him again, and he laughed out loud.


“Which is a polite way of saying Rodney is a pain in the ass!” he grinned.


“He is…a handful – much more suited to you than to a top like Elizabeth,” Teyla replied, with just the hint of a little grin playing around her lips. “She needs deference, respect and a quiet strength. She needs a submissive who will stand by her side and support her, not be consumed by dramas of their own.”


“Yeah,” John said softly. Spot on again, he thought. Teyla really did have a very good handle on them all.


They reached his quarters and he turned to go in – but she stopped him by putting her hand on his arm.


“Since we have been candid, I would like to ask – have you considered lifebonding with Rodney?”


John felt the shadow pass across his face. “No,” he said tightly.


He remembered what Carson had said about the pre-lifebond they’d already formed, but he had shied away from thinking about it in any more detail. All lifebonding made him think about was Adam’s howl of anguish when Gil had died, and the way he’d followed him into death seconds later, leaving John alone, locked up in a tight, painful little world of his own, which was more or less where he’d remained until Rodney had come along. And yet…he couldn’t deny he loved that flow of energy that took place between him and Rodney – if that was the beginnings of a lifebond then it was very seductive – and he had sometimes wondered what the real thing would feel like.


“I am sorry,” she murmured, as if sensing some of his inner conflict on the subject. “I did not mean to pry – it is just that I have felt the stirrings of a bond between the two of you of late, and I wondered whether you were considering taking that to fruition.”


“You could sense that?” John frowned.


Teyla nodded. “It is a custom among my people to devote ourselves to learning about different aspects of our sexuality. Some have the gift to become a sage, and they spend many years learning and refining their skill so as to be of use to others when making the important decision about whether one is sexually dominant or submissive. Others devote themselves to the study of the Kaeira – the healing power that flows through a lifebond. Still others choose to study the lifebond itself – how it starts, how it may be brought to fruition…that is my chosen area of study. I am very attuned to bonded couples, and I could not help but sense that you and Dr McKay have formed a spontaneous link. That is rare and remarkable – and I wished to offer my help in case you ever choose to bring the bond to fruition.”


“That’s very kind of you but…I guess you could say I’m not a great fan of lifebonding,” John told her slowly. She looked both puzzled and surprised at that.


“Among my people it is considered the highest expression of love,” she replied. “Many try to achieve it but few succeed.”


“Yeah, it’s pretty much the same among my people,” he told her. “But I don’t want Rodney to die just because I’m stupid enough to get myself killed. I’m a soldier, Teyla – he’s a scientist. My odds of getting killed are much higher than his.”


“And if he died – would you wish to live without him?” she asked.


John felt as if a cold fist had wrapped itself around his heart, and squeezed, hard.


“No,” he said softly.


“Then why do you assume it is not the same for him?” Teyla asked quietly.


John just shrugged. “I know it doesn’t make much sense to you, but it’s how I feel,” he told her firmly.


“You have been hurt,” she said, those wise eyes of her seeing into his soul.


“You could say that.” He had spent nearly two decades hating the very idea of the lifebond, and while his perspective on many things had changed since meeting Rodney, he still wasn’t ready to let go of that particular prejudice.


“If Rodney was mortally wounded you could use the bond to share your energy with him, and keep him alive,” she told him.


He remembered when he was five years old rushing with Gil to the hospital, to find Adam lying white-faced in a room, a blood-stained bandage on his shoulder. There were medical staff there, but they all stood back when Gil ran in.


Gil had told John to sit quietly on a chair while he helped Daddy Adam to feel better, and then he had lain down on the bed, placed his fingers on Adam’s shoulder, and rested his head against Adam’s ghostly pale cheek. John hadn’t known what was happening, but he was aware of an electric intensity in the room, and had watched as Adam’s skin changed colour, gradually returning to normal.


Adam had woken up a few minutes later, stretched a little, and, seeing him, had muttered, “Hi kid” and beckoned him over. Gil, previously full of frantic, concerned energy, had been left listless, and a little pale, but Adam had made a quick recovery after that, and there had been no lasting effect on Gil.


“I know that. I know more about lifebonding than you think, Teyla,” he told her tersely, turning back to his quarters and signalling that the conversation was over.


“Yes,” she murmured. “It is always hard for those left behind. To lose one is hard – to lose both can be devastating.”


He paused, his hand frozen on the door, his shoulder muscles stiff, but he didn’t turn around.


“The link you have is as nothing compared to how a lifebond would feel. You have no idea what you are missing, Colonel,” she added softly.


His hand formed into a fist, but still he made no reply. He heard her give a little sigh, and then the sound of her footsteps as she walked away.




End of Part Sixteen



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