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John was leaning against the desk in his office looking through the new duty schedule that Lorne has drawn up for his approval when he heard a throat clear at his door. He looked up from the tablet to see one of the new lieutenants looking at him hopefully.

"May this boy speak to you, sir?" The young man said.

John twitched internally at the ritual phrasing. So, it was going to be another one of those interactions. "You may," he said formally, setting the tablet down on his desk.

The lieutenant then held out his wrists in the supplication pose. "This boy would be honored to service his commanding top at his convenience, sir."

John repressed the urge to sigh and reached out with both hands to grip the lieutenant's wrists firmly in formal acceptance. "Tell me what is on your no-go list."

The lieutenant's breath hitched and he said a little breathlessly, "This boy is yours to do with as you wish, sir."

Damn it, why did the young ones always have so much false bravado? John ground his fingers into the man's wrists and grated out, "Cut the crap. Your no-go list, now."

The lieutenant hissed a little in pain and then replied, "I'm not lying sir. I really am up for anything. My parents taught me to not lie about things like that. And my safe word is 'pickles'."

God, if that was the case, this was probably the kid's first assignment. Eventually every soldier wound up with something on their no-go list. Even the Marines. Especially in the Stargate program. "Smart boy. Most don't listen to their parents at your age," John said. He then bared his teeth in a fake smile and said, "Alright then. Your quarters, 2100?"

The lieutenant grinned back at him, then leaned forward and kissed John on the mouth. John returned it without showing his own lack of enthusiasm. He was good at that. "2100 sounds perfect, sir," the soldier said as he drew back. "I'll make sure I've got my toys unpacked for you."

"Great," John replied, forcing cheer into his voice as he let go of the man's wrists. "I'll bring rope." He then slapped the lieutenant on the ass. "Now get out of here and do your job or I won't top you later."

The lieutenant practically skipped out of his office and the door shut behind him. John engaged the lock and sagged down into his office chair tiredly. He hated it when the Daedalus came with a new troop of marines. Every sub and even a few tops always wound up coming on to him, eager to show their new commander what team players they were.

A knock came at his door and he reluctantly got up and opened it, hoping that it wasn't another wet behind the ears lieutenant wanting to get to know their new boss the fraternitas way.

It was Teyla, thank god. "Am I disturbing you?" she asked, one eyebrow delicately arched.

John shook his head and waved her in with one hand. "Nah. I just needed a break is all."

She gave him a look of compassion and smiled slightly as she said, "I have been meaning to ask you and the rest of the team to come with Kanaan and me to New Athos. If you have the new troops settled in at this point, now would be a good time to go."

John ran a hand through his hair and mentally went over his schedule. In addition to tying up Lt. Reynolds tonight at 2100 he'd agreed to cane Captain Rodriquez at 1830 and humiliate Sgt. Necton tomorrow at 1400. Or was it cane Sgt. Necton and humiliate Captain Rodriquez? God, they were all starting to blur together at this point. He'd be happy when the new people all finally settled in and he'd be able to say no occasionally without looking suspicious. John was wistfully nostalgic for the bad old days back when they'd been marooned without contact from Earth. He sighed. "I'd love to go now, but I've got commitments until around 1530 tomorrow, maybe a little earlier."

Teyla reached out and laid a gentle hand on his arm. "John," she hesitated a moment, then continued, "I cannot help but notice that you have been looking a bit...overtaxed. Ronon has also commented to me saying that you look as if you could use a break. Could you not reschedule some things?"

John looked away from her. Teyla giving him that kind of look and saying that to his face meant that he was probably about half a minute away from going off like a bomb. She'd always read him better than he could read himself. His shoulders sagged as he nodded. "Yeah, okay. I'll reschedule a thing or two and we'll go out tomorrow. That okay with you?" He'd call Sgt. Necton and shuffle his appointment to later on in the week. He tried not to think about how much of a relief it was to put at least one assignation off till another day.

"That would be fine," she replied, smiling again. "Halling and Jinto will be very happy to see you." She stepped closer and bent her head. He bent his head as well, touching his forehead to hers. She then stepped away and said, "Until tomorrow, then," and left his office.

The usual forlorn wish that he could be attracted to her drifted through his mind and he stuffed it back down with the ease of long practice. He reached for his radio and put in a call to Sgt. Necton.

***

The Athosian villagers were as warm and welcoming as usual when they got there, and nobody propositioned John. His shoulders loosened as he drank the ale that Halling had pressed on him while he sat on a log next to Ronon, watching the world pass by. He always forgot how relaxing it was to spend time on New Athos.

"New guys done tripping over themselves asking you to top them?" Ronon asked before he took a healthy swig from his own mug of ale.

"Almost," John replied, contemplating the contents of his mug. Creamy foam bubbled on the surface of the ale.

"Still don't get why you have to put up with that," Ronon commented as he stretched his legs out, his heels dragging through the dirt. "Fucking around shouldn't be part of the job. Sucks all the fun out of it. What if you wanted to collar somebody?"

"Can't. It's against regs," John reminded him. Not that he'd ever thought about collaring anybody. Or being collared. "You don't send someone's spouse out to fight." He took another drink of his ale.

Ronon grunted. "That's stupid. Everybody fights here. The wraith aren't picky about who they take."

John shrugged. "I'm not the one who made them, buddy."

Rodney came out of one of the tents and was talking a mile a minute at one of the men who was working on the new irrigation system. John watched as his hands flashed, semaphoring his brilliance.

"Keller gave back his collar," Ronon said, gesturing to Rodney with his mug.

John swallowed before replying. "I know." The gossip mill had been right on top of that fight. Rumor had it that she was now experimenting with being dominant, which didn't exactly surprise John. She'd always been weirdly toppy toward Rodney. That was the problem with dating somebody that young and inexperienced. You never knew if they'd actually settled into their dynamic yet. At least that's what John heard. It wasn't like he knew for sure himself.

Ronon gave him a long look. Finally he said, "You ever tried subbing? You might like it better. You seem to like McKay."

John had tried subbing very briefly when he'd first started out in the military, thinking that it might be easier. It wasn't. At least topping gave him a little control and distance from the whole situation. He shook his head. "Not my cup of tea, sorry. Rodney's a just a friend."

Ronon snorted in disbelief.

John slanted a look at him but held his peace. The fact that he actually did love Rodney had no bearing on their relationship, really, despite what Ronon thought. John couldn't give Rodney what he needed.

"Maybe I ought to talk to McKay instead," Ronon observed. He drank some more ale and then gestured with the mug. "He can't seem to top a jar of jam."

"That's not true," John protested, even though it kind of was. Outside of being incredibly bossy and demanding at work, Rodney didn't come across as a typical top. It was part of his charm, in John's opinion. It was easier to relax around someone who didn't make him feel inadequate.

"Whatever," Ronon replied dismissively. "Still think you two ought to get together. As far as I can tell, you'd both be less weird if you were."

John punched him hard in the arm, making the ale in Ronon's mug slop over the rim. "Quit being a yenta! Jesus." He knew that Ronon was just trying to help but he was barking up the wrong tree. He'd never understand what John's real problem was anyway.

He got up and went for more ale, his shoulders once again tense. Teyla had gotten him out here to relax, and damn it, he was going to do just that.

***

It turned out that his rescheduled appointment with Sgt. Necton was for a caning, which was slightly easier for John to deal with than the humiliation thing he'd had to do with Captain Rodriquez. Caning was closer to exercise for John, like a session of sparring only without anyone swinging back at him. John always felt like he was fumbling when it came to doing humiliation. Although it had gotten easier now that he simply repeated every insult he'd ever heard Rodney shout out in exasperation in the labs and out in the field. Why bother to try and make up stuff when you could steal from the best?

The warm up was still a hassle though, John thought idly as he finished brutally kissing Necton and released the grip he had on the man's hair. Necton's head fell back as he hung from the chains, his face blissful and his cock raised and eager. John shook out his right hand as he walked around him. It felt a little numb from the paddling he'd given Necton a short while earlier.

"You're mine, boy," John stated in the man's ear, picking up the cane and letting the fabric of his uniform rub against Necton's bare back. He felt mildly silly when he did this, but he'd long ago figured out that it was what was expected from him. Give the audience what they want, right? "I'm your commanding officer and and I own your ass. You understand me?"

"Yes, sir," Necton gasped as John slowly slid the cane up his back. "Please, sir. Do with me what you will, sir."

"Oh, I will, soldier," John assured him. "I certainly will. And what I'm going to do right now is beat you with this cane. And when I order you to come, you'll do what I tell you to, just like a good little boy should, right?"

Necton gave a full body quiver and his cock jerked. "Yes, sir! On your order, sir!"

John inspected the cane to make sure it wasn't too heavy or stiff and then nodded. "Alright then. Start counting, boy!" he growled sharply and stepped back and brought down the cane on the guy's ass with a quick snap of the wrist.

"One, sir!" Necton gasped, and John fell into the routine of it, plotting where the next blow should go while he idly wondered if he could con Rodney into some RC car racing after dinner.

After a six count, he barked, "Come!" and Necton obeyed, shaking with the force of his orgasm.

John got the dazed and endorphin-addled man out of his chains and onto his bed and checked him over to make sure he wasn't injured any more than John had planned on. It was counter-productive to go through this rigamarole in the name of corps unity and then have a non-functional soldier at the end of it, so he always did his best to be extra-careful to not hurt them to the point that they couldn't go on duty the next day. It wasn't always easy with some of the harder players. Marines always thought of themselves as so bad ass that some of them refused to recognize that they had limits in the bedroom.

Afterwards, John lay in bed with Necton, providing after care and giving the guy support as he came back up from his sub-space. One more round of warrior bonding successfully gotten through. Only eleventy thousand more to go before John got killed or retired.

***

John was putting his shirt back on after doing Captain Wallace (bondage, paddling, knifeplay, the usual aftercare) when Wallace piped up from where he lay on the bed, "Sir, you didn't come."

John hadn't gotten hard either, but that was besides the point. He'd only taken his shirt off because he hadn't wanted to get it all sweaty while he was wailing away on the guy's ass with the paddle. He didn't understand why they always thought that him taking off any clothing signified that he wanted a damned orgasm. John was a little pissed at himself for not working the guy over enough that he wouldn't notice. "Gotta meeting," John smirked at him, smoothing his shirt front down with one hand. "You know how it is. Maybe later."

Wallace nodded and then closed his eyes and laid his head back down on the pillow. "Meeting, right. Sorry we ran out of time, sir. Anytime you're not busy, I'll cash that raincheck for you, 'kay?"

"Sure thing," John promised insincerely, and walked out of the room.

***

Rumblings about doing away with fraternitas had gone through the military ever since the AIDS epidemic had laid waste to a huge swath of it during the 1980's. But although the entirety of Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Canada had done away with fraternitas, in America the brass still seemed determined to cling to the old Spartan ideals. Which was why when the latest round of rumors that it would be abolished swirled around again, John dismissed it out of hand. He'd heard that song and dance before and wasn't going to waste any time on the idea unless he got actual real live orders about it.

That thinking may have contributed to his feeling of disorientation as he read the latest email he'd received from the latest SGC download.

"Is this going to be a problem for you, Colonel?" Mr. Woolsey asked him as they sat the conference table going through their mail together and discussing the news.

John stared at the words on his laptop screen. Fraternitas had been abolished. "No, I don't think it will be a problem," he managed to stumble out.

The day he announced it to his troops, three people came into his office and confessed to being non-dynamic and another five told him that they were monosexual. He nodded understandingly at all of them, reassured them that their sex lives had no bearing on how they conducted themselves in their jobs in his opinion and sent them on their way. Six also came in and put in requests to be transferred back to Earth to be with their spouses, which he approved without comment. Nobody came and told him they weren't interested in sex at all.

That night he canceled all of his fuck appointments and spent the evening in his room playing video golf with Rodney.

***

"Taking a break now that you're not required to fuck anyone?" Ronon asked a few weeks later at their usual resting point in their morning run. Well, usual for John at least. Ronon generally kept jogged in place, smirking at him while John tried to catch his breath.

"You could say that," John managed to wheeze out as he bent over and braced his hands on his knees.

Ronon took a swig of water and put the bottle back on his belt. "Thinking about finding someone to settle down with?"

John would have sighed if he had the air. "What have I told you about the yenta thing?" He brought himself back upright and gave Ronon a glare. He really didn't want to talk about it.

Ronon ignored John's glare and said, "Amelia's got a couple of friends that she'd like to introduce to you later when you're up for it. They're non-dynamic."

Great. Now Ronon's top was getting into the act. "Tell her I appreciate the thought, but I'm really not interested, buddy," John replied.

Ronon shrugged. "Later then. After you're done with your break."

Not ever, thought John. "Listen, are we gonna run, or are we just gonna stand around yammering like a couple of old biddies?" he asked impatiently.

Ronon smirked at him and took off at a gallop. John hauled in some more precious air and ran after him.

***

"John, may I ask you something?" Teyla queried a few months later as they strolled through a field, Ronon scouting ahead while Rodney lagged behind, mumbling over his equipment.

John threw a glance over his shoulder, making sure that Rodney was still there and not in any danger. "Yeah, shoot."

"Are you content?" she asked. He blinked at her in surprise and she quickly added, "I have noticed that you have become very...solitary."

Well, he was a little lonely, seeing as how Rodney was once again involved in what was obviously another disastrous attempt at a relationship, this time with Dr. Dalonega, and didn't have any spare time to spend with John. But other than that, he was pretty okay. He'd already resigned himself to not being able to spend much time with Teyla or Ronon now that they'd settled down with significant others. "I'm fine," he answered.

Unfortunately Teyla wasn't in the mood to be easily put off. "I was pleased for you when fraternitas was abolished because I knew you were unhappy under its strictures but I now I cannot help but see that you are very much by yourself. I wish to make sure that you are not lonely."

He didn't really have much of a choice about it. When his friendship wasn't enough and others came in to fill that breach that John just couldn't fill, it inevitably meant that he was going to be on his own again. He was actually pretty grateful that he'd had as long as he'd had with his team before they'd all gone looking for tops or subs. John shrugged as he turned and walked backwards to keep a better eye on Rodney, who was falling further behind. "What can I say? I'm a loner."

Teyla compressed her lips for a moment. "But you do not have to be, John. I know that you are non-dynamic. Are there not others you could associate with on Atlantis who share your preference?"

"Not really," John replied. At the look she gave him, he reluctantly elaborated, "Look, it's a little more complicated than that, okay? But it's nothing I'm not used to. Really, I'm fine." He then raised a hand to his mouth and bellowed, "Rodney, get your nose out of the scanner and get your ass in gear! We don't have all day!"

Rodney rolled his eyes as he put away the scanner and came walking briskly up to John. "Yes, Colonel, because walking to some primitive little village where all the subs will undoubtedly throw themselves at your feet and beg to be tied up is so much more important than finding any interesting energy signatures that might signify Ancient tech lying around."

"Are there any interesting energy signatures?" John asked sardonically, his arms crossed over his P-90.

Rodney deflated briefly. "Well, no." Then he puffed back up. "But there could have been!"

John rolled his eyes and grabbed Rodney by the arm. "Come on, genius," he said, and pulled Rodney down the trail and away from Teyla and her knowing gaze.

***

John should have known better than to blow off Teyla when she was serious about having a discussion, because at their next sparring practice she laid him out and straddled him with her rods across his throat in under a minute. "I would very much like to know what you meant when you said that your situation was a bit more complicated than not having a dynamic," she asked coolly. She was very definitely a kick-ass top, John thought ruefully.

John waved one hand around weakly. "It's kind of difficult to explain."

"I have the time," she replied, raising one eyebrow.

He sighed and closed his eyes. "Okay, fine. It's just...I don't know where to start."

Teyla levered herself off of his chest and sat down next to him. "I find that it is usually best to start from the beginning."

John sat up, crossed his legs and rubbed the back of his neck. "Um, okay then...see, when I was younger I started noticing that stuff everyone else was obsessing about, well, it just didn't interest me."

"Stuff," Teyla repeated neutrally, her head tilting to the side a bit.

"You know," John replied, waving his free hand as he stared at the floor, "Topping, subbing...sex."

Teyla nodded slowly as she mulled over what he'd said. "And this - disinterest - has continued throughout your life?"

John nodded. "Yeah."

"Yet the work you chose required you to be extremely sexual," she observed. "Did you not find it stressful to participate in scenes then?"

He shrugged. "I wanted to fly and that was the price. I was willing to pay it. It was pretty easy to fake topping. I just had to be observant."

Her mouth twitched up in a quick smile. "Some of us could tell that it did not come naturally to you. But you did do an admirable job with those who subbed to you. I heard no complaints of you mistreating them in any way."

"I tried to be careful," John admitted as he dropped his hand away from his neck, happier to hear that than he cared to admit.

Teyla's smile widened briefly and then her face grew sober again. "But you did not enjoy it."

He shook his head. "No, I didn't. It just...feels weird."

"Have you ever tried non-dynamic sex?" she then asked.

"A couple of times," John replied, shifting uncomfortably. "It didn't do anything for me either." He looked up at her, wary at what her reaction might be to his next words. "I'm...platonic."

Teyla frowned, but it was not a frown directed at him. It was more as if the gate translation she was getting had many more words in it than what he'd actually said. Having experienced that a couple of times on his end since he'd come to Pegasus, John's stomach clenched as he wondered exactly what kind of hash the gate had made of his words. Gate translation failure had been an iffy thing in conversions in the past. In fact, it usually wound up with John having to shoot at someone while running hell bent for the gate.

"Ah," Teyla said finally, blinking just a bit. "Now I see why you said it was complicated. I am uncertain that I understand all of the gate translation accurately."

John sighed heavily and hung his head. If the gate couldn't translate it, there was no way in hell that he'd be able to explain it to her.

She leaned toward him and laid a hand on his. "It is okay, John. I will ask one of the sociologists to explain the term to me." She cocked her head. "But I do have one more question for you."

John grimaced at the idea of trying to talk about it any more, but made a signal of assent with his free hand. "Okay, fine, shoot."

"Does being - platonic," he could hear her say the word carefully in English, "- preclude you from loving anyone as well?"

"No," John said immediately, raising his head up to look at her and turning his hand over in her grip, clasping her fingers in his own. "No it doesn't. I do. Love, I mean."

"Oh," Teyla said, seeming momentarily taken aback by what she saw in his eyes. Then her expression softened and her free hand came up to touch his cheek softly. "Oh," she said again, this time with understanding. She leaned forward and touched her forehead to his.

***

It had been obvious to John for a while now that Teyla and Ronon gossiped about him like hens in a henhouse, so he was not as surprised as he could have been when Ronon said to him during a break in their run, "So, Teyla says you don't like sex at all."

John was breathing too hard to sigh, but he wanted to. He managed to nod instead.

"And that you love her," Ronon continued on.

John nodded again, wondering where this conversation was going, exactly.

Ronon leaned back against the railing behind him and put his elbows up on it. "Do you love me, too?"

John raised his arm and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the wristband. "Um...yeah. Yeah, I do," he admitted, still panting a bit. He wasn't going to lie about it. Too much of his life had already been spent in lying and he done with doing any more of it.

Then John oofed as he found himself suddenly lifted up off the ground and wrapped in a fierce hug. He patted Ronon feebly on the back and hoped that the big guy would remember to put him back down before he ran out of what little air he'd managed to drag in on his break. Otherwise, this would become rather embarrassing when John passed out on him.

Ronon set him back down right before John's air ran out, much to his relief. Ronon then scratched the back of his neck and said tentatively, "You know, there's this thing that my people used to do..."

"Yeah?" John replied as he sucked in more air, curious as to what would make Ronon so act so unsure of himself.

Ronon looked mildly embarrassed and shuffled his feet. "Sometimes one of my people would find someone who was their..." The words stopped synching up to Ronon's mouth and the gate translation garbled out, "one-who-is-treasured-close-as-sibling-but-not-kin-not-sub-not-dom-closer-than-partner-closer-than-friend." Ronon gave him a sheepish smile and brushed John's face with a knuckle. "Like you are to me. My people would do a ritual. To acknowledge it, to bring them into each other's family. I was wondering..."

"Yeah," John said, cutting off the rest of Ronon's question, his heart suddenly thudding in his chest again as if he were running at top speed. He didn't need to hear the rest. Garbled or not, he got the gist of it. "Yeah, sure, I'll do the ritual thing. You're..." he paused to try and remember the un-translated Satedan word, "You're ellekoi to me, too." His whole team was. There was nothing he wouldn't do for any of them.

Ronon grabbed him and pulled him into another breath-stealing hug. "Good," he rumbled into John's ear, "I'm glad."

John thumped him on the back, partly to return the affection and partly to get Ronon to let go so he could breath again. Ronon released him and then reached for John's hair and rubbed the cowlicked, sweaty mess with a brusque fondness. John batted his hand off, then asked out of curiosity, "You know, not that it really matters, but why did you ask now?"

Ronon shrugged. "I asked around about it a couple of years ago and none of your people knew what I was talking about. Figured you guys didn't do that sort of thing. Then, after I talked to Teyla, I was afraid that you'd wind up alone." He looked briefly saddened, as if the mere idea of John winding up by himself was more than he could bear. "I didn't want that. So I asked."

"And Amelia's not going to have problems with it?" John asked. As much as he wanted this, he didn't want it to get in the way of Ronon's relationship with his top.

"Wouldn't keep her collar if she did," Ronon replied, flicking the collar on his neck with a finger. "Don't worry about it. She gets it."

As rituals went, it was pretty simple. They both took their shirts off and Ronon spoke briefly about how much John meant to him. John managed to mumble back a few words that didn't nearly cover what he felt for Ronon. They got absolutely ripping drunk on some Pegasus variant of whiskey and then Teyla and Amelia laid them down on the floor, shaved the hair off their left pectorals, and made the marks, Amelia smiling reassuringly at him as she working the ink into John's skin while Teyla crafted the identical sigil on Ronon. There may have even been some formal words traded between Teyla and Amelia about how their two houses were now joined in honor after the marks were finished, but by that time John was so buzzed on alcohol and endorphins that he wasn't quite sure afterwards.

The next morning, as John nursed his hangover and tried not to scratch the new tattoo or the regrowing stubble, he thought that the only thing that would have made the whole thing even better was if Rodney had been there.

***

Dr. Dalonega became history after a particularly vicious screaming match with Rodney in the middle of the mess hall which left John wincing in embarrassment for Rodney's sake. If any of the accusations she'd flung at him were true, then Ronon had been right and Rodney really wasn't able to top a jar of jam in the bedroom.

John hauled Rodney out of the hall afterwards and dragged him down to the pier for beer and a friendly shoulder to lean against while he licked his wounds.

"Relationships are too complicated," Rodney sighed as he stared at his beer. "I'm too toppy, I'm not toppy enough, christ, it seems like I can never hit that sweet spot where I'm just the right kind of toppy with anybody."

John hummed at him in an agreeing sort of way and took another swig from his can of beer.

"I would give my left nut for a manual that was actually useful instead of full of psychobabble on how to do this shit," Rodney continued in an aggrieved tone. He then turned and gestured toward John with his beer. "And you! I'd ask you for advice on how to attract somebody decent, because every unclaimed sub in a ten kilometer range of you throws themselves at your feet, but you don't seem to have a clue as to how you do it!"

John nodded at him and saluted him with his drink. "You're right. I really don't." For the life of him, John had never understood why subs were after him all the time. Was it the uniform? The lure of the unobtainable? Whatever it was, it was a complete mystery to him.

"I know!" Rodney said. The energy from his rant then seemed to spool out of him and he slumped his shoulders dejectedly. "I'm gonna die an old and lonely man with twenty seven cats and no one will know I'm dead until my place starts to smell and the neighbors call the cops to investigate and they find my half-eaten corpse."

John bumped shoulders with him. "No, you won't, buddy. I won't let it come to that. You'll only be dead a day or two at the most before I find you, promise."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Yes, thank you for that, Colonel Comforting."

"My pleasure," John replied, smirking back at him.

Rodney looked back down at his drink and then raised it to his lips and took several deep swallows. Lowering the can, he then said quietly, "I just feel like I'm always doing it wrong."

John scratched at his head, feeling like an idiot for even trying to help Rodney with this particular problem. But that's what buddies were for and so he asked, "Have you ever tried to top guys? Um, if you're a monosexual I can see why you wouldn't and that's fine, but, um, I'm just asking."

Rodney blew out a deep breath through pursed lips. "I'm not a monosexual. I like guys just fine. It's just, the 'not toppy enough' thing seems to happen even more frequently with them than it does with women and I eventually gave up trying with them."

Huh. A thought slowly blossomed in John's mind and he hesitantly gave word to it. "Could you, I don't know, like maybe be a...a switch?"

"Maybe?" Rodney answered in a small, uncertain voice. His hands started anxiously wringing the top half of his beer can. "I don't feel really comfortable doing all the work in the bedroom, you know? I, I kind of want to relax and let somebody else take care of me. But I won't stand for anybody thinking that I'm going to submit to them when I'm busy working. I flip-flopped between topping and subbing a lot when I was young. And every time I subbed, the damned tops kept interfering with me getting stuff done at my job. One of them even had the gall to shut down a simulation that I'd spent hours setting up and then ordered me to do stupid subby stuff for him at my desk just because he thought it was his god given right to!" Rodney's lip curled in a snarl at the remembered affront.

"Yeah, I can see where stuff like that would grate your cheese," John agreed.

"Yes, yes, it does 'grate my cheese' as you so quaintly put it. It is infuriating, as a matter of fact," Rodney announced tightly. He stopped moving the can in his hands and gripped it tightly, his knuckles whitening slightly. "Everybody was always bitching about how I couldn't make up my damned mind what my dynamic was, so I picked the one that guaranteed that whoever I played with would never interfere with my job. It was just impossible to find a top who would understand that they weren't the center of my attention outside of the bedroom and that they had to leave me the fuck alone and let me get my work done."

John felt for Rodney. It had to be tough being a switch. Common opinion was that switches were unreliable, sex-crazed fiends who needed to make up their damned minds about who they wanted to fuck. John personally thought that it was probably more like somebody who liked both chocolate and vanilla pudding. Sometimes they wanted chocolate, other times they were more in the mood for vanilla. Didn't mean that they wanted to eat both kinds of pudding until their stomach blew up. Just meant that the old taste buds varied on what they wanted occasionally because both tasted good to them.

"Yeah, I can see why you decided to jump that way, if that's the kind of hassle you were getting. But maybe times have changed a bit since then? You know, with monosexuality and non-dynamics being more accepted nowadays, people may be getting less bitchy about switches too. Maybe you should give it another try. Find a nice friendly top who's willing to give it a whirl. Not all tops are that demanding," John replied, gently nudging him with his shoulder and doing his best to give him an encouraging smile.

Rodney returned his smile with a wavering one. "Really?"

"Yeah," John said, nodding. And then was caught completely flatfooted as Rodney hauled him in and kissed him.

His brain stuttered for a minute trying to figure out just what the hell had happened while his lips went on automatic. Then it fell into place, and John wrapped his hands around Rodney's shoulders and gently, regretfully, pushed him back. "Um, Rodney?" he said softly, not wanting to hurt Rodney, but painfully aware that what he was going to say probably would. He'd promised himself that he wouldn't lie about it anymore and Rodney, of all people, deserved the truth. "I'm sorry I gave you the wrong impression, buddy, but I wasn't asking."

John's heart twisted as Rodney's face fell, and it hurt so much that he could hardly stand it. He watched as Rodney's face shuttered and felt him start to draw away, watched as that big brain of his started making excuses, looking for a quick getaway. "Hey," John said, putting his hands on either side of Rodney's face, forestalling his escape. "Rodney, Rodney, buddy, it's not what you think."

Rodney blinked his incomprehension at that and John rushed on to say, "Jeez, if I were any kind of top, I'd be more than happy to put you on your knees and make you submit. But I'm not."

"What do you mean, you're not a top?" Rodney sputtered. "Of course you're a top! There's not a military sub on this base that you haven't flogged!"

Actually, John thought, there was, because 1) not all of them were into that sort of thing, and 2) he'd had new guys come in since he'd stopped screwing people for the sake of his job. But that wasn't cogent to the discussion and so he brushed it aside to say, "That was only because of fraternitas, Rodney. It was easier for me to fake being a top instead of a sub. I haven't had sex since the policy was rescinded."

Rodney blinked again. "You're non-dynamic?"

"That's part of it," John admitted, rubbing a thumb over Rodney's cheek. His nerves then kicked in, and he licked lips. "I'm also, uh..." he paused and tried to shove the jittery feeling down and failed miserably. He was so not ready to talk to Rodney about this. John rubbed his thumb again over Rodney's cheek in mute apology and drew his hands away, sorrow eating at him. "I'm sorry, Rodney," he finally said and quickly got up and fled like the coward that he was.

***

John was lying on his bed in his quarters numbly reading the same paragraph in his book over and over again when Rodney hotwired his door and came bursting in several hours later.

"Okay, so after your disappearing act, I went and talked to Teyla, seeing as how she's apparently the only one of us that can make any sense of what's inside that bizarre little mind of yours," Rodney rattled out quickly as he paced back and forth beside John's bed. John swallowed thickly and watched as Rodney's hands fidgeted nervously, clutching into fists and then releasing.

"Let me get this straight," Rodney said, raising a finger, "You faked being a top for your entire career so you could fly, right?"

"Yeah," John replied, his voice rough.

Rodney barreled forward with, "But you don't find sex at all interesting."

"Not really, no," John allowed, his stomach clenching uncomfortably.

He expected the next question to be 'Why?', but Rodney surprised him. "Is there anything that you do like doing with another person? Kissing, hugging, holding hands?"

John cleared his throat nervously. "Uh, yeah, those are nice."

Rodney made an impatient 'come on' gesture. "Anything more? Come on, Sheppard, work with me here!"

John cleared his throat again and licked his lips before finally forcing out, "Cuddling." Rodney nodded, an intense expression of concentration on his face and then made another 'hurry up' gesture. "Uh, touching in general, really. Just not sex," John finished inadequately.

"Right," said Rodney briskly, nodding firmly as if to pin the information into place. "How about if you had a partner who wanted to get off? Is there anything physical that you'd be willing to do with them that wouldn't bother you?"

John blinked for a moment, thrown by the direction the conversation was taking. "Uh..."

Rodney snapped his finger at him. "Come on, come on! Not that hard a question!" He then raised an eyebrow as he caught John's expression and then said, "Okay fine, since it seems to be breaking your brain, let's go the yes or no route. Handjobs?"

"Uh, yeah," John replied a little blankly.

"Frottage?" Rodney shot out next. John made a face and Rodney waved a hand going, "Okay, forget that. Dildoes?" John nodded. "How about blowjobs?" John shrugged half-heartedly.

"Alright, alright, now that we have the physical parameters, let's hit the dynamics." Rodney then rapped out. "Orders?"

"Sure," John replied, clinging to the conversation by the skin of his teeth.

"Light restraints?" John nodded, becoming more confused. "Paddling?" John nodded again. "Orgasm denial?"

"You know, I never saw the point of that," John replied honestly. He found sex weird to begin with, but getting someone all riled up and then not allowing them to come was just too bizarre for him to comprehend. Why go to all that effort for nothing?

Rodney stopped pacing and his mouth twisted up in a quick smile. "Yes, well, it does seem illogical that that would be fun, I give you that." He then came over and sat on the bed next John. "Okay, then, now that that's covered, I think we can work something out."

"Work something out?" John asked. He was definitely lost now.

"Yes! You, me, a relationship." Rodney replied. He frowned at John. "Why did you think I was asking those questions? Just to hear myself talk?"

John blinked and then shrugged. "I hadn't had time to think about it, actually."

"Oh my god, Teyla's wasn't exaggerating about how dense you can be," Rodney muttered to himself. He then took hold of John's hand and said somewhat uncertainly, "Look, out on the pier...I got the impression that, that maybe you...maybe you loved me. And after I talked to Teyla I thought that the reason you turned me down was because you didn't want to cheat me of my fair share of sex. Was...was I wrong?"

John looked down at their clasped hands and tightened his grip. "No. You weren't wrong."

"So, if I told you that I'd be willing to meet you half way?" Rodney asked anxiously. "I'm a genius, I'm sure I can come up with something that'll accommodate us both. I'm actually an astonishingly easy sub to dominate. All I really need is a few restraints, some orders and maybe a bit of paddling. Oh, and an occasional fucking with a dildo. Honest, I wouldn't be high-maintenance at all."

John barely managed to repress a snort of laughter. Rodney would never convince John that he was anything but high-maintenance. He couldn't keep in the smile, however. "It doesn't bother you that I'm not interested in having you try to make me orgasm?"

Rodney returned the smile with one of his own and squeezed John's hand. "I won't say that I'm disappointed that I'll never see it, but I think I'll live. It wouldn't be the worst thing I've ever had to deal with in a relationship."

Thinking back on the accusations Dr. Dalonega had thrown at him earlier, John didn't think so either.
"Then I think I could see my way clear on tying you up and fucking you with a dildo every now and again," John allowed, a grin slowly spreading over his face.

Rodney's face lit up and he leaned in and gave John a quick peck. "And I promise to never try to make you come. See, we've got common ground already. We can make this work!"

John leaned forward to rest his head on Rodney's shoulder and laughed. Maybe he was right. Maybe it might just work after all.

***

John wandered back into the room with a fresh batch of popcorn and passed one of the two bowls to Ronon as he walked by.

"Thanks," Ronon said as he grabbed a handful and passed the bowl up to Amelia. John really liked that they had such a casual relationship that he could hand the bowl directly to Ronon like that. Amelia was very cool, being that secure in in her toppiness. Or maybe it was because John was Ronon's ellekoi and so didn't count at a threat. John wasn't going to rock the boat by asking.

"May I resume the movie?" Teyla asked, pointing the remote toward the large screen television. Kanaan lounged comfortably at her feet while Torren lay sacked out on a blanket on the floor.

Rodney reached out and grabbed John. John went with the pull and allowed himself to be tucked back into Rodney's side on the large beanbag chair that they'd been sharing before John had had to go refresh the popcorn bowls. Rodney wrapped one arm around John's back and kissed him on the temple before diving into the bowl John carried with his free hand. "Go ahead," Rodney mumbled around the mouth full of popcorn. John chuckled and rested his head on Rodney's shoulder, enjoying the cuddling.

As Teyla hit the play button, Rodney twined a leg around one of John's and wriggled the both of them back into the beanbag chair a little more comfortably. "Oh, this is the good part where they start blowing up everything," Amelia announced, leaning forward intently and pointing at the screen.

With John, his team and their respective spouses settled in, they finished watching the movie, although John took advantage of the occasional slow spot in to do a little kissing with Rodney. After the end of the movie, Teyla, Kanaan, Ronon and Amelia got up from their respective sitting places and began the process of leaving for the evening. As Kanaan collected Torren, Ronon smirked down at them and said, "Always knew you two belonged together. You're both too weird for anybody else."

John rolled his eyes and made a 'blah blah blah' gesture at him with one hand as Rodney huffed and said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Don't you people have someplace else to be?"

"Oooh, somebody's impatient for a little privacy," Amelia said teasingly as she snapped her leash onto Ronon's collar. "Come on baby, the two lovebirds need some alone time now." She gave the leash a light tug and Ronon gave them a shit-eating grin, turned and followed after her.

Teyla came up to them, bent down and did the forehead touch with both of them, then straightened up and clipped her leash onto Kanaan. "Thank you for inviting us to share in the celebration of the anniversary of your finding one another. May you have many more years together."

Rodney got all flustered and tongue-tied at the gentle tone and John flushed a bit as he said, "Thanks, Teyla. For coming. And, and everything else."

She smiled serenely at them. "Enjoy the rest of your evening," She then walked her family out the door, leaving them to their solitude.

John turned his head and touched the tip of his nose to Rodney's fondly. "Happy second anniversary, buddy," he said, pulling the now empty popcorn bowl away and wrapping his free hand possessively around Rodney's waist.

Rodney's face brightened into a smile and he tilted his head so that his lips met John's, one of his hands running up and down John's back, petting him.

John hummed happily, enjoying the closeness. In a little while he planned to tie Rodney to the bed and fuck him slowly with a dildo until he begged and then order him to come as an anniversary present. John still wasn't into any of that stuff, but Rodney was by far one of the easier subs to get off John had ever encountered so Rodney had not lied about being low maintenance, at least in that respect. And as good as this currently was, Rodney was even more gratifyingly cuddly after he'd been taken down into subspace, so John didn't find the process terribly onerous at all. Not when it was for Rodney, at least.

Rodney broke away from their kiss and murmured, "Later on, I want to give you a happy anniversary back rub. I even got some of that oil that you like, you know, the manly smelling stuff."

John raised his hand and gently touched the side of Rodney's face. "I'd like that," he replied, smiling slightly. Rodney still was definitely a high maintenance drama queen emotionally, but so, so worth it. "I've gotta present for you, too."