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Conduct Unbecoming

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"So," John says, keeping his tone light as he unzips his tac vest and shrugs out of it. "Care to explain yourself?" It's cool in the jumper, and goose bumps raise on his bare arms where the material of his t-shirt doesn't cover. John wedges himself into the space between console and passenger seat, pulling a long-sleeved shirt over his head to mask the movement. Rodney won't be able to stand up or even turn his chair away.

"Explain myself? What's to explain?" Rodney's face is a picture of innocence, but he has the grace to flush when John raises an eyebrow.

"Okay," John says, ignoring Rodney's attempt at deflection. "How about you tell me what you think went wrong during this mission."

"That's easy," Rodney snaps. "My laptop's gone, I twisted my ankle, those – those cave people couldn't have followed instructions if they were tied to them; they were using that ZPM as a night light, Major!"

John levels Rodney with a hard stare. "Try again," he says, and this time there's nothing casual in his tone.

Rodney's mouth flaps open and he gestures, pointing into the rear hatch. "I'll go into more details in my report," he sneers. "Right now, I have to limp to the infirmary, so that Carson can fiendishly jab me with needles, shaft me on painkillers, and then I have a debriefing to attend. So if you'll just open the back door, I'll be out of your hair, okay?"

"No," John says roughly. "It's not okay."

He grabs the ties at the front of Rodney's vest, dragging Rodney up and out of the chair, quickly stripping him out of the vest, and then pulling him into the back of the jumper, ignoring Rodney's outraged shouts. John nudges the back of Rodney's knee with his own; Rodney crumples predictably, and while he's searching for balance, John unzips Rodney's pants and jerks them down to his knees. Batting away Rodney's hands, John pushes at Rodney's hips and they fall onto the bench together, with Rodney tumbling into John's lap.

Hauling Rodney's legs up onto the seat, John wraps an arm around Rodney's thighs and leans down, checking to make sure Rodney can still breathe in his position face-down on the seat. The whole operation takes a few minutes, tops, and John wishes again that Rodney would consent to attending some combat training, or a little hand-to-hand at the very least. Oh well. John's through wishing, done with asking, and honestly? In his heart of hearts, he's looking forward to the inevitable, physical struggle in four, three, two...

Bucking up off the seat, Rodney's back arches as he scrabbles for purchase, but he's can only get his elbows tucked underneath. He twists around, throwing his weight to the side, trying to roll off of John's lap and onto the floor, growling under his breath when it doesn't work. John moves with him, anticipating each attempt, watching Rodney's body communicating its next move with every twitch and struggle. When it sinks in that he's not going anywhere, Rodney switches to yelling, but John only leans harder, one hand between Rodney's shoulder blades, the other still tight on one thigh. Rodney's smart; he'll figure it out.

When he does, his shoulders slump, his body goes limp, a dead weight across John's legs.

When Rodney speaks, he sounds contrite. "Look, Major, Sheppard, I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry. You don't have to do this. I've learned my lesson." Rodney's voice is muffled. He's given up looking for leverage with his elbows and has fallen flat, his arms trapped between his chest and the bench, his right cheek pushed against the padded seat. He closes his eyes. "I swear."

John shakes his head. "I disagree," he says, regretful. "You really haven't."

A short pause, and then Rodney rallies for another surge at escape, kicking a leg out, writhing, trying to knee John in the junk. Quickly, John opens his knees further apart, forcing Rodney to re-evaluate his weight distribution, and after a few moments Rodney slumps down once more, panting lightly, a faint sheen of sweat showing on his forehead.

"Settle," John orders, pressing his hand more firmly against Rodney's back. He grins wryly when Rodney's spine stiffens at the command, but Rodney's worn out, and he stays down without protest.

They sit silently for a few minutes. John studies the side of Rodney's face, watching his forehead wrinkle while he's running options. Very smart.

Rodney has thrashed around and yelled and delivered a fake apology, but all he really needs to do to end this is to tell John to stop. They've never done this, never come anywhere close to it, and John's amazed at his own audacity, sitting in a puddlejumper with his teammate's ass laid out over his thighs.

But what had happened on P6R-223 was unacceptable, and John knows that Rodney doesn't understand why, and that's a bigger problem than a few swats to the ass between colleagues. They're not buddies yet, but they will be, and to get there, they have to get through this.

"Okay," John says evenly, tamping down on his anger. "How 'bout I tell you what went wrong on this mission." Smoothing his hand down Rodney's back, he rubs a slow circle at the base of Rodney's spine. "Shhhhh," he hums, cutting Rodney off. "You don't need to talk."

Rodney glares up at him. "I don't need –"

John cups his hand when he delivers the smack, so the blow doesn't hurt, but the noise echoes in the jumper. Rodney's whole body freezes, including his vocal cords. Resting his hand on the curve of Rodney's ass, John strokes his thumb back and forth.

"Major," Rodney says, sounding desperate. "Don't."

"Shut up, Rodney," John says. "I'll only repeat myself one more time: you don't need to talk. You need to listen." Keeping his hand curved, John delivers two more light slaps, one on each ass cheek.

Rodney sucks in an angry breath, but he stays quiet.

"You didn't listen when Dr. Weir explained that the Ensevians both distrust and dislike advanced technology. Instead, you argued, and failing to win that discussion, you brought the laptop anyway, hidden in your pack. You disrespected her, and you went ahead and did what you wanted anyway."

Rodney starts to speak, and John flattens his hand, laying a heavier smack on Rodney's upper thigh at the same time he pushes his free hand across Rodney's open mouth.

"No," John says firmly. "And you're not helping by rolling your eyes."

Rodney glares, exhaling heavily through his nose, his breath hot against John's palm.

"You ignored that one request, and after the Ensevians saw you using the laptop – in full view of everyone assembled, I'll point out – you were ordered to relinquish it. You refused to meet their expectations again, which led to a confrontation at spear point. You incited violence at an otherwise peaceful meeting. That's disrespectful to an entire people." Two more slaps, harder this time, and Rodney flinches with each smack, thigh muscles flexing against John's legs.

"A diplomatic meeting with people who we need, Rodney, because they have food and we don't, and they were willing to trade with us until you broke the rules."

John touches Rodney's ass, the cotton of Rodney's boxers soft under the rub of his palm, and then he cups one cheek and squeezes lightly. Rodney sucks in a quick breath, nostrils flaring, and John pulls his hand away from Rodney's mouth.

"You're damned lucky that all they did was chase us off their planet; hell, we're both lucky," John says, voice dropping low. "Guns versus spears, sure, but there were a lot of them, and you're no sharpshooter." John emphasizes this with three more hard swats, and his palm's warming up, so he knows Rodney's ass is, too.

Rodney grunts as though in agreement, but John shakes his head. It's much too soon for Rodney to declare defeat. Three more hard hits, overlapping as John works his way down.

"It would have been a waste of life and a waste of supplies," John says. "I thought you were smarter than that."

Rodney jerks his head around and stares up at John, indignation etched on his face, but he doesn't speak, and John rewards him with a few long, slow strokes down his spine, fingers on either side of Rodney's backbone.

"I can forgive all of that," John says, trying to sound as self-serving as possible. A little provocation agitates Rodney into predictable actions. "And --"

Rodney interrupts with a snarl. "What makes you think I want your forgiveness?"

"Settle," John orders, but Rodney's still wiggling, so John spanks him again, several times in succession, each blow hard enough to sting on contact and make his hand tingle; when John draws back, the muscles in Rodney's back are tight, he's holding himself rigid, his mouth open on jerky, shallow breaths.

"I'm even willing to forget about the damage to the jumper. Like you said, you're not entirely adept at controlling it yet, and you've skipped out on our last couple of lessons." He slaps Rodney's ass a few more times, watching as Rodney struggles not to respond. "Or maybe you were overwhelmed by the task," John taunts, and there's the reaction that he's been expecting.

"I am not a child, Sheppard, and I don't fucking appreciate your methods, this, you – you arrogant prick!" Twisting around in John's lap, Rodney tries to inch his way forward, but there's nothing to grab hold of, and his fists slide off the vinyl cover on the bench.

John plants his feet on the floor, holds his position, and waits for Rodney to wear himself out, talking over the rustle and scuff of movement. "You sure acted like a child. A petulant child who thinks there aren't any consequences for his actions. You're not alone in this, but it seems to me that you think we're all just in your way. Is that what you think?"

Suddenly it's quiet inside the jumper. Rodney's red in the face, throat moving as though he's gulping back his words, his lips clamped shut, and John presses for the advantage.

"You blew off direct orders. I know you're not military," John rushes out. "Believe me, if you were..." John shakes his head. "If you honestly think that Elizabeth, or myself, Teyla, or Ford – we're here to protect you, and you're sabotaging us. Me. The whole mission. Why would you do that?"

"Why would you throw me down and hit me?" Rodney asks, sounding grouchy. "'Cause that's not exactly inspiring trust, Major."

"Trust is earned," John says curtly, "and that's a wobbly plank you're walking."

"Not looking forward to walking anywhere," Rodney mumbles, and John lets go of Rodney, tugging at the waistband of his pants and drawing them back up over Rodney's ass.

"Stop undermining my authority," John says. "Be less of a dick. You have a team now."

Rodney eases up off of John's lap, standing and turning away to zip up. When he looks back at John, there's some mixture of obstinance and – something – in his expression, and John hesitates to call it vulnerability.

"A team," Rodney repeats. "More people whose trust I'm supposed to earn in some incommunicable way. Joy."

"Team's a family, Rodney," John says. He stands, too, and looks directly into Rodney's eyes. "Your family."

Rodney returns the steady look. "Is this the part where you say you hurt me because you care?"

"Yeah," John says, striving to sound as sincere as he feels. "That's it, exactly."

Now Rodney looks nervous, so John says, "Go see Carson." Moving into the cockpit, he pushes the button to open the rear hatch door, then sinks down into the pilot's seat and listens as Rodney leaves.