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Make The Devil Feel Surprise

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John didn't even look up as the door to his office slid open. There were only three people in Atlantis who had permission to just walk in on him without knocking. Since Ronon was guarding the door at the moment and Teyla was in some kind of meeting with Elizabeth, that left….

"McKay," he said, finally glancing up from his computer.

"My parents died in a car crash a week ago." There was a pause and McKay added, "both of them."

"Both in the same crash?" he asked, knowing that offering sympathy would be wasted, particularly when he could guess what had happened.

"My father thought he was a radical and my mother, well, she egged him on," McKay said, confirming John's suspicions. "Mostly to see what would happen. Guess they found out."

"That wasn't very bright."

"Well, no, obviously. The sheer brilliance skipped a generation there."

"Do you need to go home?"

"No. There's just one problem."

John raised an eyebrow and she finally showed some emotion, a familiar look of irritated exasperation twisting her face. "My brother. Meredith."

"Isn't he just a kid?"

"He just turned sixteen. It is possible," she said, still looking annoyed, "that he is smarter than I am. Well, as far as theory goes. He doesn't have my practical experience, of course."

"Jeannie," he said firmly, because if he didn't stop her, she'd just keep talking. "What exactly do you want?"

"I want to bring him here. To Atlantis."

She joked, of course. Dry little jokes that poked careful fun at the system and stupid math jokes that only he, and maybe Zelenka, got. This one, however…this one was weird, and John really didn't think it was a joke.

"You want to bring a kid to Atlantis." John shook his head. "Out of the question." He was surprised she hadn't gone to Elizabeth. Not that Elizabeth was soft—far from it—but she could be a little blind where kids were concerned.

Jeannie smiled, the tight little smile she used when she had him where she wanted him in a chess game. It made John more than a little nervous, and he frowned as she punched a key on her tablet and shoved it across his desk.

"Meredith Rodney McKay," she said as John stared at the screen in shock. "It's entirely possible that he's still…."

He looked up as her voice trailed off. "He's still…?" Still what? Still looks like sin personified?

"A virgin."

He stared at her, hoping that he didn't look too eager.

"Shall I make the arrangements, Colonel?" Her voice was all honey now.

"You're whoring your little brother out to your team leader. My God, McKay, that's stone cold, even for you."

"Oh, please, like you wouldn't do the same?"

"If Dave had looked like this at sixteen?" John said, looking down at the picture again. "Hell, yeah." He took a deep breath, pushing the tablet back across the desk. "Have them send him to us on the Daedalus. I'm sure you can convince them that big sister would be pretty upset if anything at all happened to him."

Given what happened to people who upset Jeannie McKay, he figured the kid would get to Atlantis in the roughly same condition he left Earth.

Although I seriously doubt he's a virgin, John thought, remembering the kid's crooked, knowing, smile. No way someone that pretty could make it to sixteen without getting fucked.

I'm going to go fucking crazy.

Rodney stared at the ceiling and thumped his head against his pillow. The finest mind of this, or any other, generation and it'll all be wasted because these morons don't realize that the mind needs some fucking stimulation.

Picking up one of his pads of paper, he flipped through it idly, glancing as casually as he could up at the camera in the corner. They could watch all they wanted, but he was pretty sure they'd never figure the code out. If they even cared.

He'd made up the code when he was seven and Jeannie was in college. They'd used it until three years ago, when she'd written one last letter, telling him she was going to be working on a project so secret, so hush-hush that she wouldn't even be able to receive his mail.

It still hurt to remember how alone that left him feeling.

At the time he wondered if she'd learned about the part he'd played in her stupid, awful husband's death, but no. Jeannie had a temper on her, and if she'd known, she'd have made time to come home and kick his ass up around his ears.

Unless, of course, they just disappeared her.

It happened, of course—in fact, Rodney had a suspicion that it was happening to him, which was something he was trying pretty hard not to dwell on. But Jeannie was more than brilliant, she was fucking sneaky, and short of a bullet to the back of her head, she'd be able to get out of anything.

He looked over at the door. It wasn't locked, but there were big men with guns on the other side, and beyond them, a corridor that was more tunnel than hallway, a security station, and an elevator that needed a key.

The latter was no real block to him, but the big men with the guns were a bit of a problem. Rodney knew that he possessed a certain wiry strength, but he tended to depend on his wits and his knowledge of science to deal with bullies. But he had nothing to work with here but a case of yellow note pads, three boxes of pens (black, blue and red), and a box of pencils. While there were probably people in the world who could kill those goons with a mechanical pencil, Rodney was hardly Special Agent Jack Cameron of the Continental Security Forces , who, along with his hot, blonde, hacker sidekick, took out the enemies of the State in 60 minutes—really forty-three point nine minutes taking commercials into account—every week with enough time left over to manage a visit to his poor ailing mother.

Rodney hated that show; the science was absurd, the so-called hacking was even worse, and Bret Masters couldn't act his way out of a paper bag, but Sheila Griffin, the tragically bad actress who played Agent Erin McCall, was hot and also Canadian. Rodney watched it every week.

What would Erin McCall do? he thought. Really, though, he already knew the answer, and while he'd been doing his best to look young, helpless and, above all, pretty whenever his guards were around, it wasn't enough to get them to lower their defenses.

The only thing that gave him any kind of hope was the fact that he was being held by the military and not StateSec. The Air Force wasn't any better than the State it served, but it was still possible that Jeannie's secret project was with them and that maybe, just maybe, they wanted his brain and not his death.

I can build a better bomb than she can, Rodney thought. The only reason everyone thinks she's so smart is that she built one in Grade Six. No one let me near those kind of materials when I was that age; she scared them too much.

Sighing, he picked up his black pen and went back to writing up his plans for a better bomb in code.

"Meredith McKay…." General O'Neill leaned back in his chair and looked at Rodney.

"Rodney," he replied sharply, doing his best not to look intimidated. "My father was Meredith McKay."

"And you took care of him rather nicely, didn't you? Along with your mother."

Rodney crossed his arms across his chest and glared at the general. "I did my duty as a citizen of the State," he said. "If I'd been some brat who just hated his mom and dad, I'd have tried to turn them in years ago, before there was any real evidence."

"Actually," O'Neill said, "all that tells me is that you know the value of patience and can put your hatred on hold." He didn't sound all that disappointed, and that was enough to give Rodney a little boost of courage.

"Why hasn't one of those goons of yours taken me into some room with a drain on the floor and shot me?"

General O'Neill snorted. "We haven't shot you because you're not a threat. I could let you walk out of here right now and you'd be lucky to survive, let alone become a danger to the State."

"I do," Rodney said, "know the value of patience."

Oh, fuck, that was stupid. Are you trying to get shot?

"I don't know why, but I kinda like you, kid." O'Neill was silent for a moment and Rodney did his best to hide the fact that he hated it when people called him "kid."

"But I don't want you. Even with the prospect of an eventual return on our investment, you're just not valuable enough right now. However…."

In an effort to keep from saying something stupid, Rodney bit down on his tongue so hard he tasted blood.

"However, someone does want you, and the fact is, we'd have send you to her even if she hadn't asked for you."


"Got it in one." O'Neill gave him a false looking smile. "You're going to see her again, although it'll take about three weeks to get there."

"Where the hell have you people got her?" Rodney blurted, forgetting any attempt to keep from saying something stupid. "Outer Mongolia? There's nowhere on Earth that takes three weeks to get to."

"You'd be surprised," O'Neill said. "But actually, you're right. There's nowhere on Earth that takes that the Air Force that long to reach."

Rodney blinked even as he felt his heart begin to beat just a little faster. Surely the general didn't mean….

Space travel, Rodney learned fairly quickly, was boring. That the Daedalus was clearly a working starship was pretty cool at first, but he wasn't allowed to go poking around, and sitting in the mess watching hyperspace flow by was only good for so much entertainment. He was denied access to any of the computers, and for once he wasn't going to try to get around that restriction. Not only had he been warned that he was still being watched 24/7, but he did have a sense of self-preservation. Messing with computers on Earth could mean trouble, but it usually didn't affect little things like, oh, the air you were breathing.

So he tried to take it as a compliment that they were clearly kind of afraid of him and looked for other kinds of fun. Knowing that he appealed to a certain type, he figured that here, among all these butch Air Force officers and Marines, he'd finally get well and truly laid.

Only, try as hard as he could, no one took him up on it. Rodney could be subtle, and at first he had been. And really, playing the wide-eyed innocent fascinated with the fact that he was in space hadn't been all that difficult; after all, it was true.

Once the thrill of space faded and subtlety failed, he made his advances a little more obvious. There was an engineer who was good looking and obviously interested, but Rodney got nowhere with him. The same with an infirmary attendant, a very bored Marine and the second watch pilot. All of them had flirted right back, up to a point, and then it was like they realized what was happening and backed off. It was driving Rodney crazy.

He was sitting in his tiny quarters, trying to figure out what to do next since apparently both sex and computers weren't available to him, when someone tapped on his door. Before he could say anything, the door slid open and the ship's commanding officer came in.

"Colonel Caldwell," Rodney said, standing up and giving the man a shy little smile. "What can I do for you?"

"You can stop hitting on my crew," Caldwell said.

"Oh? I hadn't realized discipline was so strict that what they do in their off time matters." Did Caldwell want Rodney for himself? He wasn't acting like it, but Rodney checked him out anyway—he was hot for an old guy and managed to make the ugly green jumpsuit look good. "I'm sorry." He slumped against the wall just a little. "I don't want to get anyone in trouble."

Caldwell sighed. "Look, kid, don't bother. Even if I went for boys at all, let alone ones young enough to be my son, you're strictly hands off."


"No one here wants to piss Dr. McKay off, and she's made it real clear that you're not to be…you're to be left alone."

"You're afraid of Jeannie?"

Caldwell's eyes went narrow. "I like to think that I'm fairly intelligent, and any intelligent person knows to keep off McKay's shit list."

You are afraid of her. Not that Rodney could blame him, of course.

"So how soon will we get to Atlantis?"

"Another five or six days." When Rodney rolled his eyes, Caldwell sighed. "How about this? You refrain from distracting my crew or blowing the ship up and I'll tell Dr. Novak to let you hang out in engineering."

"With the little gray guy? Cool!" Which it was, although Rodney was still wishing he could get laid. The fact that he'd gone from being under his parents' control to Jeannie's was something he'd think about later.

"Do we have a deal?"

"Yeah, fine. No blowing up the ship, no trying to lose my cherry…can I go to Engineering now?"

Caldwell looked pained. "Go."

What with one thing and another, John forgot—mostly—about McKay's kid brother.

He'd led his team on a raid against a nest of Wraith worshipers. It went down fine; they slipped in quick and quiet, planted a bomb, took a couple of prisoners, and then left while the village blew sky high behind them. After that, they had to question the prisoners.

At times like that, John found himself missing Bates, although Ronon really was a pretty good interrogator. Bates had been a little better, but he'd pissed Teyla off a few too many times and when it came down to it, Teyla was far more important and valuable than Bates ever had been. Not to mention that watching her take him out had been pretty entertaining.

It turned out that the prisoners knew very little, so John let Ronon take his time killing them. They'd gotten some good footage of that which John had turned over to Elizabeth. John had never met anyone as good at PR as she was; she'd see that they got maximum use out of it. Plus, he suspected she'd enjoy watching it.

The end result was that, by the time Caldwell contacted them and said that the Daedalus was a day out, it took John a moment to remember why he cared. Oh, sure, there was the verbal fencing between Caldwell and Elizabeth to look forward to, not to mention the fun John always had rubbing Caldwell's nose in the fact that John was still the military commander of Atlantis while Caldwell had been lucky to keep his ship after they pulled the snake out of him. But yes, all right, there was also….

"We brought you something, Doctor McKay," Caldwell said as soon as he and some of his people beamed down.

"Mer!" Jeannie exclaimed.

And there he was, scowling a very McKay scowl and blushing just a little. Jesus, John thought, doing his best not to look too interested. It wasn't easy; in person the kid was even prettier than his pictures and John was getting hard at just the sight of him. When John finally glanced away, he caught Teyla looking in his direction. She raised her eyebrow and smirked, and he glared at her.

He had himself under control by the time Jeannie finished introducing her brother to Elizabeth. "And this is Colonel Sheppard," she said. "Military commander of Atlantis and my team leader. John, this is my brother Mere…."

"Rodney," the kid said, giving Jeannie a look. He held out a hand. "Rodney McKay."

"Pleased to meet you, Rodney," John said, shaking his hand. "Welcome to Atlantis."

Rodney looked him up and down and then checked out Ronon as well. "I think I'm gonna like it here."

Yeah, good luck with Ronon; he's way too straight for you. Not to mention the fact that even if Ronon liked boys, he'd hardly take one John wanted.

"I'm sure you will," Jeannie said dryly. She went on to introduce Rodney to the rest of the team and then to Carson and Zelenka.

John, who wanted nothing more than to grab Rodney and yell "mine!", backed off instead. There were meetings he had to be in and there would be the usual influx of new personnel who needed to know right off the bat that John was in charge.

Rodney would keep.

For a little while.

"Jesus, Jeannie," Rodney said when they finally broke away from the crowd in the gateroom. "This is fucking unbelievable," he added as she led him down the hall.

For once, he wasn't either exaggerating or pretending to be overwhelmed by something that wasn't all that interesting. The Daedalus had been plain, utilitarian even, and although it was built and run with alien technology, it looked normal inside. This place—Atlantis—was alien and beautiful.

"You should have told me," he said, not caring if he sounded sulky. "You left me with them…."

"Oh, shut up, Mer. In the end you did me a favor by getting rid of Kaleb, but don't think that I've forgiven you for it."

Oh shit.

"I…you never called the cops or StateSec."

"None of that would have brought him back, and I figured leaving you to cool your heels with Mom and Dad was punishment enough. And then the SGC recruited me and…." She looked off into the distance. "I was invited to go on the Atlantis Expedition."

Something about the way she said "invited" gave him pause, but then she was showing him the transporter, which was pretty fucking cool. He kept silent until they reached her quarters. "Nice," he said, looking around. "But kinda small for two."

She just gave him an enigmatic look. "I'm going to have to go ride herd on the latest idiots the SGC chose to unload on me, so we don't have too much time to get caught up."

"You said you were invited here. Invited like an engraved invitation, or invited like at gunpoint?"

"More the latter than the former," she said. "I made enemies back at the SGC and this was, as far as we knew at the time, a one way trip. They wouldn't have cared if we'd never been found again, and when we were, they weren't quite sure what to do with us."

"Obviously someone convinced them to let you all live."

"We did that." She smiled tightly. "Me and Elizabeth and John. We've allowed ourselves to become a dumping ground for all the people who are too valuable to kill but too dangerous to keep in the SGC. As for back home, well, we send them things, bits and pieces of alien tech for them to puzzle over. Nothing good, of course. We keep the good stuff for ourselves."

"That can't be safe." Rodney found himself wondering what the hell Jeannie was up to out here.

"Mer, you need to listen to me and you need to believe me when I tell you this; I'm one of the three people who run this place and we are the three most dangerous people you'll ever deal with."

Rodney rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to remind her that he really preferred Rodney, thank you. Before he could say anything, she reached back and slapped him, hard.

"I could touch my radio and have an armed Marine in here in seconds, and if I told him to shoot you, he would. I could shoot you myself or give you to Ronon to use for knife practice. I could turn you over to Carson and Keller for genetic experimentation, or I could take you down to the lab, wire you with some of my experimental explosives and drop you off a tower to see you go boom." She gripped his chin. "And you know what, Rodney? No one would say anything."

He swallowed hard. He'd always known she was mean, always known she was just as cold-blooded as he was, but he'd never been truly afraid of her before. She'd changed and he found himself believing what she said.

"Okay," he said, proud that his voice was steady. "Okay. Just…why did you bring me here?"

She looked at him for a moment more before letting go of his chin. "Two reasons. One: I might be able to use your brain. It's possible that you're almost as smart as you think you are, and I want you working for us."

"Okay," he said again, rubbing his face. She'd hit him pretty hard, and that was new, too; she'd never used physical force against him back home. "Us against Them, just like old times, right? I can do that. What's the second reason?"

She smirked. "Oh, but it's no fun if I tell you." She looked around and then pulled a lap top out of her desk. "Here," she said, typing a password into it. "You can look around and familiarize yourself with the city and the people in it. Don't try to hack into anything. I'll know."

"I'm still hypo-glycemic; is there any food?"

"There are power bars in the desk, but stay the hell away from my chocolate. I'll come and get you for dinner; you can eat with the team."

John had just about finished with the new military personnel when Jeannie stuck her head around the door. "Come on in, McKay," he said. "People, listen up! This is Doctor McKay, our Chief Science Adviser. Don't fuck with her."

She gave everyone a cheerful smile and a wave and John hid a grin. It was easy to tell who came from the SGC; they were the ones who looked at her like she was a live cobra. "Okay, boys and girls, I'm leaving you all in the capable hands of Majors Lorne and Teldy. Do what you're told and everything'll be fine."

"So," he said as he and Jeannie walked toward the mess hall. "Did they dump anyone useful on you this time around?"

"Do they ever?" She frowned. "There's a chemist who might possibly show some promise and Radek likes the look of one of the programmers. I think one of the linguists and possibly one of the hardware specialists are spies, though."

"Really? Or are you just being paranoid?"

"My paranoia has saved our asses more than once, thank you very much. I'll keep an eye on them and so will Radek."

He nodded and then fell silent as they walked.

"Are you going to ask me about Mer?"


"John," she said, her voice serious now. "Don't…be careful around him, okay?"

"Is this a sudden burst of sisterly concern? That's rich, considering what you said to get me to agree to bring him here."

"That's not it at all, you idiot. I'm warning you because he's dangerous; watch your back around him."

"Oh? I've read his file; I know he turned your parents in."

"When I was in grad school, I got engaged to this guy. He was really sweet, rather smart, somewhat liberal…an English PhD candidate. We got married."

"Doesn't sound like your type at all."

"Yeah, well, you were once married to a woman."

He opened his mouth, but settled for glaring at her.

"He died in a motorcycle accident." She paused. "Mer was visiting us, and he was so sympathetic, so sweet, my baby brother trying to take care of me when I was miserable." The look on her face was one he'd seen before, usually when she was talking about people on her shit list. "Kaleb was a really careful rider and later, when I was thinking again, I did some digging into the records of the accident."

"Your brother."

"Yeah. And the cops were sure it was natural wear and tear on the bike, just a cable that needed replacing."

"So basically, you're telling me that he's a McKay." She glared at him and John shrugged. "You know damn well that I'm as paranoid as you are; I'll watch my back."


At least now I know why she wants to turn him over to me—I'm punishment.

John got hard all over again.

Rodney looked around the mess hall as he sat his tray down. Holy crap, I'm finally eating with the cool kids. He wanted to laugh, but didn't feel like explaining the joke, so he just settled down and started trying to figure out what was on his plate. For all that it was mostly alien food, it wasn't nearly as interesting as his table companions.

Any notion he'd had that the other female member of Jeannie's team would be a little more maternal or even nice vanished as soon as he paid attention to her. Teyla all but radiated menace, as if her pores were giving off "don't fuck with me" pheromones. There was something cat-like about her, and Rodney wondered if she played with people before she killed them. She was hot and dressed to show it off, but he had a feeling that anyone who thought that made her easy didn't make that mistake twice.

Ronon, who was also really hot and dressed to show it off, didn't seem as intensely focused as Teyla, but Rodney remembered what Jeannie had said about him and knives and resolved to keep on the big man's good side. He seemed to be really protective of Colonel Sheppard, watching anyone who came near, and Rodney wondered if they were fucking. That would be so fucking hot, he thought, sneaking a glance across the table at Ronon and then at Sheppard, who was sitting next to Rodney.

Sheppard caught him looking and Rodney felt his face go pink as he lowered his eyes to stare at his dinner. He thought about what Jeannie had said, how Sheppard and Dr. Weir were dangerous, and for some reason Rodney could believe it, at least where Sheppard was concerned. He seemed casual and laid back, but something gave Rodney the feeling that he wasn't: that he was, in fact, the most dangerous man in the room. And, goddamn, but that thought made Rodney want to reach out and touch him, to run his hand up the colonel's thigh….

"So, Rodney," Sheppard said, nudging Rodney's leg with his. Rodney all but choked on a mouthful of…something and Sheppard laughed and pounded him on the back. "You okay there?"

"Yeah," Rodney said. "Something went down the wrong way."

For some reason, Sheppard left his hand on Rodney's back, and Rodney glanced at him again, carefully, through his eyelashes. Sheppard was looking right at him, and before Rodney could say, or even think, anything, his hand slid down Rodney's back until it was resting on Rodney's ass. Rodney's eyes flew all the way open and he stared at Sheppard, who stared right back and squeezed Rodney's ass before turning his attention back to his dinner.

"Scuse me," Rodney said a little breathlessly. "I…um…restroom." Thanking God for his long t-shirt and loose jeans, he headed almost blindly out the mess hall door. Once he reached the hallway, he stopped and leaned against the wall, breathing unsteadily. There was no way, he told himself firmly, that that had just happened.

Only it had, and while Rodney had gotten his breath back, he was still pretty hard. If he hurried, maybe he'd be able to get back to Jeannie's quarters and jerk off before she was finished with….

He yelped as someone grabbed his arm.

"Easy there," Sheppard said. "Come with me."

His hand on Rodney's arm was tight enough to bruise, so it wasn't as if Rodney actually had a choice. As Sheppard led him toward a door, Rodney glanced around, wondering if anyone was watching. The only other person visible in the corridor was Ronon; he followed them a few paces back, but didn't go through the door with them.

"Holy fuck!" Instead of being in a room or another hallway, Rodney found himself on a high balcony, overlooking part of the city. "Wow," he added, forgetting about Sheppard's grip on him.

"Yeah, she's pretty impressive," Sheppard said, looking over the city with a possessive smile. "She's got hyperdrive engines too, better ones than the Daedalus."

"I saw that," Rodney said. "Jeannie gave me access to some basic information. You need more power, though, right? To fly it. Um…her?"

"Yeah. We've managed to get a hold of a few ZPMs, but none of them have been fully charged." Sheppard shrugged. "It's a big galaxy; we'll find one. Or," he added, glancing down at Rodney, "maybe your sister will figure out how to recharge one."

"Is that what I'm going to be doing here? She said something about me maybe working for her.""

"She didn't tell…no, of course she didn't." Sheppard's hold on Rodney's arm loosened and moved down a little until his thumb was rubbing up under the sleeve of Rodney's t-shirt. Rodney shivered and bit his lip.


Sheppard raised his eyebrows, which should have made him look ridiculous, but the way he was staring at Rodney made Rodney feel like his skin was on fire. It wasn't easy, but he lifted his chin a little and managed to meet Sheppard's eyes.

"Why," he said, but before he could get the rest of it out, Sheppard reached up with his free hand and gripped his chin, not tightly, like Jeannie had, but carefully, so that it seemed like an excuse to rest his thumb against Rodney's mouth.

"Because I can," he said. "Because I want to. Because you're young and pretty and terrified." His thumb pressed harder against Rodney's lips. "Because I can tell how much you want it."

"You'd do it even if I didn't," Rodney said, and he shivered again. He could tell that he was right, and in a weird, fucked up way, that made him want Sheppard more.

"I like that you're not stupid," Sheppard said and then smirked when Rodney glared at him. "Yes, I'm well aware that you're brilliant, but that's not what I'm talking about."

Rodney drew in a breath to reply, but Sheppard shook his head. "Don't," he said and then pressed harder with his thumb until Rodney realized what he wanted and opened his mouth.

He wasn't exactly virginal; he'd sucked a fair amount of cock before, been blown himself, and had even, once, fucked a girl. None of those experiences had been anywhere near as hot as standing here fully clothed with Sheppard's thumb in his mouth. Unable to meet Sheppard's gaze, he closed his eyes and sucked lightly, flicking his tongue against Sheppard's skin.

"Yeah, I figured," Sheppard said, his fingers going a little tighter on Rodney's jaw. "You're too tempting to be a virgin."

Rodney shook his head, although he didn't try to say anything.

"Oh, please," Sheppard said, and the skepticism in his voice made Rodney open his eyes for the express purpose of glaring at him.

"Tell me." Sheppard pulled his thumb out of Rodney's mouth but didn't let go of his chin or his arm.

"I've never been fucked," Rodney said. "Other things, sure. I…with a girl one time, but no one's ever…not that."

"Oh, Jesus, you're too good to be real." Sheppard took a deep breath and then stared at Rodney a little more closely. "Who hit you?" he asked, finally letting go of Rodney's chin so he could brush his fingers over Rodney's cheek.

"Jeannie," Rodney said, trying figure out why it mattered, why they were talking about that now, when all Rodney wanted was for Sheppard to do…something. Anything.

"I'll have a talk with her about that." Moving almost too fast for Rodney to anticipate, Sheppard slapped him. It hurt a lot more than it had when Jeannie hit him, but it also felt…weird, almost good.

"From now on," Sheppard said, his voice low and rough, "no one touches you but me." He shook Rodney a little. "Got that?"

"Yeah," Rodney managed to say. "Is that…that's why you let Jeannie bring me here?"

"Clever boy," Sheppard said. "But you need to stop talking now." He finally let go of Rodney's arm, only to grab Rodney's shoulder and push down hard.

Rodney went with it, let Sheppard shove him down onto his knees. He was still trying to figure out what was going on here—was he really here to be Sheppard's…what? boy toy?—but right now, what Sheppard wanted was pretty obvious. Rodney could figure the rest of it out later.

"Put your hands behind your back," Sheppard said as he unbuttoned his pants. He left his gun belt on, just shoving his pants down enough to get his cock out. Rodney stared at it a little nervously.

"If you tell me no one's had that mouth before, I'll know you're lying." Licking his lips, Rodney leaned in and Sheppard chuckled. "Yeah, thought so." He reached down, tangled his fingers in Rodney's hair and dragged Rodney forward.

It was pretty clear that Sheppard didn't want finesse here, and so Rodney opened his mouth, kept his teeth covered as best he could and just sucked as Sheppard fucked into his mouth in one hard stroke. He came close to choking, but then Sheppard was pulling out and Rodney caught his breath before the next thrust in.

"This is just to take the edge off." Sheppard's voice was a little unsteady and Rodney smiled to himself and sucked harder. "Gonna fuck you later…make you love it…."

He shoved into Rodney's mouth again and then again, and each time he barely gave Rodney time to breathe. It was fucked up and freaky and Rodney couldn't remember ever being this turned on. Finally, Sheppard's fingers tightened in Rodney's hair and he pushed in one more time, not letting Rodney pull back. Just as Rodney began to choke and panic a little, Sheppard came. Rodney swallowed, coughing as he tried to breathe at the same time.

"Look at me," Sheppard said.

While they'd been on the balcony, the sky had gotten darker and now Sheppard's face was lit mostly by the lights of the city stretched out below them. Rodney stared up at him, still licking his lips and breathing unsteadily.

"No one else touches you and you keep your eyes and hands to yourself." Sheppard glanced toward the door. "I know Ronon's hot, but even if he weren't straight, he won't touch anything that's mine. And neither will anyone else, so don't even try, do you understand?"

Rodney nodded, but Sheppard leaned down and slapped him again. "Do you understand?" he barked.

"Yes," Rodney said, his heart pounding. "Yes…Sir." He was still hard, almost desperate to come, and he wondered if that mattered to Sheppard at all.

"Good boy." Sheppard grabbed Rodney's arm again and hauled him to his feet. "Now, let's go finish dinner."

John strolled back into the mess hall casually, his hand resting on Rodney's shoulder. Rodney's face was beet red and he was certainly obeying John's command to keep his eyes to himself. "They can probably guess what just happened," John said quietly, leaning in a little to speak into Rodney's ear. He could tell that his hold on Rodney's shoulder was all that kept Rodney from bolting.

Guess was actually putting it lightly; Rodney's mouth was red and a little swollen and there was a wet mark on the neck of his t-shirt. John was going to have to train him to swallow a little more neatly, but for the moment, he liked that it was obvious he'd had Rodney in the short time they'd been gone.

Teyla simply shook her head as he, Ronon and Rodney all settled back into their seats, but Jeannie actually laughed when Rodney reached for his bottle of water and took a long gulp.

"By the way, McKay," John said, cutting off whatever Rodney had been about to say to his sister. "Next time he does something to piss you off? Tell me about it."

"Oh?" Jeannie glanced at Rodney's face and nodded. "Oh, okay."

John grinned at her, slid his arm around Rodney's waist, and started talking about the mission they were due to go on in three days. He could feel the tension in Rodney's body and noticed that Rodney was just pushing his food around on his plate.

"Relax," he whispered into Rodney's ear. "So everyone knows you blew me. What's the big deal?"

Rodney looked at him, eyes narrowed in fury, and John had to smile. Nice to know the kid has some spirit to him. And that he's easily humiliated. Jesus, he's almost too perfect.

Finally, after he'd finished his own dinner, he took pity on Rodney. "C'mon," he said, pushing his chair back.

Rodney's face went red again, but he got up and let John lead him out of the mess hall.

"I'm hypo-glycemic," Rodney said as they walked toward a transporter. "I'll need some food somewhere along the line or I'll get dizzy and pass out."

"You should have finished your dinner," John said.

"I couldn't," Rodney said and he sounded a little sullen. "Everyone was looking at us."

"Get used to it," John said. They stepped into the transporter, but John didn't touch the screen. "I'll touch you any time I damn well feel like it and if people look, it doesn't matter."

"It does to me," Rodney muttered.

John just smiled tightly and hit the screen. Grabbing Rodney's arm as soon as the transporter doors opened up again, he headed toward his quarters at a brisk pace, all but dragging Rodney along behind him.

As soon as the door opened, he shoved Rodney inside hard enough that Rodney stumbled. "Stay down," John snapped. Rodney stared up at him, and the fear on his face went straight to John's dick.

"From here on out, the only thing that matters to you is giving me what I want." John moved to stand over Rodney. "You can worry about whatever you want to in your off time, but when you're with me, I'm what matters."

Before Rodney could answer, John nudged Rodney's knee with his boot. "Kneel back on your heels," he said, "knees spread. Further. Straighten up your back and put your hands behind you. From now on, when I tell you to kneel, that's how I want you. Got it?"

Rodney nodded and John raised a hand. "Yes, sir," Rodney said quickly.

"Better," John said. "In public, you can use 'sir' or 'colonel' or 'Colonel Sheppard.' In private, stick with 'sir' for now."

"Yes, sir." Rodney was looking at the ground, seeming to stare intently at John's boots.

"Look up," John said. When Rodney did, John smiled at him. "There's a pretty steep learning curve here, but you're not stupid; you'll get it."

"Thanks," Rodney said dryly. "Sir."

Even though he knew he shouldn't, John couldn't help laughing. "Stand up and strip," he said, still chuckling.

"Um," Rodney began and John gave him a look.

"When I give you an order, you carry it out."

"It's just…I don't…."

John had hoped they wouldn't have to go through a whole thing, but it did give him a chance to put Rodney in his place and so he sighed and crossed his arms. "You don't what?"

"This isn't what…I don't want this." Rodney shifted position until he was sitting on the floor glaring up at John.

"Maybe you are stupid," John said with a sigh. He half turned away and then pivoted back until he was standing over Rodney, his gun in hand. "Maybe you missed the part where I don't care what you want. Now take off your fucking clothes or I'll shoot you in the arm and we'll do this all again when you get out of the infirmary."

Rodney's eyes went huge and he stared at the gun. "Uh…yes. Yes, sir." He pulled off his shoes and socks and then stood up, taking off his shirt. As he went to unbutton his jeans John holstered his gun.

"Don't make me do that again," he said.

Rodney bit his lip and pulled his jeans and boxers off.

"Hands behind your neck this time; yeah, that's right." John moved in close, running a hand across Rodney's chest. It was slim with a faint dusting of light brown hair, and John smiled a little when he reached a pale pink nipple. "Bit cold, are we?" he asked, running his thumb across it. Rodney sucked in a breath and shivered a little. "Or just sensitive?" He rubbed it again, watching as Rodney blushed and stared at the floor.

"I like the blush too." John ran a finger along Rodney's collarbone. "The way it goes down to here…."

John moved around behind Rodney. "Oh, very nice. You'll have broader shoulders some day, I think. But this…somewhere along the line, we need to get you some pants that show this off better." He palmed one of Rodney's ass cheeks, squeezing it a little. "How is it that you've never been fucked? Hmmmm?"

"Never let anyone," Rodney said, a little breathlessly.

"You're going to let me, though." John pressed in close, moving his hand around Rodney's hip. He chuckled when he found Rodney's cock; it was already half-hard and it twitched as John slid his hand over it. "I could just throw you down and fuck you, make it rape so you can tell yourself that you had no choice."

"I don't, do I…sir?" Rodney's voice was small and hesitant.

"You don't want a choice," John said. "But I've changed my mind and I'm going to give you one anyway. I promise you this, and, although you may not believe it, I'm a man of my word." He squeezed Rodney's cock. "At some point in the middle of all this, I'm going to ask you if you want me to keep going. And if you say 'no,' I'll stop."

"If I say 'no', what happens to me? You shoot me?"

"I let you put some clothes on and we get the chess board out and play chess until bed time. And then, tomorrow, you can go and meet Jeannie's people and find out what it is she wants you to work on or learn."

"No consequences?"

"No. And then, tomorrow night, we'll do this again. And I'll ask you again. You'll still live with me, still live under my rules and behave yourself in public, but every night I'll give you a choice." John paused and pressed up against Rodney's ass, letting him feel John's erection. "And every night, until you say 'yes,' I'll stop."

"You think I'll give in."

"Well, obviously." John reached up and pinched one of Rodney's nipples sharply and Rodney moaned. "But really, you think you will too." He pinched again and Rodney squirmed. "Put your hands down, arms at your side."

Rodney did and John moved in even closer, leaning down to speak right in Rodney's ear. "And when you tell me to keep going, when you tell me it's okay, maybe I'll lay you out on the bed, on your stomach, spread your legs and your ass, and lick you open. You're young; you'll come from it and I'll use your own come to slick you up so I can slip my fingers inside you. I know you've thought about it; I know you've probably even tried putting a finger in, but it's different when someone else does it to you, and I won't stop with one."

John paused to bite the side of Rodney's neck. "And once you're ready, once you're good and open and slick, I'll slide my dick in you so slow and so easy, give you all the time in the world to get used to it. And then I'll pull out, roll you over, and you'll let me push back in, and you'll wrap your legs around me and beg for it."

He bit Rodney's neck again, harder this time and then sucked on the bite while Rodney moaned and shivered. Once he knew he'd left a mark, he lifted his head. "Do you want me to keep going?"


Not at all surprised, John stepped back. "You can put your boxers on."

While Rodney picked up his shorts, John checked the second room of his suite. Sure enough, there were several boxes and a suitcase. "Looks like your stuff is here."

"I never packed anything," Rodney said. He was still hard and couldn't meet John's eyes, but the blush was gone. "They came for me right after my parents' funeral."

"Looks like someone packed for you. You can go through it all in the morning." John moved over to his desk and pulled out the chess board. "You hungry?"

"Yeah. Um…."


"Am I still supposed to be calling you 'sir?'"

"Good boy," John said. "Yes, you are. Since I've decided to be so easy on you, I'll overlook it if you screw up in here in the next week or so, but if you don't do it in public…well, appearances must be maintained and all that shit."

"Yes, sir," Rodney said. He sounded sullen again and John shook his head. He'd been pretty sullen at sixteen too, but that didn't mean he wasn't looking forward to training Rodney out of that particular attitude.

Tapping his radio, he called the kitchens and ordered a plate of sandwiches and a dessert. By the time one of the staff showed up with the tray, he and Rodney had started up their game. Even distracted by food, Rodney was a good player, almost as challenging as Jeannie.

Of course, John wasn't exactly going to make anything easy for the kid. When he noticed that, in spite of the fact that the room was fairly warm, Rodney's nipples were still hard, he grinned.

"I'm going to have those pierced," he said, right after making a move. He leaned back and looked at Rodney. "Gold rings, I think."

"Um…my ears, sir?"

"I really don't like it when you're deliberately dense," John said. "Although I might have your ears done too." Then as Rodney looked down at his own chest, John grinned. "Your move."

Rodney hadn't lost a chess game since the last one he'd played via email with Jeannie, but he supposed he could be forgiven for losing this one. He was acutely aware of the mark on his neck, and then, once Sheppard mentioned piercing them, he couldn't help noticing his nipples, too. It was damn distracting and Sheppard was a surprisingly good player.

"You'll have mate in six," Rodney finally said, tipping over his king.

"I was wondering when you'd notice." Sheppard smiled at him and Rodney tried to ignore the little coil of…feeling in his stomach. "I'd love another game, but I've got some work to do. Here, looks like Jeannie had this sent over."

He handed over the same laptop Jeannie had let Rodney use earlier in the day and Rodney looked at it for a moment before getting an idea. Looking up at Sheppard, he smiled. "Sir, you said I had to follow your rules. Jeannie's too?"

The smile he got this time was wide and genuine; the lines at Sheppard's eyes crinkled a little and he shook his head. "You're something else. " He paused as if thinking it over. "How's this? If she comes and complains to me about you hacking into places where you aren't supposed to be, I'll have to do something about it and you won't like it, so don't get caught."

"Okay," Rodney said, opening up the computer. "Sir," he added. It was weird, not knowing exactly when to say it and when not to.

Sheppard just laughed a little and put the chess board away before opening up his own computer. "We'll get a desk in here tomorrow; there's room here if we move things around a little."

Rodney looked around. "Is there another…oh, never mind. I'm going to be sleeping with you, aren't I, sir?"

Another smile, this one much more predatory. "Got it in one." Sheppard paused for a moment and the smile faded away. "If I yell or accidentally hit you in the middle of the night, it's nothing personal."

Sensing that he better not say anything, Rodney went back to figuring out the Atlantis org chart while Sheppard did whatever it was he was doing. After being so alone on the Daedalus, it was oddly comfortable to share space with someone, even if that someone wanted to fuck Rodney.

No, that wasn't right. If all Sheppard had wanted was an occasional piece of ass, Rodney would have been fine with it, kinky sex and all. But what Sheppard wanted was…it was too big, too intense. It was one thing to fantasize about being someone's….

Sex slave. Rodney swallowed hard and stared at his computer screen without really seeing anything. Jeannie brought me here and gave me to him because he's a pervert who likes them young. Because…

I didn't know that she…that Kaleb had meant that much to her.

He sighed and tried to pay attention; he needed to know who all these people were and who they answered to, but really, he kept looking at that one name—Lt. Col. John Sheppard, Military Commander, Atlantis Base.

I blew him, Rodney thought, glancing over the top of his lap top. Sheppard was typing with surprising speed and seemed utterly engrossed in his work; looking at him, Rodney couldn't believe that he'd had Sheppard's dick in his mouth, that Sheppard wanted him.

He really is fucking hot. And admit it; you liked being on your knees in front of him, liked it when he had you naked. You're going to give in eventually, so why not just do it now, before you piss him off and he changes his mind?

But no, Rodney had too much pride to just give in like that. He probably would at some point, but not now, not tonight.

"There are things you need to know," Sheppard said the next morning. Rodney hadn't slept well; he'd never shared a bed before, let alone with someone who wanted to fuck him. He'd been acutely aware of Sheppard's presence even though Sheppard hadn't done any of the things he'd warned Rodney about.

"Okay," Rodney said, watching as Sheppard buckled on his thigh holster. "Like what?"

"Has McKay, or anyone else, told you that we're in the middle of a war out here?"

Rodney frowned. "A war? Against who?"

God, bad enough that Jeannie had brought him here to be Sheppard's fucking boy toy, but she'd brought him into a war zone as well?

Rodney knew that he wasn't being fair. After all, General O'Neil had been planning on sending him to Jeannie even if she hadn't asked for him. But right now, he didn't really care about being fair.

"They're called the Wraith," Sheppard said. "They're not human. More specifically, they're hybrids of humans and some ugly little fuckers called Iratus bugs. They feed off the energy of living beings."

"The bugs?"

"Yeah," Sheppard said, rubbing a scar on his neck. Rodney had noticed it earlier and now he assumed Sheppard had run into one of those bugs. "And the Wraith."


Sheppard held up his hand. "They have slits in their hands…sort of like weird little mouths. They plant them on your chest and drain the life right out of you. If it happened to you, your corpse would look like an old man."

"Jesus," Rodney said, swallowing hard. "That's…that's really freaky."

"Yeah," Sheppard said. "They defeated the Ancients…the people who built this city and created the stargates." He paused and then spoke with utter conviction. "We're going to wipe them out, one way or another."

Rodney believed him.

The next night and the next and the night after that, Rodney said "no." Even though John had been expecting it, even though he actually liked that Rodney didn't just fall into his arms like some kind of romance heroine, he was getting kind of frustrated.

Maybe, he thought, on the fifth night, I'm being too nice. He'd touched Rodney, gotten him hard and talked him though more than one scenario, but he was going easy on the kid. As he settled on the bed with a pile of leather straps next to him, he thought about the way Rodney had looked up at him after John slapped him that first time. Oh yeah, definitely time to get a little more hardcore.

"The Ancient data base sucks ass," Rodney said as he came through the door. "And I really don't know that learning the language will help—although I will because it's not like it'll be all that difficult, but still…um, what's that?" He paused and then quickly added, "sir?"

John really needed to work on that, although he suspected it would be a losing battle. Rodney was like his sister in a way; get him on some train of thought and everything else was forgotten. And really, John could excuse the "sir" thing, but there were other rules and if Rodney didn't….

"Oh, sorry," Rodney said, going red again. He made his way into the second room and returned after a moment wearing nothing but a pair of boxers.

"Good boy," John said. "Come over here and kneel down."

Biting his lip, Rodney did as he was told. John gave him a brief smile and reached out, resting a hand lightly on Rodney's neck. Rodney shivered.

"Mmmmm. Have I mentioned that I like how sensitive you are?"

"Yes, sir."

After rubbing his thumb along the side of Rodney's throat, John took up one of the straps. "Hold still; I don't want to get the measurement wrong," he said, looping the strap around Rodney's neck.

"What are you…?" Rodney began.

Holding the strap around Rodney's neck with one hand, John pulled the other one back and slapped Rodney hard. "I'm pretty sure I also mentioned that I don't fucking like it when you play stupid. What the hell do you think I'm doing?"

He picked up a pen off the nightstand and made a couple of marks on the leather. "Hold out your wrists."

Rodney was silent as John marked out measurements for wrist cuffs as well and then had him stand. "Foot up on the bed," John said, and marked up the ankle cuffs. After that he took measurements for thigh cuffs, aware of two things: one, Rodney was staring down at him and frowning a little. Two, Rodney was hard.

"Thigh cuffs," John explained. He put the straps aside and stood up. "On the bed, on your back."

Rodney swallowed hard as he settled in the middle of the bed and John smiled. He better give in tonight, damnit.

"They go here." John touched one of Rodney's thighs and then pushed a little until Rodney got the idea and put his knees up, feet on the bed. "They'll have rings on the outside that can attach to the wrist cuffs." He grabbed one of Rodney's wrists and brought it down, holding it next to Rodney's thigh.

"Like this," he said watching as Rodney closed his eyes and bit his lip. "Put your legs back down. Now see, I can also run rope through the rings and use them," he tugged on Rodney's thigh again, "to spread you out."

"Oh God," Rodney whispered, and John wondered what he was seeing behind his eyelids.

"Yeah?" John reached into a drawer in the nightstand and pulled out a length of rope. After tying one end to the bed, he looped the other end around Rodney's thigh several times and then tied it off.

"Wait!" Rodney's eyes flew open. "No…I don't…."

"I haven't asked you yet," John said. He took another length of rope and repeated the process on Rodney's other thigh. A third piece of rope enabled him to tie Rodney's wrists to the headboard, and then he stood for a long moment, looking down at Rodney.

"God, you're a pretty thing," he said, reaching down to run a hand along Rodney's thigh. Rodney glared at him and John slapped his thigh hard, leaving a red mark. "You didn't ask what the rest of the straps were for," John said as Rodney shivered and stared up at him with scared eyes.

"I'm never sure if I should ask you things or not, sir." Rodney narrowed his eyes. "You're kind of inconsistent."

"And you kind of let your mouth run when you shouldn't." John picked up the two extra straps. "I'm going to rivet two of these together, here at the top." He slapped them across his hand and Rodney made a little startled movement at the sound. "And then beat you with them."

He brought the straps down on the inside of Rodney's thigh, right on the mark from his hand, and Rodney yelled.


"Funny thing," John said, doing it again. "You're making a hell of a lot of noise, even though I'm not hitting you that hard…."

"You are too!"

John paused, and something in his face made Rodney look really nervous. "No," he said, raising the straps again. "I wasn't."

This time the blow was hard, not as hard as John could make it, but enough to bring up a welt. Rodney yelled again, louder this time, and he blinked rapidly, his eyelashes wet against his cheeks. John wanted him so much that he ached with it.

"As I was saying," he said, reaching down and stroking the red mark on Rodney's fair skin, "you're making all this noise, and yet you're still hard." He ran a finger along the hard ridge of Rodney's cock under the soft cotton of his boxers and Rodney squirmed. "If I were just touching you, that would be one thing, but I'm obviously hurting you. I think you just might be a masochist. What do you think?" He slapped Rodney's thigh with the strap again.

"I think you're a sick fuck!" Rodney glared up at him. "Sir."

John laughed. "Definitely a masochist, or you wouldn't be trying to provoke me." He used the straps again, this time delivering a sharp smack to Rodney's left nipple. Rodney yelped and closed his eyes. "At some point we'll have to talk about appropriate behavior, but now? I'm having too much fun."

Using both his hands and the straps, he landed blows on Rodney at random while Rodney twisted and turned as much as the rope let him and cried out and glared and even cursed a time or two. Through it all, he stayed hard.

Finally, after he'd left a dozen or so marks on Rodney as well as lighter blows, John stopped. Putting the straps aside, he pulled his knife out. Rodney's eyes went wide, and John just smiled at him before cutting the ropes that bound Rodney to the bed.

"What…?" Rodney blinked and looked confused and John had to laugh.

"Wait for it," he said, and then bent down and sliced Rodney's boxers off him. "See, here's what I was talking about. I've got my knife right next to your dick and…look, you're still hard."

And didn't that make his mind to interesting places; Rodney was a smooth, pale canvas and he'd look incredible with a few shallow cuts here and there. Don't get ahead of yourself.

Sliding the knife back into its sheath, John sat down on the bed next to Rodney and ran a hand up his thigh, pinching at the welt. Rodney looked away, biting his lip and John leaned in and bit lightly at his earlobe. "Mmmm…." he murmured. "We're incredibly well matched, you and I."

He moved his hand over and wrapped it around Rodney's cock and began jerking him off. Rodney tossed his head, but John reached up with his other hand and grabbed a handful of hair. "You like to pretend that you don't like it when I touch you, but I can feel how much you do, how much you want it." He bit down on Rodney's earlobe and kept working his cock as Rodney moaned and twisted.

And then John stopped. Rodney whined and tried to thrust up into John's hand, but John pulled his hand away.

"Do you want me to keep going?"

There was a long silence and just as John was afraid he'd lost yet again, Rodney drew a harsh, panting breath and said, "yes. Oh God…yes."

"Good boy," John said, and started jerking Rodney off again. This time Rodney didn't even pretend it wasn't happening; he moaned loudly and moved with the rhythm John was keeping. This—oh hell yeah—this was what John had been waiting for; he grinned tightly as Rodney's breath began to hitch in his throat.

"That's it," John said, tightening his grip on Rodney's hair. "Come for me…let me see it."

Rodney moaned and came in a slick rush over John's hand. "Oh fuck," he whispered, looking away from John.

"It's always better when someone else does it," John said. "The pain probably helped too. It usually does."

"What, you've made a study of this or something? Sir?" Rodney paused, looking nervous. "Look, I can't help it, okay? I just…say things."

"Yeah, I've kind of figured that out." John sat up and looked down at him. "Here's the thing; I actually don't mind that you're mouthy; in fact, I think it's kind of funny." He'd almost said "cute", but he knew better; he had Rodney where he wanted him, and it wouldn't hurt to pander to his pride a little.

"You're right, though," he continued. "I'm inconsistent. There will be days when I'm not interested in putting up with your shit and days when I don't mind indulging you." He saw a glimmer of anger cross Rodney's face as he processed John's words.

"How…how will I be able to tell?"

"I don't know and I don't really care." John shrugged. "You're here because I saw your picture and wanted you. And I know all this Ancient tech is exciting and fascinating, but, like I told you before, you are here for me. It's your job to figure out what I want and give it to me."

"So I'm suddenly, what, part of the comfort detachment?" Rodney sounded more curious now than angry and John nodded.

"Essentially. We don't allow them to send us auxiliaries from Earth, but we have locals on base, of course. Unlike them, however, and as long as you don't piss your sister off too much, I don't mind you spending time in the labs when I'm working."

"Is it possible…." Rodney took a deep breath. "Colonel, may I please be given the gene therapy?"

John chuckled and ran his hand over the welt on Rodney's thigh again. "What do you think I'm going to say?"

Rodney shivered a little and his cock twitched as John kept stroking him. "Um…uh…No?" He bit his lip and tried rather obviously to focus. "Wait, you're not going to say 'no'; you're going to hold it over my head, aren't you?"

"See?" John said, pinching the welt. "You're figuring me out already." Rodney whimpered a little and his thigh moved restlessly under John's hand. "And I think I'm figuring you out."

Somehow, without saying anything, Rodney made it clear that he was annoyed, turned on and scared all at once. With a slight smile, John bent down and kissed him, biting at his lower lip. Rodney moaned into John's mouth and shivered. "I'm going to fuck you now," he said when he pulled back.

For a moment, John thought Rodney was going to say something, but then he just bit his lip and turned his head away. John didn't mind; if Rodney wanted to pretend that this wasn't happening, that was just fine. Honestly, the kid was lucky John had been as patient as he had with him.

He'll learn, John thought as pushed at Rodney's hip. "Roll over." When Rodney did, John paused and stared. "Jesus," he said, reaching out and running a hand down Rodney's back. Smooth and pale and completely free of marks…it was almost too perfect.

"The things I want to do to you," John murmured. He reached for the lube he kept on the nightstand and saw Rodney go tense. "Relax," he said with a little slap to Rodney's hip. "I didn't mean tonight."


"Yes?" John stroked the fine skin of Rodney's hip. "Just what?"

"Get it over with," Rodney muttered.

John laughed a little. "Bring your knee up," he said, pushing at the back of Rodney's knee. "Like that, yeah." He slicked his fingers up and then slid them between Rodney's cheeks. "Tell me something," he said, teasing Rodney's hole just a little. "Has anyone touched you here? Have you done it?"

Rodney shivered again and answered breathlessly. "Me…no one else."

"This'll be better; it's hard to get a good angle with your own fingers." John pressed a finger in—and God, but Rodney was tight—and watched as Rodney squirmed. This…this was what he'd wanted since Jeannie had first shown him Rodney's picture. It's like he was made for me, John thought.

"Mine," he said harshly, as he pushed a second finger into Rodney's ass. He gripped Rodney's hip hard with his free hand and twisted his fingers.

"Fuck," Rodney groaned. He kept moving, pulling away and then pressing back as if he couldn't make up his mind. "God…I…." His words were cut off by a sharp cry as John slid another finger it. "I…this is too…."

"No, it isn't," John said. He bent down and bit at the back of Rodney's neck. "You're gonna take it, and, trust me, you're gonna love it."

He took a minute more to stretch Rodney out, more because he liked watching Rodney twist and turn than anything else. First times hurt and that was just the way things were, and anyway, he had a feeling Rodney was going to like it, not in spite of the pain, but because of it.

Eventually, John's own need took over, and he unzipped his pants and shoved them and his boxers down. Pulling his fingers out, he moved in behind Rodney. "Better breathe," he said. "Even if you pass out, I'm still gonna fuck you."

Rodney was tight and he whimpered as John pushed into him. "Fuck," John muttered. He gritted his teeth and did his best not to just come then and there, but between the pained little noises Rodney was making and the incredible, snug heat surrounding John's dick, it wasn't easy.

A few more thrusts and then John stopped, wanting more. Rodney gasped a little when John pulled out, and John slapped him sharply on the ass. "Hands and knees," he said, amused at the speed at which Rodney scrambled into position.

"Nice," John said, slapping Rodney again. Rodney mumbled something that John ignored and then he yelped as John shoved back inside him. Oh, yeah, that was better; he reached down, grabbed Rodney's hips and started fucking him hard, the way he'd wanted to for five long nights. Rodney cried out again and John gritted his teeth. He didn't want to come yet, not until he brought Rodney off again, not until he proved to Rodney that Rodney wanted it.

"You want it," he growled, sliding a hand around Rodney's hip and laughing when his fingers closed over Rodney's hard on. "You can cry all you want…."

"Bastard," Rodney gasped out. His arms gave out and he went down to his elbows, burying his face in the pillow. "Doesn't mean…oh God…anything."

John just fucked him harder, letting each thrust push Rodney's dick into John's hand. "Means you want it," he said. "Means you remember that…fuck…you asked for it." He wasn't going to last much longer, so he tightened his grip. "Go on, boy. Come for me."

With a sharp cry, Rodney came. John lasted just long enough to get in another thrust or two before he came as well. He let himself collapse, after, pressing Rodney down onto the bed. "Good boy," he murmured when he could breathe again.

"Hit me if you like," Rodney muttered after a moment. "But I'm gonna say it anyway. You're heavy; get off me."

That almost startled a real laugh out of John; he bit it back in time and just chuckled instead. Rolling over, he slapped Rodney on the ass again. "I like you, kid."

"If I got down on my knees and begged," Rodney said, lifting his head to glare at John. "Would you, please, please, please, not call me kid? Please, sir?"

"You've just gotta push, don't you?" John slid a hand into Rodney's hair and tightened his fingers until Rodney winced. "Who do you belong to?"

"You," Rodney said, his voice small. "You, Sir."

"Damn right." John yanked harder. "Just because I cut you some slack, don't forget it."

Rodney bit his lip and swallowed hard. "I won't, Sir."

"Good boy." John shoved him back down to the pillow and then let go. "I'm going to go shower. Change the sheets and then you can take your turn in the bathroom."

"Yes, Sir."

Just before he got into the shower, John looked back into the bedroom. Rodney was sitting on the edge of the bed, his face in his hands. John couldn't tell if he was crying or not, but somehow, he doubted it.

The kid, he told himself as he stepped into the shower, was tougher than he looked.

By the time Rodney got out of the bathroom, Sheppard was asleep. Rodney stood looking down at him for a moment before turning away.

I wish I could just hate him outright. But no, it was more complicated than that. Sheppard was weird, cruel and inconsistent, but he was also hot, occasionally funny, and smart. And, as much as Rodney hated to admit it, as much as he was still quite aware that Sheppard had beaten him and enjoyed it, the sex had been pretty incredible.

Rodney glared down at Sheppard for another moment before turning to the desk that had been set up for him. He wasn't tired yet and he was still, very carefully, making his way through the expedition's computer systems. So far, at least to the best of his knowledge, no one had caught him. He had to be cautious, though; even a quick overview had shown him that there were some very good computer programmers on Atlantis.

For once, though, the secret files of Atlantis couldn't hold Rodney's attention. His mind kept wandering back to the sex, wishing Sheppard had been just a little less…intense. It was one thing to realize that you were a masochist and something all together different to have the sadist fucking you be so damn pleased with himself.

What, he found himself wondering, could he do to get even? Killing Sheppard seemed a little bit much, considering that it would probably lead all too quickly to Rodney's own death. He needed to be sneakier than that, do something that would hurt the colonel or make him look foolish. Again, the problem was coming up with something that didn't lead right back to Rodney. If something happened and Sheppard even thought Rodney had anything to do with it, Rodney was pretty sure he'd be turned over to Ronon for target practice or to some of Sheppard's men for a gangbang.

Glancing down at the computer without really seeing the screen, Rodney realized that he needed to get out more. He'd been hanging out in the labs some, but he still spent a lot of time holed up in Sheppard's quarters, too embarrassed by the fact that everyone knew he was Sheppard's boy to want to be seen in public.

He needed to get over that; after all, the worst had happened and he'd survived it. Maybe he was Sheppard's boy, but there was a measure of protection in that. In fact, it was possible that between his youth and his status, he'd be underestimated.

"Plotting my death?"

Rodney all but jumped in his chair.

"I'm not that stupid," he said, turning and giving Sheppard a wry smile.

"So I'm not going to wake up one morning with a knife in between my ribs?"

"Not from me, sir."

"Glad to hear it." Sheppard went up on one elbow and looked at Rodney. "Speaking of knives, you don't know any kind of self-defense, do you?"

"I can build a bomb."

"Yeah, well, that's not gonna save you in close combat situations. Tomorrow Ronon and I will go over what you need to know."

"I don't suppose I could just…hide behind you, sir?"

Sheppard chuckled. "I won't always be around."

"I really don't think anyone's going to mess with your…um, whatever I am."

"No one on Atlantis better," Sheppard said, his eyes narrowing. "But there may be times when we're off world. I want you able to at least shoot a gun."

Rodney heaved a put upon sigh, although he was nowhere near as disappointed as he sounded. He wasn't sure he could kill someone up close like that, but knowing how to defend himself might not be a bad idea. The idea that he would go off world…that was a little odd. Why would Sheppard take him off world?

"Come to bed," Sheppard said. "You've got a busy day tomorrow. There's punishment detail in the afternoon, and I'll want you after that."

Rodney shivered a little, thinking of the casual way Sheppard had beat him earlier. "Yes, sir," he murmured softly.

And sure enough, as soon as Rodney settled in bed, Sheppard slid a hand between his thighs and pinched at the welt there. Rodney squirmed and wished that it didn't feel so good. Then again, as Sheppard gave his ass a quick squeeze, maybe it was better this way.

The next morning, Rodney actually paid attention at breakfast instead of doing his best to hide behind his laptop. It wasn't easy; Sheppard was smugly satisfied in a way that made Rodney want to slap him, but he held his head up and managed polite greetings to Sheppard's team.

"Rodney's going to need some training," Sheppard said, resting a hand on the small of Rodney's back. "I've got a meeting this morning; Ronon, I want you to get him started."

"Oh, that kind of training," Jeannie said, arching an eyebrow.

Bitch, Rodney thought. Sheppard's hand stroked him just a little and Rodney looked up to see the colonel giving Jeannie a slight frown.

"I don't think you need to speculate on what Rodney's learning in private, McKay."

Rodney tried to hide his smile, but as he glanced around the table, he saw Teyla looking amused.

"All right," Ronon said to him a half hour later. "Tell me what you know about fighting."

"It hurts," Rodney said. They were in a mid-sized sunlight room that was, to Rodney's relief, empty of other people. "I got beat up a lot for a while there."

"What made it stop?"

Rodney gave him his best big-eyed innocent look. "People's lockers and cars and bikes started exploding or catching on fire or malfunctioning. It was a very weird coincidence."

Ronon snorted a little. "You ever kill anyone?"

Not sure if it was a trick question or not—had Jeannie told the rest of her team about Kaleb?—Rodney settled for the truth. "Once," he said. "Not up close, though. And I turned my parents in for sedition."

"It's different up close," Ronon said with a tight smile. "Better."

"That's easy for you to say; I'm a scrawny runt. If I have to do it, I'd really rather do it from a distance."

"You won't always be scrawny. Anyway, Sheppard wants you to learn, so you'll learn."

"Am I going to be able to walk after this?"


For the next half hour, Rodney learned how to fall. The floor was padded, but Ronon didn't believe in taking it easy on beginners, and Rodney was pretty sure he wound up with almost as many marks on him from the training as he did from Sheppard's straps.

"Okay," he finally said, rubbing his hip. "I get it, you can toss a teenager around like he's a rag doll."

"He can toss me around like I'm a rag doll, too."

Rodney started just a little, wondering how long Sheppard had been watching.

"Sit down," Sheppard added. "Watch this."

Once Rodney was out of the way, Sheppard headed toward Ronon. Rodney caught his breath at the sight. He's forty-two; there's no way he should be that slinky. But he was and it was fucking hot, watching him move in on Ronon. There's a flurry of movement and then Sheppard was on his back with Ronon kneeling next to him, a hand at his throat.

Rodney stared, dumbfounded, pretty sure he was seeing something very few other people on Atlantis had seen.

"Keep watching," Sheppard said, getting back on his feet. He turned to Ronon. "Come at me."

When Ronon closed with him, Sheppard did something twisty and hit the mat on his back again, but this time he reached out, grabbed Ronon's calf and toppled him. "If you know your opponent is going to throw you, it's all about how you fall," he said. "You're lucky; you're flexible. You just need to learn to be sneaky."

By the time another hour passed, Rodney had gotten the trick of twisting so he controlled his falls. He still couldn't fight back once he was down, but more than once, he managed to roll out of the way of a follow-up attack.

He also learned that being thrown around the room by both Ronon and Sheppard turned him on more than a little. I'm sixteen, he told himself. Everything turns me on. Sheppard caught on and smirked at him a couple times, making Rodney blush and stumble. If Ronon noticed—which he probably did; Rodney couldn't imagine that there wasn't much he missed—he kept it to himself.

"All right," Sheppard said. "Enough for now. We'll work out a schedule and I'll set up a course for you to run in the mornings."

"He needs someone on him," Ronon said. Rodney frowned at him, not sure what Ronon meant.

"No one's going to bother him," Sheppard said. "I think everyone knows what happens if they do."

"That's not the point." Ronon shook his head. "He's yours and it isn't right that he doesn't have a bodyguard. It's a status thing."

"A bodyguard?"

They both looked at Rodney and then Sheppard nodded. "Point taken. I'll talk to Teyla about it; put some of her people on him."

"I don't need…." Rodney waved his hands a little. "Are they going to follow me to the labs?"

"Your sister's guard does."

"But she's…."

"Enough." Sheppard glowered at him.

"Yes, sir," Rodney said, bowing his head a little. The gesture seemed to please Sheppard; when Rodney glanced up at him through his eyelashes, the colonel wasn't frowning any more.

"Good boy," he said, reaching out to stroke the back of Rodney's neck. Rodney shivered.

"Want me to leave?" Ronon asked.

"Nah," Sheppard said. "I can wait. Let's take him down to the range."

Unlike the small gym, there were people in the range. Sure he was going to be leered at, Rodney managed to keep his head up while the Marines saluted Sheppard. Strangely enough, although most of them glanced at him, no one stared for very long.

Rodney wondered how they would have acted if he'd been alone. Maybe the same way? He got that it had nothing to do with him, but still…it was weird to think that he had some kind of standing just because he was Sheppard's boy. And Jeannie's brother, he thought, remembering Caldwell.

Shooting was a lot easier than hand to hand. Rodney's hand-eye coordination had always been excellent, and Sheppard did a surprisingly good job explaining just how a pistol worked. While he stood in close and used both his body and hands to position Rodney as he took his first shots, his touch was almost completely impersonal.

"Not bad," Ronon said, after Rodney had emptied a couple of clips. He hadn't managed too many chest or head shots, but he was hitting the target more often than not.

"Show him yours," Sheppard said.

Rodney stared as Ronon pulled his gun out and blew a hole in the target.

"Wow!" he said and then blushed when Sheppard laughed.

"How's it work?" Rodney asked. "Does it take long to recharge? What does it run on?"

"I think he's more interested in your gun than mine." There was a wealth of innuendo in Sheppard's tone, but he seemed more amused than anything.

"I've seen pistols before," Rodney said, deciding to play the straight man. "But this is…it's science fiction!"

One of the nearby Marines laughed, but Sheppard nodded. "Yeah," he said, "it is." He looked at Ronon's gun. "We've got a line on more of these, but I'm not too sure how that's going to work out."

"No one knows how it works," Ronon said, pulling it back when Rodney reached for it.

"Sorry, sorry," Rodney said. "If you ever run across another one, even if it doesn't work, can I look at it?"

"You think you can reverse engineer one?" Sheppard looked intrigued.

It was on the tip of Rodney's tongue to say "of course," but he paused. His usual brand of casual confidence could have consequences here. "I'm not sure, but I'd love to give it a try."

Sheppard and Ronon exchanged glances. "I'll see what we can do," Sheppard said. "But now…lunch."

"Your sister isn't interested in things like guns," Sheppard said quietly as they walked toward the mess hall.

"I'm not a younger, male, version of Jeannie," Rodney said. It came out a little acerbic, but when he glanced at Sheppard nervously, that intrigued look was still on Sheppard's face.

"No," Sheppard said. "You're not."

He grabbed Rodney's arm and shoved him against the wall. Rodney caught his breath, sure he was in for some kind of punishment, but Sheppard leaned in close and kissed him hard, biting and sucking at his lower lip. Rodney was hard almost immediately and it took a lot of effort to keep from just rutting up against the thigh Sheppard shoved in between his legs.

"You're prettier," Sheppard murmured quietly, nipping at Rodney's ear. "And you're mine."

"Yes, sir," Rodney said breathlessly. It was a little scary, the way Sheppard's possessiveness turned him on. No one's ever wanted me this much.

Punishment Detail, Rodney learned from Teyla, took place every two weeks on Atlantis. He stood with her on one of the gateroom's side balconies, watching as the most of the expedition members gathered. According to Teyla, there were about four hundred people from Earth, two thirds of them military and the rest scientists and support staff. Scattered through the crowd were other people as well; Pegasus natives, Rodney learned.

"My people provide some of the security here in Atlantis," Teyla explained. "And there are some refugees from other planets who help the support staff."

She fell silent as Sergeant Campbell read out the list of names, and people stepped out of the crowd while Dr. Weir, Sheppard and Jeannie watched from the main balcony.

Both Jeannie and Dr. Weir gave their people a choice between flogging and something Ancient that seemed to work a lot like a taser, only without knocking people out. All four of the civilians took the latter option and by the amount of yelling they did, it seemed to be pretty effective.

Sheppard's people didn't get a choice. There were four Marines and an Air Force officer on the list. The Marines were flogged by a Staff named Ruiz, a big, broad-shouldered woman whose impassive face gave no clue as to whether she enjoyed this part of her job or not.

Lt. Freemantle was the last name on the list, and Rodney wasn't all that surprised when Sheppard strolled down the stairs as a couple of Marines led Freemantle to the frame. The lieutenant declined the cuffs and just grabbed onto the bar after taking off his shirt and undershirt.

"I'm disappointed, Randy," Sheppard said mildly, as he pulled on a pair of black gloves. "Drinking on duty? What kind of a pilot does that?"

"Sir, I'm sorry, sir."

"No, I really don't think you are." Sheppard took the whip—a brutal looking, knotted cat of nine tails—from the Staff Sergeant. He reached out and patted Freemantle's back. "Not yet, at least."

Where the Staff Sergeant had been briskly efficient, Sheppard was clearly happy to draw things out. He hefted the whip and twirled it a few times, and then shook it out again before moving into place behind the lieutenant.

"Twenty-four, I think."

"The Marines only got twelve," Rodney whispered to Teyla.

"John is much harder on the officers, particularly the Air Force officers," she replied quietly. "He feels that those who lead should live up to higher standards. He is stern, but, I believe, fair."

By the time Sheppard reached the twelfth blow, Freemantle was yelling, deep wordless cries that made it abundantly clear how hard Sheppard was hitting him. Somewhere around seventeen or eighteen, the one of the blows broke the skin. Rodney swallowed hard, realizing just how easy Sheppard had been on him the night before.

Freemantle screamed his way through the last few blows and then Sheppard stepped back. He tossed the whip to the Staff Sergeant and beckoned Doctor Keller and her nurse forward. "Barring emergencies, you're grounded for the next month, Lieutenant," he said over his shoulder as he headed toward the stairs.

For a long moment, there was silence, broken only by Freemantle's harsh breathing. And then Dr. Weir spoke. "Let this be a lesson to us all," she said, her voice clear and serene. "Major Lorne?"

"Dismissed," Major Lorne snapped, and, aside from the gateroom personnel, almost everyone left immediately.

Sheppard strode up the stairs quickly, and as he got closer, Rodney could see the bulge of his erection, even in the loose BDUs he wore. Grabbing Rodney's arm, Sheppard all but dragged him into a big room with an odd looking conference table. As the doors pivoted closed, Rodney caught a slightly pitying expression on Sergeant Campbell's face.

Reaching out, Sheppard ran a hand across Rodney's chest, pinching the nipple he'd tormented the night before. It hurt, a faint burning that felt really really good. Rodney blinked and shivered when he realized he was just as hard as Sheppard was.

"Jesus fucking Christ," Sheppard said. "You got off on that?"

"I…." Rodney didn't know how to explain that he was getting off on Sheppard's obvious need more than anything. But God, if Sheppard thought he wanted something like what he'd just done to Freemantle, Rodney was fucked. "Please, sir," he said. "Please don't ever…not to me. Please?"

"When I beat you, trust me, it won't be like that. You'll like it," Sheppard said, twisting Rodney's nipple again. "I'll make you like it."

Rodney squirmed, not sure if it was the idea of Sheppard forcing him to like something or the pain concentrated in that one small spot that was making him want. "Oh God," he whispered.

"Down on your knees," Sheppard said. He gave Rodney's nipple one more twist and Rodney moaned as he went to his knees. It was weird; he hadn't even been with Sheppard for a week and already his body settled into position without him really thinking about it too much.

"Get it out," Sheppard growled. "Suck me off."

When Rodney went for Sheppard's gun belt, Sheppard slapped his hands. "Just my pants," he said, resting a hand on the butt of his pistol. Rodney nodded, staring at Sheppard's hand and gun as he unbuttoned Sheppard's pants.

There was a damp patch on Sheppard's boxers and he sighed just a little as Rodney got them out of the way. Rodney forced his attention away from Sheppard's gun and slid his mouth down over his cock. "Oh yeah," Sheppard muttered, resting a hand on Rodney's head.

When his hand tightened around a handful of Rodney's hair, Rodney moaned and sucked harder. He knew he wasn't as good at this as he could be, but he had a feeling he was going to be getting a lot of practice in the near future. Good thing I learn fast.

It was also a good thing that, right now at least, Sheppard didn't seem to care too much about finesse. His hips were moving now, and all Rodney really needed to do was suck and try not to choke when Sheppard's dick hit the back of his throat.

"Fucking take it…."

Rodney felt his face go hot and he was suddenly acutely aware of where they were; this was where Sheppard met with Dr. Weir and Jeannie and the rest of the people who ran Atlantis. Those same people who probably knew what was going on in here right now. What…or who, did he do before me?

Sheppard grunted again and pushed in harder. This time, Rodney was ready and he was able to swallow it all when Sheppard came. As Sheppard pulled away, Rodney dropped a hand down to his own dick, rubbing it through his pants.

The hard slap to his face caught him by surprise. "Did I say you could do that?"

Without thinking, Rodney opened his mouth. "No, but you never said I couldn't."

Oh fuck, why do I do that?

He stared up at Shepard. "I'm sorry, Sir, I…."

Sheppard slapped him again. "Shut up." He yanked a chair around, sat down and then grabbed Rodney's arm.

"Stand up, drop your pants, and get over my lap."

Sure his gulp of surprise was audible, Rodney scrambled to obey. He shouldn't find this hot, shouldn't still be hard as Sheppard dragged him over his lap. "You're such a fucking brat," Sheppard said, his hand coming down hard on Rodney's ass.

It hurt, but that didn't seem to affect Rodney's erection any more than the humiliation of being bare-assed over Sheppard's lap did. He yelped a little and squirmed, and Sheppard laughed and kept spanking him. Each blow just made things worse, and between that and the fact that his dick was rubbing against Sheppard's thigh, Rodney knew he was minutes away from coming.

"Please," he moaned, "I…please stop…I'm gonna…."

"From this?" Sheppard paused, running a hand lightly over Rodney's burning ass.

"I'm sixteen, Sir," Rodney said, hoping Sheppard didn't think he was being mouthy again. Sheppard spanked him once and then stroked his ass again.

"I'd rather you didn't come all over my pants," Sheppard said "So you can wait." He pushed Rodney to the floor. "If you're good for the rest of the day and if you ask nicely, I might let you come tonight."

Rodney wasn't quite sure what to do with the rest of his day. He thought about hanging around in the lab, but Jeannie was there, and more and more, Rodney didn't like being around her. He wondered if she really knew what she'd gotten him into, but he wasn't sure what would be more reassuring: if she didn't know or if she did and just didn't care.

As it was, he found himself hiding in Sheppard's quarters, thinking about his future. He needed to settle in and study, but that was almost impossible here. He didn't have access to journals or textbooks and the only people who could teach him owed their allegiance to Jeannie.

Who doesn't like her? he wondered. Who hates working for her?

He'd met her second, Radek Zelenka, but frankly, the guy kinda creeped Rodney out; he'd looked at Rodney greedily and Rodney wasn't sure if Zelenka was a sadist or just liked boys. Either way, Rodney had enough of that in his life right now. The rest of the scientists seemed to be pretty much cowed by Jeannie, and after watching today's punishment detail—where two of them had been tased for "insubordination"—Rodney couldn't really blame them.

His laptop alarm pinged, and he frowned but stopped what he was doing and got undressed. Sheppard didn't mind if Rodney kept his boxers on, but he was about to ask the man for a favor and maybe being fully naked was the way to get on his good side. Always assuming, Rodney thought as he ate a power bar and perused Sheppard's bookshelf, that Sheppard had a good side.

He hadn't really expected to find anything interesting, and at first, he didn't. But then, after pushing past several military manuals, a bunch of golf and surfing magazines, and a battered copy of War and Peace, he realized that the shelf was a lot deeper than it looked, that there were two layers of books. Half afraid he was going to find the colonel's porn—which he was pretty sure would be kind of scary—he found treasure instead.

Journal of Number Theory, Journal of the American Mathematical Society, Annals of Mathematics…. There were several years of journals here, at least one, the Pacific Journal of Mathematics, that he'd never heard of.

Rodney turned them over in his hands, wondering who they belonged to. The obvious answer was almost unbelievable—maybe a past lover? But no, there was the most recent Annals of Mathematics, and when Rodney flipped it open, it had clearly been read; there were notes in neat handwriting in the margins.

As Rodney reached for another journal, the door slid open. Feeling like a mouse caught in a trap, Rodney turned.

"Find anything interesting?" Sheppard asked, his expression unreadable.

Rodney opened his mouth, but for once, there were no words. He looked down at the journal in his hand. "Honestly," he finally said. "I was just looking around, sir. I wasn't…snooping."

Sheppard walked across the room and took the journal from Rodney. "I haven't shared quarters with anyone…lived with anyone, since I was married. I'm not used to people looking at my things."

Married? Rodney knew his surprise showed on his face, but really, married?

"I'm sorry, sir," he said. "I really wasn't…."

"Oh, stop it." Sheppard put the journal down. "It's not like you discovered anything illegal." He gave Rodney an amused glance. "Just surprising, right?"

"Yeah," Rodney said. "Do you…why aren't you a scientist?"

"It wasn't an option." Sheppard looked down at the journal in his hand and then set it down on his desk. Rodney had figured that was as much as he was going to get, but Sheppard kept talking. "My father wanted me to either run the business or go into politics, and I really couldn't see myself doing either. He could hardly argue with my desire to do my patriotic duty, and I wanted to fly so…here I am. And really, military life suits me well enough, now that I'm in charge of a base."

Sensing that he'd better not comment on anything Sheppard had just said, Rodney glanced back at the book shelf. "Is it all right if I read these?" he asked. "I…there aren't any text books here and I don't think Jeannie will let me read her journals or even her work reports and I was just thinking that there's no one here to teach me and…." Rodney trailed off.

"Yeah, you can read them. Aside from that, what is it that you want to learn?"

"Everything," Rodney said and then ducked his head a little when Sheppard laughed. "Well, no. I was studying physics and engineering, but now that I'm here, I want to understand as much as I can about the city and the jumpers and…well, how the Ancients did what they did."

Sheppard looked at him for a long moment, making Rodney painfully aware of the fact that he was naked. "I'm smarter than Jeannie," Rodney finally said. "According to all the intelligence tests I've been subject to."

"I know," Sheppard replied. "Your sister, however, has her degrees, her experience with the SGC on Earth, plus the time she's put in here in Pegasus." He paused and then added, "and she's on my team."

"I'm not asking you to replace her with me. Just…think of me as…as a wild card you can keep up your sleeve. I'm not a threat and…well it's pretty obvious that you can control me."

"I don't trust you as far as I can throw you."

"You don't need to trust me," Rodney said. "And you know? You can throw me farther than you can Jeannie."

"And Jeannie," Sheppard said, with a rueful smile, "isn't as pretty as you."

After spending most of his life hearing how Jeannie had both looks and intelligence, Rodney still couldn't believe that anyone wanted him more than they'd want her. He swallowed hard, and then went down to his knees. He thought of saying something, but no; at this point, it would be a little too obviously obsequious.

"Slut," Sheppard said, and Rodney felt his face go hot. Sheppard took a few steps backwards and sat on his bed. "C'mere," he said, but when Rodney started to get to his feet, he shook his head. "Don't walk."

It took Rodney a few seconds, and then when he got it, he felt himself freeze into place. I can't. I just can't. Sheppard was looking at him with an amused, skeptical smile and Rodney took a deep breath, raised his chin and dropped down to his hands and knees.

Crawling was both easier and harder than he'd expected, but he made it across the room. When he reached Sheppard's feet, he swallowed hard and knelt up. "Good boy," Sheppard said, reaching down to rest a hand on Rodney's burning face. "Maybe there is something for keeping a genius as a pet; you learn fast."

Rodney bit his lip and Sheppard laughed. "See, the thing is, you can think you don't like it, but," he slid his foot between Rodney's legs and nudged at Rodney's erection with the toe of his boot. "You do."

For some reason, Rodney wanted to be honest. "I…this is just really weird for me, Sir."

Sheppard paused and then reached down and took Rodney's chin in his hand. "I know," he said. "Haven't you figured out that that's part of it for me?" He ran his thumb over Rodney's mouth. "You're a blank canvas."

And you think you're an artist? Rodney managed to keep his mouth shut, but it was a close call.

"Up," Sheppard said, tugging on Rodney's chin a little. "Get the lube."

When Rodney came back with the lube, Sheppard had stripped down to his t-shirt. He took the lube and then pulled Rodney into his lap. "Yeah, straddle me, like that."

Rodney winced a little as Sheppard's slick fingers teased at his hole. "Still sore from last night?"

"Yes, sir."


It hurt when Sheppard pushed in with two fingers, but as Rodney squirmed and Sheppard twisted his fingers, Rodney found himself wanting more.

When Sheppard said, "Tell me what you want," it was easy enough to say it, to tell Sheppard what he wanted to hear.

"Fuck me…please, sir?"

Doing it like this, face to face while Sheppard gripped his hips and helped him move, was different. It was impossible to forget who was fucking him; even when Rodney closed his eyes, he could still feel Sheppard's breath, still feel the soft fabric of Sheppard's t-shirt under his hands as he clung to Sheppard's shoulders.

The closer he got to coming, the harder it was to keep moving in any kind of rhythm. "I…." he gasped out, not sure what he was trying to say.

"It's okay," Sheppard said. He was breathless and hoarse and it made Rodney feel a little better to know that he wasn't the only one feeling this. "Come for me." Sheppard leaned forward and bit at Rodney's mouth, muffling the cry Rodney made as he came.

Rodney went limp after and Sheppard chuckled. "Hang on," he said and maneuvered Rodney down onto the bed on his back. Still hazy and relaxed from his orgasm, Rodney spread his legs and kept his arms around Sheppard's neck as Sheppard grabbed his ass and started pounding into him.

It hurt, but it was a good kind of hurt and Rodney noticed that the more he moaned and whimpered, the more gone on it Sheppard clearly was. "Hurts," Rodney said. "Please…please…it hurts…."

"Oh fuck," Sheppard groaned. He shoved in hard one more time and then came. Rodney stared up at him, rapt.

I did that.

John's team had a scouting mission the next morning; they'd found mention of a outpost in the database and M39-X75 was one of the possible locations. While John wasn't all that crazy about this kind of mission, the flight to the suspected site was a good opportunity to talk to Jeannie about Rodney.

"Rodney needs to keep busy. Do you have anyone who can teach him? Some engineer who's in disgrace or something?"

She gave him a look. "You don't have enough for him to do?"

"He can't blow me all the time," John said with a smirk. "And while I doubt he's going to be too much trouble, I'd rather not have a bored teen-aged genius sitting around with nothing to do."

"Did you tell him he could sniff around our computer systems?"

"Why not just give him higher level access?" John said, setting the jumper down. "He's going to get in eventually anyway."

"I really don't think…."

John almost opened her mouth to give her an order, but caught himself in time. Jeannie was good and she was important and she was—mostly—on his side, but she'd balk if he simply told her what to do.

"You said you could use him," he said instead. "He won't be very useful if he doesn't know anything."

For some reason, Jeannie glanced at Ronon, who shrugged. "Don't think you have anything to worry about."

"Fine," she said. "I'll assign…Mullins, okay?" She pulled out her scanner. "I'm getting readings, about a half a kilometer that way." She set off, moving fairly briskly, and Ronon fell in with her.

John followed at a more leisurely pace. "What's up with them?" he asked Teyla.

"I am not sure, but I believe Jeannie has set her sights on Ronon." When John narrowed his eyes, she smiled a little. "I do not think you need to be alarmed, John."

That was reassuring, but still, he wasn't sure. Of all the people on Atlantis, Ronon was the one John trusted most. Oh, sure, most of John's men were loyal, largely because they were afraid of him and his reputation, and of course Jeannie and Teyla were team, nevertheless, they had their own agendas. As for Elizabeth, well, if John could be rid of her, he would be, and he knew she felt the same way about him.

Ronon, however, was John's, and had been since the day John saved him from Carson. Ronon watched John's back, and in return John gave him pretty much anything he wanted. In the four years that Ronon had been on Atlantis, he hadn't been up for discipline once.

As he watched Ronon walk with Jeannie, John's hand clenched into a fist and he amended his last thought with yet.

His day got worse; there had been an Ancient outpost on the planet, but there was nothing of immediate value to be found. Jeannie was able to power up the outpost's computer and download some information, but even she didn't think it was anything interesting.

"Here," she said, tossing a flash drive at John when they returned to Atlantis. "Have Rodney let me know if there's anything useful on it."

John rolled his eyes but pocketed the drive anyway. "Ronon," he said, as Jeannie headed toward the mess hall, "with me."

"Something wrong?"

"Jeannie," John said, leading Ronon out to a balcony.

"She's dropped hints for a while, but she's gotten a little more serious the last week or so."

"Interesting timing."

"I thought so."

"And you didn't tell me because…?"

Ronon gave him an amused look. "You've been a little preoccupied."

John looked out over the ocean, biting back his instinctive protest. "Yeah, I guess I have. How much have I missed?"

"Nothing important."

"Oh, I don't know; you sleeping with McKay is kind of important."

"I'm not sleeping with her," Ronon said. "Not yet. And I won't if you don't want me to."

If Ronon wasn't sincere, John couldn't tell. As it was, he simply let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Do you want to?"

"Might not be a bad idea." When John looked curious, Ronon shrugged. "Knowing what she's up to."

As much as he wanted to say no, as much as the idea of Jeannie and Ronon together made him feel tense and uneasy, John knew Ronon was right. "Yeah, fine," he said. "Just…."

"I've still got your back."

"See that you do."

When John returned to his quarters after dinner, Rodney took one look at him and then closed his laptop and slid off his chair and down to his knees.

"Um, someone named Jura? I think—one of Teyla's people—came by. She left that…the bag on the desk, for you, sir."

"Did you look in it?" John asked, reaching into the bag. Rodney shook his head and John gave him a tight smile. "This is as much for you as for me," he said. Rodney's look of confusion faded when John pulled out a leather collar. The sets of cuffs followed and John took a brief moment to appreciate Jura's work—she'd dyed everything a dull red that would look good against Rodney's pale skin.

"Come here," John said, sitting down on the bed. Rodney started to get to his feet and then reconsidered and crawled over to John. "Oh, very good," John said, genuinely surprised. He reached down and cupped Rodney's chin in his hand. Rodney's face was red and he couldn't meet John's eyes, but when John bent to kiss him, his mouth opened and he kissed back.

After a moment, John pulled back and reached for the collar. Rodney peered at the small black letters that ran across the front of it. "What does it say?"

"These are my initials, and this says 'commander' and 'Atlantis.'"

"It's not Ancient, though."


Rodney looked like he wanted to ask more questions, but John wasn't in the mood. "Chin up," he said and then buckled the collar around Rodney's neck. Rodney swallowed and bit his lip, and just looking at him made John remember the first and only time he did cocaine and the way the rush had hit him right between the eyes.

And this, he thought as he grabbed Rodney by the arm and hauled him up on the bed, won't mess with my head.

"Who do you belong to?" he asked a few moments later. He had three fingers up Rodney's ass and Rodney was squirming and moaning.

"You," Rodney gasped out. "You…sir."

"Damn right," John growled. He bent and bit Rodney's the back of Rodney neck right below the collar and Rodney cried out, a soft little noise that went straight to John's cock.

"Mine," he said, spreading Rodney open and pressing in. "All mine…." Rodney was hot and so fucking tight and it only took a minute or two before he was moving with John, pushing back against John's hard thrusts.

"Can't help it, can you?" John grabbed Rodney's hips and fucked him even harder. "Can't help wanting it…?"

Rodney shook his head and then, when John abruptly stopped, he squirmed. "Please?"

"Jesus…fucking Christ…." John gritted his teeth and started up again.

"Please," Rodney said again. "Oh God…." He shoved back hard and then John felt him coming, tight—so fucking tight—around John's dick.

Two more thrusts and then John was coming as well, gripping Rodney's hips hard enough to bruise.

"You can only take it off to shower," John said after he'd rolled over to lie on his side.

Rodney looked at him, his hand on the collar, and nodded. "Yes, sir," he said.

Yawning, John sat up. "Oh hey," he said as he headed for the bathroom. "Check my pants pocket; there's a flashdrive with a download from today's mission. See if you can make anything of it."

The information on the flashdrive was fragmented and confusing. Rodney was trying to sort through it and cursing the translation program on his computer when the door chime sounded. He opened the door to find a vaguely familiar looking Black woman in a science uniform. Behind her, Rodney's day time guard, a sturdy looking Athosian whose name Rodney couldn't remember, nodded.

"I'm Dr. Mullins. Dr. McKay assigned me to you."

"Jeannie did? Um…okay, you better come in, then."

As she came in, Rodney realized that he'd last seen her on the wrong end of an Ancient taser thing, being punished for something. "So, she assigned you to…what?"

"I'm a mechanical engineer," she said, setting her backpack down and pulling a laptop and tablet out of it. "Dr. McKay wanted me to set up a study plan for you." She didn't look all that happy about it as she handed over the tablet, and Rodney gave her a smile.

"Thank you," he said, doing his best to sound meek. "I'm sorry to take you away from your real work, but I really do appreciate it."

She glanced at his neck and then down at her laptop. "Right. Dr. McKay said you were studying at a college level, so why don't you tell me what you were working on…."

It was hard to keep from snapping at her when she talked down to him, but by the end of the lesson, Rodney could tell that her attitude had softened just a little. He hated being pitied, but if that was what it took to get people on his side, then he'd play the victim.

He was supposed to work on his hand to hand in the afternoon, but it was Teyla, not Ronon, who was waiting for him in the small gym. He watched as she did something incredibly complicated with a pair of matched wooden rods.

"I don't think I'm really ready for that," he said when she finally finished.

"I agree," she said, putting the rods down. "Ronon tells me you have learned how to fall."

"Well, I fell down a lot yesterday. Does that count?"

Being thrown around by Teyla was just as hot as being thrown around by Ronon and Sheppard. When Teyla tactfully suggested a break, Rodney heaved a grateful sigh.

"I'm sorry," he said, gulping down some water. "I'm kind of a slave to my hormones." The moment he said it, he thought about the collar around his neck and winced. He looked up to see her smiling slightly. "And I tend to say things without thinking."

"You will grow out of your hormonal predicament, but speaking without thinking is a harder habit to lose."

"Colonel Sheppard'll probably manage to beat it out of me."

"I am not so sure. I believe you amuse John."

While Rodney had figured that out, it was nice to have outside confirmation.

"Tell…can you tell me about him? Not anything private or confidential. Just…I'm sleeping with him—hell, I seem to belong to him—and I don't know anything about him."

Other than the fact that he's a moody sadist and understands really high level math.

"What would you like to know?"

"Why…you're on his team and you seem to be…well…on his side. Why? You're not from Earth; you don't owe any loyalty to the State."

"When your people first came through the gate to Athos, they thought the city was unstable and so were searching for power and refuge. Colonel Sumner was leading them and he took several of us hostage; your weapons are far superior to anything we have."

"Wait, Sumner? The Colonel has a set of dog tags in his quarters…." There were other tags on the small shelf near the bed as well; Rodney had wondered who Aiden Ford had been. Rodney went silent, aware that he might have just seriously screwed up.

"Do not worry; you have not given away any of his secrets. John likes…well, he calls them trophies."

Why am I not surprised?

"I'm sorry…didn't mean to interrupt."

"In the middle of our…negotiations, the Wraith arrived. Colonel Sumner and I, along with some of my people and some of his, were taken. It is not uncommon for those of us who live under the shadow of the Wraith to allow them to capture and kill our rivals, so I was quite surprised when John arrived to rescue us.

"Colonel Sumner and one of my men had been taken and questioned by the Wraith. John shot Colonel Sumner; by then it was a mercy killing, but I believe John was pleased to see him die. John was was taken himself. Aiden…Lieutenant Ford, saved his life."

"Aiden was very young," Teyla said, when Rodney looked surprised. "Later I learned that he was something of an idealist. When I asked why he saved Major Sheppard, he said he did it because John was his commanding officer." She looked off into the distance for a moment, and Rodney found himself wondering what had happened to Lieutenant Ford.

"Regardless, Major Sheppard rescued us and brought us back to Atlantis. I quickly realized that an alliance would be advantageous. It was not easy to convince my people, and I had to kill our religious leader, but one of my own people is raising his son."

Rodney wondered if he'd ever manage to be that matter of fact about…well, anything, let alone killing people. For a moment he kind of wanted to brag, but given that killing Jeannie's husband had gotten him into his current situation, he was probably better off just leaving his mouth shut.

"John is an honorable man," Teyla said. "When he says he's going to do something, you can trust that he will."

"Yeah, actually, I've noticed that. He…kept a promise to me." He reached up and touched the collar on his throat. "He's pretty possessive, too."

"Of many things; he fought against the very Ancients themselves when a few who had survived attempted to take back this city."

"I didn't know that. There's so much I don't know, and that makes me crazy. I'm afraid I'm going to say the wrong thing and make him angry. I'm not suited to be the nice, supportive…." Rodney paused, but couldn't find the right word and so he gestured helplessly.

"Do you think that is what he wants?"

Rodney thought about it and shook his head. "He wants someone who will be submissive when he's in the right mood for it, silent when he's angry, and entertaining after, when he's…when he wants to be entertained."

"You have figured this out in a week? I see that you know him better than you think."

"I guess." Rodney looked at her for a moment but her calm, slightly stern face gave no clue as to what she thought of him. "Has he been…was there someone before he told Jeannie to bring me here?"

"No one long term. He has had a few, brief liaisons with some of my people and what you would call one night stands with people off world."

Rodney wanted to ask her about the colonel's marriage but thought better of it. "I thought so," he said instead. "You know, they were going to send me here anyway, even before Jeannie asked for me. Things could have been worse, I guess."

"Had you come here with no protector, yes. Things would have been worse."

Huh, she doesn't think Jeannie would protect me either.

"Thanks." When she looked at him curiously, he added. "For talking about the colonel with me. And not treating me like a kid."

"By Athosian tradition, you are not a child." She stood up. "Which means I will not allow you to get out of the rest of this lesson."

"Fair enough," he said, climbing to his feet with a sigh.

Rodney's days soon settled into a pattern. He met with Dr. Mullins most mornings and, slowly, they found their way into a working relationship. Once she realized just how smart he was, the work she had him doing became pretty complicated. She also allowed him to read some of the reports and research notes on work that had been done here in Atlantis. It was fascinating work, and more than once, Sheppard had to drag Rodney away from his studies for lunch or the occasional quick blowjob.

He worked hard at convincing Mullins that he was mostly harmless. He soon found out that she liked science fiction, and so they talked about books and movies when during breaks. She also tried to explain American football to him; Rodney did his best to look interesting although, really, unsubtle brute violence bored him. But he knew that Sheppard liked it, and so he tried to pay attention.

His work paid off; after a few weeks, she felt comfortable enough around him to drop her guard some. She still seemed to feel sorry for him, but then again, as far as he could tell, almost everyone on Atlantis felt sorry for him. He was careful not to say anything negative about the colonel or his treatment of Rodney; in fact, he said nothing at all, just winced occasionally and acted more tired than he actually was.

His afternoons were dedicated to physical training. He only tried to talk Sheppard out of it once, claiming that he could better use the time to study. He'd misjudged Sheppard's mood; Sheppard had slapped Rodney hard enough to split his lip, and then made him sleep on the floor that night. "And if I see or hear that you're slacking off, I'll have you up on discipline, and trust me: you won't be getting off on it."

After that, he did his best in the gym and on the range, and, to his surprise, he began to make some progress. The first time he managed to bring Ronon down, he got a slap on the back that was as hard as any Sheppard had ever given him, but it still felt like an accomplishment.

Thanks to his work-out routine, he got to know both of his bodyguards—Namin and Rath. Rath, his nighttime guard, was a stoic middle-aged woman who gave away even less than Teyla did, but she was also quite small and very good with a knife. Rodney learned a lot about being sneaky in a fight on the days she joined them in the gym.

Namin was much more interesting. Only a few years older than Rodney, he was somewhat taken aback when Ronon invited him to join them in the gym. He was a little shy, but a good fighter and a lot more careful with Rodney than Ronon was. The first time he slammed Rodney on the floor, he spent almost five minutes apologizing.

Although Rodney knew that Namin was intimated by Sheppard and not him, he still figured it couldn't hurt to try to make Namin's life a little easier. With that in mind, he tracked Sheppard down to his office one afternoon and waited until Sheppard was done meeting with Major Lorne.

"Now that everyone knows Namin's my bodyguard, does he have to stand out in the hall all morning?"

"How else is he going to protect you?"

"No no, it's not that I don't want him watching over me. It's just that he's got to be bored out of his mind." Rodney thought about what he'd said and quickly added. "He doesn't complain, but it would drive me crazy, all that standing around with nothing to do. He could at least come in and listen when Dr. Mullins is there."

"Yeah, okay." Sheppard looked at him and then smiled. "Now come thank me."

Licking his lips, Rodney slid to his knees.

John found himself a little surprised at how easily he got used to Rodney's presence in his life. Living with Nancy had involved constant negotiations and boundaries and expectations neither of them could meet, and then, in the end, recriminations and vicious fights. With Rodney, there was none of that. True, Rodney wasn't as always deferential as John would have liked, but he was pretty careful to keep his smart aleck comments confined to moments when they were alone.

In public, Rodney behaved. He still tended to blush just about every time John touched him—which really, would never get old—but he no longer tried to hide behind his laptop or book, and when John dragged him off for a bit of fun, he went with his head held high.

In bed….

Honestly, there were times when John wondered if Jeannie knew more about him that he thought she did; if she'd somehow told Rodney how to act, how to be everything John wanted. It seemed ridiculous, but still, John had to wonder, because goddamn but the kid was fucking incredible.

Rodney had been with John for about three or four weeks before John got a chance to really look at the two mathematics journals that had been delivered on the Daedalus' last run. One evening he'd just settled down and started reading when Rodney looked up from his laptop. "The first two articles in that one are crap," he said. "That third one, though…well, he might have something."

John glanced over and Rodney went still for a moment, obviously wondering if he'd mistaken John's mood. "Really?"

"Yes, Sir," Rodney said. "I didn't mark it up or anything," he added quickly.

"Good." John turned back to the journal.

An hour and a half later, there was paper covered with calculations all over his desk and he and Rodney were talking over one another. Rodney had corrected him at least twice but it didn't matter at all because John hadn't had this kind of conversation since college. He felt a little rusty, which would have embarrassed the hell out of him with anyone but Rodney, and when he was able to point out where Rodney had made a mistake, Rodney just laughed and said, "oh…duh."

As Rodney bent back over a piece of paper and started scribbling numbers, John paused and looked at him. As usual, he was wearing nothing but a pair of boxers, and there were bruises scattered across his body—some of them from his training and some of them from John's hands or mouth. His hair was a little damp and, since John refused to let him cut it, it curled at his neck and temples. The tip of his tongue was visible between his lips as he concentrated.

John reached out and swept the papers off the desk and then grabbed Rodney's arm. Rodney was staring up at him, blue eyes wide with alarm. "I'm going to beat you," John said breathlessly.

"What did I…."

"Nothing," John said, pushing him down over the desk. "This isn't punishment." He leaned over Rodney and bit the back of his neck. "It's a reward."

He stood and pulled his belt off, wrapping it around his fist until he had it at the length he wanted. "Pull your shorts down."

Rodney did, his hands shaking just a little, and John took a deep breath.

The first blow to Rodney's ass was hard, but not nearly as hard as John could hit. Rodney yelped and stretched out to grab the edge of the desk. The move emphasized his slim shoulders and John took advantage, landing the belt across Rodney's upper back until there were three red welts marking Rodney's skin.

"Oh fuck…please! It hurts!"

"I know," John said, smacking Rodney's ass with the belt. Rodney yelled again and then again when the next blow landed. John kept it up, concentrating on Rodney's ass as he fell into a steady rhythm. Rodney was making a fair amount of noise and squirming like an eel, but after a couple of minutes, John got what he was waiting for—Rodney was still squirming but he was moving with it now, lifting his hips in anticipation of each blow.

He sounded different too, more breathy and a lot less angry. "You're getting off on this, aren't you?" Before Rodney could answer, John laughed. "I'm going to keep it up until you come…'til you shoot all over my desk."

"Please," Rodney moaned and this time, John was pretty sure he wasn't asking John to stop. "I…please…can't…."

"Yeah," John said, bringing the belt down that much harder. "Yes, you can. You love it and you know it. After you come? I'll fuck you so goddamn hard you'll come again."

After that, all it took was two more blows before Rodney groaned and came. John dropped his belt and all but tore the buttons in his pants trying to get them off. "Lift up," he said, running a hand down Rodney's hot, welted ass and then between his legs. "Gonna slick you with your own come," he said as Rodney shivered.

Rodney was hot—so fucking hot—when John pushed inside. "I told you," John said, leaning over and biting at Rodney's earlobe. "Told you that I'd make you like it."

"Oh God," Rodney moaned. "It hurt so much…." He turned to look at John and John caught his breath. Rodney's lashes were wet and there were still tears on his cheek.

"Jesus," John grunted. "You liked it…."

"It hurt," Rodney said again and John laughed and fucked him harder. "It still hurts…."

"You know…." John slid a hand down between Rodney and the desk. "You always say that and you always get hard."

"God…." Rodney had started moving again and John tightened his grip on Rodney's dick. "Oh fuck…please…."

"Please what?"


John went still, gritting his teeth against the need to keep going. "Does that mean 'please stop?'"

"No!" Rodney squirmed. "Don't…God, don't stop."

"Tell me you like it." When Rodney remained silent, John squeezed his dick hard. "Tell me!"

"You made me like it," Rodney says, obviously trying to sound angry. "I…please…please fuck me?"

"I thought it hurt," John said, twisting his hips a little.

Rodney squirmed. "It does…please?"

"Someday, I'll make you really beg for it," John said as he started up again. "Keep you on the edge for hours…not let you come…."

"Don't…oh fuck…please…oh please please…."

"Gonna come for me now?" John bit down on Rodney earlobe again and Rodney moaned, a soft breathy noise that went straight to John's dick. "C'mon, boy…."

John was close enough that when Rodney came, it pushed him over as well. After, he lay draped over Rodney for a long moment before he finally stood up and stepped back. Almost immediately, Rodney reached back and rubbed his ass.

"Come with me," John said. Wincing a little, Rodney stood up. He was a sticky mess and the desk wasn't much better off. "You can deal with it later."

John led Rodney into the bathroom and then stood him with his back to the full length mirror. "Look," he said.

Rodney turned and looked. "Jesus," he said, reaching back to touch one of the welts. John put his hand over Rodney's and squeezed.

"No hand to hand tomorrow," John said. "We've got a mission anyway, so you can spend some time on the range or just goof off or something.

"Now come on; you're a mess. You might as well shower with me," he added. Without thinking, he pulled off his pants and shorts before taking his t-shirt off. As he turned to toss everything in the laundry bin, he heard a gasp. He looked back to find Rodney staring at him, his eyes wide.

It took him a moment, but then he realized that he'd never actually gotten naked with Rodney; Rodney had never seen his back.

"I wasn't always top dog, you know."

"That was more than just routine punishment," Rodney said. "That was someone who hated you."

"No one's told you the story? I know you've been asking Teyla and Ronon to tell you things about me."

Rodney looked scared for a moment and then lifted his chin. "If you know that, Sir, then you know that I only asked…I didn't ask them to give away any of your secrets. I mean, look at it from my point of view. I…what's the phrase? I'm under your protection. I think it makes sense that I'd…."

"Oh, for God's sake kid, relax." John shook his head. "I'm not going to punish you for trying to learn more about me. C'mon, we'll shower and then I'll tell you a crappy bedtime story."

Rodney remained silent while they showered and then while he tidied up around John's desk. He was moving somewhat carefully but didn't seem to be in too much pain; John thought about offering him an ice pack, but figured that it might be more useful in the morning.

"The marks," he said as Rodney settled into bed with him. And that was one more odd thing about having Rodney here—feeling this comfortable sleeping with someone.

"The most recent set was from Colonel Sumner…back on Earth before we came to Atlantis." he shrugged with one shoulder. "I mouthed off or something and he said he wanted to set an example…discipline must be maintained regardless of rank…blah blah blah."

"How many?"

"Thirty-six with a knotted cat."

"But those scars," Rodney asked, his voice hesitant. "They aren't from…."

"No." John took a deep breath, wondering why he was telling this story. "I was in Afghanistan…one of the choppers in my squad went down in Rebel territory, and I was ordered not to go after them."

"And you did."

"Of course I did. They were my men."

He stared off into the distance, remembering the feel of his gun in his hand, remembered Holland saying, "just do it, Shep. I'm not going home anyway."

Next to him, Rodney was silent.

"I brought their tags home."

"And they didn't discharge you or throw you in jail?"

"My father still runs the one of the largest utility companies in the world, and he had the foresight to back Hayes."

"And you're not a general already?" Rodney frowned a little. "I'm surprised."

"Yeah, well, I don't want to play the political game, and my dad and I don't see eye-to-eye. But there was still no way a Sheppard was going to be tossed out in disgrace. So they made an example of me instead—fifty-six blows with a single tail, the last six with a metal tipped whip."

"Jesus," Rodney said. "I just…." He ducked his head but not before John could see something that looked like admiration in his eyes.

"I could make you like an ordinary single-tail," John said. "In fact, at some point, I probably will. But never something that leaves ugly scars on that pretty back of yours. Nothing that…mars you like that."

Rodney gave him a wry little smile. "I appreciate your concern, Sir."

John shook his head, unable to keep the smile off his face. "You're really something else."

A few moments later, as he drifted off toward sleep, he had that feeling again—that Rodney was too good, too perfect. So what? He's not an idiot; he's hardly likely to bite the hand that feeds him.

Rodney moved a little gingerly the next morning—his ass hurt a fair amount—but he felt weirdly better about his situation. Last night between the math and the scars—or, more importantly, the story behind them—Sheppard seemed to have dropped his mask a little, and as much as Rodney hated to admit it, he kind of liked what he'd seen. Sheppard's unwillingness to play by the rules and be his own man no matter what the cost was pretty impressive when you saw what the cost was.

And then there was the sex, yet another thing he had to admit he liked. While he still wasn't sure what to make about the fact that he was apparently quite the masochist, he supposed that he was lucky to have an experienced sadist teaching him. As for what he was learning…well, he probably could have survived last night's beating without tears—he'd never cried when bullies worked him over at school—but he'd known that tears would please Sheppard.

Remembering the look on Sheppard's face when he'd seen those tears, Rodney smiled a little. He didn't mind playing it up a bit, saying "no" and "I can't," particularly because he was pretty sure Sheppard wasn't totally falling for it. The tears? Maybe. The protests? Not so much.

"You seem to be in a good mood this morning," Sheppard said as they got dressed.

Rodney ducked his head a little. "I…last night was…."

"You liked it," Sheppard said, coming up behind him. "Didn't you?" He pressed in close and Rodney hissed a little at the pressure against his ass. Sheppard slid a hand down Rodney's hip and over to press at the front of his boxers. It was more than enough to get Rodney hard.

Moaning, Rodney leaned his head back against Sheppard's shoulder. "Please…." he whispered.

"What are you asking for?"

Rodney shook his head; he'd managed so far by not answering that question and he wasn't sure what would happen if he actually asked Sheppard for anything. "Please," he said again, squirming as Sheppard rubbed his dick.

"Please what?"

"Please…I can't…."

Sheppard paused and then leaned down a little and kissed Rodney hard, biting and sucking on Rodney's lower lip. When he pulled his hand away from Rodney's cock, Rodney moaned in protest. "You didn't tell me what you want," Sheppard said, pulling back from the kiss. "And I want to run before breakfast."

A moment later, as Sheppard left their quarters for his run with Ronon, he stuck his head back in for a moment "Don't…."

"I know, Sir," Rodney said with a sigh. "Don't even think of jerking off."

"Good boy."

Rodney actually hadn't jerked off since he got to Atlantis. Sheppard had told him not to more than once, and while he wasn't sure how Sheppard would know, the consequences of disobeying were probably way out of proportion to the kind of orgasm he'd have by himself.

And, he thought as he finished getting dressed, I'm having sex almost every damn night. It's not like I need an alternative.

Although Rodney had things to keep him busy, he still felt a little jittery and nervous whenever team AR-1 went on a mission. He was acutely aware that everyone who had any interest in protecting him was gone, which made it kind of hard to work, even though he and Dr. Mullins had finally gotten around to discussing Atlantis's internal defense system.

Only today, Namin seemed more interested in what they were going over than Rodney was.

"I'm sorry," he finally said to them. "I'm uncomfortable and can't concentrate. Let's quit for lunch early."

"Do you want me to go get something from the mess hall?" Namin asked, glancing at Rodney who was sprawled out on the bed on his stomach.

"Nah," he said, wincing a little as he sat up. "I'm good."

"Waste of a brilliant mind," Dr. Mullins muttered. When Rodney looked at her, she looked a little nervous and then squared her shoulders. "I'm sorry, but really…you should be back on Earth in college. I'm sure Colonel Sheppard would be happy with any pretty boy."

"I am not so sure," Namin said. "He has never…no one has lived with him since you Earth people got here. And he never picked the same person when he…before Rodney arrived."

"He said something about that," Rodney said, hoping he sounded as casual as he wanted to.

"I…." Dr. Mullins looked down at her hands. "I'm sorry if I…I'm not…."

"I don't really think you said anything that is worth repeating," Rodney said with a shrug. "C'mon, let's go get lunch," he added, pretending not to notice how relieved she looked.

It's a start, he thought as they headed for the mess hall.

They were all just about to sit down when someone came up behind Rodney. "Rodney, may I have a word?"

It was framed as a question, and for just a second, Rodney wanted to say "no." But that would only make trouble for Sheppard, which he most certainly did not want to do.

"Sure, Dr. Weir," he said, turning to give her a small smile. "You want me to come to your office?"

"Here is fine."

Dr. Mullins gave Rodney another worried glance, but she retreated to a nearby table with Namin and Dr. Weir's Athosian bodyguard.

Sitting down still wasn't easy, but Rodney managed to do it without wincing. After all, there was playing it for sympathy and then there was appearing weak, and while he wanted to Dr. Weir to think he was mostly harmless, he didn't want to take it too far.

"I just wanted to see how you were settling in," she said with a smile that didn't reach her eyes.

"Oh," Rodney said, looking down at his plate and then up at her through his lashes. "It's still kind of overwhelming…Atlantis, I mean."

"You could probably have stopped with 'overwhelming.'"

"Yeah," Rodney said with a little laugh. "It's all a bit much."

"If…you can always come to me if anyone gives you any trouble."

"Thank you, Ma'am."

She shook her head. "Please, 'Doctor' makes me feel old enough as it is."

Holy fuck, is she coming on to me?

He glanced at her again, before staring down at his plate. "I don't think you're old at all."

"Oh, yes, you do," she said. "I would have thought the same thing at your age."

He ducked his head and thought about how it felt to crawl across Sheppard's floor. It worked; he could feel his cheeks heating up.

"Oh, aren't you just…." She reached out and patted his hand. "One thing you can say for him; John does have good taste."

There was absolutely nothing he could say to that, and for once, Rodney figured that out before he opened his mouth. Instead, he toyed with his food and then looked up at her. She smiled again, a much scarier smile than the first one.

"I'm glad we had this little talk."

"Um…me, too," Rodney said, not entirely sure about what had just happened.

He was still poking at his food when Namin came and sat next to him. "Was she…does she…who is she sleeping with?"

Namin glanced around, and then leaned in closer. "Dr. Zelenka and…people from the comfort detachment."


"No one knows who does what, but…." Namin looked down at the table.

"Namin? Last night the colonel pushed me down over his desk, beat me hard enough to leave welts and then fucked me. I'm not exactly an innocent who's going to be easily shocked."

Namin looked down at his hands. "It's not like that; people come out…damaged."


Clearly Rodney wasn't going to get any more out of Namin; he'd have to ask Sheppard about it.

Rodney was at the range when AR-1 returned home. He'd learned to like shooting; there was a physical precision about it, a routine that he enjoyed. He was good at it, too; after a month of practice, he hit the center of the target every time. He could, he thought, probably shoot to kill if he had to.

There was more to it than that; Rodney felt weirdly safe on the range, surrounded by Sheppard's people. At first, his presence put a damper on things; the Marines obviously felt they had to watch their mouths around him. After a while, when it became clear that nothing that happened on the range got back to the colonel, they relaxed and even encouraged Rodney's efforts.

"So I said to her, 'we're from Atlantis,' and the next thing you know, she's flopping right on to her fucking back."

"It'll suck for her when she finds out you don't have the gene."

"Like I…Sir!"

Rodney was sitting on a crate cleaning the Beretta he'd been using earlier, and now he looked up, expecting Lorne, or maybe Major Jordan.

It was Sheppard, and he was staring right at Rodney, his expression almost blank, eyes narrowed. Rodney swallowed hard and felt his heart start to pound in his chest as Sheppard pushed into the room, ignoring the Marines.

The closer he got, the more Rodney felt it in the pit of his stomach. He needed to get to his feet, but then, as he set the gun down, he had a better idea. Sliding off the crate, he went down to his knees into the position Sheppard had taught him, doing his best to ignore the looks from the people around them.

He kept his eyes down, only knowing Sheppard had reached him when his boots appeared in Rodney's field of vision. Sheppard leaned down and slid his fingers into Rodney's hair, pulling his head back until Rodney had no choice but to look up at him.

"Who do you belong to?" Sheppard shook him by the hair as he asked.

"You," Rodney replied quickly.


"Yours," Rodney said. "I'm yours, Colonel."

Sheppard leaned down, speaking right into Rodney's ear. "And if I asked you to prove it? Right here?"

Please don't.

"I'd open my mouth or bend over," Rodney said softly. "Right here."

The hand in his hair tightened and Rodney wondered why that wasn't the right answer. "You'd probably like that, like everyone watching, you little whore."

Something about his words—and the way that he'd never once done anything to Rodney where anyone could see it—gave him a clue.

"No," Rodney said, leaning away from Sheppard to look him in the eye. "I'd hate it, hate everyone seeing me…us, like that. But if you told me to do it, I would."

Sheppard lifted his head, although he didn't let go of Rodney's hair. "All of you, out!"

When the door finally closed, Sheppard looked up toward one corner of the room and smiled. "You, too," he said and closed his eyes for a minute.

"I was turning off the security cameras. She likes to watch," he added, dragging Rodney to his feet. When Rodney looked at him, confused, Sheppard's face twisted.

"Elizabeth," he said. "That's what they…no, we're not talking about this now."

He looked back at Rodney and Rodney took a deep breath. "Please," he said. "Please…fuck me, Sir?"

"You want it?" Sheppard stared at him. Rodney nodded and then pressed up against Sheppard's thigh and squirmed. "I was right; you are a whore."

"Only for you," Rodney said.

"If I ever catch you with anyone else, I will fucking kill you," Sheppard said, grabbing Rodney's collar and yanking on it hard.

"I know," Rodney gasped. "And you won't, I promise."

Sheppard tugged downwards, and Rodney went with it until he was kneeling again. Letting go of the collar, Sheppard undid his pants and shoved them and his shorts out of the way. "Get me wet," he said, "because that's all you're going to get."

The blowjob was as sloppy as Rodney could make it, but it still hurt like fuck when Sheppard bent him over a counter and shoved in hard.

"Thought you said you wanted it," Sheppard said, when Rodney yelped.

"Still hurts," Rodney said through gritted teeth.

Sheppard just laughed and kept on fucking him. "You say that like you don't love it. Little slut." He slid a hand around and gripped Rodney's cock. "See?"

"Please," Rodney mumbled.

"Please what?"

"Please…let me…I want to come…please?"

"Yeah…do that for me, boy."

Sheppard leaned in and bit Rodney's shoulder, and the little jolt of pain, along with everything else, was enough to push Rodney over the edge. Knowing that Sheppard would just keep fucking him, Rodney relaxed, letting Sheppard's thrusts push him against the counter. He'd have bruises on his hips tomorrow, but that was nothing new; he was never without bruises. In fact….

Sheppard stopped. "You think this is funny?"

It hadn't exactly been a laugh, but Rodney knew better than to try to explain that. "Bruises," he said. "Just thinking about how I'll have more."

"Jesus," Sheppard muttered. He slide a hand up Rodney's arm and then gripped tightly. "You're so easy to bruise, so fucking pale." As he started moving again, fucking Rodney with hard sharp strokes designed to push Rodney into the counter that much harder. "You like it, don't you? Like having my marks on you."

"Yes…oh fuck!" Sheppard tightened his grip on Rodney's arm and Rodney squirmed. He was getting hard again and moving with Sheppard's rhythm.

"I knew it," Sheppard said. "Gonna keep you marked up…never let you be without my bruises, my marks…." He stopped talking, but Rodney recognized the soft grunts and heavy breathing that meant Sheppard was close to coming.

"So fucking perfect," Sheppard muttered, his face buried in Rodney's neck. Before Rodney could even process the words, could even think about what they meant, Sheppard bit him hard and came as Rodney cried out.

"So you finally admit that you like something," Sheppard said as he pulled out. He grabbed a rag from someone's cleaning kit and tidied himself up before tossing the rag at Rodney. "Stand up and turn around."

Rodney obeyed, sure he was going to be punished for hearing Sheppard's words, but instead Sheppard looked him over. Reaching out, he pressed his thumb against the new marks on Rodney's arm. "Nice, but not enough…." He grabbed a bit of skin between his forefinger and his thumb and twisted hard.

"Fuck!" Rodney yelled. "Oh God…please, Sir…stop!"

"You don't want me to stop," Sheppard said with another twist that left Rodney panting—it hurt that much. "Do you?"

Just as Rodney opened his mouth to explain that yes actually, he really really did, Sheppard reached down and started jerking Rodney's dick, hard and fast. "Go on, tell me to stop."

Rodney couldn't say anything; between the pain and the snug pressure on his cock, he could barely stand. He managed to get his free hand back on the counter to brace himself and while he wanted to curl up, hunch over as if that would make it better, he forced himself not to. Instead, he threw his head back and let the tears come. So what if it made him look like a complete slut; he was pretty sure it was what Sheppard wanted to see.

"Jesus fuck," Sheppard muttered. "I was gonna make you wait, but…."

"Please…please, Sir…it hurts so much…please!" He would have kept on going, let the words just spill out of his mouth, but Sheppard twisted his fingers again and Rodney's "please…." broke off into a sob.

"That's it," Sheppard said, his voice weirdly gentle. "That's what I want…go on, come for me."

As Sheppard finally let go of his arm, Rodney came so hard it hurt. He crumbled down to his knees, still crying, and then Sheppard was crouching in front of him. "Good boy," he said, reaching toward Rodney's mouth with one hand. Rodney braced for a slap, but instead, Sheppard pushed his sticky fingers into Rodney's mouth.

The really weird thing was that it was oddly comforting, Rodney thought as he licked them clean. He blinked and looked at Sheppard through his damp lashes only to find Sheppard staring at him intently. Rodney just kept sucking his fingers until Sheppard pulled them out. He reached up then and gripped the sides of Rodney's face, pulling him in for a hard, biting kiss.

"No one else gets that," he murmured when the kiss ended. He leaned his forehead against Rodney's. "No one sees that but me."

"No one…." Rodney wasn't even sure why he was saying this. "No one's seen me cry in years. No one but you."

"Keep it that way," Sheppard said.

"I will," Rodney said. "I promise."

Later that night, after dinner and some time spent doing his latest assignment while Sheppard did some paperwork, Sheppard pulled Rodney into bed with him. He turned the lights off and Rodney settled in; there was something about this—sleeping with Sheppard—that he actually liked.

"Elizabeth likes to watch," Sheppard said quietly. "She doesn't want to actually hurt anyone, but…Zelenka does."

The words, "so do you," were on the tip of his tongue, but Rodney could feel that Sheppard was oddly tense and figured that any comparison was likely to end badly for Rodney. Plus, remembering what Namin had said, it probably wasn't justified.

"Namin says that…he said people come out damaged."

"Yeah," Sheppard said. "It's not like…." He shook his head and let his voice trail off.

"He's fucking creepy," Rodney said. "Zelenka, I mean. He's one of the reasons I don't like going to the labs."

"What's the other?"

Rodney snorted. "Do you really have to ask?"

"You killed her husband." And there it was, out in the open. Sheppard had never mentioned it before, although Rodney had assumed he knew.

"Did she tell you about the meetings he was going to? The ones he was planning on taking her to? The kinds of meetings that get you killed?" Rodney scowled; he'd been so fucking scared for Jeannie. "But you know, I'm sure the dissidents needed an English professor more than they needed a scientist capable of building a nuclear bomb or hacking into StateSec."

"Jeannie's husband…your parents…are you really that loyal?"

There were two answers here: the politically correct one and the truth. Rodney was actually a little surprised when he opened his mouth and the truth came out.

"I don't want to die or get locked up because other people are too stupid to realize that roughly 95% of those organizations preaching 'freedom' are traps."

Sheppard laughed. "Yeah, you've got that right; how'd you figure that…?" He moved and in the faint moonlight, Rodney could see him going up on an elbow. "You didn't hack into StateSec, did you?"

"The group Kaleb was involved with was real," Rodney said, sidestepping the question. "The one my parents belonged to, on the other hand…."

"You did."

"Just once, and I didn't go that deep."

"Jesus…." Sheppard sounded oddly impressed.

"I told you," Rodney said. "I'm better than Jeannie."

Shepaprd reached out and turned on the light on his nightstand. "How far have you gotten here…in our systems?"

"Not very far." Rodney gave him a wry smile. "I'm better than anyone here, but not by a lot, and your security's tighter than StateSec's. I've been mostly exploring the Ancient database."

"You learning to read Ancient?"

"I've pretty much got it down. Like I said…."

"Yeah, you're a genius." Sheppard paused and for a moment Rodney was afraid he was feeling the need to put Rodney in his place. "What are you and Mullins working on?"

"The city's internal defenses, although I'm more interested in the weapons systems," Rodney said. "I'm pretty sure there's a drone manufacturing site somewhere here in the city. The more I know about them, the easier it is to find information in the database."

"Do you think she's…do you trust her? Or do you think she reports to your sister?"

"Dr. Mullins?" Rodney thought about what she'd said earlier that day and looked down at the blanket. "I'm not sure. She…um…she kind of…."


"Feels sorry for me." Sheppard was silent and Rodney finally glanced at him. He looked more amused than angry, and Rodney shrugged. "I don't…I don't play it up or anything…well, not much."

"Relax," Sheppard said. "Most everyone on Atlantis feels sorry for you." He reached out and slid his thumb across the mark on Rodney's arm. Rodney shivered and Sheppard chuckled. "Do you?"

"Do I…what?"

"Feel sorry for yourself?" He pressed harder. "Don't lie to me."

"Sometimes. I'm…this is…."

"Tell me."

"It scares me, Sir," Rodney said, squirming. He ducked his head again.

"Do I scare you?"


"Good." Sheppard let go of Rodney's arm and turned out the light. He went silent and then, just as Rodney was about to drift off, he spoke again.

"Tomorrow morning, I'm taking you in to the infirmary so Carson can give you the gene therapy."

"Really? Wow, thank you."

"Don't make me regret it."

Rodney paused and then leaned forward and kissed Sheppard a little hesitantly. "I won't."

Rodney's eagerness the next morning was almost amusing; usually he was just crawling out of bed all bleary-eyed and groping for coffee when John left to run, but this morning he was all but bouncing off the walls.

"Relax," John said and then laughed when Rodney gave him a look. "You might as well; you're going to have to wait until after I run and we eat breakfast."

With a scowl, Rodney finished making his coffee and settled down at his desk. "Fine," he said.

When he showed up for their run, Ronon looked like he'd been run over by a truck. "What the hell happened to you?" John asked as they stretched out in the hall way.

"McKay," he said. When John raised an eyebrow, Ronon sighed. "She gets in these moods…she's fucking demanding."

"She's gonna be in more of a mood after breakfast," John said.


"I'm having Carson give Rodney the gene."


They'd gone about a third of their usual run when Ronon spoke again. "Don't think it'll piss her off too much."


"She doesn't think much of him."

"Really?" It made sense though; Jeannie tended to ignore Rodney more than not, although she still smirked at him on days when he moved carefully.

"Yeah. And when she does talk about him, she usually calls him 'John's little whore' or 'my slutty little brother'…stuff like that."

John's eyes narrowed and he let his odd surge of anger push him to run faster for a few moments. "Maybe it's better," he said, somewhat breathlessly. "The less attention she pays to him, the better."

"It's McKay," Ronon said. "She mostly thinks about herself."

"Surprise. You doing okay? With her, I mean?"

"Yeah. She still thinks I'm kinda dumb."

"Her loss," John said with a smile.

Grinning, Ronon sped up, forcing John to shut up in order to keep pace with him.

Although John expected Rodney to fidget all through breakfast, he calmed down enough to eat without drawing any attention to himself. John glanced over at Jeannie, annoyed at the almost happy, just fucked look on her face. As much as he liked having Ronon keeping an eye on her, he hated that they were sleeping together.

"She calls you a whore," he said to Rodney as they walked toward the infirmary. "Jeannie," he added when Rodney looked confused.

"I'm sure she's not the only one, Sir," Rodney said with a shrug.

John reached up and rested his hand on the back of Rodney's neck, pressing the collar against Rodney's skin. "My whore," he said.

"Yes, Sir." Rodney shivered a little, and John was still grinning when they walked into the infirmary.

"Over do it a bit, Colonel?"

John felt Rodney go a little tense.

"Nope," John said. "Rodney's been doing some work on the Ancient database and I think it's time for him to have the gene therapy."

"Really?" Carson looked a little more interested than John liked.

"Really." John glared at him. "Just the basic gene therapy."

"Very well," Carson said, rolling his eyes a little. He patted one of the examination tables. "Hop up here, lad; I'll be back in a tick."

"You know what?" John said, leaning down to whisper in Rodney's ear. "There's a man on one of the planets we trade…he makes jewelry. Remember how I said I was going to pierce you?"

Rodney swallowed hard. "Are you? Really?"

"Hey, Carson," John said, straightening up as Carson came back into the room. "If I wanted to pierce his nipples, would you have something I could use?"

"I'm sure I could find something," Carson said. He looked a little shocked and the tips of his ears were pink. John almost laughed; for someone who liked to fuck with people's genetics, Carson could be such a prude.

"Good. I'll need something for his ears, too."

Carson only nodded as he reached for Rodney's right arm. At the sight of the bruise, he frowned and shifted sides. As he tied off the tourniquet, Rodney looked down at the mark on his right arm and smiled just a little.

Jesus, he really does like them.

"Here, hold this while I get the tape…there you go, lad. It worked fine on your sister, so I expect it to take on you as well. If so, it should take effect in the next few hours."

"Thank you," Rodney said, looking at John.

"Colonel," Carson said as they started to leave. "Jennifer's the one who does piercings…ears, usually. You should talk to her."

"Will do," John said. "Thanks, Carson."

He gripped Rodney's bicep tightly as they left the infirmary.

"Colonel?" Rodney asked as John dragged him toward the nearest transporter.

"Back to my quarters," John said over his shoulder to their guards. "We'll be there in a bit."

Namin turned right away, but Corporal Wells paused. "Sir…Specialist Dex said…."

"Now!" John barked.

He hardly looked at the screen as he punched the button. "This way," he said, not letting go of Rodney's arm as he strode down another hall.

Rodney remained silent as John hauled him around a corner and through a door. "Where…oh!" They were on the East Pier, the cool autumn wind blowing around them, and the fear on Rodney's face faded away. "This is…wow," he said, looking back at the city. "It's so fucking cool."

"You really do like the bruises," John said.

"I wouldn't…." Rodney paused and raised his chin. "Sir, I wouldn't lie to you about that."

"No," John said. "I'm beginning to think you wouldn't." He leaned in and kissed Rodney hard. "Mine," he muttered against Rodney's mouth. "I'm going to fuck you right here…where I can see you and my city." Rodney kissed him back, opening his mouth and moaning.

By the time John pulled back, Rodney's mouth was red and swollen looking and he was panting hard. "I have…." he began and then paused as John pulled his shirt off.

"You have?" John asked, reaching out to run a thumb across one of Rodney's nipples.

Rodney bit his lip and reached into the pocket of his jeans and handed John a tube of lube. "Only if you want to use it, of course, Sir," Rodney said.

"I don't," John said, handing it back before sitting down on the pier. "I want you to use it." He laughed when Rodney looked confused. "Get rid of the rest of your clothes and then slick yourself up."

"I…uh…oh," Rodney said, his face going pink.

The blush stayed while Rodney undressed and then knelt down in front of John. He slathered lube on a couple of his fingers and then tucked them between his legs. It wasn't the best angle and John damn near groaned as the tip of Rodney's tongue appeared between his lips. He unzipped his own pants and started stroking his dick as he watched Rodney.

Sooner than John expected, Rodney took a deep breath and opened his eyes. "I'm ready," he said. "Please, Sir?"

"Hands and knees for now," John said, pushing Rodney down until he was facing the city. "Oh yeah," he murmured, as he pushed in. Rodney gasped, but then moved back against John's slow thrust. "Yeah, that's it…okay, be still for a sec."

John slid his arms under Rodney and then against Rodney's chest. "Stay with me," he said and then sat back, pulling Rodney up onto his lap.

"Oh fuck," Rodney groaned as the angle allowed John's dick to go in even deeper.

"You like being fucked, don't you?"

"Yeah," Rodney moaned, his head moving back until it rested on John's shoulder.

"Go on then," John said, thrusting up a little. "Move with it, boy."

"Oh God…." Rodney shifted a little and then began to move. He was hesitant at first, but once he realized that John was adjusting to match his motion, he settled into a steady rhythm.

"Mine," John murmured as he pinched one of Rodney's nipples. "My boy…my slut."

"Yours," Rodney said, his voice hitching as John kept playing with his nipple. "Oh, fuck…you did this…made me want it…." John groaned and shoved up harder. Somehow, Rodney kept up with him, moaning as he moved. "You…made me a slut…made me want it all the time…."

"Yeah?" John bit at Rodney's earlobe and pinched his nipple even harder.

"Never wanted it like this…never…it hurts and you…you make me need it…." Rodney's movements got more frantic and John dropped his hand down; the head of Rodney's cock was already slick.

"You little whore," John murmured as he started jerking Rodney off. "You're almost ready to come…."

"Please," Rodney moaned. "Please, Sir…oh God…need it…please?"

With anyone else, John would have made them wait, but more and more, he found that he liked making Rodney come as often as possible. "Do it, boy," he said and Rodney's breath hitched and he slammed down and came, so damn tight and hot around John's dick that John almost lost it, too.

He went clumsy after, but John grabbed his hips and kept fucking him, strong and steady. "Get hard again," he said, gritting his teeth so he didn't sound quite so breathless. "Reach down and jerk off."

"God," Rodney said, sounding wrecked. He did as he was told, though; John paused, going still so he could hook his chin over Rodney's shoulder and watch.

"Yeah, like that," he murmured nuzzling Rodney's neck under the collar. It didn't take long for Rodney to get hard again and John almost laughed as he remembered being sixteen and perpetually horny.

"Please," Rodney said, his hand still working his dick. "Fuck me…please, Sir?"

"Is that what you want?"

"God, yes…please?" Rodney started moving again and John chuckled and went with it, letting Rodney set the pace. "Oh, fuck…yeah, like that," Rodney said, his voice slurred and rough.

"Gonna hurt you again and again…." John flicked his thumbnail across Rodney's nipple. "Gonna play with these until you scream…." Rodney shuddered and whimpered, and that was more than enough for John. Grabbing Rodney's hips, he thrust up hard and came.

For a long moment after, he just breathed, taking in the fresh air, the sight of the city stretched out before them, the warm weight of Rodney in his arms….

And then Rodney squirmed and sighed softly. "Please?"

"Yeah," John said, reaching around Rodney's hip. He grabbed Rodney's dick, stroking it roughly while Rodney moaned breathlessly. It was surprisingly hot, but John wanted more. Reaching down with his other hand, he pinched a bit of skin on the inside of Rodney's thigh and twisted it sharply.

Rodney gave a shocked little scream and John smiled against the back of his neck.

"Please," Rodney said again. "Hurts…please…so close…."

"Do it." John pinched Rodney's thigh harder and tightened his grip on Rodney's cock. Rodney tossed his head back until it landed on John's shoulder and John could hear his pained little gasps and whimpers, "C'mon," he snapped. "Now, boy!"

Rodney thrust up into John's hand, cried out and came hard.

"Jesus fuck," Rodney muttered after a moment. "Thank you, Sir."

"Good boy," John said.

John's good mood lasted through lunch and well into the afternoon before it was shattered. He and Ronon were headed toward the main gym when he heard his name from someone up ahead of them.

"Ask me, Sheppard's going a little soft."

"Can't really blame him; I'd pay good money to tap that kid's ass."

John's eyes narrowed.

"Still…good thing the Major's so loyal. Most XOs would have taken Sheppard out by now."

"I want those two in the brig," John said tightly to Ronon. "See to it." He turned on his heel and headed toward his own office.

Once there, he tapped on his radio, summoning Teyla and Lorne. Lorne came almost immediately, Teyla a few moments later. As she settled into a chair, Ronon opened the door and slipped inside, nodding to John.

"So," John said, leaning back in his chair. "Apparently some of the guys think I'm getting soft. Teyla, I've got a couple of them that need to spend some time on the mainland." She nodded as John went on. "But this is a problem."

He turned in his chair to stare at Lorne. "You haven't said anything to me about this."

"Nobody's been stupid enough to say anything where I can hear it."

"Still not after my job?"

"Still couldn't pay me enough, Sir."

With anyone else, John would resort to threats, but not with Lorne. He'd come to Atlantis after a scandal involving a general's wife that would have seen him shot if not for the fact that he had the gene. After learning that he had no patrons, both John and Elizabeth had been happy enough to get him and he'd settled down with an Athosian woman and quietly gone native.

"What about Teldy?" Unlike Lorne, John didn't trust Major Teldy as far as he could throw her.

"Not likely," Lorne said. "She'd be in the same boat as everyone else if something happened to you…you're the face of Atlantis here in Pegasus. They may not get that back on Earth, but anyone who's been here for more than a few months knows it. Same with Jordan. They're both smart enough to know that they can't replace you."

"You think it was an isolated incident?"

"Maybe not," Lorne said. "It's only been a month since the Daedalus' last run."

"McKay's sent a couple of the new scientists to the mainland," Ronon said. "And those guys today? One of them is new."

"I don't like the sound of this," John said with a frown.

"Neither do I," Teyla said. "Could someone from Earth truly believe that undermining your authority and that of Dr. McKay would enable them to take over Atlantis?"

"Depends," John said. "Do you know if Elizabeth's found any spies lately?"

"You do not think…."

John gave her a look.

"She didn't get nearly as many people," Lorne said. "It'd be harder to sneak someone into her staff."

"True." John sighed. "All right, for now, let's go with the assumption that it's someone on Earth. Lorne? I want you to start looking into the new guys. Ronon, you too. I'll talk to Jeannie, make sure she's weeded out everyone and get some names. Teyla…make sure none of the people already on the mainland actually die; we may want to question them."

Lorne glanced at Teyla and then back at John. "Um…Sir?"

"Out with it," John said, knowing he wasn't going to like whatever Lorne was about to say.

"Is there any possibility that the boy…."


"John," Teyla said. "Rodney does seem remarkably…well-suited to you."

For a moment John thought about acting like he didn't know what she was talking about, just to see what she'd say. As it was he shook his head. "Yes, I know. But you're assuming someone back on Earth knows what I like."

"There is that," Lorne said, sitting back in his chair.

Teyla was still frowning and John stared down at his desk. "Look…I…you need to remember that as far as anyone is concerned back there, I'm just a minor military officer. I didn't…I rarely indulged myself and when I did…well, I was a lot more discreet than I have to be here."

"I see," she said in that tone of voice she got when Earth customs didn't make sense. John wanted to laugh; back on Earth he'd be considered a pervert, while here in Pegasus, no one cared what he did with who as long as he killed Wraith. Having access to Atlantis and the most powerful weapons in the galaxy didn't hurt either.

And sure, if he'd gone along with his dad's plans, he could have had whatever and whoever he wanted back on Earth, but his position on Atlantis? He'd earned that, and he fucking well deserved Rodney.

"Anyway, while it's vaguely possible that Rodney's a plant, I really doubt it. He obviously…." John shook his head. "I doubt it," he repeated, and that was that.

The meeting broke up and John headed for Jeannie's lab.

"Oh my God!" she was yelling as he stepped inside. "I didn't think it was possible for you people to be any more stupid than I already thought you were. Thank you all so much for proving me wrong." Jeannie put her hands on her fists and glared at the three scientists standing in front of her. "I don't even…Colonel!"


"What do you think? Can I start bringing people up for punishment detail on charges of dangerous stupidity?"

"Don't see why not."

"Think about that," she said. "And get out of my sight."

Shooting nervous looks John's way, the three quickly made their way to the back of the labs.

"What's up?"

"I need to talk to you," he said. "Privately."

She glanced down at her laptop, touched a couple of keys and then nodded. "Okay." With a final glare at everyone in the room, she let John lead her out into the corridor and out onto a nearby balcony.

"All right, what's going on?" Jeannie crossed her arms across her chest. "Has Mer done anything…."

"Teyla said you sent a couple of your new people over to the mainland." When she nodded, he continued. "Why?"

"I caught one of them digging around in places in the system a linguist wouldn't be at all interested in. The other was asking people if they were unhappy with my management style." She smiled tightly. "Fortunately, Miko came to me about it."

"I think we have a bit of a problem; one of the new guys was questioning my…management style."

"You think it's someone on Earth?"

"Either that, or Elizabeth."

"Jesus, John…I know you don't like her, but she's not stupid. She knows she can't run this place without us."

"Yeah," John said. "Maybe."

Jeannie rolled her eyes. "Can we get past your issues with women in positions of authority to deal with the real problem?"

"Yeah, fuck you too, McKay," John said with a scowl. "I'm thinking of having Ronon asking some questions. Which one of your people do you think will crack first?"

"The linguist. She thinks she's sneaky and clever, but honestly, she's not even half as good as she thinks she is. Mer's done better and I know to look for him."

"Is he getting into things he shouldn't?"

"No." She frowned. "And really, that bothers me; either he's a lot better than I thought, or he's not as inquisitive as I guessed."

"Relax," John said. "He's mostly working on the Ancient database."

"God, he's welcome to it."

"You'll keep an eye on the rest of your staff?" John asked. "I mean more of an eye than you usually do?"

"I'm not sure it's possible for me to be more paranoid, but yeah, I will."


That night, once they were alone in John's quarters, Rodney undressed and went right to his knees. "Have I done something to piss you off, Sir?"

"Why are you asking?"

Rodney gave him a look that was fairly similar to Jeannie's 'wow, are you a moron' look. "Because I'd like to know what I did so I can not do it again."

"Did anyone tell you anything about me before you got here?"

"Um…no, why?"

"No one at all? You didn't know anything about me?"

"Jeannie said that you were one of the three most dangerous people I'd ever meet. The other two being herself and Dr. Weir," Rodney added before John could ask. "But other than that, no. She didn't even tell me why I was sent here." He gave John a thoughtful look. "She was lying."

"Excuse me?"

"Yeah, you're a lot more dangerous than Dr. Weir or even Jeannie."

John rolled his eyes. "I'm not a big fan of flattery."

"You're kidding, right?" Rodney frowned up at him. "I'm a little too afraid of you to lie to you like that."

"Really?" John reached down and slid a hand into Rodney's hair, pulling his head back. "Do you get off on it? On being afraid?"

Rodney bit his lip and lowered his eyes. "A little," he said. "But mostly it's the way you hurt me."

"Jesus," John muttered. "See, that's why this bothers me. You're almost too good to be true."

"I am?" Rodney said. He looked up at John, eyes wide. "There must have been other people…."

"There haven't been," John said with a scowl. He really didn't want to get into this right now, so he reached down and undid his fly. Dragging Rodney forward by his hair, John shoved his clothes out of the way. With a little moan, Rodney leaned forward.

"You want it that bad?"

"Please," Rodney said.

"Please what?"

"Oh God…please let me…please let me suck it…." Rodney's face was pink and his eyes were closed, but he was still pulling forward, even as John tightened his grip on his hair. "Please, Sir…please?"

"Whore," John growled, shoving his hips forward. "Do it."

He had to lock his knees when Rodney slid his mouth down; Rodney had gotten damn good at sucking cock, or more specifically, sucking John's cock. And somehow that made it even better; as Rodney moved his tongue in just the right way, John groaned. "My whore," he muttered. "My boy."

John pushed further in and Rodney just moaned. "Fuck, yeah…good boy…fucking take it…." He glanced down to see Rodney looking up at him through his eyelashes. "Wait," he said, through gritted teeth.

He pulled back and Rodney whined a little. "Please," he said, his voice a little hoarse.

"No," John said. Keeping one hand tight in Rodney's hair, he reached down and started jerking off. Rodney's eyes went wide and then he seemed to realize what John was doing; he closed his eyes, but left his faced tilted toward John.

"Good boy…good little slut." He would have said more, but just then Rodney licked his lips, and that was all it took. John groaned, forcing himself to keep his eyes open so he could watch as he shot all over Rodney's face.

"Fuck," John said, dropping to his knees. He reached out and ran his fingers over Rodney's slick cheek and then pushed them against Rodney's lips.

"Oh God," Rodney murmured as he opened his mouth. He licked and sucked at John's fingers the same way he'd done when John's dick was in his mouth and, damn, but if John could have gotten hard again, he would have.

Watching Rodney's mouth on his fingers gave John an idea; he reached down and started jerking Rodney off. Rodney moaned but kept licking at John's hand, even while his hips moved with the hard rhythm John was setting.

"Please," Rodney mumbled after a short time. "Please…can I…need to…."

"Go ahead," John said, "come for me."

Rodney did and slumped forward, all but falling into John's arms. He looked utterly wrecked but when John held up his hand, Rodney opened his mouth and did his best to lick John's hand clean. Finally, John pulled back a little and unbuckled Rodney's collar.

"C'mon, kid. Shower time."

Once they were settled in bed with the lights out, Rodney took a deep breath. "Can I ask you something?"


"Why would someone tell me about you? To…um… warn me?"

"To groom you."

"Huh?" The moon was bright enough that John could see Rodney as he went up on one elbow.

"Well, let's see," John said. "If I had an enemy who just happened to be a bit of a pervert and there just happened to be this pretty boy headed his way, I might just encourage the kid to do his best to distract my enemy."

Rodney looked at him for a moment and then burst out laughing. As John stared at him, he kept laughing. "You're kidding, right?"

"As a matter of fact, no, I wasn't."

"Sorry," Rodney said, although he really didn't sound all that apologetic. "It's just the idea that I could possibly distract you from…from anything…. I'm sorry, but no one could possibly be that stupid."

"Actually, I overheard a couple of my men speculating that having you around was making me soft."

There was a moment of silence, during which Rodney frowned. "Were they new?"

"One of them was; why?"

"Because, honestly, I just can't imagine anyone who's been around you for any length of time thinking that. Some new guy, maybe, or someone who was just trying to make trouble."

"Yeah, that was my thought," John said. "One of Jeannie's new people was snooping in places she shouldn't have been, and another one was trying to undermine her authority."

"Obviously these people are morons. Do you think Dr. Weir is behind it?"

John looked at Rodney thoughtfully. "I did, but no one else does. And, to be honest, I doubt it. I don't like her, but I can't imagine she'd get rid of me and Jeannie at the same time. Zelenka's good, but not that good, and I really don't know that Lorne would follow her if she'd gotten rid of me."

"Someone back on Earth, then?"

"Yeah. Or maybe not on Earth exactly. Did Caldwell say anything to you? Anything at all?"

"Yeah, he told me to stop trying to seduce his people."

"What?" John glared at Rodney, a hot feeling twisting in his gut. "What the hell were you doing?"

"I was bored and I really wanted to get laid," Rodney said. "Trust me, nothing happened; they'd been told to deliver me in the same condition they got me. Apparently Jeannie wanted to make sure you got a virgin."

"Did she now." John took a deep breath and tried to relax.

"Sir?" Rodney said after another pause. "Do you think…could it be Jeannie?"

"I doubt it. Even with Ronon on her side—which he isn't—she'd still have to get to Lorne, and I don't think he'd do that." John reached out and ran a finger over Rodney's collar. "Could Jeannie count on you if push came to shove?"

"There's only one answer I can give to that question," Rodney said with a shrug. "It's up to you to decide if I'm lying or not."

"I should turn you over and beat that smart ass of yours."

Rodney smiled. "I really don't think you need an excuse, Sir."

"And you'd just like it."

"Oh, I'm pretty sure you could make me hate it."

John looked at him for a long moment and then grabbed the collar and pulled him in close. "Don't ever make me do that. I'll punish you for minor things, but if you betray me, if you make me truly angry…I will fucking kill you. Slowly."

"I won't. I promise, Sir," Rodney said swallowing hard enough that John could feel his throat move against the back of his fingers. "I promise."

"Good boy," John said. He gave the collar one last tug and then let go. "Get some sleep."

"Yes, Sir."

"Something is going on," Namin said the next morning. "One of Dr. McKay's new scientists was brought back to Atlantis from the mainland."

"Is that unusual?" Rodney asked.

"Yes," Namin said.

"People who get sent to the mainland rarely come back," Dr. Mullins said. "Usually we hear that they died."

"Snakes." Namin said. "There is an area a day's away from the settlement that is crawling with dangerous snakes."

"But they brought someone back this time?" Rodney shrugged. "Maybe he…she? Maybe they're being questioned. It's not our problem and really, I think we'd be better off staying out of it."

"I could ask around…."

Rodney gave Dr. Mullins a long look. "Or you could tell Jeannie that I'm curious and have her wonder why."

"Dr. McKay doesn't seem to be interested in having any kind of conversation with me. Why do you think I'm here supposedly wasting my time teaching you? If you hadn't shown up, I'd probably be feeding snakes on the mainland."

"What the hell did you do?" Rodney asked. He noticed that Namin was looking curious as well.

"Your sister doesn't take kindly to being corrected," Dr. Mullins said. "She's brilliant, but not always right."

"She was always in a hurry back home, too. She'd skip steps and miss things sometimes," Rodney said. "Still, she's the CSO and I'm…according to her, I'm just a whore."

"You're Colonel Sheppard's…." She paused, obviously not wanting to call Rodney a whore to his face. "I'd rather be in your camp—and his. And you're doing some interesting work here."

"And you?" Rodney looked at Namin. "Where do you fit in?"

"My family needs to prove their loyalty to Teyla. My uncle did not support our alliance with the 'Lanteans."

"Yeah, she said something about that."

"He was a fool," Namin said with a shrug.

"And we'd be fools to get anymore involved in this than we are," Rodney said firmly. "Look, I might be able to keep you guys out of trouble, but not if we go looking for it."

"Makes sense," Dr. Mullins said.

"Okay, then, what I want to know is—are there any empty labs I can use? With actual Ancient terminals in them? Now that I've got the gene, it seems silly for me to be working in here."

"There are several…." She brought up some information on her tablet. "There's one a level or two down from here. It's got a few terminals and some basic consoles and counters, but not much else."

The lab itself was cool and it was pretty amazing to touch things and have them light up. There was a faint sensation, like a slight itch just out of reach under his skin, every time Rodney used Ancient technology, and he found himself wondering if everyone who had the gene felt it or if it was the result of the gene therapy.

The next couple of days were calm and uneventful. Sheppard's team went on a couple of simple missions, and Rodney kept his head low. Most of his time was spent in his new lab, with trips to the gym and range. Sheppard's people seemed a bit edgy, and Dr. Mullins mentioned that most of the scientists seemed a bit subdued.

Finally, after leaving their rooms even earlier than usual one morning, Sheppard showed up in Rodney's lab. He looked furious, and both Namin and Dr. Mullins slipped out the door without so much as a word. Rodney was almost certain he'd done nothing wrong, but he also knew it didn't matter if Sheppard was in a mood.

"Goddamnit," Sheppard snarled, turning and punching the nearest whiteboard. It toppled over with a crash and Rodney did his best not to flinch. "God-fucking-damnit!"

"Don't, please." Rodney said as Sheppard drew back his fist. "Sir, if you punch the wall," he added when Sheppard glared at him, "you'll break bones in your hand."

"Could punch you instead."

"Yes, Sir," Rodney said. "But please…not my head?"

Sheppard looked at him for a long moment and then shook his head. "You're unreal. Gimme your belt and then drop your pants and bend over that counter."

It would have been easy enough to just hand Sheppard his belt, but Rodney took it off slowly, sank to his knees, put the belt between his teeth and crawled over to Sheppard.

"Jesus, you're such a slut," Sheppard said as he took the belt.

"Yours, Sir," Rodney said as he crawled back to the counter. As soon as he'd stripped and bent over it, Sheppard brought the belt down hard on his ass. Before Rodney could even catch his breath, the next blow landed and the next after that and all Rodney could do was cling to the edge of the counter and hope he could walk after.

Sheppard beat him until Rodney was yelling and then kept it up until Rodney let the tears come. "Please," Rodney said, his voice shaky. "Please please please, Sir…it hurts."

"You hard?" Sheppard sounded more…well, normal and Rodney heaved an inner sigh of relief.

"Yes, Sir."

The sex that followed was almost perfunctory, although Sheppard made sure Rodney came. Rodney was never sure if that was his reward or if it was supposed to be a reflection of Sheppard's prowess, but he really didn't care.

After they'd both cleaned up—Rodney had learned to carry a couple of handkerchiefs as well as lube—Sheppard sat down and tilted his chair back against one of the consoles. Rodney really didn't feel like sitting, so he settled down on his stomach on the floor.

"Comfortable?" Sheppard asked with a smirk.

"Actually, yes," Rodney said. "There are days when I study like this."


There was silence for several minutes, but Rodney had gotten used to it; he spent the time conjugating Ancient verbs.

"She had a fucking hollow tooth," Sheppard finally said. "The linguist…Dr. Lancaster. Ronon was about to start questioning her and she cracked it and we lost her."

"People actually do that? Seriously?"

"Yeah. And the two other people we had on the mainland were found dead in their beds this morning." Sheppard leaned back until his head was resting against the wall. "So we're back to square one."

"Not really. At least now you know that someone really is out to get you."

"There is that, but I need more."

"Is there any way to scan people…see if anyone else here has hollow teeth?"

"You know," Sheppard said, leaning forward. The chair legs hit the floor with a thump. "I was just wondering that myself. We'd need to come up with an excuse…some kind of illness." He chuckled unpleasantly. "I'm sure Carson would enjoy that."

"Just as long he's careful and half the base doesn't actually come down sick."

"Yeah, all we need are a few isolated incidents." Sheppard bent down and stroked Rodney's hair, running his fingers through it.

Without really knowing why, Rodney knelt up and leaned against Sheppard's leg. Sheppard paused, but then went back to stroking his hair. "You're a good kid," he said, and for the first time, Rodney found he really didn't mind.

"So," Sheppard said after a moment. "This is your hangout?"

"Yeah, we're thinking of building a fort over there in the corner," Rodney replied with a slight snort.

"Funny. Have you learned how to key a door to your DNA pattern?" When Rodney shook his head, Sheppard continued. "I'll teach you. I'll be able to override it, of course."

"As head of the military?"

"Well, that and by virtue of having initialized the city; I can do things with the Ancient tech that no one else can." He shrugged and glanced at one of the whiteboards.

"Still trying to figure out the drone weapons," Rodney said. "I'm trying to figure out how the outer coating transmits so much energy…."

The next few days were weirdly tense for Rodney. While he did his best to focus all his mental energy on his work and all his physical energy in the gym, he still felt nervous and on edge. He was, he realized two days later at lunch, in the know. It was a new thing for him and he worried that he might give something away.

He said something along those lines to Sheppard as they headed back to their quarters after lunch.

"Relax," Sheppard said, resting a hand on Rodney's back. "People are used to you looking jumpy, although, really, you haven't been too bad lately." He chuckled and Rodney looked up at him.


"Oh, just thinking about what I'm about to do to you."

Rodney, who had been expecting Sheppard would want nothing more than a quick blow job, bit his lip nervously. He thought about asking but decided against it; if Sheppard wanted him to know, he'd tell him.

Once inside their rooms, he stripped down, but before he could go to his knees, Sheppard shook his head. "Put your shorts back on and hop up on the desk," he said, before heading into the bathroom.

He returned with a couple of towels and what looked like a first aid, tossing them on the desk next to Rodney. "So, I picked these up the yesterday," he said, reaching into his pocket. He handed Rodney a fabric small bag that turned out to contain four hoops made out of some dark gray metal. Given the first aid kit, Rodney wasn't all that surprised.

Which wasn't to say he couldn't pretend to be. "These…um…are they what I think they are?"

"You really are a genius, aren't you?" Sheppard grinned at him as he pulled a sleek black case out of his pocket. "Do you think you can bear this?" he asked, tapping the sterile packaging that held a rather thick needle. "Or do I need to tie you up for it?"

Taking a deep breath, Rodney shook his head. "I think I can do it," he said. "Unless you want to tie me up."

"Nah, that can wait." Sheppard sat down and wheeled his chair closer to Rodney. He then opened the first aid kit, getting out a bottle of alcohol and some gauze. "Nipples first," he said. "Once you get past that, you'll hardly notice it when I do your ears."

And how do you know? Rodney managed to bite back the words and keep from looking anything but scared, but it wasn't easy.

Sheppard was careful and methodical, which actually didn't surprise Rodney at all; he'd had over a month to learn that Sheppard wasn't interested in breaking his toys. For a moment, however, Rodney almost wished Sheppard would just do it because the whole build up was just making him more and more nervous. As Sheppard finally took up the needle, he looked at Rodney and smiled tightly. Rodney swallowed hard and then nodded.

"Good boy," Sheppard murmured.

It hurt like fuck, of course. Rodney cried out at the sharp biting pain as the needle went in and then out, and then did it again as Sheppard pushed the ring though the hole the needle had created. "Fuck," he panted and then yelped again when Sheppard took up a pair of pliers and closed the ring.

Blinking a little, he opened his eyes, but instead of looking down, he looked at Sheppard. Sheppard was staring at Rodney, his eyes dark and intent and hungry, and Rodney felt it on his skin, like the buzz of using Ancient technology. He looked down at his chest; his nipple was swollen and there was blood as well as the dark ring.

It was only when he shifted a little on the desk that he realized how hard he was. He could feel his face go hot and Sheppard smiled. "I'll tell you what," Sheppard said. "I'm gonna do the other one and your ears and then…." He leaned down a little and breathed hotly over Rodney's cock.

"I'll blow you."

He picked up the forceps and the Sharpie and looked up at Rodney. "Ready."

"Yes, Sir," Rodney said, his mind still boggling over Sheppard's offer.

It was worse now that he knew what to expect, or maybe it was because he watched and, probably because he watched, Sheppard paused and let him see the needle. It was almost unreal and when Sheppard shoved the hoop through, Rodney gave up and let the tears come. It helped, a little, and anyway, Sheppard would like it.

He did too, looking up at Rodney and catching his breath, just a little. Then he was smiling, and grabbing a wad of gauze, doused it with alcohol and carefully cleaned around Rodney's nipple. "Fuck!" Rodney gasped and Sheppard smiled and moved to the other one.

Sheppard, of course, was right. Rodney's nipples hurt so much that, in comparison, it hardly bothered him at all when Sheppard did his ears. It hurt a little more when he just pushed the rings in, but they were somewhat thinner than the nipple rings and even the alcohol at the end didn't hurt as much.

Rodney expected Sheppard to tell him to get in bed, because there was just no way in hell that Sheppard was going to go down on his knees. But he didn't tell Rodney to get off the desk, so Rodney stayed there, confused and hard, while Sheppard cleaned up.

"Not gonna blow you through your boxers," Sheppard said and the only reason Rodney was careful taking them off was that, in the time he'd been here, Sheppard had managed to destroy at least three pairs of Rodney's shorts and he didn't want to run out. Once Rodney was naked, Sheppard settled into the chair again.

Shepard bent his head and Rodney had a bare second to process seeing Sheppard's unruly hair from this angle—it was weird, really really weird—and then Sheppard was speaking, so close that Rodney could feel each little exhalation on the head of his dick. "Keep your hands on the desk," he said, "and if you don't warn me before you come, you won't be coming for the next week."

"Yes, Sir," Rodney said, as Sheppard grabbed his hips, fingers digging in hard.

"Good boy," Sheppard murmured, and this time Rodney could feel his lips, brushing lightly against Rodney's already slick skin. He caught his breath as Sheppard lowered his head, tongue flicking out and then his lips closing over the head of Rodney's cock.

It was slow, so slow, and Rodney didn't know if that was because Sheppard hadn't done this in a while or if it was just another tease. And then Sheppard just kept going, and Rodney had to breathe, and oh, God, Sheppard was using his tongue and it suddenly stopped being the weirdest blow job Rodney had ever received and became the best.

When Sheppard pulled back a little and actually started sucking, Rodney moaned. "Oh fuck…oh God…." He looked down, a little unsure—maybe he wasn't supposed to—but Sheppard just looked up at him and winked and tongued that spot right under the head and Rodney had to fight to remain still.

Sheppard was…really, really good. He brought Rodney to the edge with a hard, fast rhythm, and then changed pace, slowing down until Rodney moaned. "Please," Rodney breathed. "Oh God…please, please, please."

The teeth surprised him, but Sheppard was oddly careful, scraping lightly enough that it was just one more sensation. Rodney was gripping the edge of the desk now and shaking just a little; he wasn't sure how much more of this he could take without moving. He was only partly aware of the words he was saying—"Sir" and "God," but mostly just "please" over and over—most of his concentration was on the slick slide and pull of Sheppard's mouth on his cock.

Finally, it was too much, and Rodney lifted a hand and then slammed it back down on the desk right away. "Sir," he gasped. "Sir…I'm…oh God…please…so close…I'm gonna…."

He was sure Sheppard was going to lift his head, use his hand or demand that Rodney jerk off, but he kept sucking and Rodney's shaking got worse. "Can…is it…please…oh fuck, please…need…."

"Do it." Sheppard's voice was slightly hoarse but before Rodney could think about that too much, Sheppard slid his mouth back down, a low steady pressure combined with the harsh scrap of teeth and Rodney cried out, high and unsteady, and came. Sheppard swallowed and the sheer surprise of the whole thing made the orgasm even better.

"God," Rodney finally said. "Thank you," he added, not knowing what else to say. Sheppard had sat back and now he gave Rodney a sardonic little smile.

Before Rodney could over think it, he slid off the desk, hissing as the rings moved on his chest. "Ow," he murmured as he settled on his knees in front of Sheppard. Looking up, he licked his lips. "Please?" he said, resting his hands on the front of Sheppard's pants. "Please, let me?"

"Yeah," Sheppard said, dropping his hand down to thread his fingers through Rodney's hair as Rodney undid his fly. "Do it."

Unsure of what Sheppard wanted, Rodney started slow, the way Sheppard liked it when they had plenty of time. Then Sheppard's hand went tight in Rodney's hair and he yanked Rodney down so fast that Rodney barely had time to grab a breath before the head of Sheppard's cock was pushing hard against the back of Rodney's throat.

This was usually the point at which Rodney coughed or choked and Sheppard had to pull him off, but for some reason, this time, Rodney snatched another little breath through his nose and tilted his head just right. He was sure he was going to choke, but he turned it into a swallow, his throat moving around Sheppard's dick.

"Jesus fuck," Sheppard groaned and pulled Rodney back off. "Breathe, kid, because I'm gonna do that again."

Rodney dragged in a long breath and then a little more as Sheppard pushed back in. It worked, and by the time Sheppard was moving harder, Rodney had it down. It was scary, but each time his air was cut off, he felt a little thrill low in his gut.

Sheppard pulled him off one more time and then grunted, "oh fuck," and pushed back in harder. Taking it as a warning and desperately hoping that he didn't choke or gag, Rodney moaned around Sheppard's cock, and that was enough; Sheppard came.

"Fuck," Sheppard said, while Rodney took in deep, gasping, noisy breaths. He slid his hand through Rodney's hair almost gently. "That was impressive."

Leaning his head against Sheppard's warm thigh, Rodney sighed. "Mmmmm…glad you liked it, Sir."

"Good boy," Sheppard said, still petting Rodney's hair.

Carson was happy enough to come up with a flu strain that wouldn't incapacitate anyone too much, and John had to admire Elizabeth's tact when she insisted that Keller should be the one to come up with both a cure for it as well as a vaccine. Carson took it in stride, but John still worried. He'd never really forgiven Carson for almost shooting him out of the sky; the fact that the incident had led him to Atlantis only partly made up for it.

Plus, Carson was just kind of creepy.

"He really is," Rodney said that night. John had taken him into the infirmary to get the vaccine and so that Keller could use the Ancient skin regenerator they'd found on Rodney's nipples and ears. She'd handed the regenerator to John afterward and showed him how to use it.

"You did a very good job, Colonel. I suspect you won't want to keep your hands off them, so use this after you play with them." She glanced at Rodney as he pulled his shirt back on. "He really is very pretty."

If it had been anyone else, the teasing little compliment would have infuriated John, but given that Keller was as gay as John himself, he just took the opportunity to watch Rodney blush.

"Carson's very good at genetics," John said now, returning to the conversation with a blink. "But yeah, he's a little disturbing."

"Is he really working on a virus that will wipe out the Wraith?"

"Where'd you hear about that?" John leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest.

"Um…I ended up looking at research allocations when I was first here," Rodney frowned down at the chessboard. "It's the easiest way in; the actual research is usually locked down pretty tight, but things like budget and material requisitions and personnel allocations aren't."

He looked up a little nervously but John just nodded. "Did you restrict your…investigations to the science side of things?"

John could see the urge to lie flicker across Rodney's face, but then it passed and Rodney swallowed hard. "No, Sir." He paused and then seemed to relax a little. "But it's harder to draw conclusions from bullet counts and training schedules. At least for me it is."

"Maybe, but not for everyone," John said with a frown. "Can you do something about that?"

"About…oh, about your security?" Rodney tilted his head. "I could, but I'm not an expert."

"You hacked into fucking StateSec," John said and hid his amusement at the pleased look on Rodney's face. "How about this: you cut your hours in the gym and the range down to about two a day and spend the extra time beefing up my security?"

"Sure," Rodney said, and John could tell he was already thinking it over.

"But not now."

Rodney did that thing where he dropped his gaze and then glanced up at John through his eyelashes. And, although John had known from the start that that look was both practiced and intentional, the sheer combination of innocence and sluttiness still drove him crazy.

"Get over here, whore," he said, his voice harsh, and Rodney slid off his chair to kneel at John's feet. "How're these feeling?" John bent down and flicked one of Rodney's nipple rings with a fingernail.

"Sore, Sir."

"Play with them." Rodney looked a little confused but brought a hand up to touch one of the rings. "Make it hurt," John said, frowning down at Rodney.

"Oh." Rodney bit his lip but started tugging on the ring, tentatively at first. "Fuck," he muttered and started pulling harder and twisting it.

"Harder," John said quietly. Rodney glanced up at him again and then twisted harder. John leaned back, undoing his BDUs and pushing them out of the way. Rodney wasn't pretending now; John took in the way his lower lip was trembling and the soft little noises he was making, and wanted more. "Harder," he said again.

"Please," Rodney said. His voice was soft and husky and as he twisted the ring, John could see sweat starting to bead on his upper lip. "It hurts…."

"You like it," he said, stroking his cock as Rodney started to squirm.

"Please," Rodney said. "It's…it hurts…please please…."

"Please what?"

"It's better…better when you…." He moved, going up on his knees and leaning toward John. "Please," he breathed. "Please…hurt me, please?"

"Stand up," John said, his voice thick. Once Rodney was standing, he pulled him closer and reached up to play with one of the nipple rings. Rodney let his hand fall to the side and John grinned tightly. "Hands behind your back."

He kept playing with the ring, twisting it sharply and pulling at it while Rodney shivered and whined. Rodney got louder, whimpers turning into breathy little cries when John leaned in and bit at the other nipple, tugging on the ring with his teeth. "Better?" John murmured against his chest.

"Yes…oh fuck," Rodney moaned. "Please…please please, Sir…please fuck me?"

After another moment spent teasing Rodney's nipples, John shoved the chessboard off his desk—they'd both remember where their pieces had been—and then pulled Rodney's shorts off. "Up on the desk," he said. "On your back."

Figuring it out right away, Rodney settled on the desk with his ass right at the edge of the desk. While he waited for John to dig the lube out of the desk drawer, he toyed with one of the nipple rings, and John barely needed to prep him—he was already that turned on and easy.

John fucked him hard, playing with one of the rings as he did, and Rodney cried out and squirmed under him, urging him on with "please" and "hurts" and "more" and "fuck me" and "Sir." As much as John had liked it when Rodney had been shy and scared, he liked this more, liked Rodney spread out begging for it, needing it.

Later, after they'd showered and John had used the regenerator on Rodney's nipples, Rodney settled down in bed with one of his tablets. John brought his laptop to bed and after a few moments, Rodney looked up. "So, was I right? Is Dr. Beckett working on an anti-Wraith virus?"

"Yeah, but it's not going all that well. The Ancients tried for a couple hundred years; Carson's good, but it might take him a while." John shrugged. "I think it's the wrong angle, myself."

"Oh?" Rodney looked at him and then smiled. "It's not direct enough, right?"

"Are you accusing me of a lack of subtlety?"

"Not at all. You're just not the type to wait behind the shields until someone invents the right virus."

John was silent for a moment. "The Ancients," he finally said, "did that a little too much. In fact, at the end, that's all they did and then, when they were losing, they ran. In the end, I suppose I personally have reason to be glad they did, but just because some Ancient or another left me his genes, that doesn't mean I have to fight like them."

"Why doesn't Earth send more troops?" Rodney asked.

"Too much going on in the Milky Way Galaxy," John replied, his mouth twisting in a wry smile. "Or so they tell us."

"I read a little about that," Rodney said. "But you don't sound like you buy it as an excuse."

"I don't. There are millions of people on Earth who have no clue about the Ori or the Goa'uld. They could send me a whole fucking brigade of ground forces and a wing or two of air forces and no one on Earth would miss them. All the news would have to say was that they were lost to one of the rebel groups."

"They'd send their officers with them," Rodney said, frowning. "I don't think that would work out so well for you."

"Officers meet up with accidents all the time." But Rodney was right. It wasn't anything John hadn't thought of before, but it was interesting that Rodney immediately thought of John's position. "But you're right, that many troops not loyal to me could be difficult."

"And now…why do you think they're moving against you now?"

"I have no idea," John said with a frown. "And that bothers me. There are spies in among the personnel each time they send us new people, but this time is different, and I don't know why."

After a long moment of silence, Rodney lifted his head. "What can I do?" When John looked at him and raised an eyebrow, Rodney shrugged and tried to look casual. "It's in my own interests, after all."

"Of course." John reached out and ran a finger over Rodney's collar. "I'd tell you to act stupid, but that's not going to work. Be naive. The guys already act like you're some kind of cute little mascot, so keep up whatever you're doing with them. Maybe you can pick a few things up."

"Dr. Mullins and Namin won't buy it if I'm naive around them."

"No, but that doesn't matter; you've done a good job at getting them on your side."

"I hope so," Rodney said. "I worry that Mullins is reporting to Jeannie."

"She's not," John said. "A couple of the scientists are on my payroll, as it were; I'd know if she was talking about you to Jeannie."

"Okay," Rodney said. "Be naive. Anything else?"

"Aside from pumping up my security, I can't think of anything. Unless you think you can find a way to manufacture drones, because that would be pretty fucking sweet." John didn't really think Rodney was going to get anywhere with the drones, but Rodney just nodded and went back to working on his tablet.

Two days later, the first people started coming down with the flu. It was a mildly nasty little illness that left people headachey and tired and just a little confused. Once it became clear that it was spreading, Elizabeth made the announcement that she was locking the city down.

The next few days were boring and frustrating as the process of treating the ill (and scanning them with the scanner Jeannie had built into one of the medical scanners) began. John and Lorne got caught up on all the annoying little details that made up the less fun part of command and John spent some time in the gym.

He dropped by the private gym one afternoon during Rodney's session and discovered that Ronon and Rath had gone beyond teaching him Rodney to defend himself; these days, it seemed, Rodney could fight back. He still had a long way to go, but watching him spar with Namin, John was pleasantly surprised.

It was also unexpectedly hot. Rodney was shirtless and John could remember how each of the bruises and bite marks visible on his pale skin got there, and seeing them made him want to add more. It was more than that, though; Rodney was intent, all his considerable focus on what he was doing.

"You still telegraph too much," John said, after Rodney managed to land a touch on Namin. "But you're doing better."

Rodeny turned and gave John a bright smile that made him catch his breath. "Out," John said.

Namin left without saying anything, but Ronon rolled his eyes. "You're unbelievable," he muttered as he left.

"He's right; you really are," Rodney said, still smiling. He slipped out of his workout pants and dropped to his hands and knees, crawling across the sunlight floor to kneel at John's feet. "What can I do for you, Sir?"

"If I asked you what you wanted me to do to you right now," John said, "what would you ask for?"

Instead of saying "whatever you wanted, Sir," Rodney tilted his head and actually gave it some thought.

"If you were to ask," he said, "I would say that you haven't spanked me in a while." He ducked his head and shrugged a little. "I like it when it's your hand on me."

"You want me to spank you?"

Rodney looked up at him, eyes wide. "Please? Please, Colonel, spank me?" There was something behind the look though, like Rodney knew that John knew he was playing up the innocence just because John liked it.

Leaving him kneeling there, John moved over to the window seat, grabbing a towel. "C'mere," he said, smiling when Rodney crawled over to him.

He spanked Rodney hard until Rodney cried and came all over the towel in John's lap. He whimpered a little protest when John kept spanking him, but it wasn't long before he was hard again. "You think I'm unbelievable," John said, pulling Rodney up until he was straddling John's lap. "Look at you, you little slut."

"God," Rodney breathed, squirming as John prepped him. "It hurts…need you to fuck me…please?"

"Maybe I shouldn't." John undid his pants and then gripped Rodney's hips, holding him still. "If it hurts."

"Please?" Rodney blinked and the sight of his thick lashes still clumped together with tears hit John like a fist to the gut. "It…it feels good when you fuck me after beating me. Makes it more…more intense."

John had hated it back at the Academy when he'd been fucked after a beating, hated it more than he'd hated getting a beating, more than he'd hated being fucked. And yet, he could tell Rodney was being honest here, could tell Rodney wanted it.

"Slut," he snarled, pulling Rodney down onto his cock. Rodney was hot and tight, and he gasped sharply as John started thrusting up into him. But when John said, "c'mon, boy, ride me," he moved faster, slamming down onto John's dick like he hadn't just been fucked hard the night before.

When John came, he could feel the tension of the last few days draining away from him. He jerked Rodney off, let him come a second time, and then kept him on his lap for a while after, both of them almost dozing in the afternoon sun.

It felt strange and weirdly comfortable. John wasn't sure if he liked that or not, but… fuck it, he thought as Rodney made a contented little noise. I deserve this.

Unfortunately, events still seemed to be conspiring against John. They found two more people—one Marine and one civilian, one of Elizabeth's staff—with hollow teeth, and even managed to disable them and yank the teeth. John had them tossed into the holding cells, planning on letting them stew before Ronon had a go at them. The civilian in particular seemed terrified; John suspected that he'd talk before Ronon even pulled a knife out of his hair.

The next morning, at the time of the guard change, both of the prisoners were found dead, as was the guard outside the cell block. Before John could even start asking around, Lt. Stafford, a Marine, was found in his room, pistol in his mouth.

"Was it really suicide?" John asked Carson, who shook his head.

"We don't have any forensic experts here, Colonel," he said. "I can check to see if anyone else's DNA was on him, but that's about as much as I can do."

There was nothing John could do about it, either, and only the fact that he had a punishment detail to deal with that afternoon kept him from shooting someone. He took over from Staff Sargent Ruiz and delivered the standard flogging to the two Marines, resisting the urge to add extra strokes just because he was in a bad mood.

Having Rodney blow him after didn't really make things any better; John still felt restless and irritated.

"Did," Rodney began to say that evening. He paused when John gave him a sharp look, but then his chin went up. "What did the security cameras show?"

"You think we're that stupid?"

"No," Rodney said, frowning a little. "I just…I was just curious." When John continued to glare at him Rodney continued. "Beat me if you like, but remember that I have a stake in this too; what happens to me if they succeed in killing you?"

"They were blank," John ground out through gritted teeth. "Which is why I know that Stafford didn't kill himself. He didn't have either clearance or the gene and so he couldn't have erased the security footage."

"All it takes is the gene?"

"The gene might get around the clearance. It's hard to tell; most of our security people have the gene." John paced restlessly around the room. "I might have to lock everyone out."

"Don't do that," Rodney said and John raised an eyebrow.

"Why not?"

"Can you handle all the security for the base?" Before John could tell him that yes, he could, Rodney continued. "I mean, I know you could, but doing that and running the military on the base and going on missions with the team…don't you see? This has turned into a war of nerves, and if you over extend yourself…."

He trailed off, but John could guess what he was going to say, and actually? It made sense. If they were just waiting for John to make mistakes, forcing him to spread himself too thin might do it.

"You think I should just sit back and do nothing?"

"Can you do anything until the next Daedalus run?"

"I'm not good at standing still," John said.

"And if I were going up against you, I'd keep that in mind." Rodney shrugged and looked apologetic, as if he knew how John felt.

"Get over here," John said, because if he couldn't do anything else, there was always Rodney. And anyway, the kid deserved something; John knew he wasn't easy to deal with when he was frustrated, but Rodney had tried.

As Rodney took his boxers off, slid to the floor and crawled over to him, John reached over and pulled the strap out of his nightstand. Rodney looked up, bit his lip and then said, "please?"

Later, as John stared up at the ceiling with Rodney's head resting on his chest, Rodney said, "is there something you could do to…make it look like you're reacting?"

Since John had been thinking along those same lines, he nodded. "Yeah, I was trying to figure out what…." He trailed off. "You know, I haven't run a big training exercise in a while. If I get most of the guys out onto the Beta site and run them ragged, it'll look like frustration on my part and it might even shake some of the traitors loose."

He felt Rodney nod, but when he didn't say anything, John turned to look at him. "What?"

"How…how long will you be gone?"

"Three or four days, but don't worry; I'll be taking you with me."

"Me?" Rodney sounded more relieved than annoyed and John laughed.

"Most of the guys like you, and I don't actually have an aide de camp; I think you'd fill the role nicely. Plus, I want you to get some field training."

"Wow," Rodney murmured and then he leaned in and kissed John. "Another planet…that's so cool."

It took two days to put the training exercise together and Rodney took the time to continue his work on improving the security to the military network. It was a mess and full of holes; if the guy who had set it up hadn't been killed during a mission in the first year, Rodney would have suggested that Sheppard take him out and shoot him.

What was worse was that no one had done anything but the bare minimum when it came to updates since then.

"Looks like fucking Swiss cheese in here," Rodney grumbled to Namin. Before Namin could ask, Rodney added, "it's this cheese that has holes in it, something about the process of making it leaves them there." He shrugged and looked back at the computer screen in front of him.

"Do you think the people working against the colonel have been able to access things they shouldn't?"

"If they haven't, they're morons." Rodney grinned tightly. "However, they won't be able to after I'm done."

Of course that only assumed that one of the traitors wasn't someone high enough up to have access. Sheppard didn't seem to think it was Lorne, Major Jordan or Major Teldy, but Rodney wasn't so sure. He didn't think of himself as being more paranoid than Sheppard and God knew that Sheppard's men were insanely loyal, but the fact remained that, if Sheppard were dead, they'd have to follow someone.

He finished the project the day before they were due to go off planet, leaving himself a backdoor which he supposed he ought to tell Sheppard about at some point. He also did a little digging in and around Altantis's actual security systems, specifically the files holding the security camera footage, but while he was pretty sure he could get in if he wanted to, it wasn't going to be easy.

The next morning, after blowing Sheppard in the shower because Sheppard was a little wound up, Rodney stared at the clothes Sheppard had brought in for him the night before. There was a set of the familiar gray fatigues, a tac vest and even a thigh holster. Rodney felt a little like it was Halloween as he put the uniform on.

"I'll get you a pair of combat boots, but for now, just wear your trainers. I don't want you breaking in new boots out in the field. " Sheppard said. "Oh, and the vest has room for a tablet on the back of it; bring yours."

"Do…am I going to be carrying a gun?" Rodney asked after buckling on the thigh holster.

Sheppard grinned at him. "Ruiz says you've qualified." He picked something up off the desk and handed it to Rodney. "Congratulations."

It was a Glock and Rodney was aware of Sheppard's gaze on him as he went over it the way he'd been trained. Satisfied that it was loaded with the safety on, he slipped it into the holster and fastened the strap that held it in. Sheppard nodded approvingly and handed him a couple of extra clips.

Both Rath and Namin were waiting outside with John's guards. Namin grinned when he saw Rodney. "You look good," he said as they made their way down the hall.

"I feel like an impostor," Rodney said.

Sheppard laughed. "He's right," he said and when he clapped Rodney on the shoulder, Rodney couldn't help smiling.

"Well, don't you look ridiculous," Jeannie said when they reached the gate room. She was in uniform but not geared up, although John could see that Teyla and Ronon were both carrying packs. Rodney rolled his eyes at her.

"You're not coming with us?" he asked.

"Are you kidding? Run around in the woods with a bunch of grunts? I've got better things to do."

Rodney shrugged. "I didn't have a choice," he said, wondering if Jeannie were one of the people trying to bring Sheppard down. He didn't think so, but it was possible that the spies found in her department were plants designed to make her look innocent.

I've been spending too much time with a paranoid bastard, he thought, glancing over at Sheppard. It had to be really exhausting to think like that all the time.

Going through the gate was weird; Rodney wondered if repeated use meant that you got used to that strange feeling of utter nothingness that he wasn't even sure he'd experienced. He glanced over at Namin, remembering that, for the natives of the Pegasus Galaxy, gate travel was like getting on an airplane or train on Earth.

Rodney did his best to stay out of the way as one of the shelters on the Beta site was turned into a command center, but as soon as a Marine engineer brought out a naquadah generator, he got involved. They were ridiculously easy to set up—Rodney picked it up in less than five minutes—and soon the entire building had power.

"Someone stands to make a mint from these," Rodney said to the engineer.

"Yeah, if the program ever goes public," the guy said.

A corner of the temporary shelter was blocked off with canvas and once Rodney saw Sheppard's pack in there, he dumped his own stuff. There were also a couple of sleeping bags and he unrolled them and tidied up a little.

"Oh, hey, good," Sheppard said, poking his head in a few minutes later. "Come on out while I talk to Jordan and Teldy; I want you to have at least a vague idea of what's going on."

It was fascinating to see Sheppard in his element; for an Air Force officer, he seemed pretty familiar with ground combat as well, although Rodney was a little surprised to learn that Sheppard had no problem deferring to his junior officers here in the field. He seemed more relaxed and at ease than he had back on Atlantis, and Rodney was pretty sure that the conspirators had been doing their best to play to Sheppard's paranoia.

The Marines were split into two squads, with Teldy commanding one and Jordan the other. They'd take turns attacking and protecting one of the other beta site shelters while Sheppard oversaw the whole exercise. "We're bringing three jumpers through," he said. "Each of you will have one to use however you like, and I'll be up in the third one keeping an eye on you."

The next few days were a weird mix of chaos and boredom for Rodney. The best thing about it was spending time up in the jumper. While Sheppard took his duties seriously during the day, he was easily persuaded to take the jumper up the second night, after Teldy's group had been able to capture Jordan's base.

"Wow," Rodney said, once they'd escaped the planet's atmosphere. "This is…." He trailed off as he took in the blue curve of the planet and the harsh light of its sun. Sheppard laughed a little and brought them around until the planet eclipsed the sun and the universe spread out before them, a black expanse dotted with stars.

"Does it ever get old?" Rodney finally asked, his face a little hot because he was pretty sure that was a totally naive question.

But Sheppard remained silent for a long moment and finally Rodney turned and looked at him. His face was still, his expression thoughtful and Rodney's breath caught in his chest when he realized that this was a side of Sheppard most people didn't even know about, let alone see.

"No," Sheppard finally said. "This part of it….sometimes I think I miss flying planes, miss the feeling of motion that you don't always get in a puddlejumper, but no, it never gets old."

They stared at the stars for a long moment and then Rodney smiled a little and stripped off his jacket. "Ever had sex up here?"

Sheppard turned to him, a broad and genuine smile on his face. "In a jumper, yes. While flying or up in space? No."

For a moment Rodney felt an odd flash of anger that someone else had been alone with Sheppard in a jumper, but then he ignored it as he got up out of his seat. "How do you want me?" he asked, pulling off his shirt.

"Naked," Sheppard said, and now his smile was more familiar. Although, Rodney thought as he took care to put his gun and its belt someplace safe, this smile was just as genuine as the other one.

Maybe that's it, flying and fucking…but no, not just fucking. Fucking where he's in control. He wondered how long it had been since Sheppard had allowed anyone to fuck him; he couldn't even imagine it happening, although it must have in the past.

While Rodney finished undressing, Sheppard did something to the console and the pilot's chair slid back. "C'mere and bring the lube," he said. "I want you bent over the console; put your hands like this." He took the lube and then guided Rodney's hands to a part of the console that was presumably safe.

For once, he took his time about the prep, opening Rodney up slowly while Rodney thought about those same hands on the jumper controls and tried not to come.

"Move back," Sheppard finally said. "No, don't turn around, just spread your legs and sit back…yeah, like that."

It wasn't easy to maintain his balance as Sheppard pulled him down onto his cock, but then he leaned back in the chair and Rodney was sitting on his lap, Sheppard's cock buried inside him. It wasn't a position that lent itself to Sheppard's usual hard pace, but that didn't seem to bother him; he thrust up into Rodney slowly, as if…as if he wanted this to last. As if it meant something.

And, although Rodney knew those kinds of thoughts were dangerous, he couldn't help thinking that this did mean something, that he'd managed to give Sheppard something special. "God," he moaned. "So good…need this…."

"Yeah," Sheppard said, his voice muffled against the back of Rodney's neck. "Yeah…'s good…fuck, Rodney." He bit down on the back of Rodney's neck and Rodney gasped and shivered. "Such a good boy," Sheppard murmured. "My good boy…."

"Yours," Rodney said. "Oh fuck…." No one had ever wanted him like this; he'd never really fit in or had a place. Until now. "Yours," he said again.

Sheppard slid a hand up Rodney's chest, up to the collar around his throat. "Go on," he said, pressing the leather into Rodney's neck. "Come for me…now, Rodney."

Coming on command was easy now; Rodney had already been close and now he closed his eyes, moved back on Sheppard's cock and came with a soft moan. Sheppard grunted and his hand went even tighter around Rodney's neck and then he was coming as well, thrusting up hard into Rodney's body.

Later that night, once Sheppard was asleep, Rodney sat up and watched him in the light of the planet's two moons for a long time.

The rest of the exercise passed quickly enough. Sheppard spent most of the days up in a jumper keeping an eye on both groups of Marines. Rodney went with him and even got a few lessons in jumper handling. Sheppard didn't let him fly much, but he learned to bring up the HUD and keep station over a given set of coordinates.

In the end, Teldy's group out performed Jordan's, and in spite of the fact that he didn't like her much, Sheppard seemed pleased enough with the results. The Marines, in turn, were pleased when, early in the evening of the last day, a bunch of Athosians and Atlantis support staff came through the gate with barrels of beer and enough food for a huge barbecue.

It had been interesting, but Rodney was glad when they got back to Atlantis.

"I need a shower," he grumbled as he stripped and tossed his clothes into the hamper. "Um…should I take this back down to the armory?" He held up the gun, but Sheppard shook his head.

"That's yours now," he said. "Take it down to the range on days you practice, but only wear it when I say you can."

He didn't follow Sheppard's example and keep the gun on top of his nightstand, but he did put it in the top drawer, in with the lube, a supply of hand towels, a note book and a pen. They were, he realized, oddly domestic, and what was more, he really didn't mind.

Sheppard was in a much better mood for the next few days; Rodney knew he was still thinking about the possibility of a traitor on Atlantis, but he seemed to have settled down into a wait and see attitude.

Having set up the security for the military network, Rodney returned to his research into the drone weapons. The Ancient data base was frustrating, although knowing Ancient helped some. It was in there somewhere, though, and Rodney was going to find it, before Jeannie got anywhere with her ZPM research.

Two weeks after the exercises, Sheppard came back to their quarters and paused right inside the closed door. He was looking at Rodney, his brows furrowed. "What would you think of going off planet again?"

"More exercises?"

"No, you'd be with the team on a mission to visit our allies." He moved to stand next to Rodney's chair and, when Rodney started to slide off it to kneel, gripped his arm. "Let me look at you." He put a hand under Rodney's chin and tilted his head this way and that.

It was oddly arousing.

"Yeah, you'll do."

"Thank you," Rodney said dryly, hoping he'd judged Sheppard's mood correctly.

He had; Sheppard just laughed. "Well, I think you're pretty, of course." He brushed a thumb over Rodney's mouth, and Rodney couldn't help remembering that time on the balcony when he'd first learned why he'd really been brought to Atlantis. He opened his mouth and sucked Sheppard's thumb in.

"Slut," Sheppard said.

"Only for you, Sir," Rodney said, his words muffled by Sheppard's thumb.

Sheppard grinned and, to Rodney's surprise, pulled his thumb back. "We're visiting the Larish in a couple days. They're pretty low tech, but we get a lot of our food from them; they've been loyal allies ever since we helped them get rid of a rival tribe. The thing is, we have to renegotiate the treaty now and again. It's really an excuse for them to impress us with their hospitality, which is why I want you along."

"Huh? Why me?"

"Last time, they tried to foist someone on me for the duration of the mission because I'm Atlantis's Military Commander." Sheppard scowled. "I'm damned if I'm going to sleep with some alien concubine; the Larish may be our allies but that doesn't mean I trust them. Unfortunately, if I don't have a good excuse to turn down the offer, it'll be seen as an insult."

Rodney couldn't help it; he laughed.


"Sorry, Sir," Rodney said. "Just…I'm your date?"

"Don't expect a corsage," Sheppard said, a slight smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

Two days later Rodney stepped through the gate and felt that same little moment of nothingness he'd felt the first time. It wasn't as disconcerting this time, however, and he looked around eagerly, taking in the big plaza that contained the Stargate, a large fountain and a lot of people. There were large white buildings with green tiled roofs surrounding the plaza and the air was dry.

Rodney felt like he'd stepped into an illustration for 1,001 Nights, an impression that was reinforced by the reception committee, which was made up of several people dressed in robes. The Larish Headwoman wore a deep red hooded robe and she very ceremoniously pushed the hood back before bowing to Sheppard, her whole party bowing with her.

Rodney—who had been coached by Teyla—and the rest of the 'Lanteans returned the bow, although Sheppard's was more nod than bow. Even if the disparity in weapons—P-90s and side arms on the 'Lanteans, spears in the hands of the Larish guards—hadn't made it clear who had the power here, the body language said it all.

It was hot in the sun and Rodney was glad when the Headwoman led them to the large building directly opposite the Stargate. There was some diplomatic chit chat, and then the 'Lanteans were shown to a huge suite of rooms. In addition to Sheppard's team and Rodney, they'd brought along three guards, including Namin. Rodney hadn't been sure why at the time; he figured either they trusted the Larish not to kill them all in their sleep, or they didn't. Even with P-90s, he wasn't sure how only three extra people could help much.

When the girl showed up to take him to the concubine's hall, the reason for Namin's presence became obvious. "Go with her," Sheppard said to Rodney and Namin. "Namin, I want you to keep an eye on Rodney, make sure no one gives him any trouble."

"Yes, Colonel."



Sheppard moved in close and spoke quietly. "They think they're doing me a favor here, so go along with it, okay?" When Rodney nodded, Sheppard added, "if anyone…gets too close, you get Namin and get out of there, understand?"

"Yes, Sir."

The concubine's quarters were gorgeous, tiled in purple, white and green abstract mosaic patterns and lit by high windows covered with stone filigree screens. It was, Rodney realized after a moment, an almost stereotypical harem scene; all it needed were hookahs and eunuchs.

The girl turned him over to a middle-aged woman, who introduced herself as Tashin.

She looked him over and shook her head. "Those clothes…they are what Colonel Sheppard likes to see you in?"

"The uniform?" Rodney shook his head. "No, I only wear it when we go off planet." He had to bite back a laugh at how easily he said "off planet," but the woman only nodded.

"It is a known and feared uniform," Tashin said, "but you are among friends here." She led him over to a niche and smiled. "Leave it here and it will be laundered."

For all that Rodney was used to stripping in front of Sheppard, getting naked in front of a couple of people he didn't know was a whole different thing. He knew he was blushing as he finished getting undressed and he found himself wishing that Namin had stayed back on Atlantis. Sure, Namin probably had a pretty good idea of what Sheppard did to Rodney, but, thanks to Sheppard's possessiveness, he'd never seen anything.

Rodney was passed through a shower before Tashin settled him in a big bathing pool full of warm water. Ellah, the girl who had fetched him from the team's quarters, washed his hair and then while Rodney soaked, she reached for his hand. After sighing over his calluses, she began to give him a manicure.

"Um…don't," he began when she pulled out something that had to be nail polish. "If Colonel Sheppard wanted a girl, he'd have one. He doesn't like me to look…too feminine." And okay, maybe Rodney didn't actually know that, but given Sheppard's attitude about women, it was a pretty safe bet.

Ellah frowned and consulted with Tashin, who shrugged and told her to just buff Rodney's nails and leave it at that.

The next stop was a massage table and while Rodney really wished for a towel, he wasn't surprised when he didn't get one. At least Ellah offered him a choice of scented oil; one of them smelled sharply of citrus and Rodney waved it away quickly.

"I'm allergic," he said and Ellah nodded and held out something that smelled spicy, a little like Indian food, only sweeter. "Do you have anything that won't make me smell like dessert?"

"That's the whole point," Ellah said with a laugh. "Men love it when you smell like their mother's cooking."

"I'm pretty sure the colonel's mother never touched a pan in her life," he said, remembering the few hints Sheppard had dropped about his family. "And if she did, you can bet it wasn't spicy. Do you have something that smells like, I dunno, plants?" He wanted to say gun oil, which was probably more Sheppard's style.

The oil Ellah ended up using smelled crisp and herbal and, as she rubbed his shoulders with strong hands, Rodney felt himself relaxing. "You are very stiff," she said.

"I spend a lot of time hunched over my computer," he explained. "Um…a computer is…."

"Is that machine that Scholar McKay uses all the time, yes?" He could hear the disapproval in Ellah's voice. "You work?"

"I study and read a lot," he said, sighing happily as she took care of a knot. "I'm her brother; being scholarly runs in the family."

"I study, too," Ellah said. "I can do three kinds of massage, play the drums and the bells, dance in both the northern and southern styles and I've read all four of the classic pillow books. I also write poetry, although I'm not very good yet."

"That's…impressive," he said, looking over his shoulder at her. "How old are you?"

"Seventeen," she said. "I was sold to the Headwoman when I was nine, after my village was culled and my father was taken. My mother couldn't afford to feed all of us and I was the prettiest."

"God," Rodney said. "That's awful." Things like that happened on Earth, he knew, but only in the parts of the world where the stupid rebelled against the State.

"Awful?" Ellah laughed. "It's the best thing that could have happened to me. If I'd stayed in the village I would have had to marry some smelly farmer and have lots of babies. I'd much rather be here; some day I'll buy my freedom and maybe marry someone important. Or run someone's concubine hall, like Tashin does here."

"Oh, well," Rodney said. "I'm ah…glad it's working out for you." He fell silent and then yelped out, "oh hey!" She'd reached his ass and instead of stopping, she just kept massaging.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to push so hard," she said. "Your master likes the strap, I see. Do you get in trouble a lot?"

Rodney wasn't even sure how to answer. "I don't get in trouble," he finally said, trying not to sound too defensive. "The colonel just…likes hurting me." He wanted to go on, to insist that Sheppard wasn't his master, but then again, for all intents and purposes, he kind of was. And anyway, trying to explain the situation to someone who thought being a slave was a good thing probably wasn't worth the bother.

"Oh," she said, and it was her turn to sound disconcerted. "I've read about that in the books…it…uh, must be very difficult for you."

"I get by," he said, not about to tell this girl that he actually liked it.

By the time the massage was over, Rodney was fighting an erection. It was the touching, he told himself, and the whole fantasy harem thing. And okay, maybe thinking about how much Sheppard liked to hurt him had something to do with it.

Since he was still naked, his only real option was the "hard on? What hard on?" pretense. Tashin had come over with an armful of bright fabric which she put on the table before looking him over. "Colonel Sheppard has excellent taste," she said.

Rodney wanted to roll his eyes, but he managed not to. He also didn't look over at Namin, afraid that they'd both end up laughing. "Thank you," he finally said.

"So, let's make you look even better, shall we?"

Rodney thought she'd give him some clothes, but instead she pulled a cushioned stool over, sat him down and then started looking at his hair. "Don't cut it," he said quickly.

"I wouldn't dream of it," Tashin said, running her fingers through it. "Ellah, the green jar."

As she rubbed whatever was in the green jar into his hair, Rodney squirmed a little.

"Am I pulling?"

"No, sorry. I'm just not used to…normally no one's allowed to touch me like this. I'm not used to it." It felt weird and a little odd, like he was absorbing Sheppard's hands-off attitude about everyone except Sheppard himself. Well, there was the combat training, but he wasn't about to mention that here; Tashin would probably disapprove.

"Just a little while longer," she said, stepping back and looking at her handiwork. Ellah came up and set a tray onto the massage table with the clothes.

"Do you want to do his eyes or shall I?" she asked.

Rodney could feel his eyes getting big. "Um…my eyes? Makeup?"

"Just a touch," Tashin said, picking up a little pot of something and a fine brush. "I notice that 'Lantean men do not paint their faces."

"No, we don't," Rodney said. He looked at her nervously. "Women do. Some of them," he added. "Not Jean…not Dr. McKay."

"Hmmmm…close your eyes."

It tickled and he ended up messing it up once by blinking, but finally she was done. "What do you think?" she asked as Ellah handed him a hand mirror.

Only learning to watch his mouth when Sheppard was in a mood kept Rodney blurting out the first thing that came to mind. I look like a fucking whore. He'd seen boy hookers on TV and with his hair slightly curlier and a little darker than usual and his eyes lined with something black, he was a dead ringer for the kid who always died in the procedurals.

"It's a bit much," he said, guessing that it wouldn't make any difference.

He was right. "Nonsense," Tashin said. "I'm almost embarrassed to let you out like this."

He didn't say anything more as she turned and sorted through the clothes, which were pretty much what Rodney had expected—filmy stuff in bright colors, like Ellah wore.

"Blue?" Ellah said, holding up what looked like a gauze pirate shirt. "To match his eyes?"

"Too obvious," Tashin said. "Colonel Sheppard wears a lot of black, doesn't he?"

"It's about all he wears," Rodney said, hoping she was going where he thought she was.

"That black vest," Tashin said. "No shirt. Ellah, find those velvet pants."

A few minutes later, Tashin and Ellah led him over to a full length mirror and Rodney's mouth fell open as he stared at himself.

Oh, sure, Rodney knew he was fairly attractive and Sheppard often called him pretty, but all his life Jeannie, with her blond hair, curvy figure and blue eyes, had been the pretty one. Now, though…he saw what Sheppard saw and God, he hated to admit it, but he really did look like he was made to be fucked. His hair was tousled like he'd just climbed out of bed and the make up made his eyes look huge.

The pants were full—harem pants, he thought just a little hysterically—and while they weren't sheer, they were split down the sides, so when he turned to get a better look, flashes of skin showed. The vest wasn't much better; he tried, unsuccessfully, to tug it closed so his nipple rings didn't show every time he moved.

Okay, yeah, maybe he looked like a whore, but damn, he was a hot one.

It was only as they walked down a bight airy hallway that looked out on a garden that Rodney realized that they weren't heading back to the team's quarters. "No, wait," he said, stopping suddenly enough that Ellah almost ran into him. "Where are we going?"

"To the dining hall," Ellah said. Ahead of them Tashin turned around to look back with a frown.

"Other people…no. I just can't."

Both women stared at him as if he was insane. "What did you think…?" Ellah began.

Tashin cut her off. "I know that things are different in Atlantis," she said, a little cautiously. "However, Colonel Sheppard is doing us the honor of following our ways."

Sheppard had said that the Larish thought they were doing him some kind of favor by…by what? Dressing his boy toy up like Harem Boy Ken? What the hell am I doing here? Rodney thought, the bizarreness of his situation suddenly washing over him. I was going to be a scientist; I was going to win a Nobel before Jeannie did. And now I'm….

He turned to look out one of the screened windows, not really seeing the garden.

"Rodney?" Namin came up beside him. "Rodney, is there anything…?" He trailed off almost helplessly and Rodney shook his head.

"No, there really isn't."

Namin leaned forward and for a moment, before he remembered the Athosian forehead thing that he'd seen Teyla do, Rodney was afraid Namin was going to kiss him. Fortunately, he recovered in time and simply touched his forehead to Namin's.

"Thanks," he said quietly. He took a deep breath and turned back to Tashin. "I'm sorry," he said. "Just a touch of stage fright." She looked a little unconvinced and he gave her his best shy smile. "Believe me, I do not want to upset Colonel Sheppard."

She nodded, looking relieved. "He is a very dangerous man."

"Oh?" Rodney looked at her curiously. "I mean, I know that, but what makes you say it?"

"When the 'Lanteans first came, looking for allies and supplies, the Council told them that we needed help. The southern tribes were a perpetual problem and our conflict with them made it hard enough to feed our own people; so many of our farmers were fighting." She smiled tightly.

"Colonel Sheppard brought several of your invisible flying craft through the Ring, flew them to Iltren, the southern city, and fired on it with one of the Ancestors' weapons. After that, when the city surrendered, he ordered everyone out of it and then utterly destroyed it. The rest of the southern tribes soon threw down their arms and we took the surviving citizens of the city as slaves, mostly to work on the farms and in the mines."

Rodney glanced at Namin, who nodded. "The Larish have been generous allies since the first year of the Expedition."

After a demonstration like that, I'll just bet they have, Rodney thought with a mental grin.

"Well," he said after another, slightly awkward pause. "I guess we shouldn't keep the man waiting."

"Good." Tashin started down the hallway, Rodney behind her, head held high. He was terrified, but he was damned if he'd let anyone see it.

The main dining hall was busy and only a few people even looked up as Rodney walked in. There was music and people were talking, and the place smelled of food and perfume. It was all a little overwhelming and Rodney paused. Without being aware of it, he'd gotten used to the quiet and the small population of Atlantis, and right now, he desperately missed the city.

"Over here," Ellah said softly. She led him to the low table the Lanteans were seated at and bowed. Rodney did the same and felt his face go hot when Jeannie laughed. But when he straightened up and looked over at Sheppard, Sheppard was staring at him, his eyes a little wide. Keeping his eyes on Sheppard, Rodney stepped around the table and knelt next to the cushion Sheppard was sitting on.

"I feel like an idiot," he said, his voice pitched for Sheppard alone. "Sorry, Sir. I tried not to let them turn me into a girl, but…."

Sheppard reached up, his hand pressing the collar into the skin at the back of Rodney's neck, and pulled Rodney in close. "You think anyone would notice if I dragged you off to the room and fucked you?"

"Probably, but I really don't care."

"Good boy," Sheppard said, biting Rodney's ear lightly. "Later, I promise. When things get rowdy and we can slip away."

Once he knew that Sheppard wasn't angry with him, it was easier to ignore everyone else. Rodney was too nervous to be truly hungry, but he liked the few things he did try. And while Jeannie gave him a few amused looks, she and Ronon were soon cuddled up together eating off one another's plates. Rodney doubted that Ronon had done it to draw her attention away from Rodney, but he figured he'd thank him for it later anyway.

After the main meal and mercifully short speeches from the Headwoman and Teyla that were full of mutual admiration and promises of lasting friendship, there was some dancing. Ellah, Rodney discovered, was actually quite good and surprisingly flexible. After she was done, the diners tossed square coins onto the floor in front of her and Rodney remembered what she said about buying her freedom. She was probably right; this had to be better than life as a farmer's wife and baby machine.

"I think we can make our exit now," Sheppard said once pretty girls and boys started around with big pitchers of wine. He'd spent most of the time while Ellah danced touching Rodney—his back, the nape of his neck, his arm—and while Sheppard didn't seem at all aware of the people watching them, Rodney had been. He was more than ready to get away from everyone's gaze.

"You head back to the room and I'll go make nice to the Headwoman and her husband."

Once Rodney had figured out which corridor led back to the team's suite, he made his way around the edge of the dining hall, followed by Namin. People looked at him and one woman tried to grab his ass as he moved past her table, but he twisted out of the way and kept going.

"Jesus," he muttered to Namin once they reached the corridor. "That's a gauntlet I never want to walk again."

"I don't blame you," Namin said. "I couldn't have done it."

"You'd be surprised at what…." Rodney's voice trailed off as a tall woman in what had to be Larishi dress armor approached him. "Ma'am?"

"You're very pretty," she said, moving into his space. He backed up until the wall hit his shoulder, and she followed him until there was hardly any space in between them.

"Ma'am," Namin said. "I'm not sure Colonel Sheppard…."

"He wouldn't mind sharing," she said, not even looking at Namin. Rodney could smell the wine on her breath and he turned to glance at Namin.

"Get Sheppard," he mouthed and Namin frowned, but nodded and took off down the corridor toward the dining hall.

"Look," Rodney said to the woman. "I'm flattered and all, but really, Colonel Sheppard's rather possessive."

"He shouldn't let you wander around alone then," she said, slurring her words slightly.

Rodney was trying to think of a polite answer that would warn her off when she reached up and put her hand on his chest. "Get your hands off me!"

For a drunk woman, she moved fast. Before Rodney could really react, she had a hand in his hair and was tugging hard on one of his nipple rings with her other hand. "You need to learn some manners, boy."

Rodney yanked his head out of her grasp—which hurt like hell—and pushed her back. "Leave me alone!" Without waiting for her to get back in close, he punched her hard in the jaw, trying to remember his lessons. Ronon had warned him, he thought a little hysterically, that it would be different in a real fight, but all Rodney had to do was keep her off him until Sheppard showed up….

"You little whore," she growled, and reached for his neck. He ducked, but she pushed him up against the wall again and he had no where to really go. Her hand was at his throat and he was fighting for air, spots forming before his eyes….

"Get off him now, bitch." Sheppard was behind her and she seemed to almost fly backward as he pulled her off Rodney.

As Rodney doubled over gasping and coughing, he heard someone saying, "what is going on here?" Blinking, he looked up to see the Headwoman.

He couldn't answer, but Namin stepped up. "She pushed Rodney up against the wall. That's why he sent me to find you."

"The little slut wanted it," the woman said, pulling away from John.

"Oh, really?"

"I did not," Rodney gasped. He stared at Sheppard, taking in the narrow eyes and tense posture. "I swear, Sir."

"Why do you think he sent his guard away?"

"I punched her!"


"Get her out of my sight before I shoot her," Sheppard snarled. More people had joined them—Teyla, Ronon and Jeannie as well as Jeannie and Sheppard's guards.

"Headwoman Ralian," Teyla said, her voice stern. "Perhaps, after Warleader Kamil has apologized…."

"I will not…."

Sheppard's sidearm was in his hand. "Give me an excuse," he said.

Everyone went silent and Rodney swallowed hard. The Larishi had no way of knowing how much stress Sheppard was carrying right now, how close to the edge he was, but Rodney didn't care. He still felt…sticky where Kamil had touched him and he wanted nothing more than to go back to Atlantis, get out of these clothes and take a long hot shower. If Sheppard had to shoot her for that to happen, that was just fine with Rodney.

Kamil looked at the ground. "My apologies, Colonel Sheppard," she said. It was clear she didn't mean a word of it and Rodney wondered why no one seemed to think she should maybe apologize to him, but Sheppard slowly holstered his gun.

"Go," he said. "We can discuss this later."

The Headwoman looked at Kamil and then at Sheppard, and Rodney had the feeling she was remembering the destruction of the southern city. "Kamil, confine yourself to your rooms here in my Hall. And remember that the Guard here answers to me."

Two of those guards, who had been hovering in the background, moved in on either side of Kamil and she turned on her heel and headed down the corridor, with them right behind her.

"Perhaps, Teyla Emmagen, we could discuss this?"

"Of course."

"Make it quick," Sheppard said. "We're going back to Atlantis tonight. McKay, take Wells and Strickland to our rooms and get our stuff together." He paused. "Namin? You go get Rodney's stuff."

"God, Mer," Jeannie said, rolling her eyes. "You're such a pain in the ass."

"It's not my fault," Rodney began, but she was already walking away. "Really, Sir," he said to Sheppard.

"What did you say to her?"

"I sent Namin to get you and then I told her that you don't share. And when that didn't work, I told her to leave me alone and get her hands off me. Finally I punched her and tried to get away."



"Doesn't seem like you tried very hard."

"She was choking me." Rodney glared at Sheppard. "And she had about a foot on me, at least."

"I've seen you take down Ronon."

"Oh, sure. When he lets me to show me a move. And he doesn't wear armor."

"Watch your fucking tone with me, boy."

"Yes, Sir," Rodney said quickly. "I'm sorry, Sir."

"I think you encouraged her. I think you liked all the attention you've gotten all night."

Oh, fuck…that tension still has to go somewhere. Rodney slid to his knees, bowing his head.

"Oh, and now you think that a little groveling will do it? McKay's right; you are a pain in the ass." When Rodney remained silent, Sheppard reached down and pulled him up by the hair. "You think that I'll punish you, don't you? A little spanking, maybe my belt, and then all will be forgiven and orgasms all around?"

Before Rodney could help it, before he could stop himself, the words came out. "I think you'll do whatever you want."

Sheppard slapped him hard and then backhanded him even harder. Rodney could feel his lip split and tasted blood in his mouth. "And if this is what I want?" Sheppard growled.

Even if Rodney had had anything to say in reply, he wouldn't have been able to because the next blow landed on the other side of his face and it wasn't open handed. Sheppard's fist slammed into his face and something gave and there was blood everywhere. Rodney cried out, high and sharp and brought his arms up to protect his head.

"Please," he said and he'd never begged when they'd beat him up at school, but this was Sheppard and it hurt so much more than it ever had before. "Please," he said again as Sheppard grabbed his wrists. "You promised…."

For a moment, Rodney was afraid he'd made another mistake, but then Sheppard's grip on his wrists loosened. "I promised?" he said, sounding almost dazed.

"To never do anything…."

"That would mar you."

He let go of Rodney and Rodney slid down the wall, his hand over his face.

"Take him back to Atlantis," Sheppard said to Ronon. "Don't argue with me, just get him back and have Keller take care of him and then keep him in the infirmary."

When Rodney looked up, Sheppard was gone.

"Hey," Ronon said, kneeling in front of Rodney. "Can you walk?"

"I…I…." Rodney bit his lip, not wanting to cry in front of Ronon. "I think so."

With Ronon's help, he got to his feet and then paused and pulled off the vest and mopped up his face a little.

"Good." Ronon kept a hand on Rodney's arm. "We'll take it slow and if you pass out, I can carry you."

They had almost reached the front door when Namin caught up with them. "Ancestors!" he burst out when he saw Rodney's face. "Who…?"

"It doesn't matter. Just give me my clothes."

"We shouldn't stop," Ronon began and Rodney pulled away, leaning on the wall instead.

"I am not going home like this," he said firmly. "We can wait while I change or one of you can help me out of these fucking pants."

Namin braced Rodney while Rodney pulled the pants off and then got into his uniform pants and carefully pulled the gray t-shirt over his head. Even the brush of fabric against his nose made it throb and for a moment he thought he was going to throw up. "Fuck, I think he…I think it's broken."

"Keller should be able to fix you up," Ronon said. "Namin, get his other side…."

Rodney left the Larishi clothes in a pile on the floor.

John moaned and blinked, totally and utterly confused. He took a deep breath, trying to remember what had happened. That bitch had had her hands all over Rodney and then John had slapped him around some and then, when they'd left to cross the square to the 'gate….

It was coming back to him—the familiar figures of his own people coming through the gate, looking like they were spoiling for a fight, and then gunfire, Wells and Strickland going down, McKay sounding oddly like her brother as she cried out in pain and then the blue flash of a Wraith stunner dragging him down into darkness.

"Fuck," he muttered softly as he sat up. He was a little surprised that he could; he'd expected to be cocooned on a Hive Ship, but no, he was on a hard bench in a familiar cell.

He was on Atlantis.

He'd been shot by his own men.

Frowning, John tried to focus his thoughts to open the cell door. He wasn't surprised when it remained closed—he'd already been pretty sure he was in one of the cells designed to hold Ancients. However, there was the security camera, and Atlantis did like him better than anyone else.

Turning the camera off didn't really make him feel any better. While he couldn't see one, the chances were good there was a strictly mechanical camera watching him, and, anyway, what difference did it make?

He took a deep breath, pushing the rage down into that place deep inside him; it would keep until he had an outlet. Slowly his hands unclenched and he leaned his head back against the hard metal behind the bench, closing his eyes.

He kept his eyes closed when he heard the door to the containment area open. "You're good," he said. "You had me convinced that you didn't want command."

"You think that's why I did it?"

"I was wrong about you, but I'm still pretty sure you're not doing this for, say, Caldwell or Ellis." He finally opened his eyes, knowing his face was calm and even as he stared at Lorne.

"There is that," Lorne said. "I'll be given command of Atlantis."

For as long as you can hold onto it, John thought. All he said aloud was, "Elizabeth?"

"Dr. Weir views this as a strictly internal military affair."

"Of course she does," John said. "Mind you, if it were, you'd be dead. What did you offer them?"

"Nothing," Lorne said with a tight smile.

That hurt a lot more than John would have expected. Had he really been that hard on the troops? He limited himself to a raised eyebrow and Lorne shook his head.

"You're still cold as ice," he said. "I've got to admire that about you."

John shrugged. Lorne was good, but he was in a position to gloat and John was pretty sure he'd take the opportunity. "Why am I still alive?" he asked, just to prime the pump.

"I don't need to kill you. Not until the symptoms start to manifest and everyone learns that, unfortunately for Colonel Sheppard, the cure was a one time deal."

"The retrovirus." John nodded. That explained why his men hadn't tried to save him. He'd killed six of them while under the influence of the retrovirus; the thought of him bugging out again was undoubtedly keeping them in line.

"Clever. Be careful, though; no matter what you promised him, you better keep Beckett on a tight leash."

"I've got that covered."

John made a mental note to sweat that little detail out of Lorne once John was free and in charge again. "McKay? I doubt you managed to secure her cooperation."

"She took a bullet to the knee. Carson figures she'll need at least three surgeries and a lot of physical therapy before she can walk again. Right now, she's out cold in the infirmary. Zelenka's following Dr. Weir's lead and he's convinced the scientists to keep out of this…little conflict of ours. Most of them don't even know what's going on."

John nodded again and waited.

"Ronon and Teyla are locked up in the Wraith cells. I haven't decided if they died with Wells and Strickland on Larish or if you turned on them when they tried to confront you."

"Sounds like you've covered all the angles." This time when John waited, Lorne remained silent and John finally had to ask. "The boy?"

"I should thank him," Lorne said.

It felt like a blow to the gut. It wasn't that he'd been fooled by a sixteen year old kid, it was that…it was Rodney. "Yeah?" he said, hoping his voice sounded as steady as he wanted it to.

"You fucking pervert." Lorne actually sounded angry. John didn't get it. "Look at you; you don't even give a damn about him."

The hell?

"He just turned sixteen, Sheppard." And no, that wasn't anger so much as disgust. "You should have been locked up years ago."

Rolling his eyes, John looked at the ceiling, hoping he was hiding his amusement. Lorne had been at John's side when John had taken three days to kill Kolya of the Genii; he'd turned a blind eye to Elizabeth and Zelenka's games and had allied himself with someone dedicated to improving the human race through illegal genetic experiments.

And he's freaked out because I'm fucking a sixteen year old?

It wasn't that, of course, and the more John thought about it, the more he felt his earlier rage surge up. Rodney was hardly an innocent, not to mention that he fucking got off on what John did with him. Hell, his sister had turned him over to John, although he didn't think Lorne didn't know the full details of why.

He bit back the automatic urge to argue and leaned back. "Sorry, did you want him for yourself?"

Lorne took a couple of steps forward and then caught himself. John hadn't really expected it to be that easy to provoke him, but he'd had to try.

"I'm sure after he gets out of the infirmary, he'll be glad to know that he's free of you."

The infirmary…? John remembered anger and throwing a punch and Rodney begging and bleeding and…God. Yeah, Rodney probably would be glad to be rid of him.

He shrugged and Lorne shook his head. "Yeah, I didn't think you gave a damn about him." He turned on his heel. "I'll be back later."

They'd taken John's watch, but he had a pretty good sense of time. Lorne apparently wanted him to stew for a while, because several hours passed before the door to the holding area slid open again. John, who had been lying on the bench staring at the ceiling, sat up.

Rodney looked horrible. His face was pale, making the dark circles around his eyes stand out even more. His nose, at least, had been reset and John had a weird moment where he hoped the break wouldn't show. Namin hovered behind him and, while Rodney's face was almost as blank as John's own, Namin looked betrayed and as disgusted with John as Lorne had earlier.

Raising his chin, Rodney turned to Lorne. "I want…." He glanced at John and then lowered his voice.

Lorne's reply was equally quiet, and Rodney snorted and then winced when the movement jarred his nose. "Oh please, you have your gun and your guys outside have guns and I'm a useless hostage."

Lorne stepped back and the door slid open again. John wasn't surprised when Roberts and Mendez stepped in, carrying the big Wraith stunners, but he wondered who besides Lorne's teammates knew what was really going on.

They aimed the stunners at him as Lorne keyed in the code that unlocked the cell door. "You take so much as a step forward or raise a hand," Lorne began and then went silent as Rodney stepped inside.

Rodney made no attempt to keep from telegraphing his blow and all John did was brace himself as Rodney's fist connected with his jaw. It hurt like hell and John had another odd moment where he was actually proud that Rodney could hit that hard.

"If you'd just looked at her jaw," Rodney said, his voice cold, "you'd have seen that I did to her what I just did to you. If you'd trusted me, you wouldn't be in this cell." He shook his head. "You're a stupid son of a bitch, Sheppard. Just another dumb grunt with delusions of adequacy."

He looked disappointed, and John couldn't help it: he looked down, fighting the urge to apologize.

"I'm done here, Major," Rodney said, and now he just sounded tired. John looked up again, watching him go.

"You throw a hell of a punch," Lorne said as he locked up behind Rodney.

"You be surprised at how many ways I know how to hurt someone," Rodney said with a little shudder.

Both Lorne and Namin turned to glare at John, but he just stared back at them.

After he was alone again, John rubbed at his chin, not really caring if anyone was watching or not. So he'd lost Rodney. He'd made it his whole adult life without anyone like Rodney, and anyway, it was a big galaxy.

Next time, he thought, I'll find a slave market somewhere and fucking buy a boy. A stupid one.

Another four or five hours passed. John was hungry and thirsty but it wasn't too bad yet. He wondered if they'd given him the retrovirus already, wondered when he would be able to tell. He'd been stronger and more aggressive last time, but locked in here, there was no way of knowing, given that he was already furious and had nothing to test his strength against.

Finally, he forced himself to lie down on the bench. He didn't really want to sleep, but he needed to conserve his energy and he could only spend so much time planning Lorne's death.

After a while, he dozed off, and so he wasn't sure how much time had passed when he heard a faint noise coming from the corridor. Sitting up, he did his best to look unconcerned even as his whole body tensed up, ready for a fight.

The door to the holding area opened, and John's initial relief at seeing Teyla and Ronon was blunted by the fact that Rodney and Namin were right behind them. He stood up slowly, wondering if somehow Rodney had managed to turn them against him.

"John," Teyla said with one of her grave smiles. "It is good to see you."

"Can you get this cell open?" Ronon said over his shoulder.

"Yes." Rodney sounded annoyed. "How many times have you asked me, anyway?" He stepped up and punched a code into the panel on the cell door and just like that…the door slid open. John stepped forward and then paused.


"Why did you do this?" he asked Rodney.

"We really don't have time for this," Rodney said, pulling a life signs detector out of his pocket. "The effect could wear off any time now and…."

"Rodney!" John said sharply.

Rodney's head snapped up and he stared at John. "We don't have time for this," he repeated after a moment. "Trust me. Sir."

"Okay," John said after a long moment. "What's the situation?"

"Everyone on Atlantis is unconscious," Teyla said, as Namin and Ronon dragged Roberts and Martinez into the cell. "Rodney gassed them."

She pulled an equipment bag off her shoulder and handed John a P-90, his side arm, a couple of knives and his radio.

"Thanks," John said before turning to Rodney. "Gassed, huh? The internal defenses?"

"Yeah," Rodney said. He was doing something with the lock panel. "Okay, it's reset."

Ronon went back and then dragged Lorne in.

"We found him out in the hall," Teyla explained. "He looked like he was headed this way already, and we figured you would want him somewhere safe."

John looked down at Lorne as Ronon laid him out on the floor, only barely resisting the urge to kick him a couple of times.

"I hope to God no one fit him with a suicide tooth," John said as he knelt down next to Lorne. He reached into his mouth, running his fingers over Lorne's teeth and gums, but if there was a fake tooth in there, it was a lot better than the ones John had seen before.

Moving through the halls of Atlantis was strange; there were people sprawled on the floor in little clumps. "You don't know how long the effects will last?"

"No," Rodney said, gripping his life signs detector far more tightly than the gun in his other hand. "I wasn't even sure it would work, but it seems that Atlantis keeps this stuff fresh."

"Where are we going?" Ronon asked.

"Chair room," John said. "McKay was doing some diagnostics there just the other day; I'm hoping the generator is still hooked up."

It was, and John sat down, shivering a little as he felt the interface slide into his head. Atlantis was so much more than the jumpers, and it was harder to maintain control. "Okay, I'm going to lock the city down. That way when people start waking up, we'll be able to control them."

"We need to convince them that you are not infected with the retrovirus," Teyla said as schematics of the city came up to show that John had successfully locked it down.

"Yeah, and if I am, we need to thaw out the anti-virus."

"I thought there wasn't any more," Ronon said.

"Yeah, so does everyone else." John grinned. "It's good to be paranoid."

He kept waiting for McKay to interject something, and then when she didn't, when he remembered that she wasn't there, he felt a little unbalanced. As if in response to his concern, a schematic of the infirmary came up, showing him that everyone there was still alive.

"Can you counteract the gas?" Rodney asked and then frowned. "And can anyone—like Zelenka—get past the lockdown?"

"No to the second question; the gene therapy never worked on Zelenka. That's one of the reasons McKay kept him on as her second." He closed his eyes and flexed his fingers on the strange pads in the arms of the chair. "I set the locks to respond to me alone; we'll be able to access them from the control room as well as here."

After another inquiry, he continued. "There is a way to wake people up, but it looks like they'll all be coming to in about twenty minutes."

"So," Ronon asked, "where to?"

John frowned and then told the chair not to interface with anyone who wasn't himself. It wasn't something he'd thought of doing before and he was sure it was only a temporary measure, but there were going to have to be some tighter controls on things like the cells. He had no intention of letting himself be locked up again.

"The infirmary," he finally said, getting up and patting the chair the way he would have patted one of the horses back at home.

They had to pause and open up several locked bulkhead doors as they made their way to the infirmary, but the timing worked out well; as John locked the infirmary door behind them, people were starting to stir.

There were six guards in the infirmary; four more than usual. Two of them were on the door to one of the isolation rooms and the other four were in the main treatment room. Disarming them took mere minutes and John locked them all up in one of the empty isolation rooms.

They dealt with the rest of the medical personnel with the exception of Carson, Keller and Keller's favorite nurse, by tossing them out into the corridor and locking them out.

"Give me one reason," John said, his P-90 trained on Carson, "not to kill you."

"Jennifer isn't half the geneticist I am. You still need me if you're going to take the Wraith out."

"That's not enough."

"John," Teyla said, touching his shoulder. "If you kill him and then need him later…."

"Stun him," John said to Ronon. "And toss him in an isolation room."

While Ronon took care of Carson, John turned to Keller. "You want a promotion?"

She tilted her head. "I'm awfully young for it, but yes. I figure you'll help me deal with the complaints?"

"As long as you're loyal." When she nodded, he pointed to one of the isolation rooms. "Let's go see McKay."

"I should warn you, Colonel, the gas combined with the…."

"What the fuck is going on!" Jeannie yelled as they opened the door. "I've got a splitting headache and I've been shot and…."

"Sounds like she's fine," John said.

"Sheppard! What the hell happened?" She stared at him as Keller checked her monitors. "Was that Lorne's team on Larish?"

"Yeah," John said. "We're still working everything out, but there's been an attempted coup."

"I heard someone saying that you'd gotten bitten again and were turning into a bug?" She didn't wait for an answer as she turned glared at Keller. "I'm serious, I have the mother of all headaches and if I don't get some goddamn drugs soon…."

"You were gassed on top of anesthesia," Keller said after murmuring something to her nurse. "You're lucky to be alive."

"Gassed? What idiot…."

"I did," Rodney said, pushing past John. "I used the internal defenses and I…." He ducked his head a little and when he spoke again, John could barely hear his words. "I picked the safest gas on the list, because I knew you were still knocked out and I…." He shrugged, suddenly looking younger.

"You still could have killed me," she said, but she didn't sound all that angry.

The nurse came back with a syringe and Keller looked at John. "The pain medication will make her groggy."

"It's okay," John said. "You need to get better," he added to Jeannie. "I'm gonna save Zelenka for you."

"Good." The hard lines on her face relaxed as Keller injected her. "Oh, yeah, that's the stuff…."

"Stay with her, Marie," Keller said. "The rest of you don't need to be in here."

Back in the main room she turned to John. "You weren't injected with the retrovirus. Lorne was waiting until he could consolidate his position a little more."

"I need you to scan me for it anyway and get someone else in here to corroborate. We need to be able to convince the troops."

The scan hardly took any time at all, and when Ronon brought Dr. Biro in from the hall, she looked over the result and signed off on it as well. "Glad to see that you're yourself, Colonel."

"Okay," John said. "Let's go have a little talk with Elizabeth. Keller, you come with us."

"Congratulations," Elizabeth said dryly when John unlocked her door. They'd rounded up everyone in the control room and locked them in the conference room, and now Teyla and John stood just inside Elizabeth's office with Ronon, Keller, Namin and Rodney behind them. "I didn't think Lorne could keep you down."

"Bullshit," John said. "If you'd really thought that, you'd have squashed him and the bug rumors flat."

"I don't exactly have much in the way of armed staff, and without the gene, Radek and I couldn't interfere too much."

"That might save you." John turned and looked at Radek. "McKay was shot in the knee. Do you have any idea how much that hurts? She's going to need a lot of physical therapy, too. Lorne and his team won't be around for her to blame, so I have a feeling you better get in some quality groveling if you want to live, because frankly? I'm not going to lift a finger to save you if she decides that you're not worth the air you're breathing."

He turned to Elizabeth. "You're the face of Atlantis to too many planets out there and that's the only reason I'm not killing you outright." It wasn't, and they both knew it; if John killed her, he'd have to deal with whoever the IOA assigned to replace her.

"But you aren't anything without me and this city to back you up, and so you're going to take this report and convince everyone on this base that I am not turning into a bug again."

She glanced down at the report and then up at John. "All right," she said. "Perhaps Teyla should make the announcement with me."

The rest of the day and most of the night went by in a blur of decisions, interviews, and interrogations. To John's relief, both Majors Teldy and Jordan consented to being questioned under truth meds, and both of them had taken Lorne's story at face value. Seeing as it was a pretty good story, John really couldn't fault either of them too much.

Having both of them back in his camp would make things easier, once their meds wore off. John had also questioned the senior NCOs, which led to two more people being tossed in the cell with Lorne and his team, but at least Staff Sargent Ruiz was loyal. He figured he wasn't doing too badly if he had the senior NCO on his side.

They confined all the scientists to quarters for the time being; John wanted to leave their questioning to Jeannie, and she wouldn't really be up and around, even in a wheel chair, for another day or two.

John had been using the main conference room as his command center, and now he stared at the top of the table, trying to figure out what came next.

"John," Teyla said and he blinked and shook his head. "It is late. You should get some sleep."

"Are your people all squared away?" He'd asked her to bring in some of her people from the mainland to patrol the city.

"Yes, hours ago. Everything is as safe as we can make it, including the cell blocks. No one will be able to get in and kill any of the prisoners."

"Okay." John leaned back in his chair and rubbed a hand across his face. "I should have someone bring a cot in here so I can catch a little sleep and still keep on top of things."

"You will have to face Rodney at some point," she said, and he glared at her.

"What makes you think I'm afraid…."

"Without Rodney's quick thinking, we would still be in those cells. We may have dealt with Lorne's men, but he was the one to rescue us. All of us." When John remained silent, she frowned. "He did not have to; Lorne would have protected him and made sure he had a place here. He was loyal to you."

"And I don't get why," John finally said. "After Larish and everything else I've done…."

"I do not know and it is not my place to ask him."

John rubbed his jaw, wincing at the slight pain from the bruise Rodney had left on it. "I don't even know what to say to him."

That got a fierce look. "John, you are not a coward."

Maybe I am, John thought as he walked down the corridor toward his quarters, two Athosians behind him.

Any hope he might have had that Rodney had found somewhere else to sleep was dashed when he saw Rath standing next to his door. She nodded to him and John took a deep breath as he stepped through the door.

Rodney was sitting up in bed reading something off his tablet. "I wasn't sure I'd see you," he said, looking up.

"Yeah, well," John said. "Teyla insisted that I get some sleep."

"Teyla's smart; you should listen to her."

John just nodded as he headed for the bathroom. Maybe he could get away with not bringing anything important up, he thought as he took a quick shower.

Still a little damp, he slid into bed and Rodney put his tablet down. John was sure Rodney was going to say something, but all he did was turn off the lamp on his side of the bed and settle down for sleep.

John turned off his lamp.

"I should have trusted you," he heard himself say.

"Yeah, you really should have," Rodney said. "I'm sorry I hit you, though. I needed an excuse to get into the cell so I could see the code."

"You're a pretty good actor, but believe me, I've been hit a lot harder."

"Yeah, well, I had to convince Namin as well as Lorne. I didn't know if Namin could pull it off if he knew what I had planned."

John reached out and turned his lamp on again, picking the dimmest setting. "Why?" he asked, looking down at Rodney.

"I was a mistake. My parents only wanted one kid and after raising one hard-to-control genius, a second one was…." Rodney made a dismissive gesture. "You want me," he said, after a long moment of silence.

"Because I'm a…." John sighed and lay down on his back, looking up at the ceiling. "I'm sure you heard enough of it from Lorne."

"You think he told me something I didn't already know?" Rodney snorted. "So what? I get off on it, so what does that make me?" He sighed and John could almost hear the eyeroll.

"Do I have to spell it out? This, being here on Atlantis, being with…being with you. Jesus, Sheppard, it's the best thing that's ever happened to me."

"John," John said after a moment during which he almost couldn't breathe. "John…when you're not calling me 'Sir.'"

The End