Title: A Lovely Agony
Author: Keira Marcos
Series: Ties That Bind
Series Order: 8
Pairing: McShep, Lorne/OC, Carson/Miko (many other secondary pairings)
Genre: Romance, BDSM
Beta: Chris “The PomPom” King who is sincerely awesome. Any mistakes that remain are my own 🙂
Author’s Note: My special thanks to Ladyholder who reads everything I send her and always has something inspiring to say.
Word Count: 40,500
Warnings: Graphic male/male sex, anal play, BDSM, violence, and exhibitionism (does any of that really make you not want to read it?). Evil!Carter, Marine!John
Extra Special Warning: This story in the Ties That Bind series contains scenes of a very graphic nature, private punishment, minor character deaths, public discipline, and situations/circumstances that might squick sensitive readers.
Summary: Matthew adjusts to having a collar on the city and John is recalled to Earth for a house trial.
* * * *
Patrick Sheppard glanced from Randolph Rampart to Mason Blake to Gerard de Sade before settling on Blake with shrewd green eyes. “Blake, give me one reason why I shouldn’t kick your ass.”
Mason took a deep breath. “I can’t honestly think of a single one. Can we come in?”
Patrick motioned them both into his office. “By all means.” He walked silently to his liquor cabinet and poured for them all without asking. “The only reason I haven’t already killed Kevin Jordan is that I can’t find out where the son of a bitch is.” He glanced back at Blake. “Your doing?”
Mason shook his head. “No. The President has him. The IOA is having a cow, Lotus is threatening to sanction the entire United States Air Force for their poor training when it comes to discipline since they blame them for Jordan’s heavy hand, and Dato’ Raja got on a plane. He’s on his way here as we speak. While he doesn’t know the details—he was made aware by someone within the IOA that his Dom was abused severely for what he considers a minor matter and he wants blood. At this point he’s not even picky who he gets a piece of. So many security clearances have been violated that the President doesn’t even know who to blame for what. Have you heard from Matthew’s Geisha Master?”
Patrick snorted. “Well, Nori called but I couldn’t tell you what was said since he shouted at me in Japanese for a full hour and then hung up on me.” He focused on Blake. “Why did you let this happen?”
“John and I discussed it,” Mason admitted. “I decided and John agreed that if we gave Jordan enough rope to hang himself that he would. Patrick, I assure you—your son is not scarred over this. I know the footage is heinous and the wound looks severe but I saw him after healing and he’s as perfect as he was when it started despite Jordan’s intention.”
“And Matthew? He was bleeding on the security footage?”
“He had a busted lip but as far as I could tell the next day there was no permanent damage.” Mason offered. “I know you haven’t received a databurst from Atlantis—O’Neill’s people are holding the email until it can be shifted through to prevent anyone sending out copies of what happened. It’s a security measure only as O’Neill isn’t interested in the footage of a high ranking officer in the Air Force abusing a decorated war hero making the rounds. Especially considering if it’s not edited carefully—the environment looks decidedly alien.”
“I allow my sons to serve because I’m a patriot. I haven’t demanded that John be brought back to Earth because I understand how he feels he has a duty to the people of Atlantis and to Pegasus.” Patrick sat down in his chair and swirled his whiskey gently in the glass, despite his obvious temper. “I am irritated.”
“Yeah, Christ, no shit,” Rampart muttered. He went to the bar and retrieved the glasses Patrick hadn’t bothered to hand out. “You’ve met Gerard, if I remember correctly.”
“Some years ago in New York,” Patrick acknowledged. He glanced up as the door opened and Jonah strolled into the room—sleek, beautiful, and graceful. “You remember my Jonah, gentlemen.”
Jonah looked them over, his gaze swift, assessing and bordering on dismissive. “Patrick, you aren’t drinking your lunch are you?”
“No, love.” Patrick offered his hand and Jonah slid into his lap without another word. “We’re just discussing the situation with Jordan.”
“In my country, we could cut off his head and put it on a pole in the front of the house.” He slid one arm around Patrick’s neck and trailed his fingers through Dom’s hair. “Let’s do that.”
“It’d scare the neighbors.”
“I hate them anyway. They have horrible taste in lawn furniture and those wretched trees she planted last year smell weird. Their gardener never cleans up the leaves and they end up blowing into my garden,” Jonah murmured as he settled and then focused on Blake. “I found the video very disturbing.”
“I’m sorry for that,” Blake murmured.
“John has never taken the easy way,” Jonah said and gently removed the whiskey from Patrick’s hand. He stared at the liquid for a few seconds and then tossed back the rest. With a grimace, he set the glass aside.
“Are you in here for a reason?” Patrick questioned, unwillingly amused.
“I’ve discovered over the years that you have a hard time staying angry if I’m sitting in your lap,” Jonah allowed and smiled when de Sade laughed. “But, that’s not why I’m here. We have guests. I have had them escorted upstairs to the private suite due to the length of their flight.”
Gerard groaned. “Christ, I should’ve known he would come here. Please don’t tell me he brought Lianne with him.”
“Oh,” Jonah chuckled. “He did but she was quite worn thin by the trip. You know she rarely leaves Singapore.”
The doors opened again and Dato’ Seri Syed Raja swept into the room. Gerard de Sade was on his feet in a second, his two Doms following. Syed’s gaze narrowed on him briefly before he favored Gerard with a small smile and offered him his hand. “Gerard, time has been good to you.”
“Sire,” Gerard murmured and knelt on one knee at Syed’s feet. Rampart and Blake both started in surprise but dropped down on one knee behind Gerard in respect. “It is my pleasure to see you despite our circumstances.”
Syed pulled Gerard to his feet and pressed a kiss against his mouth before glancing Rampart and Blake over coolly. “You always did favor beautiful men, Gerard.”
Gerard smiled. “I favor beauty in all of its various forms, Sire.”
“Jonah, pour Dato’ Raja a drink,” Patrick murmured as Syed settled himself in the chair Gerard had been in. He watched, amused, as his guests arranged themselves around the Master of Kesakitan Pembawa.
Jonah slipped from Patrick’s lap easily. “Do you have a preference, Sire?”
“Whatever your Master has available suits me, Jonah.” Syed watched Jonah cross the room to the bar, his gaze thoughtful and interested before focusing on Patrick. “I want to see the video. I know you have a copy.”
“There is a matter of security clearances,” Patrick answered dryly. “I realize those have been set aside quite frequently in the last week but I have my company and the comfort of my family to consider.”
“Call your President if you must, you’ll find that my government has already read me in on the Stargate Program in its entirety. I’m aware that my John is living on another planet in the Pegasus galaxy.” Syed accepted the drink Jonah brought him with a soft smile for the sub. “Thank you.”
“You are most welcome, Sire.” Jonah inclined his head and then turned to Patrick. “I do not wish to see this again. Shall I see to a meal?”
“Yes,” Patrick took a deep breath. “Have it set up in the private dining room next door and we’ll join you once Syed has seen the video.”
“As you wish, Master.” Jonah left the room without another word.
“You are a lucky man, Patrick.” Syed stared at the whiskey in his head. “Do you still have that little blonde at home?”
“No, Jonah grew tired of her little games and I sent her to Paris. She’s already arranged herself a very nice contract with another Dom.” Patrick picked up a remote off his desk and pointed it towards a large flat panel on the wall. “You aren’t going to like this—but I’m sure you’ve already been told.”
“I wish to see General Jordan’s attack on Matthew as well. My sister, Mistress Kia of the Lotus House, has given me leave to act in her place on this matter since she did not wish to travel here herself. I will be levying charges on behalf of Lotus and Kesakitan Pembawa.”
* * * *
Matt’s office on the city was open, beautifully decorated thanks to Miko, and a favored placed among the younger officers. He always had a tea pot ready, was far more approachable than either John or Evan so he always had a very busy morning.
Paperwork on Atlantis was entirely digital but it didn’t make it any less overwhelming and the trickledown theory was well observed. John gave Evan what he didn’t want to do and Evan inevitably gave Matthew anything he didn’t want to do. So, Matt had performance evaluations to fill out and he was at the stage where he liked to meet with individuals regarding his observations. Atlantis was like no other posting he’d ever had—more for the way all of the other military members treated him. He’d never had a problem making himself clear or making his orders stick but there had always been an underlying emotion in his interactions with Doms of lower rank.
In the week since he’d been collared, he’d found it far easier to relax in his job and everyone under him seemed to react to that relaxation in different ways but none were particularly bad. John had a great company of Marines and no one was interested in crossing him by disrespecting the chain of command.
“Lt. Cooper.” Matt set aside his tablet PC and stared pointedly at the Navy pilot. “When I recruited you for this mission—I thought I was getting more than just a great pilot. I thought I was getting a man who understood the command structure and someone who could respect me no matter my private dynamic.”
Cooper flushed and averted his gaze. “I’m not sure what you mean, sir.”
“In the past three days, you’ve failed not once but twice to report for flight training as ordered,” Matthew responded evenly. “Since you’ve not complained about being ill to the infirmary and offered me no reason as your behavior—I’m left to assume you simply don’t give a fuck what I order you to do.”
Cooper exhaled sharply. “No, sir, it’s nothing like that.” His hands tightened into fists against his thighs. “I should’ve reported to the infirmary but I…” He took a deep breath. “I had a bad play date, sir and I didn’t want it in my medical records.”
Matt’s mouth dropped open. “Excuse me?”
“I saw an enlisted Dom socially and he went further than we agreed. I knew I had several training missions this week so I told him plainly what I could allow and what I couldn’t but once he got me bound things got a little out of hand. He honored my safe word but …”
“Do you have any open wounds?” Matt demanded in a low voice. “Rectal tears?”
“The Tollan crème took care of that but I needed a few days on the muscle strain and I’m exhausted no matter how much sleep I get,” Mike admitted and his jaw tightened in anger. “I couldn’t… sir; you understand what it is like to be a submissive and an officer. If the grunts on this base think I can’t handle myself with an enlisted man…”
Matt’s fist clenched on his thigh under his desk and he took a deep breath. “No, I understand. Geisha are seen as fragile and delicate. I actually had a CO once ground me because he thought the mission we’d been assigned was too emotionally heavy for me. He didn’t think I could handle it because I was a Geisha.”
“Must have been difficult, sir.”
“Yes.” Matt nodded. “You’re going to get ten lashes for failure to show for training. I’ll put you on the schedule for next week. In the meantime, you’ll report to Beckett for a private examination and let him know the full extent of your injuries. I will be speaking with him afterward.”
“Thank you, sir.” Cooper rose from his chair and then stilled when Matt cleared his throat. “Sir?”
“His name, Mike. What’s his name?”
Cooper flushed. “Sir?”
“You can’t possibly think I’m going to let this go at just a medical exam. He put one of my pilots out of commission for two days in a goddamned war zone.” Matt glared at him. “Tell me his name.”
“Staff Sergeant Brian Laville.” Mike paused. “What will you do about him? I’d prefer not to file any kind of complaint.”
“I’m going to make my own ‘no-go’ list and his name is first on it. You’re the last military submissive he’s getting a taste of on this base.” Matt inclined his head towards the door. “Dismissed.”
Fifteen minutes after he posted the ‘no-go’ list to the server and notified the entire company of its creation—his Dom was standing in the door way of his office. Matt finished prepping his tea pot with sure hands. “Tea, sir?”
“You created a no-go list for military submissives on the base?” Evan questioned with a raised eyebrow. “Do you realize what kind of shit-storm this could cause?”
“I’m aware.” Matt motioned towards an empty cup and then filled it when Evan nodded his head and came fully into the office. He arranged the cup on a deceptively thin saucer and unwrapped some sandwiches he’d picked up from the mess. “But I can’t order a punishment if a submissive refuses to file a formal complaint.”
“You do realize that the civilian submissives on the base will have access to the list as well.”
“Yes, I understand the server I placed it on isn’t secure. I cc’d Rodney on the email I sent out to the company so he would see what I’d done.” Matt set aside his computer and a portable hard drive so he could arrange the light meal for his Dom in front of Evan. “But, the Dom in question put one of my pilots down for at least two days of healing time because he couldn’t honor an agreement made before play began. I’m still waiting on a full medical report from Dr. Beckett.”
Evan exhaled sharply. “That’s… don’t these bastards realize that we’re in a war out here?”
“He’s new to the city and I don’t imagine he’s ever even seen a Wraith except for in mission reports.” Matt lifted an eyebrow. “Should I have consulted you on this?”
“No. The Colonel will be furious that it was necessary but we trust your judgment on this issue. You’re in a far better position to understand the needs of the military submissives on this base than we are.” Evan munched on his sandwich absently and then frowned. “Why are we eating?”
“Because you’re always hungry when you’re irritated,” Matt offered and then smiled when Evan laughed softly.
“Is this why Cooper missed both of his training flights this week?”
“Yeah, he was embarrassed and didn’t want to lose face with the Marines.”
“Being abused in a power exchange is nothing to be embarrassed about,” Evan snapped and then sighed. “But I can see why he’d want to hide it. He should’ve come to us regardless.”
“I put him on the schedule for next week—ten lashes for missing his training and not reporting to the infirmary for treatment.” He glanced up when the door to this office dinged and said nothing when Evan got up to unlock it.
As far as he knew, Elizabeth Weir avoided the military tower like the plague so it was kind of a surprise to see her standing there. Evan motioned her into the office and she glanced around quickly before taking the seat he offered her.
“Tea, Madame?” Matt questioned and went to retrieve a cup when she nodded. “Problem?”
Elizabeth took a deep breath. “What is the Navy No-Go List?”
Matt shared a glance with Lorne who had taken a seat next to his desk. He moved his Dom’s food over to his new place and then set Weir’s tea down in front of her. “It’s a list of establishments and/or people that the Navy determines unsatisfactory or unsavory for their personnel.”
“So they are ordered not to go these places and not socialize with certain individuals,” Elizabeth questioned with a raised eyebrow. “This is something you support? The Navy telling you who and you can’t play with?”
“It’s not a popularity contest, Madame. An individual doesn’t get on a no-go list until they have been determined by command staff to be detrimental to the mission.” Matt pulled a sealed box out of his desk and opened it. He grinned when she gamely took a cookie. “It’s a matter of maintaining the health of our personnel.”
“So if you were to put a civilian on a no-go list?”
“It would be because it’d been proven to me that they could not be trusted to put the needs of the mission before their own in a dynamic situation. For instance, a person might take a play scene too far and take one of my pilots out of commission for a few days to recover. In a war zone, that’s unacceptable. The men and women on this city that have flight status in the X-302s have to remain in superior physical health. Any injury or health problem in an environment where they’re pulling five or six gs could result in death. Bruises or healing skin injuries can interfere with blood circulation which can cause black outs and even heart problems in flight.”
Weir shifted in her seat. “Heart problems?”
“Blood clots,” Evan murmured. “Pilots have to be very careful in play. Any kind of anomaly on their scans could ground them and getting recertified to fly an X-302 is an exercise in masochism that even McKay would consider twice.”
Weir smiled and nodded. “I see. I’d like to be included in the process that determines who goes on the list when a civilian is involved.”
“No, ma’am,” Matt responded gently. “This is a military matter.”
“Commander,” Elizabeth started and then took a deep breath. “John has always allowed my input on matters that effect civilians.”
“This really has nothing to do with civilians. I’d never presume to tell a civilian submissive who they could play with,” Matt said and held her gaze.
“There has to be some kind of due process, Commander.”
Matt glanced towards his computer when it dinged gently and reached out to open the email he’d received from Beckett. His jaw tightened. “You tell that to the pilot that Beckett just grounded for a month or more. I’m going to have to sort him back to Earth and bring out a replacement for the squadron. Mike Cooper will spend six months at Area 51 trying to get back in the seat of an X-302 if he’s physically able.”
“Great,” Evan muttered and stood up. “Is he still in the infirmary?”
“Yeah, Beckett is keeping him for observation because he has bacterial infection.”
* * * *
“You’ll tell me who else you’ve used this equipment on,” Matt ground out through clenched teeth. “I’m already having DNA tests on the blood I found on the flogger.”
Laville crossed his arms and turned his head. “You’re intruding on a private matter, sir.”
“I’ve got an officer in an infirmary bed with a bacterial infection that is in his heart because of you!” Matt shouted in return. “WHO else?”
“Lt. Ford but that was right after the Wraith siege. Lt. Chase Harris and Lt. David Cooper.”
Matt glared at Laville, so furious he could barely think straight and clicked his radio. “Harris, I need you in the infirmary immediately.” He turned off his radio and exhaled sharply aware that everyone in the infirmary was watching them. “You’ll report for discipline at 0700 hours tomorrow. Fifty lashes. Dismissed.”
“Sir!” Laville’s mouth dropped open in genuine surprise. “Fifty?”
“I said dismissed,” Matt snapped. “Argue with me and you’ll find yourself in the brig for a fucking month.”
Chase Harris swung into the infirmary all smiles ten minutes later and offered Matt a perfect salute. “Sir.”
“Dr. Beckett needs to do a full work up on you. Don’t argue with him.”
Chase’s mouth dropped open briefly but he shut it quickly. “Sir?”
“You played with Sergeant Laville?”
“Yes, sir, last week but I never let Doms skip condoms, sir.” Chase blushed as Matt motioned towards an isolation room where Beckett was setting up. “Did he… did he give me something, sir?”
Matt took a deep breath. “He hasn’t been sanitizing his equipment, Chase, and he gave someone else on the city a bacterial infection that’s getting them sent back to Earth. How have you felt since you played with him?”
“I was tired for a few days last week. I thought I was fighting off the flu,” Chase pulled his t-shirt over his head and then gamely came out of the rest of his clothes without being ordered to. He frowned at Beckett briefly and then looked at Matthew. “Will you stay as my advocate, sir?”
“If that’s what you need.” Matt closed the door of the isolation room and then rolled the shade shut.
Chase hopped up on to the infirmary bed and made an obvious effort to relax. “Is this why you made that no-go list, sir?”
“Partially,” Matt allowed and then leaned back against the wall. “I’m sure everything will be fine, Chase. You’ll be out shaking your little ass in no time.”
Beckett prepped a syringe and took blood first. “You said you were tired last week? Anything else?”
“No, sir. I just worked through it. I don’t think I ran a fever at any point or I would’ve come in. I’m not one of those guys who likes to tough out an illness.” Chase offered Carson a little smile. “I’m all about being pampered in the infirmary when I’m sick, sir.”
Carson chuckled and patted his face. “I just bet you are.” He tilted Chase’s head gently and plucked a pen light out of his pocket. “Any dizziness, muscle fatigue, or weakness in your extremities? Have you had a hard time gripping things like your gun?”
“No, sir.” Chase relaxed in Carson’s hands as it became clear the doctor wasn’t going to get inappropriate with him.
Matt understood—some military doctors were unnecessarily handsy and tried to pass it off as them just doing their jobs. “Did Laville break your skin during play?”
“Just in a few places but we used some Tollan crème before I returned to my quarters so they were already mostly healed by the time I showered that night. I have the prescription strength version because I’m a documented masochist. It wasn’t a heavy session by any stretch of the imagination—not thrilling if I’m going to be honest. I didn’t intend on playing with him again.”
Matt fought back a smile at Chase’s excessive honesty. “Did getting caned by my brother in front of your whole company ruin you?”
Chase blushed prettily and groaned a little when his cock jerked in response to the question. “I can’t say he didn’t alter my perceptions of what I really need from a Dom, sir.”
Matt shook his head and shared a glance with Carson. “Did Laville penetrate you anally?”
“No, sir, I didn’t allow that.” Chase shifted onto his stomach so Carson could scan his back. “Just the flogger and some oral sex. He didn’t seem like the type I could trust with full body bondage and I like to be completely restrained for intercourse.”
Matt understood that on more than one level so he only nodded. “Did he offer to bring out any anal toys for play? Plugs?”
Chase frowned as he thought about it. “No, but he had a few in his toy box. Only one had a sanitization seal on it. The other was latex and wrapped in leather for storage.”
“Was your position on condoms the reason he didn’t penetrate you at all?” Matt asked.
“No, but he got pissy when I insisted he put on a condom for oral sex,” Chase admitted and then sat up when Carson patted him. “But I play safe or I don’t play.”
“Good practice, lad.” Carson made a few notes on his tablet and picked up the blood sample. “This shouldn’t take but a few minutes. You can get dressed.”
* * * *
Elizabeth Weir was standing beside Cooper’s bed when Matt walked Chase out of the infirmary. Thankfully, if Chase had been exposed to the bacteria he’d managed to fight off an infection. He walked over to the bed and found Elizabeth carefully reading out a formal notice of charges. He said nothing as Mike agreed with what she’d said and added his digital signature to the complaint. Elizabeth sat the tablet PC on the tray table and crossed her arms.
“I’ll be speaking with O’Neill about your flight status personally, Michael. If I have anything to say about it you’ll be at the top of the list to re-qualify. I can’t guarantee when or if you’ll be able to return to Atlantis but I’ll make sure you don’t stay grounded permanently if you’re physically deemed flight-ready.” Elizabeth glanced briefly at Matthew, gathered her things, and took a deep breath. “And I’ll keep an eye on your no-go list, Commander. I understand… why it’s important.”
“Thank you, Dr. Weir,” Matthew inclined his head gently and then checked his watch.
He only had an hour before he was due to meet with Frost regarding the personnel reviews he’d passed to him—his own version of trickle down paperwork. He nodded briefly to Cooper before turning to leave. He was half-way to the door when the city trembled and the city-wide alarm system sounded. Before he had a chance to request a report from the control room—McKay’s voice snapped out over the open channel shouting for medical and security in his lab.
“McKay, are you hurt?” Matt demanded.
“No, but Zelenka and Abraham are both down,” McKay responded. “Secure the hallway leading to my lab. Porter is dazed but apparently okay. She’s moving—just hurry.”
* * * *
John entered the infirmary pulling off his TAC vest. He’d been off world when Matthew had recalled him to say that Rodney was in the infirmary with two of his scientists who’d been injured in what appeared to be an explosion. Rodney was hovering near Jensen Abraham’s bed when John located him. “Hey.”
Rodney looked up, his eyes dark and focused. “I’m pretty sure it was a bomb, John.”
John’s stomach dropped. “Left over from the Wraith?”
“No, I don’t think so. I have Cadman and Marks combing through the debris because we found organic material instead of the bomb debris you would expect. It’s… Dr. Hewston is… gone and I think she was wearing the bomb, John.”
“Wearing the bomb,” Sheppard repeated. “We had a suicide bomber on Atlantis?”
Rodney crossed his arms. “Abraham threw himself on top of me when the explosives alarm sounded in my lab—it’s the only reason I’m not in the this bed instead of him.” He sucked in a breath. “Radek is in surgery—Carson has to remove shrapnel from his shoulder before he can heal him. Porter is in a bed over there for observation. Her ears are ringing a little but she seems basically okay.”
John clicked his radio. “Bates, meet me outside the infirmary with a SITREP.” He closed off the connection and touched Rodney. “Look at me.”
Rodney huffed. “I thought I was going to die when it first happened—Jensen took a serious blow to the head. They don’t know if he’ll wake up at all and if he does there might be brain damage. If they can’t get the swelling down—they’re going to have to open up his skull.”
“How are you? Does your head hurt?” John trailed his fingers along the side of his face in concern.
“No, I’m okay.” Rodney frowned. “I shouldn’t be but I am.”
John sighed and stared at the scientist for several long seconds. “Okay, let me go talk to Bates and then we need a report from Porter and Cadman. If we have… bombs on the city we need to act fast and find out if Hewston was operating alone.”
“Right,” Rodney murmured. “I’ll go find Marks and Cadman after Radek comes out of surgery.”
“Where is Elizabeth?”
“She’s in the observation deck watching the surgery.”
John nodded, pressed a soft kiss to Rodney’s temple and walked towards the exit of the infirmary. Lorne, Matthew, Bates, and Teldy were all outside waiting on him. “Dr. Weir is the observation lounge. Do you know if she wants a report?”
“Once she knew you were coming back to the city—she handed the situation over to the military, sir.” Bates cleared his throat. “She’s not able to concentrate on anything but what is happening with Radek. She’ll be useless to us until she knows for certain he’s going to be okay.”
John nodded. “Okay, talk to me.”
“I don’t know a lot,” Bates admitted. “Frost has men searching all of the labs that are in use for more bombs and/or bomb making materials. We put three of our men in with Cadman and Marks going over the debris we’ve recovered from Dr. McKay’s lab. Most of the city knows there was an accident in the lab but we’ve kept a lid on the cause so far. We didn’t want to panic everyone and cause a bigger problem if we do have situation and Hewston wasn’t acting alone.”
“She went to Rodney with it,” John frowned.
“What we know is that Dr. Lara Hewston used the transporter down from the main lab at 1902 hours and shortly thereafter entered the lab where Drs McKay, Zelenka, Porter, and Abraham were meeting. It was my understanding she was expected to be in the meeting but was running late. Dr. McKay reported that the moment she entered the lab that an alarm klaxon sounded and lights emerged from the top of the doorway. We know that the lab that Dr. McKay is using for his main lab wasn’t used before his arrival and was marked in the Ancient database as a ‘secure’ lab by the Ancients. The doorway recognizes weapons with a small hum of light and sound—and bombs apparently with a lot of noise and flashing red lights,” Lorne offered.
John nodded. He’d noticed the hum on the door the first day he’d gone to visit Rodney in the lab. “What do we know about Dr. Hewston?”
“She was a biologist. Dr. McKay ordered her and Dr. Watson both punished by Dr. Beckett before he signed out for the day yesterday for failure to follow lab protocols. Apparently they got themselves eradiated by a piece of Ancient equipment in T12 because they turned it on without permission or even bothering to research it.” Bates rolled his eyes. “SOP for the geeks in the past but apparently McKay has been cracking down on those not following lab protocols because of safety concerns. Hewston and Watson were both strapped in private by Dr. Beckett this morning before breakfast. Ten lashes each. Neither scientist protested the punishment with Dr. Beckett or with Dr. Weir.”
“And she puts on a bomb and goes into his lab with it?” John demanded with a frown. “Are you serious?”
“Sir, there was obviously an explosion in the lab but no structural damage at all—and Dr. Hewston was for all intents and purposes vaporized. We haven’t found any explosive residue in the lab or in her quarters. She couldn’t have built a bomb without some transfer of trace amounts of explosive. No one is that good and she was a biologist not a chemist.”
“Any college freshman could work out the makings of a pipe bomb,” Rodney said from the doorway. “But he’s right—it wasn’t that kind of bomb. She… John… she exploded from the inside out. I’ve blown up enough shit in my life time to know what explosion should like during and after the fact and whatever happened to her—it wasn’t a normal bomb.”
“All of the C4 is accounted for,” Matthew offered. “We are doing a full inventory on all explosives and any chemicals that could be used to make an explosive but as Bates said we didn’t find anything like that in Rodney’s lab.”
“I had Watson and Hewston punished.” Rodney fingers clenched around the tags on his collar as he spoke. “It’s the first time I’ve had to order someone punished.”
“Rodney, this is not your fault.” John focused on him. “It’s your job to keep your people inside the lines and they broke the rules.”
Rodney nodded. “That’s not what I meant exactly. I mean—I had them punished for getting themselves exposed to radiation because they didn’t follow lab protocols.” Rodney sighed. “They weren’t poisoned—it was a brief exposure and Carson did a full scan.” He clicked his radio to the science channel. “Dr. Watson, report on your location.”
“I’m in the mess hall, Dr. McKay, it’s my lunch break.”
Rodney cleared his throat. “Jim, I need you to report to T12 and show me the device you and Dr. Hewston activated last night.” He held up his hand when John started to speak. “Now, please, I’ve been reading in the Ancient database and I’m curious.”
“Can’t Hewston do it?”
“No, Hewston isn’t readily available.”
“Fine. I’ll meet you there in five minutes.”
Rodney clicked off his radio. “Okay, we need a portable medical scanner, an explosives expert.”
“You’re not going in that lab with him!” John snapped.
“No, I’m not. No one is. If I’m right the man is a walking bomb,” Rodney responded evenly. “I couldn’t let him stay in the mess hall with all of those people. He has twice Hewston’s body mass—and there is no telling what kind of time frame we’re working here.”
Ten minutes later, Rodney was secluded behind a blast shield staring at his scientist. John had layered six shields over the door to the Ancient lab and Watson who had caught a clue pretty quickly was on the far side of the lab as far from as them as possible while he scanned himself.
“Jim, talk to me,” McKay demanded.
“The Ancients are the worst fucking people to ever live in this whole goddamned universe,” Jim Watson snapped out viciously. “I hate the fuckers and if I had time I would fucking ascend right now and kick all of their stupid asses.”
Rodney nodded. “Yeah, I’d help. Talk to me—what’s the scanner say?”
“I have a growth the size of my fist in my abdomen,” Watson shoved the scanner aside. “Anything from the database?”
“Yeah, apparently the Ancients got the ultra bright idea to use some native people in this galaxy as suicide bombers. The problem was, of course, was they couldn’t control the growth rate on the tumor or when it would explode. So there was no guarantee their little bombs wouldn’t go off before the person got culled.”
Jim Watson slumped back against the wall. “Hewston is dead right?”
“Yeah, she blew up.” Rodney rubbed his face. “There is no way to reverse it—once the radiation exposure occurred…”
“You should clear me a path out of the tower.” Watson exhaled loudly. “Let me go out to the pier and get in the water. The further away I am from the city the better off everyone will be when I go.”
“Hewston didn’t do any serious structural damage.”
“She went two hours ago,” Watson murmured. “Her tumor couldn’t have been all that big considering the time. The longer I go—the bigger my explosion is going to be.”
“We could try to remove it,” Rodney glanced down the hall to his left where John was leaning against the wall out of Watson’s sight. “Get it out of your body before it explodes.”
“No, I won’t risk a medical team on this. I was stupid and no one is going to pay for my mistakes but me.” Watson cleared his throat. “Colonel Sheppard.”
“Clear me a path—get me out of the city before I hurt someone. I don’t want to take anyone with me when I go.”
John grimaced. “Look you aren’t setting off any of our explosives detectors, yet. Give McKay a few minutes to think about this okay.”
“By the time I’m setting the damn things off it might be too late,” Watson snapped. “Help me die with some fucking honor, Colonel!”
John looked at Rodney and then clicked his radio. “Frost, we need to clear a path to the south pier. Evacuate all personnel; Dr. Watson will be leaving the city.”
Rodney stood up ran his fingers through his hair. “Is there anyone… anyone you want to talk to before… fuck Watson… you have to let us try.”
“No. I won’t get someone killed because I can’t follow simple instructions. Get out of here, McKay. I want you out of this tower before I leave the room.”
Rodney glared at him. “I’m still the boss of you, asshole.”
Watson laughed sadly. “Just go, Rodney, and tell Radek and Jensen I’m really sorry they were hurt because of me. Hewston would’ve never turned it on if she’d been alone. I was the bastard trying to show off and she’s dead because of it. I have letters on my computer for some people. I keep them updated. It’s a dangerous life out here, ya know.”
Rodney kicked the wall. “Just fuck you, Watson. Fuck you for showing off for a pretty girl and getting yourself killed.”
“Lara was beautiful,” Watson admitted. “Even prettier bent over my knee but we don’t have time for that story.”
“We’re ready for you, Jim.” John moved to stand beside McKay. “Put your radio on channel 621 and I’ll talk you out as soon as I’ve got us both clear. It was a privilege to work with you.”
* * * *
John curled his fingers around the railing of the balcony he was standing on and watched with half closed eyes as Jim Watson sat down on the edge of the pier. “How do you feel, Jim?”
“Like a fucking idiot,” Watson muttered.
“You can still come back and let us try to get it out. Beckett is willing and pretty pissed that you aren’t going to let him try.” John took in a deep breath as Rodney leaned in close to him and rubbed his face against his shoulder. “You didn’t let McKay prove what a big genius he is, either.”
“He is a giant genius, Sheppard. I always thought so—even when he was being a complete and utter prick.” Watson sighed. “I’m in a little pain now so I don’t know how long I’ll be able to swim. Getting out here pretty much wore me out.”
“You don’t have to swim. Rodney had the control room launch the shield. You can stay right there until you go. You can talk to us until… well, until.”
“Did you know I wanted to join the Air Force?”
“No, I had no clue.” John leaned forward and let his head rest on the railing. “What stopped you?”
“My father said military service was for people who didn’t have options. I would’ve loved to have introduced him to you—just so I could see the look on his face. Billionaire’s son with a fucking PhD in math in the Marines.” Watson laughed. “It would have made my damned decade. He died about six months before we left on the first expedition. He’s all the family I had left on Earth so there is no need to worry about explaining the lack of a body.”
John nodded to himself more than anything. “What would’ve you’d done in the Air Force?”
“I always wanted to fly,” Watson admitted. “I was thrilled when the gene therapy worked so well for me. Learning to fly the Jumpers was a kick in the ass. I… really enjoyed that.”
“My favorite part of the Jumper is how smooth the transition is from air to space—it’s beautiful when the blue fades to black and suddenly you’re just in space,” John murmured. “I almost joined the Air Force myself, you know. I wanted to fly and I figured I’d get the most flight time out of them. But the Marine recruiter seduced me with helicopters.”
“Just helicopters?” Watson asked with a laugh.
“Well, he was pretty nice to look at as well. Nothing beats a Marine in dress uniform.”
“Totally agreed,” Watson sighed. “Talk to me about flying. What was your first solo flight like?”
John blinked in surprise and cleared his throat. He figured most of the city had found the channel they were using by now but there was nothing he could about that. “It was like the Earth stood still for me. My father built me a jet for my sixteenth birthday which is ridiculous to say out loud—but there you go. Some kids get a car—I got a personal jet that sat four and went three hundred miles an hour on a whim. My flight instructor was giddy to get in the thing with me. I thought he’d never decide I was ready for a solo flight.”
“I bet.” Watson sighed and huffed. “I don’t how now Lara was walking around. This hurts like a son of a bitch.”
“Hers might not have been very large when it exploded,” John murmured. “So, my first solo flight. It was July and the sky was that amazing shade of blue that makes you think we aren’t slowly killing ourselves by fucking up the environment. Every pilot talks about their first flight like it’s magical so I expected it to be profound for me—I wasn’t disappointed at all. The sky was endless and for a few minutes it was like I was alone in the universe. Just me and this beautiful plane—flinging ourselves into the sky and hoping it caught us. It was the first time I fell in love.” John laughed a little at the words. “My heart was beating so fast in my chest I thought it might burst and my stomach was tight with so much emotion it was agony. You know that feeling—when you see someone for the first time—someone you want desperately. It was like that.” He grinned. “Then my father called over the radio and told me to stop fucking around and follow my flight plan.”
Watson laughed. “My Dad was always messing up a good time for me, too.” He sighed. “Don’t let anyone blame Lara for the mistake—it was all my idea.”
“I’ll take care of it,” John murmured. “Don’t worry about that. Just…”
The explosion was deafening and the shield near the end of the pier flickered briefly. Even at a distance he could see the pier was blackened but seemingly intact. Rodney’s fingers dug into his arm briefly and then he left the balcony. He could hear him throwing up in the room behind him. John blinked rapidly. “Fuck.” He clicked off his radio abruptly and jerked it out of his ear.
* * * *
Elizabeth was hovering beside Radek by the time John made it to the infirmary with McKay. Rodney had thrown up four times which was about the limit that John would allow without a medical check-up.
“Carson took Abraham into surgery five minutes ago. I don’t know if he knows that Watson is gone.”
John nodded. “He couldn’t have… it was nineteen minutes from the medical scan to the explosion. By the time we figured out what it was… we’d have lost the entire medical team if we’d let Carson try to cut it out of him.”
Elizabeth nodded abruptly. “I listened. You did well with him—Kate said it was exactly what he needed. Strength and acceptance. It would’ve been harder on him otherwise. Not everyone gets that kind of peace.”
John didn’t think exploding was peaceful at all but he swallowed back the retort. Everyone had to tell themselves something to get them through an event like this. “How is Radek?”
“They got out all of the debris and drained the last two healing wands healing him up.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Carson is confident he won’t lose any range of motion—it was a concern.” She touched her sleeping sub’s face and then his bare neck. “I had to take off his collar.”
John winced. “Carson will let you put it back on after Radek wakes up.”
Elizabeth nodded. “He said as much, it’s just… Radek was unconscious when I took it off. I didn’t want to do it that way.”
John wondered if that weren’t better. “Jared was wounded in Iraq about ten months before we transferred to Afghanistan. The field medic made me remove his collar. He fought us both—he was in a great deal of pain and later he said it was just one more painful thing to get his head around.”
Elizabeth sighed and then sat down beside Radek’s bed in a chair that clearly had been set up for her. “He’ll be upset to wake up and find it gone.”
“Yes, but you can soothe that quickly by putting it back him. Trust me, fighting him to get it removed was probably the most fucked up thing I had to do Jared in our entire relationship. He begged me to stop.”
Elizabeth flinched. “Jesus.”
John glanced across the infirmary. “McKay is pretty upset. I’m going to take him off duty for the rest of the day. Lorne is leading the formal investigation and Frost is assembling a team of non-gene carriers to handle the inspection of the lab. Watson took the device with him when he went out to the pier—so it’s toast.”
Elizabeth looked up in surprise. “No one mentioned that on the radio when he was walking out there.”
John shrugged and looked away. “And that’s exactly what you can tell the IOA when they question why the weapon was destroyed. You didn’t know—so you couldn’t have protested Watson taking it with him when he went out there to die.”
She sat back in the chair and frowned. “Do you think I would’ve?”
“No, but the IOA would have certainly expected you to safe guard the technology no matter the circumstances. Just covering your pretty ass, Elizabeth.”
Weir grinned and then shook her head. “I can always count on you for that, John.” She refocused on Radek. “I’ll be here until he wakes up. Carson says that I can take him back to our quarters then.”
* * * *
“I’m not the right person for this job,” Rodney whispered against John’s chest. “They don’t listen to me, John. They don’t… Most of them will never respect me the way they would a Dom. Even the other subs defer to dominants in their departments despite how they’ve been treated in the past. Hewston was a bright and amazing woman. She knew lab protocols and followed them to the letter when she was alone.”
“This isn’t your fault, Rodney; you can’t be expected to be everywhere at once.”
“That’s five scientists—dead since I took over.”
“We lost half the expedition during the two years we were out here, Rodney. Atlantis is a dangerous place to be if you can’t be bothered to pay attention and follow orders.” John settled them closer together on the bed. “Watson would have still turned that damn thing on to impress her—no matter who was in charge. He was punished on a damn near bi-monthly basis by Grodin for not following protocols.”
“I need…” Rodney huffed out a breath. “I need to figure out how to keep these idiots safe and productive.”
“You’ll think of something.”
* * * *
John had to admit that what Rodney came up with wasn’t exactly what he would have thought of but he went to bat with him and Elizabeth was nodding five minutes into the conversation—her eyes lit with satisfaction. It took them three hours to hammer out the plan and then Rodney called every civilian into the auditorium for a big meeting—after the Marines set up the punishment cross directly behind him.
The civilians were silent and somewhat sullen as they sorted themselves into the hard metal chairs John had gathered from supplies for their little meeting. The Ancient chairs that were normally in the room were just about the most comfortable things known to mankind.
“Good afternoon, as many of you know Dr. Lara Hewston and Dr. Jim Watson were killed yesterday. During an exploration assignment they stumbled across a piece of Ancient equipment which they activated in direct violation of department protocols. This device emitted a radiation pulse that produced an explosive tumor in their bodies—a tumor we were not aware of despite thorough medical scans until Lara Hewston exploded in my lab. Two hours and twenty-two minutes after Lara was killed—Jim Watson exploded while he sat on the pier waiting to die.”
Rodney said nothing then—looking over their pale faces impassively. “Dr. Watson got himself and Dr. Hewston killed yesterday because he didn’t feel the rules applied to him. I want to believe that all of you can learn from his mistake—but I’m not naïve or stupid.”
“Dr. Zelenka was injured and Dr. Abraham is in critical condition from the explosion Dr. Hewston caused in my lab when her tumor went critical.” He curled his hands around the edges of the podium. “I’ve reviewed the files of every scientist in this city and what I’ve learned is that punishment just doesn’t seem to work with you. Dr. Watson was punished twenty-six times for failing to follow lab protocols in his tenure on this city. Twenty-six motherfucking times and he nearly killed five people yesterday with his arrogance and complete disregard for the rules. I sincerely regret he paid for both with his own life. He was an asset to this expedition and his contributions will be missed.”
He glanced only briefly at John and then lifted his chin just a little. “In the three months that I’ve been here five scientists have been killed due the negligence on the part of a Dom in charge of the assignment they were on. In the thirty months this expedition has been in Pegasus twenty-two scientists have been killed off world and within the walls of this city while under the leadership of a civilian Dom. Others have died on missions with the military—often because they could not defend themselves or failed to follow orders in a combat situation.”
“In three hours we will be dialing Earth—and the following people will be returning to the SGC for reassignment: Dr. Henry James, Dr. Alyssa Barnes, Dr. Frank Bower, Dr. Scott Kent, Dr. Ryan Phillips, Dr. Stephanie Parker, Dr. Richard Randall, Dr. John Casey, and Dr. Susan Brooks.” He paused and glanced around the room as they adjusted to the news. “Having reviewed the mission files for the past two and a half years, I’ve determined that all of you are unfit and untrustworthy. The new rules for the rest of you are thus: You fuck with me once—you or your Dom gets publically punished by Dr. Weir—implement of her choice. All offenses being equal and in honor of all of other scientists who have been killed on this mission—thirty-six lashes. You fuck with me twice—you go back to Earth and hope that Dr. Jackson has enough pity for you to let you stay in the Stargate program.”
Katie Brown hesitantly lifted her hand and smiled when Rodney inclined his head in her direction. “Why is the cross in here instead of in the gym?”
“Great question, Dr. Brown.” Rodney relaxed. “I asked Colonel Sheppard to bring the cross in here because I figured we could get the punishments out of the way while we are here.”
“Punishments?” Katie questioned with wide eyes. “What punishments?”
“I went through the lab logs last night for the past week and made a list of people who’ve violated protocols. Twenty-three of you have violated procedures and in doing so earned yourselves thirty-six lashes. Those of you who are collared—if your Dom is military, I have notified them of your pending punishment and a few of them have decided to take the place of their collared sub in punishment. I can’t imagine what you’ll face in private for it.”
* * * *
“Did you want to go to the mess hall and get some dinner?”
Rodney shook his head. “I’m not hungry.”
“You shouldn’t skip meals,” Radek Zelenka frowned at him. “It’s not wise.”
“I’m fine, Radek.” Rodney shifted on his stool and then focused on his computer. “I’ll see you tomorrow. You shouldn’t have worked a full day.”
Radek frowned at him. “I do not wish to leave you alone.”
“I’ll be fine,” Rodney said, clearly already distracted by the work in front of him. “Go away; I’m sure your Domme will be ready for your attention after her long day.”
“Does your Dom not require you?”
Rodney stiffened. “He had a bit of temper to work out and is in the gym beating the crap out of his men.”
Radek snorted. “It is the way of military men. Sparring is the most popular training events on the city.”
It was barbaric and confusing. Rodney curled in on himself and frowned. “It was not like this at the SGC on Earth.”
“Atlantis is in the middle of a war zone,” Radek said gently though he need not voice the explanation. “Tomorrow then.”
The minutes bled away and he lost himself in the math in front of him because it made so much more sense than anything else around him.
* * * *
“Obviously, I underestimated you, sir.” Declan Frost groaned as he pulled his shoes off. “I hurt in places I forgot I had.”
John finished drying off. “Don’t be a cry baby, Chief. I’m sure Dr. Taylor will be pleased to pamper you in private.”
Declan snorted. “If I don’t get lectured within an inch of my life for being barbarian. He hates this kind of thing.”
John grinned and slipped his radio back into his ear as it vibrated in his hand. “This is Sheppard.”
“John, we need you in the infirmary immediately.” Elizabeth’s voice was terse, stressed.
John frowned. “On my way. Do we need a security team?”
“No, just you. John, it’s Rodney.” Elizabeth answered. “How far are you away?”
He was already running, his stomach tight with anxiety. “A minute out—I was in the communal showers.”
He heard McKay before he saw him and from the amount of bitching his sub was doing—he seemed fine.
“I told you that I’m fine!” Rodney pushed away the pair of hands that were trying to hold him steady for what looked like an IV line. “You don’t have permission to touch me, Nurse of the Coldest Hands in the Universe.”
The nurse blushed and took a deep breath. “Dr. McKay! You’re in the middle of a medical emergency whether you understand that or not.”
Rodney pushed her hand away again, his fingers trembling. “I’m fine.”
“What’s going on?” John demanded. He glared at the nurse until she took several steps back. “McKay.”
“It’s nothing,” Rodney explained. “They’re just making a big deal out of nothing, that’s all.”
Carson held out his hand to stop McKay from leaving the bed. “You’ll be staying put, laddie.”
John stepped in close to the bed and then put himself in front of Rodney. “Tell me what is going on right now.”
“I got caught up in work and didn’t eat dinner,” Rodney muttered and looked away from John. “Normally, I remember and it’s not a big deal but I forgot and I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast because of…” He trailed off. “I passed out.”
“Because of your hypoglycemia,” John murmured and frowned at him. “Rodney.”
“I know. I made a mistake—I haven’t done anything like this in years, John. I promise.” Rodney’s fingers twisted in together. “I’m fine really.”
John stared at him, taking in his hunched shoulders, the glassy shine to his eyes, the pallor of his skin, and the fingers he was twisting to keep them from trembling. “Carson, your staff has permission to treat him. Do I need to remove his collar for this?”
“No, I’d just like to get him some fluids. We’ve already requested a meal be brought to him. He’ll need to spend the rest of the night in the infirmary.”
John’s jaw tightened. “Can I speak with you in your office?”
“Of course, John.” Carson shared a glance with Elizabeth who hadn’t said a word since John arrived. “Dr. Weir?”
“Yes, I’ll come with you.” Elizabeth patted Radek who was hovering near here. “Keep Rodney’s mind off the cold hands, Radek.”
John touched McKay’s face with careful fingers and then pressed a kiss against his temple. “Behave, Rodney.”
John followed Carson into his office and said nothing until Elizabeth pulled the door closed behind her. “He just lied to me, Carson. He looks like he’s about to shake a part.”
“First, I want to be clear—he’s in a pretty confused state and is combative because his sugar dropped.” Carson took a deep breath. “He didn’t lie to you overtly. He is fairly confident that he is perfectly fine but he isn’t thinking clearly at all.”
“Okay.” John leaned on the corner of the desk. “Can stress cause problems with hypoglycemia? He’s had a lot to deal with in the past few weeks.”
“It’s his fault for not eating,” Carson answered bluntly. “He’s dealt with this condition his entire adult life, John. He was diagnosed when he was sixteen years old. Rodney knows his limitations and the requirements of his condition.”
“How serious was this?”
“It could have been very serious but he woke Radek found him and I gave him a glucose shot as soon as Radek brought him into the infirmary.” Carson pursed his lips. “If Radek hadn’t returned to the lab to check on him he could have remained that way until you returned to your quarters and found him missing.”
John closed his eyes briefly. He hadn’t planned to return to their quarters immediately. The Marines were edgy and he needed to be visible and in control in front of them. “It could have been a few hours.”
“His reaction wasn’t bad—but his condition is serious and it could kill him if it’s not managed properly.”
John’s jaw clenched. “Okay.”
“John, you have every right to be angry with him for not managing his health but you’ve both had a very stressful two weeks.” Elizabeth crossed her arms. “I realize he needs to be punished for not taking care of himself…”
John’s glared at her. “What kind of asshole do you think I am, Elizabeth?”
Elizabeth blushed. “I didn’t mean… it’s just upsetting to see him like that.”
“Yes, it is.” John’s gaze dropped to the floor. “And he will be punished for it when I’m confident that he’s physically recovered from this and not before.”
* * * *
Rodney fiddled with the tape on the top of his hand for several minutes. He was furious with himself because he’d been so careless. John had lingered near his bed most of the night before crawling in with him and falling into a fitful sleep. Even now, spooned together—John’s hand was clenching against his thigh while he slept.
“How do you feel, lad?”
Rodney glanced towards John and then focused on Carson who was checking the readings on his monitors. “Stupid.”
“Must be pretty difficult position for the smartest man in the galaxy to be in,” Carson murmured. “I’m going to send Marie back to stick your finger so we can check your blood sugar.” He checked Rodney’s pupil response with careful hands. “You worried him.”
“Yes.” Rodney frowned and rubbed his head back and forth on his pillow as Carson released him. “It’s going to get me punished.”
“Nothing you don’t deserve,” Carson admonished. “You know what John has lost in the past—what he went through to get to the place he is now. It’s your duty to take care of yourself, Rodney.” He patted his arm. “Has he woken up since he crawled into bed with you?”
“No, and don’t try to wake him up. He hasn’t slept well in weeks.”
John moved in closer. “You two don’t honestly think that I’ve slept through a single one of these checks do you?”
“I could give you something to help you sleep, Colonel.”
John opened one eye and looked Carson over. “Save it for yourself, Doc. You look worn out yourself.”
“I’m fine. I didn’t see you after your sparring. Any muscle pain or deep bruising for me to worry about?” Carson asked softly.
“Nah, I’m good. I rubbed some crème into my legs and arms after I showered.” John yawned and settled back against the bed. “Amazing stuff that crème—I’ve always wanted to meet the Tollan.”
“They were assholes,” Rodney muttered. “That was the only thing we ever got out of them that was worth a damn but they sure didn’t mind accepting our help and resources. We fund the a third of the Stargate program on the sales of over the counter and prescription strength Tollan crème, ya know.” Rodney scooted in closer to John and closed his eyes. “Too bad Anubis blew them all up—I bet I could have berated a space gun out of them eventually.”
John laughed. He really had no doubts at all.
* * * *
Twenty-four hours later, Rodney was released from the infirmary and as much as he wanted to just go back to their quarters and curl up with his Dom he knew what awaited him wasn’t going to be exactly pleasant. John had been attentive and careful with him during the entire incident but he knew he had a punishment coming.
But he wasn’t a coward so he followed John to their quarters and said nothing as ordered him to undress and kneel on his pillow at the end of their bed. He quickly did as requested and braced his hands on his legs as John undressed and disappeared into the bathroom. He was alone for nearly ten minutes while John showered. Rodney took several deep breaths and was as calm as he could be when John left the bathroom wrapped in his robe.
“Go take a shower,” John murmured and took a seat at the small desk near their bed. He opened up his laptop and logged into the email system.
Rodney shifted on the pillow and then stood carefully. His hands were shaking so he tightened them into fists and started towards the bathroom. “Yes, sir.”
“Are you shaking because you’re upset or because you need to return to the infirmary?” John asked sharply.
“I–.” Rodney sucked in a breath. “I don’t need to return to the infirmary, sir.”
John nodded. “Shower then.”
He was quick about washing but careful and as thorough as ever. Rodney had no idea what John had planned for him but he wanted to be as prepared as it was possible. He dried himself, taking special care to dry his collar completely to prevent tarnish. They hadn’t cleaned it since Earth—he would have to ask John about that later. As far as he knew, John had only purchased a dress collar but not a temporary collar to allow for the cleaning of his every day collar without him having to go without a collar completely.
He touched the infinity rings and then the tag that bore John Sheppard’s name. Rodney sighed and bit down on his bottom lip as his fingers grazed the tag that had his medical information engraved on it. His medical conditions had always been a mark against him with Doms. As a result he’d always been very careful to keep himself healthy.
When he exited the bathroom, John was sitting on the side of the bed and the kneeling pillow had been moved to rest between his feet. There was a leather paddle on the bed and a ‘gates of hell’ chastity device. The leather and steel device was one of the strictest but most comfortable chastity devices on the market. Rodney hated those things. His gaze flicked over the seven steel rings on the device and sighed.
Rodney moved forward and knelt on the pillow as instructed. “Sir… I.”
“Don’t talk,” John murmured. “I don’t suppose you have any idea how difficult it is to figure out how to punish a hardcore masochist.”
Rodney wanted to laugh but he swallowed it and blushed instead.
John sighed. “It was hit and miss with Jared through the first year of our relationship. The first time I punished him, I spanked him—it wasn’t supposed to be about sex but he was hard and trying not to squirm in my lap before I’d gotten in half the slaps I’d told him I was going to deliver. As you can imagine, it only made our situation worse. I was angry with him for not reacting as he was supposed to. He was embarrassed and upset because I was angry.”
John shook his head. “It was a fucking disaster and it marks the only time I’ve ever called my older brother for advice. I ended up in a conference call with David and his brother-in-law. It was that incident that precipitated my second and third session at La Petite Mort as well as our private couple’s session with Philippe Dubois.”
John touched his face then and tilted his head so that their eyes met. “While it might seem as though that doesn’t benefit you—it did teach me a few things about punishing a masochist. Trust me when I tell you—you wouldn’t want to have struggled through the confusion and the guilt Jared suffered until I mastered this part of his dynamic. It hurt us and very nearly ended our relationship.” He took a deep breath.
Rodney’s stomach clenched and rolled at the pain he heard in his Dom’s voice. John really didn’t talk about Jared much—he’d certainly never discussed the intimacy of their relationship on this level with him before.
“You gave yourself to me, Rodney. Your body, your mind—everything you are is mine. Do you have any idea what it was like for me yesterday to see you so sick that you shook with it? To realize you were so far gone that you were lying to yourself and to me?” John exhaled sharply. “I can tolerate a lot from you, McKay. You are an arrogant, often vicious man. You have a smart mouth, an attitude problem, and I’ve yet to discover a single topic you don’t have an opinion about—normally an unfavorable one at that. All of that being said, I cannot and will not tolerate self abuse.”
Rodney opened his mouth to protest and then closed it abruptly at John’s sharp look. He wondered if Jared had bad habits or issues with self-abuse but it was never a question he would ask. It was an intrusion into John’s past that he’d never allow himself.
John picked up the chastity device and held it out for McKay to take. “Put this on. We won’t be locking it but you’ll wear it the rest of the day. I’ll take it off for you in the morning.”
Rodney kept his face as passive as he could and took the leather and steel device without a word. He put it on quickly only wincing slightly as he slid his balls through the first ring with his dick. The other rings, each smaller than the next fit perfectly down the shaft of his cock. He looked up at John’s small in-take of breath.
John frowned. “I don’t like it to be honest. I mean it’s pretty enough for a display but I’ve always found chastity devices to be unsatisfying in practice.”
Rodney couldn’t have agreed more.
“It’s an effective punishment,” John finally said. “Stand up. Put on the red leather cuffs from our toy box; get a spreader bar, and the twelve inch chain.”
They’d never used the red cuffs or the ‘gates of hell’ device in play but Rodney distinctly remembered John buying them both on Earth. At the time, he’d found the chastity device purchase confusing because John had told him he didn’t like the devices for play. Now, he understood—it hadn’t been purchased for play at all.
The red leather cuffs were stiff—utilitarian and nothing like the supple, hand-tooled black cuffs that John normally told him to wear. McKay took a few calming breaths and then carefully fastened the cuffs around his wrists and ankles. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that John had remained where he was on the bed.
“Good. Go to the wall and then attach the spreader bar to your ankle cuffs.”
Rodney bit back a little moan. He was being ordered into one of his favorite bondage scenarios for punishment. Facing the wall, he hooked the spreader bar on his ankle cuffs and then stood there holding the heavy weight chain in hand.
He jumped a little when John pulled the chain from his hands and fastened it to his wrist cuffs. John lifted his hands upward and hooked the chain on the highest hook they had on the wall. Rodney’s breath caught briefly but he settled quickly.
John leaned against the wall and looked over his face. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“I didn’t mean to lie to you,” Rodney blurted out in a rush. “I thought I was okay. I really did.”
“I know. You were sick and confused. I’m not angry about that. I was very upset to see you in that condition. You’re a brilliant and vivid man—seeing you reduced to a confused, combative child because you didn’t eat was… difficult. I’d rather not ever see it again.”
Rodney nodded. “Sometimes it happens even when I do eat all of my meals on time.”
“I understand that,” John murmured. “We’re going to go with twenty.”
Rodney winced but said nothing as John moved away from him. The first strike of the leather covered paddle was so harsh that he jerked against his restraints. The chastity device became unbearably tight as he took the second and third strike. Without arousal—the pain drifted over his skin of his ass hot and horrible.
He’d never been punished like this before—in training and with Sam it had always been orgasm denial. Carter had been very good at punishing him that way—ordering him to fuck her and eat her while never allowing him to come. It had always just seemed cruel and unnecessary to Rodney. This hurt but it felt like what is was and not something abusive and mean-spirited.
He was shaking by the time John reached twenty. His ass was on fire and his breath was coming out of him in spasms—Rodney let his forehead rest on the wall and forced himself to calm down.
“I’m going to ask you to make a decision,” John murmured as he unhooked his cuffs from the chain. “The last one for the day.”
“Okay.” Rodney wiped his face with steady hands.
“I haven’t opened the skin but your ass is going to hurt for the rest of the night if we don’t use the crème. If we use the crème, you’re sleeping on the couch. If we don’t use the crème, you’ll sleep with me in our bed.”
Rodney blinked in surprise and watched John bend down and remove the spreader bar. He was being asked to pick his ’comfort’. The ankle cuffs scraped against his skin as John removed them.
The last thing he wanted was to sleep without John. Intellectually, he knew he shouldn’t be used to sleeping with John when it had been only been few months since they met but… “I want to sleep with you.”
John nodded. “We’ll use the crème in the morning after I take off the gates.”
“Thank you, sir.” Rodney stayed still has John removed the wrist cuffs and then rubbed the skin where it had chafed briskly. He was really glad that they didn’t use the red cuffs for play.
“Come to bed.”
* * * *
The problem with using the crème seven hours after the fact was that it really wasn’t as effective as it would’ve been if it had been applied before they’d gone to sleep as was their usual practice after they played. Rodney squirmed in his chair and blushed when John raised an eyebrow at him from across the table.
The Senior Staff meeting was in full swing and Dr. Porter was rambling excitedly about the self repair protocols she’d found in the Ancient database. He’d already approved a graduated experiment on the protocols and passed the plan onto Weir for final approval. There were parts of the city that were in dire straits due to attacks on the city and just ten thousand years of salt water exposure.
He was so relieved when Weir dismissed them that he was the first one up out of his chair and was half way out the door before Carson caught up with him.
“Carson,” Rodney headed towards the transporter. “I’ve got a full day—did you need something?”
“Yes, you in the infirmary for a scan.”
Rodney wheeled on him and glared. “I just spent twenty-six hours in the infirmary at your tender mercies, Doctor.”
“Yes, and today you can barely stand to sit.” Carson crossed his arms and glared right back. “SGC policy is very clear on this, Rodney.”
Rodney huffed out a breath. “Fine, check with John and set up an appointment that he can attend. He’ll let me know when to show up.”
“Rodney, I want to do it right now.”
“John is going to the mainland this morning—so it will have to wait until he returns,” Rodney returned. “You’re intruding on a private matter, Carson, and I don’t appreciate it.” Rodney stepped into the transporter and stabbed in his destination. “Set up an appointment with John.”
* * * *
John was shrugging on his TAC vest when Beckett entered the ‘ready room’ that all of the teams on Atlantis shared. It was probably one of the largest rooms they’d cleared for use in the city and held storage lockers for every person who did field work. John sat down on his locker and watched Beckett stride across the room. He’d figured the doctor would come looking for him. No one had missed the way McKay had found it difficult to sit in the meeting.
“Have you ever topped a masochist?” John asked before the doctor could speak.
Carson paused and frowned. “No, I don’t have a sadistic bone in my body.”
“Me and most of the Marines on the base would argue that, Carson.” John returned with a raised eyebrow. “The thing about masochists is that they really and truly enjoy pain.” Some of the men around them were starting to slow down so they could listen but John wasn’t disturbed by it.
“When I trained in Singapore, my Master told me that the ability to give the right kind of pain is a gift without price. He saw that gift in me and I spent four years in training with him. I was not given my Master markings until I could punish and pleasure without drawing a single speck of blood. I am house certified for both pleasure and punishment with the strap, cane, bullwhip, single tail, the steel tipped flogger, and the paddle with all three of my pleasure houses.”
Carson huffed out a breath of shock. “Okay.”
“It’s not a punishment if he enjoys it, Carson,” John said patiently. “I’ll bring him in for his regular scan after I finish the trip to the mainland but trust me on this—he’s fine. If I’d opened his skin—even a little I would have brought him in last night.”
“Well… some masochists…”
“Don’t think for a second he isn’t one of them—Gerard de Sade cut him regularly during his Courtesan training and from the way his eyes glazed over when he talked about it—he didn’t have a problem with it at all. I’m not a cutter and the only blood play that interests me at all is piercings.” John accepted a P-90 from one of the men he’d picked to go to the mainland for the training exercise. “He’s sore because I gave him the choice of using the Tollan crème and sleeping on the couch or not using it and sleeping with me. He chose not to use it. We did apply some this morning though.”
Carson frowned at him. “It works best if it’s applied within the hour.”
“Carson, I’m cutting you some slack because you’re worried about him but you’re… coming dangerously close to questioning his safety in my care and I find that insulting.” The Marines in the room scattered and if John was surprised to find himself alone with the doctor he didn’t let on. Carson on the other hand glanced around in shock. “Marines know when to seek cover.”
Carson snorted and then sighed. “I don’t doubt for a minute that you’ll keep him safe, John, it’s just… I read his medical file. I know what he put up with in the past.”
“I read it, too.” John rubbed his head in a show of frustration. “Look, I know our arrangement looks cold from the outside—but I would cut off my own hand before I’d damage him.”
Carson flushed and averted his gaze. “Lad, your relationship doesn’t look cold or political to anyone who pays attention. Watching the two of you together is… well, there are a lot of people on the city who envy you both. I’ve seen pairs who have been together for years who don’t have your synergy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more perfect dynamic mesh in my life. If I believed in that soul-bond stuff I’d say you were soul mates.”
John laughed suddenly. “I told my father just that when I took Rodney home to meet my family.” He wrapped an arm around Carson’s shoulders and urged him towards the door. “Walk with me to the Jumper Bay so my men won’t think I killed you in here and shoved your body in a locker for them to pretend to be shocked to find later.”
Carson laughed and shook his head. “Marines.”
“You love us.”
“Well, ya keep the place lively,” Carson admitted. “John, I want… I’d like to approach Miko for a social engagement but I know she had an extended mourning period and also surrendered herself to your complete guardianship.”
John nodded. “Well, she took off her former Master’s collar a year ago, Carson so she might be ready for someone new. Her pairing was arranged before she even left to the Lotus House so she’s never had to…” John trailed off and used his free hand to gesture out in front of them. “Negotiate and accept play dates. She hasn’t approached me to arrange anything for her and I have been expecting it.”
“I spoke with Rodney briefly about her.”
“Have you topped a Geisha before?”
“Yes, but it was a long time ago. I took my Master markings from Lleu House.”
John raised an eyebrow and hummed a little under his breath. Lleu House was one of the most decadent pleasure houses in Europe. They specialized in pleasure bondage and tantric sex. The house was the pure definition of hedonism. Doms and subs that came out of Lleu were some of the most sensual and sexual on the planet.
“I’ll approach her with your interest,” John finally said. “You can expect me to be something of a bastard. Miko is very special to Rodney—and I won’t have her feelings trampled on.”
“I understand,” Carson laughed a little. “I really do. I wouldn’t want you to be any different. I can’t imagine I’ll be the only one to approach you once the Doms on the city realize she’s willing to entertain potential partners.”
That irritated John. He didn’t want Miko chased after like a piece of ass. “They’d all do good to remember that I already scarred a man for life for treating her disrespectfully.”
Carson could only nod. He’d been allowed to stitch up the civilian John had punished before he was sorted to the Daedalus for the trip home but Elizabeth had forbid him from using the Tollan crème and the ancient healing wand. He’d abused at least three submissives on the city and deserved to be marked for life as far as she was concerned. Carson hadn’t been able to disagree at all.
He and John parted ways at the doors of the Jumper Bay and Carson did a visual count on the number of Jumpers and men involved in the exercise. He might as well know what he’d be dealing with when they returned.
“Yeah, Doc?” John shouted back from the ramp of his Jumper.
“Can I send a long a couple of field medics to keep an eye on these lads?”
John glanced around then nodded. “Sure, we have room for four if they only bring their standard field pack!”
Carson nodded and walked away clicking his radio. He ordered four field medics to the Jumper Bay to attend field exercises and went off to talk with Dr. Weir. The look on her face during the meeting watching Rodney squirm around in his chair had been telling.
Elizabeth looked up as he entered the office and the door swished shut behind him. “Hey.”
“How much do you know about Rodney’s relationship with Samantha Carter?”
“Enough to be concerned that he would suffer a great deal in a relationship with someone he loved,” Elizabeth returned evenly. “I see how infatuated he is with John so I can’t say that I don’t worry about him a little because of it. I know how John is—how much discipline he requires of himself and I trust that he’d never damage Rodney.”
“I trust that, too.” Carson sat down. “But John is a sadist and I don’t really understand his dynamic the way I should. When you watched them exhibit?”
“It was stunning and unbelievable,” Elizabeth murmured. “Their mesh is perfect, Rodney practically wallows in pleasure when John gives him pain, and John was attentive, careful, and displayed more control and power than I’ve ever seen in an exhibition. Their relationship is intense and I worry but not because I don’t trust John. I worry because I don’t know what to expect from Rodney if John were to even by accident cross a line.”
“I don’t worry about that. I have personal experience with what John will do if he crosses a line accidently with a sub. He’s never skirted his responsibilities when it comes to the submissives he takes to bed.”
Elizabeth nodded finally. “I don’t disagree with that assessment. I just worry about how much Rodney would take from John before he even voiced a complaint to him much less to anyone else.”
Carson nodded and then sighed. “I do wonder how John managed to punish him—masochists enjoy pain.”
“Masochists enjoy pain when they are allowed to be aroused,” Elizabeth murmured. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you find that McKay is in a chastity device today or you might find indications that he spent most of his night in one. That’s how I was trained to punish a masochist at La Petite Mort. John is a master with their house. It’s not really a punishment if they are allowed to enjoy it, Carson.”
Carson blushed. “Rodney said I was intruding on matters that were none of my business.”
“You’re tasked with the safety of every submissive on this city and I know you feel guilty for how much Kavanagh got away with under all of our watch. It’s made you a little paranoid – John and I both understand that so we’re giving you as much room as we’re giving ourselves. Just do be careful to walk on the right side of the line on this issue.” Elizabeth tapped her fingers on her desk. “His behavior bothered me too and probably for the same reason but we have no right whatsoever to tell John he can’t punish his collared submissive for bad behavior. It’s his right and Rodney gave it to him. You and I both know John would never abuse anyone.”
Carson grimaced and turned away briefly. “I would’ve said the same of Samantha Carter. She never once struck me as the kind of Dom that would abuse her submissive. I don’t know that I would have believed it if I hadn’t reviewed Rodney’s medical records myself. I still don’t want to believe it of her.”
“You aren’t the only one,” Elizabeth responded neutrally. “I think that’s why she’s always gotten away with so much at the SGC. Jack O’Neill had always been determined to think the best of her.”
* * * *
John glanced towards Evan Lorne who had dropped down in the co-pilot seat of the Jumper. “Yes, Major?”
“Tell me why you didn’t lay Beckett out in the floor.”
John laughed softly. “Carson is a good friend and I know he only has Rodney’s best interests at heart. It’s more than he’s ever had before.”
He glanced over his shoulder and then casually closed the doors that separated the cockpit from the cargo area where his men were lined up like little toy soldiers. “Carter abused him, Major, and no one at the SGC ever bothered to intervene. His medical records are riddled with incidents of broken bones, bruised organs, and the reporting of the kind of open wounds that normally happen in severe government administrated punishment.”
Evan closed his eyes. “I didn’t… no one ever said… is that why he cut off her collar? The real reason?”
“She tried to castrate him and refused to remove the collar when he asked twice,” John checked the HUD and clicked his radio. “Lt. Harris, you are drifting sixteen degrees off the course I plotted for you.”
“On it, sir.”
John shook his head and turned off his radio. “That’s family business, Evan.”
“Understood.” Evan glanced briefly at John. “You haven’t really talked much about Matthew’s collar.”
“It’s your private business,” John responded, his tone careful. “I already gave you my permission to see him, court him, and collar him if that was his choice. I haven’t seen him so relaxed and happy in a very long time so we really don’t have anything to discuss. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t butcher you and bathe in your blood if you damaged him in some way.”
Evan nodded and glanced out the window of the Jumper. “I understood what I was getting into when I invited him into my bed, John. Your family isn’t unknown to me.”
“Good and great job on the collar set by the way. That must have wiped out five years of combat pay,” John offered with a small smile.
“It pays to be a trust fund baby,” Evan admitted. “Speaking of—I would like to talk to you about some of the political crap on Earth. I don’t know if you know how close it is—but my grandfather is pretty concerned that the Ownership Act will actually go through.”
John grimaced. “Jesus. I think I’d probably have to leave the country if I was still on Earth.”
“You and me both,” Evan muttered and cleared his throat. “That being said I want to develop a formal contract for Matthew for that eventuality. It would return social ownership of him to the senior Dom in his biological family in the case of my death. I know that the Japanese government has already stated they won’t tolerate a Geisha being a slave but Matthew wasn’t born in Japan and I don’t know if they’d go to the wall for him they way might one of their citizens.”
John nodded. “Yeah, okay, I hate the idea that you’d even have to do something like that but I’m glad it crossed your mind. I’d hate to have to murder half your family to get him back if they tried to claim him but I would.”
Evan’s jaw clinched. “I have an older brother who is something of a real bastard to be honest. He would certainly try to keep him in the family if he could legally. I’d never want that for Matthew—all of my brothers are sadists who are less than concerned about the safety of their subs. My father’s side of the family is hardcore and their politics differ greatly from my grandfather. My father owns a law firm in New York. I was raised by my mother’s family after she passed.”
“Your older brothers, did they have the same mother?”
“No.” Evan shook his head. “My father allowed my grandparents to have me because…” Evan exhaled sharply. “There was some question as to whether or not my mother died in a power exchange. She had an undiagnosed heart condition. I think my father let them take me to keep them from digging too deeply into my mother’s death.”
“Yes, sir,” Evan agreed. His gaze flicked over the HUD. “Chase is wandering again.”
John clicked his radio. “Harris, I’m going to strap your ass if you deviate from your plotted course one degree for the rest of the trip.” He turned off the radio without waiting for a response and Evan laughed. “What?”
“Something tells me that kid won’t mind it much.”
John flushed and then frowned. “Is that a problem?”
“He has a bit of crush but he isn’t the only one. He isn’t turning down play time and mooning over you if that is your concern.” Evan shot him a sly look. “You can’t help how pretty you are, sir.”
“Fuck you, Lorne.”
“I would’ve totally let you if I hadn’t met your brother,” Evan declared with a little grin. “I was already informed that Sheppard’s don’t share unless it’s their idea.”
“We don’t,” John agreed and then turned to look at Evan. “I want your word you’ll never share my brother with another Dom without his eager consent.”
Evan blinked in surprise. “Sir?”
“John,” Evan returned. “I thought you understood—I bought wedding rings when I purchased his collars. He’s… Matthew is it for me and I would never let another Dom touch him. I seriously doubt I’d even take second submissive unless we decide we want children.”
John took a deep breath. “Wedding rings, huh?”
“Yeah.” Evan flushed. “He isn’t aware of that—I figured I would wait until things were calm enough that we could all go home for a wedding. I know he wouldn’t want to do it without your fathers.”
“No, he’s the baby of the family.” John cleared his throat. “And Clair would probably put out a hit on you.”
Evan grinned. “I can’t wait to meet her. She sent me a long email—half of which I had to get translated because it was in French. Dr. Solome in Linguistics apologized for the foul language when she emailed it back to me.”
John laughed despite his good intentions. “Our ice princess is a handful that’s for certain. I don’t know how my brother isn’t exhausted by lunch every day.” He paused and grew serious. “Just don’t wait too long on the marriage thing. Fucked up stuff happens and things never really ‘slow down’. My first submissive, Jared, died without ever knowing I intended to ask him to marry me. I’d had the rings bought for six months. I don’t even know why I waited that long. I knew within a month of meeting him that I wanted him for life.”
“I figured I would ask him at our six month collar anniversary,” Evan admitted and then blushed when John smirked at him.
“Good.” John checked the other six Jumpers and found everyone on their course. Threatening Harris had made the others toe the line as well. “We’re ten minutes out from our LZ. Have team leaders verify that no one is carrying live rounds.”
“Understood,” Evan clicked his radio and started out giving instructions to each of the team leaders.
* * * *
“Son of a bitch!” Rodney sucked his abused finger into his mouth and glared at the console in front of him. “The damn thing bit me.”
Allison Porter snickered. “Do you need to go to the infirmary?”
Rodney took his finger out of his mouth and inspected it. “No blood, but it’s going to bruise.”
“Did you read the proposal that Carter sent Elizabeth?” Radek asked as he started unpacking a backpack full of food.
Rodney shook his head. “She can’t email me directly and John hasn’t forwarded me anything. What’s in it?”
“Plans for an intergalactic gate bridge. She thinks we can put space gates between Pegasus and the Milky Way – and hook them up so we can do direct dialing to a space station and then on to the SGC. It would be like dialing a local gate when it comes to power consumption.” Radek passed him a sandwich after checking the labels and then one to Allison. “It is a good idea but we’d need to pick out a gate in Pegasus and then take ten from various planets that aren’t in use to convert to space gates for our half of the bridge. She’s already picked out all of the gates on their end that would be utilized.”
Rodney frowned and accepted coffee from Porter. “It’s not bad. We’d have to put a lot of work into the coding to prevent anyone from hacking into the system and using it. No straight throughs to Earth either. All of the programming in Pegasus would have to lead to the space station. Then, we’d have to set up some kind of failsafe on the station to prevent the Wraith from using it against us. Some kind of scan that would recognize the Wraith and disable the rest of the station immediately until the situation could be contained.”
“Agreed.” Porter frowned. “We could put a gene carrier on the space station and key the DHD on the station to the ATA gene. We could take turns with the SGC sending a team to man the station—two military personnel and two science. At least two ATA genes per team.”
Rodney nodded. “Yeah, I’ll get John to forward me the email when he gets back.”
“Why can’t she email you directly?” Allison asked and frowned when Miko poked her pointedly in the side. “Watch it, Princess.”
Rodney laughed a little. “You know I was married to Carter for three years. Our parting wasn’t friendly and John hates her. She isn’t allowed to email me directly or be alone in the room with me. He threatened her with public punishment if she does either. It’s his right as my Dom to limit who can communicate with me so she had no choice but to agree.”
Allison’s mouth dropped open briefly but she snapped it shut and accepted a bag of chips Radek was waving in her face. “And I thought Anne was a hard ass.”
“Anne is a hard ass,” Rodney returned dryly. “John said she’s like a ninja in the field.”
Allison grinned. “She kind of is. She blasted through basic and the OTS like it was a vacation or something.”
* * * *
John eyed Anne Teldy suspiciously over his canteen. “Are you sure you aren’t a Marine?”
Anne grinned. “Actually, I had to turn the Marine Corps down when I was choosing which branch to serve with because they wouldn’t work with Allison’s scholarship to MIT. The Air Force, on the other hand, bent over backwards to let me go to school with her. I was active reserves through most of our undergraduate work. Throughout her education and mine we were only separated about a total of eight months—most of which I spent overseas. They kept my deployments short and worked hard to keep me on bases near the schools she wanted.”
John relaxed against the tree he was using for cover and checked the LSD. “I’m going to make these bastards run ten miles a day for the rest of the week if they don’t haul ass.”
Anne snickered and rubbed the back of her neck. “My Dad was a Marine. He was very disappointed when I ended up in the Air Force though he thinks my being able to fly just about anything is pretty slick. I took him up in a Blackhawk about three years ago—he loved it.”
John smiled. “I love a Blackhawk. Have you ever been in an Apache?”
“Yeah, sweet ride.” Anne took a deep breath. “Though nothing beats an X-302 for pure bang for your buck. You can feel that shit all the way to your protons.”
John grinned. “Yeah, I’ve yet to meet a man who didn’t get hard in the X-302.”
“Hell, I got hard in the X-302.” Anne grinned and wiggled an eyebrow when John choked out a laugh. “You’re going to give away our position.”
John rolled his eyes. “We could strip naked and do a rousing rendition of the Hokey Pokey and these clueless bastards wouldn’t notice.” He showed her the screen of the LSD. “They are a half mile west of their check point and going nowhere fast. We could put McKay and Porter out here and they would do a better job of finding us.”
Anne sighed. “I wonder how Lorne and Harris are doing with their bunch.” She turned her head slightly and frowned. “How far are we from the Athosian settlement?”
“Two months of walking,” John said dryly. “I don’t do exercises anywhere near them. Why?”
Anne nudged the leaves in front of her and revealed a primitive arrow. “How far do they travel when they hunt?”
John squatted and picked up the arrow with a sigh. “I didn’t think this far—Jesus. I told Teyla if her hunters wanted to do some long range hunting for game that we could use Jumpers to make it easier.”
“Well, maybe it’s some kind of rite of passage thing?” Anne shrugged. “They are a hunting and gathering tribe, sir. I’m sure they have all kinds of rituals and rites that involve the hunt and the annual harvest. Manhood rites often involve solitary hunts. A fit man could cover most of the continent in sixteen months and they’ve been on the planet over two years.”
John frowned at her. “What is your degree in again?”
Anne laughed. “BS in Sociology and Masters in Anthropology, sir. Allison finds my interest in soft sciences baffling.”
“I’m sure McKay would be very horrified if he’d bothered to read your full file.” John fiddled with the LSD. “I don’t see anyone on my scans. We’re going to have to establish a training area and let Teyla know to keep her people out of the area—we haven’t been using live ordinance but I don’t like the idea that one of our guys could stumble across some fifteen year old kid doing his rite of manhood out here in the middle of BFE.”
“Agreed,” Anne murmured. “It could get ugly. Might want to warn Lorne to do a thorough scan of his area to make sure there is no one out here with us. How much of a range does the LCD have?”
“Six square miles,” John murmured. “We have a large herd of those deer looking things about three miles to our south, a herd of buffalo a mile out from them, and a flock of those huge birds that taste like turkey migrating just a mile north of us. We need to set up a hunting party by the way. I know that’s not something you’re used to but we want fresh meat we have to do our own hunting.”
“Do the Athosians help with the field dressing?”
“Yeah, we give them the hides and a cut of the meat for the help,” John murmured. “I keep about six or seven hides back per hunt for the Sergeant Hawkins to work with. He’s the best leather worker we have on the city and makes some nice stuff with it. I have a great bullwhip he did for me last year.”
Anne nodded. “I have an order with him for a flogger—Allison saw one in the city toy closet she liked a lot but it’s checked out as often as it’s returned so I figured I might as well just get her one. I know the sanitation process is very good but I really don’t like sharing toys that can get bloody.”
“Agreed,” John murmured. “He also does field collars. I have one ordered for Rodney. You don’t want Allison going off world in the jewelry collar you have her in for everyday wear—she’d attract way too much attention.”
Anne frowned but nodded. “I really don’t like the field collars that the Air Force supplies, sir. How are his different?”
“Well, first and foremost they are hand tooled. You have a choice of colors—black and brown. He’ll stitch your name right into the collar itself and the locking mechanism doesn’t require a key. He works in a three digit combination lock instead of a buckle. It’s a safer option considering how things can get fucked up in the field. The leather is very fine and soft—the Athosians have an excellent curing process. The ones he makes for women are about a half an inch wide while the male collars are a full inch.” John checked the LSD and raised an eyebrow. “Looks like they caught onto us, Captain. We should go ahead and spring our trap—we’ve all suffered enough.”
* * * *
“I have one pilot I can sort to the city for the turnaround time,” Caldwell offered. “He agreed but he did say you might not be willing to take him.”
John lifted an eyebrow and settled back in his chair. “Not that asshole that touched Matthew and Miko?”
Caldwell shook his head. “No, he doesn’t have a death wish. Actually his name is Scott Holland.” He paused when John flinched. “I see.”
“I wasn’t aware that Scott was in the program,” John admitted roughly. “He’s been on the Daedalus the entire time?”
“He came to me shortly before we brought you and the second wave of people back to Atlantis and explained that you might be uncomfortable around him due to your past relationship with his deceased older brother. Scott asked to be kept out of your way out of respect, Colonel.” Caldwell paused and then continued. “The gene therapy worked well for him and he’s flown the Jumper we have on Earth. He’s the best I can offer as a replacement for Cooper until I can bring out the pilot the Commander selected to rotate into Atlantis to fill the slot.”
He hadn’t any contact with Jared’s family since the funeral but that hadn’t been his choice—not really. John had just found himself in Antarctica and then on Atlantis. The letter he’d written Jared’s mother had gone unanswered so he hadn’t pressed for more contact after that. Scott had gone to the Air Force academy—in fact he’d just graduated when Jared had been killed. “I don’t have a problem with Jared’s family, Steven. The funeral was tense because his father protested him being buried in my collar. At the time, I was still so angry and furious that I couldn’t even pretend to care what they thought. I ignored his protests completely and because I was Jared’s next of kin the Marine Corps ignored them, too. Later, I tried to apologize—I wrote Jared’s mother and tried to explain why I thought Jared would’ve wanted to be buried wearing his collar.”
“I can’t say I would’ve reacted differently,” Steven admitted. “He wore your collar for years—it wasn’t right for his parents to demand something different in death. It certainly wasn’t within their legal rights.”
John took a deep breath. “Of course, they also didn’t want him buried at Arlington either. My dad flew them in for the funeral—they live in Washington state just outside of Seattle. They wanted him buried near home but he deserved the honor of Arlington.”
“And it was closer to your family,” Steven said.
John flushed. “Yeah, it was. He was mine—I wanted to spend my life with him. I wasn’t ready to part with him in any way and I was stubborn, unreasonable, and vicious through most of the preparations. By the time the funeral happened—I was numb and it was my father’s turn to be stubborn, unreasonable, and vicious. He excelled at it and Rampart helped.” He sighed. “Let’s beam him down and we’ll talk.”
Steven agreed and clicked his radio. It took all of thirty seconds to arrange his transport and just after that John found himself looking at Scott Holland. It was like a punch in the face. Until that moment he’d forgotten how much Jared and his brother resembled. They couldn’t have passed for twins but they were close. He cleared his throat and stood up when Scott saluted smartly.
He returned the salute. “At ease, Captain.” John motioned him to sit and then sat himself. “Colonel Caldwell tells me that you’ve agreed to spend the next six weeks on Atlantis.”
“If it wouldn’t be difficult for you, sir.” Scott met his gaze unflinchingly, dark brown eyes serious. “I realize you have a lot of room for resentment.”
“I don’t resent you or anyone in your family, Scott. I do regret how things were between us at Jared’s funeral but I’d always hoped we could get past it.” John admitted. “How are your parents?”
“They were…” Scott took a deep breath. “It’s just me, sir. My parents were killed in a car accident eighteen months ago.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I’d hoped we’d eventually be able to mend things between us,” John admitted.
“My mother appreciated your letter, sir, but my father wasn’t in a place to accept the loss of his oldest son. I don’t think he ever recovered losing Jared.” Scott averted his gaze and cleared his throat.
“You haven’t collared?” John questioned. “Weren’t you seeing someone seriously at the academy?”
Scott nodded. “We had different plans after graduation, sir, and he didn’t think my goals mattered as much as his. Then I was recruited for a special project at Area 51 and he said he wouldn’t collar me if I took a project that he didn’t have clearance for. He didn’t have the flight record or the evaluations for the X-302 program so I had to make a choice.”
“That’s too bad,” John responded. “You seemed happy with him.”
“My parents liked the match because he came from a wealthy family but his lack of respect for my career goals made accepting a collar from him impossible.” Scott sat up straighter in his chair. “Jared told me before he left home that I should never have to settle for less than exactly what I want.”
John grinned. “I can see him saying that actually.”
* * * *
“That’s a bad fucking idea,” Matt muttered as he pulled off his t-shirt and fired it towards the hamper. Evan had been the one to do the move—because Matt was housed near his brother and near Miko. He wasn’t interested in being far from the princess and Evan had clued into that fact quickly.
“Really?” Evan questioned as he watched Matt strip with a smile. “I really love watching you get naked, Sheppard.”
“Yes, well, I’m very beautiful,” Matt declared before going into the bathroom to shower. Evan followed along and leaned on the bathroom counter. “Scott… he was on the list that SGC gave me to consider. He’s actually a very good pilot.”
“But you didn’t want him because of John.”
“The Holland family were complete assholes throughout Jared’s funeral. John doesn’t know the half of it because our Dad shielded him from a lot of it because I have to say that John was pretty close to a complete and total melt down. None us were all that sure he’d ever be on an even keel again, you can’t imagine what a relief it was to see how stable and calm he was after the time he spent Antarctica. Since John hadn’t brought Scott up I figured he knew about him but didn’t want to discuss it.” Matt turned under the shower spray. “Joining me?”
“I wish. I have a debrief with teams 6 and 8 in twenty minutes,” Evan crossed his arms. “Do you think Scott is really a problem or are you just worried about John?”
“I think Scott is a real problem,” Matt returned evenly. “He hid from John on the Daedalus. Me too, because if I’d seen him I would remember it. He made sure to avoid us all and that makes me concerned about his motivations.”
“You don’t buy his excuse about not wanting to upset, John?”
Matt snorted rudely and reached for the shampoo. “John has a blind spot for the kid but I don’t. I don’t trust that little bastard any further than I could throw him.” He looked toward Evan. “And what about Rodney? Do you think he deserves to watch Jared Holland’s baby brother swish around this city for the next six fucking weeks? The kid looks enough like Jared for it to be creepy.” He huffed and concentrated on his washing.
* * * *
Miko wiggled further under the charging station in Dr. Beckett’s office, her little foot bobbing happily to the Coldplay she had on her iPod. The healing devices the infirmary uses had been on her ‘to do’ list since she’d arrived but Rodney had kept dropping it to the bottom of the list.
After Zelenka had been hurt, he’d popped it right to the top which was good because Miko had been lobbying for it to be a priority for a week. She regretted that Radek had to be hurt for it to happen though. She slid out from underneath the console and rolled to her feet only to come face to face with Carson Beckett.
She screamed a little and snatched her ear buds out of her ears. “Dr. Beckett.”
Carson lifted an eyebrow at her and she blushed. “Dr. Kusanagi, what are ya doing in my office?”
She bit down on her bottom lip. “Well… Dr. McKay assigned me to figure out why the charging station works so slowly and why the healing wands don’t get a full charge to allow for more difficult healings. I’ve researched the task and had Dr. Porter grow a few new crystals for the console. They finished today.”
“Dr. Grodin said it was too old to repair,” Carson offered.
“While I do not wish to disparage Dr. Grodin—but he accepted a report from Dr. Kavanagh on the state of the charging station and did not investigate the matter himself.” She edged around him and went back to her bag of tools. “And Dr. Kavanagh is an idiot.” Miko grinned when Carson laughed. “And I am very smart. It is fixed. It should take less than fifteen minutes to fully charge the devices now.” She motioned towards the six wands; all of them were lit up in their cradles. “I apologize for not taking care of this sooner. We have many 911 repairs to make on the city.”
Carson glanced from her to the charging station and huffed. “Well, that wanker.” He blushed. “Apologies for the language, lass.”
“Kavanagh is most certainly a wanker,” Miko agreed and winked when Carson blushed darker. She finished packing away her things and then shouldered the bag. “You find me very beautiful, yes?”
Carson smiled. “Of course, lass.”
She hummed softly and stared intently at his face. “You will court me. I will let Colonel Sheppard know to expect you unless you’d like to request the services of a Nakōdo.”
“Nay, lass, I do not believe we will need a courtship liaison. Colonel Sheppard is a good friend.” Carson swallowed hard as the Geisha simply nodded and then turned to leave. She stopped at the doorway and turned to stare at him. “We will have dinner this evening?”
“Yes,” he agreed immediately. “In my quarters.”
Her cheeks pinkened. “Yes, your quarters. I shall inform the Colonel of my acceptance of your interest.”
Carson dropped down in his chair as the door closed on her and took a deep breath.
* * * *
Allison Porter burst out laughing. “You what?” She dropped back on the couch and glanced across the room to her Domme who was staring at Miko Kusanagi with amused affection. “Miko!”
Miko huffed dramatically and crossed her arms. “He stares at me all the time and does not make a move. I’d like to get laid again while I’m still a young woman.” She waved a hand. “I smile at him. I fix his medical toys. I take time to fix his database last week and nothing. He doesn’t ask me out. I cannot be expected to wait forever.”
Anne Teldy snickered. “So you informed him that he will court you—that’s charming, Princess.”
Miko blushed and then stared at her foot in irritation. “I am a Geisha. I should not have to chase after a Dom. It’s… unseemly the things I’ve had to do these last weeks to get this man to talk to me. I know he wants me. Who wouldn’t want me?” She glared at Teldy when Anne laughed.
Teldy sobered and rolled from the bed where she’d been lying. She walked to the couch and sat down between the two subs. “You’re very beautiful and of course he wants you, Miko. He’d have to be dead below the waist not to want you.” She wrapped an arm around Miko in a gesture of comfort. “Now, what you are going to wear?”
“It is our first formal play date so I should wear a furisode. I have a lovely red one. It is a kimono for unattached women,” Miko explained. “It will indicate to him that I take the courting seriously.”
“What will you wear under it?” Allison asked. “Panties are important.”
“Traditionally there would be many layers of undergarments—I will wear all of the layers but no underwear,” Miko said decisively.
“Wow,” Allison whispered. “Merry Christmas Carson Beckett.”
* * * *
“Oh she did not,” John said with a small laugh. “Seriously?”
Carson sent him a long, measured look. “I suppose she got tired of me skirting the issue as it were.”
“I bet,” John grinned and rocked back in his chair. “You’d better stay on your toes or she’ll pick out her collar for you, too.”
Carson blushed but then smiled. “She would, wouldn’t she?” He sighed. “The woman may very well be the death of me; Colonel but I’d die a happy man. Are there any rules you’d like me to adhere to?”
“She’ll probably set up a check in with Matthew,” John admitted. “Other than that—I trust you to treat her with the respect she’s due and honor her choices. There is no one on Atlantis I trust more when it comes to Miko and her happiness. Just remember that no matter what I might do to you if you hurt her—Lotus would be come down on you like a thing from Hell compared.”
“Understood, Colonel.” He stood and then paused. “What of her deceased Dom’s family?”
“My father met with his oldest son a few weeks back because they were notified that Miko accepted our family guardianship without a collar being offered. He was very irritated because until that point her Geisha mistress had retained social ownership of Miko in order to protect her from his overt interest. He protested the guardianship vehemently with my father and accused of him manipulating Miko into accepting a role in our family as a sex slave without a collar.”
“And?” Carson questioned.
“My father stomped a mud hole in him and walked it dry apparently,” John returned dryly. “Those were my sister-in-law’s words for what happened to the rest of the conversation. Then she sent me pictures of the new dining room chairs.”
Carson laughed. “I see your apple didn’t fall far from his tree.”
“Inches,” John assured. “Mere inches.”
* * * *
John stared at the email he’d just received from Jack O’Neill in shock. It had only been two weeks since Jordan had returned to Earth. He hadn’t expected to see any kind of action concerning what had happened with Matthew for months. After a few seconds, he clicked his radio and called Matthew and Evan to his office. Since they were both just down the hall—they were getting settled in chairs in front of his desk within a minute.
“I’m being recalled to Earth to testify in a private house trial concerning Kevin Jordan. Lotus and Kesakitan Pembawa have filed charges against him and the IOA is honoring their complaint because if they don’t any discussions about the declassification of the SGC will be academic.” John took a deep breath. “I’ll be on Earth for a week and the Apollo is on standby to return me to the first gate in Pegasus where Dr. McKay and I will gate home from there. I’ll probably be gone at least two weeks.”
Matthew took a deep breath. “They don’t want me, too?”
“No. JAG has already filed charges against him for the incident between the two of you and Jordan plead guilty. He was reduced in rank and forced to retire from the Air Force. Lotus is demanding a blood price for his actions against you and the punishment you would’ve suffered if I hadn’t stood in your place,” John explained. “I haven’t been given a choice on returning to Earth. Dato’ Raja is demanding that I present myself to him within the next forty-eight hours.”
“Jesus,” Evan muttered. “That’s bad right?”
“He’s extremely unhappy if Jack O’Neill is to be believed. If they find Jordan guilty within the house system—Dato’ Raja will be within in his rights to beat him to death. Lotus and Kesakitan Pembawa both have a zero tolerance policy concerning abuse. Jordan was put on a plane to Singapore in Raja’s custody.”
“That can’t be legal,” Matt exclaimed.
“Not at all. Singapore doesn’t have any kind of extradition treaty with the US concerning crimes such as this but the continued secret of the Stargate program is at risk and the IOA isn’t prepared to reveal anything to the world at large. Not while we’re still fighting the Wraith here and the Ori at home,” John said and then looked at his computer again. “I assumed that Jordan would get sanctioned by the Secretary of Defense and maybe get put on a desk at the Pentagon until they could retire him. But, unfortunately the IOA rep for Japan is a Lotus Geisha and he apparently lost his mind. They believe he reported the situation to Mistress Kia of Lotus and she in turn reported it to her brother—Dato’ Raja.”
* * * *
Rodney was carefully packing John’s kit when he entered their bedroom. “I’ve packed your leathers, a few pairs of jeans—both your dress uniform and your service uniform. I assume we’ll travel to Singapore straight from the SGC?”
“My father has a plane on the ground in Colorado waiting on us,” John admitted. “Pack your dress collar as well and all of our jewelry—I’ll be expected to exhibit while I’m there. I haven’t performed in front of my house since I was marked so we can expect an interesting reception on that front.”
Rodney nodded. “I had a few lingering marks from our play last night—I stopped by the infirmary and had Carson clean up my skin so I’m flawless for presentation.” He blushed when John chuckled. “It’s important.”
“Carson did contact me before he treated you,” John reminded. He came fully into the room and pulled Rodney close to him. “I had him do the same thing for me. I had a few bruises from sparring with Teyla. She’s vicious with those sticks.” He kissed Rodney’s mouth gently and then let his forehead rest against his. “This is going to be pretty stressful for me.”
“I’ll be on my best behavior,” Rodney promised. “I won’t embarrass you.”
“You couldn’t possibly embarrass me,” John returned evenly. “I’m so pleased with you.” He moved away after a few seconds. “I have a couple of guys coming in to carry our stuff to the gate. They should be here soon.” He paused. “You packed the cane that he sent me?”
“Of course,” Rodney flushed. “I assumed he would expect you to use it while you’re there.”
* * * *
Stepping through the gate to Earth so soon had been surreal. John hadn’t anticipated seeing his father again until it was time for the debrief that had been scheduled a year out with Jack O’Neill. They’d both been sorted quickly out of the mountain and put in a SUV for the trip to Petersen where his father’s private plane was waiting. Rodney had bitched only briefly about the fact that the Apollo wasn’t in orbit to beam them to Singapore before allowing John to prod him onto the Learjet. Unfortunately the plane was full of family so they weren’t going to get any private time on the long flight.
“John, Rodney.” Patrick greeted them both in turn and then installed them in a pair of seats across from him and Jonah. “I’ll let the pilot know we can take off.”
John just nodded and dropped back in his seat while Rodney busied himself with his computer. He turned his head and shared a glance with David before their Father returned and resumed his seat. “It’s bad right?”
David nodded. “Oh yeah, it’s bad. Dato’ Raja threatened to sanction Mason Blake personally for letting it happen at all but he refrained out of respect for Gerard. Blake and de Sade accompanied Dato’ Raja back to Singapore with Jordan at the President’s insistence but they’re all afraid that this will turn into an international incident and expose the Stargate program.”
“I agreed with Blake,” John admitted. “I knew what Jordan would do to me.” He focused on his father. “He must have told you we spoke about it.”
“Yes, well, Mason Blake is a politician and Syed has little respect or patience for such things,” Patrick responded. “The IOA convened a hearing of their own on this matter and there is some talk of replacing Weir.”
John grimaced. “I wouldn’t want that. Elizabeth had very little to do with what happened between me and Jordan. She maneuvered herself into it but it was a military matter and Blake could’ve overruled her if he’d wanted. The expedition charter doesn’t actually give her the right to determine the punishments of military personnel unless they are found to be in a personal conflict with a civilian off-duty. Even then, the actual punishment would fall to me unless it was a Dom being punished for bad behavior with a collared civilian. It’s complicated out there and rightly so—we have to meet in the middle a lot. She’s good for the mission and the civilians are comfortable with her. That’s important if we want them to remain productive.”
“O’Neill will fight for her,” Patrick explained. “Your task will be to keep Syed from killing Jordan.”
“Why?” Rodney questioned with a frown and then glanced towards Claire who laughed. “Well?”
“If Dato’ Raja kills an American citizen it would be bad politics,” Patrick explained. “Retired or not—Jordan is a high ranking Air Force officer, an American citizen, and he has friends. Hayes would prefer that Jordan be returned to the states in one piece and breathing if entirely possible.”
* * * *
Jonah shifted away from his Dom and picked up a blanket from a pile in one of the empty seats. John and Rodney had laid their seats flat and pushed the middle armrest out of the way so they could lay spooned together. He spread the blanket over them carefully but wasn’t surprised when he looked at John’s face and found his eyes open. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“It’s okay,” John murmured and resettled the blanket around his sub. “I don’t sleep much in situations like this. Training…” He trailed off obviously unwilling to explain his combat readiness to his father’s sheltered submissive.
Jonah smirked. “You’re not the first soldier I’ve woke in such a way.” He sat down on the edge of the seat and inclined his head. “This is the first time you’ve returned to your house since you were marked, correct?”
John nodded. “I never got a chance to present Jared formally to the house but he did meet Dato’ Raja in New York shortly before we went to Iraq.” Rodney stirred in his arms and John rubbed his shoulder to settle him. “I’m not worried.”
“No,” Jonah inclined his head. “I don’t think you are. You are on edge. Are you concerned that you won’t be able to meet the expectations of the President in this matter? I realize that Kevin Jordan has given you plenty of reason to be furious with him.”
“I hate him,” John admitted roughly. “But when I look at him—I don’t always see him.”
“You see James Daily.” Jonah reached and touched John’s shoulder. “I suppose it would be difficult not to make a comparison between them—two selfish men intent on taking someone from you for no other reason than they think they’re entitled.”
“I won’t lose my cool,” John promised. “I know how much I stand to lose if I do.”
* * * *
The Kesakitan Pembawa estate was situated on an island and was ruthlessly guarded. The security to get onto the island was as intense as anything Rodney had endured on a military base in any country he’d ever been in. John had made most of the trip from the airport to the dock and onto the boat without speaking. He’d directed Rodney with gentle but firm touches through the entire process and it had done a lot to calm him down.
Kesakitan was a Dom heavy house—both in staff and their student population. There were smaller, intensely private pleasure houses in Singapore that saw more of their submissive population but Rodney knew he wouldn’t be given the opportunity to see any of those. He was a little surprised when the guards who’d escorted them from the small dock separated John from the rest of the family. They were lead to an elegant suite of rooms which John had approved of with an abrupt nod before they were left alone.
“We need to shower,” John murmured. He walked to a closet and pulled out a two garment bags. “Traditionally, submissives of our house are naked while on the island. Because you’re de Sade you’re exempt from this rule.” He unzipped the garment bag and pulled out a pair of light blue silk pants and then a pair of sandals from the bottom of the bag. “We should’ve already discussed this but I didn’t think we’d be here anytime soon.”
“Okay.” Rodney undressed carefully and watched as John pulled out the black silk he’d be wearing. “Should we shave your head to display your full mark?”
“No,” John murmured and followed Rodney into the bathroom to shower. “He won’t expect it and if he desires it—he’ll let me know.”
John turned on the shower once and set the temperature with a frown. “It’s kind of odd to do that by hand after being on Atlantis for so long.” He turned to watch Rodney lay out their soaps and other toiletries on the bathroom counter. “First, you touch no one on this island without my permission—from this point on that includes family members. Keep eye contact with other marked Doms to a minimum and ignore the students all together. You kneel only at my feet and only when I indicate that you should do so. At no point will you kneel for Dato’ Raja, no matter what any other sub might do.”
“So, I’m wearing blue because I’m de Sade?”
“Yes. Red for Lotus, white for La Petite Mort—there is a very complicated color system that I haven’t thought about in years that accounts for every major pleasure house on the planet—even though only a select few outsiders are even allowed on the island.” John admitted as he let Rodney wash his body thoroughly.
Rodney nodded. “What will the Doms from de Sade wear?”
“I’m honestly not sure. It’s rare to see a de Sade Dom here. I’m sure they’ll be in the house color that Kesakitan Pembawa has assigned them.” John took a deep breath as Rodney’s fingers trailed gently between the cheeks of his ass. “We really don’t have time for that.”
Rodney hummed softly and continued his gentle washing. “I can suck you off.”
“Let’s save our play for later—when I’m not so keyed up.” John pulled him and kissed his mouth softly. “I won’t leash you while we’re here—I won’t need to. My collar is all the protection you need within the confines of my house.”
“Why were we separated from the others?”
“Jonah and Dad will be in special guest quarters—because they never trained here. David and Claire are probably in a very similar suite somewhere in this building. I believe we were separated because I’ll be testifying in a house trial.”
By the time they were dressed, an escort had returned to lead them through a series of complicated halls and out into a large outdoor assembly area. There were fifty cushioned platforms spread out in neat rows over the patio and then one situated on its own in the front. Gerard de Sade was standing on one of the platforms in the front row with his submissive Andre kneeling at his feet.
Dato Raja was standing in front of the assembled Doms with a platform behind him. A female dragon Geisha knelt on it in a full ceremonial red silk kimono. John had never met the woman that Syed Raja had married but he’d seen enough pictures of Lianne Raja to recognize her. She inclined her head gently in his direction and offered him a lethal smile.
John nodded in return as he led Rodney to the solitary platform. He stepped up on it and held out his hand for his submissive when Rodney joined him. McKay took his hand and knelt gracefully on the pillow on John’s left. John released his hand and fell into a stance very similar to the parade rest his military training had drilled into him.
“Our house is honored by your return, John.” Syed’s voice drifted over the men and women assembled easily. “Even in such trying circumstances.”
“It is my privilege to return to my first house, Sire, no matter the circumstances,” John returned evenly.
Syed’s gaze drifted over John and settled on Rodney, who had centered his gaze on the platform in front of him. John was pleased to note that McKay was relaxed and breathing easily. “You will exhibit after the evening meal, John. I would see more of the submissive who leaves both you and de Sade so captivated.” His gaze flicked to Gerard briefly and then he focused on John. “At your leisure, of course.”
“There is little I would deny you, Sire,” John admitted. “We would be pleased to exhibit for you.”
* * * *
Rodney was relieved to note that there was no submissive seating in the room John had lead him to for the evening meal. He took the seat John pulled for him without looking directly at anyone else in the room. The seating arrangement placed John on one end of the table and Dato Raja on the other. Gerard de Sade and Andre were on John’s right while David Sheppard and Claire were seated on Rodney’s left. The serving staff were swift to bring out the meal but John stayed their hand when it came time to serve Rodney. Since he was speaking in Malay, Rodney had no idea what was said but after a nearly thirty seconds a plate was slid into place in front of him.
“I’ve been assured there is no citrus,” John murmured.
Lianne Raja pulled a pair of chop sticks from a linen napkin by her plate and cleared her throat. “I educated our staff most thoroughly on Dr. McKay’s dietary needs before your arrival, John. They all know very well the bite they will suffer should they slip up.”
John inclined his head. “Thank you.” He refused wine for them both with a shake of his head. “Sire, I’ve been encouraged to ask you not to kill Kevin Jordan.”
Syed Raja quirked one eyebrow. “This man is a wretched human being, John. It would please me quite a bit to kill him.”
“There is no pleasure to be had in the taking of a life,” John returned evenly. “I assure you that I know that better than even you, perhaps better than anyone in this room.” He glanced once at his brother and took a deep breath. “That’s not to say that I don’t understand your urge. I’ve never known you to care over much for politics.”
“It’s been my experience that politicians favor money and power over the pleasures we were given by the grace of our birth,” Syed responded seriously. “That being said the Prime Minister did make it clear to me that I could not kill the man on Singapore soil. Since I’ve brought Jordan here—I will have to be satisfied with maiming him for life and on that there can be no misunderstanding. Lotus House is by all rights furious over Matthew’s mistreatment and the threat against Miko Kusanagi…” Raja shook his head. “If that man had laid hands on a red petal Geisha in anger I can’t fathom what would’ve happened.”
“He would’ve come back to Earth in a box,” John returned. “She’s my responsibility and I take that responsibility seriously. I believe I’ve demonstrated the strength of my resolve when it comes to both my brother and my adopted sister.”
“You have. No one could find fault with you in that matter. What you took for your brother was extreme by anyone’s standards,” Raja glanced at Rodney who wasn’t eating. “Does the food disagree with you, Dr. McKay? If you have a preference—do not hesitate to request it.”
“No, Sire, everything is quite good.” Rodney set aside his fork in favor of his water glass. “I prefer to eat light before an exhibition.”
“And the conversation is upsetting,” Raja guessed. “I’m sure it must have been difficult watching your Master disciplined in such an abusive situation.”
“It was unpleasant,” Rodney allowed.
“What do you think I should do to Kevin Jordan?”
Rodney flushed and averted his gaze completely. “John.”
John laughed softly and curled his fingers loosely around one of Rodney’s wrists. “It’s okay, he doesn’t bite.”
“I don’t suppose I’d mind much if he did,” Rodney returned and everyone at the table relaxed into the laughter that followed. “Kevin Jordan is a thoughtless, selfish, self-destructive bastard with ambitions and desires beyond his place but killing him would be almost like putting down an old, sick dog. The last thing he needs is the mercy or peace that death would bring him.”
“Desires beyond his station,” Syed murmured. “Because of the attention he gave Matthew or the attention he’s forced on you in the past?”
“Both and he never actually touched me in any meaningful way. The security people on the base where I worked in the past were quick to intervene on my behalf,” Rodney said as he shifted his fork and knife around on a folded linen napkin. “I’m not worried about him if that is your concern.”
“No, I don’t imagine you would be.” Syed’s gaze flicked from John to Gerard de Sade and he smirked. “You’re quite capable of protecting yourself in a variety of ways. I especially liked the way you handled Lord Wellington last year. It’s my understanding that he’s still on the Interpol’s terrorist watch list. From what I understand he can’t even buy a ticket for a train without getting a visit from MI6.”
Rodney cleared his throat. “I’ve never been for sale and there are a variety of painful ways a person can be taught a lesson.”
“He appealed to me to make you stop,” Gerard pointed out.
“And to me when John collared you,” Syed offered with a grin.
“Stop what?” John questioned and then lifted an eyebrow when Rodney bit down on his lip. “McKay?”
“I haven’t done anything to him since I met you, John. I promise.” Rodney shrugged. “But before I might have done a few things to make his life difficult but I will point out that I have nothing to do with his losses in the stock market—he’s just an idiot with his money. I might, however, have tampered with the money he was hiding in the Cayman Islands but Feed the Children is a worthy cause. And I will confess to having his vintage Corvette diverted and delivered to an auction house for the European Submissive Rights Fund. Additionally, I pointed out to the CIA and Interpol that he’s been hiding money and he has a second cousin by marriage who reportedly trained with terrorists in Afghanistan—all of which was so true. I volunteered him for the Queen’s Committee on Submissive Rights in Great Britain.”
“And…” Gerard prodded dryly. “Because you skipped the big one.”
Rodney shot his Courtesan Master a mild glare and took a deep breath. “As a de Sade Courtesan—within my house I have the power to declare individuals persona non grata if I consider them unfit as a Dom. If I place this label on a person—they are essentially banned from my house and every submissive who is marked by de Sade for life. I’ve done it twice. Carter was the first and Wellington was the second. I’ve never had the grounds to do it to Jordan—not even after what he did to you.”
“What did he do?” Claire asked, her blue eyes sparkling with amusement.
Rodney shared a look with Claire Sheppard that spoke volumes. “He offered me money to submit to him.”
“How much and for how long?” Lianne questioned. “And were you remotely tempted?”
“Five million for a month and no—I can make five million in a day without taking my clothes off.”
“Five million dollars?” John questioned. “For a month?”
“Yeah.” Rodney blushed and then his gaze narrowed. “I’m worth that.”
“You’re priceless,” John returned without hesitating. “What else did he do?”
“He marked me—left a bruise on me that even the Tollan crème couldn’t clear up in a few days when I told him no.” Rodney rubbed his arm as if the bruise was suddenly there again.
John sat back in his chair and frowned. “You feel free to get on the Internet and donate all of his worldly possessions to whatever charity suits you, Rodney. Claire can help you pick.”
Claire grinned. “I’ve always been fond of Save the Jungles and Breast Cancer Awareness would be a great one.”
“You could donate his collection of antique weapons,” Lianne offered and shrugged when both subs turned to look at her. “He’s very proud of all of those swords and guns.”
“Why did he want to buy you?” Claire asked quietly. “You know why, don’t you?”
“I do know why but not because he told me,” Rodney glanced at Gerard and sighed. “I think you can guess.”
Gerard frowned into his wine glass and met John’s gaze without hesitation. “It’s not every man who can say they purchased Gerard de Sade’s Courtesan.”
“And what did you do to this man—to make Rodney a target for his anger at you?”
Gerard inclined his head at the not so gentle rebuke. “Wellington was refused entry into de Sade for training despite the fact that he had inheritances from both of his parents because I learned through a friend that he nearly killed a young man in France during a power exchange. They were both just children really—only sixteen but his parents covered it up and Wellington was never disciplined for it and neither was he counseled. I told his parents he wasn’t meant to be trained at de Sade due to his nature and arranged for him to train here with Dato Raja instead. He barely lasted a year and of course did not earn his Dom markings. He blames me for his personal failures and until the incident with Rodney I had no idea he even knew who my Courtesan was. I can assure you, John, no matter what Rodney has done to him or may do to him in the future—I made sure Wellington understood he wasn’t allowed to approach my Courtesan again.”
Andre snorted and blushed when Gerard looked at him sharply. “I’m sure the medical staff reminded him of the lesson you taught him when he regained consciousness, Master.”
Gerard grinned and hooked his hand around Andre’s neck. He brought him close and placed a soft kiss against his temple. “I had a grand time and Andre was as always a beautiful and attentive audience.” He turned and looked at John. “He’s every bit the sadist you are with none of your discipline, all of your appetites, and no interest in learning to control himself. I’m continually stunned that his parents have the money to buy him out of the situations he gets himself into.”
It was a pretty heinous thing to consider if Rodney allowed himself to go down the path and he couldn’t, not really. He couldn’t fathom John without his control, without the discipline he demanded from himself and even from those around him.
* * * *
The exhibition arena was nothing like Rodney had ever seen before. It was intimate in a way that seemed almost foreign for its purpose. The audience was gathered around the circular stage in a rough semi-circle in a series of two person couches. There were at least two hundred people in attendance and Rodney hadn’t even known there had been that many people on the island. He took note of David and Claire in the audience but was relieved to find that Patrick Sheppard was not visible. John had told him that as far as he knew his father had never once watched him exhibit.
Chains hung from the ceiling instead of a cross like most exhibition situations and Rodney was suddenly relieved to have already tested himself in a similar situation. The performance on Dolor had proven that he was more than capable of maintaining his feet even in the face of extreme stimulation.
John secured him efficiently and after a lingering touch over his stomach, he moved away to take care of their equipment. Rodney silently reviewed John’s instructions . The pressure of event was enough to make him nervous. The weight of not disappointing Gerard was almost as extreme as the weight of not pleasing John. This would mark the first time his Courtesan Master had ever been in the audience during an exhibition. He adored his dress collar but suddenly he missed the heavy and reassuring weight of the first collar John had ever put on him.
John’s fingers caught in the chain connecting his nipple clamps and tugged gently as he moved in and pressed a soft kiss against his mouth. “Relax.”
Rodney nodded at the whispered command and loosened his grip on the chains his wrists were connected to. He clenched down briefly on the plug in his ass and then let his whole body relax by degrees.
“Good.” John kissed him again. His hand cupped one hip. “We’re going to start with the flogger. You can’t ejaculate as long you’re plugged but you’re going to come for me as I often as I want. Clear?”
“Your will is mine, Maître.”
John untied the belt of his robe as he walked to the low table holding their equipment and shed his robe easily. The lighting in the exhibition space shifted, bathing the stage in soft white light while shrouding the audience in total darkness. He’d only exhibited before Dato’ Raja once and that had been the week he’d been given his Master mark. His last act as a student Dom within the house and his own excitement had been nearly overwhelming.
It was different now after so many years away from this private and intimate world where he had trained so diligently as a young man. He picked up an all suede flogger and shook out the tresses. As tools went it had the softest touch of anything he’d brought out with him but the wide, soft tresses would work well to warm up Rodney’s muscles.
John circled McKay, taking in his relaxed posture, the glow of pale skin, and his utter stillness. He struck without any verbal warning—slapping heavily across the back of one thigh and then another on the backward swing—glancing off the side in a way he never had before. Rodney shivered against the unexpected stimulation and inhaled deeply. John waited for the exhale before he struck again, developing his rhythm around the pace of McKay’s breathing. It was extremely effective, he watched as his sub’s body flushed red.
He continued to circle; lashing over the skin that experience had taught him would work up McKay up the fastest. Pushing him deep into his sub space was absolutely necessary for the next stage. After thirty, he broke off and set the flogger aside. He curled his toes briefly against the firm but giving surface of the stage.
He picked up the cane and walked back to McKay, the lust burning in his blood was familiar now—but still different than any other sexual experience he’d ever had in the past. Rodney’s reactions and genuine desire for whatever he had to offer was absolutely intoxicating.
John trailed the tip of the black cane gently down McKay’s spine. “Come.”
Rodney shivered and trembled through his first orgasm of the night. The plug in his ass shifted between his cheeks and his cock jerked slightly before he stilled. He dropped his head forward slightly and took a deep breath.
John let him calm down; he knew the shock of the all too gentle orgasm must’ve been a little overwhelming and completely unexpected. “87,999.”
“Not prime,” Rodney murmured.
John circled him letting his fingers trail over reddened skin. Casually, he smacked the inside of McKay’s left thigh with the cane. Rodney hissed and moaned softly in surprise. In the past, he’d always been careful to cane him only on major muscle groups on the back, ass, and the back of his thighs.
“Mersenne Prime,” Rodney responded as John’s fingers pressed against his pulse point.
John drifted away with another casual strike on his thigh, raising a bright red welt within a centimeter of the first. He circled lashing out with sharp blows that had Rodney keening softly in under a minute. Sheppard snapped across his ass with the cane and took a deep breath.
Rodney met the demand with a harsh groan, his cock slapping against his thigh with the force of the dry orgasm. John stroked his free hand down his sub’s back as he stilled and curled his fingers loosely around the silver knob of their favorite plug. He twisted it slowly and Rodney’s head dropped back with a soft sigh.
John stepped back, braced himself and delivered twenty blows in sets of two across the flat of McKay’s back—careful to vary the strength and location of each lash. He paused and then began again, raising welts across McKay’s ass in a series of stinging blows. When he reached forty, he stilled and took a deep breath.
Rodney let his head fall forward in relief as he gave into the low demand of his Dom. His whole body was humming with pain and so much pleasure that he couldn’t even think of anything else. The agony of holding back his ejaculation was so delicious that he could hardly remember to breathe. He moaned softly when a single hand slid down his back. The touch was enough to center his focus and allowed him to go still again.
His gaze drifted over the darkness that surrounded them. He knew that Dato’ Raja was sitting just to his left and that Gerard had placed himself off to the side, out of his line of sight. Rodney was relieved with the level of respect de Sade was giving John and the space he was awarding them both. He really had no idea how he would handle it if Gerard tried to insert himself into their relationship anymore than he already had. The power he had in McKay’s life had always been a comfort; even when he’d hidden from it and now some part of him resented it—at least on John’s behalf.
Rodney let himself fall deeper into his sub space, relinquishing the last of awareness to anything in the arena but John. The whistle of the bullwhip wasn’t a surprise. John had informed him thoroughly before they’d come out of their quarters on the tools he’d use and what was expected of him. The sharp pain of the whip across the broad of his back, glancing over raw and over stimulated flesh, was so intense that he nearly came. He clenched his internal muscles and tightened his ass around the anal plug.
John’s pace increased and Rodney could practically feel his Dom’s lust rolling over them both. It mingled with his own pleasure and created an intimacy that he’d never known with another lover. The give and take of pain—the biting pleasure that his Master gave him so effortlessly was a gift beyond any price. Twenty-six lashes of the whip graced his skin in quick succession and then John’s hand was on him again. Soothing him, allowing him to calm down. He accepted the water when it was given and moaned very softly when John’s mouth brushed over his.
“You’re perfect,” John whispered and brushed his jaw with soft lips before drifting away again. Fingers pressed on his pulse point long enough to check his status and drifted away.
Rodney closed his eyes as the whip whistled in the air and he took the next strike with a groan. The sting of it was so sharp and mean that he blinked back sudden tears. The reaction was fascinating on an intellectual level—pleasure had never been more than a physical experience for him but the burn in his body was more than just pain and physical pleasure. The emotional reaction very nearly pushed him out of his sub space. He’d shed a few tears when John had punished him but that been mostly out of anger at himself.
“Come,” John said as he tugged on the nipple clamps that McKay had almost forgotten he was wearing.
Rodney shuddered through the orgasm, dazed that he accomplished it without ejaculating. “John!”
“I’m here,” Sheppard promised softly and circled him. He sank his teeth briefly into the redden skin covering Rodney’s left shoulder. “Are you tracking, McKay?”
John hummed softly under his breath, smacked McKay’s ass with his open palm, and flicked the whip so that it snapped in the open air behind him. The sound of it was just as intoxicating as feeling it, Rodney realized. “Can you take more?”
John offered him more water and stroked the side of his face with gentle fingers. “Are you sure? You’ve been begging under your breath for the past three minutes.” He leaned in and kissed his mouth. “This is about me and you—no one else matters.”
“More,” Rodney responded without hesitation. “As much as you want, Sir.”
John accepted his answer with a nod and put the empty water bottle on the low table with their equipment. He put the bullwhip down after coiling it carefully and then picked up the mixed flogger—suede and braided bison hide. A bit of a bite with a nice heavy thud to bring McKay down gently. He knew that anything harsher would probably start to draw blood and he had no interest in making Rodney bleed no matter what some in the audience might like to see.
He lashed across Rodney’s ass without warning and his sub began to keen softly, his voice breaking harshly at uneven intervals. John watched him carefully, taking in the trembling that he could no longer control, and the harsh red tone of his cock and balls. Since he had no intention of breaking his sub down in public or private—he slowed things down until McKay’s breathing evened out.
He worked McKay’s thighs and ass with the flogger in sets of two—lashing evenly and thoughtfully. “Come for me, Rodney.”
McKay jerked and sobbed through the most intense orgasm he’d had all night. His cock jerked and smacked sharply against his thigh twice. Rodney’s fingers clenched on the chains attached to his wrists cuffs and took a deep hitching breath that went ragged near the end.
John put down the flogger and unhooked McKay’s cuffs from the chains. “Kneel.” Rodney met the demand with a soft sigh, his body drifting into a kneeling position. John ran his fingers through McKay’s short hair. “On your back.”
Rodney shuddered, his hips lifting off the floor desperately as his back met with the platform’s surface. His legs splayed open as John slid to his knees between them. “Sir.”
John rubbed McKay’s thighs gently. “Easy,” Sheppard murmured. He hooked his fingers around the knob of the anal plug and pulled it out very slowly in an effort to keep McKay’s final orgasm at bay. Rodney’s sigh of relief was audible in the completely silent arena.
He set the plug aside and leaned forward and blew gently across the heated flesh of Rodney’s balls and then up over his cock. John cupped McKay’s ass and pulled him into his lap with easy strength. The temptation to slide right into his sub’s ass was overwhelming but he’d never fucked in public—not even during training.
He caught the chain of the nipple clamps with nimble fingers and pulled hard on them as he pressed his cock against McKay’s overheated skin. “Come.”
Rodney groaned roughly as he pressed back against John, arched his back, and came in a stream of pearly white cum. John shuddered and came with him, his cum dripping all over McKay’s balls and cock.
* * * *
John secured a blood pressure wrist cuff to McKay’s arm and activated it with ease. “How do you feel?”
“Good, very relaxed,” Rodney answered. He frowned at the medical kit his Dom had open. “Where did you get this?”
“Carson,” John admitted. “I told him we’d probably exhibit here and he wanted to make sure I could go through a basic check with you.” He pulled off the cuff after it beeped and dropped it into the bag as there was a firm knock on their door. “Enter.”
He glanced up as he unzipped a small black bag with a blood sugar monitor in it. “Sire, thank you.”
Dato’ Raja inclined his head as he entered with a tray of food. “I’m not alone, John.”
John chuckled. “No, I didn’t imagine you would be. They may enter as well.” He pricked McKay’s finger confidently and took the blood sample for the monitor. “115.”
“That’s good,” Rodney said and then sucked his finger into his mouth. “Very normal.”
“Very normal,” John agreed. He closed the blood sugar kit and then glanced up to where Gerard de Sade was leaning against the wall. “Problem?”
Gerard shook his head. “No, not one.” He frowned and looked down at his boot before glancing at Mason Blake who had set up the tea Raja had brought.
John nodded and pulled out a large tube of crème. He zipped the medical bag closed and stood from his place on the floor at McKay’s feet. He did wonder if finding him on his knees in front of McKay had startled the three Doms. “Let’s take care of the front first.”
Rodney took a deep breath and bit down on his bottom lip. “I’d rather not get hard again.”
John nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”
Rodney settled on the bed on his back and John joined him after a few seconds with a chastity device. He slid the gates into place carefully without locking them and slid down to the end of the bed. “Sire?”
“You’re quiet,” John glanced up with a quirked eyebrow. “That is a very unusual state for you.” He squirted out a generous amount of Tollan Crème and started working it into his sub’s legs. “Did I upset you?”
“No, it was… perfect. You honor our house with your control and your strength. It did serve to remind me why I chose to mark you personally to begin with.” Syed pulled up a chair and placed it by the bed. “Would you like me to leave?”
“It is traditional that you witness the after care of a submissive after an exhibition. I was aware of that when I agreed to the performance,” John responded. He glanced up to McKay’s face and found his sub’s eyes closed and his facial muscles completely relaxed. “And if this one weren’t so nosy he’d be asleep by now.”
Raja glanced over McKay’s lax form with a lazy interest that made John leery but not so much that he wanted to pick up a weapon. “Did you want some help with that?”
John snorted. “Sire, don’t make me be rude to you.”
“You always were a stingy bastard, John,” Syed complained with a laugh.
John shrugged and quickly worked upwards to massage crème into McKay’s angry and red nipples. He’d been careful not to strike anywhere on his front torso so after that he moved off to the side and cleared his throat. “Turn over.”
de Sade hissed when McKay’s back was revealed again and John really didn’t blame him. The crisscross network of welts and rising bruises looked kind of horrific now that they were off the stage.
“Rodney, I’m going to start at the top and work my way down. Let me know if you need a break.”
“Yes, sir,” Rodney murmured and pillowed his head on his folded arms. “It still feels pretty good actually.”
“Endorphins are an excellent thing,” John murmured as he poured some more crème into his palm and started on the shoulders. “There is no blood, Gerard.”
“I know,” Gerard murmured.
“How did Andre like it?” John questioned.
Gerard snorted. “He came when you did. I’m going to punish him for that.”
John grinned and glanced at Gerard briefly before returning his attention to Rodney. “Can’t really say it was his fault and he probably wasn’t the only sub in the room to do it.”
“No, I would agree with that,” Gerard muttered. “And not just subs.”
Syed chuckled. “My John has always been a very inspiring performer.” He leaned forward. “Dr. McKay, are you experiencing any deep muscle or bone pain that we should be aware of?”
“No, Sire.” Rodney opened his eyes and looked at Raja without blinking. “I’m quite fine.”
“You are indeed,” Syed agreed. “Good then.” He stood. “John, we’ll leave you to your task. I would see you within the hour in my salon.”
“Of course, Sire,” John agreed and returned his attention to as Syed herded de Sade and a still very silent Mason Blake out of the room.
Rodney took a deep breath when the door closed. “What was… is something wrong?”
“I came from hurting you,” John murmured. “It has de Sade concerned and I can’t say I blame him. Sadism on my level can be pretty fucking dangerous. Syed let Gerard come for the health check so he could see for himself that you’re okay.”
“It isn’t the first time you’ve came that way,” Rodney whispered. “When we were on the Daedalus…”
“Yeah, God, that was hot,” John admitted roughly and then laughed. “I don’t think de Sade has ever really encountered someone on my level before and I don’t begrudge him his concern.”
* * * *
John wasn’t surprised to find his father and brother in the salon along with de Sade and Blake when he finally managed to get there. He shook his head when Raja motioned towards the wet bar. “No, I rarely drink, Sire.”
Raja went to a small refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of water which he offered with a raised eyebrow. John took it without complaint. “First, you should know that I’m quite pleased with you.” He touched John’s face and then kissed his mouth before prodding him towards a chair. “Second, de Sade has a few questions that he’d like to ask and I’ve given him permission which means I’d prefer you answer them as honestly as possible but I won’t demand it.”
“Of course, Sire.” John glanced at his father who was staring moodily into a glass of whiskey and then at David who just shrugged. Finally, he centered his gaze on Gerard and waved a hand. “Just remember he didn’t say I couldn’t punch you in the face if you piss me off.”
Gerard laughed. “I did take note of that, actually.” He sighed and emptied his glass in one swallow. “Mason tells me that you promised Rodney he would be the only sub in your life as long as he wears your collar. That’s an unusual promise to make to a man you’d barely known a day when you collared him. Your policy of not sharing him is actually a relief to me but with your appetite for pain and sex… why would you restrict yourself as well?”
John tipped up the water bottle and drank half of it. His fingers clenched around the plastic briefly before he took a deep breath and calmed himself down. “I met McKay about an hour after I came through the gate from Atlantis. He was in the first meeting we had with SGC personnel. He participated in conversations only when General O’Neill prodded him, he allowed his ex-wife to interrupt and talk over him at every turn. No one in the meeting but me and Elizabeth even seemed to mind her behavior.”
Gerard glared at the floor. “I already had to promise the President that I wouldn’t touch Carter, John. Let’s not add to that fire.”
“It’s part of my answer, de Sade, so just suck it up.” John took another drink of water and sighed. “After the meeting, I had to nearly break my damn neck to get into the elevator with McKay because he cut and run as quickly as he could. I asked him to have dinner with me and he…” John paused. “He thought that his ex-wife had talked me into playing some joke on him. He was genuinely shocked by my interest and even when we were having dinner I don’t think he thought I was serious.”
“He had to know that you’re interest in him was political,” Gerard returned evenly.
“Before I set eyes on him, you’re right—my interest was for my mission and he is very good for my mission. While he doesn’t see it—the science department on the city has increased efficiency by nearly 75% since he came to Atlantis.” John looked toward the open window in the salon and sighed. “The next day something in the mountain was sabotaged and it was made to look like Rodney did it. The person responsible did a pretty good job of framing him for it at least on the surface.”
“Carter?” de Sade asked.
“No, but it was done to please her. Regardless, I’m called into a meeting where Rodney has basically already been tried and convicted. He wasn’t fighting them, he wasn’t arguing, and he assumed that I’d gotten him out of the way as part of it. He assumed that I was in on it and when I actually told the truth about his whereabouts during the night he looked at me like I couldn’t even be real.”
“I could kick O’Neill’s ass,” Blake muttered. “If he hadn’t saved the planet a few hundred times he’d face a review for what he let Carter get away with.”
“I do blame him but I speak from experience when I say it’s pretty damn difficult to do anything to help a civilian submissive if they don’t speak up. McKay never filed a single complaint against Carter—not even when she refused to remove her collar,” John responded roughly. “So often abusers hide behind privacy laws and unless submissive files a complaint or hell just says ‘hey, this bitch tried to castrate me’…” John waved a hand. “I could kill her you know.”
“So you promised him an exclusive relationship because of his self-esteem?” Gerard questioned roughly.
“You said yourself that his personal self-esteem is often laying in pieces at his feet,” John started. “When I met him even his professional self-image was starting to fray around the edges. In another year, she would’ve destroyed him. It’s a surprise, really, that he didn’t go non-dynamic for the treatment he suffered in their private relationship.”
“Like what?” Gerard questioned.
“Bruised organs, broken bones, skin injuries that you might see in severe government discipline,” John admitted. “I’m sure you’ve got the connections to get a good look at his medical file if you wanted. McKay tried to explain it mostly away as accidents or a result of her lack of training. It’s all bullshit but I let him keep that illusion because it makes him feel better about what happened. He really did love her and he’s ashamed of how badly he allowed her to treat him.”
“So you don’t touch other subs to make him feel important and special to you,” Gerard summed up.
“He is special to me,” John returned with a glare. “But, I realized early on that he needed the security of my undivided attention so even if he leaves me in a year he’ll be in a much better place emotionally and intellectually than he was when we started.”
“And you think he will want to leave you and the Stargate program in year?”
“I certainly won’t hold him against his will and I won’t let the IOA or the SGC bully him into signing another contract if he wants to leave. He’ll have plenty of options—good options should he chose to leave Atlantis,” John murmured. “It’s not, however, my preference.”
“He’s very attuned to your needs,” Raja injected casually, drawing the conversation away from Gerard and John. “It’s like you’ve been together for years instead of just a few months.”
“He’s a smart man—smart, intuitive, eager,” John explained.
“You gave him a safe word,” Raja continued.
“Of course, Sire, I’ve never not given a submissive a safe word. It’s the most vivid lesson I learned during my time under your hand.” He sighed. “But he did argue with me about it.” John offered de Sade a glare. “I blame you for that.”
de Sade chuckled. “I enjoyed his fire too much to train it out of him. He’s so very pretty when he gets all worked up and starts making demands. Often he’s not even aware he’s doing it.”
John couldn’t disagree with that. “I especially enjoy watching him berate his minions. That never gets old. Makes me wish he could be rated for punishment. I’m pretty sure I could come watching him spank someone.”
Patrick Sheppard snorted. “Jesus, John.”
“You’ve been quiet,” John started. “You don’t watch me or David in exhibition. Did you watch tonight?”
“I’ve never watched in the past because S&M exhibitions have never interested me and the last thing I’ve ever wanted to see was one of my sons in a sex act.” Patrick offered Raja a glare. “I really wasn’t given a choice tonight. All I will say is that I’m very relieved that I had you both trained here with Syed even if David claims to be half the sadist you are.”
John chuckled. “He is, Dad. Really.” He glanced at his older brother. “You cool?”
“It’s hardly the first time I’ve gotten an erection watching you play, John.” David smirked. “I have fond memories of Rome.”
John shivered a little. “I wonder what happened to that sweet boy.”
“What boy?” Patrick asked with a frown. “You’ve never shared a submissive…”
“Well not formally,” John allowed. “But we spent a few weeks in Rome after I was marked doing some rather filthy but perfectly legal things to a submissive. It was a great time.”
“Yeah, God, it was,” David said with a smirk. “As for Marco, the last I heard he was in Paris being pampered and indulged the way only he could enjoy. I was his pleasure Guardian for a number of years because he has no family of his own. He took a collar two years ago.”
“You weren’t interested in keeping him?” Gerard questioned. “You both have fond memories of him, obviously.”
David cleared his throat. “I couldn’t have kept a submissive that John and I shared. It would’ve been bad for our family dynamics to bring him into our home. Additionally, neither I nor John really met long term his needs when it came to blood play.” David glanced at Raja. “We were both taught the value of a true dynamic mesh.”
* * * *
Rodney had never participated in house trial at de Sade. He’d prided himself on avoiding even attending them during his training. There had been three during his second session and Gerard had never made him go. He regretted that now because he had no frame of reference to compare. The large room was utterly silent as John led him in and they went to the platform they’d gone to that first day. The solitary platform in front of all the others and directly across from Dato’ Raja spoke to John’s status in his house and for that Rodney was kind of awe struck.
The attention they had garnered at the large morning meal had been surreal and he’d been relieved when they’d ended up at a private family only table. It was bad enough that as one of the few clothed subs on the island he still managed to feel naked. The lighter dress collar and blue silk pants were so decandant that it was like being stripped to his skin to have the attention of everyone in a room when they were in it.
John had ordered him into the lotus position before taking a seat just a bit in front of him on the platform. There was another Japanese woman near the front of the room and Rodney had heard during breakfast that she was the Mistress of the Lotus House and Raja’s sister. They didn’t resemble much beyond a few shared features so Rodney thought perhaps they had different fathers.
Jordan had been escorted into the room and placed on a platform off to the side—his wrists cuffed and chained. It was the first time Rodney had ever seen a Dom bound in such away. He knew that they didn’t do that at de Sade.
The heavily edited footage of Jordan grabbing Matthew and threatening his career was played. Then the punishment footage was shown. By the end of it, Rodney was so nauseous that he thought he might lose his breakfast.
The anger in the room was almost physical as the large screen was retracted into the wall behind Raja and he cleared his throat. “Lotus House has charged Brigadier General Kevin Jordan with the physical and mental abuse of a Geisha. I find him guilty as charged.”
Jordan jerked hard against the chains but said nothing.
“Kesakitan Pembawa has charged Brigadier General Kevin Jordan with gross negligence and physical abuse during discipline.” Raja paused. “John, as the victim of this physical abuse, I request that you speak to this matter for the record.”
John inclined his head. “During an altercation, my younger brother struck a superior officer. As was his legal right, General Jordan demanded the right to punish Matthew physically. As his Guardian within his house, I took his place on the discipline cross with the anticipation that I would receive fifteen lashes with a strap across my back.”
“Was it your belief that you would be so grossly mishandled during this discipline?”
“I was aware that General Jordan had no formal training to speak of but that the US Air Force had rated him for discipline with the strap. I knew from the outset that he intended to draw blood, to scar me.”
“You do not have a scar.”
“I received excellent medical care after the discipline, Sire.”
Raja nodded. “General Jordan, having watched the unedited footage of both of your transgressions, I find your behavior during this situation reprehensible and premeditated. You purposefully provoked Matthew Sheppard—threatening to rape his adopted sister—so that he would hit you. You did this because you knew that John would never let you discipline his younger brother.”
Jordan jerked against the cuffs. “You give me more credit than I deserve, Dato’ Raja. I just wanted to fuck the Geisha. If he’d been properly trained to see to the needs of his betters this would’ve never happened.”
Rodney took a deep breath when the Japanese woman hissed and snapped something in Japanese to Raja.
“My sister finds you contemptible and she’d like me to cut off your head,” Raja returned dryly. “General Blake informed me that you wanted to use a bullwhip on my John. An implement that the US Air Force has not given you permission to use.”
“It’s no less than that twisted bastard deserves,” Jordan returned evenly. “He’s a dangerous and vicious man. John Sheppard has no business in a uniform, no business collaring a submissive of Dr. McKay’s quality, and he should’ve been put down like an animal before he ever had a chance to become an adult. It’s a detriment to this house that he was not. How much of his father’s money paid for this place anyway?”
Raja’s gaze narrowed. “Are you trying to convince me to kill you, General Jordan? If you have a death wish, you only need ask and I will see it done.”
Jordan paled. “You can’t kill me.”
“I could rip you limb from limb!” Raja shouted. “There is no one here who would stop me!” He took a deep breath and then relaxed on his pillow in a posture that was so leisurely that Rodney envied him. “Dr. McKay, would you like to address General Jordan’s concerns about your safety?”
“No, Sire, I would not.” Rodney glanced down at his hands. “I was ordered to never speak to General Jordan as long as I live. His words are meaningless to me. It as if he does not exist.”
“Does his personal interest concern you?”
“His interest in me has always been an annoyance at best. I’ve attended some of the most powerful and influential men on this planet. Kevin Jordan is… very ordinary by comparison and I’ve never harbored any private interest in him.”
“So you wouldn’t consider him a threat to your relationship with your Dom?” Raja questioned.
“The idea is laughable, Sire.” Rodney averted his gaze when Jordan hissed his displeasure at that.
“You will look at me, McKay!”
“Do not speak to him, General Jordan,” Raja ordered. “You only have leave to speak with me in this room and only when I ask you a question. Should you not adhere to his policy—I will have you gagged.”
Rodney fixed his gaze on John’s tense shoulder and resisted the urge to touch his Dom. He knew that Sheppard was bound so tight he was about to fly to pieces.
“Dr. McKay, do you believe that General Jordan attacked Matthew Sheppard because he wanted to punish John for his relationship with you?”
Rodney took a deep breath. He knew that was a hornet’s nest that he really didn’t want to poke but he couldn’t see how he had a choice. “I can offer no proof but I do believe he resented my accepting Colonel Sheppard’s collar and has worked hard since then to make his life difficult in every way he could get away with.”
“What would you have me do to him?”
Rodney glared at Raja before he could help himself and blushed when the Dom smirked in return. “I believe that his punishment should satisfy you, Sire.” He paused. “Additionally, it should be done quickly as his presence taints the beauty of your house.”
Raja inclined his head in agreement. “Very well, General Kevin Jordan, I find you guilty of physical abuse during discipline. You will receive thirty lashes with a bullwhip for your selfish and abusive transgressions.”
Rodney was surprised by the low number but he kept quiet and edged closer to his Dom as Jordan was moved to a cross in the front of the room. He was summarily stripped and latched to the cross at the ankles, thighs, and wrists.
John shifted his position and manhandled McKay into sitting between his spread legs. The position was intimate—far more intimate than any other Dom in the room had adopted but they’d all gotten comfortable.
John propped his chin against Rodney’s shoulder and turned to press a soft kiss against his neck above the collar. “You can close your eyes if it’s too much. No one will hold it against you.”
Rodney really didn’t understand but he nodded and leaned back against his Dom. John slid his arms around him, pulling them close together and Rodney let himself relax completely. Thirty lashes was nothing really, Jordan would’ve gotten much more in the military justice system for abusing a subordinate during discipline. He schooled his expression so that he wasn’t frowning and watched Dato’ Raja brace himself. The bullwhip was easily eight feet long with a stylish wooden handle. It didn’t have the look of a personal pleasure tool so McKay figured it was part of the discipline kit for the house.
Raja swirled the whip in the air a few times in a technique that Rodney had seen his own Dom use several times. Then he struck. McKay jerked in surprise as skin split immediately and blood burst from the wound. John rubbed against his stomach casually and Rodney relaxed back against him again. Suddenly, thirty lashes seemed extreme and even deadly.
Jordan had started screaming by the third strike but by the tenth he’d obviously grown so hoarse even screaming was impossible. By fifteen, pieces of skin had begun to slide off the muscle and Rodney was swallowing hard to keep from gagging.
At twenty, Rodney started tremble. He’d never seen anything like it in his entire life and he knew, he just knew his own Dom was capable of doing to the same thing that Raja was doing so effortlessly to Kevin Jordan. Suddenly, he was extremely thankful that John hadn’t punished Carter personally at the SGC. He didn’t want to imagine Sam in Jordan’s place, no matter what she’d done to him in the past.
“Easy, it’s almost over.” John curled his fingers between Rodney’s to calm him down.
The last strike echoed in the silent hall. Jordan was moaning incoherently and if he hadn’t been secured so tightly to the cross there was no way he’d even be standing. Blood was trailing down his back and down his legs in tiny rivers. Raja walked to the large ceremonial fire that burned in the center of the room and dropped the whip into it.
* * * *
John sat down on the edge of the bed and trailed his fingers through his sub’s hair. Rodney had curled up on the bed and had drifted off to sleep as instructed. After a few minutes, John stood and left the bedroom area. He wasn’t surprised to find de Sade and his father in the small living room area of the suite.
“He was very upset,” Gerard said roughly. “You should’ve removed him from the process before the punishment began.”
John walked to the wet bar and poured himself two fingers of bourbon without a word. He tossed back the drink and then dropped the glass on the surface of the bar with a thud. “Are you really under the impression, de Sade, that you can correct me like I’m your child?” He jerked his head towards father. “That’s the man that made this and he hasn’t talked to me like that since I was seventeen.”
Gerard snorted and dropped down on the couch in a frustrated sprawl. “Fuck you, Sheppard.”
“Fuck you back,” John returned dryly. “I realize exactly how upset he was but he needed to see that. McKay needs to understand what Dato’ Raja is because there is a reason out of all of the Doms the man has ever trained I’m the only one he’s ever marked personally.” John took a deep breath. “I am pewaris darah. Kesakitan Pembawa’s Blood Heir. I made sure Jared understood and it was a lesson that Rodney needed as well.”
“Raja got hard doing that,” Patrick murmured. “Are you saying you would have as well?”
John turned and looked at his father for a few minutes. “There are times when I’ve disciplined soldiers in my command where I had to fight to keep from getting an erection. If you’re asking me if I could have gotten off on flaying Kevin Jordan alive the answer is yes. I would’ve never allowed myself that but I could’ve—easily.” He poured himself another shot and dragged the glass off the bar as he walked to stand in front of a pair of doors that lead to a balcony. “There have also been times during a discipline where I couldn’t have gotten hard if I’d wanted to.”
“Because sometimes punishing someone is a pleasure and sometimes it is a pity,” Gerard murmured. “That I do understand.”
John offered him a wry smile. “Something like that, yes.” He paused and cleared his throat. “In another place, with different or no training, I could’ve been every bit the monster Jordan claims me to be. But Syed taught me to understand that part of me and in some cases even fear it. I would blow my own head off before I’d willingly surrender to blood lust. I’ve seen what letting go looks like—ruined flesh, destroyed lives, a sweet girl with an amazing laugh hanging from her goddamned bedroom ceiling.”
There was a brisk knock and John just waved a hand. His father rose from his chair and answered it before de Sade could extract himself from the couch. John pushed open the balcony doors and took a deep breath as General Blake entered the room. “Sir.”
“John.” Mason went to the bar and poured himself a full glass of vodka. “The Apollo entered orbit several hours ago. We transported Jordan back to the states and admitted him to a private hospital under a false name. The damage is extensive but certainly survivable.” He tossed back his drink and shuddered. “Did you know—when we talked on Atlantis that it would come to this?”
John glanced back at his superior officer and sighed. “I knew if Dato’ Raja ever found out what Kevin Jordan did to me he would exact a blood price. Syed has no children of his own—chose to father no children. I am as close as he’ll ever come to having a child and what wouldn’t a man do to avenge his son?” He glanced at his own father and Patrick sighed. “Exactly how many bridges did you burn trying to find him before he was shipped over here?”
“I may have shoved my foot up a few people’s asses but they’ll get over it. I’m a very wealthy man and people often forgive things they’d forgive no one else because they value the power of my friendship,” Patrick said. “If I’d found him—I’d have killed him. I still can’t say I won’t if I ever see him again. Syed Raja may think of you as a son but you are my son. He also laid hands on my Matthew, threatened his career and treated him like a whore. You can’t imagine I’ll ever forget or forgive that.”
“No.” John nodded and emptied his glass in one swallow. “I’m sorry for that. You trusted me with him and I let that bastard… Jordan should’ve never had the opportunity to even touch Mattie and I’ll never forgive myself for it.”
“I don’t blame you, John. You acted as I expected you to act during this situation. I know Matthew is a grown man. I know he is strong and capable and every inch the soldier that you and David are. I tasked you with protecting him and you did. Nothing else need ever be said about it.”
“He took Evan Lorne’s collar,” John murmured. “I’ve never seen him happier or more content. They are completely besotted with one another. It makes me hesitate to send Lorne into the field—especially after we thought he died a few weeks back. Mattie was inconsolable—just folded down inside. Even his eyes dulled. I expected fury, denial, but not… broken despair. I’d have declared war on the entire goddamned Pegasus Galaxy to bring Evan back to him. I’m not sure what that says about me.”
“I think it’s romantic,” Gerard offered with a small smile. “I haven’t met Matt. Is he gorgeous like the rest of your family?”
“He’s a wet dream,” Rodney muttered from the doorway of the bedroom. He stretched and pulled his t-shirt over his head. “Looks innocent and like he’s capable of doing the filthiest things imaginable to you at the same time. A true Geisha in every sense of the word.”
Patrick sighed. “Stop talking about my Matthew like that Rodney. I’ll have a stroke.”
“You won’t have a stroke,” Rodney assured and went to the bar. He rummaged through the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of water. “You’re healthy as a horse. Jonah makes sure.”
“You didn’t sleep much,” John murmured as Rodney came into his space and leaned against him. He pressed a kiss against his forehead. “We missed lunch but I can order you a tray.”
“Us a tray,” Rodney clarified. “That works. I thought I’d take a swim in the tub. It’s ridiculously hedonistic but I won’t be able to brag about it to Miko and Matt if I don’t actually get to use it.”
John stroked McKay’s face with gentle fingers and tilted his chin up so they were eye to eye. “You know you can ask me anything, right?”
“Go take your swim and I’ll have the kitchen bring us some food.” John said nothing else as Rodney exited with his bottle of water and then sighed. He looked at Gerard. “Are you worried about his safety with me?”
“No buts?” John questioned suddenly amused.
“Not a single fucking one,” Gerard promised. “If you couldn’t be trusted Dato’ Raja would’ve never given you his mark.”
* * * *
The click of a gun being primed brought the somewhat noisy bar to a standstill. “At this point, you have to be asking yourself if I have a gun pointed at your head because you’ve just gotten unnecessarily handsy with an officer in my Navy or if I have a more personal motivation in my desire to blow your fucking head off.”
The man, a civilian who had demonstrated more bravery the drunker he’d gotten throughout the night, immediately released Lieutenant Lesley Barnes and raised his hands somewhat comically in the air.
Ethan grunted his approval. “That’s better, we wouldn’t want to get the Lieutenant’s whites dirty with your blood and brain matter would we?” The civilian pitched to the side briefly and then just slid boneless to the floor in a dead faint.
“Chief Marsh, we should go.” Barnes flushed and jerked her head towards the door. Every sailor in the place stood up, settled up their tabs, and exited immediately.
Ethan holstered his weapon and followed Barnes out of the bar without another word. He could already imagine the lecture he was going to get for interfering but in his defense he had warned the ridiculously young and very attractive Lieutenant that it was a mistake to go to a top heavy civilian bar. She’d ignored him and now she was going to be infinitely pissed with him for interfering. Thank motherfuckin’ God he’d gotten transfer orders earlier in the day—though he had no idea why he was being sorted to an Air Force base in Colorado.
“I don’t need you to protect me,” Barnes snapped as he trailed along after her into the parking lot.
“No, ma’am you don’t,” Ethan agreed and he did believe it. A female submissive couldn’t have gotten as far as she had in the Navy on looks alone. She was a strong, capable, intelligent woman and he pretty much wanted to fuck her mute.
She turned on him and shoved her slim finger at his chest. “I don’t want you to protect me either.”
Ethan snorted before he could help himself. “Don’t lie to yourself, Lieutenant. You don’t look like the kind of woman who has ever had to resort to self-deception to get through the day.”
She blushed. “You’re an asshole, Marsh.”
“My fathers would’ve said that I get that from my mother,” Ethan returned evenly. “It’s probably true.” He sighed. “Look, I’d really like nothing more than to climb on top of you and give you the long hard ride you obviously want but in four hours I’m on a plane state side and if my extremely bad luck holds I won’t ever see your pretty ass again. So it’s probably a bad idea.”
Lesley frowned at him. “Four hours? That’s not a lot of time.”
“No, it sure isn’t,” Ethan agreed.
“There is a hotel down the street,” Lesley announced and turned on her heel to stalk towards it. “Haul ass, Chief Marsh, and if you call me Lieutenant while you’re fucking me I’m going to make you regret it.”
Ethan paused for all of two seconds and then waved off his team who had been patiently waiting with a jeep to return to base. He was rewarded with a half dozen knowing smirks. He trotted after the too-hot-for-her-own-good Lieutenant while silently promising himself to not only call her by her rank once he got her tied to the bed but to make her call him by his.
* * * *
Ethan checked his reflection in a passing mirror as he and fifteen other men were led down a narrow hallway. He looked like he’d been rode hard and put up wet which wasn’t exactly ideal but he could hardly regret the hour of sleep he’d gotten and the reason why it was all he’d gotten. The hangar he’d been led into was practically empty. A few of the men around him were looking slightly disgruntled because they were supposed to be getting sorted for the trip back to the states. He glanced around with a smirk and there was a snort of laughter. All sixteen men abruptly dropped their duffels and saluted General Randolph Rampart.
“At ease,” Rampart said with a grin and pushed off the wall he’d been leaning on. He walked to Marsh and looked him over. “Matt’s all too pretty face and John’s attitude. That should be interesting.”
Ethan flushed. “Sir.”
“Long night, Chief?” Randolph questioned with a grin that made the men around them laugh. He patted Ethan’s cheek. “You look like you had a rough one.”
“Short, sir. All too short.” Ethan cleared his throat. “I wasn’t aware that my brother Matthew was participating in a mission with Marine personnel.”
“It’s a relatively new assignment, he earned the flight commander position with the biggest mission we have,” Randolph murmured and then he stepped back. “Gentlemen, I’m here personally because you’re about to be debriefed on the most important and classified mission on this planet. You’re being recruited for this mission because you are uniquely qualified for it.” He focused on Ethan. “Some more than others.” He glanced at his watch. “Lt. Colonel Davis, United States Air Force is going to start us off and I caution you, gentlemen, that I will not tolerate interruptions. Every single word out of his mouth for the next three hours is the goddamned gospel. Am I understood?”
“Sir, yes sir!”
“Good, take a seat because first we’re going to go over the largest confidentiality agreement known to mankind.”
* * * *
John sat back and stared blankly at the computer screen of the laptop he and McKay had been sharing since they arrived on Earth. Well, more to the point—Rodney was using it and he consented to let his Dom have it for an average of thirty minutes first thing in the morning for his email. John shot his sub an amused glanced. Rodney was sprawled on the bed, a thin sheet covering most of him. Wearing his ass out with sex was enough to get John at least an hour on the computer before McKay started making grabby hands at the laptop.
He knew that Rodney would’ve preferred to go back to the SGC and wait the three days they had left on Earth there but John had known that would lead to more work for both of them and he found the sanctuary of his first pleasure house too relaxing to give up immediately. Blake had understood and hadn’t pushed for their immediate return. It wasn’t like it mattered where the Apollo beamed them up from as long as they could do it without witnesses.
The second team of Navy SEALS for Atlantis was being sorted and Ethan was among them. The SGC had found that his ATA was just as strong as Matthew’s so they were pretty excited. John just sincerely hoped like hell they didn’t approach his mother for research. Though, from what he knew of her she was entirely too selfish to agree to something without a great deal of compensation—personal and monetary. He fired off a request to have Ethan sorted to the SGC instead of directly to the Apollo so he could meet with his kid brother in private before they left. John figured the kid was going to mightily pissed with him. The ten or so emails they’d exchanged since the expedition had established contact with Earth had been terse on Ethan’s end. Maybe it would be better once his hot headed little brother was debriefed.
Ethan wasn’t Patrick Sheppard’s son but John had learned early on his temperament wasn’t all that different. His father had been pissed about the Pegasus mission and it stood to reason that Ethan would be just as furious. John thought perhaps Ethan would be more entitled to the anger—he and Matthew were all the family Ethan Marsh had on Earth.
Warm hands drifted over his shoulders and lips pressed against the side of his neck. “Come back to bed.”
John quirked an eyebrow in surprise. “You don’t want the computer?”
Rodney laughed. “No, I want you. Come play with me.”
John let himself be prodded back to the bed and moaned a little when Rodney spread himself out on the bed. He spread his legs without a single hesitation exposing his still slick hole. Sheppard laughed softly as he pressed McKay’s legs back and slid right into him. “Not too sore for this? This is the third time today.”
“I love your cock in me,” Rodney said with a soft hiss. He curled his hands around the iron bars of the headboard. “Love the way you fuck me, come in me.”
John leaned forward and caught one of his sub’s nipples between his teeth. He worried it roughly until Rodney shuddered and groaned around the hot pain of his bite. He released it and sought out the other. Pressing his cock in deep, he trailed sharp bites over McKay’s pecs, indulging them both with the intimate and personal pain play that could only come from biting.
* * * *
“The biggest current off world mission for Stargate Command is the Atlantis Expedition. It is a joint civilian-military operation under the control of the IOA. Dr. Elizabeth Weir, a seasoned diplomat, is the leader and administrator of the expedition.” Paul Davis paused and glanced down to the far table where John Sheppard’s little brother was diligently taking notes. “The military assets on the expedition are lead by a United States Marine, Colonel John Sheppard.” Ethan’s head snapped up and his eyes darkened. “Colonel Sheppard was originally second in command of the expedition under Colonel Marshall Sumner. Some of you in this room have had the privilege of meeting both of these men and some of you have not. Colonel Sumner was lost during combat six months ago.”
Paul cleared his throat. “We’re bringing you to the SGC because of your unique abilities for infiltration, recon, and combat experience. Half of you will sort to Atlantis.” He focused entirely on Ethan.
“Will I…” Ethan took a deep breath.
“He’d have it no other way, son,” Rampart answered before Paul Davis could.
Ethan relaxed slightly, but he glanced down over his notes and lifted his gaze. “What exactly in the Pegasus Galaxy is so bad that you’re leaving a decorated war hero like John out there? Isn’t the Ori a pretty big threat?”
Rampart smirked. “The Ori are a huge threat, kid, but they don’t want to eat us.” Mouths dropped open around the room and Ethan sat back in his chair with a frown. “Paul, let’s talk about the Wraith.”
* * * *
John stood up from this stretching and glanced up briefly at the student Doms that were lingering near the sparring ring. He figured that Syed would spank his ass if he broke one of his kids so he had ignored their interest in interacting with him and moved through a series of katas he’d learned at Lotus and then drifted easily into the ones he’d learned from Teyla. By his second Athosian kata two of the students had broken off from the group and were doing their level best to emulate him.
He slowed down and moved through each one three times, giving them time to catch on before moving onto the next one. John shifted his stance briefly and began again; his gaze drifting to his sub was ensconced at one of the tables on the patio with his laptop and a tray of food. By the time he turned for the next move, Mason Blake and Gerard de Sade had joined McKay at the table. Content that Rodney was in company he could trust not to touch him—he refocused on the kids and found he had four instead of just two.
Rodney closed his laptop and sat back in his chair with another full cup of coffee. “I think he’s totally violating the Prime Directive.”
Mason snorted and shook his head. “Is that alien?”
“Athosian. You remember that beautiful alien woman—she teaches John alien judo or something. It’s like dancing with sticks—violent dancing with sticks.” Rodney’s gaze drifted over John’s long, lean form possessively. “He does it so often I wonder about his own pain kinks.”
Gerard chuckled. “He does look… amazing and ridiculously fit.”
Rodney nodded. John was wearing a pair of thin black cotton pants and not a damn thing else. He looked relaxed, content, and just amazing really. “All part of the Marine package.”
Gerard sighed. “I’m so jealous, Rodney.”
McKay grinned. “You can’t have everything pretty on the planet, Gerard, that just wouldn’t even be fair.” He set aside his coffee. “Did you want me to call the kitchen for a tea pot? You don’t like coffee.”
Gerard shook his head. “Andre is taking care of that. He’ll be here shortly.” He took a deep breath and motioned out the sparring area. “Now, that’s a problem.”
Rodney returned his gaze to the area where John had been exercising and found that one of the house Doms had come out to the courtyard. He was offering John a pair of black sticks. “What’s this?”
“House art form, ceremonial stick fighting,” de Sade explained. “Everyone learns it and that big son of a bitch is the current champion on the island. You can’t think that everyone here appreciates the fact that John is Syed’s favored son. To have a white man attain such status in an ancient pleasure house in this part of the world—it’s unheard of.”
Rodney glanced briefly at Gerard. “de Sade is the oldest pleasure house still operational on Earth.”
“Formally,” Gerard conceded. “But, Kesakitan Pembawa has been reborn many times and has held many different names. As it is currently developed, it’s only a few years behind de Sade but a pleasure house has stood on this island for thousands of years. That’s Ga-su. He’s Syed’s nephew and Mistress Kia’s darling. He did two sessions at de Sade, but only one at Lotus before coming here.” He paused when he caught Rodney frowning. “He won’t hurt him—Rodney. He’s not that stupid.”
Rodney laughed suddenly. “Are you kidding, Gerard? You think that pampered child has a chance against John?”
Gerard’s mouth dropped open at the disbelief in Rodney’s tone and shrugged. “That pampered child does nothing but practice and teach. He’s also ten years younger than your Marine.”
“And John goes to war for a living,” Blake corrected gently. “He’ll probably have to work pretty damn hard not to hurt kid.”
John accepted the sticks and swallowed back a sigh. He glanced up at Syed’s balcony and wasn’t surprised at all to see him standing there. He inclined his head, seeking permission and absolution for the object lesson he was about to teach his Dom Master’s nephew. Syed just smiled and leaned casually on the railing.
One of the younger men who had been with John earlier trotted over to a large bell and rang it with a grin. Instantly, doors opened all over the court yard, the large balconies outside of classrooms were full of students in under a minute. Simulated combat exercises were a house tradition—both for physical and mental discipline. John liked to think he was a better soldier because of the training he’d had as a teenager on the island.
He took up his position with a rueful glance Blake’s way and just sighed when the Air Force General offered him a truly cheerful smirk. It had been years since John had to deal with any kind of house hierarchy or the dominance games that came with it. The young man was good—strong, lithe, and just as mean-spirited as John expected him to be. He couldn’t have imagined the current senior master on the island to be to be anything less. He let him take the offense, defending himself easily and with the kind of agility that came from decades of training.
Ga-su resented the hell out of John—he’d known that the moment he’d set eyes on the kid. Sheppard had dealt with that kind of bone-deep animosity on and off all of his adult life. He’d lead a privileged life both personally and professionally—that kind of thing bred resentment. As a younger man, it would make him furious to be instantly judged by another. Years of loss and combat had taught him to let that kind of thing just slide right off of him as long as the Dom didn’t make it personal.
Twenty minutes into what should’ve been a sparring session; Ga-su drew blood—splitting cloth and skin with a vicious blow across John’s thigh. Sheppard took the blow in stride but all conversation in the court yard came to an abrupt halt. A minute later he had the kid disarmed and on his stomach. He used one hand to hold the younger man on the ground as he came down on top of him.
Ga-su struggled, spitting out a series of curses in Malay but John said nothing until his captive was spent under him. “Do you yield?”
The silence was cut by sharp intakes of breath.
Ga-su spread his arms out on the ground, his palms flat. “Yes, Sire, I yield.”
John rolled to his feet and watched with shrewd eyes as Ga-su shifted to his knees, shaking back long black hair, the younger man met his gaze with glittering dark brown eyes. After a few seconds, John offered him his hand and Ga-su took it without hesitation. He brought the young Dom close and kissed him gently on the mouth. “You are a credit to our house.” He pressed another kiss against his damp forehead.
Rodney watched the exchange with a mixture of feelings churning in his gut. The young, entirely too beautiful Dom was leaning into John with all the devotion he’d seen most of the men and women on the island show to Dato’ Raja himself. John dismissed all of the students with a sharp command in Malay and the court yard cleared quickly. John grabbed a towel from a large basket near the edge of the patio as he passed it and walked to the table.
Rodney’s fingers slid over the tear in his pants and examined the shallow cut. The area was bruised horribly. “We should put some Tollan crème on that before the injury sets in and you’ll need a full body scan before you even think about getting in an X-302. Also, I can’t believe you let him hit…”
John leaned down and kissed the complaint right out of his mouth. “Hush, Rodney, giving him a little blood took the bite out of the defeat.” He touched his jaw and rubbed his thumb over his sub’s bottom lip. “I can’t break the people that I want to respect me. Understand?”
“Oui, Maître.” A blush stole across Rodney’s cheeks and John grinned.
* * * *
Kia Nakamura had been the Mistress of Lotus for nearly as long as her brother had been the Master of Kesakitan Pembawa. They’d been born within weeks of each other and been raised in the same household under the hand of a profoundly harsh father and series of female submissives. Their own mothers had drifted away in such a way that neither Kia nor Syed really could say they missed them until it was too late to protest. They’d learned soon enough not to get attached to the submissives their father collared as they never lasted long.
Kia blamed her childhood for her singular lack of interest in having children of her own. She knew Syed felt the same—had always known he’d never have his own children. His attachment to the teenaged John Sheppard had been an immense surprise. At fifteen, John had been sleekly beautiful—so much in fact that more than one Dom within Kesakitan Pembawa had lamented his pure lack of submissiveness. In other houses, she could’ve seen that young, tempting beauty misused—breached in horrible ways in an effort to shape him into something or someone he wasn’t meant to be. She wondered if Patrick Sheppard had worried about that and if that was why he’d brought him and David both to Singapore.
She cleared her throat. “There was a time in the history of my country when we had but one established pleasure house.” All conversation in the room stopped, and the occupants of the table turned to her with an offer of their complete attention. It was no less than what she was used to. “After many years, it was decided that we would split into two houses—Lotus and Heian. The decision to split was not taken without a great deal of discussion but we felt it necessary so that our population could focus on the training that best suited them.”
Kia focused on Rodney McKay. She understood his appeal on a bone deep level, now. At first glance, she’d all but dismissed him—not understanding at all what de Sade or Sheppard saw in the man. He had a strong body, a nice face, and vivid blue eyes but she’d seen far more beautiful people in her life. McKay didn’t look like anything special at least not until she’d watched him submit so completely to the will of his Master and to the pleasure of the cane. Now, the man made her mouth water.
“Lotus Geisha are marked with petals of the Lotus flower because they are delicate. Heian Geisha are marked with a coiling dragon on their neck because of the fire that burns in them. Much like the fire that burns in you, Dr. McKay. The strength and passion by which you submit was stunning to watch. I was honored to be in the audience during your exhibition with your Dom.” She smiled at the blush. It was insanely charming and it layered another unexpected beauty over the man. “Traditionally, dominants from both Lotus and Heian are marked with swords. Did you know that?”
McKay nodded. “Yes, Madame, I am aware. I’ve seen such markings in the past and as with all things associated with your house—they were elegant and beautiful.” His fingers trailed along the stem of his wine glass. “The writing on each sword is different—a testament of the teacher that marks the Dom.”
Kia smiled. “Yes. What do you know about the star that your house marks their submissives with?”
Rodney glanced briefly at de Sade who nodded his permission abruptly. “The Marquis chose to mark his submissive with a 9-point star because he believed the young man to be his North Star and that no matter where he went—his star would guide him home. The house adopted the star burst marking system after the death of the pair, in honor of their relationship which is often told as quite epic, romantic, and tragic since they died within days of each other.”
“But you are a scientist,” Kia started with a wry grin. “And do not believe in epic, romantic love?”
Rodney stared at his wine for a few seconds and then cleared his throat. “Actually, I believe love is the reason we are here. If I did not believe it without reservation—I couldn’t have accepted my own mark. I loathe hypocrisy.”
Kia nodded then. “I’m to extend you invitation to Heian House, John. Master Kaemon would welcome you and your submissive for a special session at your leisure. I would extend you the same invitation but I fear if I were to let you return to the hands of Akira that he would not part with you until he could mark you as a Dom of our house.” She offered him a shrewd smile. “And perhaps the house of the dragon suits you both all the better.”
John curled his fingers gently with Rodney’s. “We are honored. I will contact Master Kaemon and make arrangements when leave will allow it.”
“Speaking of marks,” Syed murmured from the head of the table. “John, I would have you retire with me this evening so I may renew the ink in yours.” He glanced at McKay. “Dr. McKay is welcome to watch.”
* * * *
Ethan Marsh wanted to kick someone’s ass. Instead, he’d let himself be shown to temporary quarters at the SGC where he’d thrown himself on a bunk and proceeded to simmer in temper. Beaming to the underground base had erased any doubts he had about Rampart and that Air Force Colonel being insane. It had crossed his mind that perhaps he was the one that had gone around the bend but there wasn’t a whole lot he could do about it if that were the case.
He glanced at the laptop he’d been given full of mission reports from Atlantis—some of it he was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to have because Rampart had winked at him when he’d handed it over. He kind of had a top crush on Rampart so the wink had made him all stupid and warm inside so some of the subtext might have been lost.
With a groan, he rolled off the bunk and went in search of food. Food always made him feel better. It only took him ten minutes to find the mess hall and another five to pick out some food that probably wouldn’t make him wish he was back in Iraq. The place was noisy but not so much that he wanted to take his food back to his quarters. He settled at a table and was alone for roughly forty-five seconds before another tray plunked down in front of him.
Ethan lifted an eyebrow at the intruder, taking in the name and rank with a casual glance. “Colonel Pensky.”
“Chief Marsh,” Pensky offered with a cool smile. “You look a great deal like your brother Matthew.”
“We get told that a lot,” Ethan acknowledged. “Our mother is something else.” It wasn’t necessarily a great something else. So far he’d been managed to avoid meeting her—though she’d certainly tried to insert herself in his life after his fathers had been killed. “Can I help you with something, sir?”
“Just thought you might like some company, Chief.”
Ethan quirked an eyebrow and then laughed a little. He picked up his milk carton and shook it vigorously. “I’m not a submissive, Colonel and I don’t play top games with other Doms.”
“Sure about that?” Scott questioned.
His gaze slid over Ethan with the kind of interest he’d forced himself to get used a long time ago. He’d often wondered how John put up with it because he didn’t doubt his big brother had similar problems. “Yeah, I’m positive.” His gaze narrowed on the Colonel and he took a deep breath. “I ship out in the morning so I’m looking forward to getting some rest after my meal.”
A couple of Marines slid into chairs at the table and Pensky got up and left without another word. His chair was filled by another Marine before Ethan had time to even speak to the first two who had arrived. “Good evening, gentlemen.”
“Mike Keener, Kyle Ross, and I’m Casey Morgan.” The Marine speaking offered Ethan his hand without hesitation. “You’re Ethan Marsh—Colonel Sheppard’s baby brother.”
Ethan didn’t even wince at being call the baby which was definitely a step up for him. He took the hand. “Yeah, how did you…”
“It’s the talk of the mountain,” Mike confided. “But we found out from the mission debrief this morning. We’re being sorted to Atlantis with you and the rest of the SEALS. Injuries and the like.” He pointed in Casey’s direction. “The Lieutenant is going out as a pilot replacement.”
Casey flushed and waved it off. “I got lucky. I qualified for the X-302 only a week ago and one of the pilots on Atlantis got sick. I probably wouldn’t see Atlantis for another year otherwise.”
“So what’s up with the rescue?” Ethan asked with a quirked eyebrow. “Because he beat a hasty retreat.”
“Pensky hates your brother,” Ross offered without reserve or an ounce of self-preservation. “Lobbied to replace him on the Atlantis mission with someone from the Air Force. He said Marines are all blunt objects… apparently things got pretty heated.”
Ethan frowned. John was probably one of the smartest people he knew. “John has a PhD in Math. What does that guy Pensky have?”
“A couple of degrees and no real combat experience,” Casey murmured and sighed. “Enough of that talk in the mess guys. You can fill the Chief in later. I’d rather not get called to Pensky’s office for a lecture on my personal habits again.”
“Again?” Ethan questioned.
Casey blushed and then rolled his eyes. “Pensky is one of those officers who thinks that every submissive under him should just roll over for it. I got a lecture a few months back for dating someone enlisted. Apparently, I should be using my private dynamic to advance my career.”
“Translation—you should be sleeping with him,” Ethan responded and shook his head. “That’s not a ringing endorsement for this command.”
“Pensky’s granddaddy is the Secretary of Defense,” Casey explained. “General O’Neill doesn’t let him get away with shit like he has in other commands but there are lots of things Pensky can do that the old man can’t call him on legally. As a result, Pensky gets sent off world a lot. We figure if he gets enough boring geological missions that he’ll beg to be reassigned out of the SGC.”
Ethan laughed at that. “I just bet.”
* * * *
The tattoo needles offered a slick, stinging pain that made his blood hum in some strange way that wasn’t exactly arousal but skirted closer to something darker that John had never wanted to touch. Most sadists like a little pain in their play and John was no different. He loved it when Rodney dug his hands and teeth into his skin when they fucked. Liked to be clawed and scratched while he pounds hard and fast into his sub’s tight ass. That kind of pain is familiar, accepted, and even desired.
But the pain of being marked had stayed with him for years, echoing in his psyche in a way that was insidious and addictive. It made his bones itch and he kind of hated it. Syed worked carefully over the skin, darkening the lines that edged his tattoo across his shoulders and down his back. “This looks remarkably good.”
Syed hummed a little under his breath. “I would like to add to it, if I may.”
John turned his head and looked at him for the first time since he’d laid down on the table. “Sire?”
“It’s time, don’t you think, John?”
John stared at him for a full minute in silence as Syed continued to work fresh black ink into the tattoo already on his skin. “Yes, Sire. I believe so.”
Syed nodded. “Lianne, retrieve Dr. Ye and inform her that we’ll need her services for hair removal.” He looked up at Rodney who was seated a few feet away with his laptop. “Dr. McKay, you will help prepare his skin for his final markings.”
“Final markings?” Rodney questioned, his eyes wide.
John smiled as Syed gracefully stood and stripped off his robe without a care in the world. The house markings that spread out over his shoulders and up his neck also trailed downward, narrowing into two paths down his sides, curving around over his hips, across his pubic bone to connect in a series of intricate circles around his cock—which lay thick and impressive on his thigh at the moment. McKay, for his part, stared for several seconds before he cleared his throat and averted his gaze.
“What does the completion of this mark mean?” Rodney questioned softly as he set aside his computer and joined them near the table.
Syed pulled his robe back on with a small smile and tied it off. “It’s a house honor and has no bearing in the world at large. It solidifies his place as my pewaris darah. Though I am grooming Ga-su to take my place as house Master—John will become my equal within our house and no one will ever elevate themselves above him.”
Rodney picked up the bottle of alcohol at Syed’s gesture and started to clean John’s lower back. The hum of the tattoo gun returned and McKay watched his Dom relax into the pain. He hummed a little. “I envy you a little, sir.”
John chuckled. “Why?”
“This must feel amazing. I know I’d enjoy it so much.” Rodney flushed when Syed laughed but he continued to clean the skin carefully. “Pewaris darah… that means ‘blood heir’.”
John turned to look at him. “How did you know that?”
“I overheard one of the students call you that over breakfast so I looked it up,” Rodney admitted. “He didn’t sound like he was being disrespectful but I wanted to make sure. What does it mean? Will you return here to teach at some point?”
“No.” John shook his head. “It means that Syed claims me as his son both in spirit and dynamic. It’s a…” He trailed off and glanced at his Master.
“It makes John house royalty,” Syed murmured. “Much like you are within de Sade. As I said in the world, at large, it means little but within our private world it is the highest of honors.” He his fingers drifted over the war bracelet mark of La Petite Mort on John’s bicep. “I spoke with Philippe earlier today and told him that I planned to touch up my ink. He gave me permission to do the same for his if it suits you.”
John paused and considered it. “No, Sire. I’d prefer that he…” he took a deep breath. “I’ll visit him when I’m Earth next.”
“We both believed you’d feel that way,” Syed said, amused. “It looks good and is hardly faded all. You’ve always taken excellent care of the ink.”
“The Tollan crème really helps,” John admitted. “Since that came out on the market, it’s been easier to keep the ink from fading.”
“It’s an excellent product,” Syed agreed. “Though I find myself a little irritated by it now that I know where it comes from. Mason tells me the Tollan were assholes.”
“Were they ever,” Rodney muttered.
* * * *
“You’re frowning,” John pointed out as McKay soothed Tollan crème over the black ink that now swirled down his sides and blended into a beautiful distinct design over his pubic bone and around his cock. “You don’t like it?”
“I think I miss the hair,” Rodney admitted. “You’re beautiful and the new marks only add to it. Do you know why he chose to do it now?”
“I think it really pissed him off when Ga-su drew blood on me today.” He glanced down at his thigh. There was a small bruise but the place where the skin had split was gone thanks to the crème. “It was a breach of discipline and temper, I’m sure he punished him in private for it.”
“Despite how you ended it?”
“It’s not my job to maintain order and discipline on this island. It’s Syed’s and if he’s going to pass that responsibility onto Ga-su he has to earn it and put aside his own petty, personal bullshit at the same time. It’s about the security of our house—not the ambitions of one very young man.” John lifted his hips and sighed. “The fucked up thing about these marks as I can’t imagine having sex until they are healed completely.”
“That’s fucked up,” Rodney agreed. “But it shouldn’t be long with the crème. Did you check your email?”
“Yeah, but nothing from Atlantis. Looks like O’Neill hasn’t even released our last databurst. I did get a new list of transfers and Ethan is in the mountain. We’re going to take about eight soldiers out with us—four Navy SEALS.”
“You and your special forces soldiers,” Rodney admonished.
“Yeah, I’m going to start calling my company The BAMFs,” John confided. “I might get t-shirts.”
“Well, they are all definitely bad ass mother fuckers,” Rodney agreed and leaned down. He placed a soft kiss on the center of John’s chest. “How is your back?”
“Not bad, really, the crème did wonders.”
* * * *
Gerard watched his sub, taking in the subtle but tense lines of his body. “Do you wish I’d left you at home with Raiden?”
Andre shook his head. “My place is at your side, Maître.” He continued to carefully fold and put away the clothing he’d had laundered. “And I know you enjoy spending time with Dr. McKay.”
Gerard huffed a little in surprise. “Andre, you do realize I haven’t touched McKay since I marked him, right?”
Andre looked at him with a neutral expression. “I’m not jealous. That’s Raiden’s little drama.”
It was a drama that was getting old if Gerard was going to be honest with himself. He enjoyed Raiden but it was obvious the sub wanted something from him that he couldn’t give. He’d vehemently protested Andre’s collar in private and the tension had been irritating as fuck. “So you’re not remotely jealous?”
Andre offered him a mild glare. “I don’t need my ego stroked like your dragon, Maître. I am very aware of how much you value and want me. Your collar is all the validation that I need on that subject.”
Gerard sprawled on the couch and crooked his finger at his sub. Andre came to him immediately. He shed the robe he’d been wearing most of the morning and slid confidently into his Dom’s lap. “The first time I saw you—I wanted you.” He trailed his fingers over Andre’s thighs, loving the play of soft skin over firm muscles. “Is Raiden’s attitude getting to you?”
Andre pursed his lips. “It’s not my place to complain about such a thing.”
Gerard pulled him closer, so they were groin to groin, and cupped Andre’s ass with both hands. “I’m not asking you to complain—I’m asking you to tell me if his little games are pissing you off.”
“What would it matter?” Andre questioned softly, letting his forehead rest on his Dom’s lightly. “He… he was collared before me. You took him into your home and bed right after he was marked by his house. I understand that he is special to you.”
“And you think you’re less special?” Gerard demanded in a low voice. “When have I ever said anything like that to you?”
“You haven’t,” Andre acknowledged. “But he’s a Geisha, you collared him first, and I… I’m the one with a separate bedroom. He’s never had any other bed in your house but yours.”
Gerard’s mouth dropped open briefly and he closed it with a snap of teeth. “You think… Andy, I gave you your own space in my home—in all of my homes because I wanted you to have all the privacy you had before you were collared. Raiden went from living in a pleasure house to living in my home. He’s never had his own apartment or even a job. When I release him from my collar—he’ll be given access to a trustfund and an apartment in New York.”
“When you release him,” Andre repeated carefully. “What will you do when you release me? Are you going to throw a lot of money at me and tell me to have a nice life, too?”
Gerard flushed. “I’ve never treated one of my collared submissives that way and I wouldn’t start with you. Raiden knew the limits of his time with me when I collared him. He requested and I agreed to a three year contract. That contract will expire in a few months.”
Andre moved closer and curled his fingers into Gerard’s hair. “I don’t have a contract.”
“No, you don’t.” Gerard pressed a soft kiss against his jaw. “I’d have probably argued with you a whole fucking lot if you’d tried to contract a time limit between us.”
“Is Raiden a house obligation?” Andre questioned softly against Gerard’s hair.
“Not in any formal way, but his Geisha Master felt he would be better introduced to the world if he had someone strong to guide him. I wouldn’t have taken him or collared him if I hadn’t wanted him. He’s challenging and beautiful. I don’t regret the time I’ve spent with him but it will end fairly soon and he knows that.” Gerard stroked the small of his sub’s back with idle fingers. “He brought up extending the contract a few weeks back and I told him that I wouldn’t be doing that.”
“Because he needs to be free to explore and I promised his Geisha Master I wouldn’t keep him longer than that. Raiden isn’t meant for a man like me—he finds my relationships with my disciples irritating and my pain kinks confuse the fuck out of him.”
Andre laughed. “They don’t confuse me—I love to watch one of your Doms hurt you.” He moved closer and rubbed his erect cock against Gerard’s bare stomach. “The awesome part about this house is that everyone walks around practically naked.” He shifted a little and pushed one hand down between them so he could free his Dom’s cock. “I’m really not jealous of McKay—at least not in the way you might think.”
Gerard lifted him easily and they both groaned as Andre slid down onto his cock. “I love how you’re always slick for me.”
“It’s my place to be ready for you,” Andre murmured against his cheek. “Always slick and hot for your cock.” He rocked on Gerard with a shudder. “I’d love to take a ride on John Sheppard.”
“Christ who wouldn’t?” Gerard demanded in a low voice. “He’s sex on a stick.”
“I’d love to watch him cane you,” Andre said softly and laughed when Gerard shivered under him. “You’d take it so well from him, wouldn’t you? I could come watching him pleasure you like that. You always get so hard and needy when you’re being caned. His big cock would be hard and jerking with each strike he gave you.” He braced himself by curling his hands over his Dom’s shoulders and started to move a little harder just the way he knew Gerard liked. “Could you take enough to make him come?”
“God, I’d certainly like to try,” Gerard admitted with a groan. He wrapped one hand around Andre’s cock and started to jerk him off slowly. “You’re such a pretty boy.” He leaned up and latched onto one of Andre’s nipples and sucked it hard. “So fucking pretty.”
Andre arched in Gerard’s arms and moaned softly. “I want you to teach me to come without ejaculating.”
Gerard released his nipple and then bit into the pectoral muscle briefly before relaxing back on the couch. “Whatever you want, love.” He pulled him down and kissed him on the mouth fiercely and then forced him to meet his gaze. “How about we stay here for a few months and take a session with Raja. Would you like that?”
“What about Raiden?”
“I’ll send for him but he won’t be in our session,” Gerard murmured and kissed him again. “I won’t take the time I gave him away—he doesn’t deserve that.”
“No agreed. Not even when he’s being a little bitch.”
Gerard laughed and caught Andre’s bottom lip in his teeth gently. “I love it when he’s a little bitch.” He tightened his grip on his sub’s cock. “Come.”
Andre trembled through an orgasm, coming gently in his Dom’s hand with a sigh. “I wasn’t done.”
“Oh, you aren’t. Trust me,” Gerard promised, his eyes dark and glittering with aggression.
* * * *
Ethan was enjoying what he was told could be the last real bacon he’d see for maybe a year when the mess hall muted the way it always does when an high ranking officer makes an appearance. His gaze jerked to the doorway and he blinked in surprise—he’d been told that John would join them on the ship. Yet, there he stood in his dark green service uniform looking every inch the bad ass Marine he’d been the first time they’d met. Ethan had been fresh out of BUD/S and itching for action when he’d found out a Captain in the Marine Corps was pulling all kinds of strings that a man of that rank shouldn’t even have to meet him.
His first thought at the sight of the man had been—wow, he’s hot. The officer had stuck out his hand to him—green eyes shining with emotion and told him plainly, “I’m your brother, John.” The instant affection and family connection was difficult to explain to anyone but it was there—fierce and bright. He’d met Matthew later and sweet, so submissive Jared a few weeks after that. His gut got tight at the thought of Jared and wondered how John was really doing. He’d heard about the new sub, the new collar.
Ethan was moving, really before he even knew it and John met him half way—catching him up in a strong embrace. “You son of a bitch.”
John laughed and tapped his face gently. “I told you about talking about the woman that pushed us out like that.”
Ethan blushed and let John pull him out of the now silent mess hall and down the hall. “I’m going to kick your ass, John.”
“You’re very welcome to try, kid.” John curved an arm around his shoulders. “Come on, you gotta meet McKay. He’s up in one of the conference rooms making some politician cry. It’s great.”
“Matt said that McKay was funny and the smartest person to ever exist.”
John chuckled. “Yeah, arrogant, self-righteous, a beautiful challenge in every single way. I’m stupid over him. It’s insane.”
It was, Ethan, thought because McKay didn’t sound a damn bit like Jared. Maybe that was a good thing—he didn’t know but the relief of being with his brothers on a mission was extreme. He’d never had the opportunity to serve with them—not even Matthew which had always been a source of irritation for them both.
They entered the conference room and Ethan’s gaze narrowed in on the man he knew to be McKay. He’d read a very brief personnel file on the man—enough to know he was a priceless military asset, John’s submissive, and so smart it was entirely likely he’d be insane before he was fifty. The psyche profile said he was fragile which was so much bullshit that Ethan figured he should send the psychologist a letter letting him know.
“I realize, Mr. Faxon, that you were drunk through most of your college experience but it would just be grand if you would pay attention me when I’m speaking,” McKay snapped. “I’m even speaking English for you.”
Joe Faxon flushed red and averted his gaze before speaking. “Dr. McKay, the IOA wants you to sign a new contract.”
“The IOA can kiss my ass,” Rodney returned evenly. “I’m not signing another contract until my other one expires and I make a decision on my future employment. If they don’t like that—I can exercise my out-clause now and go find somewhere else to play.”
Ethan watched John slouch down in a chair beside McKay with and took the chair beside him when John patted it confidently.
“Rodney this is Senior Chief Ethan Marsh—my baby brother. At least, I’m pretty sure he’s my youngest. My mother hasn’t admitted to any other children. Ethan this is my Rodney—berating government officials is one of his many entertaining hobbies.”
Ethan offered the scientist a small smile and was rewarded with one in return. McKay’s bright blue eyes glanced over him in a shrewd, knowing way and he nodded abruptly before returning that powerful gaze to the guy in the suit across from him.
“Are we done here?” Rodney demanded with a small frown.
Faxon huffed dramatically and turned pleadingly to John. “Colonel Sheppard…”
“Don’t bother,” John responded evenly. “You and certain members of the IOA might have a problem respecting Dr. McKay’s choices but I don’t. You will take care with how you speak to him, however, or I’ll remove him from this meeting entirely.”
Faxon flushed and his hand curled into a fist. “And what am I supposed to tell the President and the IOA?”
“Tell them very good coffee and expensive chocolate makes McKay happy and a happy genius is a productive genuis,” John offered with a grin.
* * * *
John walked into the small conference room on the Apollo, a tablet PC in hand, and every man in the room jerked up from their seats to salute him. “As you were, gentlemen.” He shifted his shoulders as he set aside the PC and propped up on the table in the front of the room to wait while they got seated again. “I’m Colonel John Sheppard and the current military commander for the Atlantis Expedition. The expedition is civilian led and civilian heavy. It’s also top heavy—both in military and civilian population. Frustrations can, understandably, run high. Dr. Elizabeth Weir is the leader of the expedition and I answer to her. This means—if you fuck up so badly with a civilian that she calls me into her office for a talk, you can be assured that I will have you over my knee by the end of the day.”
Ethan quirked an eyebrow. “Me, too?”
“Nah, kid, but I’ve got enough officers under me that finding someone to spank you wouldn’t be a problem at all,” John assured. “I try not to discipline family that being said—if you do something that puts you on the cross you’ll get the rough end of my strap and I won’t go easy on you.”
“I’ll behave or I won’t get caught,” Ethan promised sincerely, blue eyes bright with amusement and goodwill.
John didn’t roll his eyes but it was a close thing. “See that you don’t. Alright, all of you have laptops and you’ve been given mission files to review. I’ve marked the ones that I believe to be mission essential—read those first and the others as you have time. You’ll get an in-depth biology lesson on the Wraith and our mission when we get to Atlantis. Fortunately, the Apollo isn’t carrying cargo for the expedition so we’re going to hit the first gate we can in the Pegasus galaxy and gate home from there. We have five days on this ship so please mind your manners, don’t play where you aren’t wanted, and read the mission files. The rest can wait until we hit Atlantis.”
John glanced at out the window, taking in the blur of hyperspace. He’d called Atlantis home. He couldn’t even remember when the city had come to mean that to him. He shifted his shoulders again and sighed.
“You look like you’re about to crawl out of your skin,” Ethan remarked dryly.
“Dato’ Raja refreshed and added to my ink while I was in Singapore,” John admitted and shook his head abruptly when Ethan started to speak. “We can talk about it later, kid. Rodney and I are having dinner with Colonel Ellis at his request but we’ll be available after that. I’ll radio you.”
“Sure.” Ethan nodded. “Sounds good.”
John shifted again. “But before that I’m going to dip myself in Tollan crème.” He shook his head at the laughter it gained him. “You wouldn’t be laughing if you’d seen my new marks, gentlemen. If Dato’ Raja were an enemy I would’ve considered it an act of war instead of one of respect.”
Ethan grinned. “Cool. That’s very cool, actually.”
“Yeah,” John admitted. “Very cool.” He checked his watch. “I have to go grab McKay before the chief engineer on this ship makes up his mind about what to do with him. When I was in there it was fifty-fifty on spacing him and/or offering to have his genius love children.”
* * * *
He actually found McKay in their assigned quarters, unconscious. John stripped out of his clothes and was rummaging through their bags for the Tollan crème by the time McKay woke up enough to realize he wasn’t alone.
“Want my help?”
“Oh yeah,” John nodded. “It’s itching like crazy.”
“Almost healed though,” Rodney said around a yawn. “A few more applications and it’ll be done.” He scooted on the bed and rolled to his knees so John could lay down. “Sorry. I’m just exhausted.”
“We had a stressful week,” John murmured. “We can take a long nap after the crème.”
“Sounds good,” Rodney whispered. “I always sleep better when you’re in bed with me.”
John blinked at the admission, realizing that McKay probably wouldn’t have said it if he were more awake. He said nothing as Rodney worked the crème into his shoulders. When he was prodded to turn over, he did so and found Rodney’s expression subdued and pensive. He cleared his throat and waited until McKay met his gaze. “Me, too, you know. I didn’t even realize how much I missed sleeping next to someone until you were there beside me.”
Rodney smiled hesitantly and then took a deep breath. “Good.”
“Yeah,” John agreed and relaxed. “Very good, actually.”