by Kass

For Hurt/Comfort Bingo 2012 - the bingo square was "forced to hurt someone." Thanks to Sihaya Black and Sanj for giving this a once-over!

"We understand your concerns," Rodney said smoothly. Beside him, John elbowed him and threw him a sidelong glare, which he ignored. "As it happens, you're not the first to perceive a kind of colonialism in some of our galactic interactions--"

"This kind of behavior cannot continue," said the man in the spiked helmet. "We demand redress."

"We're really not authorized to have this conversation." John's voice was clipped with frustration. "Just let us head back to our city and get our leader for you."

And never return to this backwater planet, Rodney added mentally, but he kept his face bland. When they got home, Teyla was going to say this was why they shouldn't go offworld without her and Ronon, and Rodney was going to agree.

"Our council has met," spiked-helmet guy interrupted. "And a decision has been reached."

"Why do I not like the sound of that?" John muttered to Rodney.

"You are the military commander, are you not?" Spiked-helmet guy had his eyes fixed on John.

Rodney's stomach twisted in a sudden spike of nervousness. He didn't like the sound of this either.

"Yes sir," John said, managing to make the assent sound like a fuck-you.

"You will bear the punishment on behalf of your community. Ten lashes."

"You might want to reconsider that," John said, and Rodney could feel the tension in the room rising.

And then a brilliant idea struck him. "We have a taboo on our planet," Rodney said, all in a rush. "If our commander were to receive corporal punishment from an offworlder, he would never be allowed to return home again."

Beside him, he heard John stifle a snort.

"We will confer," their adversary informed them, and left the room. They could hear the click of the key in the door, locking them in. Rodney sagged into a chair, all of his adrenaline leaving him in a rush.

"Never be able to return home again?" John repeated, quirking an eyebrow, and suddenly Rodney felt better.

"It's ridiculous, granted, but they don't know that," Rodney pointed out. "And it gives them a graceful out."

"They can change their minds and send us home without losing face," John agreed. "Wouldn't want to step on one of our cultural taboos -- then they'd be as bad as we are."

"Spoken like the American you are," Rodney groused, but it was pro forma and they both knew it.

They heard the key turn and both of them straightened. Good; they were going to get out of this and go home.

This time hemlet guy came in with a phalanx of other soldiers, one of whom was carrying a glass-topped box.


"We would not wish to disregard your planetary taboos," said the man in the helmet. "So the lashes will be administered by one of your own."

One of our -- "What?!" Rodney blustered.

"This man is from your planet," their adversary said firmly, gesturing to Rodney. "He will deliver the lashes."

"No," Rodney said instantly. "No, that's not acceptable, I'm -- I'm from a different country, it's not--"

"The alternative," helmet-guy informed them, "is six months' imprisonment for your Colonel Sheppard."

There had to be a way out of this. Rodney's mind was whirling, frantic.

"Fine," John said.

"What?!" Rodney yelped.

"He'll do it. Let's go."

Two burly men in armor stepped forward and grabbed John, one taking each arm, and they dragged him out of the room.

"Wait, I can't--" Rodney began, but another guy in armor was prodding him to follow.

The room they were led to was empty except for a narrow leather-topped table, slightly higher than waist height. Above them, near one of the ceilings, there was a window; someone was already sitting behind the window, watching.

Great: a spectators' box.

"You will remove your shirt," helmet guy told John. "We will count the lashes from above. When the punishment is complete, we will escort you to your ship."

And then one of the soldiers opened the ceremonial-looking box and brought Rodney the implement. The lash. It was leather of some kind, and it had tails at one end.

Rodney's heart was pounding as though it wanted to come right out of his chest. John was pulling off his shirt as though they did this every day. He walked over to the leather-topped table and bent over it, longwise so it supported his whole torso.

"There are handles," said one of the guards helpfully, showing John where he could hold on.

And then the men in armor tromped out of the room and they were left alone. Rodney holding an alien cat-o-nine-tails, and John stripped to the waist and bent over a table, waiting.

"I don't know if I can do this," Rodney muttered. His heart was racing. There were butterflies not only in his stomach but all the way down his arms. He felt light-headed. And he wasn't the one who was about to get whipped.

"It's okay," John said quietly.

"This is barbaric! I can't--"

John let go of the handles and stood, facing Rodney. Some sick part of Rodney's brain registered how much this looked like the set-up for a porn film: the colonel in his combat boots and BDU trousers, half-naked, preparing to be flogged -- or maybe to drop to his knees and offer a blowjob.

"What the fuck is wrong with me," Rodney blurted, because now that he'd had the thought, he couldn't help the stirrings of arousal. And what did that make him?

"Look," John said. "They might let you go home, but they'll bar the 'gate; and I'm not doing six months' time, I don't care what they think we're guilty of."

"Of course not."

"So let's get this over with." John's tone brooked no disagreement. He returned to the table. Rodney saw the muscles in his shoulders move as he took a firm grip on the handholds.

"Okay," Rodney said unnecessarily. "I'm going to do this."

"Hit me," John said, and Rodney did.

The leather made a sound as it moved through the air, and the thwack as it landed on John's skin made Rodney flinch.

"One," John said unnecessarily. His voice was tight.

Again. And already red marks were appearing on his back. "Two," and now John sounded strained.

"Don't count," Rodney said, because hearing his voice made this worse, made him feel like a sadist. John gave a barely-perceptible nod.

Three and four. Five. Six. By the seventh stroke, even though Rodney was trying to vary where they fell, John's back was a welter of red. In the silence between the lashes, he could hear John breathing through clenched teeth.

"I'm sorry," Rodney whispered, and brought the thing down the final three times.

Immediately the door burst open and let in a man all in white carrying what looked like a medkit. Nurses clustered around John and Rodney felt the squeeze of panic as they blocked John from his sight. John hissed a breath of pain as one of them rubbed something into his wounds.

"I hate this fucking planet," Rodney said to no one. He was trembling. He dropped the lash on the floor, his fingers aching from how tightly he had been holding on.

Back in his own quarters, Rodney took the hottest shower he could stand. Trying vainly to wash the mental images out of his mind.

The whole scene felt unreal now. Had that really just happened?

It had. And it had been his glib fabrication which had led, somehow, to Rodney standing with a lash over the prone body of his best friend. Hating himself for enjoying, just the tiniest bit, the awful thing he was doing.

Out of the shower. Teeth brushed. He pulled on pyjamas on autopilot.

And then his door chimed. The butterflies which had taken up residence in his midsection returned to life. Who could it be at this hour?

John stood outside his door in flannel trousers and a faded Clash t-shirt. Rodney stared at him, trying to read the expression on his face.

"Can I come in?"

"Yes, yes, of course," Rodney said hastily and stepped out of the way. John was holding himself gingerly, he saw, which made Rodney feel terrible. (And the awareness that John had gotten the raw end of the deal -- quite literally -- and Rodney was the one freaking out made Rodney feel even worse.)

John made his way to Rodney's bed and lay down on his stomach, propping himself up on folded arms. Of course: chairs weren't going to be comfortable for a while, were they?

Rodney took a deep breath. How did one apologize for this kind of thing?

"I came to say thank you," John said, without preliminary.

"I -- what?"

"I know that was a shitty position to put you in, but you got us through it and you got us home."

"You're the one who got beaten," Rodney argued. He sank into a chair, which brought him closer to John.

John quirked a smile. How could he be so nonchalant about this? "I'd hardly call that a beating."

"I hurt you," Rodney managed, and then he didn't know what other words to say.

John's smile disappeared. Rodney's heart seized up.

"Listen to me, Rodney," John said, very quietly. "It's okay."

"It's not okay." Rodney knew he was being mulish, but he couldn't let this one go.

"It was the best way out of a bad situation. And I told you to do it."

"Under duress; that's hardly consent!"

John looked at him sharply. Oh God: what had he just given away?

"For the record," John's words were coming slowly now, but his eyes were locked on Rodney's, "you can whip me anytime."

"That sounds like a come-on," Rodney said, his brain on autopilot and apparently circumventing the usual filters which kept him from saying things like that. Especially to John.

"And the genius starts to get it." John's smile was a sly invitation.

There was only one way this conversation made sense, and that didn't make sense, but -- "You liked it?" Rodney's voice broke. Which would have been embarrassing, had this day not already been so weird that it obviated all of their ordinary thresholds.

John gave a little half-shrug, then winced, obviously regretting the motion. "If it's all the same to you, I'd prefer spanking next time."

Everything Rodney had thought he'd known about John, everything he thought he'd known about their relationship, shifted and recalibrated. Like a set of control crystals all turning at once, fitting into a new pattern, a new possibility.

"Oh," Rodney said. And then, "Really?"

"Really," John confirmed. And that was definitely a flirtatious smile.

The only reasonable response was to get down on his knees so that he was more-or-less at John's level, and to kiss him. So Rodney did.

The End