“I am fairly certain that next time, we can visit the Culi without our… men,” Teyla grinned as they were waiting at the gate for Sheppard to change into his clothes. “At least we established some sort of trust.”
The celebrations of the night before had been awful. John had spent most of the time on the floor, on his knees, waiting for Ziva to give him something to eat. He had felt like a dog, but he was fortunate enough that they hadn’t forced Ziva into bringing him to the dogtent and eat the food in there.
He hadn’t liked what it had been doing to him, walking around on bare feet, wearing nothing but some shorts, cuffs and a dog collar, being on a damn leash. Sitting at Ziva’s feet the entire time, forcing himself to stay quiet and calm and not look around too much. There had been times he had felt as if he was floating, as if it was the best thing that could ever had happened to him, but it was an experience he really liked to forget.
Of course, John loved it when Ziva took control in the bed room, their own private sanctum, he had been tied up before, and he had liked it, but on a mission? He had never felt more vulnerable in his entire life, despite Ziva being an excellent fighter.
Even now, getting back in his own clothes, he felt slightly off. He just wanted to go homeand take a thorough shower to get rid of all the sand and dirt on his body, and then sleep, for a very long time, then write up his report and sincerely hoped that Carter would stay true to her word; that no one but them would ever read it.
Back on Atlantis, John dumped his stuff in the armory before going to his quarters, nearly hopping underneath the shower fully clothed. Ziva and Teyla went to deal with Carter and Woolsey to provide their reports on the visit, promising him and Ronon that they would be as discrete as possible when it came to the details of what they endured. Future dealings with the people would certainly have to be handled by a woman and a woman alone.
When Ziva finally made it back to her quarters, she very happily stretched over her bed, grateful for the soft mattress. A part of her wished that John was there with her to share in the comfort but she knew he needed the time to himself, to find himself again from the ordeal even if it was just one night that made him feel so off.
He had spent almost an hour underneath the shower, the warmth making him feel almost human again and got dressed into a shirt and his jogging pants. John sat on the edge of his bed for a while, staring into nothingness. It was nowhere near bed time and he was tired, but he didn’t want to rob himself from a decent night’s sleep and that meant he had to stay awake.
John had experienced these feelings before, in another life, and he thought that he would never feel this way again. Not that he was openly willing to admit it. Nancy loved playing with him, because he was always a good boy and well behaved. She often hosted parties in their house, with John mainly taking care of everyone’s food and drink. But never as ‘bare’ as he had been the previous day. He had always been dressed the way she wanted him to.
After Nancy… he had tried to find someone who wanted to play with him but he got burned – bad.
The Culi experience had triggered something in him that he thought he had lost, something he had denied for a long time.
Sure, he was playing dumb with Ziva and the rest of Atlantis, but he knew exactlywhat had been going on and what kind of people the Culi were – well sort of, since this was a whole different galaxy and everything, but that was because he didn’t want to feel perverted or embarrassed or anything like that. John had been wondering if Ziva even knew that she had been doing, but then again, if she had, she might have been with him now, this was the longest subdrop he had ever experienced and it sucked.
Sighing, John decided to make his way over to Ziva. He just wanted to lay down in bed, feeling her arms around him and sleep. Again.
Ziva heard her door slide open but she couldn’t be bothered to move from where she had fallen on the bed. She grunted an acknowledgment that she knew he was there and even managed to pull the blanket back slightly, welcoming him into the bed with her.
She wasn’t even looking at him. Maybe she knew and was disgusted with him. Or maybe she didn’t know and just liked to stay in bed. Or maybe, she was done with him now, not wanting to acknowledge him with her eyes and hoped that he’d go away, even with shifting the bedding a little as some sort of invitation. He wasn’t sure. Maybe it was a better idea to find Rodney. John knewthat back on Earth, Rodney had been a Dom, and despite him being a man, and John totally not gay, Rodney would know what to do.
Or maybe, he had to stay and try to talk to Ziva about this. John sighed as he shifted on his feet a little, closing the door in the process, wiggling his toes in his shoes. “Uhm… we uhm…” He mentally kicked himself for not daring to tell her that they needed to talk. “We need to talk.” he said quickly.
Ziva laid there for a moment as she let out a breath and painfully rolled onto her back as she looked up at him. “What about?” she asked with sleep in her voice. “Can it wait until the both of us had some decent sleep? Come to bed…”
John was almost willing to crawl in bed with her, something he really wanted right now but he wasn’t sure now. “We need to talk,” he said again very quickly and took a deep breath. “Or, if you really want to sleep I’ll go and see Rodney…” he muttered as he played with his hands.
She sat up instantly at seeing his clear discomfort. “John? Come here,” she said reaching for him. “What’s the matter?”
He sighed as he sat down on the edge of her bed, not daring to look at her. Too embarrassed. “How ehm… Do you… no…” he sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Have you… ever done something like that before? You know, the Culi thing?”
Ziva blinked as she thought about it and shook her head. “No – well, I’ve fooled around with collars and stuff but never had it lasted that long…You know I am never one for much foreplay. Why?”
John sighed again, realizing that Ziva had absolutely no clue. Maybe it was a better idea to get Rodney. To have him explain it. Which meant that Rodney would know about the mission, the exact details and John wasn’t so sure if Rodney should know about that. He’d eat Ziva alive.
“John…please tell me what is going on,” she said again, breaking the silence. “I can’t help you with whatever is bothering you if you don’t tell me.”
“Play,” he shifted on the bed a little, facing her but looking at the wall behind her. “You know… the kinky stuff that Abby always goes on about?” Maybe he was telling this in the wrong order. “Nancy and I… uhm…” he shook his head and sighed. “After Nancy, not so good and ehm… I should have said something before we went… I should get Rodney to explain, really… I can’t… I’m not making any sense right now.”
Ziva looked at him, confused and worried. “John – are you saying that you were into that sort of thing before all this?”
He nodded slowly. “I ignored it for a long time.”
“And it bothered you?”
“No…” John sighed. “Remember I wanted to stay in bed yesterday after…”
“Yes,” she nodded, remembering. “We usually do lay together after sex. I -”
“That’s just sex… this felt different… it wasdifferent because I had been in subspace for quite some time…” he looked at her and she had a confused look on her face. “I should get Rodney, he can probably explain it better right now.”
“No. Don’t get him. It’ll take time but you can explain it to me. What does traveling in subspace have to do with the Culi mission?” she asked confused.
That was actually funny! John snorted and shook his head. “What does the collar mean to you when you play around with it?”
“Nothing. It’s just a toy. When Abby gave it to me, I figured on using it for Halloween or something then this mission came up and it would give it a more practical use,” she shrugged.
“How much do you know about…” John thought for a second and then decided to grab a bottle of water from her fridge. He was thirsty and since she wasn’t really sure about what she was doing, or had been doing with him, he wasn’t too afraid for the consequences. “Sub-cultures in sexuality? Sex? You might refer to it as kinky?”
Ziva opened her mouth to say something then quickly closed it. She was by far from inexperienced but she also didn’t go for all the things that Abby, or even Tony might do and them with her preferences. “Some, not much. I suppose that now that you bring it up, I might want to go look into it more, yes?”
“No,” John shook his head. “No, not unless you want to and only if you promise me to take lessons from Rodney, but that’s not the point.” He started to pace around, fidgeting with his water bottle.
The reassuring smile she had on her face quickly fell. “I’d rather learn it on my own or with you but I am nottaking lessons from McKay on sex. Would you stop being so antsy? It is just me in here! I’m not going to go run off screaming for the fills because you are into something like that! What do you really take me for?”
John stopped dead in his tracks and looked at her, wide-eyed. “Not into it… anymore, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up, I should have… I shouldn’t have said anything…”
“John Sheppard! If you weren’t into being chained and tied up anymore then I beg to differ because what happened last night in that cabin said something far from that. Don’t you even think about walking out now…” she added as she scrambled out of the bed to block the doorway.
“No… you’re getting it all wrong… so wrongand I can’t explain it to you the right way at the moment… no, please don’t be mad at me.”
“Then don’t explain it. Show me then – What? Why would I be mad at you? John you’re scaring me more than I can ever be mad at you because thisis not the you I am used to seeing!”
“Exactly,” John pointed out. “I… there’s a difference between our usual fun play and what happened on the planet. A big difference.” He sighed and took a sip from his water, trying to find his inner calm, his usual self although he was still too fuzzy and too distracted to do it fast. “Look… there’s sex… you and me. Sex, making love, having a little fun, doing the kinky stuff…” he smiled as he pointed to the bed. “The Culi… their culture is about females being the dominant sex, treating their men as dogs and that’s wrong. It’s wrong and upsetting because it’s not what I am used to… didn’t you think I was too compliant? I wasn’t even paying attention to everything, like Ronon, I could have taken a peek when I was sure nobody was watching but I didn’t, because you, acting like you know about the Culi culture, would knowand punish me.”
“I was just playing into what Teyla told me about them,” she said softly. “Playing the role so that they might find a trust in us that we could build that trade agreement.”
“You did it so well, that I felt safe. Secure. Loved.”
“I neverwould have let them touch you and I would have fought until I couldn’t fight anymore. I suppose that’s maybe my training before I cam here had something to do with it. I’ve had to blend in with a number of cultures very quickly if I expected to come out alive…”
“You don’t understand. You need to listen. You did it so well, it brought me back to… a lot of years ago. Nancy and I… she used to be my Domme, when we’d play. She took care of me. The collaring ceremony was… nice,” he said with a faint smile on his lips. “But it was so much more than that. Whenever she put the collar on, I was hers, and no one else’s. She could do things with me and to me within my set boundries and after we got divorced, I tried to find the special feelings I got whenever we played somewhere else, but I got screwed over. So I gave up on it. Ignored my feelings, locked it away. Being with the Culi… I should have said something when Teyla spoke of them, but I thought I could handle it. And I couldn’t.” John blurted out, waving his hands around, dropping the bottle on the floor. “I’m so far down, so far down… and not myself… and down… because… your inexperience didn’t see the signs… I came down so hard from my subspace… and we continued on… I wanted to cuddle after we had sex in the cabin, for the rest of the night but we had to go to that celebration and… by then it was too late for me to actually say something…” he rambled on and sighed. “I need you…”
Ziva smiled softly as she made her way over to him and cupped his face in her hands before kissing him softly. “Shh,” she shushed him before pulling him over to the bed and pushed him back to lay down. Once he finally complied, she pulled on his boots and anything else that would make rest uncomfortable like his belt. Climbing up, she straddled him before laying down over the length of his body, her fingers toying at the collar of his shirt to just feel a little of his skin as she wrapped herself around him. “I am here,” she whispered, kissing his jaw. “I am here.”
John put his arms around her and breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m sorry… it won’t happen again… I promise… I just thought you needed to know…”
She shifted her kissed from his jaw to his mouth as a way of silencing him. “I will definitely be able to help you should this happen again, now that I know. Just rest now. I won’t go anywhere.”
He softly caressed her hair and closed his eyes. He felt safe again, and maybe it wasn’t perfect the way this started out, he was grateful that Ziva hadn’t rejected him because of this. John realized how scary this was to her, and he mentally promised her that he’d keep it locked up as he had for years, and not return to the Culi – ever, to prevent this from happening again. He smiled and slowly drifted off in a nice, comfortable sleep.
When he woke up again, it was dark and he was hungry. Ziva was still on top of him, which amused him to no end. John slowly rolled them over and placed her on the bed after prying her limbs off of him and softly kissed her. “Wakey wakey.”
She moaned as she stretched her arms out and blinked her eyes open. “What time is it?” she mumbled, wishing to go back to the comfortable bliss she was previously in.
“Ten pm… I’m hungry, do you want something from the mess hall?”
“No. I’m good. Are you feeling better?” she asked as she sat up to gather her bearings.
“Yeah, I’m good,” he smiled and softly kissed her. “I’m sorry about earlier.”
Ziva smiled as she closed her eyes. “Don’t just need to remember to let me know if you get that way again so that I canhelp you. If I don’t know – I can’t do anything for you. We are off for the weekend now. I forgot to tell you earlier. Gift from Carter, so to speak.”
“It won’t happen again,” he said, looking for his boots. “I’m going to get some food,” he kissed her again after getting into his boots, deciding not to tie them up and headed out to the mess hall.
“You’re up late.” Rodney noted from his table in the empty mess hall when he saw his friend walk into the mess hall. “Had wild monkey sex with Ziva? Because if you have… Zelenka needs to pay up!”
“No, we slept for a couple of hours.” John chuckled and was grateful that the cooks had left something. Sure, whatever the food was supposed to be, it was probably cold and tasting funny but John was hungry. He took a mug of coffee and joined Rodney at his table.
“Shouldn’t you go back to Ziva? You two are practically joined at the hip!”
“Would you stop that? Please?” He shot at his friend and shook his head. “I’m joining you for a late night snack or extremely late dinner, I didn’t even know you were in here. So shut up.”
Rodney shrugged and dug into his blob of food. “Shame you didn’t find out whether or not the Culi have the resources to create a ZPM.”
“They’re a very different culture… I’m sure that in time, we will find out.”
“I can’t wait to read the reports.” Rodney snorted. “All female civilisation? You must have had a blast.”
John shrugged and this time it was his turn to stab into the blob on his tray. “So, what have you been doing in the last two days?”
“Trying to upgrade a Jumper… don’t worry I didn’t use yours or Lorne’s as a test subject, but it backfired so now we have to repair the Jumper.”
“Of course,” he chuckled. “What else have you been doing?”
“I just told you that I’ve tried to upgrade a Jumper and that I’m now fixing it, what? You think I pull miracles out my sleeve?” Rodney took a sip of his coffee and eyed his friend carefully. “You’re trying to keep me from asking you questions about the Culi!”
John shrugged and shoved a mouthful of blob in his mouth and instantly regretted it. It was cold, tasted funny and the texture was awful too.
“I know that Carter and Woolsey promised you that no one would read the reports, what happened?”
He shrugged again. “Different culture.”
“Can’t be that bad, how bad was it for them to seal the reports?”
John took a deep breath and sighed. “The Culi are a culture made out of women who keep men as dogs and status symbols and slaves.”
“Christ!” Rodney blinked at John. “Are you okay?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?” For some reason, John felt as if he was being judged by Rodney, knowing that Rodney had been on to his…pastever since they met.
“Come on, Sheppard.”
“Yeah, I’m fine now,” John took a sip of his coffee and sighed. “It sent me back, and Ziva didn’t know what she was doing other than playing the part.”
“No, it’s fine. The subdrop wasn’t nice, but I’m fine now, I managed to tell her.”
“Want me to talk to her?”
“Nah, because it won’t happen again. I’m not going back there.”
“Are you sure? You should have come to me, John.”
He rolled his eyes at Rodney. “Thought had crossed my mind, but I wanted to know for sure that she didn’t know what she was doing, and I was right. So it’s not her fault. It’s not anyone’s fault, stuff happens. I’m okay now.”
“Okay, fine. But if this happens again, you should tell me… I know we’re both straight and all, but I can still make sure you’ll be alright if you drop like that again.”
“I know, thanks Rodney.” Deciding he’d rather eat a power bar, John put his tray on the cart and took his mug of coffee. “And be nice to Ziva, okay? She didn’t have a clue… I thought I could handle it.”
“Yeah yeah… next time I’ll just use your Jumper to try and upgrade.”
“Sure.” John chuckled. “Good night, Rodney.”
John had finished his coffee by the time he made it back to Ziva’s quarters and had made a stop to get a power bar along the way. He was surprised to find Ziva awake and drying herself off in the bathroom from taking a shower after she had been so sleepy in bed before he left. “The blob was awful,” John noted. “Be glad you didn’t come.”
“Ugh,” she moaned at the thought. “I think I have chocolate somewhere to tide us over til breakfast if you want. Maybe some crackers and oreos. I don’t remember which. You can look in the box labeled knives in my closet and see.”
“Ohh!” John grinned and peeked in her closet. Taking the box, he opened it and emptied it on her bed. “There’s a lot of goodies here.” He flopped down on the bed and opened a chocolate bar wrapper as he watched Ziva get into her nightgown.
“That means that McKay hadn’t found it yet,” she grinned as she made her way back over to him and picked up a package of Nutter-Butter cookies. “When do you get your next leave?”
“What? You have plans?” John smiled as he looked at her. “I’m sure something can be arranged, considering I don’t usually take leave.”
She shrugged. “I was thinking of taking a vacation back to Earth. Maybe visit the team, our families…”
“You miss them, don’t you?” John knew that the short birthday visit of Gibbs and Tony hadn’t been enough for her, and he already hated the day she’d tell him that she would really like to go back to Earth permanently. “I’m sure that if I ask, I can get leave.”
Ziva frowned as she played with the wrapper from the cookies. “I do, but really I want my father to meet you and you to meet him. You know that my relationship with him has been – difficult, but we have been conversing through e-mail a lot more in the last year that I think that something might be there still.”
He looked at her as he munched on his Mars bar. “Sure, if that would make you happy, I’ll be happy to meet your father,” he responded. “I’ll talk to Carter and Woolsey first thing after waking up in the morning.”
“It doesn’t have to be right away. Just thought I’d throw the idea out there,” Ziva replied as she shifted to move onto his lap. “I’m more than happy right here, right now.”
“Yeah, I know… but this isn’t really your world, is it?” He chuckled as he kissed softly on her neck.
“It’s not like I’m being wasted. It is different from NCIS but not unpleasantly so,” she answered. “There is more we can do here than we can do there.”
“Well, over there you can kick some bad guys ass, make Earth a bit more safe from the bad people on Earth… and I’m sure that I could continue my work too, just from a different place, and be home more often.” He grinned. Not that he was already willing to give up on Atlantis and the work they did, but their recent mission – and the one before that where he felt himself being super careful for some reason, had made him think about his life, his future.
And maybe that wasn’t Atlantis, maybe it was Ziva who was his future now, especially now that she wanted him to meet her father, despite her rocky relationship with the head of Mossad. That somehow made him realize that she wasn’t going to abandon him, that she loved him like he loved her. And maybe, just maybe, it was time for a change of scenery.
There were plenty of jobs for him waiting at the SGC if he explained his reasons, there were enough gene carriers on Atlantis now, and even if they did need him, he was only a gate trip away. He’d make his final decision if they would go back to Earth and meet her father, and meet up with her friends. If he wasn’t alienated too much, he might make the right decision.