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Life in Pegasus

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“This is so exciting! They must have at least three ZPMs, but they don't really need them. It wouldn't do them any harm to give us one of them. We could spend years here and would still find something new to discover and explore in this city!”

John turned his head to look at Rodney, who was literally bouncing on his feet with excitement. The genius scientist had found the address of this planet among other data in a hidden database in an abandoned lab they had just discovered after their return to Pegasus, and it had taken him months to decipher the data and locate the gate addresses they had found.

None of them had expected to find another planet with Ancient technology that was still in use among the new ones though, even more because the humans living in the Pegasus Galaxy normally didn't possess the ATA-gene one needed to operate the devices of the Ancients. The Antinari seemed to be descendants of the Ancients, they didn't understand the complicated technology of their ascendants anymore, but a lot of them could still use and maintain it to some extent, and John really understood Rodney's exaltation, even though he found himself being less excited and more wary ever since they had stepped through the gate and seen the large tower craning its long shimmering neck into the heavily clouded sky of Antinara how the Antinari called their home planet.

The Antinari had welcomed them warmly and brought them to the tower where their Lord Protector resided to start negotiations about a possible alliance with him, and the Lord Protector had showed them around in the tower personally over the last two days, seemingly eager to please them. Their quarters settled on the highest floor - directly under the roof of the building - were luxurious, but John would actually have preferred to sleep on the hard ground of a shack in the forest nearby the city because he felt watched the entire time ever since they had entered the tower which seemed to be the center and the heart of the town.

Rodney was too occupied with his discoveries to notice that something was off, but Ronon and Teyla looked as uncomfortable as John felt, and the dark-haired colonel wished not for the first time that Todd would be here with them and cover their backs.

John hadn't seen the Wraith since Todd had left Atlantis a couple of days ago to see to his duties as the High Commander of his ten Hives, and John was torn between relief and his longing for the ancient male. Todd had kept his promise to give him the time he needed before making their changed relationship official, and Todd hadn't tried to come closer to him and touch him in a more intimate way than just pat his shoulder now and then, and John had to admit that he was confused and didn't know what to make out of Todd's behavior.

Going on a mission and explore an unknown planet had seemed to be a good idea to distract him from his musings and his mixed feelings towards the Wraith, but John really wished that Todd would be here with them now. None of the Antinari had mentioned the ubiquitous threat of the Wraith so far, and they only shrugged their shoulders when John or Teyla approached this topic, refusing to give them a proper answer to their questions.

These people obviously weren't interested in an alliance with Atlantis because they hoped that the city would help them in case of a Wraith attack, but more because they didn't have the knowledge how to repair their technology any longer, and John hoped that they would find something the Antinari considered as worthy enough to give them one of their ZPMs in return.

The Lord Protector had promised them to think about their offer during their first encounter, but two days had passed since then, and Loraan still had to give them an answer. The tall Antinari with the dark eyes and the steel-gray hair was polite and treated John's team like most welcome guests he had waited to host them in his tower for all of his life, but he regarded John with a strange expression now and then, and the hazel-eyed colonel had the bad feeling that Loraan was hiding something from them.

“Yes, but Loraan doesn't seem to be in a hurry to negotiate with us,” John now drawled, but Rodney waved his worries away.

“The Antinari haven't had any contact to other planets for a rather long time, they have everything they need here, and they most likely found it wiser to stay on their own planet because of the Wraith. It's understandable that they need some time to get to know us before they agree to negotiations. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, Sheppard. Pressing them won't get us anywhere. We can move around freely and no one has tried to imprison or poison us so far, and Loraan is truly interested in an alliance with us, he just needs some time get to know us better, that's all.” The genius stated, not looking up from his tablet.

The scientist was completely in his element here, so happy with all of the fascinating Ancient technology surrounding him that he tended to throw all caution to the winds. McKay wasn't military and looked differently at things most of the times, but maybe it was John who was too pessimistic here, it was hard to tell. Life in Pegasus was always full of surprises, and it was better to be safe than sorry – John had learned that the hard way a long time ago. His last encounter with a hostile Wraith Hive had just proved that right, providing him with a mate he hadn't expected to get at all.

But John had to admit that Rodney probably had a point here because the Antinari hadn't taken their equipment so far and even left them their weapons, and John instinctively felt for the dagger hidden in his boot. Todd had kept his promise and demanded to get the engagement present back he had gifted to his bonded mate, and the Commander of the other Hive had obeyed, honoring the Wraith laws with a grim face and a snarl. John was glad to have it back, feeling strangely naked and vulnerable without Todd's knife in his boot.

“Hmm, I don't think that this is the only reason for their reluctance, but let us hope that you're right here, McKay,” John now said with a sigh, walking over to the window to look down at the Stargate he could see in the distance. He did find it strange that the Antinari hadn't tried to use the gate to visit other planets because they knew its purpose and how to dial out, but John didn't know enough about their culture and their beliefs to understand their way of thinking.

“The Lord Protector wants to see you.” the quiet voice of a young Antinari pulled John out of his thoughts and made him turn around.

“We're pleased to hear that,” he said with a smile, waving at Rodney to follow him. Loraan had insisted on Ronon and Teyla staying in another suite during their stay, another fact that made John suspicious and wary, and he really longed to leave this planet again and go back to Atlantis any time soon. He didn't like to be away from his city for too long, and apart from that, he really needed to have another talk with Todd about their relationship and how to deal with it in the future. John hated to have unfinished business, and his uncertainty about Todd's and most of all his own feelings distracted him pretty much from his work and his duties as the military commander of Atlantis.

John followed the young man quietly with Rodney walking beside him, he really did wish that Todd would be here with them as well more and more with every step he made.

 

***

 

The young Antinari brought them to a splendid chamber that reminded John of the chair room in Atlantis, but the chair Loraan was sitting in was different from the chair in Atlantis as far as John could tell at first sight. The tall Lord Protector wore a long coat made of a shimmering silvery material over his tightly fitting black pants and his black shirt, and John's gaze was drawn to the heavy belt around his slim waist. The large clasp looked like a technical device, and John knew for sure that Loraan hadn't worn this belt the last time he had shown him around in the tower, something that increased his wariness pretty much.

“Colonel Sheppard, I'm pleased to tell you that I have come to a decision. Please have a seat so we can talk about our future alliance.” Loraan started the negotiations, gesturing invitingly at the four chairs arranged around his throne-like seat.

John approached the chairs slowly, exchanging a quick glance with Teyla and Ronon, who had just come in through another door opposite John and Rodney. “ Thank you, Loraan.” John flashed a cheesy smile at the Antinari before addressing his friends as they sat down on the chairs, Ronon looking tensed as though he was prepared to jump to his feet and fight his way to the gate at any second. “Teyla, Ronon, it's good to see you again.”

“It is, John. Rodney.” Teyla nodded at them with a weak smile, and John was relieved that the Athosian seemed to share his mistrust. Ronon was always mistrustful, but Teyla had a sixth sense when it came to possible dangers, and John trusted her judgment. “Can you feel the presence of any Wraith nearby?” John murmured quietly enough that Loraan couldn't hear him, and Teyla shook her head ever so slightly.

“No Wraith, John.” It was obvious that she wanted to say more, but Loraan speaking up again kept her from doing so.

“I have spoken to the council, and we have come to a decision, Colonel Sheppard. We are willing to agree to an alliance with Atlantis, sharing some of our technology with you and perhaps even providing you with one of our ZPMs – if you will agree to our conditions.”

“That's great, I knew that you would be willing to do that!” Rodney almost shouted, looking like a child under the Christmas tree at Loraan's words, but John couldn't really share his joy when he saw the way the Lord Protector regarded him appraisingly.

“And what kind of conditions would that be?” he wanted to know, keeping his face blank.

Loraan's smile made him look like a wolf baring its teeth. “Only one condition you'll surely find easy to agree to it, Colonel Sheppard. You just have to become my consort to get our technology and our ZPM.”

 

***

 

“It would be only a formal thing, Sheppard, I really don't get it why you're so opposed to this 'marriage'!” Rodney complained, pacing up and down in the quarters where they had been brought to after John's spontaneous refusal to Loraan's condition. It was only a rather small room that looked much more like a prison cell than like real guest quarters, totally different from their former luxurious quarters, and Loraan's guards suddenly appearing from behind the doors had also taken their weapons this time before accompanying them to the cells in the basement of the tower.

Luckily, they hadn't found John's dagger, probably thinking that John only used guns, but they had taken all of Ronon's various knifes and daggers, and John's knife was the only weapon that was left for them.

Loraan had also ordered them to hand Rodney's equipment and their radios to him, and John's hopes that another team would soon come from Atlantis to rescue them had been crashed when the Lord Protector had told them that the Antinari were able to raise a shield and keep others to from using the gate this way – probably one of the reasons why they didn't need to fear the Wraith as much as other planets had to fear them.

“If you think that, why don't you agree to become Loraan's consort then, McKay?” John hissed back, and the scientist rolled his eyes. “Loraan explained it to you, didn't he? He wants a consort with the natural Ancient gene because the Antinari have lost it over the centuries, and you are the one with the strongest ATA-gene here in Pegasus – except for the Ancients themselves. Just agree to this arrangement, and we will be free again!”

“You mean that you would be free again, McKay! I would have to spend a large amount of time on this planet, how shall that work? I'm the military commander of Atlantis as you might want to remember.”

Rodney just shrugged his shoulders. “Major Lorne will be there to replace you during that time, Sheppard. Come on, it's really no big deal!”

“Not for you!” John turned his head away, his heart hammering painfully in his chest.

“It's not that I agree with Rodney, John, but I would like to know if there are other reasons for you to refuse to even think about Loraan's conditions. I know that Earth has a different view on relationships between two men or two women, but Loraan surely doesn't expect you to share his bed with him. Besides, we're in Pegasus here, and our view on these kind of things is not the same as you look at such relationships on Earth, no one would judge you for this formal bonding with another male for the sake of a strong alliance and more technology and ZPMs, John. I do believe that even Mr. Woolsey would agree to that without too many objections.”

“I wouldn't be so sure about that. I don't like the way he's looking at him,” Ronon spoke up for the first time since the Antinari had taken his weapons away, and John shot him a grateful look. “Thank you, Ronon. I don't like the way he's regarding me as if I was a special dish on his plate either. I don't think that this 'marriage' would be only a formal thing as Rodney has put it. If they really need someone with the gene, then they'll want my... DNA at some point – in which way whatsoever.” John paused, avoiding to look at his teammates.

“You're right with what you've said about things being different here in Pegasus, even when it comes to marriages and relationships. Besides, the laws on Earth have been changed some time ago, so Loraan being male wouldn't be a problem. But you're not seriously considering that I should actually agree to this marriage?!” he asked incredulously, his throat tight with the lump he felt at the thought of the secret mate he actually already had.

John really didn't know what it was that made male and female Wraith and strange Lord Protectors of other planets crave to have him as their mate, and the hazel-eyed colonel rubbed his temples because a bad headache had started to throb behind his forehead. He had just started to really think about Todd as his bonded mate, and now he had to deal with the tall Antinari who wanted him to become his consort – whatever this 'formal marriage' might imply or not imply.

“You could pretend to agree to Loraan's wish to get us out of this cell at least. Play the shy shrinking violet to buy us more time in case that he'll really want more from you than you just sitting at his right side and looking good,” Rodney suggested, and John stared at him, torn between feeling offended and bursting out in hysterical laughter.

“Sitting at his side and looking good? What the heck has gotten into you, Rodney? Would you really agree to Loraan's condition – even if it was only to deceive him and buy us more time – if you were in my shoes?”

John would actually have suggested the same only a couple of weeks ago, but everything had changed when he had become Todd's bonded mate, and the mere thought of pretending to be somebody else's consort made him feel sick.

Rodney regarded him with narrowed eyes. “Why not? If it would get us out of here? Atlantis can't come to our help because of the damn shield, and we have no chance to contact the Daedalus or one of Todd's Hive without Loraan allowing us to use the hyper radio device that must exist here. We have done that countless times when circumstances demanded it that we played along to escape from captivity in the past, and I really don't understand why you don't even want to think about, Sheppard!”

The scientist had raised his voice, and John knew that he had to finally admit the reason for his reluctance to merely think of faking willingness to agree to 'marry' the Lord Protector of the Antinari. Todd had told him a few things about their mating bond after their return to Atlantis, and John simply couldn't betray the Wraith and become Loraan's consort.

The mating bond between Wraith and their chosen ones was the strongest bond that existed in Pegasus as far as John could tell from what he knew, and he was quite sure that Todd would rather die than let himself be forced into an arranged marriage and betray his mate this way – even not when it was only a fake. John might not have had any say in becoming Todd's mate, but he was his bonded mate now, and he wouldn't start their relationship with such a betrayal.

“I'm sorry, Rodney, but I just can't do that. Not because Loraan is male or because he might want more from me than just a good-looking adornment for his dinner table how you've put it so accurately. It's just that I already have a mate, and I simply can't do it because of this important fact. I am already bonded to another one, and I won't break the promise I've given them when we became mates.”

Three pairs of eyes stared at him in stunned silence, and John could feel cold sweat covering his forehead.

“You're joking, John, aren't you?” Rodney finally croaked out, but John shook his head. “No, I'm not, I'm sorry, McKay.”

“I see,” Teyla eventually said, regarding John calmly. “And who is it? I can't remember that you've ever mentioned such a bond. Is it someone from Earth?”

John swallowed. “It is still rather new, and we agreed to keep our relationship a secret for a while longer. It's complicated, and no, it's not someone living on Earth.” The hazel-eyed colonel straightened his shoulders and looked Ronon straight in the eyes as he opened his mouth again, ready to jump back and defend himself in case the big Satedan would attack him.

“It's Todd. Todd and I have become bonded mates a couple of weeks ago.”

Chapter Text

John's confession was met with deadly silence.

Three pairs of eyes stared at him, a blue one and two brown ones, and John found himself craving for another pair of eyes looking at him in this moment, yellow-golden and so different from those eyes humans possessed, but not less expressive and emotional in their own unique way.

“You're serious about this,” Rodney finally tried after several long seconds, and John pressed his lips to a thin line and nodded his head grimly. “Yep, I am. Todd and I have become mates on board the hostile Hive a couple of a weeks ago when you'd asked him to rescue me.”

“I see.” Rodney looked shocked, but at least not as furious as Ronon actually did, glaring daggers at John as though John had betrayed him in the worst way possible. Which John most likely had in some way, and the hazel-eyed colonel uncomfortably shifted his weight and averted his gaze from the tall Satedan to look at Rodney again instead.

“I didn't think that he would have to 'mate' with you to get you out of the Hive – whatever the word mating means in this case,” Rodney now continued, sounding as stunned and disbelieving as he probably felt. “I'd thought more of him using his ten Hives to intimidate this queen and make her set you free again.”

John grimaced. “The queen was already dead when he contacted her Hive. I had to kill her with Todd's knife – which was actually his mating gift, but I couldn't know that back then - and her commander was about to take her place and mate with me when Todd contacted him via hyper radio. There are some rather complicated Wraith laws we didn't know about them beforehand, and Todd coming alone and... uhm... completing our mating bond was the only way to rescue me without shedding more blood...” John knew that his words didn't make any sense, but he still had a hard time talking about his captivity and the events that had taken place afterwards.

“Since when do you have problems with shedding Wraith blood, Sheppard?” Ronon growled, his hands clenching and unclenching as if he had a hard time keeping himself from strangling John.

“It would have been my blood to shed, not Wraith blood, Ronon. There were two hundred angry Wraith on board waiting to either mate with me or kill me. Only Todd's old Wraith laws saved me from being killed right away.”

“I'm not sure that I have understood you completely, but have you just tried to tell us that the queen of this Hive tried to mate with you, John?” Teyla joined in their awkward conversation. John was grateful for her calm voice and her seeming willingness to hear him out before attacking him like Ronon apparently wanted to do it.

“Uhm, yes, I think so, Teyla. I'm still not really sure about everything myself...” John drawled, making Rodney roll his eyes at him. “Why don't you tell us everything from the beginning? This would surely be helpful for all of us to at least try and understand why you're suddenly mated to a Wraith, John.”

John swallowed, but he knew that he didn't have any other chance than to do that if he wanted Rodney and Teyla to help him against Ronon's wrath if it came to the worst. He took a deep breath and cleared his throat, stumbling his way through his fight with the queen and what had happened afterwards - when Todd had come to save him from either becoming the commander's bonded mate or getting killed by the angry Wraith thirsting for revenge for the death of their queen.

“I will kill him! I will kill this damn Wraith for what he did to you!” Ronon snarled furiously when John came to the part where he had negotiated the conditions of their mating with Todd. “I'll kill him with bare hands, then you'll be free again, Sheppard!”

Only a few months ago, John would have been pleased about Ronon's words, but to his own surprise he wasn't pleased about the Satedan's reaction now, and he scowled at him and hissed back.

“No, you won't do that, Ronon! Todd didn't force me into this relationship, and I won't let anybody harm him for what he did to save me! He would have accepted my no and sacrificed himself to give me the chance and flee from the Hive, and I agreed to become his mate willingly!”

“He might not have wanted to force you, but he still did. You didn't really have any choice in that matter, John,” Teyla said, and John scowled at her as well. “He didn't really have any choice in that matter either, Teyla. Todd is my mate now, and no one's going to hurt him, am I understood?”

Rodney had been silent during John's confession, and he pursed his lips thoughtfully as he regarded John. “Did you have to... I mean did he – did he really...This mark on your neck – it was him doing that then, not her?” The genius scientist had turned bright red, and John could feel his own cheeks heat up with embarrassment.

“Yes, it was he who left this mark on my throat. He told me to pretend that it was her doing to give me enough time to come to terms with our bond before talking to you about it. I know that I should have told you earlier about it, but somehow, there was never the right time to do that before today.
We did what we had to do to form a real and unquestionable mating bond, McKay, you will surely understand that I don't want to go into detail about what we had to do right here and now. And no, Todd didn't rape me, we... we haven't done 'it' so far, there was never the right time or place to merely think of coming together this way,” he ground out through gritted teeth, wishing desperately to be back on board the hostile Hive and fight his way out of it against two hundred angry Wraith rather than having to have this conversation with his angry teammates now. “Todd actually cares about me, and he would never harm me.”

“He fed from you! Several times even! How could you forget that and become his mate, Sheppard?!” Ronon shouted, and John turned his head to glare warningly at him. His voice was calm and impassive though, giving nothing away of his true feelings when he spoke up again.

“I haven't forgotten that, Ronon. I still have nightmares about these horrible days in the captivity of the Genii almost every second or third night. Todd fed from me, yes, but he also gave back to me what he'd taken without having to do that, and he has come to our help and save our asses more than only once, putting his own life at risk without hesitation. He would rather die than feed from me again, and he will protect me with his own life from now on – and this includes Atlantis and all of you as well! I know that you have very good reasons to hate the Wraith, Ronon, but Todd is not like all the other Wraith out there. He is our ally – has been our valuable ally for years actually - and he is my mate now! I expect you to accept that, all of you!”

“You've made your point very clear, John.” Teyla assured him almost friendlily, and John relaxed a little bit. Ronon hissed something that could be an agreement as much as it could be a threat to yet kill Todd with the next best opportunity offering itself to the tall Satedan, and John's heart clenched at the mere thought of losing Todd.

“Yes, you have,” Rodney sighed, crossing his arms before his chest. “So you don't want to fake this 'marriage' with Loraan because you don't want to cheat on Todd, so to speak.”

John nodded with an apologetic smile. “Yes, Rodney. I'm sorry, but I can't do this. I don't know what it is making so many people wanting to 'marry' me here in Pegasus, but I'm not available any longer, and I won't start my relationship with Todd with such a betrayal.”

“You can annul your bond with Todd. From what you've told us, you haven't really mated, not when you haven't done it so far.” Rodney looked hopeful, but John shook his head, another blush coloring his stubbly cheeks.

“Our mating bond is completed and real, Rodney, believe me. No annulling. Besides, this would most likely cause serious troubles with the other Wraith, especially the ones of the queen I've killed when she tried to mate with me. The chances that we will run into them again one day are pretty high, and this bond protects me from being imprisoned or killed by other Wraith to some extent if I've understood Todd correctly.
This is actually something you as my team and Atlantis will benefit from as well. I don't want to hide myself behind Todd's back like you're most likely thinking now, but being protected from possible attacks of hostile Hives all of the time to focus on finding allies and living in relative safety is what we're trying to achieve ever since we came to Pegasus, isn't it?”

John actually didn't want his mating bond with Todd to be annulled or divorced any longer, but this was something he still had a hard time admitting it even to himself, so he went with the arguments he used to justify his decision to stay Todd's mate to himself to convince his team that he couldn't break up with his infatuating Wraith mate instead.

Teyla gave John a long, thoughtful look, but she didn't comment on his rather transparent and lame excuse, but simply took matters in her own hand as she spoke up. “Then we have to talk to Loraan and tell him that,” she said, knocking at the door to their prison cell. “Maybe he will agree to something else when he hears about your mating bond with another one.”

 

***

 

Loraan's reaction to John's revelation was not what the hazel-eyed colonel had hoped for.

“I see. I'll allow you to contact your... mate then, Colonel Sheppard. I'll expect him to come here and fight with me for the right to be your mate. If he doesn't, then all of you are sentenced to death by our laws.”

Loraan waved at the guards without giving John and his team any chance to argue, ignoring the dark-haired colonel when he tried to speak. The guard pulled roughly at his arm, and Teyla's glance made John shut his mouth again.

Rodney was brought to the hyper radio device to contact Todd's Hive while John, Teyla and Ronon were brought back to their cell, waiting for Rodney to join them again.

John was grateful that neither Teyla, nor Ronon tried to talk to him, watching silently his restless pacing. Ronon looked still furious and betrayed, and John could only hope that he would get the chance to fix the damage that had been done to their friendship and Ronon's trust one day.

Rodney joined them again after what felt like hours, rubbing his forehead and looking tired.

“Could you contact Todd's Hive?” John asked, a lump forming in his throat as he waited for Rodney's answer. The blue-eyed scientist nodded his head and dropped down on the hard bench. “Yes, It took me some time to get through to them, and his second didn't want to let me talk to him at first, but I managed to convince him that it is truly important. He's on his way. Loraan gave me a code for him, they will lower the shield when he sends the code because Todd needs to reach Atlantis and come through the gate. We weren't allowed to talk much, Loraan's guards were watching me the entire time, but I think I know the reason why the Wraith tried to attack this planet only few times now.
Antaro how the Antinari call their sun is a strong gamma emitter. Antinara's thick atmosphere protects the Antinari from the gamma emissions, but Hives can't come close enough to this system without risking serious damage because of their organic structure. And the shield protects the Antinari from being attacked through their gate. I don't know why the shield was lowered when we came through, but it might be because the gate protector saw that we dialed in from Atlantis, the city of their direct ancestors they haven't had any contact with for ten thousand years.”

John pursed his lips. “Yes, that would be an explanation for a lot of things. We didn't really pay attention to their sun and the system itself, only to this planet. We should think of that in the future.”

“Yes, we should.” Rodney sighed and closed his eyes. “Todd was at the other side of the galaxy, it will take him some hours to come here. Try to sleep, John. Your pacing is getting on my nerves. There is nothing you can do at the moment.”

“Yes, I know.” John hesitantly sat down on the bench opposite to where Rodney had stretched out, next to the Athosian leader. Teyla smiled at him before taking up her position to mediate again, and John leaned against the hard wall and closed his eyes, drifting off to sleep with Ronon's hard stare following him into his restless slumber.

 

***

 

“You have already managed to charm another inhabitant of our beautiful galaxy with your intriguing and fascinating personality once more as I can see, Sheppard. It's not that I couldn't understand the feelings you obviously arouse in both - Wraith and humans - to the same extent, but I would really be grateful if you could perhaps be more careful in the future with whom you want to woo and bring under your spell, John. I don't mind coming to your rescue whenever you need me to do it, but it's kind of irritating to see how many broken hearts you're leaving in your wake. Has the same happened to you back then when you were still on Earth? I hardly dare to imagine how much suffering you must have caused when you left your beautiful blue planet to come to Pegasus and make us pant for your undivided attention in the future instead.”

“Todd!” John woke up from his light slumber when Todd came strolling into their cell, staring a little bit dumbfounded at his Wraith mate. His heart started to beat faster at the sight of the tall Wraith with the tousled silvery mane, and his breath hitched in his throat when the realization of how much he'd missed Todd literally crushed him. He had missed his sight and his multi-toned voice, now colored with slight mockery, and he had missed the feelings Todd aroused in him, irritation, anger, defiance, desire and longing, all of this at the same time.

Ronon growling furiously and jumping to go for the Wraith's throat pulled him out of his dazed state though, and John jumped to his feet and pushed himself between the tall Satedan and the ancient Commander within the blink of an eye.

“Ronon! Stop that at once!” he shouted, keeping his ground between the two snarling males when both tried to push him aside.

“I am perfectly capable of defending myself, John. There is no need to protect me from a single human, even though Ronon Dex is for sure one of the best fighters I've met in my long life,” Todd stated, all mockery gone from his voice now. He sounded like the fierce and dangerous predator and warrior he actually was, his voice hard and cold, and John didn't need to turn his head and look up at him to know that Todd's yellow-golden cat's eyes glowed with the same angry fire Ronon was shooting at him.

“I know that you are, Todd. I just wanted to make my point clear. You're my mate, and my team has to accept that – all of them. I won't just sit there and watch one of them attacking you to harm or kill you just because they don't approve of my choice.”

“I see.” Todd's voice softened a little bit, and his clawed hand came up to rest on John's shoulder. “So you have finally made our bond officially, John.”

John swallowed. “Yes, I have. I had to. I'd have preferred to do it under different circumstances, but Loraan didn't give me the chance to do that.” His eyes searched for Rodney's gaze. The scientist had jumped to his feet together with Teyla, watching the scene in front of him warily, and John felt stunned for a moment when he saw the determined look in the other man's eyes. Rodney might not like or understand it that John had mated with Todd, but he accepted John's choice and would support and help him, this was clear to see, and John felt deeply touched by this revelation.

Teyla was a different kind of matter, much harder to read, but she at least didn't look as if she wanted to attack Todd the very next second like Ronon did. The Satedan hadn't moved, but he was still tensed, ready to jump the Wraith the moment John moved to the side.

“Rodney wanted me to fake agreement to Loraan's condition, but I couldn't do that. I couldn't betray our bond like this. I'd hoped for another solution than you having to come to my rescue again, but here we are again in the same situation we've been in a couple of weeks ago.”

“Not quite the same, John. We don't have to deal with two hundred furious Wraith this time, and we already are bonded mates – which makes everything easier.” Todd said unfazed, his hand a heavy but welcome weight on his shoulder. John didn't know how their bond should make it easier for them to escape from Antinara, but the Wraith's next words let warmth pool in his stomach.

“I will always come gladly to your rescue, John, I'd think that you should know that by now. I've always come to your help even before we'd been mated to each other, and I will continue coming to your rescue as long as I live. You're my bonded mate now, and I will protect you and your team with my own life.”

Todd's calm reassurance seemed to impress even Ronon, because the Satedan finally stepped back and unballed his tight fists, even though he still looked furious and mistrustful.

The two guards standing by the door interrupted their little reunion at last, making themselves noticeable with a cough.

“Our Lord Protector is waiting for you. He wants this problem to be solved as quickly as possible.” The taller Antinari said, instinctively ducking his head between his shoulders when he found five pairs of angry eyes directed at him.

“With 'problem' you apparently mean the important fact that I already have a mate and can't become the consort of your Lord Protector, at least not willingly,” John growled, stepping closer to Todd. Not because he was afraid and needed Todd's protection, but because he felt defiant and annoyed that everyone in this room seemed to have something to say against his choice. John hadn't really wanted to become Todd's mate back then a couple of weeks ago, at least not the way it had happened with both of them being forced to do that on board a hostile Hive, but Todd was his mate now, and John would defend his decision and his relationship with the tall Wraith at all costs.

The guard blushed. “Our Lord Protector wants to talk to your – mate - about the conditions of the ritual fight, you shouldn't let him wait if you don't want to anger him.”

“I see. We will come with you, it's me he wants to fight about after all,” John said, and the guard opened his mouth to protest but closed it again. “It won't change anything if you're there to watch the fight or not, I guess,” he said, waving at them to follow him and his companion.

Ronon snarled something unintelligible, but he didn't object, just started off towards the exit of their cell with Rodney and Teyla in tow, and John lifted his chin up as he walked beside the ancient Commander, trying to tell himself that there was nothing he needed to be afraid of.

Todd was a powerful and strong Wraith, he had lived for ten thousand years, defeating the Ancients and surviving ten years in a prison cell of the Genii, so defeating the Lord Protector of the Antinari in close combat should actually be a rather easy thing to do for him, shouldn't it?

Chapter Text

The Lord Protector was sitting in his throne-like chair again when they entered the large room, wearing the same clothes he had worn the last time John had stood before the tall Antinari. The faked kindness and courtesy Loraan had shown during their first encounters were all gone, replaced by cold expediency and scheming, but John was actually relieved that the older man had finally dropped the mask he had worn to deceive them about his true intentions.

The hazel-eyed colonel was glad that Loraan had decided to give up his polite facade and show his true self instead, but the appraising and greedy look in the older man's eyes sent a cold shiver down on his back. Loraan didn't play a fair game, and his fight with Todd wouldn't be a fair fight either, that much was sure. John could only hope that Todd wouldn't let himself be fooled by the Antinari's seemingly human weakness and underestimate his opponent, thinking that defeating Loraan was an easy thing to do.

John glanced at the Wraith from the side, but Todd's face was calm and impassive except for the slightly narrowed shimmering yellow-golden cat's eyes he had fixed on the Antinari, ignoring John's attempt to catch his attention deliberately. Rodney, Teyla and Ronon had stopped behind John and Todd, standing very close to them and making it harder for Loraan's guards to approach them this way.

John was grateful for their loyalty, but he didn't make the mistake of thinking that his teammates approved of his choice and had forgiven him for his lies just like that. John hadn't actually really lied to them, but he hadn't told them the truth about the events on board the hostile Hive after his return either, and the young colonel knew that he owed his friends more than a simple and halfhearted apology for keeping the important news about his changed relationship with Todd to himself for so long.

Loraan leaned back in his throne with thoughtfully pursed lips, knowing quite well that he had every possible advantage on his side. John and his team couldn't leave Antinara without the code that lowered down the shield, and one single Wraith was certainly dangerous and a lethal threat, but even a freshly fed Wraith couldn't overpower and defeat the entire city. John at least hoped that Todd was rather freshly fed, he would need all of his strength for his fight with Loraan.

The two so different males measured each other silently without sparing a glance at the one they would fight about soon enough, and John was pleased to see the Antinari shifting his weight in his chair a little bit under the Wraith's thorough and somewhat mocking scrutiny.

“So you are the one who claims to be the mate of my future consort,” the Lord Protector broke the silence at last, his voice as arrogant as his expression was.

“No.” The single word contained enough irony and dry amusement to make Loraan flush with annoyance. “I don't claim to be Colonel Sheppard's mate, Lord Protector of the Antinari. I am his mate.” Todd returned Loraan's heated gaze calmly, and John stepped closer to the tall Wraith to prove his words to be right, and if it was just because he felt defiant about everybody questioning his ability to choose the right partner.

“I can't believe that such a powerful descendant of the great Ancients like Colonel Sheppard is would choose a Wraith to be his mate freely and willingly,” Loraan growled, “no honorable child of the Ancients would ever do that.”

Todd opened his mouth to answer to that insult, but John was faster, barely capable of keeping himself from attacking the impudent Antinari. “I can hear you, Lord Protector, so don't talk about me this way as if I wasn't even there. It's not my problem if you have a hard time accepting my choice of partners. Plus, I am not a child of the Ancients how you put it. I might have the ATA-gene, but that doesn't make me being more ancient than anyone else here in this room. I am a human coming from Earth, and the ATA-gene doesn't change that!”

Loraan smiled mildly at him, his voice as generous as though he would indeed speak to a small child or a person with limited intelligence. “Of course you are a child of the great Ancients, Colonel Sheppard. You denying the truth doesn't make it any less true. The Ancients – the ancestors of both of us – actually came from the world you call Earth and your home after all, didn't they? Plus, they went back to Earth when the species of murderers this ugly creature here belongs to threatened to extinguish them with their armies of cloned killer machines. You must be a direct descendant of our ancestors considering how strong your gene actually is, and I see it as my honorable duty to protect you from this killer and offer you your rightful place at my side as my cherished consort in the future. This – thing – here only wanted you as its mate because of your gene and your ability to use the technology of its former enemies, its only goal to control Atlantis and kill all of you in the end. I will make sure that it won't succeed, you will thank me for having come to your help in the end, John. You and your people will benefit from our marriage, I promise you.”

Todd beside him had tensed up during Loraan's impudent speech, and John instinctively grabbed his elbow to keep him from attacking the Antinari right there and then.

“It's Colonel Sheppard for you, Lord Protector. John is reserved for my mate and my friends and family only, and don't you ever dare calling my mate a 'thing'! He was a powerful Commander of many Hives before you were even born, and you have nothing on him – nor will you ever have!” he growled, earning a brief and astonished sidelong glance from the tall Wraith with his words.

“I don't need to be rescued by you, nor do I want to replace my mate with anybody else. Commander Todd has been our ally for a rather long time, and my relationship to him is none of your business, Lord Protector. You are the one who wants to gain power over my gene and over Atlantis with this marriage, this is quite clear to see - while his reasons to propose to me had nothing to do with anything of this kind, so who do you want to deceive with your words? Surely not me and my team. Not to mention that you insulting him won't get you anywhere.”

“You've heard my mate, Lord Protector of the Antinari,” Todd spoke up when John went silent, gently squeezing his fingers still enclosing Todd's elbow with his feeding hand. The tall Wraith turned his head to smile at John, and the hazel-eyed colonel returned the smile before focusing his attention back on Loraan.

“I suggest that we finally start to discuss the conditions of this fight, that's why I came here after all. My mate and his team don't look as though they really enjoyed your 'generous' hospitality, and forcing us to stay here for longer than strictly necessary won't help matters or make Colonel Sheppard change his mind about our relationship. Quite the opposite, you interrupted our schedule regarding our planned and overdue honeymoon - to speak in human terms so you'll be able to understand it as well, so please just tell us how do you plan our fight to happen - so we can go on with it and leave afterwards. ” Todd was still holding John's hand, but he looked at the Antinari, and John wasn't surprised when Ronon's startled and angry hiss at the sight of Todd touching his team-leader like this without John protesting or pulling away made its way to his ears.

Not to mention what kind of effect Todd's little speech about their 'overdue honeymoon' must have had on him. John could only stare at his infatuating and infuriating Wraith mate for a moment, stunned into shocked silence as he was trying to remember when they had talked about the delicate topic of their honeymoon after their return from the hostile Hive. He failed miserably of course, because he was damn sure that Todd hadn't brought up this topic until a minute ago, keeping his promise to give John the time he needed to wrap his head around his new status as the mate of a male Wraith.

Rodney and Teyla hadn't tried to say anything so far, but John could feel their eyes burning holes in his back, Rodney's strangled noise proving to the hazel-eyed colonel that the ancient Commander had actually managed to make the genius scientist be at loss for words for once. John was torn between his urge to scream at Todd and tell him off right in front of Loraan and his teammates and the laughter that wanted to escape him at the crazy and ridiculous situation, but he willed his features into what he hoped looked like a happy and pleased expression instead, stroking Todd's arm in faked anticipation of their honeymoon. He was aware that Todd had only wanted to provoke and challenge Loraan, but he wasn't so sure whether or not Ronon and Rodney had realized that as well. Teyla certainly had, but the two other men were not as sensitive when it came to such things as the Athosian actually was.

“As you wish, Wraith.” Loraan spat out, obviously annoyed that John didn't protest but gifted his rival with an adoring glance and a sound of excitement. It was clear to see that he had hoped that John would distance himself from Todd and choose him instead when the two of them were in the same room for the direct comparison between a Wraith and a human man who seemed to be much more attractive at first sight, but this was nothing John even needed to think about for just a second. Todd had proved his loyalty and his feelings for John more than only once, while Loraan didn't care about John only the slightest. He only wanted to gain power over Atlantis and get his hands on John's fresh DNA for his own people, and John neither trusted the tall Antinari, nor did he feel attracted to him in any way.

“Our fight will take place in the arena that belongs to this tower tomorrow at noon. We will fight with iron sticks until one of us is either dead or unable to fight any longer, admitting defeat. The winner will get Colonel Sheppard as their consort.” Loraan averted his eyes from his rival to look at John instead, and his hard and almost hateful glance made John shut his mouth again without throwing in his face what he had wanted to say. Loraan smiled when he saw the expression in John's eyes, but it was a cold and even cruel smile.

“If you refuse to become my consort in the more than likely case that I will defeat your Wraith puppy, then your team will have to pay for your unwillingness and insolence, Colonel Sheppard. I will kill all of you then, and you will have to watch them die before your own death.”

 

***

 

They had been brought to other quarters again, not as luxurious as their first ones, but at least more comfortable than the prison cell where they had spent the time until Todd had come through the gate. John had feared that Loraan would separate them – especially Todd – but to their luck, the Lord Protector's arrogance and feeling of superiority had kept him from doing that.

Maybe it was simply because Loraan hoped that Ronon would go for Todd's throat and spare him the fight with that, this was hard to tell, but John didn't want to think about the reasons the tall Antinari might have for his seeming mercy of letting them stay together. He was just grateful for having Todd by his side, not because he was afraid and needed his protection, but because he wanted to be able to cover Todd's back and keep him safe before the fight would take place the following day.

The damn Wraith seemed to read his thoughts again, because he grinned at him as strolled over to the table in the middle of the larger room, seating himself in one of the chairs with his arms resting comfortably on the dark wood of the table top.

“I don't need you to protect me, John,” he said casually and wryly, regarding the carafe filled with some greenish beverage someone had put on the table before their arrival. There was a large bowl filled with apple-like fruits and something that looked like cheese beside the carafe, but John was hesitant to try the offered refreshments, fearing that Loraan had ordered the servants to drug them.

“Of course you do. Having to fight against Ronon before your fight with the Lord Protector won't help us getting out of here. On the contrary - Loraan most likely let us stay together because he hoped that Ronon would attack you and weak you before your fight with him. He's not playing fair games,” John gave back, shooting a warning glare at the tall Satedan, who growled but stayed where he was next to the door at least, not trying to attack Todd like John had feared that he would do it as soon as they were alone in their new quarters.

The Wraith tilted his head in agreement, his posture far too relaxed for John's liking.

“No, he isn't, you're right with that, John. But he's far too proud and arrogant not to use the opportunity and impress you and the Antinari with his fighting skills. He won't try anything before tomorrow.” Todd paused, searching for Teyla's gaze. “I'm aware that it's not polite to poke around in other people's heads without permission, but circumstances make it necessary to do so. I could pick up some of the thoughts of Loraan's guards, but I could do with some help because the Antinari have a natural mind shield that protects their brains. If you allowed me to use your astonishing telepathic skills as an amplifier for my own, then I could find out what's going on here, Teyla Emagan.”

“You will stay away from her, damn Wraith!” Ronon snarled, stepping between the Athosian and Todd. The Wraith didn't even flinch, and he raised his hand when John made a move to come to his help. “It's okay, John. As I said – I don't need your protection. I won't harm her, Ronon Dex. Teyla will be in control of our link, I won't try to invade her mind. Besides, Teyla's abilities are as strong as those of any male Wraith, she wouldn't let me harm her without fighting against it anyway.”

“No, I wouldn't. Plus, you have a point here, Commander, even though I don't like the thought of spying on the Antinari like this,” Teyla stated calmly, laying her hand on Ronon's stiff arm. “Todd is right, Ronon. We need more information, and this is the best way to get them.”

“Are you really sure that you want to do that, Teyla?” Rodney asked, walking up and down between the locked door and the window opposite the entrance. It was small and secured with thick iron bars and an energy field, its flickering shimmer warning the residents of these quarters not to touch it.

John was too nervous to sit down, but he crossed the room to stand behind his mate and put his hands on his shoulders under the heavy black coat, lifting his chin in defiance when he met Ronon's furious glare. “We'll talk about this 'honeymoon' when we're back in Atlantis, Todd! I can't believe that you did that!” the hazel-eyed colonel whispered sharply into Todd's tousled mane, pulling a low rumble from the Wraith. “I'm looking forward to it, John. I shouldn't enjoy provoking and embarrassing you as much as I actually do, but you're too irresistible when you're angry.”

John decided not to honor this dry statement with an answer, watching Teyla sitting down opposite Todd with his fingers digging into the heavy black coat until his knuckles turned white. Todd must feel his painful grip, but he didn't pull away, just closed his eyes as he waited for Teyla to connect their minds. Even Rodney had stopped his restless pacing, grabbing the backrest of another chair and staring back and forth between Todd and the Athosian leader. Ronon had leaned against the wall beside the door with his arms folded across his broad chest, his dark eyes fixed on Todd's face, ready to jump him if the hated Wraith so much as only thought of hurting Teyla.

The slim woman placed her hands on the table in the same way Todd had done it, closing her own eyes and breathing in and out several times. John had watched her often enough to sense the moment she touched Todd's mind to amplify his telepathic skills and search for the thoughts of the Antinari, and he unconsciously held his own breath for a moment, not wanting to disturb them by making any sound.

John only drew in the next breath when the need for air finally forced him to do so, counting the seconds in his mind until Todd finally shifted his weight and opened his eyes again, followed by Teyla shortly after.

“It is not possible to read Loraan's thoughts – at least not without him sensing what we're trying to do, but we could pick up some of the thoughts of his guards,” Todd said after a few seconds, nodding at Teyla with a brief smile of gratitude. “The Lord Protector is not really loved as it would seem, the Antinari are not happy with his way of ruling them. I don't think that the Antinari will try to keep us as their prisoners in case that I'll be able to defeat him. They are truly interested in an alliance with Atlantis, but Loraan is the one with the strongest gene, and he seems to be the only one who is able to operate the device that protects the Stargate with the shield and the throne-like chair and its weapons – which is similar to the one in Atlantis and their only defense against attacks from outer space. Therefore, none of the Antinari has tried to mutiny against Loraan so far. Some of the guards think that Loraan won't grant me a fair fight either – just like we are expecting him to play false, but they don't know how he plans to do that and defeat me. We'll have to wait and see what happens tomorrow, I guess.”

“It's good to know that the Antinari won't try to kill us or keep us imprisoned when Loraan can't force them to do so any longer,” John mused, tightening his grip around Todd's shoulders as the thought of losing his Wraith mate before they had even had the chance to come closer made another cold shiver run down on his spine. He didn't fear for his own life, but losing Todd because of Loraan using an unknown weapon made his throat clench and his heart beat faster in his chest.

Todd turned his head to look at him, and his expression was soft and reassuring. “I'm aware that this fight won't be the usual fight between a Wraith and a human. Plus, I have fought against Teyla Emagan and Ronon Dex often enough not to make the mistake of underestimating the strength of humans like so many of my brethren normally do, John. But I'm not fighting this fight for myself, but for you, and I do plan to win it and save you and your friends. I had sworn to protect you and your team with my own life even before you honored me and became my mate, and this is what I'm going to do tomorrow – no matter what will happen to me.”

Todd's calm words seemed to impress even Ronon, because the Satedan growled and gifted the Wraith with a short nod. “I don't trust you, Wraith, and I don't like you. You will still have to explain and justify yourself to me after our return to Atlantis, but I believe you when you're saying that you will fight for John Sheppard to protect him. Therefore, you'll have my support and my cooperation until we're back in Atlantis.”

The two males measured each other silently for a couple of seconds, and Todd honored Ronon's willingness to trust him at least for the time being with a brief smile. “Thank you, Ronon Dex. I'm looking forward to our talk when we're back in Atlantis, then,” he said with slight irony coloring his voice, but the Satedan only grinned back wolfishly at him. “So do I, Wraith, so do I.”

“Fine, now that this is out of the way, could we perhaps talk like grown-ups and discuss our next moves for both cases – either Todd winning or him losing this fight?” Rodney made himself noticeable at last, pulling at the chair to sit down on it. “Apart from that, I am pretty hungry, and these fruits smell deliciously.”

“They could be poisoned,” John objected, but Todd shook his head. “No, they are not. I've checked them, I would smell it if he had drugged or poisoned them. Besides, Loraan wouldn't gain anything if he poisoned you, John, and he knows enough about Wraith to know that we don't need to eat. You can eat the fruits and drink the juice without fear.”

“That's what I wanted to hear!” Rodney said, grabbing one of the fruits to bite into it with a blissful expression. Ronon and Teyla followed his example after watching him for a minute, and John sighed and eventually slumped down on the chair beside his mate. He longed to have some time alone with the tall Wraith, but this would have to wait until tomorrow, and so he only looked thankfully and regretfully at the same time at him and said as quietly that the others wouldn't hear him:

“Thank you for coming to our rescue again, Todd. I'm so sorry that I've dragged you into this.”

Todd took his cold fingers into his clawed hand to squeeze them gently. “Don't be sorry, my mate. I've promised you that I will always come gladly to your rescue, and I meant it when I said that to you, John.”

John squeezed back, and his smile was genuine when he looked into Todd's yellow-golden cat's eyes. “Yes, I know, Todd. I'm really glad that you're here with me. It has taken me a long time for that, but I really trust you – not only with my own life, but also with the lives of my friends,” he said, and much to his own surprise, John really did.

Chapter Text

Ten Antinari came to accompany them to the arena the next day, shortly before moon. None of them had slept well, Rodney's fitful sleep disturbing John and Ronon in their own short rest.

Todd had preferred to mediate like Teyla to prepare himself for the fight against Loraan, needing much less sleep than humans did when he wasn't starved. Breakfast had been a silent matter, Teyla and Ronon being their usual quiet selves, the female Athosian leader radiating calm and reassurance while Ronon was brimming with the energy of a caged predator, looking as if he wanted to kill someone with his bare hands.

Rodney had tried to talk and have something resembling a conversation, but he'd gone silent again when John had given him only short answers, and Todd had known better than to start a talk on his own and provoke another argument. He needed to focus on his forthcoming fight with Loraan, and he wasn't ready to justify himself to the blue-eyed scientist or the big Satedan and answer their questions about his relationship to the infatuating and infuriating human with the hazel-green eyes and the messy dark hair.

The ache of his unrequited love for the most special human he'd ever met in ten thousand years that he'd felt deep in his heart for so long had become so familiar over the past years that Todd actually didn't know how to react to John's changed behavior. He didn't dare hope that the affection displayed on John's face entailed more than the colonel's understandable relief that the Wraith had come to his rescue once again, and he was careful not to say or do anything that could anger his hazel-eyed human and embarrass him in front of his teammates.

John had been very quiet since they had been brought to these quarters the previous day, but he'd sought Todd's company, sitting beside him and touching him now and then, and the Wraith felt hopeful and doubtful at the same time, unsure what to make out of John's lingering glances and his brief touches. Todd knew that the dark-haired colonel desired him for a long time, but desire was not the same as love, and Todd wanted more from John Sheppard than only physical desire.

The Wraith was actually grateful when the Antinari came to get them, even though he knew that his fight with Loraan wouldn't be a cakewalk. The Lord Protector would try to play fast and loose with him, that much was clear, but Todd could do the same if necessary, having the advantage of ten thousand years of experience on his side.

It amused the Wraith that Loraan had sent ten guards to pick them up, all of them armed to the teeth but still looking uncomfortable and almost scared when Todd bared his teeth to a wolfish grin. They had taken his weapons when he'd come through the gate, but his mere presence intimidated the Antinari pretty much.

Loraan was already waiting in the middle of the inner courtyard of the tower when they entered it. The large round served as a proper battle arena, the even ground covered with a thick layer of shimmering white sand. The ten Antinari ushered John and his team to the stands enclosing the arena instantly - without giving the feared Wraith and his mate the chance to exchange some private words before the fight.

The Lord Protector wore the same clothes he'd worn the previous day, only without the long coat, and Todd's gaze flickered down to the heavy belt enclosing the other male's waist. It looked more like a weapon than like a simple belt, and Todd suspected that it contained Ancient technology he would soon get to know much better than he would like to know.

Loraan changed his posture when he turned around and his eyes fell upon his opponent, spreading his legs and straightening his shoulders to look more impressive and intimidating. Todd strolled almost casually to one of the two openings between the stands to enter the arena, suppressing a contented snarl when Loraan lifted his chin up in annoyance. Annoying the Antinari before the fight had even begun probably wasn't a clever move, but Wraith were territorial beings, and that the impudent Lord Protector questioned Todd's rightful claim on John angered Todd more than he wanted to admit.

“I'm pleased to see that you're punctual for our fight, Wraith,” Loraan greeted him now, pulling a snort from the ancient Commander. “Your puppets made sure of that, Antinari,” Todd retorted, refusing to address the other male with his name or his title because of Loraan's way of just calling him Wraith. “Not that I would have wanted to come late to your lesson anyway.”

“My lesson, Wraith?” Loraan cocked one of his eyebrows in what he obviously considered to be a mocking expression, and Todd gifted him with his most toothy grin. “Yes, your lesson, Antinari. It will be my pleasure to teach you your place and remind you that you'll better never challenge a Wraith like that again.”

Loraan's eyes spat hateful fire at him, but Todd didn't feel impressed at the sight. “It will be me teaching you a lesson you'll never forget again, Wraith!” the tall Antinari hissed, jerking his head at one of the guards. The young man hurried to carry out his superior's unspoken order, entering the arena with two pairs of long sticks in his hands. They shimmered silvery in the light of the bright midday sun, the tips at both ends sharp like razors. Loraan grabbed one pair, weighing the sticks in his hand with a grim expression on his face. The guard waited for his Lord Protector to nod before walking over to Todd to offer him the other pair of weapons.

Todd regarded the sticks for a moment, carefully reaching out to take them. The metal was cool under his touch, the silvery surface sparkling in the sunlight. Todd resisted the urge to blink because his eyes were much more sensitive to bright light than human eyes were, focusing on checking his weapons instead. The sticks were heavy and long enough for a Wraith to actually use them as weapons, and Todd growled approvingly.

“Fair enough, Antinari, let's get it over with, my mate and I have a honeymoon to plan,” Todd sneered, straightening to his full size. Loraan hissed again, his left hand darting to his large belt. Todd heard a strangled cry coming from the stands where John and his team had taken their seats, but he didn't make the mistake of turning his head away from the tall Antinari to look at his human mate.

The air flickered around Loraan when the protecting shield formed itself around his figure, and Todd raised his sticks in the very same moment, parring Loraan's first blow when the Antinari jumped forward to attack him without warning.

Todd had expected something like this to happen, and he ducked away under the whirling sticks and jumped to the side, landing a blow against the shield in the height of Loraan's waist himself. It didn't hurt the Lord Protector, but the force of the attack pushed him a few meters to the side, and the Antinari howled furiously and jumped in the air, his sticks pointing at Todd's head with their tips. The protecting shield enclosed Loraan's sticks as well, and the air sizzled when Todd's weapons clashed against Loraan's, emitting golden sparks where the metal hit the energy field.

The thick fingerless gloves Todd was wearing protected his hands from getting burnt, and he recovered much quicker from the impact than the Antinari, circling his adversary and landing another blow in the height of his hips. Loraan stumbled but didn't fall to the ground, and his eyes shone yellow with hate when he turned around and started to attack Todd seriously now, driving the Wraith to the other side of the arena with his sticks. It was clear that he wanted to tire Todd out this way, knowing that his opponent and rival couldn't hurt him because of the shield. The fight went on for several minutes without either of them being able to land another serious blow, Todd's mind racing as he searched for a way to get through the shield and end this uneven fight. The sticks were made of simple steel that wouldn't be able to break the shield, and Todd knew that he had to find another way to defeat the Lord Protector.

Todd knew that John was watching him the entire time, he could feel the human colonel's anxiety and helpless anger through the bond that had been established between them on board the hostile Hive a few weeks ago, and it distracted him for a split second when Loraan lifted one of his sticks over his head. The bright sunlight shining onto the steel blinded him, and Todd wasn't fast enough to duck away this time, Loraan's sticks hitting his own with violent force.

Todd stumbled backwards as he struggled to keep his balance and stay on his feet, and he watched like in slow motion his own sticks breaking in two halves at the impact, revealing the whole extent of Loraan's betrayal as they landed on the sand.

The ancient Commander stared at the broken pieces like frozen in place for a moment, the dark wood shining through the rather thin layer of steel mocking him. There had never been a real chance for him to defeat the Lord Protector of this world, and Todd regretted deeply that he wouldn't be able to keep the promise he had given John. Loraan had the advantage on his side, and he would kill Todd before this day was over, being the one to end his life after more than ten thousand years.

Loraan's shout of triumph vaulted him back into reality, and Todd watched the Antinari raising his sticks to kill him, the other male's face contorted in an ugly grimace of hate and victory.

 

***

 

John flinched when his nails dug painfully into his palms, his eyes glued to his mate running and whirling over the shimmering white sand of the arena. Todd managed to land several hard blows against Loraan, but the damn shield protected the older man from the sharp tips, and John knew that it was only a matter of time before Todd would be too exhausted to keep on fighting. His movements were already beginning to slow down, and John wanted to scream and shout, biting down on his lip until he could taste blood. Giving in to his urge to shout would only distract his mate from the fight, and John gritted his teeth and remained silent, cold sweat covering his forehead.

“Naquadah could break the shield.”

John blinked, not sure if he had heard right. “What?” He turned his head to look at McKay sitting beside him, and the scientist nodded his head. “Yes, naquadah. The shield isn't strong enough to resist naquadah, I can tell that by the energy fluctuation. It must be one of the older versions of individual protecting shields the Ancients created, I do believe that naquadah would get through.”

“We don't have naquadah! Besides, it would have to be a knife or something like that. I have knives hidden in my boots, but they're made of steel, not of naquadah.” Ronon sitting at John's other side growled, forgetting his own hate for Todd and all living Wraith because of Loraan's false game.

John stared at the tall Satedan with wide eyes, and he was bending forward to fumble for the dagger hidden in his own boot before he even knew what he was doing. He hadn't told his team about Todd's mating gift, and the Antinari hadn't searched them for more weapons than the guns and the stunners they had worn, apparently thinking that people wearing such weapons wouldn't use simple daggers or knives.

Todd had told him that his dagger was a special alloy of steel and naquadah when he'd gotten it back from the other commander, and that such knives were rare and precious, forged in a special very old and traditional way to be gifted to a Wraith's future mate only.

“My dagger is a steel-naquadah alloy!” John ground out, hoping that the guards standing around their seats wouldn't overhear their conversation.

“You have a naquadah dagger hidden in your boot, Sheppard?” McKay sounded incredulous, but John only nodded his head, stifling his cry when he saw Loraan attacking Todd and breaking his sticks in the process from the corner of his eyes.

The tall Commander stood there motionless for a moment, staring at the broken sticks in disbelief, and only Loraan's triumphant shout made him move again.

John clenched his sweaty fingers around the handle of his dagger, rising to his feet without caring about the guards who jumped to their feet, lifting their weapons. Ronon and Teyla moved to cover and protect John from the guards, and everything happened so fast that the Antinari couldn't react in time, stilling midway in their motions and staring at the scene in the arena in shock and disbelief.

“Todd!” John's scream echoed through the courtyard, and the Wraith turned his head to look at him. Loraan's stick cut through his black coat and Todd's left shoulder and his mate roared with both pain and fury when the razor-like tip of the hard steel drilled itself into his flesh, dark blood pouring out of the nasty injury and coating the black leather instantly.

“Naquadah, Todd!” John shouted, throwing his dagger in Todd's direction. Loraan screamed when he realized what was happening, trying to pull his stick out of the deep wound in the Wraith's shoulder, but Todd was faster, jumping in the air to catch the large knife with his right hand. He turned around when he landed on his feet again, aiming at the Lord Protector and throwing the dagger at him in one swift motion.

John held his breath as he watched the dagger flying through the air, hitting the energy shield surrounding Loraan in the very next second. The hazel-eyed colonel feared that it would just fall down to the ground, but the blade cut through the shield as if it didn't exist, the air sizzling like an angry snake when the shield broke down and the knife hit the large belt around Loraan's waist. The impact rushed Loraan off his feet, and the tall Antinari landed on the ground with a sound of surprise and pain.

Todd pulled the large stick out of his shoulder with a snarl, pointing the bloody tip at Loraan's throat. The Lord Protector lay on his back, and he couldn't hide his trembling when his gaze darkened with mortal fear that the Wraith would kill him now. He swallowed, and the tip scratched his throat, leaving a thin red mark there.

John's head was spinning, and he steeled himself for the sight of his mate draining the Antinari dry, but his mate didn't make any attempt to feed on Loraan.

“You're lucky that I was freshly fed when I came here, human, otherwise you would already be drained. Besides, you don't look really tasty to me, I'd surely catch a stomach bug if I fed on you.” Todd stepped back with a disgusted face, and John had to fight against the laughter that wanted to bubble out of him, a wave of relief and warmth flooding his system when he saw that the deep wound in Todd's shoulder had stopped bleeding, already closing because of the astonishing Wraith ability to heal and regenerate when they were freshly fed. John didn't want to explore the other emotions next to his understandable relief about Todd's victory further, at least not before they had left the planet and were alone with each other.

Loraan seemed to take Todd's unexpected mercy as a sign of weakness though, his hand darting to the dagger still sticking in his belt, but Todd was faster, pushing his hand aside with his boot. “Do not touch the mating gift for my mate with your dirty fingers, Antinari!” Todd bent down, taking the dagger and caressing the blade with an almost tender expression on his chiseled alien features. John felt a strange tingling in his stomach at the sight, just as if Todd was caressing him instead of the dagger. The hazel-eyed colonel drew in a shaky breath as the adrenaline started to wear off, trying to collect himself and win back his self-control.

“Your Lord Protector has brought shame to all of you, Antinari,” the tall Commander now said, gesturing to the ten guards who hadn't moved, still watching the scene in front of them in stunned silence. “I leave it up to you to put him on trial and convict him. I'd advise you to choose his successor more carefully in the future.”

“We will do that, thank you, Commander,” the oldest one of the ten guards spoke off, entering the arena to stare down at his former Lord Protector with contempt and disgust. “Loraan has not been the kind and wise leader he promised to be when he was chosen, we have to thank you for freeing our people from his oppressing rulership. We couldn't do anything against him as long as he was wearing this belt, but we will make sure that Loraan will never be able to harm and oppress anyone in the future.”

Todd nodded, pulling Loraan back onto his feet with his left hand. His face gave nothing away, but John could almost sense the slight pain shooting through his shoulder, the wound still tender to such sudden movements. His mate removed the belt from Loraan's waist without listening to his protest, handing the heavy device to the guard.

“What's your name, Antinari?” he asked the man, and the guard bowed before the Wraith who had freed him from his cruel master. “I am Rugaal, Commander,” he introduced himself, and Todd offered him the belt. “Take good care of this, Rugaal. My mate and I will leave your world within the next hour, but if the Antinari are interested in building a real alliance with Atlantis and my Hives, then we will come back again and start proper negotiations with you.”

Rugaal waved at his men, and the nine Antinari finally lowered their still at John and his team pointed weapons down and left the stands to arrest Loraan. They took the howling and grousing man in their middle without saying a word, halfway pushing, halfway dragging him to the exit.

John hastily left the stands now as well, not even looking if his team was following him, utterly grateful that he could move freely again without having to fear that a nervous guard would pull the trigger of their weapon. Having to sit there and just watch without being able to help his mate had driven him crazy, but John hadn't wanted to provoke the Antinari and risk that Todd had to heal him with the Gift of Life after getting the nasty wound in his shoulder. The dark-haired colonel still remembered the few times when Todd had broken down right before his eyes because of his serious state of starvation – back then when they had still been enemies – and John never wanted to see his mate suffering like that again.

“I think I can speak for all Antinari when I say that we want to build a real alliance with you, Commander,” Rugaal said when Loraan was out of sight, “we will wait for your return and prepare everything for our negotiations. Loraan will get a fair trial and a justified punishment, and we also have to discuss our election system to avoid that something like this will ever happen again.”

John stepped beside his mate, offering his hand to the Antinari. “Then we will gladly return to this planet to negotiate with the Antinari, Rugaal,” he promised with a smile. “Dr. McKay will give you the code you need to stay in contact with Atlantis, just call us if you need our help.”

“Yes. I do hope that our next encounter will be better than the first one has been.” Rodney nodded eagerly, and even Ronon didn't look as grimly and opposed as John had expected him to be. Teyla smiled her usual calm smile, and John finally allowed himself to relax, enclosing Todd's elbow with his hand.

The Wraith looked surprised at John's touch, and John smiled up at him. “Your mating gift has already saved me twice, Todd. It has even saved you this time as well, and I really want to thank you for gifting this special dagger to me. I will never speak low of daggers and knives as proper weapons again,” he said a little bit ruefully, thinking back of his reaction when Todd had offered the dagger to him – before he had known about the real meaning of the admittedly beautiful knife.

Todd cocked his head to the side, reaching out with his off hand to stroke John's stubbly cheek in a brief but tender gesture. “You're welcome, John. This dagger shall always protect you wherever you go.”

“It will – just like you, my mate,” John gave back, his voice a little bit hoarse, but he wasn't ashamed of his emotion. “Shall we leave now? I think I remember that you said something about our overdue honeymoon? I think I could do with a nice holiday after the last days.”

Todd's multi-toned laughter echoed in the courtyard when the Wraith offered him his arm, and John took it, walking beside his mate with a stupid grin plastered all over his face until they reached the Stargate that would bring them back to Atlantis.

Chapter Text

“So where do we go for our honeymoon?” John asked when they stepped through the event horizon, heaving a relived sigh at the familiar sight of Atlantis' gate room.

Todd tilted his head to glance down at him, surprise flickering over his chiseled alien features for a split second. It was gone before the others noticed the Wraith's astonishment, but John had seen it, and he felt hurt and ashamed at the same time that Todd hadn't believed him when he'd said that he wanted to have some undisturbed quality time with him.

“I know a place where we'll be safe, but it doesn't have a Stargate, so we'll have to go there with a Dart,” his mate now said, and John looked up at him, listening inwardly how he felt about Todd's proposal. John did trust Todd with his life at this point, but he still didn't really trust Wraith and their technology in general, and the thought of starting their honeymoon trapped and dematerialized in the buffer of a Dart made him feel uncomfortable.

“Could we take a Jumper instead of a Dart?” he wanted to know, and Todd nodded his head in agreement. “Of course, John Sheppard. If it makes you feel better.”

“It does, thank you. I'd rather not start our honeymoon being stuck in the buffer of a Dart.” John smiled at Todd, and his heart made a small flip when his mate smiled back at him, but Richard Woolsey's voice interrupted their talk, bringing John back to reality quickly again.

“John, I'm relieved to see you and your team back in one piece, but what has taken you so long? We tried to contact you, but to no avail! We tried to send another team to you, but there was a shield blocking the Stargate on the other side. And what is Todd doing here by the way and what do you mean with honeymoon – if I'm allowed to ask this question? You don't want to tell me that you have married one of the Antinari, do you?”

Woolsey drew in a deep breath to ask more questions, but John raised his hand to stop him. “We had some troubles with Loraan, the Lord Protector of the Antinari, but they are solved now. It's really a long story, and you'll get my report after my return from our holiday, Richard. Teyla and Rodney will inform you about our encounter with the Antinari and their former Lord Protector. They're interested in negotiations with us, but this has to wait until after my return as well. Uhm, and Todd is here because he had to save us... to save me... again, and I promised him to take a few days off after our return to spend some time with him - alone. I'm only here to pack my things four our... uhm... trip...”

Todd folded his arms across his chest with a pointed look in John's direction and an expectantly raised hairless eye-ridge, and the hazel-eyed colonel felt heat crawling up into his face. Damn Wraith, he wouldn't be content until John had said it out loud. “For our honeymoon-trip,” he added, emphasizing the word 'honeymoon' and rolling his eyes at his infuriating mate in annoyance. Todd only grinned at him, keeping his arms crossed before his chest and looking meaningfully at him.

Richard Woolsey stared at him with an incredulous expression. “Honeymoon?” he echoed, sounding totally dumbfounded.

“Yes, honeymoon. My last encounter with a hostile Wraith Hive a couple of weeks ago had an unexpected outcome with Todd proposing to me and me realizing my own feelings for him in return...” John stammered, meandering his way through this truly more than embarrassing belated 'mission report', the eyes of his very quiet teammates burning holes into his back as he spoke.

He swallowed hard, forcing himself to meet Woolsey's gaze when the civilian leader of the City of the Ancients cleared his throat, glancing at John from over his glasses. “I can't remember having read this not so small and unimportant detail in your mission report about your stay on board this Hive back then, John,” Woolsey said, and John resisted the urge to duck his head between his shoulders.

“I must have forgotten to mention it, I guess. It was all still so new after all...”
John couldn't remember that he'd ever heard one of his underlings using such a lame excuse like he'd just done it himself, and he knew that his face was burning red with both his bad conscience and his embarrassment. “I see.” Woolsey actually didn't look as if he understood anything of what John was trying to say though, but he simply quirked a questioning eyebrow, waiting for John to explain himself further with astonishing patience.

“It wasn't that new, John. I had actually proposed to you months before your encounter with those Wraith, as I told you before. You only didn't realize the meaning of my betrothal gift for you,” Todd added not very helpfully as he joined their talk, looking far too innocent for John to believe him that he was not enjoying the whole awkward situation as much as he surely did.

“How could I possibly have known about the meaning of the dagger? You never bothered to provide me with a Wraith etiquette guide about your strange mating rituals!” John defended himself exasperatedly, scowling at his infatuating and far too smug Wraith mate, acutely aware of Richard Woolsey and six Marines staring at them in stunned disbelief. “We exchange rings on Earth when we want to propose to someone, not knives! Knives are weapons after all!”

Todd tilted his head again, gazing down at him with a bemused expression. “Hmm, I see. I'd actually never taken you for a guy caring about jewelry though, John. You're a soldier down to your bones just like I am, so gifting you with this handmade and very special dagger seemed to be quite fitting and appropriate back then. Besides, a ring won't protect you from a bunch of angry Wraith and from cheating Lord Protectors as good as my 'knife' already did twice,” he stated, sounding hurt and offended at the fact that John had dared to reduce his mating gift to a simple knife. “But if you want to have a ring you can wear to accentuate your elegant hands as well, John, then I'm sure that this can be arranged. Some of my worshipers are truly skilled goldsmiths, we can visit their market to buy you one before we go to the place I've chosen to be perfect for our honeymoon. Wraith are known for spoiling their mates after all.”

John gaped at the taller male with his mouth hanging open, stunned into shocked silence himself now, his mind spinning as he tried to process what was happening to him since he'd set foot in Atlantis again only a few minutes ago. It couldn't really be that he was having a discussion about wedding rings and appropriate betrothal gifts with Todd in the middle of the gate room while everyone was listening to them with something akin to morbid fascination, could it?

Richard Woolsey just stared at John as if he'd seen a ghost, his eyes darting back and forth between Todd and him; and one of the Marines made a strangled noise, leaning heavily against his companion for support, while two of the other guards doubled over with coughing fits wrecking them. Maybe they were more laughing than coughing, this was hard to tell.

Ronon standing beside Teyla looked as if he wanted to kill Todd with his bare hands, while Teyla wore her usual calm and kind mask, smiling at John reassuringly like a kind teacher wanting to soothe a small child when she caught his desperate glance. McKay's lips twitched, and the blue-eyed scientist seemed to be torn between wanting to cry or burst out into a hysterical laughter. John really wished for a hole in the ground to open up and swallow him - or perhaps even for a Dart coming through the gate and beaming him into its buffer. He'd rather be in a Wraith prison cell than in Atlantis' gate room at the moment – because everything was better than having this conversation with Woolsey and Todd standing right here in the middle of it. But his wish wasn't fulfilled of course, no unauthorized gate activity distracting Woolsey and saving John from his misery. Where were the damn Wraith when he needed them the most?

“Ah, please let me be the first one to congratulate then, sir! This is indeed very good news, we all have been waiting for the Commander to propose to you for such a long time, Colonel Sheppard.” John hadn't seen his second Major Lorne enter the gate room, but he was deeply grateful that he was there now, offering his hand to John to congratulate him as if this was the most natural thing in the world to do.

“We did?” Richard Woolsey asked confused, and Major Lorne nodded with greatest sincerity written all over his handsome features. “Of course, sir. We only didn't want to put any pressure on them by letting them know that we were waiting for their announcement, did we?” Lorne was all smiles, and John felt the overwhelming urge to kiss his XO with gratitude. He took a step back, irritated about himself because of his sudden strange urges and cravings, opting to rather shake Evan's hand instead - as he suspected that Todd most likely wouldn't approve of him kissing another man right in front of him.

“Uhm, of course, major.” Woolsey still sounded confused, but he straightened his shoulders, offering his hand to John as well. “Please accept my best wishes as well, John. You too of course, Commander. Your bond with Commander Todd will serve to strengthen our alliance, John, we... we only didn't expect you to announce your... uhm marriage?... so soon after your return from the Antinari, so please excuse my surprise...” he said slipping back into his diplomatic self once more, now that he'd gotten over his shock with Evan's help. “You've saved enough days for a proper vacation, and you can of course take a Jumper for your... ähm... honeymoon trip with your... ähm... husband, John. I'll await your report about your mission after your return, then.”

Woolsey turned around and almost ran back to his office the second John let go of his hand, and John did the same, fleeing out of the gate room before more people could congratulate him to his new state as the mate of an ancient Wraith Commander.

“Wait here for me, Todd, I'll be back in a minute!” he cried over his shoulder, not even trying to hide his grin when Ronon stepped closer to Todd with a grim expression and the Wraith shot him a reproachful look that he simply left him like that.

“You won't leave the city before we've had our talk, Wraith!” Ronon's growl was the last thing he heard before he turned around the corner, a wide smile spreading out on his handsome features, and he rubbed his hands in anticipation when he entered the next transporter to reach his quarters and pack his bag for their honeymoon.

Todd really deserved this after what he had pulled him through, and John only regretted that he wouldn't be there to listen to this certainly interesting talk between Ronon and his mate. But Todd was ten thousand years old and didn't need the help and support of his human mate for this talk, he would surely know how to deal with an angry Satedan all alone, wouldn't he?

 

***

 

“You want to talk, Ronon Dex?” Todd couldn't blame John for having left him to face the angry Satedan on his own, but he wasn't really in the mood to 'talk' to Ronon before he'd been able to fix things with his pissed off mate again. Todd knew that he shouldn't have forced him to announce their changed state of relationship right after their return like that, but he had feared that John would tell him that he'd changed his mind about their honeymoon again if he didn't make him admit that they were mates now.

“I'd rather fight you, Wraith!” Ronon growled, glaring daggers at Todd, his hand darting to his belt with the various daggers and knives he'd attached to it.

Todd kept his eyes fixed on Ronon, lifting his hand when Rodney opened his mouth to protest. “Knowing that you won't try to cheat like this unworthy creature did, I accept your offer for a proper fight, Ronon Dex,” he said, “but I have to warn you. I intend to win this fight, and you won't keep me away from my mate by fighting me. John Sheppard is mine, and I will never give up on him.”

“You wouldn't be the first Wraith I kill! I should already do that for your insinuation! I don't need to cheat to defeat you!” Ronon spat out, shaking Teyla's hand off with a snarl when the Athosian leader put it on his shoulder to calm him down.

“You won't try to kill Todd, Ronon! John has made clear that he wants to be his mate, and you will respect that! Todd is our ally, not our enemy! He's proved himself to us more than once!” Teyla's voice was quiet but stern, and it didn't allow the tall Satedan to utter any protest against her statement.

Todd bowed before her. “Thank you, Teyla Emagan. I appreciate your words.” The young woman gave him a brief look. “John is my friend, and I want him to be happy. He actually seems to be happy as your mate – as strange as this might be. But don't make the mistake of thinking that I approve of his choice!”

Todd bowed again, a mocking smile playing around his lips. “I didn't think that you would, Teyla Emagan. I don't need your approval, only your acceptance – and this not for my peace of mind, but for John's. John's well-being and comfort will always come first to me.”

Teyla's expression softened a little bit. “Yes, I know, Todd. That's why I can accept you as his mate.”

Rodney cleared his throat. “The same here. I'm not happy about his choice of mate, but I value and respect you as our ally and the scientist you are, Todd, and I actually trust you with John, I can see that you truly care about him. You're at least not as manipulative as some of the women he was interested in have proved to be. They've never cared about him like you're doing, only about the things they wanted him to do for them.”

Todd felt a hot wave of jealousy coursing through him at the mere thought of somebody else touching the human who'd been his ever since he'd first slammed his feeding hand into his chest. But there was also warmth surging through him at McKay's unexpected declaration. Todd had always valued and respected the blue-eyed scientist as well, and McKay's approval meant a lot more to him than he wanted to admit.

“Thank you, Dr. McKay,” he said, his multi-toned voice sounding hoarser than usual.

“I want my fight, Wraith - now! You won't weasel yourself out of itby getting pathetic! John might have chosen you to be his mate, but that won't keep me from teaching you a lesson and giving you a proper spanking that will remind you of what will happen to you if you so much as only think of hurting him!” Ronon made himself known again, and Todd bared his teeth. “You'll get your fight, human, don't worry. And we'll see who of us will be the one getting a proper spanking here, Ronon Dex. You'd better watch your big mouth before you're making promises you can't keep. Major Lorne, would you be so kind and volunteer as our referee – just to make sure that my 'friend' here will remember that he was the one wanting this fight when he can't sit properly on his backside anymore for a while?” he asked John's XO, who was still there standing beside them, waiting patiently to be noticed again. Todd suspected that Lorne was worried about Todd's fight with Ronon and wanted to keep an eye on them to avoid the worst.

“Of course, Commander. It will be my pleasure.” The young major nodded his head, and his smile actually reached his eyes when he returned his questioning gaze. Lorne obviously didn't worry about Ronon wanting to fight against Todd, and the Wraith thought that he'd won an ally where he had least expected it, smiling back gratefully at the young man with the handsome features and the deep blue eyes.

“John won't be happy about your fight, you know,” McKay tried to be reasonable, stepping back and lifting his hands in defeat when Todd and Ronon both hissed at him. “Okay, okay, I got it. You promised each other to have a proper 'talk' after your return, and you prefer to talk with your sticks instead of using your mouths for that like normal people who consider themselves to be mature and halfway intelligent and reasonable would do. Fair enough, let's get it over with, then.
You guys will get your 'talk', and Major Lorne, Teyla and I will see to your conversation not getting out of hand. Just hurry please! You want to go on your honeymoon trip with John, Todd, and Lorne still has to see to most of John's paper work, if I have to guess. Ronon needs to work off some steam as it would seem before he can think straight again and accept what he can't change anyway, and Teyla hasn't seen her son in ages and is surely impatient to take him in her arms again. I on the other hand am needed in my lab, so come on and get the party started before John comes back and smacks your stupid pigheads together!” The blue-eyed scientist sighed, and this was something he didn't need to say twice, as Todd and Ronon were both eager to get this fight over with too – even though it was for very different reasons than those Rodney had.

Todd headed towards the gym alongside John's team, wondering if the strange flutter in his stomach and his chest was what it felt like to be a real part of John's team, all the teasing and snarling and even his fight with Ronon, because he really felt like a part of John's team in this moment – something he'd never thought that it would ever happen to him.

Chapter Text

John pointed his footsteps at the training arena when he left the transporter, thinking that Ronon's way of 'talking' with Todd wouldn't be the usual way of talking anyway. His infuriating Wraith mate was actually pretty good at having a proper verbal discussion with humans if he was in the right mood for that, but people should better not let themselves be fooled by Todd's well-controlled and polite demeanor and think that the ancient Commander preferred to solve social conflicts with words only.

Todd was a skilled and experienced warrior through and through, and John guessed that his mate was glad to blow off his steam and fight with the tall Satedan as well. The last weeks must have been difficult for Todd as John had realized with dismay when the Wraith had forced him to announce their changed relationship right after their arrival in Atlantis – much more difficult and straining than John had wanted to believe at least.

John owed him, and if fighting with Ronon helped his mate to feel better again, then John wouldn't try to keep him from doing so but let him fight until he had worked off some of his understandable frustration. Not that Ronon would let John interfere in their 'talk' anyway, not after what had happened on Antinara. The former Runner obviously needed to get his point across and remind Todd that he'd better not hurt John if he didn't want to have a furious Satedan going for his throat. Ronon had killed a lot of Wraith within the seven years he'd spent as a Runner, and Todd's alliance with Atlantis wouldn't save him from Ronon's wrath if he so much as only thought of not treating John right. No Wraith should underestimate the Satedan if they didn't want to lose their lives, and Todd never made the mistake of underestimating humans – which looked so fragile at first sight but were much stronger than most Wraith gave them credit for.

John didn't have any doubts that Todd would never harm him on purpose, and he found himself looking forward to spending a couple of days with his Wraith alone and undisturbed, even though he still had a hard time admitting that out loud. But they both needed this time together to figure out how to make their unique relationship work, and John needed to get to know Todd and his expectations better. The dark-haired colonel was pretty nervous about their first time being intimate, and he hoped that Todd wouldn't expect him to sleep with him right after their arrival on the planet the Wraith had chosen for their honeymoon. John had had sex with other men before, but they'd all been human and not ten-thousand-year old alien and mind-reading space vampires.

John sighed and tried to calm himself down as he approached the arena, knowing that prolonging the inevitable wouldn't solve the problems he had with allowing Todd to come closer to him. He had agreed to becoming Todd's mate on board this Hive, and he was a man of his word and wouldn't try to keep Todd at arm's length any longer. Todd's behavior after their return to Atlantis was proof enough that the ancient Commander felt hurt and rejected even though he'd promised John to be patient and wait until he was ready to make their bond official. Feelings weren't rational as John knew quite well, and even immortal beings would eventually run out of patience at some point. Todd had already showed more patience than John had thought that he would do, and it wasn't that he loathed or feared the thought of being together with Todd.

It was more that John was always so acutely aware of his own mortality and fragility when the Wraith was around, of his head-blindness and his inabilities when it came to things like close combat or science. John was pretty good when it came to math and flying any kind of helicopter, plane or spaceship, but Todd had a photographic memory and was a true genius like Rodney. He was a damn good fighter like Ronon and Teyla, and he could read John's thoughts if he wanted to without his human mate being able to keep his thoughts and his feelings to himself. All of these things made John feel weak and stupid in Todd's company, and the hazel-eyed colonel was still wondering why Todd wanted to be together with him in the first place.

The loud clattering of sticks clashing together rose him out of his heavy thoughts and proved to John that he'd been right with his assumption about Ronon and Todd preferring to 'talk' with their fists rather than using their mouths for that, and he unconsciously accelerated his steps. Not because he was worried that one of the two opponents would get hurt – he trusted both Ronon and Todd to be reasonable enough and not let their fight get out of hand – but because the sight of his mate when he was fighting was too beautiful and astonishing to miss it – no matter how nervous he was about their imminent honeymoon.

Todd was like a wild and untamed big cat when he fought, moving with such natural elegance and grace that it always took John's breath away.

Rodney and Teyla didn't spare him a look when John joined them, both of them staring at the two fighters with rapt astonishment. Teyla had fought with Todd a lot of times over the last year, but her face showed the same fascination Rodney displayed when she followed the whirling figures with her eyes, her attention focused on Todd's incredibly fast motions. His Wraith mate looked indeed like a gracious big cat, his black coat swinging around his long legs as he parred Ronon's blows with his sticks.

Desire made John's knees buckle, a forceful, hot wave of lust shooting through him all of a sudden. He must have voiced his longing for his mate with a groan because Rodney darted him an irritated look before blushing slightly and pointedly looking back to the two fierce warriors. John swallowed, feeling heat creep into his face. He wasn't used to his body showing such violent physical reactions, his long years as a soldier having trained him to appear unmoved and controlled at any price, but Todd had always had this effect on him, breaking through the thick walls John had raised around his heart to protect himself from getting hurt or too attached to another being with effortless easiness.

The hazel-eyed colonel didn't know how many times he'd threatened Todd to kill him when he had actually wanted to say something totally different, hiding his longing and his attraction to the lethal enemy behind rudeness and resistance. John drew in a shaky breath and stared at the tall Wraith still fighting with Ronon, his mind spinning with the desire for his mate that finally broke free, hoping that the two so different males would finally come to an end so he could flee and stay away from the city until he had come to terms with the storm of emotions raging inside him.

Todd ignored him, his eyes never leaving Ronon's broad figure as they circled each other, but maybe he caught a glimpse of John's inner turmoil, because he suddenly slowed down and lowered his sticks down just enough for Ronon to attack him and press his own stick against the Wraith's throat.

John held his breath as he watched the young Satedan and the ancient Wraith Commander glare at each other for several long seconds, flinching when his short nails dug painfully into his palms.

“If you hurt him – if you ever so much as only think of wanting to hurt him – I swear I'll kill you with my bare hands, Commander!” Ronon snarled at last, his teeth bared to a wild grimace of fury. John hadn't expected any less coming from his friend than this, but Ronon addressing Todd with his title instead of just calling him Wraith like he'd done it until Todd had come to save them from the evil Lord Protector spoke volumes of his willingness to accept Todd as John's mate for his friend's sake.

Todd didn't even breathe faster, and he didn't flinch or stepped back – even though the pressure against his throat must be painful. He simply returned Ronon's heated glare, and his voice was calm but deadly serious when he answered to the younger male's threat.

“If I ever hurt him – or fail to protect him from being harmed by anybody else – then you'll have my free permission to kill me with your bare hands, Ronon Dex. John means everything to me - more than my own life, and nothing will ever change that.”

A strangled gasp escaped John's throat. This was for sure the most unusual love declaration he'd ever gotten, and this in front of his teammates right after a heated fight, Todd not even looking at him, his glittering golden cat's eyes still directed at the tall Satedan. The Wraith didn't look uncomfortable or embarrassed after his confession, and Ronon blinked and stepped back, finally lowering his sticks down as well.

“I still don't like you or trust you when it comes to other things, Wraith, but I can see that you're serious about this, and I respect you as the warrior you are, so I'm willing to accept you as John's mate as long as you're making him happy. We'll be enemies again if John will ever change his mind about you.”

Todd honored the younger one with a brief bow. “The respect is mutual, Ronon Dex,” was all he said, slowly turning around to face John, his expression softening when he looked at his smaller mate. “Ronon and I have sorted things out between us – at least for the time being, John. Are you ready to come with me now?” he asked, and John was pretty sure that he was the only one detecting the hint of hoarseness audible in Todd's multi-toned voice. The hazel-eyed colonel shot a quick sidelong glance at Rodney and Teyla, relaxing when they smiled encouragingly at him.

“Enjoy your honeymoon, John,” Teyla said, and Rodney nodded vigorously his head. “Yes, yes, just leave us. You're of no use until you'll have... uhm... 'talked' and fixed things between you anyway. I mean it's obvious that both of you are eager to... uhm... spend some... quality time with each other... undisturbed... and it's better if you do that far away from the city so the others can go back to work without having to be considerate of you – if you know what I mean.” the blue-eyed genius grumbled, making John blush again and Todd chuckle.

“We do, McKay, we do. There's no need for you to explain yourself further, believe me,” John snapped sheepishly, deciding that now was the best time to leave – before Rodney felt the need to start a discussion about the state of John's relationship with Todd and give them advice how best to 'solve' their problems.

Ronon had paled visibly, and he looked as though he wished to be on board a hostile Hive and fight against two hundred Wraith rather than standing here in the arena and imaging how John and Todd would finally 'come closer'. Teyla on the other hand looked as if she was torn between being mildly amused and feeling worried like a mother who watched her teenage children leave the house to sleep with their boy- or girlfriend for the first time.

John really felt the urge to leave Atlantis at least for a while, and he cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders, jerking his head in the direction of the exit. “Our Jumper is waiting for us, Todd. I'm ready when you are ready, Todd,” he said, and Todd stalked over to him with the elegance of a sleek black panther, taking John's elbow and smiling down at him.

“I am, John - for quite some time, actually. I've only waited for you to be finally ready as well.”

 

***

 

Their flight had been uneventful. Todd had given John the coordinates of the system he wanted to fly to, sitting in the seat next to John without talking much. He seemed to sense that John wasn't in the mood for talking, and he'd only answered to John's questions about the planet without starting a conversation of his own, looking thoughtful and a little bit uncertain. John was glad that he wasn't the only one being nervous about their honeymoon.

The planet Todd had chosen for their holidays lay in a region of the Pegasus Galaxy where only few other stars and systems were close by, circling around a rather small yellow star together with four other planets. They'd had to use a Stargate at the beginning of their trip because the distance between Atlantis and Todd's planet was too far for the Jumper to cross it on its own, the gate John hadn't known about beforehand being a space Stargate that belonged to one of the neighbor systems. They had needed five hours to cross the space between the two systems when they had left the event horizon, both of them lost in their own thoughts, neither of them daring to start a talk before the landing and perhaps risk an argument.

John felt irritated when they finally approached the planet, frowning when he read the data showing on the screen. “I've always thought that Wraith prefer humidity,” he said, “I didn't think that you'd choose a hot desert for our honeymoon. This planet looks like a living hell rather than a friendly place where one would want to spend their holidays. Are you sure that you've given me the correct coordinates?”

The data told John that this world was a dry and hot unfriendly place, too hot and dry for any human to spend more than a few minutes on its surface without getting burned to ashes.

Todd turned his head to look at him. “Wraith do prefer humid planets, John, just like most humans do. Please don't worry, some things are not like they seem to be. Just land where I told you to land, and you will see what I mean.”

John sighed. “If you say so.” But he set the course and focused on bringing the Jumper down without further arguing, the tiny voice inside his head telling him to impress the Wraith with his skills as a pilot. He gasped out when he sank down with the small spaceship and the scenery suddenly changed, the desert turning into thick green forests, soft hills and grassy landscapes unexpectedly. They flew over a small sea and several large deep blue lakes, and the beauty displayed in front of him stunned John into breathless adoration.

“Oh wow, what's that?” was all he could croak out, and Todd turned his head again, regarding him with a strange expression. “That's the 'real' world you can see now. I'll tell you everything you need to know after the landing, I promise you, John. It's only been a few months since I've last been here, but the sight is always breathtaking.” Todd sounded almost wistful, and John wanted to ask him about this place so badly, but he kept the questions inside that wanted to tumble out of his mouth and concentrated on landing on a large clearing instead, a beautiful meadow surrounded by trees and bushes.

The Jumper went silent when John killed the engine, and the dark-haired colonel sat in his seat for a moment, waiting for Todd to make the first move. His mate smiled at him, a small, almost shy smile, offering his hand to John as he rose to his feet. “Would you come outside with me, John? This place is very dear to me, and I'd love to show you around a bit.”

John took the proffered hand and let Todd gently pull him up from his seat. “It would be my pleasure, Todd,” he said, following his mate out of the Jumper with his heart beating fast and butterflies clapping their wings in his stomach, feeling like a teenager with his first crush – an unfamiliar but welcome feeling John had thought that he'd lost it a long time ago.

 

***

 

Todd's world was one of the most beautiful places John had ever visited, peaceful and quiet, the sun warm but not too hot, the air sweet and fragrant and the birds in the sky chirping a happy welcome.

They had taken a walk and Todd had shown him a small lake with a waterfall that cascaded over over a small hill. Bushes and trees surrounded the lake, and John longed to take a bath in the cool water of the lake, but he was too shy to ask Todd because his mate was unusual quiet and reserved, touching John only now and then and being careful to leave enough distance between them. John's body ached with his unfulfilled desire for his mate when they came back to the Jumper to pick up John's bag and bring it to the lake, and the human colonel felt unsure and ashamed of his reaction because he knew that Todd could smell his arousal. John was still not entirely sure that he was ready to sleep with Todd, but he wanted to at least give it a try, even though he had to admit that his romantic side would prefer their first time to happen in a comfortable bed and not on a small air mattress. But Todd was Wraith and most likely thought differently about that.

They had made themselves comfortable on the soft grass at the edge of the meadow near the lake by the time the sun was going down, a large bush serving as a roof that would protect them from the cool night breeze. Todd had assured him that it was safe to make a campfire and that there weren't any dangerous predators lurking in the shadows between the trees, and John enjoyed the simple meal his mate shared with him, consisting of bread, roasted bean-like vegetables and fresh berries his mate had collected for them.

The 'beans' tasted like a mixture of potatoes and mushrooms, and they were as delicious as the juicy berries that reminded John of strawberries but had a rich blue color instead of the usual strawberry red. He was astonished and grateful that Todd was willing to eat normal food for his sake instead of just watching him eat, but he was still confused about Todd's strange behavior, wondering about the reason his mate had had to show him this world if he refused to complete their bond.

“Wraith like to travel with light luggage, don't they?” John joked weakly to break the silence that had started to stretch between them, asking himself not for the first time why Todd had brought him here if he didn't want to at least talk to him – let alone become intimate with his human mate.

Todd put his plate down, regarding John for a moment. “I have everything I need here on this planet,” he finally said, reaching out to take John's hand in his own. “You're asking yourself why I brought you here, John.”

“Yes, I do.” John shrugged, gifting Todd with a crooked grin. “You were so insistent that you wanted to start our honeymoon right after our return to Atlantis, but you're so quiet and distant that I can't help but ask myself why you wanted to come here in the first place – even more after what you've said to Ronon...” John's voice trailed off, unsure how Todd would react to the reminder of his unusual love declaration right in front of John's team.

“I meant what I said, John – every word. You are the most important thing to me – more important than my own life - and I'd rather kill myself than hurt you in any way. I'd hoped that you would know that by now.” Todd's voice was quiet and controlled, but John could hear the deep emotions behind the Wraith's rather simple statement.

“I do know that, Todd. I'm just confused that you're so distant and reserved. I'd thought that you wanted to... complete our bond here...” John felt himself relax a bit, glad that they were at least finally talking. He wasn't good at talking about his feelings – had never been good at that – but everything was better than the heavy silence between them.

“I desire you, and I long to make you mine, John, that's true. But I know that you're not ready for that – not yet. Your well-being and comfort is more important to me than my own wishes, and I wanted to bring you here to give us the chance to spend some time together without having to fear that your people or my Wraith will disturb us. There is a lot I still don't know about you, and there is even more that you don't know about me, and I thought that you'd prefer to learn more about me before we sleep with each other.” Todd smiled at him, and John got the impression that his mate had actually changed his color a little bit, glowing faintly with embarrassment when he continued:

“Apart from that, I can't help but feeling romantic and a bit nostalgic – I thought that it would be nice to spend another night under the stars and the moon together with you - like we did in the night after our first encounter – when we wouldn't be hurt or in danger.”

A huge smile spread out on John's face, and he felt dizzy with relief, cupping Todd's clawed fingers with his own and squeezing them. “You're right, Todd, I would be grateful to learn more about you and to tell you a bit more about me. And I really, really want to spend a night under the stars with you, thank you.”

“You're welcome, John,” Todd said, wrapping his arm around John's shoulder, and the dark-haired colonel leaned against the tall male and looked up at the dark sky with its blinking lights, thinking that this was truly the best way to start his honeymoon with his Wraith mate.

Chapter Text

John woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and eager to start their honeymoon and learn more about his Wraith mate. He'd slept soundly and peacefully in Todd's arms, trusting his Wraith to keep his word that he would give him the time he needed before asking him to complete their bond in a much more intimate way.

John had never been good at trusting others, even not when they were close friends, and his teammates had been the few carefully chosen people he'd really trusted before Todd had come into his life. Todd had had a hard time convincing John that he was indeed trustworthy when it came to John's well-being, but now the hazel-eyed colonel trusted him not only with his life, but also with his heart, something he hadn't thought possible only a couple of weeks ago.

Todd's unusual love declaration the previous day had touched John more than he cared to admit, and their romantic night under the starry sky, lying snuggled close together on the air bed, had been the first night in a very long time with more than five hours of undisturbed sleep for John.
No nightmares had haunted him, and he also hadn't woken up every few hours either, but slept peacefully and dreamlessly for almost eight hours. John stretched and yawned contentedly when he opened his eyes and the sun was already shining brightly onto the clearing, bathing it in its warm golden light.

Todd was already up and busying himself with making breakfast for them, and he was willing to entertain John with some stories of his first years as a young officer, giving John some long-awaited insight into the still unknown and strange Wraith culture. It was a culture based on strict hierarchy and military structures, but Todd confirmed John's suspicion that this was only because of the horrible war the Ancients had started to erase and extinguish an entire species. The Wraith had never really had the chance to colonize planets and develop a culture that was based on peace, science and natural growth, and after defeating the Ancients, the large numbers of Wraith had led to them fighting against each other about the remaining humans and the technological supplies the Ancients had left after their escape back to Earth.

Spending centuries on hibernation had been the only solution for a race that only knew war and destruction, and it had made it impossible for them to change their way of life considerably, the few decades they were awake during the long hibernation periods not allowing them to change their way of life.

John had a bad conscience when he remembered that he'd tried to do the same and extinguish the Wraith – because changing them into humans against their will was not the least better than killing them actually was – and he was grateful that Todd had never really held against him what John had done to his brethren in the past.

“You grew up during the war, didn't you?” John asked thoughtfully when they had finished their light meal and were seeing to the leftovers.

“Wraith grow up much slower than humans,” Todd said after a few seconds, “my childhood was a constant array of me and my young brothers and sisters hiding ourselves on some inhospitable planets and flights on board a Hive to the next one when a warship of the Ancients had found us again.” Todd didn't sound angry or reproachful, he was simply re-telling his childhood experiences.

“That's also the reason why several Queens searched for a way to increase our numbers. They needed warriors and couldn't wait for their offspring to grow up over several decades. Apart from that, queens only have more children than humans because they live so much longer and are fertile over centuries and millennia, but they're vulnerable when they're pregnant and the pregnancy goes over about ten months – just like human pregnancies. The queens therefore focused on cloning male Wraith, and they finally found a way to create the drones, warriors with only little intelligence, easy to control and willing to die for their queens without hesitation. But the drones needed to feed like all Wraith, sometimes even more often than other Wraith, and there were too many of them in the end to feed all of them without fighting for the few feeding grounds that had been left after the war.

We had defeated the Ancients, but our doing backfired at us because there were too few humans left to grant our survival. But the queens didn't want to refrain from their drones because they feared that they would be easy to defeat then, and going on hibernation was the only solution for us. You're right, John, I grew up during the war and I saw the horrible destruction that almost destroyed the entire Pegasus Galaxy. Something like this must never happen again, and our alliance will hopefully lead to peace between our two races. Finding a solution for the feeding problem has to be the first priority for humans and Wraith.”

John nodded, feeling a lump in his throat. “Yes, Todd, I hope that we will find a solution for this problem. But the Wraith would most likely have to give up their immortality for that. Do you really think that the other Wraith not belonging to our alliance will accept that?”

Todd regarded him thoughtfully. “Being immortal can be a burden, John, believe me. We would still live for much longer than humans can only imagine. A lot of my brethren feel the same way, they only never dared to say that out loud until now. We're more human than we're related to the Iratus bugs, even though most humans refuse to acknowledge that for understandable reasons.” Todd paused, and he turned his head away from John to hide his face when he spoke up again, his voice carefully controlled.

“You never asked me about our origin, John, but I know that you're wondering about it. The Ancients didn't 'create' us because they wanted to have super-warriors, not on purpose, that is. But they were arrogant and overbearing like so many highly intelligent races are – that's something not only humans are to blame for. Goa'ulds are not human, even though they need human hosts to reach their goals and build their own special society and technology, but they show the same features other intelligent species show. The Ancients colonized the Pegasus Galaxy, and they decided that they didn't want to live together with criminals and people who had broken the law in any way.”

Meanwhile they had finished clearing their temporary camp, and John followed Todd along a small path, when the Wraith turned to leave the meadow, intrigued to learn more about the origin of the Wraith. His mate seemed to know this planet pretty well, because he didn't look around to orientate himself, just strode forward with single-minded determination.

“At first, the Iratus bugs had lived on one planet only, and the Ancients had realized their potential and taken some of them with them to experiment with them when they explored this planet and stumbled over them by accident. You won't be surprised when I tell you that some of the experiments didn't go well, you know these creatures better than most Wraith do.”

John indeed knew these bugs better than he would like to know them, and a cold shiver ran down on his spine when he remembered his first encounter with an Iratus bug.

“Some of the bugs escaped the labs where they had been kept, and the scientists responsible for these accidents tried to cover the traces of their failures and destroyed the labs, but they couldn't kill all of the bugs. Those planets where the bugs had escaped couldn't be used for further colonization any longer, but the government in Atlantis thought them to be the perfect places for their most dangerous criminals and all those humans who didn't share their view on things.”

Todd paused, and John swallowed hard, feeling deeply ashamed of his own Ancient heritage all of a sudden. He knew what Todd was going to tell him, and he knew that he wouldn't like it at all. “Let me guess,” he said hoarsely when his mate remained silent. “Not all of them were killed by the bugs.”

“Yes, John. Some of them survived and learned to live with the bugs, and those who survived the feeding of a bug started to change. Sometimes, the government sent a new ship to bring more criminals and what they called 'renegades' to the planet, or they simply wanted to check on those they had brought there beforehand. Not all of them were real criminals, sometimes they were just people who didn't approve of the way the government treated their own people.
It was a slow and long process over centuries, and the first Wraith resembled the Wraith you know only slightly.
But they hated their captors – because that's what the Ancients were to them, their tormentors and captors - and they started to build their own technology based on the Ancient technology. They took the ships and weapons of their enemies and fled from the planets where they had lived a rather miserable life. Being on board a ship in outer space was freedom for them, that's why most of my brethren prefer to live on board a Hive and not on a planet. There were less female criminals in those colonies, and only the women who carried the DNA of a female Iratus bug were fertile. That's why there are only few queens and why our queens are our rulers and more powerful than male Wraith.”

John nodded, clearing his throat. “I thought so. And when the Ancients realized what they had done, it was too late. Instead of trying to live in peace with the race they had created involuntarily, they tried to kill you. You fought back and tried to do the same, wanting to kill the Ancients as much as they wanted to extinguish your race.”

“My race wants to live just as much as all living beings want to live, John. Can you blame us for that? Humans try to kill us whenever they meet us. You were no exception from the rule when you came to Atlantis, John.” Todd said quietly, and John shook his head with a look of regret on his face.

Only two years ago, he would have objected and argued that he had only tried to save his own people, but he knew that things were much more complicated. There was not only black and white, right and wrong in this world, and he would always have to live with his own guilt and his shame about what he'd done. He had no right to judge Todd and his brethren, not after what his mate had just told him.

“No Todd, I can't blame you. Thank you for telling me. Everything makes a whole lot more sense now,” he gave back, his voice hoarse, and Todd stopped and reached out to stroke his face in a brief tender gesture. “Thank you, John. I promised you to tell you more about me and my race, and you can ask me anything you need me to ask. I can't promise you that I'll have answers to each of your questions, and maybe you won't like all of the answers I can give you, but I don't want to start our relationship with lies and secrets, that's why I brought you here. I want to show you something that will help you to understand me better.”

“Thank you for your honesty, Todd. I'll do my best not to judge you, but to listen to you and understand you without prejudices,” John said, and he really meant it. Todd was his mate, and John didn't want to fight against his feelings any longer. Whatever Todd was going to show him, John would come with him and try to be open for it, not clinging to false prejudices and judgments.

This was their chance to bring peace to the Pegasus Galaxy, and John would make the best out of this chance, no matter how difficult it turned out to be.

 

***

 

Todd gave him time to digest the things he'd told him, and John was grateful for that and looked around during their walk, taking in the sight of the unknown landscape. This planet was for sure one of the most beautiful and peaceful worlds John had ever visited, and he relaxed gratefully and let the breathtaking beauty surrounding him calm him down.

He wasn't surprised when the small path opened to a larger road after two hours, and several neat white houses came into sight. There was also a tower looming over the settlement, resembling the tower John knew from Atlantis and Antinara. He had already suspected that this planet was a former outpost of the Ancients because of the protecting shield that served as a perfect disguise, fooling ship-sensors and leading possible attackers to believe that the planet was only a hot and hostile desert, not worthy to be explored. It left to be explained why even the sensors of the Jumper hadn't been able to detect the disguise, but John was positive that Todd would give him more explanations when he found it appropriate and wise to enlighten his human mate.

The tower was smaller than the tower in Atlantis, but it was still impressive, and John couldn't avert his eyes from the sight, unconsciously holding his breath as they approached the village, asking himself how many more unknown fascinating places and wonders were waiting for him in this rather small galaxy. The Pegasus Galaxy was for sure the most mysterious place in this universe John could imagine, and he felt small and almost intimidated for a moment, instinctively seeking Todd's touch. The tall Wraith smiled reassuringly at him, and John smiled back, glad to have him by his side.

 

***

 

“My lord! You honor us with your presence!”

The multi-toned voice of a Wraith startled John out of his musings, and he narrowed his eyes to shield them against the bright sun, his senses on alert when he saw another tall Wraith heading in their direction. He was male but didn't wear the usual black coat of a high ranking officer, or the tunics and breeches John knew from the drones, but comfortable black trousers and a white shirt with long sleeves. His long white hair was tied back to a ponytail, and there was a long scar cutting through his cheek and disappearing under his hairline.

John's gaze dropped down to the Wraith's right hand of its own will, but it wasn't there, his right arm ending in a stump right where his wrist once had been. He gasped out, but Todd didn't look at him, his glittering yellow-golden cat's eyes fixed on the other Wraith.

“Angar, how many times have I told you not to call me 'lord'?” he asked, genuine joy coloring his husky voice when he reached out to put his hands on Angar's shoulders. John came to an abrupt halt, staring at the scene in front of him dumbfounded. He'd never heard of any Wraith calling each other by a name, but he hadn't expected to see Wraith in this village either.

John actually hadn't expected to see other Wraith or humans during his honeymoon with Todd at all, and he had to admit that Todd had managed to surprise him.

“Many times, my lo... Commander.” Angar said with a bow, his scarred face displaying his own joy openly. “Mira will be overjoyed to see you. We didn't expect you to come back here so soon after your last visit.”

Todd squeezed Angar's shoulders before stepping back to wrap his arm around John's shoulder. “I came here with my mate to finally show him this special place, Angar.”

The other Wraith turned to face John, and he bowed before him like he had bowed before Todd. “Colonel Sheppard, you honor us with your presence. Our lord... the Commander has told us a lot about you and Atlantis whenever he visited us.”

“Hmm, hello Angar, nice to meet you, I guess,” John drawled, shooting Todd a sidelong appraising glance. “unfortunately I cannot say the same about you. Todd apparently found it wise to keep you and this place a secret from me until now.”

John got the impression that Angar hid a smile when he looked at him. “Not because he didn't trust you, Colonel Sheppard. Only very few people know about this place, not even all of his crew-members.”

“I see,” John said, raising one of his eyebrows questioningly when he met Todd's glance. “I'm glad that you finally decided to bring me here then, my mate. I must admit that I didn't expect something like that.”

“Yes, I know, John. This world is one of the last secrets I've kept from you so far, and you will understand why I couldn't tell you about Angar and all the others before today when I have explained everything to you. I will do that soon, but I need to see to my people at first.”

John had learned to be patient a long time ago, and he couldn't blame Todd as there were still a lot of secrets he hadn't shared with his mate until now either. He simply nodded and followed Todd to the village, feeling touched when he realized who lived in this settlement.

Angar was the Wraith with the most obvious disability, depending on other Wraith to gift him with the Gift of Life in order not to die of starvation, but all of the Wraith coming out of the houses to welcome their adored lord had scars or handicaps. John wasn't even surprised when he saw several men and women joining the Wraith, humans who lived together with Todd's special Wraith in peace and harmony.

The former mentioned Mira was a beautiful woman with ageless features and warm eyes, probably older than she appeared to be, and the deep love between her and Angar was palpable. Two young Wraith followed her when she approached the large space in between the houses, and which probably served as a market or gathering place for the villagers. They were still teenagers, one of them male, the other one a young female, looking utterly happy when they saw who'd come to visit them.

“Uncle Todd, you're back!” the female Wraith slung her arms around Todd's waist, and John suppressed a chuckle when he saw the look on Angar's face. It was obvious that the young Wraith didn't have any problems with not calling Todd 'my lord', and that Angar felt uncomfortable about the seeming lack of manners of his young charge.

“Lyria, you have already grown again!” Todd rumbled, wrapping his arms around her. “You'll be a wonderful queen in no time. I'll have to bend my old knees before you then and call you 'my lady' the next time I'll visit you!”

“Uuuh, Uncle Todd, you'll never have to bend your knee before me! And you're not old!” Lyria giggled like only young girls could giggle – whether they were Wraith or human - and John blinked against a sudden wetness in his eyes.

The male teenager tried to keep up appearances ant not show his joy as openly as his sister did – John at least assumed that they were siblings because of the similarity of their delicate features – and he darted curious glances in John's direction.

“Commander, what a surprise to welcome you back here so soon again,” he said, straightening his shoulders to look taller, and Todd honored his attempts to behave mature and reasonable by greeting him the same way he'd greeted Angar, putting his hands on his shoulders to squeeze them.

“Coryn, my friend. I'm pleased to see that you have done what I told you during my last visit. It looks beautiful, I would like to test your weapon when I've talked to your parents,” he said, pointing at the sheath attached to the belt Coryn wore. John could see the handle of the dagger that belonged to the leather sheath, and Todd's words made clear that Coryn must have made the dagger himself.

If Wraith were able to blush visibly, then Coryn would have blushed at the praise. “Thank you, Commander, you honor me with your words,” he said, and Todd sighed and patted Coryn's shoulder.

“You're already too old to call me Uncle Todd, aren't you, Coryn?” he asked, but he sounded proud, and Coryn straightened his shoulders even more when he nodded. “Yes, Commander. You must apologize my sister's behavior. She's still too young to behave the right way!”

This remark earned Coryn an offended dig in his ribs from his sister, and John who had been a silent watcher so far chuckled and stepped forward to keep Lyria from attacking her brother. “Brothers can be pretty annoying, Lady Lyria, I must know that, I have one myself,” he said, offering his hand to Mira at first, and then to Lyria. The young Wraith looked very pleased that the unknown human had called her Lady Lyria, and she took John's hand carefully when he had introduced himself to her foster mother. “Hello Colonel Sheppard,” she said, pushing her hair over her shoulder and looking a little bit uncertain at their entangled fingers.

“I'm pleased to make your acquaintance,” John gave back, “proffering our right hand to someone is our way to greet one another in Atlantis,” John explained when he noticed the curious glances. Most of the human races living in Pegasus didn't offer their right hand to strangers for obvious reasons, as the right hand of a Wraith was the feeding hand that brought death to their human preys.

“Colonel Sheppard has bestowed honor upon me by accepting to become my bonded mate, and I wanted to share my joy with you and bring him here to tell him about this special colony,” Todd said, earning approving murmur from Wraith and humans with his announcement.

Mira gestured to one of the houses. “Please accept our congratulations, Commander. I'd like you to come in and accept our hospitality until we have arranged everything for the feast to celebrate your bonding, Commander, Colonel Sheppard,” she said, taking matters in her hands. “Coryn, please see to the necessary things for the feast. We'll need tables, benches and firewood. Lyria, please help with the food, and don't forget the wine we keep for such occasions.”

Coryn nodded eagerly. “Of course, mother. Everything will be to your liking,” he promised, and Lyria forgot her anger about her brother and nodded as well. “We shall hurry, mother,” she said, waving at a young human girl to follow her when she ran off in the other direction with her long skirt swinging around her legs. It was the sign for all Wraith and humans to follow her example and prepare everything for the celebration, and John felt touched almost against his will. The reaction of the Wraith and humans living here was so different to the reactions he'd gotten from his own friends when he'd announced that Todd was his mate now, and he wished that his friends would accept Todd as his mate one day with the same joy these people showed at their lord's happiness. His team was his family, and John really wanted them to accept and like Todd.

He smiled when Todd took his elbow to guide him to the house, followed by Mira and Angar who walked side by side holding hands.

John's mind was spinning from everything he'd seen and heard today, but he was also excited to learn more about Todd's secret colony, thinking that there couldn't have been a better place for their honeymoon than this one where Wraith and humans lived together side by side and without fear, united in friendship and love – just like all humans and Wraith would hopefully live together in the Pegasus Galaxy one day.